Monday, December 31, 2012

Illlinois Farm Families: Field Mom Opportunity

Do you care about how your food is raised? Do you have questions about why, when and how chemicals, antibiotics and hormones are used and how the animals you eat are cared for?

Then perhaps you should check out the website with the mission to show you how farmers grow your food, answer your questions about farms, farmers and farming and share with you what really happens on today's Illinois farms.  
Additionally, Illinois Farm Families is looking for urban/suburban moms from the Chicago area to tour Illinois farms in 2013 and share what they see and learn. Find the application here. Deadline is January 20th. It might be kind of fun!

Celebrating with the 'S' Family

Pictures of our time together with the this past weekend celebrating. While coming and going at different times throughout the weekend, we were all there for mom's amazing Christmas dinner, sharing gift & stockings. So much fun to be together!
U.Blake and little 'L' who is such a snuggler

a favorite stocking stuffer item -- a light up ball on a stick!

Zachary asked for an A+ in ANY of his classes; he recv'd a A+ in ALL of his classes from grandma & grandpa; if only it was that easy!
A.Raelynn reading to Jared & Moriah
I was playing with & teasing Jonah and captured this big grin -- love it!
Karissa is not always easy to capture with the camera; makes this picture extra sweet
his very own fishing pole. one excited little boy! FISH BEWARE :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Some Holiday Bowling

My mom has a CD on which there is a song with the following lyrics:
I got the wiggy wiggy wiggles and I can't slow down
The squizzy squizzy squirmies, got to move around
The busy busy buzzies like a buzzin' fly
The silly willy nillies and I don't know why.
The 'grands' LOVE this song, probably because it is so applicable to them, especially the three little boys. So, as part of our Christmas together-ness, we spent a couple of hours after unwrapping gifts and before dinner at a local bowling alley in an attempt to contain/exhaust some of those wiggles. And while the bowling scores were mostly dismal, it was super-fun, for kids & adults alike. 
Xander was SUPER-stoked to get a new pair of shoes for Christmas & bummed when he had to give them back :)
grandma & a couple of her boys
he LOVES making this face; ALL my pictures would look like this if the X-man had his way!

Together With the 'H' Family

I have learned much this past holiday season (and in the months prior, too) but maybe nothing more impactful than having a heart of gratitude for the priviledge of family. No family is perfect. No family is without its troubles. No family loves one another faultlessly. Supports each other flawlessly. Family time can be loud & conversations conflicted. And yet for most of us, being with family offers a haven that can be found nowhere else. 
Family is THERE even when our troubles are inconvenient or our focus is self-centered. Family is THERE when crisis happens. And THERE when there's reason for celebration. Family is THERE even when no words are spoken. Here is a glimpse of some of those whom I am blessed to call my family.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Morning at Home

Our holidays have been a bit abbreviated because of a continuing battle with strep/flu/migraines/fever/coughs/sniffles and various other symptoms the past week. So, while we were blessed to all be together & at least partly functioning on Christmas morning, it was kind of low-key. 
The book, Room for a Little One, was gifted to us by a friend the first Christmas after Xander joined our family. Blake has read it every year since. A sweet story which I highly recommend for those will little ones/toddlers.  
And because reading books is perhaps even MORE exciting than opening gifts for our little guy, we followed up with another version of The Christmas Story.
 And then, he X-man finally revealed the lump @ the bottom of his stocking -- a clydesdale pony.
And to further illustrate how not-on-the-top-of-my-game I was, this is basically the sum-total of pictures I took of our Christmas Day :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

To those who did not receive our family's holiday card & letter, here is a peek into our lives.
Our family expanded this past year…but not exactly in the way we anticipated. While we hoped to receive a referral/match with an orphan from Ethiopia, instead God ushered in four little ones thru Safe Families for Children (SFFC) ministry. Avante (January-April), Sarahlynn (May), Giana (June) and Lily (October) all came and left, taking pieces of our hearts. This ministry has s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d our family and while the work can be hard, we rejoice in knowing “…God shall supply all [our] need according to His riches in glory thru Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:19). Oh, and we also had a houseguest, nicknamed by Alexander “the amazing Ayo” stay with us several months. He is the inspiration behind X-man’s plans to become a NFL football player. Once he learns to catch a ball with his eyes OPEN, I may take him more seriously!
Blake continues to juggle his responsibilities managing the Outpatient Physical Therapy Department at Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital, chairing the Government Affairs Committee of the IPTA, and finishing up his MBA while being a husband and dad. I can say ‘finishing up’ in regards to the MBA since he needs to complete only two more semesters to earn his degree. There WILL be a celebration!
My days look like those of many SAHMs – trips to the library, fitness classes at the YMCA, playdates with friends, laundry/meals/housework, frequenting resale shops & garage sales to keep up with an ever-growing boy. I continue as editor of a small Christian newsletter, Titus2 and volunteer at Evangelical Child & Family Agency (ECFA) as time allows.
Alexander. Xander. X-Man. All the same little boy. Chatty. Imaginative. Loves PBJs and striped cheese (also known as co-jack). Hilarious one moment. An emotional disaster the next. He has embraced being a big brother to our SFFC kids and one night, while I was talking on the phone to a caseworker said excitedly, “Does she have another one [child] for us?”  He talks about his little brother in Africa coming home to stay FOREVER & then flying to Kenya to go on a safari adding, “Sorry, mom. You can’t come. It’s for daddy & the boys only”. He asks lots of questions and is always making future plans often beginning with, “When I grow up, when I am a dad with three boys…”He gets in trouble, innocently explaining an empty space on the cookie pan, “But, Mom. It wasn’t stealing because I didn’t think you’d notice.” He mostly refuses any kind of snuggling, wants to lay out his own clothes, loves getting new socks and endures errands to the bank/cleaners only because of the free lollipops. During both the good and the oh-so-not-good moments, our prayer remains that he, like Jesus, will grow, become strong, be filled with wisdom and the grace of God (Luke 2:20).
Wishing you a blessed Christmas and a new year filled with grace & love.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

4Yr Olds Preschool Program 2012

Today was 'program day' at preschool. Blake was able to take a couple of hours off work & grandpa/grandma S. came to school, too. The kids acted out the Christmas story with mostly teacher narration; the only 'speaking parts' were the phrases: "No room!" and "Good news!":) Most of the 4Yr olds had stage fright but they were still great!

the class, minus the off-stage angels

the wiseman, the star (in gold), mary & joseph

the oh-so-cute innkeeper...
...who had a case of the sniffles and partway thru the program pulled a tissue out of his cloak which must have been sweetly placed there by a teacher :)
little Ty-Ty kept peeking over his dad's shoulder at me so I had to snap a picture :)
singing 'Jingle Bells' with classmate
the angels, 2 of the 3 girls in the class

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Seeing the Future

I sometimes, umm...ocassionally, OFTEN find my thoughts turning towards the future. What if? When will? I can't wait for... These kind of thought randomly flitter thru my mind. And while I acknowledge it is critical to live in the present, I believe it is human-nature for our eyes to turn to the future, too.

I must admit that in my "former" years (i.e. childhood, high school/college, etc) I spent an exborbirant amount of time fearing the future. I wanted to know what was going to happen, when it would happen, how it would happen. Why? So I could plan. And prepare. And craft a PlanB, just in case. 
Fast-forward a few years. Okay, let's be honest, my college days are more than just a FEW years in the past! That brings us to my "current" years. I still think about the future, wondering what the next days/weeks/years will bring. I will admit, if God ever offered a come-and-get-a-copy-of-your-life's-roadmap giveaway, I would be first in line. But, thankfully, as I have grown in faith and have seen the faithfulness of God, the paralyzing fear is less present throughout my days. My ability to predit future events has not changed; God still does not allow us to know the future. But I think my trust in God has grown. I don't need to know the details only "that He will never leave nor forsake me." An article in a recent Guideposts (December 2012) stated, "...we DO know, in fact, what the future holds. It holds God's perfect love, waiting for us in every tomorrow."

It was a good reminder for me, so I thought I would share with hopes it might encourage your heart, too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Giveaway: Weekend To Remember

AND THE WINNER IS: Angie! (My mom sent me your address; will mail the certificate in the next day or two). CONGRATULATIONS!

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 (regular rate $129/person). It expires August 31, 2014. 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.

Please post a comment by 8AM on Friday, December 7th to enter the giveaway. OPTIONAL: Share a favorite holiday gift from your spouse in your entry comment, good ideas always appreciated!  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Celebration

We spent Thursday celebrating Thanksgiving with the S-Family. It was good to be together! I did not get many pictures of the meal (which was oh-so-delicious) or even the activities (which included an Uncle Shannon/Bear chase in the almost 60-degree sunshine & a homemade play-doh party) but here are couple of images with the cousins (Jared, Jonah & Lavell).


Oh, yeah...are you wondering what is up with this LAST one? Grandpa built the kids an Native American tepee in the backyard. How cool is that! This image captures the X-man performing a "pow-wow dance" around the teepee (while Gpa is inside looking just a wee-bit frightened). Yep! Learned that in prescool last week. Oh, this boy makes me smile :)

First Come the Lights

This was the first year that Alexander actually participated in decorating the Christmas tree. He has definitely been present the past three years but...yeah, not much help. Year #1 = too scared of the lights. Year #2 = touching, drooling on, dropping everything in sight. Year #3 = almost toppling the tree b/c of wanting desperately to be RIGHT where daddy was. But this year, Year #4 = a crash course in untangling lights.

And proof that the effort paid off...

A Nativity Story

I am kind of over-protective of the Demdaco nativity set which I have been gifted with thru the past 10+years. But, as we unpacked our Christmas bins last evening, I knew that arranging the navity scene would "make" the X-man's day. And, I must confess I was a little intrigued as to what my storyteller 4Yr old would come up when arranging the display. I retreated to a safe distance -- well, about 1.2 centimeters from the location of Xander's little hands as he placed each piece into position, and listened. 

These guys came first. "Mom. Sheep were very important. And, see the sack behind the sheep. They need to be close to that YOU know what's in there? (not pausing for an answer...) "It is corn. With really big soybeans mixed in."

The buffet, on which our Nativity is displayed during the Christmas season is approximately 5-feet long. Nope, too much space. He arranged all the pieces in roughly a 6-inch diameter with the following explanation. "Mom. Everyone wants to see baby Jesus. And he's really small. It was kind of crowded..."

In the coming weeks,I hope to take time to see the season thru my son's eyes. I wonder what all I will learn.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Journey Continues...

For those following along, last week I started my 12th...yes! 12th...trimester being pregnant. In the adoption world, its called paper-pregnant. Mathmatically speaking, its 3 years. Emotionally speaking, it is a REALLY long time.

When inquiring via a phone conversation with CHSFS about the potential for receiving a referral before the end of the year, our caseworker kindly reminded me that THIS wait, waiting to see our child's face/history revealed, is potentially the easiest time of waiting and it only gets harder once we've met our child, while waiting for court dates & embassy approvals. Gee, thanks, for that! :)

Perhaps its simply the time of the year & recalling past significance dates -- we became Alexander's official parents on November 11th and arrived back in the States as a forever family (gotcha day!) on December 12th, 2008. Maybe its the questions from X-man asking about the brother/sister in Africa who is going to be with us FOREVER, an important distinction for him as he processes our ministry with Safe Families for Children versus having a 'real' sibling. Maybe its the holidays, the anticipation of gathering together with family and feeling within as if 'someone' is missing.  

That's where I am tonight. Waiting. Waiting on the Lord. Waiting to hear the phone ring. Waiting to see a picture, the image of a child who sleeps & plays in a orphanage half a world away. Waiting on His timing. Not my favorite activity. I would rather be DOING. But for now, I wait with great anticipation of the time when HIS plans for our family will be revealed.  

Morning Conversation with X-Man

Our conversation on the way to preschool yesterday. Love how their little minds work, although a mystery what will come out next :)

X: Mom, I am afraid of God.
ME: Really. Why are you afraid of God?
X: Well, because I have never MET God. That's why I am afraid.
ME: God is love. You don't need to be afraid of love or of God.
X: Well, maybe after I am in heaven a few years and get to know God, then we'll be friends and I won't be afriad anymore.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Review: Unending Devotion

I was recently provided the book, Unending Devotion, written by Jody Hedlund to review by Bethany House.

This book was okay, in my opinion. Why only okay? Probably mostly because I could not personally relate to Lily Young, the main character of the book. Her impulsiveness seemed a little TOO much, crossing over into carelessness & foolishness, at times. She loved her sister, a commendable attribute, but she acted in ways that put others in harm’s way, without thinking thru the consequences. That said, I really liked Oren’s character, who brought humor to the story with his protectiveness & feisty-ness.
I did like the author’s ability to transport readers back to another era, to the lumber mills/camps of the 1880s. And, I especially appreciated Hedlund’s use of a real town, a real villain and real problem for the storyline, illustrating the possibility for reform, both in the 1880s and still today.

The realness of prostitution & sex-trafficking, while never completely graphic within the pages of the book were presented with authenticity and for this reason, I would not recommend to young readers.