Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shannon-LWB Anhui Healing Home

Said with a thick Irish brogue ... like Tom Cruise in that movie about the Irish Pioneers, "Far and Away."
It's a name that has a long history with us.
We actually joked about it while nesting for each of our boys. Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that name. It's a beautiful name. In fact it has a special place in my heart. No it wasn't our first choice for a girl name ... but still, it just kept coming around for some reason and has always stayed on our list for fun. Maybe because of Jeff's family's Irish heritage, maybe because it just kinda rolled off the tongue when we say it just right and it never failed to lighten the mood when we couldn't come to an agreement in the names department, maybe because it was a little seed into the future outside the little circle of our family. Whatever the reason, we kinda liked it and now I keep seeing that name pop up with the sweetest little orphans. Again, it makes me smile.

Here is the newest dear sweet "Shannon" to cross my path from the Love Without Boundaries "surgery needed" page.
What does she need surgery for? Ya, I had to look a couple times to see it past those gorgeous deep brown eyes and that wonderful sticky-up hair. She will be ready for a cleft lip surgery in February or March when she has put on enough weight. Oh I just can't get past those button-eyes with the sweetest shape! She is just beautiful!

She's gonna be ready ... and waiting ... for surgery in such a short time.
Can you imagine waiting?
If you've never happened by the "Surgery Needed Page" on the LWB site you should really stop by now. It is a blessing to know that even the littlest donation helps these little ones on their road to surgery. Sometimes it's life-saving, sometimes it's a surgery that will put them on the road to adoption, sometimes it's a surgery through their UNITY fund that actually keeps the child with their biological parents!
And you don't have to pay for the entire lump sum needed. It's such a beautiful way to be a part of something bigger. And when we all come together over the needs of orphans in God's name ... it really brings Him glory!

Donors receive updates at 1, 3, 6, and 12 month intervals after surgery.
If you'd like to find out more, go to the Love Without Boundaries Page by clicking on the highlighted text above. You can even donate to Sweet Shannon's surgery. Yes, she still waits.
You can also support the work of LWB by shopping with them in April for their annual Art Auction on ebay. Proceeds support medical surgeries for children just like sweet "Shannon." However, I'm hopeful that by April she will no longer be on that "waiting list" and instead is on the post-op list.

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's a Snow Day!

We've waited all year for this--a SNOW Day! 
(6+ Inches predicted throughout the day!)

I love snow ... I love my kids ...
However ... the two sometimes collide and ...
Snow Days usually have a few of those not so fun moments when somebody gets bored or mean or whatever. 
THANKFULLY, Nolan got this dandy Christmas present from his parents :-)
I will admit that it is kinda spendy when you figure in the $10 shipping on top of the $30 price.
But if your kids like Play Doh, it is SO worth it! It has so many fun tools that they'll love!
(And I love to play with it too quite honestly.)

The actual tool-box and tools are not PlayDoh branded, but are very nice, sturdy quality. And it comes with 4 tubs of actual Play Doh! The real deal.
And seeing my boys working together,

 Not Arguing, Not Wrestling, Not Whining 
(and believe me ... that is totally possible with this crew.)

Is Priceless!

And I got some yummy PlayDoh Pizzas and fries outta the deal too!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fruit Bowl

When I was growing up I was DEEPLY blessed by living right next door to my Grandma and Grandpa ... in a town much akin to Mayberry.
I seemed to ALWAYS be at my grandma's house when a boring moment crept in. I think back and it must have been a bit of a relief for my mom to know she could always suggest, "Hey, why don't you go visit Grandma?" (haha)--she knew it was only a skip and a jump away (our yards were separated only by an alley) and that it would be a blessing for my grandma as well.

It was truly a gift to have her knowledge and love and harshness all so close ALL.THE.TIME.
(What I mean by harshness is, she and my Grandpa were definitely what people would call old school. There was never any gray area. They were strict. Even more than my strict parents. And I love them all for it! Then and now.)

When my Grandma started giving us her belongings from her home it broke my heart. But in her early nineties she knew that the day was coming soon when she would no longer need her things ... and with a deeply-seeded, ugly family battle lurking for a lifetime under the surface of calm waters of polite smiles, she knew her other son, my uncle, would make things as difficult as he could. And he did.

Thankfully, one of the things she gave me before it all "hit the fan" so to speak, in addition to the very, very special Czech Dinnerware that I had eyed since I was old enough to tell her how beautiful it was, was her fruit bowl.
I remember helping her use it to gather Currants at her farm for making jelly, it sitting on her counter ... it just says, "GRANDMA," when I look at it.

Its most recent life in our home has put it in the cupboard to hold my onions and potatoes. Not a very glamorous life that is for sure. But it has saved the bottom of my cupboard more than once when a tator has gone south (if ya know what I mean!)

It brought me such joy when I was trying to catch up on blog posts from Christmas and I happened to spot something in the background of a friend's photo of her sweet daughter. 
Did you see it?
Yes, she has the SAME fruit bowl too!!
And it turns out it is from her grandma as well. :-)

For some reason, that day when I was missing all the ways I used to celebrate Christmas with my Grandma and family while growing up, it was like having a big hug.
Love your bowl Andrea! What a special Grandma you must have had too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Skiing Dreams

So I was browsing pointlessly the other day ... and came across a really cool pair of Ski Pants. 
They became the very first thing that I've ever pinned to my Pintrest boards in fact! (I'm so behind.)

Now ... I don't exactly "need" a new pair of ski pants ... especially these. (they're uber-expensive.) 
But they are pretty don't you agree? And they would dress up my boring ALL GRAY outfit that I currently sport. Boy, I don't even like the color gray. How did I end up with an entire GRAY outfit? 

And they just happened to compliment the new set of downhill snow skis Jeff bought me for Christmas.

My very FIRST pair of skis! 
But it's one of those Christmas gifts like a treadmill ... there is a certain something that doesn't come with the actual gift that will make them really loved.
That would be ... Hard Work.
I guess I need to supply that myself (And probably should have done a bit more prior to this point.)

I did get to try them out over the Christmas break on the hills of Minnesota (covered by a fresh layer ... of ... man-made snow.) Can you believe that even North of us they were lacking in snow over Christmas? Odd.
(Thankfully we're getting some snow here finally.)

My form hasn't really gotten any better with the new skis unfortunately. And I'm already feeling the burn of my muscles just thinking about those mountain runs and my endless snowplow.

I hope that eventually I'll feel like my skiing deserves such nice equipment!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

BbB-Sweeties--Valentine's Edition

If there is such a thing as a "Valentine's Bunny" I hope he brings me one of these yummy dolls from BabyBeBlessed for Valentine's Day!
Check Out Baby Be Blessed's "Free Friday!" for a chance to win another one of their great items, this week it's an adorable pink lamb.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another Scarlet Threads Holiday

I meant to post a photo of my sister and I at Thanksgiving wearing our Scarlet Threads Aprons ... but we didn't take a photo that day! 
(I had purchased the MattieMae double sided Apron for my sister last April for her birthday and she just LOVES it so much!)

SOooooo, we finally remembered at Christmas to bring our aprons with us. 
If you don't have an apron to spice up your kitchen duties ... you really need to check out Scarlet Threads! They make great gifts ... even if it's to yourself. :-)
I cannot wait for the next opportunity to get one for my mom too. After all, she did most of the cooking at Thanksgiving AND Christmas for goodness sake. I'd love to get her a "Daisy" one, as that was her grandmother's name ... but I think they're sold out ... I might have to do some digging to see if any are still available out and about.
Yes, my mom has plenty of aprons ... but NOT yet a Scarlet Threads one!

**And not to leave my brother out, but I don't think Scarlet Threads has a "men's line" yet.
Here we ALL are at Christmas. (Can you guess who's the oldest? Reverse stair-steps. Funny how that ends up sometimes.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hockey--Deep into Wisconsin

Something I didn't expect when Brayden tried out for the Jr. RoughRider travel hockey team was how much we'd be traveling. 
Just 3 days after returning from our Christmas Break family trip to Northern Minnesota (8 hours by car) ... we all climbed BACK into the vehicle, the van this time, and traveled over 5 hours North deep into Wisconsin to Chippewa Falls.

Ug. That's a long way.
I think my butt in officially flat.

AND ... after Nolan got car sick minutes before we reached our hotel late Friday night I'm pretty sure I can dismantle, clean and re-assemble a car seat blindfolded. I've done it quite often lately. (Get the mental image of one of those secret agent gals reassembling a gun while blindfolded ... except swap in the image of a car seat. Way more glamourous of an image than reality of course.)

I'm already starting to get worried about our really, really long drive out to Copper Mountain, Colorado in a few weeks. It's long enough that Nolan can't go without eating ... and since he's recently made a habit of getting car-sick ... I'm pretty sure it's in the cards. ACK!

ANYWAY ... it was a really great weekend of hockey with some really close games. However, lest you think we're one of those crazy sports minded "GOTTA WIN!" families, the first two games we did NOT win, losing in the shoot out in the first and by one in the second. 

 They played VERY well though ... and despite their bummed out attitude, I think they're learning how to be humble in defeat. Not easy when you're 8 and 9! (or any age really)

Of course there was a pool at the hotel ...
nothing better to take your mind off your troubles.
(Apparently I take way-too-long to get into my swimsuit ... they are waiting patiently for me.)
 Sunday's game was a winner though ... and I'd like to believe that it had something to do with the fact that we sought out and attended a local church before the game, something we've been trying to do when our games span an entire weekend. 
Maybe God gave us a bit of  a reward for getting our priorities straight? Let me tell ya, there was a bit of an argument before we left by some members of our party. We could have slept in, gone swimming, casually ate a leisurely breakfast ... or split up with some of us going, some of us staying. But I really wanted us to go. And to go together as an entire family.
Maybe it didn't have anything to do with the win ...
But for me it did. It made a difference knowing that in the little decisions are made the big impressions of life. If we're going to play hockey on a Sunday, we need to give thanks and praise too. We have MUCH to be thankful for!

 And for the third game, Brayden came out on FIRE scoring the first 2 goals right away... then assisting in a third and then making a fourth later one.
(If a single player makes three goals in one game it's called a "hat trick"--something he has done twice this year and for this tournament he received a patch which he was REALLY happy about!

And the team received a trophy for the win in combination with the points they received throughout the tournament.
Another good lesson for the boys. It's not win or lose ... but how you play the game. 
It DOES add up!

I also got to try out my DANDY new headband that I WON from a give-away on We Are Grafted In right before Christmas. 
You simply MUST check out this site called Resurrection Knits
Very cool people, very cool cause, very cool products!! 
You'll LOVE one to keep your ears toasty warm! Check 'em out!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Easton's FIRST tooth!

TWO posts in one day!
(you can read about our Christmas if you scroll down one post)
When we returned home from our Christmas travels, Easton let us know HOW loose his tooth REALLY was! 
Sure, he mentioned it was loose, I wiggled it a bit a week or so ago ... but ... my mom experience here-to-fore has left me to believe it takes MONTHS for teeth to come out from the "wiggle stage." 

Not so much the case with every child I've found out!

I'm so glad that I took this very last photo of him with ALL of his first set of teeth even though it was LATE the night we returned from MN and we were all pretty tired. I still remember him getting this very, very first tooth about 5 years ago. Call me sentimental ... but these things are especially special to moms.
While brushing his teeth right before school this morning, January 5th, 2012, LOOK what came out in his toothbrush bristles! (Yup, fresh with a little toothpaste even.)
Oh how a BIG guy tooth is going to change the look of his smile!
(Am I ready for that?)
This adorable "tooth fairy" pillow was made by a sweet older lady at our church. I bought it LAST fall in anticipation for our children to start loosing their teeth. I didn't get to use it until last May believe it or not. Brayden HATES pain (even the slightest bit) and keeps his teeth forever until pretty much they fall out on their own and his permanent tooth is half grown it! I have a feeling that Easton will sport a bit of a gap for awhile longer than his brother since I don't see a tooth half way grown in like his brother (2 years older, yet 9 mo. older in "tooth years." haha!)
I just love this smile ... and I have no doubt that he will be even more handsome when his big guy teeth DO come in.
But I hope they don't come in too fast ... I want to enjoy this toothless gappy grin just a bit longer!
And he wasn't even late for the bus even though this ALL happened between 7:04 and 7:10am! 

Almy Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011 is in the rearview mirror and 2012 is here (thought I'd better post in case anyone is wondering if I'm still around.)

As our tree is officially down as of yesterday (our second day home since before Christmas and the first day home with the boys back to school and work) I am clinging to keeping the Spirit of the Season going ... along with the hope for some snow at some point this winter, by keeping out the Snowman light. (No, we STILL do not have any snow here in Iowa ... and they had very little of it in Northern Minnesota where we just returned from. Very odd winter.)
Actually, with the tummy problems I had this Fall right up until Christmas, I failed to put up any more than just our tree. The railing lights and greenery, the snowmen and other decorations didn't see the light of 2011!

Now that I'm feeling better (praise God!) I just feel sad that so much didn't get done. The cards weren't sent (YET that is ... don't give up as I still hope to send "New Year Cards", the decorations were minimal, the cookies and candies weren't baked and I will never see 8, 6 and 3 from the eyes of my children again during a Christmas Season. But hopefully the Spirit was still there in other ways. I am SO glad that for the first time EVER our family of 5 enjoyed a Christmas-Eve-Eve celebration together instead of rushing to this side of the family or that side to celebrate the season or birthdays. We simply had a nice ham supper together, opened gifts throughout the day, finished packing and doing last minute errands all before visiting the grandmas and aunts and uncles and relatives. It's SO special to have enjoyed it as a FAMILY instead of preparing for a month and then rushing through and feeling like we've just checked things off our list without really enjoying the time. I treasure that part of this year most I think. Time spent together and not rushed. I am learning (slowly) that so many things do not happen the way we may envision them unfolding. And the best way to accept that is to be a bit fluid in expectations ... and generous in the Grace granted to others when they don't achieve the high bar we may have unknowingly set out for things. God then has a way of flowing that Grace back onto me, and goodness knows I need it.

We once again spent 8+ days traveling to MN for the holidays. Although exciting to travel and a blessing for the kids to visit family ... it is a long journey as anyone with kids knows, especially when rules become fuzzy and routine is gone ... (and I'm not talking about the candy/sugar allotment here. That went pretty much unrestricted, however I'm sure I consumed way more than they did!) But, whatever, I'm glad that is not the normal reality and I know that we are ALL glad to be home and appreciate the normalcy when it returns.

I'm happy to say that the flu did NOT get us down this holiday (that makes 2 years in 9 of having kids in case you are counting.) Although we ALMOST remained puke free during our travels it did not totally escape us. Brayden and Easton made Nolan laugh so hard one afternoon during a car ride back from town that he threw up all over himself and the truck. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr ...
Perhaps they learned a lesson ... other than the fact that mom's threat that THEY were cleaning it up went unfulfilled.
I gave MYSELF a timeout after that episode (of course after cleaning it up.)
Oh yes, and the DOG barfed all over grandma's 5 foot runner after eating a fresh-killed animal while out on the lake. (I'm not sure what it is, I thought it was an opossum, but I'm now thinking a muskrat? Goodness knows it wasn't well chewed and I should have been able to identify it before AND after said incident.) I guess I go into "auto-mode" when cleaning gerf up so often ... and I just try not to look.

So, with that I was inspired to pen a rough-draft Christmas Card:

"May it be a joyous Christmas for you and your family.
May you not laugh so hard that you gerf ... and may your dog not overindulge on fresh 'possum in the New Year."

Ya, keep an eye out for the REAL card sometime before Easter ;-)

Other activities during our trip included LOTS of skating, downhill skiing, ice fishing, going to a wedding, playing in the SKIFF of snow they had, eating lots of Grandma's Christmas Cookies, and going to high school hockey games.
The Almy Hockey Team




Jeff and me

The family

The family