Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End-of-the-year pictures

Dear Son #2 turned 12 on Dec. 11th. Here he is reading one of the homemade cards from his siblings (with sister & Grandma looking on).

There's a story behind this gift...our boy has seen that all our bio kids have gotten blankies as babies. He never got a blankie and mentioned that to me one day, saying he felt sad and left out. My first thought was 'You're too big for a blankie.' Then I paused and really thought about he's not. Every baby in this family needs/gets a blankie. So, here he is with his blankie. He was one happy boy & I got a HUGE hug that night!

Our yearly tradition of 'see-if-you-can-make-the-birthday-boy-talk-so-he-has-to-sit-under-the-table'. He's normally tough but he busted out laughing at his siblings, here he is under the table! **Notice brother's foot... hehe

I got this picture idea from a friend. She's reading the Christmas story out of Luke 2.

Angel Baby


**Smiley** (her new nickname given by her softball coach)

Big brother

Little Brother

Big sister (home for Christmas from school)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know you can buy 2 chickens (that will supply countless eggs providing protein) for $25? Did you know a pair of goats costing $150 helps to provide protein for children to grow? A family can sell extra milk, cheese & yogurt at market to earn money for medicines and other necessities. Fertilizer from goats can increase the amount of vegetables grown in a family garden. For $40, a family fishing kit can be purchased including nets, lines, hooks, a pole and a basket. You can empower a family to put food on the table. Did you know 5 fruit trees can be purchased for $30? How about a donkey that can help transport produce, firewood or other goods that can be sold at market. That same donkey could carry a sick child or family member to a distant clinic. Donkeys are reliable and hardworking and can live for 30 years or more. Does it make sense that you can buy $1,100 worth of medicines for $100 (including antibiotics, antiseptics, disposable syringes, painkillers, antifungals, de-worming meds, anti-fever drugs and vitamin A)? What about the low cost of providing a family with a bed net for $18 to help protect from malaria? Contaminated water infects and kills many children, worms alone contribute to 200,000 needless deaths every year. You can contribute to a clean water fund or even help a clean well to be dug in a village across the world. Why is it $1,650 worth of school supplies can be purchased to stock an overseas school for only $150? What about the low cost of giving one Bible for $18, in a child's own language, that shares God's love and Jesus' salvation? Did you know America is suffering too? Economic crisis has dramatically increased the number of American families falling through the cracks. $300 worth of necessities can be given to an American family for $50! What??? Did you know U.S. classrooms, especially in low-income neighborhoods, lack basic school supplies. Education is power, right? $150 worth of school supplies can be delivered for $25.

We have seen first hand the devistating effects when some of these basic needs are not provided. Our African children (their friends and biological families) have suffered at the hand of protein deficiency, lack of clean water and it's effects, non nutritious sources of food, lack of vitamins and/or medicines to treat simple issues (and medications that were given that were severely expired), malaria because of a lack in mosquito nets or nets with large holes, schools with no materials and/or teachers trying to educate in a room with little or no chairs and a broken piece of chalk board hung on the wall (and no chalk to write on it).

As I sat here this morning going over our Christmas lists and tidying up my to-do list, I thought about the different kinds of gifts that can be given. A lot of American families have struggled this past year because of many reasons. Many parents want to give their children that perfect gift and place it under the tree. Did you know that on Christmas, in Africa, my children looked forward to a boiled egg (or chicken leg) and Kool aid for a special treat? How much more are we able to give all our children? But how much hurt and lack in basic needs still exist?

There are many organizations that pull on your heartstrings, especially during this time of year. If you feel led, find one that you feel is legit and give a gift to help. What about Operation Shoebox? If you missed it this year, start planning for next year. We know the pain and lasting difficulty that physical and emotional depravity brings, we experience it first hand in our 'heart-babies' every day. When you're buying those last minute items and those dollar signs are swirling about, would you give a thought and prayer for those less fortunate than us? They are all around us...

One organization that we try to contribute to every year is Heifer International. We haven't been able to buy a whole animal to gift, but shares are available. A share allows you and your family to give $$ towards the purchase of an animal. In the past, instead of exchanging gifts with family members, we've honored them by purchasing a share of an animal from Heifer International. We were able to print off a card to give in explanation of their gift.

Another organization along the same lines is World Vision. Check them out to see how you can contribute to their cause.

Above all, please remember the reason for the season. If you don't feel led to give towards food, clean water or medicines- please pray about giving the gift of a Bible. That is the eternal food most desperately needed around the world.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Shutterfly Savvy!

I just adore Christmas picture cards! You know, the kind that has the fancy background in which you painstakingly place your favorite family picture in the center and choose a fancy font (in usually silver or gold writing) to tell everyone 'Merry Christmas 2010'! Or something of the sort... Our family has only done this once or twice in the 10 years since we've had children, mostly because of finances (sad but true). BUT....this year I ran across something quite interesting and lovely, to say the least! Shutterfly is having a Christmas promotion where they are 'giving away' 50 free cards. And all I have to do is tell you about it! They have so many cute and adorable templates! I think my favorites are the collages...I'm trying to figure out a way to squeeze everyone in there! My plan is to try and include a family picture as well as individual shots of each child. Question of the day: why have I not done this before? Answer of the day: Because I usually do things the hard way....urgh...I really don't like admitting that. :)

They make it so easy for you, go and check it out! And while I was looking around, of course I noticed all the other great things they offer besides Christmas cards. Here's just a few of the products that caught my eye:

Christmas photo cards

Birth announcements

Desk Calendars (great Christmas gift idea!)

How's that for going viral? Pretty sweet promotion if you ask me! Have an awesome holiday season, enjoy your family & remember the 'reason for the season!'

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kitchen cleanout

A friend of mine began a thread about feeling as if she was drowning in certain areas of her house. I could so relate! I think we discussed these areas: dishes, clothes/laundry, shoes, toys, school books/papers, etc. So, she began by doing a kitchen cleanout. I said I was going to join her but she beat me to it...I'm playing catch up this week. She came up with the idea that in the 'old days' people had one cup, one bowl and one plate, and that she wanted to model that with her children/family. I thought about that for awhile. Good idea...but my first reaction was why I go through all of that cleaning out and packing away/giving away if I could just keep up with dishes at every meal? This is a huge challenge for us. Since moving, we have no dishwasher and our kitchen is a fraction of the size of what we had in AR. While my pal was doing her kitchen redo, I tried to keep up with the dishes at every meal- I failed miserably. As part of daily chores, the kids used to rotate and do all the dishes-when we had a dishwasher. After moving here, daily chores became very overwhelming. Partly because of unpacking and reorganizing and partly because our chore responsibilities were different in a new house. Working all those kinks out always takes us time...lots of time. In the mean time, I felt bad for the smaller kiddos because the dishes always just got so overwhelming. If I had a hard time tackling it, how could I expect them to? So, I started doing the majority of the dishes and when things didn't seem so bad, I'd have them do it.

During this time, I also started thinking about routines, lack of routines and 'old' routines that don't work anymore. I suppose when you have a house full and the kiddos are all younger, any lack of routine or 'old' routines stick out like a sore thumb. That's where we are, especially in kitchen. So, I decided my pal was exactly right- take away the things that overwhelm. I did the same as her and packed away some 'kid' plates, bowls & cups for company/cousin visits. I proceeded to leave each child one plate/tray, one bowl, one 'meal' cup and one water cup. That's it, that's all they have. After cleaning out that cupboard, I tackled my plastics cupboard. That is the one that always has things falling out of it...we don't have that many leftovers to store so why have so many random containers, right? I started chucking...

I reorganized some cabinets and felt great! Then I turned around and looked at all the 'extra'- that didn't feel so good. How could it have gotten so cluttered? How did we get that many 'kid' plates/trays & cups? Unbelievable... So, I went in the basement and hauled up some boxes, in it went. This is just a little of my finished project:

The kids now only have the top shelf! I left their holiday mugs in the back for hot chocolate on our movie nights. We're missing one cup and one bowl in this pic. I took it this morning and baby was still eating...

This is now my plastics cabinet. I even had room for mixing/serving bowls!

And I actually have some counter-space here! Enough so to drag out the bread machine (to help me when I'm in a hurry!).

This is what's getting hauled out today. GOODBYE FOREVER!!! :)

p.s. The children are all washing their own dishes after each meal. If they don't, there's nothing to eat on at the next meal! :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gotcha Day

Today marks 3 years since our African kiddos came home to the U.S. We mark today as our Gotcha Day because it is the first day we were all together as a family- Hubby traveled alone to Africa to bring them home. The past 3 years has been some of the most eventful years of our lives, full of many ups and downs for everyone. But if we've learned anything, we've learned much more about forgiveness and how to love more deeply and unconditionally. Today we celebrate the unification of our family. We celebrate the uniting of our physical family here on earth as well as the beginning of a dream orchestrated by God. We don't know many specifics about this plan/dream, all we know is that it is of Him and we are following Him to carry out THE plan. For those of you who followed us during our journey- you may remember these:

Happy Gotcha Day, Gustafson family!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Our kiddos this Halloween. We had a (good) witch, pirate, ninja, princess (of course) and FiFi the pink poodle. I struggled this year (again) with the concept of Halloween. Our older children questioned me on where Halloween came from and who 'made it up.' I tried to give a short but honest answer and they were quite confused even with that. They asked why people celebrate Halloween. I tried to answer by explaining about culture and traditions and that we'd dress up and enjoy the party put on by our local school instead of going door-to-door...but I think even that left all of us confused and a little uneasy. Our local grade school did an amazing job putting on a party for the kids and spared us all the gross and gory stuff that Halloween tends to bring. I was thankful for that but have also realized we need to think about this a little more for next year and years to come. We teach our kids the motto of practice-what-you-preach so it's only right and 'just' that we address this issue to stay on the right side of our family motto...

I've been reflecting on especially the last year. What a whirlwind! The last few years has really been insanely crazy but I think my memory has a hard time going back more than a handful of months and recalling things accurately! Tomorrow marks the 3 year anniversary since we brought our African kiddos home. It also marks 5 years since we began the adoption process, wow, how time flies. Every year, we celebrate our Gotcha Day by talking about what we remember and how we felt on that day. A special friend of mine (and photographer) took pics for us as my Hubby stepped off the plane with our 4 oldest children, she also made it into DVD form with music. We watch that DVD every year on our Gotcha Day.

So much has happened since then- our bio kids have grown by leaps and bounds (physically, emotionally and spiritually) as have our African children! We've welcomed a new baby in that time and said 'goodbye' to the 2 oldest children as they've gone out on their own in pursuit of their futures. We've moved 1000 miles back to the place we call home. We've said goodbye (for now) to friends, those we consider family, our church as well as a home and business. We've taken the next step in homeschooling as I went from teaching 2 children to 5 (then back down to 4 this year as we helped our 17 yr old African daughter transition into Job Corps this fall).

We've grown spiritually through all these hills and valleys and still have a long way to go. We're trying to 'clean up' any areas in our marriage/parenting/every day living that has gone by the wayside and needs attention or has been neglected. Yea, it gets tiring at times but we're committed to God, our marriage and our family. That alone keeps us trudging along especially during those times it feels like we're wading through mud.

We've returned to extended family, our church home/family as well as the heritage/culture we were raised in. Those things alone bring comfort and a feeling of 'belonging' that is hard to describe unless you've lived a portion of your life without it. We had an amazing summer with grandparents and I enjoyed getting my hands in this nutrient-rich, glacier soil and we had a bountiful harvest of veges and lots of herbs (not to mention lots of pretty flowers!). The fall has kept us running with winterizing (we'd forgotten how much work this is!) and I've been crazy canning yummy foods with our garden bounty (as well as an entire tree's worth of apples!).

We're moving into the holiday season now and are starting our homemade gifts for friends and family (in all our spare time)! :) Last year the holiday season was rushed and chaotic. We're looking forward to enjoying the season more this year...I even think I may decorate early, just because!

I think I'm looking forward to the winter months-I'd like to tackle some projects and crafts that seem impossible in the summer months. Let's see how I feel in February when we're neck deep in snow! We hope you're enjoying the fall season and that you're looking forward to the holiday season as much as we are! Until next time...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Anonymous sender

I received a hand written card in the mail the other day, this is what the note said:
Dear Becky,
Be encouraged in your high calling as a Godly wife and mother today! Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in His commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Ps 112: 1-2 :)

Wow! What a surprise & what an encouragement. This got me you know someone that could use encouraging? Maybe you could be an 'anonymous sender'? I've got some blank cards sitting around in my office, think I'll pay forward the blessing this week. :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back to school pics-2010

*This was Big Sister at Easter time. She's away at school right now in Job Corps working towards her diploma and CNA certification.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010


Have you ever heard of (or played) this game? I haven't. I read about it this morning on a blog I follow, she's having a giveaway. Here's what she had to say about it:

As a homeschooling mom I’m always on the look out for fun, challenging games that encourage thinking and reasoning skills. As a mom who loves to spend time with my kids I love to find games that are fun for both children and adults. Mastermind does both. It was also one of my favorite games when I was a kid.

Mastermind requires and hones deductive reasoning and logic skills. As a child it was one of my favorite games to play with my father. I loved being able to solve my father’s patterns and Mastermind was a game that my father truly enjoyed. I remember waiting to take my turn as all of us children would play Mastermind tournaments with dad.

The game pits a code maker against a code breaker. The ‘maker’ selects a pattern of colored pegs, then the ‘breaker’ tries to guess the pattern. After each guess the ‘maker’ scores the guess which provides the ‘breaker’ with information about the true pattern. Play continues until the ‘breaker’ is able to deduct the true pattern based on the information provided by his previous guesses and scores.

Players take turns being the maker and the breaker and the player who is able to guess the code in the least amount of turns is declared the winner. Of course our children love challenging each other to games of Mastermind (otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you about it), but it’s also a game that both Mark and I enjoy playing with our children as well as with each other.

Mastermind is a 2-player game designed for ages 8 and up, although our younger children do a fine job at being code breakers. The Attaché edition of Mastermind (shown) is terrific for travel. It comes in a zippered case with built-in, covered storage for all the game pieces.

Buy Mastermind

There are several editions of Mastermind available on the website. They range in price from $9 – $18.99.

To enter her giveaway, go here. 3 days left! :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meet Katie

Meet Katie. She is the author of one of my all-time favorite blogs. Her heart bleeds compassion. Admittedly, she seems to be handling certain situations with her older adopted children better than I have. She seems to be handling uncertainty and the 'unknown' of raising adopted teens with more grace than I. She's an amazing Woman of God and one whom I've been learning from! Check out this recent post:


I homeschool.

Everyone who knows me knows I homeschool.

But if they had to guess my reasoning they’d be wrong.

Sure, I had my reasons when we initially began homeschooling: issues with the school, bullying, etc. But those reasons changed and morphed and took on a whole new life.

Everyone I know who homeschools does it for the same reason: To give their child the best education possible.

The issue that comes in to play is the definition of education. Some pile their kids high with books and programs so that nothing is left out. Others let the children lead, through unschooling. Some teach the dead languages. Others feel that Japanese is the way to go. Some insist upon a stringent course of study. Others insist upon taking their time.

And so now I can tell you why I homeschool. Be sure to brace yourself, I am a bit of a pariah in the homeschooling community.

  • I home school because kids only get to be kids once. They only have X number of years before the responsibilities of adulthood take them over. They only have so much time to relax and have relatively carefree lives.
  • I don’t want my children worrying nonstop about a math test that is coming up before they can fully grasp the concept. I’d rather give them chance to figure it out.
  • I don’t want my children to feel pressured to grow up too fast in the public school environment. I’d rather them mature at their own rate.
  • I don’t want my children staying up until 2am to finish a report on a book that has no interest to them and no cultural value whatsoever. I’d rather work with them to pick and choose books that have meaning.
  • I don’t want my children to dissect a poem and try to figure out what the poet meant when he/she wrote it. I want them to decide how the poem made them feel.
  • I don’t want my children to learn about history without seeing both sides. They need to know that even the “bad guys” think they are doing the right thing. It’s all about perspective.
  • I don’t want my children to grow away from each other as schools seem to promote. They need to know that while friends come and go siblings are forever.
  • I don’t want my children to grow away from God. They need to develop the tools to live for Him while they are still young. They have years to defend their beliefs, I just want to take a few years to help them learn how to do so.

Are you waiting for specifics? Well, they can do everything the “average” kid can do. They can also repair lawn mowers, bake cakes, sketch incredible pictures, and write music. They can grill burgers, pull weeds, do laundry, and help replace alternators in mini-vans. But more importantly they can sit and hold a conversation with their 88 year old great grandmother, they know how to get on the floor and play with their 1 year old cousin. The teens will cuddle and hug their younger siblings. They volunteer their time and money to help others without batting an eye.

They are all best friends (their words not mine). They help boost each other up when their reach falls short… They hold each other’s hands when fear sets in… And they guide each other in their steps, no matter how rocky those steps may be.

And I suppose that’s why I home school. To give my children the best education possible. And my definition of education is the same as the the Free Dictionary’s: A knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process.

Sheri Sears (with the help of her fabulous husband Mike) began homeschooling her four children in 2001. She spends her time creating whatever she can out of nothing to make her house more homey, writing lesson plans, listening to her son’s garage band and writing how God is carrying her out of the depths of depression. You can catch up with Sheri at her blog The Shades of Pink. Be sure not to miss the Love Story she and her husband have written.

Taken from:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just a lil ole mustard seed

Luke 13: 18-19
Then He said, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches."

Last night I was canning a second batch of pickles and one of the ingredients was mustard seed. That got me thinking...such a little seed but yet so powerful... Most of us probably have heard the parable about the mustard seed and a mountain. Matthew 17:20- "So Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." So, true faith, by God's definition, always involves surrender to the will of God. Both the source and the object of all genuine faith- even the weak, mustard-seed variety- is God. And with God nothing will be impossible.

Have you ever thought about your faith? What kind of faith do you have? The 'show-me-everything-will-work-out-good-before-I-do-this' kind of faith or do you have what others would call crazy-insane-jump-in-with-both-feet-because-God-told-you-to' blind faith? Or maybe something in between?

I've been 'nesting in the branches' of the large mustard seed tree...I've been searching for comfort during this time of refining. For me, it's hard to see the bigger plan during the process of refining-all I can see is the fire. But I trust God with everything in me, I know He loves me so and wants me to reflect Him. We've lived here 9 months now and with that has come a lot of change. For me, it's been a time of working through issues that I've allowed to lay dormant for way too long. I'm realizing now that allowing my heart to have these dormant areas hasn't done me any favors! While it's painful to work through past hurts and conflicts, the future holds such great promise. I still feel my heart is in the midst of the fire but the intensity of the heat is lifting, some clarity is shining through!

So, I am thankful for the reminder of that lil ole mustard seed...not only can it grow into something mighty to provide us shelter from a storm, but it can also help to demolish any problem we see as impossible...with God's help, of course! :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Organizing Bug!

Ok, so if you've read my blog for any length of time-you've probably seen many posts about organizing projects or the fact that I really am OCD at heart! :) Well, I've caught the organizing bug! I let the school room go over summer and we're going to start a month later than we did last year (Sept vs Aug), so I've got one month and a big space to get super organized! Here's some tips, the ones that got me motivated!

Inexpensive Organization
By Dena Wood

Aside from the fact that an organized space is just plain relaxing and enjoyable, there also are a few undeniable practical reasons to organize your space. The reason that carries the most weight with me is the fact that a lack of organization is expensive. Take a moment to think about it.

How often have you ended up buying more tape, scissors, craft supplies, or tools simply because you don't have the time to sort through drawers, bins, and boxes to find an item you know you already have . . . somewhere? Either that, or you find the item, but it's smashed, wrinkled, or otherwise unusable. If you're like me, you do that more often than you'd like to admit. While I consider myself to be a fairly organized person, there is always room for improvement. (Menu planning (to avoid wasting produce) is a big one for me.)

Living in a society where every need is turned into an opportunity for profit, we can easily walk away with the idea that it costs a great deal to be organized. That's what they would like you to think, anyway. There are entire store sections, magazines, and websites devoted solely to organizational helps. Can you possibly organize without all those impressive doodads and gizmos? Sure! Believe it or not, you can even do so with style.

One of my favorite organizational "tools" is the dresser. Dressers are the ultimate organizers; they come in a wide variety of styles, and they look great throughout the house. In the corner of our dining room, I have a large dresser that houses my children's craft supplies. It's filled with glue, tape, paint supplies, papers, foam sheets, and the like. On the top are a small lamp and some framed photographs. It looks very nice, and one would never guess it is actually a craft cabinet.

Right inside our front door is a small baby dresser. The top drawer of this dresser is used for keys, wallets, and items you tend to need as you head out the door. Another drawer holds dog leashes and brushes, and the bottom drawer holds our camcorder and tapes. A small, white, distressed dresser in the foyer neatly holds hats and gloves.

The upstairs hallway houses yet another dresser. This one has a few tools in the top drawers and fabric in the others. A second baby dresser in my craft room provides the perfect spot to store ribbons, rubber stamps, elastic, and such. Each of these dressers was either a hand-me-down or picked up at a yard sale. I'm not sure one can actually have too many dressers!

Creativity is a must when considering how to inexpensively organize. You'll need to think outside the box. For instance, for several years I'd longed for a large hanging pot rack made of iron. Prices ranged from several hundred dollars down to about $80. Since I didn't have the money, I got creative. I asked my husband to grab an old ladder that was out in the backyard and cut it to the size I needed. (Fortunately, I noticed when he started sanding it! I wanted an "old" look, so sanding it was not a good idea.) We mounted large cup hooks into the ladder rungs and hung it from the ceiling with chain link purchased at the hardware store. It looks great, gets lots of compliments, and cost only a few dollars. Instead of thinking I'm cheap (the truth!), people think I'm extremely creative.

Here are some more easy storage ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

· Corral items in shoeboxes. I use clear, plastic boxes for medicines, contact supplies, band-aids and ointments, cleaning supplies, travel-size items, etc. Not only do shoeboxes prevent small items from spilling all over the cabinet, but this idea also makes it easy to reach in and grab the particular box you need. I even have all our shampoos and conditioners in a larger box, just to keep them contained. You can nearly always find inexpensive boxes and baskets at your local dollar store.

· Earrings and necklaces can be stored neatly in pill organizers, ice cube trays, or muffin tins. Take one of your 25-cent yard sale finds, paint it, and use it for your jewelry--no more tangled chains or missing earrings!

· Headbands can be stored on an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll. If you want to pretty it up, cover it with contact paper or scrapbook paper.

· Glass jars are ideal to store so many items: food items, craft items, and office supplies are a few that come to mind. And they look so pretty sitting on your shelves. Plastic peanut butter jars are great for storing little LEGO™ sets and such. (I remove the label so the jars look nice.)

· Cut down cereal and detergent boxes and paint or cover them with paper, and then use them to store magazines. Detergent boxes, with the handles attached, can make nice little totes for children to keep their toys in, and they can easily be moved from place to place.

· Shoe organizers are great for storing socks, gloves and hats, craft supplies, small toys, and much more. Take advantage of unused wall space whenever you can. Pegboard is inexpensive and can be used for similar storage needs.

· Store grocery store bags in a pretty, empty tissue box.

· I love dishpans! I tend to use them mainly for school supplies--books, videos, small manipulatives, puzzles, and such. I buy them at the dollar store. My kids keep their toys on mesh shelves, and dishpans are ideal (and cheap!) for storing their toys by item. The older kids will use one for CDs, one for electronics, one for paperbacks, etc.

· Wrapping paper can be stored on end in a small wastebasket.

· Use bed risers to create extra space under your bed. (I love the look of a high bed!) You can attach casters to old dresser drawers to roll them in and out from beneath the bed, or you can just use plastic tubs. It's amazing to see how much stuff will fit under the beds! The key to success is to keep your items organized and easily accessible.

· You can often find large, outdoor trash cans on sale. I use these to store our sleeping bags in. The lids fit tightly, and the sleeping bags stay nice and clean. I've seen people use these cans as storage for blankets and linens too. They place a round, wooden tabletop on the can and then drape the entire contraption with fabric so that it looks like a fabric-covered table. This is a good storage idea for seldom-used items.

I hope I've managed to convince you that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get organized. Perhaps I've even motivated you to take a fresh look at what you have on hand. Once bitten by the organizing bug, it's hard to stop. And that's a good thing!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Peanuts, anyone?

Do you ever have those days when you just look around ‘yourself’ and think what is this? What is the purpose of all this? What am I doing? Am I making any difference to anyone? Well, if not, take comfort that someone probably has. And, that someone was me today.
I can’t really put my finger on when things started going awry. Slowly, but steadily, the kids have begun a steady decline in misbehaving. Don’t get me wrong, we have amazing kids and they are very tender-hearted. But, sometimes actions don’t follow the heart. Sometimes everyone’s flesh gets the best of them.
Maybe actions went downhill when things went crazy last fall, maybe it was when we moved in whirlwind speed, maybe it’s when their Daddy started working away from home…who knows? All I know is that this cycle needs to stop. Yes, I do discipline and talk things through and try to reason with our children. I give warnings and I’m stern, probably more often than not. People probably do look at me and think, ‘Give the kid a break.’ But you see, as a Mama, I want more for my babies than that. I want them to be better than that. And while I want them to be kids- my desire is for them to be extraordinary kids…in their own, individual extraordinary ways!
So, today was a day when I had to give out some hard discipline. It killed my heart, the toughness I knew was necessary, but it made me cry. Our bio kids all cry when there’s a ‘fallen comrade.’ So, today one was crying because of the discipline and the others were crying out of sympathy. After everyone saw me crying, the mood lightened a little and we were able to talk about why I need to give discipline. Why I cannot let them behave badly and give in to their flesh. Why I love them enough to help them reign in their ‘flesh’, even if it means temporary unpleasantness. (All this was over a spanking so no need for your mind to wander…)
When all the hugs and kisses were given and hearts were mended, our little African guy said this out of the blue: ‘My mom in Africa sells peanuts and charcoal.’ I thought to myself, “Ok…..where did this come from?” I very softly and kindly inquired how he knew that and if he had a memory of when he lived with his mom. He said, “No, but I remember the day she and my dad came and got me out of the orphanage so you could adopt me. They brought me back to the house and it was night and it was raining. Two men came to the door and one had an umbrella and one didn’t. The one man asked my mom if there was any charcoal left to buy and she said no. Then I looked in the kitchen and there was a small shelf there with peanuts all on it. There were more peanuts all around the room. There was a lot of peanuts there, my mom gave me some. I like peanuts, they’re pretty good.’
My heart sank. About a month ago, he randomly asked me to get him peanuts when I went to the store next. I forgot about it and just recently, while shopping, I saw peanuts and thought of his request. So, without really thinking about it, I threw them in the basket and gave them to him when I came home. He gladly accepted them, had them for a snack and went on his way. Now, you need to know that bonding with this little guy has been a very slow go and not very easy. He’s very nervous and has a hard time with any hugs or closeness that lasts more than 5 seconds. Even standing too close to him or sitting near him sends him into a nervous, itching fit. When he told me this story about the peanuts tonight, I wanted to cry all over again. God just showed me that this little guy sees me as his mom too, and all he wanted was peanuts to make that a comfortable transition. Wow…I guess there is a purpose in what I’m doing and I just might be making a difference in these little one’s lives.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fail us Not

I couldn't decide which video I liked about you?

Friday, May 14, 2010


I've had this post in my heart for quite some time now- this song really speaks to me. Beautiful....Beautiful....

I've been looking at myself a lot lately, thinking about what He's been doing in my heart since the move- 5 months ago. Coming back to my hometown somewhat began by giving me an identity-crisis of sorts. The last time I lived here I was a teen, living at home. Now, I am here as a wife and mother. My life is VERY different than even 5 years ago. I wondered if friends and family here would 'recognize' me. My growth and change has been a slow progression over the past 15+ years but to some it might look shocking. It's shocking to me sometimes! :)

In thinking about my 'identity,' I've tried to look a lot to my heart. I've tried to go to those places that have been shut off for a long time. I've tried to begin dealing with old feelings and emotions that I shoved deep down inside. It's been quite a challenge getting real with some old issues that I've chosen to hang on to. But, the more I pray and the more I let God in- the better I'm beginning to feel. I used to have panic attacks- not anymore. I used to have huge levels of anxiety and wear a forced smile on my face- not anymore. I'm laughing out of pure and simple joy. The real laughing...belly laughing! As each day passes, I'm able to see that my heart is being restored. Where there were spots of hurt, confusion, and pain- there is becoming a clear, open spot. That spot in my heart that was blackened before is becoming alive beautiful, beautiful. Mercy is reaching to save sunlight burning at midnight....

All the more, my constant growth and transformation reminds me that He loves us with a deep, passionate love and wants our life to be BEAUTIFUL!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh my...

Do you ever read something and think, 'Oh my, this is exactly for me- this is exactly my situation!'?? Well, I read this post the other day on an adoptive mom's blog. I have been following her blog since she brought her Liberian children home. We had some similarities and some differences in our adoption journey-I was always curious how things were going with them. Her Liberian children were quite a bit younger than ours, I wondered if there would be any similarities in cultural or adjustment issues.

If you've been following our blog for any time, you know that our 2 oldest Liberian children don't live with us. Since the beginning, we have had a special place in our heart for all 4 Liberian children and we've all gone through growth, struggles and disappointments. It's taken us (as parents) some time to work through certain feelings/issues. I've continually asked God why some things have happened the way they did. I've wondered a lot about His will for us and I've prayed for discernment.

He revealed it to me through this precious Mom's words. Here's just a bit of what she so candidly wrote:

'Had we completely missed God’s call? Had we made a mistake when we brought her home? Sometimes God puts us on a path and we start walking. We are in God’s will and we are where He wants us. We look forward and we think we know where the path will go. But, as time goes on the path begins to twist and turn and it ends up taking us somewhere that we never imagined it would. Does that mean that we were on the wrong path or that we weren’t in God’s will? No. It just means that God didn’t show us the whole path when we started out.

I wish that I could say that if I’d known everything when we started that I would have gone forward. That if I had seen all the hurt, all the confusion, all the condemnation we’ve received from others, that I would have said “Yes, Lord! Sign me up for that!” But that’s not true. If I’d had any idea how hard all of this would be, I never would have done it. But, my Jesus knew that and so He only showed me a little bit at a time, leading me by the hand and helping me go forward even when the path grew rocky and I couldn’t see what lay ahead.

I’m glad that He did that. Because He did, one more child has a family tonight. That is an amazing blessing. She has a hope and a future when just a few years ago her life was nothing but broken pieces. I thank God for that and I am even coming to a place where I can thank Him for letting me be a part of it. I will always have a special place in my heart for her and I am thankful that I got the chance to be her mom, if only for a short time.' I was crying buckets when I read this because I have struggled with this for so long! Thank you, 'Candid-Mama', for writing this and for being so honest. You helped another Adoptive Mom in more ways than you will ever know.

Monday, May 03, 2010

New favorites!

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They're just children from the outside
I'm working hard, I tell myself they'll be fine
They're in independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won't You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Sunday, April 25, 2010

You can't steal MY joy....

So, I'm reading this book by Joyce Meyer titled, 'Seven Things that steal your joy.' I was intrigued by the title so I picked it up at the library last week. I had just begun the introduction and I read this:

'Satan is an expert at stealing from us, but his favorite target is not our material possessions; it is our joy. He is always out to steal our joy because he knows if we lose our joy, we lose our strength, and that gives him a powerful advantage over us. So our joy is his main concern. He wants to bring discouraging things to our lives and make us believe that all life consists of is disappointments.
We don't have to let the devil take our joy away from us. No matter what is going on in our lives, we need to stay as happy as we can because then we will have the strength to face whatever comes our way.
One way we can stay happy is not making a big deal out of little things that we should just let go. For example, maybe somebody did hurt our feelings, but getting angry will steal our joy; the answer is to get over it quickly. "But what they did wasn't right," you may say. We have all done something that wasn't right at some time in our life. When we did that, what did we need? We needed a little mercy. What did we want the person we offended to do for us? We wanted them to give us a break. That means we need to sow what we want to reap.'


'Not only do we need to give other people a break, but we need to give ourselves a break. We need to learn not to be so hard on others or ourselves. Why? Because harshness and unforgiveness rob us of joy.'

Is this speaking to you? It's screaming at me...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Getting back on track

Have you ever gotten knocked off track of your daily routine(s)? How long has it taken you to get your groove back? Man'd think something majorly catastrophic has happened around here! I guess I can and should laugh...I can't even keep up with myself!

Spring has sprung around here and there's lots of baby buds on the trees. We went out looking for cattails and pussy willows this weekend...not quite yet. Hubby looked for all the trampoline parts in the garage but that was a no-go as well. There's one load of outside stuff still in AR so I guess that's where the missing parts must be. The bikes are there, our grill is there, our chicken coop and lots more stuff we're starting to miss. Hopefully we can get it soon...

The kids are having a tough time staying focused on school. Having nice weather outside makes it hard to concentrate. We used to take school outside on the trampoline when we were in AR....we're looking forward to that here! I had 3 of our 6 kiddos at the eye doctor today. One got new glasses, one will need glasses in the near future and one has 20/20 vision. Our next adventure (with 5 of the 6) will be the dentist. I already know we'll be starting 2 in braces very soon. Anyone care to donate towards a 'healthy smile' cause? :)

Praise God we've got Grandmas and Grandpas here to help and babysit. It's exhausting doing all this running to appointments. I can't imagine bringing everyone along. We'd be a sight!

My desktop is on it's last legs- I've been trying to download Easter pics of the kids for all you to peruse. I've been able to get them on there (I think), now if I can fight my way online and download them...I'm still using my pitiful netbook- the one that has the black-spider-web cracked screen. I can see about half of what I'm writing...

Did you all have a glorious Easter? We had fun and we were blessed to spend it with lots of family! Hopefully there will be pictures to follow very soon!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Inspired by BREAD!

Moving just takes a lot out of a person, doesn't it? Whew...we've been here for 3 months now and it's like the whirlwind is finally slowing down- just a little...

We moved just before Christmas, then celebrated Christmas, celebrated New Years, unpacked more boxes, restarted school for the kiddos (we have 5 at home this year doing school plus Angel Baby), I traveled back to AR for a few days to tend to some business issues, Hubby started his new job (he's gone all week), I started painting the house (starting in the kitchen), we celebrated Valentines Day, I continued to unpack boxes, paint some more and decorate a little. Then St. Patty's Day rolled around and Hubby and I flew to AR overnight to finalize all the business stuff. Hubby went to work, there was more schooling for the kiddos, more unpacking and organizing, lots of playing outside (because all the snow melted!) and lots of laundry!

This house is quite a bit smaller than our house in AR so it's been a challenge finding homes for the things we need. We're blessed to have a basement and garage that we're using to store the things we haven't found room for (and didn't have the heart to get rid of). We've moved quite a bit in our 12 years together and I think this was our most challenging yet (probably because of the 6 children, 6 animals and pack-up-to-leave-in-5-days issue).

It's felt like more of survival mode the last few months, just trying to get things back to normal and find our 'new normal.' The kids have struggled a little with not being able to be outside every day. We've had to adjust to the cold weather and all the snow (even though it was a mild winter here). Slow but sure I've felt some ambition and inspiration creeping back in. Being that I'm a type A personality, I always think about what needs to be done so I use that ambition/inspiration on the 'things' needing attention. I have a HUGE list of things I would like to do (fun things) but I always put them off.

A friend of mine brought this (cook)book to my attention yesterday when I said I was gonna make bread. I looked it up and watched the little video on Amazon.

I was blown away at two things: the 'container' method which keeps dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, and the 'freestyle' shaping method. I guess I realize these things are obviously possible but why am I not doing it? I love the idea of grabbing a hunk of dough, forming it and throwing it in the oven to be ready for mealtime. We eat a lot of bread and sometimes I am so rushed to get dinner on the table (or breakfast/lunch), carving out a 2 hour time slot to get our 5 loaves done at once seems impossible.

So, I am inspired by bread today! I'm inspired to dig out my ingredients and start creating some doughy-goodness! We've got 2 sick little ones this weekend so maybe the smell/taste of good ole homemade bread will aid in their recovery.

I'm hoping my ambition/inspiration carries over enough that I can get the bathroom painted this weekend! :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Whatta ya think?

So, lately LOTS of folks have been asking me "When are you writing a book?" Most times this comment comes after me sharing part of our story/testimony. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I'm full of stories! :)

So, whatta ya think? Would you like to see more of our story? Would you like to know more about our background(s)? What would you like to know more of about us or our family? Do you think our story is book worthy?

Leave me a comment (even if you are 'Anonymous')...and tell me what you think!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Could it be?

I guess I'd forgotten how springtime 'felt' here in the Frozen Tundra. Today it hit me...the memories came flooding back. We so got lucky this winter, or maybe God had mercy on us, it was pretty mild- not too unbearable. With our two trips up here the end of September and then the end of November, we got a taste of fall before the snow hit. When we arrived with the moving trucks before Christmas, we were met with snow and sub zero temps.

As we were driving to the farm to spend the afternoon with my in-laws, I really noticed that spring is just around the corner. We can almost touch it...

The frost is just about out of the ground, this may be one of the shortest 'break ups' in a long time. We can see a change in our own yard- the snow is gone and the mud went from extra squishy to almost dry overnight. Sign #1.

We are in my great grandparents house, my family's homestead house, if you will. The basement has been wet and nasty for two days. This morning we went down there and it was completely dry. Sign #2.

While driving down a side road to get to the farm we saw 3 people out for a leisurely stroll. We saw families out in their yards doing the usual spring-clean-up (one girl in a tshirt). Sign #3.

It was 52 degrees before noon. Sign #4.

The sun was out! And it held some serious heat. Sign #5.

That certain smell. Different than Arkansas... that familiar smell of spring here in this place. Sign #6.

As I looked around at the trees and the little bit of snow still in the woods, I couldn't help but think, "Almost, guys...we're almost there...just a little while longer." Isn't that what we think as Christians too? Almost guys...we're almost there...He'll be here soon...just a little while longer...

Spring brings new life. Spring brings fresh hope, new beginnings and a breath of clean/fresh air! Spring puts a skip in our step. Spring brings sunshine. Just like Jesus.

My aunt told me awhile back that the longer we're here, the more memories will come flooding back. She's right. We've been here just about 3 months now and the random memories are just crazy! A road we take to go somewhere, a certain corner, a familiar treeline, a smell, or just seeing someone from WAY BACK!

The other week I had a memory about my grandma and her 'slick bottom boots' that she had to wear every winter. She even had these metal gripper things that she would slide over the toe of her boot that was supposed to help with traction. I laughed so hard about that memory! What made me think about it? Who knows. I followed my aunt around in the grocery store that same week, pushing her cart for her as she filled it with groceries. Just walking behind her, watching her mannerisms...made me cry. I so missed her. I'm so happy to be here and to be back in this place that I call home. All the old memories and the new ones we're gonna make, they're all so precious.

I'm a big people watcher. I like to watch people and how they interact with each other and with their families. I noticed a few years ago, on a trip home, that the closer I got the more 'ordinary' the people looked. Just like me. Do you think that about your hometown? Do you think you 'look' like those people? Do you think like the people in your hometown? I think there's a certain way about people, a certain familiar-ness about people who live together in certain communities. Maybe it's the way of life in that region. Maybe it's a difference in culture and/or the heritage of the people living there. My Hubby is a big, tall, blond headed Scandinavian. I didn't see anyone that 'looked' like us when we were in Arkansas. So, when we returned home there was a certain comfort in blending in with like minded folks. And a certain comfort seeing old friends. And of course, the comfort of being surrounded by lots and lots of family.

So, with all of that, I'm waiting on spring. I'm waiting to get my hands dirty in the backyard garden. I'm waiting to see my kids playing outside with all of their happy, carefree smiles. I'm happy for our fresh start, our new beginning. And I praise God for that.

Monday, March 08, 2010

I found the cord!!! Oh- happy day...

Decorating our Christmas tree (in AR). Just weeks before our insanely crazy idea to move- BEFORE CHRISTMAS!

The boys hauling firewood (with Hubby) up to the house (just 2 weeks before leaving AR).

These pics were supposed to be for our Christmas card (the one that never went out this year because of the move!).

Grandma came to see us as we were packing up. There were boxes everywhere, pictures off the walls, etc. We sure do love Grandma, and we miss her SO much!

BFFs saying goodbye... or see you later...

The girls saying goodbye to their most favorite dance teacher ever- Ms. Kim!

Our family Christmas picture- in Arkansas...