Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Preparation & Hunt

It amazes me how quickly the days before Christmas seem to FLY by! Add in a few snow days that not only kept the kids home from school but also my husband (which means it was REALLY bad weather!) and I feel really rushed. Rushed not so much for what I haven't gotten done, but what I haven't savored fully. But then again, that would be impossible unless I was able to stop time itself in order to soak up every last bit of the season ... and even then I know I would miss the mark and wish for more.

One thing I did do was try to simplify gift giving this year. "Tried." Looking at the tree I'm not sure I was very successful. I'm hoping to do better with every year. It is amazing how the world can just suck me in especially when it comes to thinking I can make someone happy and satisfied with buying or giving them something. And I keep running into references in my quiet time and online and on the radio to "Presents vrs Presence" and I think this is very significant as I know God knows how much I am struggling with making Christmas mean what it should in our house.

In an attempt to spend less, I decided to gift some hand-me-down toys from my sister's family that are in really great shape, bid on a few things on eb@y and make a couple of things myself (thanks Shawna for encouraging this with your Homemade Crafty Post.
This is a colored pencil folio that I made. I got the idea from a REAL one I saw at an art store that was around $40+! I also saw a smaller homemade version on ebay and some directions HERE. However, I wanted it to hold more pencils and so I had to fiddle with the measurements in order to make it bigger and give myself a headache ... I mean a challenge.

With the Christmas Operation Giggle presents that my sons helped me send to Philip and Samuel at ND I truly feel deeply blessed this Christmas season for giving and not getting. It was a great way to start preparing our hearts earlier this year... But it ultimately also led to the great toy hunt of 2009. You see while shopping for gifts for Philip I spotted THE most cuddly monkey. I knew that Brayden would love it and so since he chose Philip to sponsor I thought it would be perfect! Well, I should have gotten two. They weren't expensive in fact I wondered why they weren't priced higher! But I wasn't going to argue with the tag! Well, of course Brayden loved it ... and although this may surprise any of you who may know Brayden, he has a very soft heart in places and when it gets squeezed, oh my, watch out! Well, he hesitantly (but only for a brief second) and then VERY heart-fully and genuinely gave that monkey for Philip knowing that it would be so special to him. But guess what was at the TOP of his Christmas list?! The monkey. In fact there were only 2 things on his list, a NintendoDS and the monkey ...
We aren't getting him a DS for fear of losing him to a handheld game at such an early age and also for the fact that they are expensive. But the monkey, now I could totally do that! So I went back to WalM@rt thinking it would be a slam dunk purchase ... but ... they were all gone and had been replaced by cheaply made "similar" animals that would just not pass as the same. So, the hunt began ... 8 WalM@rts and 5 cities later I FINALLY had my sister purchase one at her local store that we thought might be able to pull off as close enough. That was until we were in WalM@rt last week and I thought I'd see if he remembered what the original monkey looked like just to test the waters. Well, the original one wasn't there, the one my sister found was not there, but a THIRD monkey was there and he was CERTAIN it was THE one. Can you guess where this is going?
He carried it through the toy section while I did some shopping for my nephews and when I told him that he would have to put him back he teared up ... however he didn't fall apart in a fit or tantrum, but teared up and wept ... not the ugly selfish kid kind of fit that I have had to deal with in the past and have witnessed other parents deal with too. No, this was different. It was something much deeper and since there was only one monkey left when he obediently put him back despite the tears I could feel his sadness and his doubting that that monkey would ever find his way to him or that the monkey would be "okay" out there in the world without that special little boy. It led to a conversation in the van about how God was using this moment to build his character in trust and faith that God would provide what it was that he REALLY needed and patience for not getting it NOW but perhaps in time. In fact, as I heard myself talking, it was almost like I could take those very words and apply them to myself in other situations. Brayden so much said everything I've said in the past, "yes, I want this ... but I want that too! I've been so good ... it's perfect for me ... why not? why not NOW?!"

Well, to add to the drama the night before the above incident I had gone onto eb@ay and found the original monkey (which is as cute as a bug's ear!) and purchased it from a dear lady for not that much more than it originally cost. However, now I have 3 monkeys! The original one I agree is CUTE, the one my sister bought and then the one Brayden fell in love with on Monday. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all of them ... but it was an amazing lesson for this mom. As parents we try so hard to get exactly what our children "need"--when that is somewhat illusive and can be ever changing. And how blessed that I am able to provide my children with the big things so they aren't worried about them and they can fill their concerns with the little things that children should only have to deal with. He has a mom, a dad, a home, love, food, health ... our abundance is so great and yet how often I still cry out to God and pray for things or situations. He so lovingly tells me to have trust, faith and patience in His timing and His wisdom and sometimes He says NO. And I also came across this verse too. Yes, God knows so well how to give good gifts.

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"--Luke 11:11-13

God will supply all your needs according to HIS glorious riches in Christ Jesus our Lord.--Phil 4:19

I look forward to seeing Brayden's face Christmas morning when he unwraps HIS monkey. And as a family we are looking forward to knowing that another monkey is being opened half way around the world with just as much love and excitement. What a win-win-win!
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bird Seed Bagels

Earlier this spring I was perusing another blog-friend's site (THANKS SARA!) and I came across this COOL project that I just had to try! It turned out to be the perfect day to mix together the peanut butter and LARD (that was the thing that I kept forgetting to add to my shopping list and for some reason (haha) is not already in my pantry. Although ... is this what Crisco is? Wait, seems to me Crisco is vegetable shortening and lard is from animals ... hmmm, I seem to be out of Crisco too.)

Here is the link to the original blog complete with photos. I captured in photos just one of my little partners in bird-seed-donut making. I gotta tell ya, they looked so good--like sprinkled donuts--that I almost wanted to try one! Almost that is.

Gifts for the birds ... from the heart.

I love the quote that Sara put on these originally. I just may have to copy her tags too.
It's a Chinese Proverb that says, "If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come."
What a vision of HOPE.

Day-old bagels (although we had to use fresh ones)
Peanut Butter,
Ribbon for hanging
And a bag and tag.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Snapshot-Easton

He's loves to pretend he's the meat in the "sandwich" made using the couch cushions,

He pushes his brother's buttons by copying EVERYTHING he does (because he looks up to him SO much. Too bad Brayden doesn't appreciate this,)
He tells the best jokes,
He always makes me laugh,

Reminds me so often how BIG God is,
And he has the kindest heart EVER.

He even made dandelion "soup" for me this spring.

He is such a sport and plays so well with his brothers.
He promises that he will NEVER let a girl ride in his red pick-up truck
And that he'll always live at home with us.
ya ... right. (haha)

We are SO blessed to have Easton as our son. He is a treasure beyond measure.
Love you Easton!

Ni Hao Y'all

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ashlynn Coconut

I had one of those not-so-stellar-moments-in-parenting last week (or maybe it was 2 weeks ago) on the way to my son's hockey practice. I had just carried my 2 sleeping children to the car to go and pick up my third at the school. I was already running right at the time that I needed to leave with no minutes to spare ... when my four year old hurled all over the mini-van. (of course all over the area with knobs and buttons on the seat.) It was yucky ... anyway ... I briefly kinda lost my cool at the situation, but luckily I was able to recover with some massive clean-up, hot water, Clorox wipes,Lysol and prayer (ha!)
I would also like to add that I was going on about 2 hours of sleep after being up all night with Easton who was coughing constantly throughout the night and threw up all over me and the bed twice before finally getting some rest.

Anyway, while I was sitting at the ice arena waiting for Brayden to finish his meeting I shared a couple DumDum suckers with my 4 year old (who was feeling better and just had too much phlem from a cold that caused the earlier troubles.) I was feeling pretty low and unworthy as a parent and I chuckled at the fact I was having a DumDum ... how appropriate for me.
Here I am blessed with 3 incredible boys how can I possibly have an inkling of a thought of even being a bit worthy of even entertaining the idea of adopting. How crazy. It was the stark reality of my humanness as a parent. And how lacking I am.
Guess what the kind of sucker I ended up with out of the two in my pocket?

"Ashlynn Coconut"
Only God.
Did you even know they made a flavor called that?
I didn't.
You see, "Ashtyn" was the girl name we never got to use with our first 2 children that garnered our chosen BOY names ... and then "Ashlyn" was the name reserved for Nolan if he had been a girl. Such a sweet name.

Earlier this year my passion for orphans was reignited and I came across a blog of a family following their journey to their daughter "Georgia," a special needs heart baby in China. (SIDENOTE: That was the name I LOVED and had chosen first as our girl-name pre-children. Well, Jeff was not so keen on the name and although it has a special place in my heart, it was not going to be an easy sway with my husband.) So, as I journeyed with this family through the emotional rollercoaster I ended up in August leaving a comment on their blog as they prepared to leave the hospital after successful heart surgery for their Georgia. I was a little bit sad that my peep into their journey was probably coming to a close as they would most likely move along away from their blog and melt into daily life as a family. I for some reason went back to read comments on their blog that day and I noticed one after mine that the commenter mentioned the sweet journey she would soon be on to get her "Ashlyn". It was at nearly the same moment I had the previous thought about missing Georgia. Wow. Maybe it's just me ... but the timing of these things just cannot escape me. It was beyond words A-MAZING. (And I cannot help but see a red thread between my heart and those 2 names that mean so much to my heart. What that red thread means is unclear, it definitly does not mean we will ever adopt of course ... but maybe it's the growing of me and a passion for something so much greater than me or our family or my personal journey.)

Since that time I have followed that family to their sweet daughter Ashlyn, another special needs child from China, and love that I have had the opportunity to share in their journey and hear their thoughts and hopefully be an encouragement to them.

So I am reminded of what a gift of hope that good things still come out of the ashes of our pathetic moments.
And to find comfort in that it's okay to hope ... because on our own we are nothing short of inadequate. And there are so many good things that come out of hope--far beyond what we can imagine or dream.
Only God could have known the depth of what that DumDum would mean to me ... and at that very moment.
Yes, I have some real bonehead moments ... but God bridges the gap between what I am and what He needs me to be. He gives me the hope of dreams and the faith to have a few crazy ideas ... some may call them Dum(b) ... but I prefer to weigh them more on the side of crazy-faith or maybe what I'll now refer to as "Ashlynn Coconut" moments. I love that God can use me in whatever way He has called me. I will continue to pray that I listen for his guidance in finding the purpose for which He has called me and to open my heart to whatever that brings, remembering that "God doesn't call the prepared. He prepares those He calls."

It is so sweet to have met Georgia, Ashlyn and their families--what a blessing to witness the hand of God at work.
It's sweet!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What would happen if I home schooled

We braced for a snow storm today and a blizzard tonight (no we don't live in the arctic, honest!) But the kids were home from school in preparation for the coming snow and wind today. (And probably tomorrow too.)
They played outside (Nolan's first time really "playing in the snow ... he's not too happy about it yet.)
The older boys had a ball!

We also made stuffed animals!
It originally started out as making gingerbread men ... that morphed into a monkey ... then a bear ... and a frog ...
I finally said, "ENOUGH!" "You design whatever it is you want on paper and I'll help you make it." Luckily we hadn't started anything concrete yet.
They chose their fabric.
Brayden drew a bear and Easton drew a frog (or toad I'm not sure.) They have such character!
I cut out the shape on the freezer paper, traced it onto fabric, they drew a smile that I sewed on and then they chose eyes from the button jar. This part took ... FOREVER! They did a marvelous job though (from an artsy perspective especially.) The eyes match ... shape ... not color (ha!) And after I sewed up the edges they stuffed 'em and are SO happy with them!

Here they are snuggling on the floor (sorry the photo is turned the wrong way ... oops.)

We did do some reading today and lots of hockey ... I always wondered how I'd do at home schooling. I think there would be lots of art projects! :-)

P.S. I just checked outside and there is a lot of snow and it is BEAUTIFUL! Walking up the lane in the dark with the snow falling quickly but gently, the glow of the warm lights in the house and the Christmas tree glimmering through the window ... ahhhhh ... so blessed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunday Snapshot-Brayden

Brayden has a BIG heart and a strong will. He is the leader of our boys and we love him so much!
He is a gem with many facets ...

Loving Big Brother Brayden

Dandelion Picking Brother Brayden

Shopping Buddy Brayden

Silly Glasses Brayden

Hockey Brayden

Captain America Brayden

Ni Hao Y'all

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Sometimes the Little Things

Recently at his brother's travel hockey game while I was walking with Nolan trying to get him to nap I caught Easton eyeballing 2 little boys playing with some cars. I think the photos tell the story pretty well. (Sorry the photos aren't very sharp. I'm bummed by that but I was trying to be discreet so they wouldn't notice me. I'm glad to have captured a glimpse at least.)

The discovery:

The angst:

Pondering, "Will they let me play too?"--He decided it would be WAY too much to ask such a big favor of them.

The big fleet in full:

The treasure of it all:

He REALLY wants this red pit crew guy for Christmas ... but wouldn't you know so does everyone else. I've only seen it for insanely high prices! Ya. Yikes! I think he'll settle for a blue one if I can find it again. It was $4 when I saw it 2 weeks ago.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Just Love Coffee

Just Love Coffee?
Well, I have someone on my Christmas list who does. (shhhh!!! He may even read our blog, oh no!)
But instead of wrapping up a can of Folgers, I thought it might be more special to buy a bag or two of a robust fairly traded variety that not only benefits the growers and marketers, but also benefits orphans. And even BETTER it helps a specific family in their adoption journey.

I came across this site this morning
The Little Family is raising money for the adoption of their daughter through AND is holding a raffle for a $250 Best Buy gift card in order to stir up interest in their Coffee Store Site Fundraiser! The drawing is coming up before Christmas. Click on the blue type to visit their site and to see the full details. Who could use a BestBuy gift card? anyone?
Oh yah!

Here's the short story:
"We are participating in the Just Love Coffee Adoption Fundraiser. This is organic, fair trade coffee that is roasted to perfection. When you drink coffee from our Just Love store, you not only add to our adoption fund, you also help to build a school for children in Ethiopia. Visit out Just Love Coffee store by clicking HERE, and try a pound of coffee. Email me ( and let me know what variety you are trying, and I will put your name in the pretzel jar."

So, check out their specific coffee store site HERE to enjoy some great coffee on Christmas morning and to give and give and give in just one purchase.

PS--You DON'T have to join the coffee club and get a monthly shipment unless you want to. You can buy per bag by clicking on the selection menu on the left of the screen and selecting "Coffees" and from there choosing a variety. (I'm going to try a Medium blend "Selam Tsehai (Fair Trade) "Hello Sunshine" " by recommendation of the Little Family and Ethiopian Sidamo. And since the certain somebody who will be getting this calls me his "Sunshine" I thought it was appropriate. ;-)
Oh ya, if you want to mention that I recommended it to you I get another entry in the gift card drawing along with yours! Double yay!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Click This-Before You Shop!

Don't forget that when you shop at to go through the Love Without Boundaries Am@zon icon at the bottom of their homepage, or through this link at New Day Foster Home. That way LWB or New Day Foster Home receives a small portion of the proceeds of your purchase!

If you're going to buy something through Am@zon anyway why not do it through this link so some beautiful children benefit too!
How COOL would that be! So very.
So very Merry!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Snapshot-Nolan

He's sure to play peek-a-boo with you ...

And he LOVES to go outside ...

And always wants to be one of the guys (here they are discussing hockey strategy)

But he still loves to snuggle (and even loves to dance with Mom in the kitchen, although he has been working on some great solo dance moves as well.) (This is my sister, Nolan and I on Thanksgiving.)

Nolan is our little Gingerbread man. No, seriously! He's the same square proportion as one, he walks with those wobbly-strait legs like one probably would ... and he even likes it when I nibble on his ear! It's kinda become my funny saying lately to him ... especially when he's running away from me for a tease. "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man."

He is definitely the cherry on the top of this boy-sundae in our house.

Ni Hao Y'all

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Now on the runway ... of our kitchen

The Scarlet Threads apron arrived in our mailbox today! I have to let you know that the packaging presentation was very nice. It even was wrapped in a celo-bag with a beautiful red ribbon tying on a sparkly printed "Scarlet Threads" tag. As if the apron wasn't enough, I liked the small details that made it even more of a gift!

Jeff said he'd hold it for a photo ... but didn't think he could pull off the "V" neckline in a photo. He left that for me. He did say it was the prettiest apron he'd seen. And quite honestly he meant it. The fabric is so beautifully pressed and is so crisp and well detailed in the gathering and the lace.

Jeff also prepared the boys, "Wow, we are in for some goooooood meals now let me tell ya!"
I hate to disappoint him too much, but I'm not sure if the apron comes with a promise of better cooking. (haha)

P.S. 3 things: You may notice the baby gate blocking off the birch tree from MN in the corner of our living room next to Nolan's rocking cow. Only in the midwest, right? Sorry. Should have tidied up the living room first. Oh, and the birch tree? No, it's no longer alive. So many visitors have asked if it is ... what a chuckle. I can barely keep my houseplants watered let alone a tree! Oh yes and you'll also chuckle at there being no ornaments on our tree from Nolan's height and below. Martha Stewart look away! (the horror.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Tinsel Spider

Meet Mr. Tinsel Spider.
He has hung on our tree for over 35 years. First at my home with my parents and brother and sister and now in our home where I am able to share his story with my three boys. I'm not sure if I made him when I was 3 or 4 and the actual story of how the spider spun the first tinsel for the baby Jesus is a little patchy. (I did a search on it and there are several versions out there. I prefer the one where the Tinsel Spider spun a beautiful web in the stable for the Baby Jesus. In the morning when the sun rose God had added some dew to make it sparkle.)

But I'm just glad he's still here and in "foam spider years" I have to guess he's quite ancient. His legacy began one year in Sunday School when our class (the youngest of the young in our very small church) made these styrofoam ball and pipe cleaner spiders. I loved mine with the googley eyes and the crazy legs oh so much. I'm going to venture a guess to say that many folks have a special ornament that makes their tree extra special every year. I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blessed and Thankful

Gifts for Philip

Gifts for Samuel

I FINALLY got the gift boxes for Samuel and Philip in the mail today off to the Operation Giggle headquarters. I love these little guys ... and well ... as much as I look forward to having them receive the gifts I am kinda sad that we're on to the second phase. The planning and anticipation was so fun. But, I simply cannot wait to hear how the whole project unfolds! Happy laughing and excited children will be such a joy to see and hear!

It's been a project for the entire family on our end ... and I'm glad to say that I think we've all grown from it. Jeff dealt with these presents scattered across our bedroom and closet for a month while I tried to decide what toys would be best and weren't too heavy. Nolan got to pick out toys for the first time ever for someone else. Easton had to deal with the fact that not all toys are for him! (Some tears were shed but I'm sure hearts have grown.) And this momma was so happy to hear Brayden mention out of the blue " ... the cute little guy at New Day" (his words) ... and how he was looking forward to him getting the presents. Oh yes, and not to forget me ... I actually got the mailing tape stuck to my lip while sealing the boxes. Just a word to the wise ... if you get mailing tape on your lip DO NOT pull it off casually. I lost all the skin on my lower lip kinda like if I had stuck it to a flag pole outside on a cold winter's day. I think I'm going to blame this on lack of sleep not feeling well. I don't want anyone to think I'm this clutzy usually.

I am praying that these little guys will love the gifts and that God was able to guide us to the ones that would be just right for them. But even more I hope this is the first of many memorable Christmases and that the Joy of Jesus will enter their hearts. We love having them as part of our family and I can't wait for the day that their forever family has their presents under their tree every year! I'm SO glad they were shared with us this year! What a blessing! And I am so thankful for being a part of their Christmas.
XXOO Love you little men!

Curious about what's in the packages?
Gifts for Philip

Gifts for Samuel (except the green tractor was too heavy ... I'm going to have to mail that for his birthday.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Scarlet Threads Apron

Imagine my surprise when I opened my email this morning at 6am and saw that I had WON ...
this gorgeous, handmade apron from Scarlet Threads in China! (See post below from Nov. 13th about the competition/entry.)

I cannot believe it!
Thrilled. Moved. Skipping like a giddy school girl.
I am beyond words, not only because I'm still recovering from some tonsil issues (yeah, seriously I have the grossest tonsils in the world and should have had them removed 200+ sore throats ago) but because I seriously did not think I would have a shot in a million to win this! And I know so many of you wanted to win it too, and that stinks that you didn't--but if you stop by I'll let you wear it! I promise! OR you can add one to your Christmas List and choose your very own!

I am looking forward to receiving this treasure--and I will treasure it SO much! It is amazing how sweet this particular gift is to me. One, I love to bake and two, you may remember THIS post that I made earlier this summer about another special apron. And the resulting post HERE. I know God knew how special this would be to me. In fact yesterday, out of the blue while waiting for Brayden at hockey practice and entertaining E and N, I noticed this gorgeous coat another hockey mom was wearing. I actually stopped her to comment on it and she went on to tell me how she had it hand tailored just for her ... IN CHINA ... while visiting her brother-in-law and sister there. (Well, we then chatted for probably 30 minutes about China.) So my heart was already primed in the area of well tailored things and I am sure God is just smiling over this. Such a little thing, but such a big thing too. I will now have a daily reminder over my heart of something so special and so much bigger than my little world. No, I didn't get to travel to China to get it ... but it's like the next best thing.

**If you haven't checked out Scarlet Threads Aprons click on the blue type to link to it or click on the icon on the sidebar.

The family

The family