Monday, December 24, 2012

Countdown to Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  Love, The Toler Family
This time last year, we were making our grand Christmas tour of the Southeast!  We drove from Texas to enjoy time with family and friends in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.  It was a whirlwind trip, but we have such great memories from it.  Towards the end of our trip, my anxiety levels began to rise and the thought that we wouldn't be spending Christmas with our friends and family for several years was a bit overwhelming.

Fast forward a year and here we are about to celebrate our first Christmas in Mexico.  My goal this year is to start setting up some new traditions for our family so that we can all make new memories while holding on to the ones from years past.  I want our kids to appreciate the traditions of the culture in which we live while still enjoying the traditions of our culture from back in the States.  Thanks to Pinterest, I think we are off to a good start!

Tradition #1 - Our Christmas tree- Even before we left the U.S., I found a craft where you make a Christmas tree out of felt (originally designed for toddlers so that they would leave the "real" tree alone).  What a great idea for a family who needs to keep their belongings to a minimum.  I pictured us making felt ornaments, decorating the tree, and then rolling it up at the end of the season.  Thankfully, the kids loved the idea and I think it turned out great.  The lights don't always stay connected to the wall, but it works well enough!

Our Christmas tree complete with gifts thanks to the Homebuilders Sunday School Class from First Baptist Dallas! 

Tradition #2 - Our Advent Calendars - Kieran has been looking forward to December for several months now.  I knew that we needed an advent calendar to help avoid the daily, "Is it Christmas yet?" question.  I also wanted an advent calendar that would encourage us to experience Christmas in Mexico.  Again, I found a neat advent calendar on Pinterest that uses a mini muffin pan (since I don't have an oven, I figured I might as well us it for something!).  In each muffin spot, I put a slip of paper with an activity and an advent Bible verse along with two pieces of candy.  Some days the activity includes reading a Christmas book or watching a Christmas movie.  This weekend, we are going to see the Christmas lights downtown and enjoy a Christmas concert Sunday afternoon.  The kids have already enjoyed breaking open a Christmas piñata and making Rice Krispy treats.

Making Rice Krispy Treats.  We used jello powder with a little water for the "icing".
 Tradition #3- Our Christmas Pajamas - In the past, I've tried to get the kids a new pair of PJ's for Christmas morning.  I went shopping and found that the selection of Christmas pajamas was very slim and a bit pricey (the only thing I could find in Kieran's size was literally a heavy fleece Santa suit!).  Instead, I bought the kids some white long johns and we are going to attempt to make some tie-dyed snowman PJ's this weekend!  Hopefully, this new tradition will not be a bust!

Tradition #4 - Our Christmas Morning - Right now, we are really not sure what our Christmas morning will look like, but I imagine the excitement on the kids faces will be the same no matter what country we are in and the joy of spending the day together as a family will be just as sweet.  Thanks to modern technology, we will probably be able to spend the morning "together" with our family in the States via the webcam and Google chat.  It will not be the same as being together, but we are blessed to have this connection.
Kieran (King Melchor) and Elyse (Little Star) in their first Christmas Pageant
 As we wrap up our last few days in school, we look forward to having some "down" time to enjoy celebrating the birth of our Savior.  We are praying that you, too, will be blessed with this time of celebrating your own traditions with your family.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Last night, we went and saw a performance at a beautiful cultural center in Puebla.  It was called, "Una Voz de Paz" - "A Voice of Peace".  There were hundreds of singers, actors, and instrumentalist playing out the life of Christ.  It was absolutely beautiful, but, at the same time, it was difficult to talk about, sing about or even think about peace after what happened in Connecticut this past Friday.  There are so many families in that community and around our country who are feeling anything but peace right now.  Everyone I know is talking about hugging their kids a little harder.  Every time I got frustrated with my 7 year old this weekend, I felt guilty and wanted to grab him up and just snuggle with him.  How do we find peace at a time like this? 

While we were watching the performance, it came to the part where Jesus was on trial before Pilot.  After the crowd yelled, "Crucify Him", they marched him off the stage.  Slowly, one lonely cross came down from the ceiling.  Kieran was sitting in my lap and I realized that he was crying.  I whispered to him asking what was the matter.  He looked up at me with red, tear filled eyes and said, "Why did Jesus have to die like that?"  Suddenly, I was the one with tears in my eyes.  Unlike some portrayals, this play did not even do a graphic demonstration of the crucifixion....just an empty cross hanging from the ceiling.  I reminded Kieran that the cross was not the end of the story.  Jesus died for us, but then he conquered death and came back to life and is still alive today.  The happy ending was coming. 

But that still leaves the question, "WHY did Jesus have to die like that?"  The answer is because of our sin.  Why did those beautiful, innocent children and teachers have to die this past week?  Because of sin.  We live in a broken world.  We live in a society where it is perfectly acceptable to show violence, blood, sex, affairs, bad language and disrespectful kids (and adults) on prime time television and even on so called "kids" channels.  However, it is taboo to show families praying together, going to church or even displaying good moral values because we might "offend" someone.  Why should parents have to do research before taking their children to see a "kids" movie?  What does it say about us as adults that Hollywood thinks it needs to put at least one or two bad words or sexual innuendos into kids movies to make them entertaining enough for the parents.  We can talk about changing gun laws or putting more safety measures in schools, but the truth is something has got to change in our society before we can find real peace again.  In order for our society to change, we have to change as individuals.  WE have to start making better choices at home.  What kind of music do we listen to?  What movies do we watch?  What TV shows are playing on our television sets?  Peace has to begin at home.  Everyone is outraged by the shooting last week, but are we outraged enough to make the tough changes that need to me made?  Are we willing to unsubscribe from cable tv?  Are we willing to throw out those "Mature" rated video game that cost $50?  Are we going to turn the channel off of a song with a bad message even if it has a good beat? 

Most importantly, are we willing to get on our knees and pray everyday for peace to return?  Are we willing to love our neighbors who don't act very lovable?  Are we willing to be friends with someone who is different than us?  In times of tragedy, most of us feel overwhelmingly helpless, but there are so many thing we can do to help heal our broken world.  I'm ready to find that peace that Jesus died to give us.  Are you?

Silent night.  Holy night.  
All is calm.  All is bright.  
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.  
Holy infant so tender and mild.  
Sleep in heavenly peace.  
Sleep in heavenly peace. 

Kieran fell asleep in my arms near the end of the performance.  Now that is peace...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"We are certainly blessed"

After several months of searching, we finally have a family vehicle...a 2007 Ford Lobo 4x4 to be exact.  We needed this type of vehicle to get around in the rural areas of Mexico where the road can be very rough.  After Kris tells me the story of his 11 hour day today, I'll do another post with more pictures in the daylight.  For now, I thought I'd send you the series of text that I received from Kris today to give you a glimpse into this process!  Thanks so much for your prayers!  As Kieran said, "We are certainly blessed!  This is sweet!" 

He left at 9:30 this morning...

1:30 pm - "It is going to be awhile.  We are at the place where they make sure it is not stolen.
1:51 pm - "It is not stolen."
1:53 pm - "Next step, go back to lot, then bank"
1:57 pm - "At the last place I asked Rubisel if it was going to take long.  He said yes.  It takes a long time to buy a car."
2:59 pm- "On way to bank. Say a prayer.
6:10 pm - "They are working on it now" (from the tire place)

Kris finally got home around 8:30 pm.  It was a very long day for all of us, but we are "certainly blessed" by what God has provided for our family.  It was even more than we prayed for. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving Crafts

Thanksgiving Cup -  Kieran's Idea
This is Kieran and here's what you need to make this cute Thanksgiving cup.  You need a plastic cup, brown paint, brown construction paper and a yellow marker, scissors, glue and a black marker and white paper.  Now let's learn how to make it!  Get the plastic cup and paint it.  Then let the paint dry.  When the paint is done drying, cut out some feathers like the picture.  And, then glue them on.  If the glue doesn't stick, then I would put some extra tape to stick it onto the cup.  Then cut out a circle (about a medium size circle).  Then get some yellow construction paper and cut out a little triangle.  Next you cut out two circles with the white paper.  Then with the white paper, cut out a little hat.  Next, you color the bottom part with the black marker and then make a little line with the yellow marker.  Do the top black.  Oh and I forgot to mention, for the eye balls, do little dots with the black marker.  Finally, glue the face and the hat.  The hat goes on the top of the head.  The head goes on the front of the cup (not in the middle of the cup). 
Our Thanksgiving Tree- We have lots more leaves to add! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mi Casa es Su Casa

Home Sweet Home
On May 23, two months before we left for Puebla, I posted a prayer request on our Facebook page asking everyone to pray for our housing situation in Puebla.  We knew no one in Puebla, and we had no connections to the city.  The Spanish school I was planning to attend said they could help us, but their price range for apartments near the center was higher than we wanted to spend.

So we prayed, and many of you prayed with us. Fast forward a couple of weeks.  Kris and I were finishing our final week of classes at GIAL and our parents were visiting to help us pack up our belongings...still no leads on places to stay in Puebla!  I had so much on my plate at the time that I tried not to "waste" any stress on worrying about that, but I have to admit that a bit of...concern crept in every now and then.  The next Sunday a couple in our class told us that they had a friend from Puebla and that he was going to come to church with them the next week.  We were excited about the possibility of making a connection.  The following Sunday we met Rubi.  After the introductions he asked, "So, do you have a place to live in Puebla?"  We said no and that we were still looking.  He said, "I feel like God has sent me here to help you with that."  Well, who are we to argue with God!  He told us that his parents still lived in Puebla and that he would call and ask them to start looking for a place for us to stay.  We exchanged email addresses and left it at that.

Over the next couple of weeks, Kris and Rubi exchanged emails.  Less than a month before our departure date, we still did not have a definite address in Puebla.  Again, we asked for prayer from my home church which we were visiting in Florida.  The same day, we received an email from Rubi saying his parents had found a house for us.  All we had was an address, a picture of the outside, a very reasonable price, and a promise that it was in a good area with easy access to downtown.

We arrived in Puebla late in the afternoon of July 24th.  Rubi's family met us (and our LOAD of luggage) at the bus station.  They graciously took us to our new home to drop off our belongings and then took us to their house for a wonderful dinner.  We kept having to remind ourselves that these people didn't know us.  They were so welcoming!

Our kitchen- tight but cozy! 
Our home had some basic furnishings (a couch, chair and two beds), but our kitchen came with only a kitchen sink.  Over the next couple of weeks, our sweet family took us around town so that we could get all the things we needed to make this house our home for the next 6 months.  We've had to make a few adjustments.
Kieran and Elyse's room. 

Elyse, for example, sleeps on an air mattress and I'm learning to cook using only a stove top.  We take our laundry to the "lavandaria" across the street where they wash, dry and fold for only about $1 per kilo.  I don't mind letting someone else do my laundry as long as I remember that it takes about 2 days to get it back (any last minute laundry is washed in the kitchen sink and hung out to dry!).  We can find just about anything we need in Puebla.  Home Depot, Walmart and Costco are just a short bus ride away.  However, we know that we are only going to be here for 6 months and do not want to invest too much time or money into adding the things we now consider luxuries.

Our dining/play/tv room
Our living room
We have a playground across the street where the kids love to play and meet new friends.  About a week ago, Kieran said, "Mommy, after all this unpacking, I finally feel at home."  We are so blessed to have this house and are so grateful for God's provisions.  

"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain."
Psalms 127:1 (NIV)

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Big Picture

The easiest birthday cake I've ever made!
I'm a detail person.  I like making lists and trying to keep everything in order.  Kris, on the other hand, is a big picture kind of guy.  Details are not so important to him.  He often laughs at my list (in a nice, supportive way, of course).  I think that is why our marriage works for us.  I make sure the details get put in and he makes sure the details don't overwhelm me!  Did you know that our God is both a God of details and a God of the big picture?  He knows the numbers of hairs on our head and yet he created this universe.  When we can't seem to get our little details under control, He is always in control.  Even when tragedy strikes and OUR "big picture" is blown out of the water, HIS big picture is intact.  I have been in awe these past few months as I watch God's hand in our lives.  There is no detail that has gone unnoticed by Him.  I seriously don't know why I worry so much. 

Earlier this week, it was Kieran's birthday.  In my mind, I was thinking about the party that Kieran wasn't going to have with all his friends from back home.  He has really missed those friendships.  But guess what?  God knew.  My details were a part of HIS big picture.  The day before Kieran's birthday, we went to pick him up from school and this precious little boy Carlo stuck his head out of the classroom window and said (in Spanish), "Hey, are you bringing something to school tomorrow for Kieran's birthday party?"  Kris and I just looked at each other with blank expressions.  We hadn't really thought about bringing something to school.  Kieran's teacher is pretty strict and we really didn't think that was an option.  I looked at Kris and said, "maybe we should ask."  So, Kris asked Kieran's teacher who sent us to the school director for permission. After all the proper approvals, Kieran's teacher said, "Great.  I'll tell all the parents not to send lunch tomorrow."  Lunch??  What??  I was thinking some cupcakes or a little snack.  Oh no, parties are serious events here.  So, thanks to the advise of another mother, we decided to bring hotdogs, chips, apple slices, drinks, and ice cream.

Kieran's new friends at school
Kieran's Class
The day of Kieran's birthday, we showed up at school with all the fixings.  Kieran was beaming!  All his classmates had made him cards and many of them brought presents.  The class sang their version of "Happy Birthday" and then the teacher marched him around the room so they could all throw confetti on his head.  Everyone ate and laughed.  One kid said, "This is the best party!"  At one point, Kieran called me over to his desk and said, "Mommy, I love this school because all the kids are so nice!"  Wow, what a break through!  School has been such a challenge this year for Kieran (being new and all in Spanish that is) and everyday was a chore to get him to want to go.  Kieran made a connection with his class and teacher on his birthday that probably wouldn't have happened if little Carlo had not put his head out the window that day. 

Enjoying his birthday lunch at school

While I was sitting around worrying about the details, God was putting together the pieces.  While I was trying to fix the problem, God was turning my problem into His solution.  Thank you, God, for loving our children and for knowing the big picture for their lives.  What a mighty God we serve!

Kieran and his teacher

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

New Braves Hats!
Yes, that is the theme of our lives right now.  If we've learned nothing else since moving to Mexico it is to expect the unexpected and today was especially unexpected!  Like most Sunday mornings we woke up extra early to get ready for church.  Normally, we ride to church with a family that lives nearby.  They work with the youth and have to be there by 8:00 a.m.  So, as usual, we were ready by 7:30 (more or less) to get out the door.  For some reason, our family did not come this morning.  We decided that we would try to save some money and take a bus to church instead of a taxi.  However, we've never taken a bus and were not sure exactly which bus to take.  Kris asked the guard at our neighborhood gate and he told us his best guess.  All dressed and ready for church, we walked about half a mile to the main road to catch a bus.  Just to be safe, Kris even asked the bus driver if the bus was going to this particular part of town (near our church) and he said yes.

About 20 minutes into the trip (it normally takes about 20 minutes by car to get to church), Kris and I both realized that we were not anywhere near the church.  We noticed that we were actually heading out of town to another community about 30 minutes outside of Puebla.  The driver asked Kris again where we were heading and at this point he told us that the bus was actually NOT going anywhere near our church.  We're not sure where the breakdown in the communication happened, but, nonetheless, we were not going in the right direction.  So, we decided to change our plans and stay on the bus.  We ended up getting off near a big outdoor Sunday market, buying some fresh fruits and veggies and hot tortillas, and then watching a parade complete with marching bands and giant paper mache puppet-like characters (and of course my camera battery was dead).  Kris and Kieran found Atlanta Braves baseball hats and Elyse got a pink Nike hat for about $7 total.  On our way home, we stopped at an Italian community (yep, right here in Mexico) known for their cheese making and ate a delicious thin crust pizza for lunch. 

This was the parade we happened upon!
We saw some amazing views of our local volcano and some real cowboys riding horses down the road!  At one point, Elyse said, "Hey, weren't we suppose to be going to church?"  Yes, we were, but we praise God for the extra family time and chance to experience His amazing creation up close and personal.  This evening, we sat down as a family and watched the service at First Baptist Dallas on our computer (Elyse was very excited to see her Sunday School teacher in the choir).  Maybe this "unexpected" day was God's way of preparing us for different ways of worshiping Him.  We will not always have the option of attending a "formal" church service once we get to the village and need to get use to going with the flow. 

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." ~Proverbs 16:3

P.S.  Did I mention we managed to lose two wheels off Elyse's stroller?!?   I think we may need to upgrade to the all-terrain version!

Friday, August 24, 2012

One Month...

Yesterday, we celebrated one month in Mexico!  It is hard to believe that we have been here that long already.  We have so many blessing to count from this past month.  Thank you so much for your prayers and encouraging emails and messages.

A day at the pyrimids
We have learned so much this month and know that our learning has just begun.  We have learned that processes take longer here and bus drivers drive faster!  We’ve learned that bus number 29 GREEN does not follow the same route as 29 ORANGE.  We’ve learned that family movie night works just as well in Mexico as it did in the states.  
Family movie night in our living room
We’ve learned that a trip to McDonalds every now and then takes away a bit of the homesick blues.  We’ve learned to convert pesos to dollars in our head so we don’t have a heart attack when we spend $800 (pesos) on school supplies and shoes at Walmart (which is only about $60 US dollars).  We’ve learned that complete strangers can become family in a very short period of time.  We’ve learned to reheat pizza in a pot on the stove top.   
Setting up our fancy two burner stove!
We’ve learned that Skype isn’t a replacement for time spent with family far away, but it sure is a huge blessing to see their faces!  We’ve learned that sometimes all we need is an extra hug to make it through the day.  We've learned to love Puebla and the people who live here.  Most importantly, we’ve learned to trust God for everything.  
Being silly!

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Friday, July 27, 2012

Trusting God - Lessons from Day 1

At the airport
Do you trust God?  Over the past two years God has taught me a lot about trust, but I know that I still have a long way to go.  Today was a perfect example of that ongoing lesson.  Today I learned that trusting God is seeing the face of a student you taught two years earlier waiting at the airport in an unknown city ready to help guide you to your next destination.  Trusting God is getting into a taxi with your two kids with some people that you’ve never met who don’t speak your language.  Trusting God is holding your three year old tightly in your lap in the back of the taxi while it is pouring down rain and cars are weaving in and out of traffic.  Trusting God is leaving your husband (and the only Spanish speaker in your family) at the bus station with half of your luggage while the other half of your belongings ride off in a car with another stranger.  Trusting God is walking into your new home with “basic” furnishings which happens to only include the kitchen sink in the kitchen (who needs a stove or refrigerator)! 
Our kitchen
Trusting God is waiting for over two hours for your husband and the rest of your luggage to show up at the home of these people you’ve never met before.  Trusting God is also sitting down to a hot, delicious Mexican meal after being on airplanes all day that don’t serve food.  Trusting God is being fed by perfect strangers who have, without hesitation, adopted you into their family because you are a brother and sister in Christ.  Trusting God is when these same people go through their belongings to make sure you have pillows, blankets, and sheets to sleep on the first night in a new country.  Trusting God is knowing that no detail is too big or too small for Him.  Do I trust God?  You bet I do!    

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all you ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, July 16, 2012


Yesterday, Kieran and I had the chance to take a ride down memory lane.  We were driving around our old stomping grounds here in Columbia, SC and I asked him if he wanted to drive by our old house.  At first he said no because he thought it would make him too sad.  Then he changed his mind and said that he thought he'd like to go by and see it.  We turned into our old neighborhood and he pointed out the sign that had been repainted.  Then we drove by the "casa linda" (pretty house) as the kids called it.  Actually, Kris and I thought it was probably the ugliest house in the neighborhood since it was painted boy scout blue with bright yellow trim.  Children are much more forgiving!  We turned the corner and Kieran said, "Our cul-de-sac!"  We drove to the end and parked across the street.  We saw the perennials that we'd planted in the front yard, the porch swing that Kris had built me for Mother's Day, and even our "Welcome" sign that still hung on the front door.  It looked like they were using the planter in the backyard as a garden just as we'd done for so many summers.  There were a few new things that showed the new owners were making this their home with many new memories.  When we drove off, Kieran said with tears in his eyes, "We probably won't ever live there again, will we?"  I said, "Probably not, but, Kieran, this will always be your hometown."

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:2-3 (KJV)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hightlights of our Year in Dallas - Part 2 (Elyse)

Our sweet, fun Elyse!
"Anything you can do, I can do better..."  This song often plays through my head as I see Elyse interacting with the world around her.  We moved to Dallas last year with a 2 going on 3 year old and we are leaving with a 3 going on 13 year old!  Like her older brother, Elyse has done so well with all the transitions of our family.  She misses her friends in South Carolina, but God blessed her with many friends in Texas.  She went from never going to preschool to going 5 days a week from 7:45-12:45.  She had wonderful teachers who helped her make this transition.  She can sing her ABC's and know how to count to 20 (the teens get a little mixed up, but all the numbers show up eventually)!  She can even write the E, L, & Y in her name (the S is still a little tricky).

Elyse has an imagination like no other.  In addition to her real life friends, she also has a slew of imaginary friends.  They have very interesting names like Mena and Kalenda.  Her favorite imaginary friend is "grandpa".  Grandpa often disagrees with mommy and daddy's rules for Elyse.  A common excuse we hear around here is, "Well, my grandpa said I don't have to (go to bed, take a bath, come inside, etc.)!"  She also has friends already set up in Mexico.  Speaking of Mexico, Elyse is ready to go!  Almost daily she asks when we are moving to Mexico.  We are so thankful that she enjoyed her time there last fall and desires to go back.

Our pretty ballerina
After Christmas, Elyse decided that she wanted to take ballet and thankfully, God provided a ballet class at the same rec center and at the same time as Kieran's Karate class.  We signed her up and a star was born!  Elyse really enjoyed her class.  She was very bashful at first, but I was surprised at how much she learned and remembered from week to week.  Whenever music is playing, she wants to be up and dancing.  Thankfully, she had the chance to perform in a mini-recital in March since we weren't there for the big recital at the end of June.  She said when she moves to Mexico, she wants to take Mexican dance lessons. 

Even though Elyse pretends to be shy at times, she is our fearless child who throws caution to the wind!  When we experienced our first tornado evacuation at the beginning of April, Elyse wasn’t scared at all.  She told Kieran, “Don’t worry, this will be fun!”  Even though her fearlessness has led to some bumps, bruises, and two trips to the doctor, we trust that God is preparing her for a life full of adventures.  Our prayer for Elyse is that she will continue to grow and learn and that we will have wisdom in parenting her strong-will! 

That's our girl! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Highlights of our Year in Dallas - Part 1 (Kieran)

Transition...the word of the year around our house!  Our kids have traveled  more this year than they have their entire lives (put together), and we are so proud of how how well they have both done with these transitions.  Everyday hasn't been a cake walk, but we have all survived.  When we moved to Dallas, I knew it was going to be a challenge to go to school full time and start homeschooling Kieran.  Thankfully, God blessed us with a curious, self-motivating student.  He and Elyse went to childcare in the morning while Kris and I were in class.  We would pick them up around 12:45, eat lunch, and then I would start homeschool around 1:45.   Many days Kieran would come up to me and say, "Isn't it time to start school now?"  He definitely kept me on my toes!!  Kieran and I had so much fun this year exploring God's creation, learning about math, and reading all the time.  What a privilege to watch Kieran go from reading short, basic sentences to reading ahead in the Magic Tree House chapter books that I would read to him at night.  Because of his hard work, we finished kindergarten and half of 1st grade!  I get exhausted just thinking about it! 

We also signed Kieran up for Karate classes at the local rec center near our school.  We weren't sure if he would enjoy it or not, but after returning from Christmas break, he started back in the class.  Once he learned that it was possible for him to earn his gold belt before we left Dallas, he gained a new focus and started practicing all the moves he needed to memorize for the belt test.  He worked very hard and earned his gold belt one week before his final class!  Don't even think about putting him in a have been warned!  

Even more exciting than the academic and physical things that Kieran has learned is the spiritual lessons that he has learned through this year.  Before moving to Texas, Kieran struggled with the spiritual aspect of our move and new career path.  We prayed specifically that God would make Himself known to Kieran through this transition.  We believe that God answered our prayers.  Soon after we moved here, Kieran prayed to ask Jesus into his heart.  Right before Easter, Kieran began asking questions about baptism and wanted to know if he could go forward to talk to the pastor.  The first Sunday in May, he told us he wanted to go forward.  He was ready to be baptized right then, but the next baptism service was not until June 3rd.  We are so thankful that the timing of this allowed for all of his grandparents to be there to watch him.  He was a little nervous Sunday and Kris said he was very chatty when they were in the baptism room getting ready (he gets chatty when he is nervous).  Afterwards, he ran up to me and said, "Mommy, I'm baptized!"  There is no greater joy for us as parents than to see our kids come to the Lord!  The next day, we saw Kieran in the tree in front of our house trying to reach the Frisbee that was stuck up in it.  Kris asked if he needed any help.  Kieran replied, "Dad, I'm a six and a half year old boy who has been baptized.  I can do this."  Our prayer now is that Kieran will continue to lean on God and look to Him for strength and wisdom. 

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" Matthew 19:26

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sibling Rivalry- Brotherly Love

Welcoming new baby sister Elyse
I remember the moment very well.  It was less than an hour after Elyse was born and a 2.5 year old Kieran came into the hospital room.  He climbed up in the bed next to me and looked at his new baby sister.  He smiled at her and whispered, "I just love her."  It was the perfect moment, and I had dreams of these two always being the best of friends.  Well, fast forward 3.5 years.  Now we have an active 6 year old who loves playing with Legos and defending the neighborhood with his gang of boys.  On the other side of the spectrum we have an active 3 year old who plans to grow up to be a princess and a fairy, and, frankly, expects to be treated that way now!  She loves her brother and knows him so well that she know just which button to push to drive him absolutely CRAZY.  She wants to play with the boys, but comes in crying if they "shoot" her or attack her with a sword (seriously, what princess wants to be attacked?).  She pulls apart his Lego creations and jumps on top of him at random moments throughout the day.  He is rarely amused by her attention.  Sometimes they are at each others' throats all day.  I don't have any brothers so this sister-brother thing is new territory for me!

Elyse before she could get into his toys!
Every now and then, God sends me a reminder that my kids do love each other, and that He created them for each other.  Recently, we were in Whitney, TX visiting some new friends and (surprise, surprise) Elyse fell face first on a rocky, dirt road.  Of course, she got a small pebble lodged in her head.  Despite all our attempts, we could not get it out, and ended up taking her to a med center to have it removed.  Kris, our host, and Elyse headed to the doctor, and I stayed at the house with Kieran.  Soon after they left, I could tell that Kieran was upset.  He asked if we could go for a walk.  As we headed out of the house, he said, "Mommy, is Elyse going to be okay?  I don't know what life would be like without a sister.  She's the only sister I've got!  She isn't going to die, is she?"  I assured him that Elyse was going to be fine and we spent the next 20 minutes or so walking and praying for his sister. 

Thankfully, Elyse did survive the rock removal.  As expected, less than 24 hours later, they were fighting over sitting in my lap and trying to get on each other's last nerve, but I knew that deep down inside there was a lot of love between that little sister and her big brother. 
 Kieran and Elyse

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Remember the Alamo...and other fun things in San Antonio!

To say that life is busy for the Toler family right now would be a huge understatement!  Date night has turn into late nights of grammar analysis and play dates have turned into "can your child come over and play with mine so that we can get some homework done?!"  The fact is, I don’t have time to sit down and write this blog, but as I turned the calendar over to May, I realized it had been a whole months since I’d written anything.  I decided that time goes by way too fast not to make a note of the memories that we’ve shared recently.  
 In between our 3rd and 4th session of classes, we had a 3 day break and decided to take off for a mini-family vacation.  The reality is that we will probably not be able to take off for a week to go to the beach or Disney anytime in the near future, but that is okay.  We had been wanting to visit San Antonio, which is about a 4 hour drive from Dallas and decided that it would be a doable trip for this amount of time.  I went on Travelocity and decided to be brave and try one of their “mystery deals” (kind of like name your own price on Priceline) where you don’t know the name of the hotel until after you make the reservations.  We ended up getting a 4 star hotel 3 blocks from the Alamo and the Riverwalk for less than $50 a night!  Woo hoo!  We had such a nice time cruising the Riverwalk, visiting the Alamo, exploring the Natural Bridge Caverns, and eating the biggest cinnamon roll ever!  Kieran said it was the best trip he has ever taken!  I’m so glad we took this time to relax and enjoy some good family time. 

We found a little piece of Oaxaca right across from our hotel.  Unfortunately, it was closed down :(! 

Yep!  That is one big cinnamon roll!
I'm not sure that knife is big enough.

Nothing like a nutritious breakfast to start the day! 
Little House on the Prairie
Still no basement in the Alamo.
This one needs a Texas sized nap!  She did fall asleep on his head.
Nothing says vacation like a hotel swimming pool.  It was a bit too cold for Elyse and mommy!
Dinner at the Magic Time Machine.  We had our own little house to eat in!
And our waitress was Daphne with her friend Scooby Doo!
We ended out trip at the Natural Bridge Caverns and saw the amazing caves and rock formations.