Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas with the S.Family

We celebrated Christmas this past weekend with the S-Family. The holiday meal was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. Gift-opening was a bit chaotic; isn't it always? It was kind of funny not to have even a hint of snow in the air. Jonathan even ran a few miles Nashville-style (in shorts! in december!).

It was a bittersweet moment as Anissa 'unpacked' her stocking for the last time; she's the oldest grandchild so was given not only the stockings' contents but the well-worn/well-loved sock itself.

Alexander got a saw/tool set that he saw at a discount-store several months ago. After informing him that we did not have money to purchase the item, he confidently stated, "Mom. I'm gonna put this on my Christmas list. Gma S. will buy it for me." She did! :)

Elijah waiting for his turn...

these two were often seen together (L) bundled up to play outside 'an explosion of pink' cowgirl (i.e. pink cowboy boots, not pictured)

i'm not even sure what this is called but kept Zachary occupied for hours!opening his long dreamed-about saw/tool set

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Story Skit

My niece, Anissa, coordinated a really fun skit with the 'grands' at our family Christmas celebration.

Alexander did not quite get the concept of individuals taking turns saying their parts but when prompted, he was able to remember his lines. He started out as the innkeeper, "There is no room here. We're full!" and especially liked the required slamming-the-door action. He then morphed into a sheperd for the remainder of the play, saying with much enthusiasm, "What's that?" when referring to a lamp improvising as a bright star and then shouting, "Did you hear what they said?" followed by throwing himself onto the floor with the other shepherds.

Yeah, I know not much of that is exciting but well, here are some pictures. While I did not get great shots of the always-on-the-move 2YR olds, Savannah and Lavell, were adorable in the sheep costumes.

miss savannahthe angels, as played by Karissa and Moriahjonah trying so hard to remember his linesthe little shepherd boy...(with Mary/Emily in bottom left)

Friday, December 23, 2011

WANTED: New Delivery Boy!

Alexander and I delivered some cookies to the neighbors tonight. No, ours did not look as delightful as the plate above but that is (mostly) besides the point. The X-man was SO excited to be the delivery boy, carefully carrying the small plate in his hands as we trooped thru the yard. When Alice came to the door, he brightly said while jumping up & down, "Happy Merry Christmas!" and then to my great & complete embarrassment added with a solemn tone, "They didn't turn out so well." Oh my goodness!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nighttime Conversation...

We've been having issues with the X-man settling down for bedtime the past couple of weeks. First, he wants more 'friends' in his bed; Mr. Elephant and Big Cat are afraid to sleep alone, I guess. Then the covers need to be JUST so. The music needs to be turned up; no, just a little bit more. And the pitter-patter of little feet is often heard scampering about way after the lights are out.

This was a recent late night conversation.

BWS: You will not get out of this bed. Do you understand?
X: Yes, dad.
BWS: I don't want to hear any noise when I go downstairs.
X: Oh. So, so, if I do get out of bed, I should tip-toe. Right, dad?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Three Years Ago...

...we arrived at our local airport with this sweet bundle of boy. How our lives have changed since that day! I pray we will never take for granted this most precious gift.

We love you, Alexander!

Money Saving Tip: Capturing Memories

If you've not noticed (wink! wink!), I enjoy capturing memories thru pictures. Since I am not a paper/glue/stickers kind of scrapbooker, I have made it a goal to create a yearly photobook for Alexander.

I created his first 8x8 hard-cover book using and a free coupon code. Because I am kinda big on consistency :), I wanted to keep his collection of books as similar in size/construction as possible while also keeping the costs low. Long story short (or at least, shorter) I struggled to find a reasonable deal on books the following year. The 20-30% off coupon codes I found could not be combined with free shipping ($7.95) so the bottom line was still a bit higher than I wanted to pay. If I used a different online photo-site the standard book size was slightly larger/smaller, the deal only included a discount on soft cover books, etc. So, while Alexander's 2010 book was complete and in my Saved Projects, I delayed in ordering.

This past fall, while searching for something totally unrelated, I discovered you can purchase Shutterfly coupon codes on (!). I was able to purchase FOUR free 8x8 hard-cover coupon codes for less than $6. Since only one code per order is allowed, I did have to order each of the four books seperately and pay shipping + tax for each ($8.65). All in all, I spent $40.60 on four books instead of the $154.56 (!) normal retail price.

I like deals like this, so I thought I would pass the tip along in case you have some 'memory capturing' on your ToDo list. And, hey, if you have a similar or even better deal, do share!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Preschool Program (Over!)

We are finding our not-so-shy little boy to be a not-so-willing on-demand performer/participant. His first Sunday School program was a total bust! While walking to the front of the church, he spotted his daddy & grandpa and raced into the familiar arms of two of his favorite people.

This past Thursday was his first preschool program. We invited GmaS. After routinely telling me, "I am NOT doing it, mom. I am not," he nervously entered the classroom searching for a familiar/friendly face. I thought he might break line & run across the room when he spotted Gma but he stayed front-and-center the whole program. Whew! I have been told that I should not take his hesitation personally/negatively, but I have to say it is proving to be difficult.

The Christmas Program at our church is this evening. Here is hoping & praying he has conquered his stage-fright jitters :)

P.S. Yes; there are also girls in his class but I think the (wise) teachers sandwiched the rowdy boys in between the more willing-to-participate girls left to hold down the ends of the performance line. Since I was focused on my little man, my pictures captured the boys :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Is Coming...

...and this little boy cannot wait! :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Family Expansion

Our holiday card, possibly coming to a mailbox near you, includes some news about our plans for a family expansion -- old news to some, new news to others. We have been on the waiting list for child from Ethiopia since November 9, 2009.While we had hoped to share news of our referral/child match this summer (2011), based on decisions by the Ethiopian government to process adoption cases at a dramatically slower rate beginning this past March, our agency's current projection is that we will have a new child in our family sometime in 2014-2015. How's that for planning ahead?!

I will most certainly be talking more about our second adoption journey in the coming weeks/months/years but to be honest, right now there is not much to say. We are simply waiting. We believe a child will be born in Ethiopia in the next couple of years whom God has hand-picked to place within our family. The exact details are unknown but we know His plan & His timing is perfect.

In the meantime, this past week we received some good news. Our family was selected to receive a $2500 matching grant from Lifesong for Orphans, a non-profit Christian ministry dedicated to help meet the needs of orphan children around the world. What does this mean? Basically, Lifesong for Orphans will match dollar-for-dollar any gift received in our adoption fundraising account by January 9th, 2012 (up to $2500 amount).

It is humbling to ask for your assistance. We do so because there are some large financial gaps in our adoption expeditures & our bank account and we believe THRU YOU, God can fill in those gaps. We have also come to understand that not ALL are called to adopt orphans but MANY desire to be part of God's work in bringing children into forever families. So, consider our journey, YOUR journey. We are glad to share :)

If you would consider partnering with us, you can send a check, payable to Lifesong for Orphans with 'Stahl #2343' indicated in memo line, to the following address:
Lifesong for Orphans
Stahl Family Adoption #2343
PO Box 40/202 N Ford Street
Gridley, IL 61744

NOTE: Your gift is tax-deductible (and if post-marked by December 31st, 2011 eligible to be claimed on this year's taxes). 100% of funds raised will go directly to cover adoption costs. In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor's suggested use.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Early Morning Conversation with X-Man

X: Mom. My heart is not working. Its battery is broken.
ME: Hmmm...(remember, it was really early!)

X: But, it's okay, Mom. God is charging it for me.
ME: Hmmm...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The First Gardener

I recently read “The First Gardener” by Denise Hildreth Jones. It is a story about loss, love and living. WoW! I cried and laughed...okay, I mostly cried. A LOT!

Sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Mingled amidst moments of joy and thankfulness, life can often be filled with hurt and heartache, too. The unimaginable happens. Disappointments crush our spirits. Life intersects with reality. We find ouselves in the midst of the strangling weeds of imcomprehensible loss or confusion or fear. If you have 'been there', in a struggle with despair/depression, overwhelmed with loss/grief, broken and bruised, I think you might appreciate this poignant read.

A few of my favorite lines/lessons from the book; just bits & pieces.

“God okay if you mad, Miz Mackenzie. Way I figure, he hear evey’thing, so ain’t much we gots to say gon’ shock him. But when you take the heart he gone and placed inside you and shut it all down, well…don’t know if there by anythin’ make him ache more.”

“He wasn’t going to run from his grief any longer. Instead, when the grief showed up, he was going to run into it. He would hold it, feel it, absorb its impact. Then he’d move back into the life that, for whatever reason, he’d been left to live.”

“Father, my baby girl is broken, and I can’t fix her. I see that now. I really do. I’ve done everything I know to do. I’m all out of fixin.”

“But no matter what it pretend to be, pride be such a liar. It make us think we sump’n we ain’t. Make us think we can get by without God.”

“Not around or under. Just through.” This reminds me of Isaiah 43:2 which says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass throught the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned."

“Forgive me,” she whispered. She spoke it for many reasons. But she spoke it first to herself. She had to in order to live. Finally, she spoke it to heaven. She was coming to realize that heaven had not been holding her prisoner. Yes, God had allowed her to be crushed beneath a weight of grief she didn’t feel anyone should have to carry, but it was she who had imprisoned her own soul. It was self-pity that had held her in a prison of grief. Not that the pain wasn’t real. But somehow it had welded itself to resentment over the fact that real life didn’t match her picture of it. She had assumed she deserved to have the life she wanted, and when that didn’t happen, she had wanted to give up. For that, she told heaven she was sorry.”

“And in that deep place in her soul, where the black pit that had all but swallowed her whole still existed as a reminder of what she could choose, she made a decision.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort...

My parents both celebrated their 60th birthdays this past year (in March & May) so we decided to schedule some time for family & fun. Not the most simple task when taking into account spring planting, autumn harvest, work schedules and baby due dates (we added two little ones to our family this year!) but it was accomplished & we gathered together at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort in Utica, IL a couple of weekends ago. So much fun to watch the kids play (and sometimes, fight!) together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

And the Winner Is...


SETH and CASEY: Please send your mailing address to bcstahl01 at and I will drop the certificate in the mail. Thanks for the comments. My prayer for all is that God will strengthen our marriages as we tackle the sometimes hard day-to-dayness of living out relationships which bring glory to Him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Along the Coastline

During our last day in Oregon, we headed a couple hours west to the coastline. Like the rest of the state we had observed previously...simply beautiful!

We walked thru the art shops, candy stores, etc. of Cannon Beach and snacked on some incredible crepes (i.e. proscuitto, fig and chevre cheese) We drove south along the coast, pulling off at scenic spots along the way before arriving @ the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The cheese was okay. The ice cream, possibly the best I have EvEr had.There is this 'rock structure' along that coast called Haystack Rock. It is a dedicated, protected Marine Garden, rising 235 feet out of the sand and the sea at the low tide line in Cannon Beach, Oregon. We missed low-tide, so perhaps that is part of the reason this landmark, one of the most photographed in the state of Oregon, kind of left me unimpressed. But, after travelling south, we discovered Haystack Rock II and settled in for about 2-hours to watch the sun set over this secondary landmark. Definitely impressive! And a very peaceful end to a fantastic time away.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Driving the Countryside

Part of our trip included some time in Willamette Valley. Being a farm girl @ heart, I really enjoyed driving around the countryside and visiting vineyards, both small farms & larger estates. We met some incredibly genuine & engaging people and had a simply good time. Here are a few rustic images from our treks thru the W.valley.

Switchback? What's That?

Okay. Back to Oregon. It is Sunday evening. We have decided, much to my great pleasure & delight, to spend the following day doing absolutely nothing. Sleeping in. Reading thru the afternoon. Perhaps a nap; okay, definitely a nap! Stepping out for an early dinner @ the Horseradish Cafe just around the corner, etc. I was anticipating a vacation-style day of my dreams.

Fast-forward to Monday morning. I sleepily crawl from beneath the covers (thinking it is early, too early to be considered sleeping in) and see my husband already pacing around our room. Not a good sign. He's munching away at breakfast & already has the coffee brewed. And, it appears he might have already showered. Hmmm...this is NOT looking like a lay-low kind of day. And then he speaks, "So, I was thinking..."

Fast-forward another 30-minutes. I have a mug of hot chocolate in my hands & my camera over my shoulder. We are on our way to an all day hiking adventure in the mountains of OR. much for the nap! :)

After driving for just over an hour, we arrive at the Columbia River Gorge area, park our car and start checking out the trails. After walking for a bit, we see a mass of cars/people down the road and discover that we are at the Multnomah Falls. "We" decide to hike to the top. A fellow hiker/tourist (headed in the opposite direction, nonetheless) non-chalantly mentions the trail has 13 switchbacks. I am unfazed; I have no clue what a switchback is.

Fast-forward another 40-minutes. I am gasping for air. My legs are burning. My knees screaming. The odds of my falling off the edge of the trail are skyrocketing upwards by the moment. By now, I know WHAT a switchback is and cannot believe there are five MORE before we acheive the pinnacle of our hike, the top of the falls. My husband looks over his shoulder and smiles back at me. I level a hard-core glare at him and think, "I am supposed to be napping right about now!"

Sarcasm aside, we did have a fun day! The air was crisp, perfect for hiking, and the beauty around us was pretty awesome. Here is some proof of that.

In case ya'll might be (kindly) assuming my slightly damp hair in the above photograph is from the misting of the waterfall in the background, let me set the record straight. It is soaked! With persperation. The I-just-hiked-up-thirteen-switchbacks-and-am-sorely-out-of-shape kind of sweat :) Just sayin'. Pathetic, I know.

Monday, November 7, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Weekend To Remember

Blake & I have been gifted with a 'ministry partner certificate' to attend Family Life's Weekend to Remember Conference. The certificate entitles a couple to attend a Weekend To Remember of their choice for $39/person. It expires August 31, 2012. Since we cannot use this certificate because our marriage is perfect/flawless (ha! ha! gasp! gasp!), we'd like to give it to a couple who can.

To be eligible to win you must be (a) either engaged or married and (b) make a committment to redeem the certificate prior to its expiration date OR re-gift it to friends who will be able to attend the conference. Check
HERE for details regarding locations & dates for upcoming events.

The Weekend to Remember can help a struggling marriage find hope OR make a good marriage even better. Either way, it's a WIN-WIN.

Pease post a comment by 8AM on Friday, November 11th (11/11/11) to enter the giveaway.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Something to Consider...

The question for us is this, will I do the thing God has asked me to do and trust God to do the part only He can do? Do I have the faith to believe that if I would only ask, God would show up and do His work in my heart & my home?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

10Yr Anniversary Getaway (Part I)...

We were recently able to piggy-back a little anniversary getaway with a work-related course Blake completed in Portland, Oregon. Traditionally a very rainy season in OR, we were not certain how many outdoor adventures we'd be able to coordinate but (PTL), the weather was amazing! Cool. Crisp. Partly sunny/partly cloudy. And the fall colors against the background of evergreens exceeded our expectations.

I took lots of pictures, of course! since that is my favorite way of documenting life. Here are a few teaser pictures of our time away -- more to come when I can steal some additional moments for editing/posting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Little Man...

Blake is out-of-town for a few days.

While talking to him on the phone this AM Alexander overheard me saying, "I miss my man."

The X-man gently laid his hand on my arm and said, "I'm right here, Mom."