Happy New Year

We are still Christmasing all week, with my husband off work and our travels to Wisconsin to be with my family.
I'll be back to my virtual life and blog next week.
Wishing you a wonderful 2011.

Merry Christmas, 1 Corinthians 13 Style

In all the craziness of Christmas, remember this. I call it 1st Corinthians 13 - Christmas Style. Merry Christmas!

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime: but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity; but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love does not envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return; but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

By Sharon Jaynes, Celebrating a Christ Centered Christmas

Family Photo Friday


December is quickly coming to an end. Friday is here again. We will be "Christmasing" this weekend and all next week as well. We are hosting my hubby's side of the family this Sunday at our home. On Wednesday we will pack up and head to Wisconsin to celebrate with my side of the family. Tis the season for family time and travel.

Here is a photo of the children from our church's Christmas program. My daughter is in the dark blue jammies in the middle and my son is on the far right sitting down (he sat or laid down through the entire 35 minute program). The kids did well and the program was a lot of fun to watch.

My good friend Leah and her 3 kiddos spent a morning with us this past week. Here is my 7-year-old with 4-year-old Ada, playing dress up. What beautiful princesses!

Two of our nieces spent a day with us this week. Here's one niece, Hannah, making Oreo Truffle Balls - showing off her dirty (but yummy) hands.

Happy Christmas Eve to you all!

Children's Reading List: One Wintry Night

This book - One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham - is new to me. It came highly recommended from a homeschooling friend so I purchased it a week ago and started reading a chapter to my daughter each night. What a delight is has been!

The color illustrations are by Richard Jesse Watson and are superb! Each one is very detailed and so life-like. They draw you deeper and deeper into the story.

The storyline is that of the Christmas story, except that it starts at the beginning of history and explains the need for a Savior. Chapters cover creation, the garden, the fall, the flood, the promise to Abraham and the prophecies of a Messiah, all setting the stage before getting into the traditional Christmas story. There are 11 chapters total.

Even though my daughter has heard all of this before, the strength of this book is how it ties it all together - the importance of Jesus' birth because He is the promised Messiah from long ago, the One who fulfills the prophecies, the One who will take away the sin of the world that began in the garden of Eden. It is the overall story of the Bible told in terms anyone could understand and with such beautiful illustrations to enhance the story.

I highly recommend this book to share with the children in your life!

Foster Parenting - Log #6

Our first foster placement has come to an end. Yesterday our foster agency called to say that CJ's grandma has completed the paperwork and background check necessary for her to become his legal guardian. So as of yesterday afternoon, he left our home. We had him with us for just 10 days.

How are we processing all of this?

The bad:
*CJ was a handful and showed us in some ways how unprepared we are to handle a 9-year-old boy. So, I guess you could also call this good: we feel stronger than ever that desire to accept younger children is in line with what we can handle and what our kids can handle right now
*My kids are absolute sponges who soaked up a lot of the misbehavior CJ exhibited. The hardest part of the last 10 days was watching their behavior head downhill more and more as the days passed.

The good:
*We gave it our all and did the best we could with CJ
*Our kids opened up their hearts to love someone new
*We got our feet wet in the foster care system and learned more about how the pieces work together than we could get through the "theory" discussed in our training classes (ex. the role of the state case worker, our agency case worker, our role, the school's role, etc.)
*We provided a safe environment and consistent structure to a boy who needed it. And we made some memories. I am so glad he was able to go sledding almost every day, to help make and decorate sugar cookies, to plunk at the piano and realize he kinda likes music, to pick up some books to just read for fun - I'm fairly certain none of these activities would've happened in his previous home.

So, we have made it through our first foster placement. Who knows when we'll get our next call with a child to consider. In the meantime, we're enjoying reconnecting as a family of 4 and are preparing for a wonderful Christmas together.

Family Photo Friday


Friday is here! This week went by fast and now Christmas is less than 10 days away! As is my custom on Fridays, I will share a few photos from our home this week.

Here are my two kiddos all dressed up and under the Christmas tree. Oh, how I love them!

This was the week for holiday baking "stuff." My sisters-in-law Sheila and Karen and I do our own cookie exchange, creating goodie trays to share with friends and neighbors. We each do our own thing and then come together one night (with kids) to decorate cut-out cookies. This is a picture from that night, with piles of cookies in the foreground, waiting for icing and sprinkles.

Then we come together on a second night (without kids, ideally) to divide the spoils. Here is a "before" picture - all of the combined goodies waiting to be divided. We estimated that there were over 2,200 individual cookies on this table! I am thankful for a home big enough to host these events - room enough for everyone and all their cookies! :-)

This is a picture of just some of the finished goodie trays. We made over 80 of them this year, to divide between the 3 of us!

This is our last week watching our little buddy Eli. We have truly enjoyed watching him during the day and seeing him grow in the last 4 months. Now that we're into foster parenting our focus is shifting a little bit, but we will certainly miss the days we shared with Eli.

Lastly, I'll share two pictures of our current foster child, CJ. He had a lot of fun helping make cut-out cookies this week. With very little instruction, he did everything from start to finish - apron, ingredients, rolling, cutting, tasting, cooling, decorating. Good memories!

[Remember, it is against state guidelines to post pictures of the face of a foster child, so to post CJ's picture, I have to blot out his face.]

Here is CJ with a 5-foot floor puzzle he did by himself. I was proud of him for sticking with it and seeing it through to completion, as he is tempted to give up when something is difficult. We took the picture to remember the significance of the event.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Foster Parenting - Log #5

It's been 5 days with CJ in our home. Here some initial thoughts about how it's going.

  • There is nothing easy about foster parenting! Finding answers to any of our questions requires going through a number of case workers who claim that they'll need "to get back with you on that."
  • Kids are basically the same whether they are 3, 7 or 9. Although their issues (like selfishness or anger) might show up in various forms, they are still the same issues. CJ struggles with controlling himself - the same thing we've been working with my 3 year old on ("don't hit; use your hands to be kind") and my 7 year old ("don't throw something when you get mad; use your words to explain how you feel").
  • The foster care system is a crazy system. You just don't have many answers at the beginning. CJ could be with us for a few weeks or it could be a few months. We're not sure where he will be going when he leaves our house or who will have custody of him (there is a mom, a dad, and a grandma in the picture), which makes it hard to prepare him for what comes next.
  • Foster parenting is hard! Adding another child to any home changes the family dynamics and everyone has to adjust to "the new normal." The last 5 days have been days of adjustment for all of us. It feels like all the plates were tossed in the air in our juggling act and we have to learn how to juggle and spin them again - trying to find steps that work for all 5 of us, that meet the needs all of us have and are at least somewhat normal or natural to us. It's been hard... though the days are getting slightly easier as we settle into some routines and learn more about life together.
  • God is faithful! I truly believe that God has met us at our point of need this week. We have needed added strength for this task. He has faithfully provided. We have needed extra measures of patience and wisdom. We have asked these of Him and He has faithfully provided. Foster parenting has put me in a place of desperation for the Lord... and that's a good place to be!
Two stories to share from our time so far with CJ. First, he calls pancakes "pattycakes" which makes me smile every time! Secondly, we overheard this as he looked at one of the nativity scenes we have in our home on his first night with us. "This one Mary. This one Joseph. What the baby's name? Joseph Junior?"

Praying for the Lord to use us to show Himself to CJ.

Family Photo Friday


Friday is here again. This week seemed like 2 weeks rolled into 1 for me - lots going on. Here are a few of the pictures I was able to snap this week.

Here are my two kids and our foster child all helping in the kitchen with dishes - the most productive thing that happened all day! :-)

[posting pictures of the faces of foster children is against state regulations... so any pictures I post will have CJ's face blotted out]

We had lots of snow this week, so every day has been a "snow day" to enjoy some outdoor sledding time. This is my daughter giving the thumbs up sign. I think she loves sledding more than the rest of us and would stay out longer than I usually let her.

This is CJ trying to snowboard, kind of.

And my little guy all bundled up - so cute!

Happy Friday to one and all!

Foster Parenting - Log #4

As of yesterday at 5:30 pm, we have our first foster placement!

He's a 9-year-old boy that we'll refer to on this blog as CJ. I can't share much about his story, due to confidentiality.

When I'm able, I'll post more. For now, know that we appreciate your prayers for us and for CJ and his family's situation.

The Big Three

My son turned 3 years old this weekend!

It was a small family affair, but of course

there were gifts...

and smiles...
and cake (yes, cupcakes still count as cake).

Happy Birthday to my favorite little man!

(If interested, you can read the entire birth story here)

Family Photo Friday


Winter has arrived in full force. December is here. I look at the calendar for this month and shudder... I don't really enjoy such busyness but it is somehow unavoidable around the holidays. Here are a few photos from our week.

My kids. Laundry baskets. They always seem to go together at my house. :-)

This is Mr. Eli - the little guy we're watching during the daytime - taking some of his first steps, I think. He stood up by himself and pushed the walker a few steps. He's 9 and 1/2 months old and is more and more on-the-go each week!

We put up our Christmas tree and decorations last weekend. Here are my kids "helping" Dad put up the tree.

Happy weekend to one and all!

Do It Yourself: Christmas Tree Decoration

My husband is Mr. Handyman... and I love that fact about him!

Last Saturday he decided to do a little wood project. It involved the following steps:
1) look online at Christmas clip art and pick a simple design that could be cut out of wood.
2) draw design on paper to the scale he wanted it
3) cut design out of plywood with saw
4) sand plywood
5) paint plywood (with green tree color and then white "sprizzles" for the snow)
6) hang 24 mini ball ornaments on the new tree
7) delight the entire family with your new 2-foot Christmas tree decoration!

Family Photo Friday


The last Friday of the month of November is here. Christmas is now less than one month away. Here are a few photos from the week that just flew by.

Here is Eli - the little guy we watch during the daytime - in the johnny jump up. He is 9 months old now and is on the go, crawling everywhere. He is full of smiles and giggles more often now - such a fun stage.

Here is my daughter reading a book to Eli. He likes this a lot and helps turn the pages.
Here's my husband with a homemade pizza that looked (and tasted) sooo good. He doesn't get enough air-time on this blog, but I am happy to share photos of him whenever I have them to share.

My son has been really into floor puzzles lately. He has two favorites that are both construction scenes. If there's a cement truck, crane, dump truck or digger involved, he is glued to the picture. He returns to these over and over. He can't do them completely on his own yet, but he's enjoys doing them with me or big sister at least once a day. One last shot of my son, looking so adorable and grown up in his Sunday suit. He turns 3 next week. Mind boggling. And yes, his tongue is sticking out in this picture. It's genetic and runs in my husband's side of the family :-)

Happy end-of-November to you! Make it great as there will never be another November 2010 to relive.

Happy Thanksgiving

On this day that is set aside for giving thanks, let us lift up grateful hearts to the Lord who is the Giver of all good gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Children's Reading List: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Our most recent read-aloud book was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I had never heard of this book until a few months ago when a teacher friend, Mrs. Conrad, was cleaning out her classroom and offered us some of the extra books. She mentioned this book as a classic that she just loved. Now we now why! It is a great book.

I read the book myself before reading it with my daughter. I noticed the theme of compassion running throughout this book. I asked my daughter to look for examples of compassion as we read and we found at least six different instances where one or more of the animals were showing compassion on others.

The author - Robert C. O'Brien - does a masterful job at drawing the reader into the story and giving a sense that you are right there with the animals throughout their drama. And with unexpected plot twists, the book is a real page-turner that was hard to put down.

Two thumbs up for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!


Last weekend we decided to do some rearranging in my son's room. The plan was to make just one change, but one thing led to another and we ended up making major changes.

The toddler bed came out and a huge futon / loft bed went in. My son is now sleeping on the futon bed consistently. He loves it.

The crib was also still in the room previously. That is now out also, leaving more space for a reading corner and play area.

The beds we removed were moved to our "blue room" - our spare room that is waiting for a foster child or two to arrive. It now has room for 6 - three twin beds, a trundle bed (hidden under one of the twins), a toddler bed and a crib. We have been blessed with many beds... and this just weeks after we put "our need" for beds out there amongst family and friends. My daughter was counting it up and we have beds for 17 people in our house right now (as long as 3 of them are babies). I don't EVER anticipate needing room for 17, but yes, we are ready for guests! :-)

Family Photo Friday


After what seemed like the longest week in history to me, Friday has arrived! We've been battling sickness all week long (and still are) so very little happened this week that was productive. We homeschooled one day and I did bake a few batches of Christmas goodies one day. Otherwise, it's been a week of resting, laying low and general ugh-ness.

We watched Eli 3 days this week. One day we decided he might like a slow ride in the laundry basket, courtesy of my daughter. Indeed he loved it!

Then my son hopped in too (careful not to sit on Eli) and I grabbed a picture before it got too crazy (and filled with toys) and the basket needed to go away.

We had our adopted grandparents Greg and Ruth over for a meal last weekend. Good conversation, time to reconnect and lots of fun for our kids. We love these guys! This is Ruth with big hugs for my daughter.

Here's Greg reading a book with my little guy.

And here's Ruth playing with lincoln logs with my son. Fun times for everyone!

We're looking forward to a weekend with very little going on. We need to kick this sickness once and for all! Say a prayer for healing for us, if you think of it.

Happy weekend to all!

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday! It's Friday! I'm doing the happy dance :-)

Here are a few photos from our week.

This is Eli - the little guy we're watching during the day - in the high chair grabbing his Cheerios. He loves those Cheerios!

We've had a pet bird named Weezy for over a year now. In recent weeks my daughter has been asking more and more if we can get Weezy out of her cage and let her fly around the house. This has turned into "daily exercise" for Weezy now :-) Here's the pretty bird with the pretty girl.

We allow our daughter to take one extra-curricular class in the fall. She chose ballet, which is offered through our local Parks/Rec Department. Here she is showing a ballet position she has learned.

My husband snapped this shot of my son and me. Don't know what we were laughing at but my son's happy laughing face is classic. Love it!

Happy weekending!

Freebie Bonanza

It's been a freebie bonanza lately! :-)

These 4 freebies arrived in my mailbox yesterday - a sample of laundry detergent, a pair of socks, coupons for completely free Barilla pasta and My Faith Box" (a journal/scrapbook specifically for tracing your faith journey).

I had coupons to get all of the items in this second picture free - 8 boxes of Toaster Strudels (twice "won" while playing the daily game here), 1 package of Advil and 1 package of Cottonelle wipes. Totally free thanks to coupons...

If you too would like to get in on some of the freebies, check in with Money Saving Mom on a daily basis to find links to all kinds of giveaways and free offers.

Children's Reading List: Sarah Plain and Tall

I had never read Sarah, Plain and Tall before but knew it is a popular "classic" book. So I ordered this one from Paperback Swap and we picked it off the shelf a week ago to read. It's a surprisingly short book, so we finished it in just one evening. At the end of the book, my daughter declared it was her new favorite book (this happens at the end of almost every book we read :-)).

I was pleased that my daughter saw numerous parallels between the situation described in the book (children with no mother; a mail-order bride/mom shows up) and what foster children must be dealing with. Having not read the book in advance, I didn't expect that, so it was a surprising conversation starter that opened our eyes to more of the feelings foster kids experience.

Another great book. Two thumbs up. Glad to have this one on the bookshelf to read again!

Family Photo Friday


The first Friday of November is here. And around here that means that I post family photos from our week.

We've remained a bit under the weather this week, with colds, runny noses and coughs. But we've maintained a somewhat regular schedule that included watching Eli all 5 days this week and fitting homeschooling in 4 days out of the week (which is our regular schedule).

Here's my little man playing with playdough - which is one of the many activities he does at the table when I'm "doing school" with my daughter.

And here's my daughter working away on a writing assignment.

We had some professional pictures taken of the kids this week. Here are some of my favorites:

I'm so thankful for my family and my kids.
I can't imagine life without their smiles and laughter and love!

Happy weekend, y'all!