My 3 yr old daughter took this pic of me

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The New and Improved Interactive Picture Chore System for Littles

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am the QUEEN of chore charts. I love making charts and I thrive with charts - if I use them. That's usually where my systems tend to fail. I have spectacular plans and create masterpieces on paper, but I have realized two things:

1. That the chore chart of my dreams is not actually the one that works for all of us!
2. That a chart that I love, my kids might not.
3. Simple really IS better.

I know. That was 3.

#3 is kinda disappointing for me because I love the complexity of a good, sound chart and I love knowing how much work went into it.

Sooooo, I figured out a way to make my "simple" chore system as complicated as possible (and time consuming!) lol I spent too much time googling pics and altering them so that they represented my two children the chart is for. It was super fun :)

It all began on Pinterest (of course) with this chart from Our Journey to Africa. 

I liked it, but my kids are too young to read, so I came up with a picture version. I made a template with 2 columns and 2 rows, then made the picture cards (printed, cut, laminated, added a magnet to the back. I printed my template and stuck it to my vintage window white board.

These are their charts - not fancy, but they work great! Unfortunately, I do not currently own a color printer, so all their chore cards are in black and white, but they don't seem to mind. I do intend to redo the cards in color fairly soon. Below are the picture cards I created stole off of Google and modified...

 I intend to add a few more cards as we go. I decided to include basic things like Make Your Bed and Brush Your Teeth because my girls are 6 and 3 and need those reminders, too. It's just easier if it's all in one place. 

Ok, here is what I love about this system and how it works:

At different times of the day (morning, after lunch, before dinner, before bed), I will put up a few chore cards in the left column of each girl's chart and let them know that it's chore time. 

They RUN to the chart to see what they "get" to do (mind you, this is only day one lol - I'll let you know how it is going in a few weeks). 

They go work on their first chore (the top card) and when they have completed it, they RUN back to their chart and slide the magnetic card over to the Done column. That is the most exciting part. 

When they have done all 4 chores (that is all that I can fit in the column because of the size of the cards), I let them go play, OR if there are more chores to be done I put up a few more cards and they start again. 

Wild Princess loved it, although she did get tired after awhile emptying the recycling (big job at our house, especially if it hasn't been done in over a week or two). Little Flower got mad at one point because I only gave her one chore card and Wild Princess got two! lol

I love the simplicity. 
I love that I can walk by and see how much is done. 
I love that I can switch the chore cards back and forth between girls and I don't have to make up a new chart every time I want a different child to do the chore or it's the weekend and we need more flexibility.
I love that I can give less chores on stressful days and more on good days.
I love that they love it. 
I love that they are contributing to our family and that it is helping them to feel good about themselves, instead of having an attitude of entitlement.

So what do you think?
What chore system does your family use?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Apple Cups!

My girls and I were having a tea party this morning and looking at the cool pic of the "apple-fries" that I saw recently, when an idea popped into my head. It's pretty simple to do and it was a hit!

 The Apple Fries

Take an apple and cut off the top....

Then carefully spoon out the insides, leaving a thick "cup"....

and then fill with apple juice and drink! When you're done - eat the cup :)

WARNING! These cups DO LEAK as the bottom of the apple is apparently not leak-proof. Although it left a little mess on the table, the girls loved it so much I would do it again! If anyone comes up with a solution to this - let me know! So fun.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day - NOT What I Expected...

I am a pretty "low expectations" woman when it comes to holidays and birthdays etc. so when my husband brought home a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for me a couple of days early, I was so happy! They are so beautiful and I LOVE flowers!

My kids are Gameboy - 12, Wild Princess - almost 6, Little Flower - almost 3, and Baby Princess who is 7 weeks old so I was not expecting anything really elaborate for Mother's Day. I am a homeschooler and so it's not like my kids are going to "make something for mom at school" unless I plan it, which I did not feel like doing (a little busy lately with the newborn etc). I did go grocery shopping and made sure to bring home strawberries and my favorite chocolate, just in case someone felt like making chocolate covered strawberries for me - but didn't drop any hints.

It's been a BUSY few days and so I was not prepared at all this morning when I woke up. It was a morning of frantically running around, getting kids ready for church, packing a lunch to take to the inlaws, cutting my son's hair (WHY did I do this on Sunday morning??? beats me), showers, breakfast, packing diaper bags (yes, more than one - three, actually), and to top it off - we had an extra little one overnight last night.

When we left for church, it looked like a bomb had gone off in our house OR our home had been broken into and they couldn't find what they were looking for.

We arrived very late to church. Like 25 minutes late.

I forgot the mayonnaise I made this morning at home on the counter.

It is very difficult to manage a baby, a 1&1/2 yr old, and an almost 3 year old in a crowded building.

Our sweet Little Flower bawled and begged not to go on her visit with extended family after church (we don't have a choice - she had to go). Broke my heart into a million little pieces to drive away and leave my baby. On Mother's Day.

By the time we got to the inlaws, I was a MESS. First thing I did was bury my head in my hands and cry. This day was not feeling very special at all. I was overtired (from being up 4 times in the night) and it had been a chaotic morning. It was so busy, I didn't even have a chance to glance at the beautiful crafts my Wild Princess had made for me in Sunday school.

I was a little mad that on Mother's Day I had to be a mother and do the things that mothers do.

Sounds a little ridiculous, right?

After some good, adult conversation, I was able to take my mind off of me and focus on the people around me. It made total sense that I would have to be a mother on Mother's Day. Why did I think any differently?

My children's needs do not cease to exist just because it is Mother's Day. I had not told my kids or husband what I would like or what I expected on this day. 

I spent Mother's Day with two others who were also having a tough time with this holiday. My sweet friend lost her young mother a few years back and my other dear friend is going through some really tough situations and changes in her family and it's not easy. 

It's not easy to be a mother. If you want an easy life - don't be a mother. 

To be a mother you have to
  • let go of your expectations - often
  • learn to thrive and embrace your situation and your kids - no matter how difficult 
  • work work work and not always be appreciated in the way you would like or at all
  • seek beauty in the boring and mundane everyday things
  • voice your needs and desires (men & children are apparently incapable of mind-reading!! I know - shocking.)
  • Find ways to bring peace and joy into your life
  • Be incredibly patient
  • Seek God and ask for wisdom 

This is obviously the short list, but the important things that came to mind. I'm sure we can all add something here. 

By the end of today, I did manage to change my rotten attitude of "poor me, I'm so tired and hard-done-by" and started to appreciate my family. When we got home I had the kids do a 5 minute cleanup of the main rooms, then made myself some chocolate covered strawberries, and went for a walk on our beautiful acreage with my husband, Wild Princess, and Little Flower.

Do not let your expectations ruin your perfectly good day or your perfectly good life. It's really not so bad. More on this in my next post - Mrs. Jones.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Out of Hiding

I was trucking right along there for awhile with this whole blog thing and downright enjoying it....and then I "had" a baby! We were on the list for a baby but you never know when you are going to get that call. She was born March 17th and we brought her home a few days later. Ever since then, life has been upside down.

Things had been running somewhat smoothly before A came along, despite all the paperwork, homeschooling, meetings, doctor's appointments, new trauma related behavior issues with one of our kids,  foster care visits with extended family, and all the usual stuff (cooking, cleaning, laundry - who am I kidding, that never gets done - and blogging).....but throw in a lack of sleep and I'm beat! She is amazing and we are sooooo happy that she has joined our family (we are for sure able to adopt this one! YAY! our FIRST adoption!) and she is so perfect and beautiful.

So before A came, I kinda thought I could keep up with 5 blog posts per week and 4 on a really busy week. Now I'm thinking either 1: I will never have time to blog again in my entire life or 2: I will aim for once a week. So you will still see me around here once in awhile and I do have some stuff up my sleeve that I really, really want to talk about.

This week's successes and excitement:

I CAUGHT UP ON ALL THE LAUNDRY!!!! (you mom's of many know what I'm talking about!) The laundry hampers are all empty. And even got it all put away! <3

My lovely mother came out for 6 hours today and played with my wonderful kids so I could catch up on some urgent paperwork and housework. Thanks, Mom!

I am brainstorming for a huge party I would like to throw for my kids - just cuz.

I made a really interesting concoction for supper tonight and it turned out great!

And my small group women are the best best ever, as they brought me some meals and desserts and wine and snacks and gourmet coffee this past week to keep me sane!

Thanks so much for stopping by! See you around :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Outrageous Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are soft and melt in your mouth!

Makes 3 dozen

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup rolled oats (may grind them up)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (optional) - I usually leave these out - personal preference

1. Preheat oven to 350 degreesF
2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth.
Stir in peanut butter, vanilla, and egg until well blended.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into the batter just until moistened.
Mix in the oats and chocolate chips til evenly distributed.
Drop by tablespoonful onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven til edges start to brown.
Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ignorance is bliss?

People often say ignorance is bliss. They don't want to know about the awful things going on. It's too hard to watch; it's depressing. Besides, it's not like they can end poverty or make much of a difference anyway.

I used to be one of those people. I couldn't handle it and didn't want to know about the horrible things happening to people all over the world; images that I couldn't get out of my mind.

But if I close my eyes to what is happening around me in this world, I am also closing my heart and my resources to it. Knowing means facing truth, no matter how ugly that truth is. It means either sitting back and feeling guilty for doing nothing, or deciding to get involved in the solution. It is overwhelming to think of all the poverty and abuse and devastation in the world. Where do I begin? What can I do? Really? I am just one person.

I am a person. A person who can make a difference for another person or people. Those people may in turn change the lives of other people and so on.

If you are ignorant to what's going on in the world, it is not bliss. True, you may not have to be bothered by it, but it is still there. People are still hurting and desperate for answers and for help. Be a part of the solution and healing for someone today.

All of us are able to reach out and help someone. It doesn't have to be big or extravagant. Even a small gesture can make a big difference in the life of someone who is suffering. Ask yourself what you can do and what resources you can offer. Start changing the life of someone right now, today, and you will start changing the world and you will find satisfaction in being the hands and feet of Jesus to someone.

Katie Davis is a 22 year old who wanted to make a difference and here is a glimpse of her story and what she's doing.

After watching that, it is hard to say, "I can't." You can. You maybe cannot do what she is doing, but you can do something for someone somewhere. Beauty can come out of tragedy and you can be a part of that.

You can read the rest of Katie's story in her book called Kisses From Katie 

There are so many things you can do to make a difference.

Here are a few:

Adopt a child

Foster a child

Buy a shirt to support a weekly cause at sevenly

Buy jewellry to support women saved from sex trafficking rings in Nepal at safoundation.

Sponser a woman left abandoned or widowed, HIV+ single women, returnees from abduction and teenage mothers in Kampala and Gulu at Watoto Project Living Hope

Sponser a child or baby or house mother thru Watoto

gather supplies and deliver them to a women's shelter, 

make meals for an adoptive/foster family

Do something

So what are you going to do? 

What are some ideas you have come up with? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why Foster-to-Adopt? Why not an "easier" route?

Someone asked me this week why we are in the foster-to-adopt program instead of straight adoption or having more of our own children via a surrogate (I have one ovary left from the partial hysterectomy I had to have 5 years ago). I have been thinking about that a lot. Many people have asked us that question over the last few years.

Why would we do something that could cause us disappointment and loss?

Why not just go the "easier" and more guaranteed route?

Why take that risk?

I have Our family has a deep love for orphans and the fatherless and the widow. I admire people who spend upwards of $10,000 to adopt internationally and wait for years to receive their child(ren)....who adopt older children...who adopt medically fragile children, etc. That is their calling. But it is not ours, at least not for now. God has called us to this ministry. No matter which program you choose to pursue, NONE of them are easy. Or fast. They all include waiting, anxiety, unknowns, and emotional pain.

The positives of the foster-to-adopt program are....

that it protects the children in the program. If they are to be adopted, they WILL stay with us and be a part of our family forever, but if not, they will return to their birth family. The less transitions the child makes, the better. This is the best thing for the kids.

that we are supported financially while caring for these kids, as well as after we adopt them. When we went into this at the beginning, we had no idea of what that would look like financially and we didn't care. When we found out our monthly amount per child, we were almost disappointed - not because of the amount, but because we weren't in it for the money. We just wanted to help kids. But we have learned that this support makes a huge difference in our ability to meet the needs of the kids in our care and the needs of our growing family - and I appreciate that. I have the peace of mind that if my child needs therapy because of trauma or has extra medical needs, I will be able to provide that.

The training. I cannot say enough about the training. I think that every parent should have to take this training and especially people who are adopting internationally or adopting older children. If more people had the training needed, I believe that adoptions would have a higher success rate. Knowing what is causing the behaviors in my child and knowing how to properly respond in order to best meet that child's needs trumps being confused and thinking that they are just a spoiled brat and following that with actions that increase their emotional trauma.

that we can foster/adopt babies. We do babies because it is easier on our older children and on our family. We also made this decision because there is less trauma experienced by the child. Notice I said "less". It is difficult to adopt babies internationally, at least newborns, because by the time they are actually in your arms they are often well over 1 or 2 years old. Attachment can still happen with children this young, but it is not an easy thing.

Now what I do not like about the program....

there is a lot of legal risk. (means that the child may be returned to their family and not be a permanent placement). This is hard on the heart because we attach so strongly to each child. But it is usually good if the child can be returned.

Yeah......I could only come up with one negative. 

I think that we are able to help more children through foster-to-adopt than we could through any other program, and that is just my opinion. I don't think that this is what everyone should be doing, as obviously there is a great need for the other programs, too. But this is what we are called to. 

I won't pretend it is easy and that it doesn't dramatically change our family dynamics. It is hard at times and it changes everything, but our lives are so much richer for doing it. Not just my husband's and mine, but our children's, too. They are different kids now that we foster. They are empathetic, loving, world-changing kids. They see beyond the next video game or cookie they want. They see the world through new eyes. I have met so many people in the foster/adoption field who say, "Yes, my parents fostered (or adopted) and it changed my life and I love it and wouldn't have it any other way." It is hard on them, but they are stronger and better people for it. It is also a great blessing to them.

When facing the hard parts - the loss and lack of control - I sometimes think, "suck it up, princess, other people are worse off than you" and other days I truly let loose and grieve - crying, venting, hiding in my room, etc. I trust that God is in control and that His plans are above mine, but it's hard to let go and realize that it is out of my hands and I may not get the outcomes I'm begging and pleading for.

Someone said to me recently that God is weaving a beautiful tapestry and we are a part of it, but we can only see the knots and the ugliness on the back of the tapestry. One day we will be able to turn it around and see the beauty that God has created through these tough times and we will understand. I am so grateful to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of these precious children.

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Little Flower" a poem of love from a mother's heart

Tiny, fragile, lying there
grasping at her long black hair
Eyes are closed and eyebrows raise
beautiful, her little face

Little hands are all outstretched
nothing on her face is etched
Long brown fingers, big brown eyes
everything is a surprise

Cooing, laughing, looking 'round
this little treasure that we've found
Exploring, crawling, cuddled tight
angel tucked in for the night

Peace and love are all you know
as you grow and grow and grow
Time flies by and now you're one
can't believe you're so much fun

Brother holds you in his lap
where you fall asleep to nap
Sister loves to play with you
every day with you is new

Daddy holds you way up high
you are laughing in the sky
Mommy sings your favorite song
holds you close all day long

Pretty soon you start to walk
I can't believe how much you talk
You laugh and run and sing and dance
get into mischief every chance

Your second birthday has gone by
we love you right up to the sky
You are our joy and our delight
each morning all the way til night

I try but can't describe this child
she's intricate, unique, and wild
A flower, soft, a loving heart,
intrigued, affectionate, and smart

I'll never leave or let you go
how great our love, I hope you know
I've never met a girl like you
each day you fill our hearts anew

My greatest fear, I face today
they'll take my little girl away
I'd surely stop them if I could
I hope my baby knows I would

She won't know where her mommy went
why to grandma's she was sent
Did we really love her so
will our baby ever know?

She'll try to find her mom and dad
the brother, sister that she had
She'll cry not knowing where we are
or why we had her sent so far

 Our precious girl, alone and sad
crying for the ones she had
Please come back, come back for me
I'll be good, mom, you will see

Once this case is closed and filed
"they" will have traumatized a child
who should've been happy, attached, and free
instead of suffering emotionally

Will they know your favorite things,
the lullabies your mommy sings?
Your blanket, drink, and special cup, 
what you like when you get up?

My tears flow freely as I write
sitting here so late at night
Wishing I could stop this pain
fighting, but I fear in vain

I pray to God in Heav'n on high
I beg Him, "no!" and ask Him, "why?"
and yet I know He knows my pain
I know our loss is not in vain

His plan, I trust but cannot see
I'd stop it all if it was me
I want to keep my little daughter
I beg my God, my Living Water

So I beg, please hold her near
Lord, please let her know no fear
Hold her tight and dry her tears
give her joy for many years

Help her, please, to understand
if I could I'd hold her hand,
Hold her close and hear her voice,
but letting go is not my choice

If from her this cup can pass
I plead, my God, that's all I ask
Let us keep her, let her stay
don't let them take my girl away.


Disappointment has kind of been a theme in our lives this last week.

Finding out that we have to fight for our little girl or we could lose her.

Finding out that we can't get legal aid and will have to pay for our own lawyer.

Finding out that in order to get an attachment assessment, we'll have to foot the bill for that, too. (We'd spend all the money in the world on her if we had it, but we don't).

Watching the saddest documentary of a failed international adoption and realizing the sad but real reasons behind it.

Wishing I could control everything and save all these damaged and hurting children and knowing that I can't.

Watching people throw their money away on useless stuff when so many are suffering and could be helped. (Not saying we never do this, but this week it has especially been bothering me).

Missing my workout and blogging for a whole week.

Vowing to do better by my kids and limit their tv/electronics and then turning around and letting them watch it on and off all day.

Regretting my tone or way of handling a situation.

Disappointment is tough. I've always particularly struggled with handling it well. I'm learning to let myself grieve and that it's ok. I don't have to justify it or explain it away. If I grieve, I can move on, let go. It happened. I can't change what has already happened, but I am not crippled by it. I can make a new decision right now. I can succeed right now. I am not defeated just because of a single failure or ten single failures (haha). I am not defeated just because I have run into an obstacle. Strength is manifested through endurance. God is my strength. I am looking forward to the beauty that this week has for me and I am ready to face it head on with an optimistic and positive confidence.

How do you handle the disappointments in your life? 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grief and Battle

Little Flower's case. I don't even know what to say. She has not been represented or advocated for well and it's time to fight. I woke up this morning with a list of things I need to do to get this fight going and to advocate for her and then........I took a nap. All I did today was make one of the many phone calls and send a couple emails. That's it. But I guess that is grief taking over. I am so emotionally tired and overwhelmed that I just needed to close my eyes and let it all go away.

So now my day is almost over, but I am feeling more emotionally able to proceed. And so I will begin this next phase of the journey asking God for guidance and wisdom and asking you for your prayers. I love this little girl and need to fight for her but I also know that God loves her more and knows the whole story and sees the big picture. I need to trust Him and let her go. I need to lay her future in His hands. Pray for us as we try to do that..........

Monday, February 25, 2013

Natural Deodorant Recipes and Options

From the archives with an update....

It seems that everything is bad for you. It's overwhelming to try to live a healthy lifestyle with all of the changes that you'd have to make. This is the main reason that I haven't done a lot to change our lifestyle and health choices in the past. I'm busy. I've got 4 kids and homeschool and have an online store. I'm trying to maintain our home and cook healthy meals and really......who has time for organic this and natural that? What's the difference anyway? If this doesn't kill me, something else will, so what's the point? It doesn't really matter that much, does it?

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not enjoy doing research. It's so boring and time consuming. But I want to know the truth about what we are consuming and how that affects our health. So I have to research if I want to make informed and wise decisions. So I dug in today a little, just to give you some background as to why I am now making my own deodorant. In a nutshell, (for those of you who won't take the time to read the info located in the following links) the main ingredient in antiperspirant is aluminum. Aluminum builds up in your brain and leads to Alzeimers and other serious ailments. Aluminum also damages cells and another ingredient, paraben, drives the growth of those damaged cells. This causes cancer. Breast cancer. Need I say more? If so, read the following info and make up your own mind on the issue.

We all have a responsibility to care for our families and their health and well-being. Make informed decisions. Below the links I have included the recipe and instructions for making your own deodorant. It's super easy and took me 5 minutes. I have also included recipes found in the following links as well as a third link to an online store that sells natural deodorants that are free of aluminum, parabens, and petroleum. 

The Difference Between Deodorant and Antiperspirant

Deodorants, Antiperspirants, and Your Health

Purchase All Natural Deodorant - terraNATURALS

The recipe I am using is as follows:

1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup corn starch
2 TBSP coconut oil (found at health food stores - photo below)

Combine the baking soda and corn starch, add the coconut oil and mix into a paste. Fill up your old deodorant stick and voila. You're done! The coconut oil liquifies as it is rubbed on your skin, so if you are finding it too soft to apply, try putting the deodorant in the fridge for awhile to harden it. You can also add 10 drops of essential oils in a scent that you like. I personally LOVE the coconut smell, so didn't do this.

 This is just one brand of cocnut oil you can buy, but there are others.

The finished product - stored in my old, washed out deodorant container.

It is a bit messier than the deodorant you are used to and it will likely leave some white marks on your clothes, but really worth the health benefits. There is a recipe below for a spray deodorant that may be better for not leaving white marks. I don't know for sure cuz I haven't tried it yet :)

Here are 2 more recipes........

Basic Deodorant Powder
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
A few drops essential oils such as lavender or cinnamon
Place the ingredients in a glass jar. Shake to blend. Sprinkle a light covering of the powder on a damp washcloth. Pat on. Don’t rinse.

Basic Liquid Deodorant
1/4 cup each witch hazel extract, aloe vera gel, and mineral water
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
A few drops antibacterial essential oils such as lavender (optional)
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to blend.
Makes 3/4 cup
Shelf life: Indefinite.

I also recently found this at Saveon...

 ...and I have tried it a few times and it seems good. The ingredients list is pronounceable and understandable and doesn't have anything in it that is dangerous to you, as far as I know. It's a liquid roll-on but I think they also had one that was in a stick. They have lavender scent and unscented. They have a whole line of products, including a kids line, but I haven't thoroughly checked it out yet. Let me know what you think!

What natural products are you using?

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Stranger

I have read the following story a few times over the years and it's worth your time. I do not know the author, unfortunately....

The Stranger 

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on. 
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors:
Mom taught me good from  evil, and Dad Taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies. 
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind. 
Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet.
(I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.) 
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. 
My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely ( much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.
I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures. 
His name?.... 
We just call him, "TV."

* *Note: This should be required reading for every household in America !** He has a wife now....We call her "Computer."

This story grips me every time I read it. When a real person acts violently or swears or acts inappropriately in front of my children, I cringe and do anything I can to protect my kids. I do not allow those things in my home. But I let it in through the screens in my home. 

Some reasons I hate tv, video games, and electronics...

It takes away from the relationships in the home by isolation. Everyone is on their electronic device and not interacting with each other.

The more they watch, the more they misbehave and fight with each other.

The more they watch, the more dazed and unresponsive they are. It actually negatively affects the way your brain functions - especially in children. 

They see and hear things that they should not be seeing and hearing. It puts fantasies and wicked thoughts into your mind. Actions follow thoughts.

It zaps their creativity and imaginations.

It creates a mentality of entitlement and boredom.

It promotes laziness, unhealth, and depression. 

It steals your life, your joy, your potential.

It takes your focus off of people and real life and God. 

We have always had "rules" around our electronic use, but, I admit,  I have not been very consistent with them. Two days ago, I decided that I want something better for our family. I want kids who know their parents love them and who have close family relationships. I want kids who see and know and pursue their potential in life. I want kids who work hard and play hard. I want kids who have good character and kids who have a heart to serve others and not be self-centered. I want to enable and encourage my kids to be successful in their lives and in their relationships. 

Two days ago, I limited tv, computer, and ds to 2 hours maximum combined per day. The kids are a bit uncomfortable with this but are compliant. We are using timers and keeping track. I am encouraging good 'ol work and play and relationships the rest of the time. What they don't know is that in about a week's time, I am going to change it to 1 hour per day.....and then a week later we'll be moving to 30 min per day.....and after that maybe only a couple days out of the week or just on the weekend. This stuff is not going to be ruling our lives anymore. 

We are actually going to move and learn and grow and spend time with each other and with our family and friends and God. We are going to make a difference in the world around us. We are going to discover our potential and help others discover theirs. We are going to really live. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Favorite Organizing Clutter Solutions

I have 2 little girls and the hair accessories are overwhelming. My bathroom closet looked atrocious no matter how many times I tried to reorganize it - until I found this at Canadian Tire for $17. Best $17 I ever spent on organizing.

Also in the bathroom, I have organized all of our regularly used lotions, shampoos, etc on a couple of lazy susans on the top shelf and I have baskets for my towels, hand towels, curling irons, brushes, and one for spa stuff. I threw in an empty "catch all" basket and when it gets full of stuff that I found around the house that belongs in the bathroom, it gets put away.

Our shoes used to be in a heap in the bottom of our entrance closet and finding pairs proved to be quite a challenge. I picked up these organizers at IKEA for I think $10 each and they are sooo easy to use. I love them! The shoe problem is now virtually non-existent.

Our master bedroom closet is large but we don't hang at least half of our stuff, so I put my 9 drawer dresser in the bottom and hang my stuff on the left and his on the right with organizers (from IKEA) in the middle to help keep things separate. We also have a wardrobe that we use to keep our worn-once-but-still-clean-so-gonna-wear-again stuff in. Before it was just all over the place and adding, unnecessarily, to the laundry pile.

Also in our room, I purchased a 3-sorter laundry hamper for lights, darks, and work clothes.

And this 4-sorter + 4-sorter + 2 single hampers for the laundry room - makes SUCH a difference and no more laundry all over the floor! (ok, well sometimes there still is, but it's WAY better than it was!)  I know. 10 hampers seems excessive, but believe me, it's not!

The schoolroom is organized with the help of an IKEA EXPEDIT shelving unit fitted with cheap baskets from JYSK and cheap white bins from Walmart (baskets were under $5 ea and the bins were $2something ea) The green ones were from JYSK as well and were $5 ea. Each bin has it's own category - science, playdough, busy bags, art supplies, puzzles, etc.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tribute to My Family

My Dad is a pretty solid guy. He's a hard worker and had the same job forever (more than 25 years) and has had his current job forever. He is all brains and speaks 4 languages fluently and could (and would) defend someone he loves in court - and win. He fights for the helpless aborted babies and writes to the people in government regularly. He loves God and his faith is solid and unwavering.

Mom is incredibly strong and determined. She works crazy hard and likes to laugh and have a good time. No matter how hard or long or tedious a job, she will work til it is done. She likes to plan surprises for people, and will be there for you whenever you need it. She will bend over backwards and loves to help people in any way she can. She loves learning, music, and singing. She loves God more than anything else in this world and is often sharing words of wisdom.

Lexie, my oldest sister, can make anyone feel beautiful. She embraces people without judgement and knows how to have a good time. She is terribly funny and fun to hang out with. She is an amazing storyteller and will have everyone laughing in no time. She is very money smart and hardworking and motivating. She can plan a great party on short notice and will help you succeed in your life.

Bonnie, my next oldest sister, is a lover of knowledge. She knows about everything, it seems. She always knows the best, time-saving, money-saving way to do almost anything. She is mechanical, studies hard, and works hard. She is a positive and motivating and loving person and she loves spending time with the people she loves. I truly believe she could do whatever she put her mind to. She is very forgiving and her faith is important to her.

Mark, my older brother, is the hardest working human being I've ever met. He is crazy thrifty and his problem solving skills are unmatched. He always has a story to illustrate his point and it always makes perfect sense. He is an excellent teacher, lover of God, loving and compassionate father, and would literally give you the shirt off his back even if he just met you 2 seconds ago and it was -30. He is the least judgemental person I know and incredibly stubborn and tough. He likes to prove he can do it, especially if everyone has told him it's impossible. An excellent and hilarious story teller - he's unique.

Marla, next sister, is hilarious. She loves to analyze and she likes to research things and make sure that she is always making the best possible choice. She is silly at heart and very fun to be around.  There is never a dull moment when hanging out with Marla and she can make any situation light by her amazing ability to make vivid comparisons from her imagination to match the situation she's/you're facing.She is an hilarious story teller, a hard worker, and a good friend and will go out of her way to help you in any way she can. She has a huge heart for the less fortunate, loves truth and is always seeking it and God.

I just have to share such a vivid comparison from this morning that she put on facebook - 

 "feeling a bit like a hampster who got into a huge bag of sugar and is now laying in the corner of his cage with his eyes bugging out of his head, hoping he doesnt have a heart attack. only I didnt eat sugar. just had a stressful morning."

Then there's me, and I am not going to describe myself - I'll let somebody else do that lol

Next in line is Gerda. She, like my dad, is very analytical and smart. She takes her time making decisions  and likes to make the right decision the first time and not waste her time and have to do it over again. She always has a piece of godly wisdom and is a great person to talk to when you're having a rough day. She is an excellent listener, very money savvy, and has a knack for decor, style, and makeup. 

Then there's Alice. She is quiet and doesn't open up easily, but when she does, there is a beautiful spirit in there. She believes in people and is a great listener. She is seeking the face of God and is an excellent mother. She works hard and is quite fun to be around. She is a funny storyteller, as well. She is very loving and affectionate, too. 

Josiah, my brother, is the youngest. He is a genius, just like our Grandfather was. He works hard, plays hard, and is a very loving guy. He's a great listener and friend. He is naturally funny and an amazing storyteller and handles any social situation with ease. He's the guy that always says the right thing and has 10 people hanging on his every word. 

These 9 amazing people I get to call family and I'm grateful for all of them.  


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Our son, Gameboy, just turned 12 years old on Saturday. He has grown up so fast and is an amazing kid.

He is empathetic and kind and smart. If I'm having a busy day, he'll come up and ask me if I've had anything to eat and could he get something for me.

He is so helpful around the house.

He is affectionate and great with babies.

He loves hanging out with his friends and his dad and I.

He is a social guy and can be tossed into a crowd of kids he's never met and he'll figure it out and find a friend. He is not intimidated easily.

He has a memory like you wouldn't believe and learns like it's going out of style. He has a wealth of knowledge, on so many different topics, swimming around in his head.

He is always (and I mean always) cracking a joke (making up his own half the time), telling you about some episode of whatever (in great detail, remembering everything everyone said in the entire episode - and in order), playing a video game (and telling you about it the whole time), poring over books (he loves history, comics, and factual books, especially Ripley's believe it or not).  

His lego setup has been a permanent addition to our home for the last 5 years - there's no such thing as "cleaning up the lego".

He can often be found in the kitchen making a ton of waffles, cornbread, pancakes, or baked oatmeal.

He is a very imaginative artist and his artwork is more like a video game on paper and there's a lot going on.

He's a food guy and if he likes what you made him, you are gonna really, really be appreciated and he'll go on and on and on about how AMAZING it is and how he hasn't had food like that in a LONG TIME! The downside? That he's gonna let you know if he doesn't like it, but he tries to be polite about it - quite funny. Ex. "This isn't my favorite, mom, but it's ok, I guess, but I wouldn't pick it, but it's not the worst thing I've ever eaten.....Thanks for trying to make us a nice I have to eat all of it?" lol

Gameboy likes quality time and one on one, whether it be boardgames, going out to eat, going to the city to browse the toy section or the video game section at Walmart, reading a book together, etc.

He loves God and truly lives his life in a way that is pleasing to God.

He is emotionally healthy and balanced and can handle some tough stuff in this area with grace.

I feel so blessed to know this kid and I am honored to be his mom. I couldn't ask for a more creative, imaginative, artistic, kind, and interesting kid! Thank you, God, for my Gameboy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Different Approach to Valentine's Day

Love is in the air today and my Facebook feed is full of posts about Valentine's Day. The stores are crammed with men picking up last minute gifts for their significant other and women picking out a special something for themselves or their special guy. Chocolates, wine, flowers, jewellry, lingerie, among other things. 
A lot Most of us women expect a gift on Valentine's Day from our man and if we don't get one, we are disappointed and even angry or hurt. If we are single ladies, we feel bad that we don't have a special someone in our lives and so we treat ourselves instead. 

18 billion dollars will be spent for Valentine's Day. 

Another commercially run "holiday". It's not about love, it's about money. 

This post was on Dani Johnson's wall (she's a self made millionaire):

Can you believe what the marketers have turned Valentines Day into?? BUYING!! 18 Billion will be spent for Valentines day. What happened to LOVING? A study showed that 53% of women say if they dont receive a gift from their significant other than they will END their relationship....15% of women buy themselves a gift for Valentines Day. REALLY!!! Let's feed an orphan for Valentines instead of feeding selfish desires. Let's LOVE others with LOVING words of encouragement & service instead of making demands.

I want to challenge you to do something different this year. Instead of focusing on ourselves, lets reach out and spread love to everyone and anyone we can. Look for small opportunities to do big things. Try to bless everyone who comes across your path today. Offer a helping hand, a kind word, a hug, a special gesture - especially where it's unexpected. 

Matthew 22:39

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Take this a step further. Who needs our money, our gifts, our time? 

You could choose a single mom who is struggling, 

sponser a child,

help stop child sex trafficking - check out this site (they have a different cause every week),

Support women in Nepal who are trying to build a new life after being saved from human trafficking by buying their jewellry,  or you can visit their main site here and help in other ways, 

choose an orphanage to support financially (whether a one time donation or an ongoing financial commitment), 

gather supplies and deliver them to a women's shelter, 

visit the elderly, 

visit someone in the hospital, 

shovel someone's driveway (someone who really needs it, then ring the bell and run away! 

It doesn't matter if it's big or small, every act of kindness blesses the giver and receiver. And as far as doing something special on Valentine's day with that special someone or by yourself, go ahead! You don't need to blow a bunch of money to have a wonderful time. Spend time with each other and plan a date that is free! (or next to free). For some great and inexpensive date ideas, check out my friend Sharla's blog - she even has a printable full of ideas! And here's another great site with tons of ideas. 

Remember what love really is. It's not that gushy feeling and all the fluff that comes with it. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. 
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

<3 <3 <3

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

If We Lose Little Flower....

Little Flower came to us when she was just 3 days old. She was a beautiful, preemie, African/Jamaican baby. We are a foster-to-adopt home and so they try to place children with us who are most likely to become adoptable. But there is never a guarantee.....which we have learned. Without going into any detail, it seemed quite certain that Little Flower would be staying with us forever. There was really no one who could take her. We brought her home and she has been showered with love since the second we laid eyes on her.

She has grown and progressed well. She is pretty healthy and very happy and curious and a delight to our family. She is one of us. She is now 2 1/2 years old.

Decisions are now being made as to where she will spend the rest of her life and it's hard to look at her and think of her as not one of my children. There are 2 family members who want to take her and the decision will be made in June of this year......possibly sooner. I've lost other children, who have returned to their families or extended families and some of those stories are good. I've seen families healed and reunited with their children! That is an amazing and incredible thing. I support the birth families whenever I can and try to embrace them. But this time, it's different due to the circumstances. I fully support contact with the family, but I don't think it is best for her in the long run to be moved from our home.

I know what it's like for a child to live here, be my child, and then leave. It's happened 4 times....and I'm ok with that. That's what fostering is.....but I feel, somehow, that foster-to-adopt should be different. Permanent. We began this road so that we could adopt children. But it's not about us, we've realized, it's about the children. What I mean by that is that the foster-to-adopt program is designed to benefit the children - not necessarily us. If a child comes into foster care and then is not able to return home, it is best if the child is adopted by the current foster family. The less moves a child makes, the less trauma they endure. So they are at less risk, but we aren't.

And I'm ok with that.

What scares me most about Little Flower leaving after living here for so long is that she will feel betrayed. That she will be damaged emotionally. That she may not be cared for as well as I'd like her to be or in the ways that I would care for her.

I cannot imagine waking up each day and not seeing that precious little girl running through the house laughing. I cannot imagine not looking into her beautiful brown eyes. I cannot imagine not singing her favorite songs to her, holding her tight, and being able to soothe her when she's sad. We have such a strong bond and such an amazing understanding of each other. It's like I bore her from my own body.

I often say that if I was not a Christian, I could not be a foster parent. And it's true. People always ask, "How do you do it?" and my honest answer to that is that I serve the living God. The God of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all things, and He holds me in His hand. I have prayed and He has answered. I have nearly died and He has saved me. I was lost and broken and He found me and healed me. I put all my trust in Him and I know that He cares for each one of these children and will watch over them and protect them when I can't. The rewards far outweigh the losses.

Matthew 19:14

 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I love you, Little Flower <3


My Workout Plan

I bought an elliptical a couple of years ago on kijiji for $120 and I love it! I had used a treadmill before that, but found the elliptical more enjoyable. In the summertime, I've tried to take the kids for bike rides - which ended up being a little challenging when I had 5 kids, 4 of which couldn't ride a bike. I had one in a bike carrier, one in a snuggli, two in the bike trailer and one on their own bike. I really enjoyed the challenge of cycling with 4 kids on my bike, but it was just that - a challenge! It was a short, tough workout and I spent more time getting ready and getting everyone off afterward than it was actually worth. I finally ended up not going at all. Then I tried taking them for walks with the triple stroller and that was much more fun, but again, I didn't do it that often.

When I did try to use the elliptical, I enjoyed it, but it got boring after awhile (my basement isn't finished and I was looking at a pile of storage boxes and unfinished walls and wires and pipes the whole time) and I would lose weight easily, but it never stayed off for long. I didn't have much muscle on my body and you need muscle to keep fat off.

I am NOT a water drinker, either, and so I was starting to feel quite dehydrated and sludgy (for lack of a better word). I am realizing that my health is extremely important and that I will not just end up fit by simply carrying a kid around or taking the laundry up and down the stairs. My sister told me about P90X and I knew that it was a major time commitment and a tough workout, but I thought I would give it a shot, since going to the gym is out of the question (We live a 20 minute drive to the nearest city that has a gym).

I started on January 1st (not because it was a new year, just happened to end up being on that day) and my goals were to drop 34 lbs and make a habit of drinking tons of water and also eat well - not diet. My diet isn't rigid but consists of lots of vegetables and fruit, meat and proteins, and 1-2 carbs per day. I avoid dairy almost altogether and have for a long time now (other than in my morning coffee).

So P90X is tough and I cannot do some of the exercises at all and others I cannot do the # of reps that they do, BUT I have noticed an increase in my abilities and strength and I feel fantastic. Each week I do it, I feel better and stronger. It is 1 hour per day, 6 days a week,  and sometimes I am working out with kids underfoot, but I am getting a lot more exercise than I would be otherwise, so I am committed and consistent.

What I like about P90X:

Each day focuses on a different group of muscles, so you aren't overworking one set of muscles and it doesn't get boring.

There are a couple of workouts that I find really tough, or do not enjoy, but there is always a modified exercise that I can do so I'm not just stuck standing there.

It uses a lot of different kinds of exercise - yoga, weight training, cardio, kickboxing...

You don't need a lot of equipment. You need dumbbells, a pullup bar, a mat, a chair, and yoga blocks or you can use resistance bands in place of the dumbbells and pullup bar. I also use a protein shake after my workouts to promote muscle building and recovery.

I am finding that I am not dropping pounds quickly, but I am losing weight consistently. I am down 7 pounds since I started 6 weeks ago and if I had eaten a little better than I have been, I would have seen slightly better results. However, I am more interested in long term lifestyle change right now than I am in getting to my goal in 4 weeks. I have also noticed that even though the scale reads 7 lbs less, my body shape is much different than when I started. I feel a lot stronger and more flexible and toned. It's supposed to be a 3 month program and I intend to continue once it is finished to maintain my health, but maybe not 6 days a week.

I love working out at home because it can be flexible and I am setting a good example for my kids. They love exercising with me and if I can be consistent, they will grow up thinking that it's normal to not sit on the couch all day :)