Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's still Christmas here...

While everyone else is undecorating, I am resisting the urge to take down the lights and the tree..My parents are coming into town Monday night, so we will be doing Christmas all over again with them on Tuesday. They have sent presents ahead of them, so the kids are anxious to unwrap the gifts still under the tree-but who knows if the organizing and decluttering urge gets strong enough, I may un-decorate and just put the presents on the piano!! Noah is beside himself with glee as he has already felt the packages and is certain poppy sent him a roll of duct tape. Could his world be a more happier place? a bb gun, a zip line AND his own personal roll of duct tape...does life really get any better than that when your 7? Oh, and he lost a HUGE front, top tooth 2 days before Christmas, so now he is loving sticking straws in the hole in his mouth to drink his chocolate milk. And His foster brother Austin is visiting for a few days....and they are knee deep in a mud hole RIGHT NOW. Oh and Mike just came in to tell me he is (RIGHT NOW) making a platform for the zipline and raising the cable HIGHER then previously mentioned 20 feet off the ground. NOAH is one happy boy. And the girls just received the Christmas "gift" of getting their own blogs-which thrilled them beyond all belief. And the babies are napping...but wait, are those jingle bells I still hear? No, it's just my husband and his chainsaw-another oversized boy-enjoying his toys.....

The zip-line's maiden voyage and more company!

Saturday morning after Christmas, Mike and Noah were up and out early, determined to get the zip line going before our friends from South Carolina arrived at noon. Mike ran out of cable and had to make a mid-morning run to the home improvement store, but was still back in time to have everything together just as our company was pulling in the driveway. We greeted our sweet friends-who mind you-have been urban dwellers most of their lives, so I'm sure traveling to our little singlwide on a dirt road in the woods of MS was a big enough adventure for them, without throwing in the excitement of a zip line. After hugs and remarking how much all of our children have grown (they have daughters the same age as Mackenzie and Mae and a son the same age as Noah), we headed arounded back to view the zipline-mind you, this would be the first time I had ventured outside to look at my husband's handiwork-- My eyes, as well as the eyes of my dear friend, grew big as saucers, as we surveyed the extension ladder extended 20 FEET up, leaned against a big pecan tree, with a cable anchored to the tree just above the ladder. Mike had crafted a trolley that attached to the cable (which, I think he told me is supposed to hold 900 lbs), and attached to the trolley was a swing...and at the end of the cable-a distance of a little more than 200 feet, was a tire, attached to the order to stop the "rider" before the rider smacked into the tree as he/she zoomed down the zipline.
As I marveled at My husband's skill, I also wondered which one of my children would break an arm first. We stared up at Mike, standing 20 feet up in a crook of the tree, holding the swing.
"Who's first?" He called. At first I suggested he go first, but then I realized he was our families main source of income, and we could not have him laid up in a hospital due to falling off a zip line-
so the next choice was Mackenzie, who fears nothing, and quickly scampered up the ladder and onto the swing. Ready to view a thrilling 90 mph ride, we all watched, half in excitement, half in Mike let go of the swing, we all held our breath....the swing moved VERY slowly down the cable-so slowly, we all wanted to grab the swing at pull it the rest of the way-Mackenzie mosey-ied about halway down the zip line, before the swing hit the ground and dragged her the rest of the way. Each of the other kids took turns, and with each child, the ride went slowly, ending in the dirt about midway through the ride. Mike stood atop the ladder and chuckled..."I think I have a little reconfiguring to do...." His reconfiguring would involve pulling the cable tighter and having a steeper incline, although I expressed my concern with taking the cable higher than 20 feet off the ground. In the meantime, we left it as it was, and had a fun time watching the kids slide not so gracefully down the zipline, always hitting the ground in mid-ride.
And our friends admitted that it wasn't as dangerous as they thought it would be (not yet anyway). The rest of the day was spent enjoying our friends-trying to cram all of the remeniscing into a few hours, since their plans were to leave early the next morning. mae and her friend Ciara pulled out a typewriter and wrote stories together. Mackenzie taught Serena how to bake apple pie-the girls made one to keep and one to send home with them. Noah and Ethan tried out Noah's bb gun (under Mike's supervision of course) and our friend Luis cooked us supper-spanish rice with beans, chicken and a home-made concoction called sofrito-a blend of garlic, peppers, onion, olives and I'm not sure what else. When we all lived in Florida, where we first became friends, some of our best "food" memories involved Deanna and Luis' spanish after stuffing ourselves again, we talked late into the night, trying to make up for the 3 years since we last saw each other! Sunday morning, at their request, we took them to Elvis Presley's birthplace, and then said our goodbyes. They headed home, we headed to church...all the kids asking how soon we would see them again. It's great to have those special friends-ones that no matter how long it has been since you have talked or seen each other, you can still pick up right where you left off.

Cristmas day-here comes the crowd..and the food....

We are definately a family with a deep affection for food, and many of our memories and traditions revolve around food. I make no apologies for this...but I know I will spend most of the new year trying to walk off what I ate on Christmas day alone! Every Christmas, our "big" Christmas meal involves little or no cooking. I think this "tradition" was started with Mike's grandmother, who was tired of spending the whole day cooking instead of enjoying time with her family. So The meal my children all look forward to on Christmas day consists of croissants, piles of roast beef, turkey, salami, ham and cheese, chips, dips and 10 pounds of peel and eat shrimp.
AND grandma's rule is the kids can eat as much as they want. Usually we gather at my mother in laws, but I suggested our house this year. By the time everyone arrived, our little house was very full- All our family, plus Mike's parents, His middle brother and wife, their 3 children, his youngest brother and his daughter, Mike's uncle and his college age daughter, and our older bachelor neighbor. It was quite a crowd, and I can honestly say we had a great time. Everyone stayed longer than they normally do, and chatted and laughed more than they normally do. Even though it was cold, the kids bundled up and headed outside to play flashlight tag and jump on the trampoline in the dark, and the grown ups filled up on cookies, cheesecake, shrimp and sandwiches. It was close to 9 when the last of the family headed home...and full and sleepy we wondered why we only do this once a year. I vow to initiate a family gathering at least every few months in 2010...

Christmas Eve, Christmas morning...

As I sit here sipping tea with honey, brought to me by my sweet oldest child, who probably wants something...I was busy reading other people's blogs, realizing, I need to go ahead and post on mine! We had a wonderful Christmas, here at the Barnes home. Christmas Eve, we normally attend a candlelight service and then go "light looking" (Noah's term for driving through heavily decorated neighborhoods, looking at lights), followed by hot cocoa. The rain this Christmas eve was torrential, so instead of venturing out, we had our hot cocoa at home and read prophesies about Christ, followed by the story of his birth. Everyone hauled their blankets and pillows into the living room, since somehow a few years ago, we started the tradition of everyone sleeping in the living room on Christmas Eve. Mie and I were struggling to stay awake in order to fill the kids stockings-we don't do the Santa thing, but the kids always look forward to the special treats we put in their stockings. Mackenzie remarked once, "sometimes our stocking gifts are better than what's under the tree!!" We always put coupons in there stockings for things like "a date with mom, including dinner and a movie" "trip to the bookstore to pick out a book", Mackenzie gets one every year for a date with dad to have lunch out and attend a favorite contemporary Christian concert that comes around each year. This year they each recieved 12-one for each month. I found a great little coupon book at the Hallmark store, which I was able to get for free with a coupon, so I didn't have to type allthe coupons myself! The other biggie in their stockings this year were book lights-for all the late night reading they like to do.
I was the first one up Christmas day, and had time to grab a shower and fix my hair before the kids woke up. Mike decided he would showere before the gift-opening began, and Mackenzie asked why he was taking the LONGEST shower he had ever taken! We always have a special breakfast casserole on Christmas morning-prepares the day before, we just pop it in the oven while we are opening gifts. (I will post the recipe hopefully later today, along with a few for other goodies we made this Christmas). The kids tore into their stockings, and quickly decided some of them wanted to trade coupons. Noah would not be moved. He was not trading any coupons, even though he couldn't even read all of them! Mackenzie was trying to bribe him out of his "fast food lunch of your choice" coupon. The babies ate soo much candy while we opened presents...Dakota was covered in Chocolate and Lexie had gummi-savers stuck everywhere. We typically don't do many gifts, but by the time the kids open grandparents gifts, they usually have way more than they need! The "Big" gifts this year for the older children were-Mackenzie recieved a full audio set of Chronicles of Narnia, Mae received a pretty lamp for the piano, and Noah recieved his cub-scouts uniform, which he promptly put on over his pajamas! Lexie had a musical tea-set and puzzles and Dakota had the biggest bucket of wooden blocks ever. They all got an assortment of books, including lamplighter's and Henty's. Even though Noah can't read them yet, he loves that he has started "collecting" what he calls "big boy"books. A collective gift was the zip line that Mike had been working hard at designing for the past month-hopefully it would be up and running by the next day, when our company arrived from South Carolina. The sweetest gifts under the tree were the ones the children had given to us and each other. Mackenzie gave me a jar filled with slips of paper-one for each week of the year-each with a special "treat" for me written on them. Things like "plan menu and grocery list in peace while I babysit" or "one free foot rub". Mae gave Noah her carhart fleece hat with the built in face mask, after he cried over losing his at the Christmas parade. Mackenzie gave her dad a framed picture of him and me, and gave her sister a coupon for taking her to the movies. We had a laugh at Noah's gift giving tactics-apparently he had gone around the house-well specifically into his sister's room-and gathered things to give as gifts. He gave Mackenzie a hat that was already hers, and gave Mae a stuffed animal that was Mackenzie's as well! After opening gifts and eating, we headed over to Mike's parents to open gifts. I must say, they were VERY creative this year in their gift giving...
Mae got a foam-egg crate pad to put on her bed-which she was thrilled with, since her sister already had one. Mackenzie got a HUGE box of baking supplies-flour, sugar, crisco, cherries, coconut, parchment paper, chocolate chips and a gift card for more cooking supplies at Wal-mart! (her uncle Paul chipped in on this gift as well). As I write, Mackenzie has just brought me a hot buttered biscuit from the batch she just whipped up. And Noah recieved a b.b. gun. and a jar with a million b.b.'s. Oh and STRICT instructions that he is only to use it under the supervision of his Dad. And I am the mom who said none of my children would ever play with guns. Noah now has a small arsenal of weapons, and I have eaten my words....
We headed back home to put the sugared-up babies down for naps, and for Mike to begin working on the zip line. Noah could not believe he was getting a b.b gun and a zip line in the same day..and I will probably be getting our family their own wing at the emergency room....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Traditions...

While I have not updated my blog until today, I have taken the time these past few weeks to enjoy reading other blogs...I love getting glimpses into other people's lives...

Friend and fellow blogger, Anita, had posted about her family Christmas traditions, so I decided that I would do the same. When I read her blog, I thought, we don't really have that many Christmas traditions; However, when I asked the children to tell me some of their favorite family traditions, they came up with all sorts of things! And so, I decided I did indeed have enough "traditions" to warrant a special post.

*We usually put up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. This year I was chomping at the bit, so we put it up Thanksgiving day. Some years we have had artificial trees, some years we have had live trees from Lowe's or Marvin's, some years we have gone to the back of my brother in law's property and cut down our very own Charlie brown Christmas tree, whose branches were barely strong enough to hold paper ornaments! Last year there was no tree because we spent Christmas in NY with my family, and this year it is a small but just right artificial tree bought at Dollar General! The kids get so excited, pulling out the ornaments, and talking about when and where each one came from.

My grandmother gave me a gold-plated ornament each year until I was 18-each one bearing my name and the year-and as simple as these ornaments were, they were so special to me.

We began the same tradition with our children-making or purchasing a new ornament each year, so that upon leaving home, each child will have their own collection of ornaments. Noah was so tickled this year to recieve a hammer ornament from his grandparents-it was the first ornament he placed on the tree. In addition to letting the children unwrap the ornaments and decorate the tree, we set up the same ceramic creche each year. The figurines are huge and were painted by Mike's mother as a gift for his grandmother, many years ago. When Mike first brought it home, after his grandmother passed away, I thought where am I going to put that big set?!? But it has become something the children look forward to each year...unwrapping each piece, and placing them on the shelf-as long as we have had the set it has been missing a wise man-so each year when visitors comment on the whereabouts of the third wisemen, in unison the kids will quickly say-"hH went to Wal-mart to get diapers!"

Typically, we are not "listmakers" when it comes to Christmas gifts, as we want to teach the children that Christmas is not about getting, but about the gift that God gave. We did start a listmaking tradition about 2 years ago. It began with a 6 inch wide, HUGE roll of paper that we had picked up at the local newspaper. Mae decided this was perfect "list" paper, and started making lists of everything-lists of her friends, lists of her family....she discovered that the longer the list the "cooler" it looked when you unrolled it and it dramatically puddled on the floor.

Mackenzie suggested a Christmas list of things we could give, and I suggested a list of things God had already blessed us with, and we were amazed as our lists grew and rolled halfway across the kitchen. We hang the list on the pantry door, and then, pack it away with the Christmas ornaments to be read the next year. We will most likely work on this years "lists" today, while cookies are in the oven-another tradition the kids love-Baking Cookies!

My step mom always baked (and still does) tons and tons of cookies to give away at Christmas-I always loved her green, Christmas tree spritz cookies the best, and had a habit of sneaking way too many of them when she wasn't looking. The children love to try out new cookie recipes, and especially love "sampling" before we pack up plates to give away. Magic cookie bars are always a must, as our chocolate chip cookies. This year we will try our hand at biscotti and probably make some no bake peanut butter/chocolate/oatmeal cookies as well. As was the tradition when I was younger, We will save a big plateful of cookies to enjoy Christmas morning with big glasses of milk while we open gifts.

Since we are on the "cooking" topic, I must admit that for myself and my children, many of our memories/traditions are tied to food! Every Christmas Eve for the past several years, we prepare the same egg/sausage and cheese casserole, and it bakes while we unwrap gifts in the morning. If we are not traveling to NY or Florida to visit my parents, then Christmas "dinner" (or, what we northerners call "lunch") is loads of roast beef, ham, turkey and cheese, piled high on croissants, with chips and soda. So simple, but something the kids look forward to every year, because Grandma says everyone can fix their own sandwiches and eat as much as they want-not the case normally at our house! This year dinner will be at our house, and the children all panicked when they heard... "What about the sandwiches!!!???!!" Mackenzie asked.

I assured them that Grandma was bringing all of the sandwich "fixins" to our house, and they were very relieved!

In the days leading up to Christmas, beginning after Thanksgiving, We read through Bible prophesies relating to Christ, as well as Bible passages that tell about the people throughout history who were in the lineage of Christ. We've made paper ornaments representing each person, and these get hung on a tiny tree in our kitchen called a "Jesse Tree"-named for the passage that says "a branch will spring forth from the stump of Jesse"Isaiah 11:1-9, referring to Christ. I had thought we would make new ornaments each year, but I think we will make new ornaments only every other year, as there are so many to make! Reading together through these passages, and hanging ornaments representing adam andcreation all the way through the birth of Christ-paints such an awesome picture for our family of God's mighty hand carrying out his plans through the course of history. Even though we do it every year, I never cease to be amazed.

Besides Bible reading together, we have an assortment of favorite Christmas books that we seem to read through each year, beginning the 1st of december. We usually read a story from James Dobson's Family Christmas Treasury each day one week, but it was already checked out at the library. (I have vowed to purchase my own copy for next year!) Right now we are reading through Ideals Treasury of Best Loved Christmas Stories. We Always read a little book called Renfroe's Christmas about the true spirit of giving, and we always, just for fun, read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. This morning I read Max Lucado's The Christmas Candle to myself, and I will probably read that to the children today as well. Usually the week of Christmas, we read a chapter or two from Richard Exley's The Indescribable Gift-a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the nativity story.

Besides these things, the children reminded me of several other things we have done, that have become "traditions". The children don't recieve gifts from Santa, but each year we read about St Nicholas, and talk about how we can be like a Santa to other people-in other words, giving gifts anonymously-without having the chance to be thanked. This has been such an awesome thing for our family. One year while discussing the idea of Santa, we decided that we would "Santa" someone. We knew of a family who had had an especially tough year and then bought and baked a few gifts for them. The kids were so excited as they decided what would be the best things to include. We couldn't afford anything big, but I think we included a homemeade fleece blanket, several toys, and of course cookies. We typed up a note, unsigned of course, and headed to their house late at night. We left a bag on the door knob and left. We never knew if they got it, never knew if they liked it...and never recieved a thank you-I had no idea what an impact this would have on our children. I never meant for it to become a tradition, but the next year as Christmas drew nearer, the kids began to ask, "Mom, who are we going to "Santa" someone this year?" My answer was a quick, "I don't know, we'll have to pray about it." The real answer that year was, I don't know, because we don't have money to buy ourselves gifts, let alone someone else. That was our first year in Florida, and money was very tight. Most weeks we weren't sure if we would have enough money for groceries, and the thought of buying Christmas gifts for anyone that year was far from our minds. But the children persisted, and even suggested a family who we knew-
I didn't know how to tell them we couldn't, and even Mike said we needed to find a way to do it.

So we prepared a basket of mostly baked goods, and a few little things from the dollar store and headed to their neighborhood. Our children still talk about the night that daddy parked the car a few houses away, crept to the house in the dark, left the basket, rang the doorbell and RAN as fast as he could back to the car, where we sat in the dark and watched the family come to the door, look curiously around, and take the basket inside. As Mike sat panting, Mackenzie said, "Wow, I didn't know you could run that fast!!!' and Mae added, "Daddy, are you going to have a heart attack?" We drove home replaying the nights events and talking about the fun we had had doing something nice for someone else. I asked God that night to forgive me for not wanting to give that year. For thinking we just didn't have enough to share with someone else. The next day a package arrived. It was from some friends of our back in MS. Apparently God had put us on THEIR hearts that year, and the box was loaded with wrapped gifts for the children. They were not expensive or fancy. And I knew that the sender was not much better off financially then we were, yet God had put us on their hearts and they gave. I cried as I pulled the packages out of the box and laid them under the tree. I promised God right then I would try to do better. I would try to give more and think less about what I would do without if I gave. I promised I would try to listen harder for that still small voice, telling me of a need beyond my four walls, which for the most part were quite comfortable, and filled with more than my family needed.
That year was definately an eye opening experience for me, and the Santa tradition remains-regardless of our own financial state.
There are other fun things we do each year..which, again, have become traditions without my even`realizing it. Sometime in December-it seems like it is usually the coldest night of december, we drive to a well decorated neighborhood with my in laws following us in their truck. Once we arrive at said neighborhood, we all unload from our WARM car, and pile into the back of Grandma and Grandpa's pick-up, which has been loaded down with what appears to be every blanket, quilt and afghan my mother in law owns-and I am suddenly thankful she owns so many blankets!!!! We layer on the blankets and my father in law proceeds to drive Verrrrrrry slowly (sometimes too slowly) through the neighborhood that has turned into a beautifully lit, winter wonderland. We all ooh and ahh as our teeth chatter, and I am reminded how much fun it is to watch the expression on a child's face as they see this many lights for the first time. During this year's ride, Lexie bounced up and down in my lap, yelling, "Lights! Lights!!!" Mae, in a very dreamy voice said, "It's soooo beautiful. " Noah said, "Wow, they must have had to use some big extension ladder and a whole lotta staples to put all those lights up....Daddy, can I get on the roof and do that to our house????" And Mackenzie, ever the realist, remarked, "Boy, It sure is pretty, but I wouldn't want to have their electric bill!!!" We usually round out the night by singing Christmas carols as we ride, and watching our breath linger in front of us in the cold (FREEZING) night air.
When we circle back to where we started from, Grandma breaks out her trusty thermos and some styrofoam cups, and we all grab a cup of hot chocolate before we jump back into the warmth of our car, our cheeks and noses still recovering from the cold!
There are other things we do each year, watch certain movies, like "The Nativity," Allow each person to open one gift on Christmas eve, Bake a Happy Birthday Jesus cake and decorate it with the same tiny nativity figurines each year, try to attend at least one Christmas musical or live nativity, make lots of home-made gifts...Even as I write, I'm amazed how things have become special traditions without us even realizing it. As I think back on my own childhood, I'm reminded of the things I never realized were traditions-the cookies on Christmas morning, the fact that no matter how old you were, my step-mother always labeled our presents "from Santa"-and still does!!! Hunting for the perfect live Christmas tree (we never had an artificial one), Christmas caroling and making up our own quirky family version of the 12 days of Christmas, ice skating at Rockerfeller Center and going to FAO Swartz and to see the window displays at Saks 5th Avenue.. These things have become some of my fondest memories, and I hope the traditions Mike and I keep with our children, will someday be some of their favorite memories-things they will enjoy and share with their own children.. Most importantly, I hope their clearest, fondest memory will be one of Christ right smack in the middle of all our Christmas celebrating, reminding them that he most certainly is the reason for it all.

Catching up...

It has been quite awhile since I have posted, and I figured that since I just sent out our Christmas letter to friends and family, in which I invited them to come visit our family blog-
I probably needed to at least have a post that was more current than October 30!
We have been pretty busy since then, so my blog has been low on the list of things to do..
A week after my last post, we recieved a call about a little 2 year old boy, who came to stay for just 2 days, before getting to go stay with his grand-parents. A few days later, on the same day I went to speak at the foster parent training, we were called about another little boy, 18 month old
Dakota. He has been with us a month today, and while he is so sweet and precious, it is obvious that even at such a young as he is so confused about all the changes going on and all these new poeple around him. He will probably just be with us through Christmas, so we are continually trying to prepare the children for his leaving. I think Lexie and Mackenzie will miss him the most, but we are so enjoying him while he is here. Lexie is having a tough time learning to share, but it is sweet to watch the two of them walk around the house holding hands. They love getting into mischief together, and on most mornings can be found playing in the dog water bowl or taking all the ornaments off the bottom half of the Christmas tree! So again, no excuses for not posting, except that life has been busy! As we head into the new year, Noah has joined a local cub scouts group, which he is so excited about, and the girls are beginning weekly practices for the children's chorus which will accompany the local symphony in a performance this February.
So now I feel I have accomplished something....bringing things up to date....until next time...

Friday, October 30, 2009

From a Child's Point of View....

"God Places the lonely in families..." Proverbs 68:6..Funny that we read that verse tonight.
I have been asked to come speak at a training session for prospective foster parents, and so today I told the children I'd like to be able to share their thoughts on foster parenting when I speak. I asked Mae and Mackenzie to write an essay, and Noah to dictate to me and illustrate a story about our foster care journey. Mackenzie was too busy today with Math and grammar to get started on hers, but Mae and Noah worked on their rough drafts. Noah is still having a tough time some days, but It was so great to listen to him tell his "story" to me today. Here is what they came up with..I am very proud of them.

Noah's Story as told to mom
A foster family is for making a home for children. My family is a foster family. We give children a home. The first time we were a foster family, a boy named Austin came to stay with us. He was five-the same age as me. The day he came to our house we jumped on the trampoline and dressed up like cowboys. I showed him my room. I showed him his bed and his dresser. When he came he only had one toy car.

I was so excited to have a boy to play with. When Austin was with us, we had fun playing legos and lincoln los, building forts and riding bikes. I liked having a foster brother. Sometimes we wore matching clothes. But sometimes I got mad when he didn't want to play what I wanted to play. I always liked to play outside and Austin liked to stay inside and draw.

Sometimes I got jealous when he visited his mom and dad. He came home with new hot wheels andI got jealous. I told mom I wished I was in foster care so I could get hot wheels every week.
Mom said Austin gets special things sometimes because he only sees his parents once a week.
I didn't want to see my parents only once a week.

Sometimes we invited Austin's parents to do things with us. They went with us to Chuck E Cheese's. Austin's dad gave me extra tokens and bought me an ice cream. They had a birthday party for Austin and invited me. We invited them to the party we had for Austin.

Austin got to be with us a long time. When Mom and Dad talked about Austin coming home, I was sad. I really wanted him to be my brother. Mom and dad said his parents wanted him to come home and they missed him. I liked his parents. I knew they loved him alot.
I helped Austin pack his toys. I gave him my Diego playset and some cars. We drove to his house and he showed me his fort-he told me we could play there. I helped him bring his things in his room. he had almost 100 toys to unpack!!! I helped him unpack and gave him a hug.

I felt sad because now I didn't have a brother to play with, but I felt happy because now I could spend time with my dad all by myself.
I miss Austin and I want him to come visit me. I am happy Austin gets to be with his mom and dad, but I wish he stillcould be my brother.

I want to be a foster brother again because I like having a lot of brothers and sisters. I like having someone sleeping in my room. The next time I get to be a foster brother, I will be happy.

I also had a foster sister named Lexie and she got to stay. When she came to stay with us she was a tiny newborn. I thought she was cute but she cried a lot. When she got bigger I liked her more. Mom and dad said we were going to adopt her. To adopt means she will be my sister forever and not have to leave.

When we adopted Lexie we went to see a real judge! She told us Lexie was going to be ours forever. I felt like fainting because I was so happy she was going to stay. I'm glad God let her stay. I love her. My favorite thing about Lexie is her laugh. I hope someday we can adopt a little boy, too.

Mae's Story
My name is Mae. I am eleven years old. My favorite color is light blue. I have two sisters and one brother. I love to read and play the piano.

Before we became a foster family, my parents always wanted to adopt, but decided to become a foster family. We always talked about wanting more brothers and sisters.

Before we became a foster family, we prayed about it. We talked about it. My parents went to classes and we became a foster family.

I was happy because that meant more sisters. I was sad because that meant kids leaving.
I was curious because I had never been a foster sister.

When we became a foster family, we got to take care of a little boy, his name was Austin.
Austin was five, the same age as my brother. Austin had a great time, so did my brother-but Austin had to go home. Everyone was sad when he left, especially my brother.

But we also fostered a little baby girl. She was one week old and her name was Lexie. We adopted her. We finalized her adoption last month. She is almost two now.

The hard thing about being a foster sister are having to share your stuff, like toys, books and drawing stuff. And when they leave.

The great thing about being a foster sister is playing with them, helping out with them and being a big sister again.

I think people should become foster families because giving a home to someone who needs it is really great. It is great to help take care of children when their parents can not take care of them.I think God would want people to be foster parents.

Much to everyone's surprise, Austin called us tonight and asked to come visit next weekend. Mackenzie said when she talked to him he said, "Cissy, I'm coming home next weekend!" There is definately an empty place without him here.It will be so good to see him.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back to normal...sort of

We are finally unpacked and back in somewhat of a routine...We have had a lot of things going on since we have been home so school has been here and there and on the road...It always amazes me that when the kids are not required to do schoolwork, they always find something "school-ish" (my new word) to do, without even realizing it. While trying to get back into a daily groove, we have had several days of the kids just doing their own things. Mackenzie has been cooking like crazy, trying out new recipes and tripling batches of cookies (fractions, cooking, measuring).
She has also been copying tons of recipes into a notebook (handwriting!) and sewing/crocheting/knitting Christmas gifts. Mae has been feverishly playing the piano every chance she gets, and has been drawing and illustrating stories in her journal, as well as typing some of them on the computer (handwriting, spelling, grammar, typing, creative writing, art).
She is not as crafty as Mackenzie, but Mae's idea of fun is reading about different topics in our encyclopedias (this week her chosen topics were dogs and dog training)-She then spent 2 hours and a whole bag of dog treats trying to teach the dogs tricks. Noah has spent time lately building a rocket out of a 6 foot long cardboard tube that Mike brought home from work, (math? art? science?) and building with legos (engineering?). Lexie has been busy "cooking" all week. She gets out about 4 bowls, all my measuring cups, a whisk and several spoons and uses legos or magnets to make soup-which we all have to pretend to taste! Even in our non-school days, we have been busy reading. The girls and I are going through "Raising Maidens of Virtue" by Stacy MacDonald. Mackenzie and I are both reading Mandisa's book, "Idol Eyes" which I picked up at an Ewomen conference this weekend. I enjoyed Mandisa's performance and Testimony, and decided to get her book for Mackenzie. Mackenzie has just finished "Before You Meet Prince Charming" by Sarah Mally and loved it. Mae, much to my surprise, picked up "Pride and Prejudice"last week and decided to read it. Very funny to hear an 11 year old's comments about the story! She devoured the "Wizard of Oz" and a book called "Princess Academy" and is now reading a great little book called "Ten Girls who Changed the World." For our Read aloud time together, we are Reading through The story of Joseph in the Bible- always so amazed at God's constant hand in his life-always leads us to lots of discussions about Gods plans for us. I have also gotten hooked on the Life of Faith books, so I am now reading aloud book 6 in the "Millie Keith"series. I can not recommend these books enough for young girls. In my own reading, besides Mandisa's book, I am doing a study on the Proverbs 31 woman-"The Virtuous Woman" by Vicki Courtney and reading a tearjerker about fathers and daughters called, "Don't Let Me Go" by David Pierce (husband of Comedienne, Chonda Pierce). Noah is not much of a reader yet, but he is determined to start big...instead of easy phonics readers, he wants to read his LampLighter book, "Boys of Grit". Written in the 1800's this book is not written with the 7 year old reader in mind, but he is determined, and expects me to help him read a page from this book each night! 5 years ago when we "dropped" our cable service, I wondered how we would survive without it. Now I'm so glad we don't have it. The kids find so much other stuff to do with their free time! I definately say, if you want to grow a reader, unplug the TV!
We did ease back into our studies a little more yesterday, and spent the day learning about Egypt, pyramids and mummies. Mackenzie researched the wonders of the Ancient World, While Mae researched Queen Shubad-I had never heard of her, but turns out her tomb was quite a big deal! Mae was fascinated by the fact that 5 soldiers and 13 ladies in waiting were buried with her. Noah has been building pyramids out of Magnetix pieces and trying to see which design will support the most weight. We studied Ancient Egyptian Art, With Barry Stebbing's God and the History of Art (by far, one of our favorite resources this year) and I was very impressed with the children's drawings. We learned that the Egyptians never drew anyone overweight or old!
Very funny! We mummified apples by burying them in a mixture of baking soda and salt-now we are supposed to let them remain "buried" for seven days. They are already a little stinky-but this is way better than the chicken Mackenzie mummified with her gifted class in Public School several years ago. She was so proud that she got to bring the chicken mummy home after TWO WEEKS. I almost gagged, it was so gross. We buried it at my in-laws house. The apples will not have a burial-they will go in the garbage! We are having some great talks about the beliefs of the Egyptians, an how glad we are that we serve the one TRUE God. I am so thankful for homeschooling-even on the days I feel I don't accomplish much. The interaction and the conversations I get to share with my children are priceless, and the ability to weave God into all of our studies is such a blessing. Even on our "bad" days, I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

home again!

We finally made it back to MS, and were greeted by some preety cool temperatures! The kids ran in the house and threw off their shorts and flipflops to change into jeans and jackets! Noah was sure it was going to snow! We had a great time on our trip, but it is always so wonderful-that first night back home sleeping in your OWN bed! Except that I left our pillows in FL, so we were scrounging around for throw pillows to sleep with. I am usually pretty pick about having all my pillows, but last night I didn't care-I was just happy to see my pillowtop mattress! I love my mom-but her guestbed was like sleeping on a board! I am now ( and probably will be for DAYS!)
trying to unpack and get all the stuff back where it belongs! We will do our schoolwork around the suitcases and laundry tomorrow-The kids were hoping I would call off school since I wasn't done such luck!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Florida Fun

Our vacation is winding down, and we are enjoying our last few days. We are enjoying the pool so much-Lexie loves the water, and Mae and Noah could stay at the pool all day. We are all so relaxed-this little trip has definately been enjoyable. We have not done "tourist-y" things, but we have had a lot of fun. The other day we visited Gumbo Limbo Nature center in Boca Raton. While there, we climbed a 40 foot observation tower with a view of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the intracoastal waterway on the other. We walked a boardwalk trail through tropical woodlands, and then enjoyed "feeding" time at the center. The kids were thrilled to get up close and personal with loggerhead turtles, stingrays and nuse sharks. Mae absolutely loved the sound the nurse sharks made when they sucked in their food. We were able to get a glimpse of the Florida Atlantic University Lab at the nature centure, wher we were amazed to see tons of baby loggerhead turtles-we all wanted to stick them in our pockets and take them home!
Last night we visited with some of my mom's friends and today, suprisingly, we will go swimming again! I think we are going to a local chinese buffet for supper tonight-yum!
Tomorrow I will tackle the big task of packing, and Mike will tackle the even bigger task of making everything fit back into the Yukon! We will head back home refreshed and ready to get back to school and work....maybe....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Florida Fun

Mae & Adyn, The whole gang, Adyn & Lexie

After we left St George Island, we drove all day to Boynton Beach. Noah was so excited to see that Grandma and Grandpa had put a balloon outside their door for him. After hugs and hellos, we had a pizza and cake for Noah's birthday-we were all amazed that Grandma I had baked a cake...I joked that it was probably the first one she has made since about 1975! Noah was thrilled to have presents from Grandma I and Grandpa Charlie to open (a pair of new light up crocs and and erector set) as well as a box that had been sent from poppy & Grammy with a new scooter!
Hard to believe my little boy is 7. He is getting so big.
We all crashed and after camping for 3 days were VERY thankful for beds and air conditioning!!!
Friday the kids spent most of the day with Grandma, Grandpa and Mike swimming at the community pool, while I did tons of stinky laundry from our camping trip. Saturday mom, mackenzie, Mae and I hit the road early for our favorite family pastime-yard sale-ing. We also found some great bargains at the local Goodwill thrift store. Saturday afternoon...more pool time with Grandma and Grandpa's friends, who are all so sweet to the kids.
Sunday we headed up to West Palm Beach to attend worship service at our old church. The kids always love seeing their old friends-it's neat to see how much everyone has changed between or yearly visits.
Sunday evening My mom's friends and my step-brother, his wife and their little boy came over for supper. We had not seen them in 7 years, and it was exciting to meet a "new" cousin-
almost 3 year old Adyn and Lexie had a great time playing together. It was great to see them.
They also spent the day at the beach with us today, and we are all very crispy, and as everyone is getting ready for bed, we are all slathering on the aloe vera gel!!

Florida Fun

Noah Mackenzie & Lexie Dad & Noah Mae

St. George Island beach at sunset on our first night

a handful of shells, snails & hermit crabs!
The St George Island lighthouse...also pictured above is the view of the
from the lighthouse's lantern room.

(notice the wrong date on all my photos-haven't figured out how to change it on my camera!)

We headed to Florida a week ago Monday at 6:30 in the morning, loaded down with borrowed roof top and pull behind carriers, 2 tents, 6 sleeping bags, 12 towels, two coolers, 1 basket of beach toys,4 camp chairs, 3 bottles of bug spray, 2 tubes of sunscreen, 3 backpacks, 4 pacifiers and a partridge in a pear tree...oh and so much looked like we were moving....
We were off to visit my mom and step-dad on the east coast of Florida-but decided we would take a little detour for a few days before we arrived on Oct 8. We made camping reservations at St. George Island State Park, a barrier Island in the gulf of Mexico, 75 miles SW of Tallahassee. We had never been there, but the kids were asking to camp on the beach, and this island with an adjacent campground seemed like the perfect place. We arrived about 5pm Monday evening, after MANY potty stops, especially since Lexie is potty training..... The kids were thrilled with the 4 mile bridge that we had to drive over to get to the island from the mainland-except Mackenzie-she HATES bridges...The Island was beautiful, and we ooohed and aaaahed over all the cute beach houses up on "stilts". It was a 4 mile drive to the state park, and once the kids saw the water and the sand dunes, their was no containing their excitement.
After setting up camp, which took a little longer than expected, we roasted hot dogs over a campfire and then headed to the beach for a stroll at about 8pm. How peaceful!!!! The kids were supposed to just dip their feet in the water, but everyone was soaked from head to toe by the time we left. We headed back to the campsite to stoke the campfire, and read a little before turning in.... Mike and I didn't get much sleep, as it was pretty hot, and Lexie tossed and turned on top of us most of the night....We awoke to a very buggy campsite, and immediately had to cover ourselves with bug spray...pretty much from that point on, if we were at the campsite, we were covered with we quickly left the campsite to spend our second day at the beach. The water was pretty murky, but the kids didn't care... they spent the day finding shells, snails and hermit crabs and trying to figure out how to use our new skim board.

Lexie was not fond of the water. We kept asking if she wanted to go in, and she would continually shake her head and say "no!" So she spent most of the morning walking around with a shovel and eating sand. By afternoon, she was a little more adventurous, and would go in the water if we held her.
While jumping waves with the kids we noticed a few fins in the distance...several dolphins passed by...the kids were amazed! One little boy on the beach saw a fin and ran from the water, screaming, "SHARK!!!" Very funny! The beach was all but deserted-just a handful of people-it was great. We left the Island mid afternoon in search of ice cream that didn't cost a fortune (the island shop's prices were outrageous!) We ended up driving 30 minutes away, finding nothing along the we stopped at a grocery store and picked up a box of ice cream bars to eat in the car, then made a stop at the Crooked River lighthouse,The lighthouse was closed to visitors that day, but the kids enjoyed climbing on the huge play structure shaped like a pirate ship. We returned to the island and had a cookout at the beach pavillion, but ate in a hurry since we were overcome by mosquitos. We headed back to camp for showers and marshmallows, and added Noah to our tent for our second night, since he said the "night noises" (birds and frogs?") scared him.
The next morning after pouring the bug spray on, we decided to do some exploring the island and mainland of Appalachicola during the day, and head to the beach in the late afternoon.
We visited the St George Island Lighthouse and climbed the 98 steps to the top, and then climbed the ladder into the lantern room-what an awesome view!!! The kids absolutely loved this, and the docent's talk on the history of the lighthouse was very interesting. We headed to the mainland for a walk around historic Appalachicola, enjoying all the little shops and a free tour of the Rainey House museum. We found an old timey soda fountain for some ice cream (we love ice cream) and souvenirs and then picnicked on a wharf overlooking the appalachicola bay. While we ate, Mike walked to a nearby fishmarket and bought some fresh steamed shrimp to enjoy with our lunch. They were steamed with the heads on! Lexie was scared to death of the little critters, but the rest of us popped the heads off, dipped them in melted butter and thought they were great!!! Back to the beach that afternoon, Lexie still was eating sand....our cookout on the beach that night was less buggy, and the sunset over the water was beautiful. We began to pack up camp that evening, and in the morning headed out towards the east coast....but first made a stop at a local restaurant for breakfast to celebrate Noah's 7th bithday!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our new addition!!!!

Noah & Lexie waiting to go into the judges chambers.

Outside the courthouse with Mike's parents after Lexie's adoption. Lexie 1 year ago!

Lexie is now officially, "Alexianna Marie!" We went up to the courthouse yesterday to finalize her adoption. I felt like I was getting ready to go to the hospital to give birth (without the contractions and the suitcase!)-So strange, since she has been a part of our family since she was one week old. I really can not explain the excitement and anticipation-except to say everyone was acting like they were getting ready to go see a new baby for the first time...except Lexie-she just wanted a lollipop. When we got there, Mike's parents met us as well as Lexie's DHS worker from her county of residence and our DHS resource worker. We were joined by our lawyer a little while later and after about 40 minutes, we were led into the judges chambers. The kids were all wide eyed-probably wondering if they would get arrested itf they said the wrong thing!!
The judge was so sweet, and had a huge grin on her face the whole time our lawyer was asking us some routine questions. Mackenzie said later it was weird to see our lawyer so "professional and serious." The kids are well acquainted with him from our homeschool groups very casual activities like camping and such, so I guess it must have seemed any rate, we were just so excited that he, too, was sharing in all of this with us. The judge asked the children how they felt about adopting Lexie. They all said they were excited, and then Noah raised his hand and waited for the judge to call on him! She said, "Yes?" and he replied, "I just want her to be my real sister." The judge smiled and said, "Well, I'm about to make that happen!" That's when my mother in law and I started crying! After it was officially stated that Lexie was ours, we all gathered for pictures with the judge and the social workers. Lexie even let the Judge hold her.
We all hugged and has we headed out the door, I'm sure I saw Noah skipping...he does that when he is EXTREMELY happy....Outside, we took a few more pictures and then went to lunch with my in laws. Lexie was treated to a cup of fresh fruit and a hot dog-while we were waiting for our food she kept saying, "Dot dog! Dot dog!" I've told almost everyone this already, but when we ask Lexie to say "Lexie," she says "Sexy" and when we ask her to say "Marie" she says "Me." So she calls herself "Sexy Me." Cute until Noah shouts across the restaurant, "Hey, Sexy ME!!!" and people turn to stare at us.
After lunch we headed over to the courthouse in the county we live in to file the adoption paperwork., and that was it....we have a new daughter! What a journey it has been. 2 years ago before Lexie even came into our world, we could not have imagined being here in this monent today. Oct 1, two years ago was the day we found out that we were not going to bring a little newborn home from the hospital that we had named and cuddled. On that day, our hearts were broken-I told Mike, forget it, I am not doing this foster care/adoption thing! But moments later,
I was reminded that this was a journey we felt God wanted us to take, and we would take it, wherever it led us. The journey, so far has definately had it's rough spots-but when I look at Lexie's sweet face, I am reminded that God has been right beside us the whole time-his hand in every aspect of this adventure. I am certain that He will walk with us wherever we're headed next. Right now, my heart is so full. Last night at the dinner table, looking around at ALL of our children, all I could do was say, "Thank You, Lord."

"How can I keep from singing your praise? How can I ever say enough? How amazing is your love. How can I keep from shouting your name? I know I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart want to sing!"

"But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will ALWAYS trust in God's unfailing love. I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people." Psalm 52:8-9

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What you Don't want to hear your child say....and the turtle tales continue

You don't ever want to pick up the phone and hear your child on the other end say, "Mom! somthing terrible has happened!!!!" Noah and I had just gotten up with the birds to take my car in for a front end alignment. We were pulling into the Hardee's parking lot afterwards to grab a biscuit, when Mackenzie called from home with the above mentioned words. In that second before se told me what had happened, several different scenarios went through my mind-all of them involving injuries and one or both of the other children that were at home with her.
"What is it?" I asked, not sure if I wanted to know.
"It's the turtle.." I felt extreme relief...just the turtle, I thought...but then...
"It's got blood and maggots coming out of the crack in its shell and it's not moving...and it smells really bad!" I could hear Lexie in the background saying, Turtle? Turtle!...."
I told her to take it out to the woods, and then broke the news to Noah. He tried so hard not to cry, and it was pitiful watching his little lip quiver. I told him someday we would find another turtle, and I promised to stop by the side of the road and take it home. He sniffed, 'but Franklin was going to go to Florida with us!" A biscuit softened the blow a little bit, and he perked up when I suggested inviting a friend over. 20 minutes later we were on our way to pick up his friend, when lo and behold, what did we find crossing the road? I almost gave us both whiplash when I slammed on the brakes! I had never been so happy to see a turtle! I jumped out of the car, grabbed the little guy and said, "Look,God gave you another turtle!" He was so excited- "Can I still have my friend over, too?" when I answered yes, all was immediately well in his litte world-a new turtle, a friend to play with....Life is good. Later, when Mike came home, Noah said, "Dad, come look at the new turtle God gave me!" Isn't it neat how God takes care of such tiny little details to affirm the faith of a child? Oh...and turtle number two's name is Goliath. We are hopeful he will last a little longer!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Turtle on the loose...

We got home from running errands this afternoon, and even with several heavy books on top of his box, Franklin the turtle had escaped again. He was no where in sight. After about 15 minutes of searching, and me saying, "ok, if you were a turtle, where would you go?' The kids found him lodged in a corner under Noah's bed. He now has a new box with a snap on escape -proof lid (with holes drilled in it)to avoid any more escapes. Noah is making all sorts of plans for Franklin to travel with us to Florida next week-I don't care as long as the lid is on his box!

A beautiful day...a brisk walk, a turtle and burnt grilled cheese...

We all woke up yesterday morning to the most beautiful weather! We were all out the door at 7:30 for piano and while the girls were at piano, Lexie, Noah and I walked at the track. Now that Will has gone home and I just have one litte one to get ready in the mornings, I really want to get up and out early and walk. Those of you (Lynn, Rina, Emily...) Who get up and out to RUN before the sun comes up amaze me! Anyway, I headed to the track for a few laps-Noah began whining he was tired, thirsty, hot, on the verge of death, etc...after 1/2 a lap. It was not most pleasant. He became even more irritated when Lexie, from her stroller kept saying his name over and over and over again. After only 2 laps I was questioning my decision! Noah endured (barely) another lap-this last one was more enjoyable for me, since due to the aforementioned whining, he was not allowed to utter a sound for the last lap. Lexie took his silence as a cue to repeat his name even more often and more loudly. So my big lap count was 3. Better than none!
After Noah recovered from his apparent dehydration and near death experience, and offered an apology, he happily helped me load the stroller into the car and we went to pick up the girls.
We dropped Mackenzie off for a much anticipated babysitting job-side note-last night when a friend called (you know who you are) to ask her to babysit today, she remarked, "Could my birthday get any better than this?!?" We picked up Mae's sweet little friend and headed home to enjoy the beautiful weather. on the way Noah was lamenting that He did not have a friend coming over and urged me to call his friend's mom right that minute to see if we could go pick him up NOW. Since Austin has gone home, Noah has had this one particular friend on the brain, and wonders why he can't spend the night EVERY day. Anyway, It was not a good moment to call for another playdate, and he was disappointed with my "not today" response. Just when he was about to get very glum, we spotted a turtle in the road-I promise, it was a turtle straight from heaven! I pulled over and got the turtle and handed it to Noah, "Now I have something to play with today!" He exclaimed. Thank you Lord for little "happies' like this along the way...Noah has definately been feeling a little lonely lately. He named the turtle Franklin and filled its new home (a plastic shoebox) with rocks, grass, carrots, apple peels and a dish of water. Lexie now was repeating over and over "Turtle! Turtle! Turtle!" All was right in our little corner of the world. Mae and sweet little friend put on dress up clothes and built fairy kingdoms outside, Noah hunted bugs for his turtle and Lexie followed me around the house with a Barney video saying, "Barney? Barney! Barney?" Until I relented. She is Barney nutty. I threw on a roast with some potatoes and carrots-actually 2 roasts in 2 crockpots-one for us and one to bring to a friend with a sweet new baby girl. I was into peeling potatoes when Noah came in yelling, "Franklin's gone, he's gone!!!"
I thought, I know there is not a turtle running free in my house. I followed Noah to his room, and sure enough, the turtle box on his dresser was lacking a turtle. Mind you, his dresser is very tall, so unless this was a turtle with super flying powers, it had to have hit the floor pretty hard, in which case I would think it would be lying on the floor stunned and not running through my house. No turtle in sight, and Noah on the verge of tears, I looked behind the bedroom door-
There was Mr stunt diving turtle, in a bucket of tinker toys, next to Noah's dresser. Noah was so happy to find his new pet and I was thrilled that the little critter was not going to appear on my bed in the middle of the night, staring at me. Actually, before bed we did put a heavy book on top of his box, to avoid any more escapes.
So Noah was turtle happy, Mae (dressed as princess fairy) and sweet little friend(apparently dressed as colonial fairy-our dress up box is quite lacking...) appeared for just a split second to ask me to kiss their foreheads to break some fairy spell, And Lexie was engrossed in Barney...all was well.
A request from all the children was made for grilled cheese for lunch, with cheese puffs...would they like a side of cheese to go with that? Now, I consider myself a fairly good cook. My dad has taught me to make wonderful spaghetti sauce from scratch, I can whip up some great zucchini bread and an assortment of other items my family ooohs and aaaahs over-but grilled cheese is not one of those items. After 15 years of marriage and cooking, grilled cheese still eludes me.
It always come out burnt, half deformed from being stuck to the pan, or burnt and deformed.
Today was no exception. The grilled cheese was both burnt, and of an unrecognizable shape after I tried to scrape each sandwhich from the pan. One sandwhich out of the bunch that I made was definately closer in resembling an actual grilled cheese than the others. So, this one special grilled cheese I offered to our guest. When they came running in for lunch, and after Noah had scrubbed all his turtle germs off, I explained to sweet little friend that I am not a grilled cheese professional, and told her that although all the grilled cheeses were burnt and shaped like amoebas, as our guest she was getting the least burnt and most square sandwich. Noah and Mae eagerly agreed that our guest should have the special sandwhich. Then, sweet little friend, who had already impressed me with her manners and disposition, did something unthinkable--
After two bites of her grilled cheese, and as serious as anything, she exclaimed," Miss Michelle,
this is the best grilled cheese I have ever tasted!" I made a note to myself that she will get the guest of the year award, and Noah and Mae looked at her like she was crazy, as they scratched the charred places off of their bread. Our day finished up with delivering a meal to the house of the newborn. We all had a wonderful visit, and enjoyed holding a brand new baby and watching the sun set over the waterway. Their sweet family presented Lexie with a little gift for her upcoming adoption, part of which was a gigantic bubble wand. Lexie insisted on bubble blowing all the way home and even on the couch during bedtime stories. I'm sure she will wake up saying, "bubbles? bubbles! bubbles?" It was a great day-nothing extraordinary, just everyday stuff, but sometimes those are the best days!
Today we are gearing up to straighten the house before the realtor shows it, and taking schoolwork in the car as we head on another adventure-going to get the front end of my car aligned! I am sure my family will have no trouble turning this into something exciting. I just need to make sure that book is still on top of the turtle box before I leave the house....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mackenzie!

Hard to believe my oldest daughter, Mackenzie turned 13 today. I am so amazed by the beautiful young woman she is becoming. I blinked and she grew up! I gave her my very well worn Bible that was given to me by my dad on my birthday in 1995-before we even knew she'd be a part of our family! Her dad and I also gave her one of my wedding bands (I have 2), which she had asked for to wear as a purity ring. We put it in an envelope with a note saying that we hoped the gold ring would be a reminder that gold is not pure and beautiful until it has gone through the fire, and that we would be continuosly praying that she would keep her life pure even as she would go through trials and temptations, all the while allowing God to mold and refine her into the woman he wants her to be. Yesterday her birthday gift was having a day with me and two of her friends to go yard-saling (our favorite past-time), consignment sale shopping, out to subway for lunch (her favorite place to eat), then to bath and body works to try out perfume and lotion and then to Barnes and Noble to smell new books, well, and read them too-but we love to smell new books in our family. What a sweet time we had, It was so nice to spend the day with her. We came home to the smell of Dad's cooking-grilled porkchops, black beans and yellow rice-yum! This mornig her brother and sister showered her with home-made cards and even did her chores for her! It seems like she has dreamed of being 13 forever. It seems like it has come too quickly!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's on the Menu?...

Monday: Eggplant Parmigiana, salad and garlic texas toast (Mackenzie made home-made chocolate chip/pecan cookies for dessert-I ate way too many.)

Tuesday: Chicken Divan, Salad

Wednesday: Supper @ church (what a treat to not have to clean up the kitchen!)

Thursday: BBQ Chicken, Black Beans w/garlic and yellow rice

Friday: (dessert and chips to take to our homeschool group picnic-Mackenzie will probably make her peanut butter and jelly cookies)

Saturday: Bubble Pizza, corn and jello w/coolwhip

Sunday: Crock pot roast with potatoes and carrots

Monday: fettucini alfredo, salad

Tuesday: Tacos

Wednesday: supper @ church

Thursday: Hamburgers, baked beans and fries

Two great books....

I just finished reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, which I started out reading to see if it would be required reading for Mackenzie. (yes, it will be) I did not realize how much I would find in there for me, as was true with another book I just finished "previewing"as well- Do Hard Things by homeschooled brothers, Alex and Brett Harris (Also required reading). I thought I would post a few quotes from these books that really stuck with me.

From Passion and Purity:

"Life requires countless little 'deaths'= occasions when we are given the chance to say no to self and yes to God."

"Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection form suffering. The love of God is of a differnt nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect his own son. That was proof of his love-that he gave that son-that he let him go to Calvary's cross, though legions of angels might have rescued him. He will not necessarily protect us- not from anything that makes us like his son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process."

"Purity means freedom from contamination, from anything that would spoil the taste or the pleasure, reduce the power or in any way adulterate what the thing was meant to be. It means clean-ness, clearness-no additives, nothing artificial-in other words, 'all natural', in the sense in which the original designer designed it to be. Can I say categorically that a kiss (before marriage) is a sin? I can say that it might be. I can say that it might take the edge off, spoil the taste ans pleasure later on. It might reduce the power, it might distract the heart."

I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our own way in the end, but by his making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are honestly able to pray, 'thy will be done.' Acceptance of whatever that means is the great victory of faith that overcomes the world."

And from Do Hard Things.....

"The fence that keeps us from breaking out of our comfort zone is nearly always built of fear. Fear of weakness, discomfort, failure, humiliation. We've noticed something else too: You can't live by fear and live by faith at the same time. II Timothy 1:7 reads "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, of self discipline.' And when we read about the Bible heroes who accomplished big, hard things for God, we discover the main job requirement: 'Without faith it is impossible to please God.' (Heb. 11:6)"

"The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility. They are the training ground of future leaders who dare to be responsible now."

True courage is not the absence of fear. It is refusing to allow fear to control your actions."

The Harris brothers quote many other well known people in their book as well:

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." -Corrie Ten Boom

"Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials." -Smith Wigglesworth

My next one to "preview" is So Much More by the Botkin sisters. I'd love to hear what others suggest as required reading for their teens.

In our read aloud time, We are devouring the "Millie Keith" books of the Life of Faith series.
Mackenzie has already read all the Life of Faith books over and over and over....but she reccomended that I read Millie aloud to Mae and Noah and they have loved every minute.
We have 2 chapters left in book three, and I really am supposed to be reading to them some historical fiction that coincides with our studies of Ancient Egypt, but I am hooked on these wonderful books! We are also having a great time reading Dinosaurs of Eden and I am enjoying (surprisingly) reading the girls' Apologia science text-Exploring Creation with General Science.

My, how time flies....

I really can not believe that the last time I posted was December...Every time I've thought about it I have just been too busy, and after reading some blogs last night, I realized just how much I've already forgotten that has happened over the last nine months! So I was inspired to try to catch up! But rather than back track 9 months, I am just going to pick up with our most recent happenings. A major life change for us was back in June when our sweet foster child went home to his mom and dad. He had been with us 18 months. I cried for weeks leading up to his leaving-I cried when I packed his clothes and when he brought me fistfuls of flowers he had picked on his last day with us. But as we left him with his mom and dad that day and drove away, an amazing peace came over me, and I knew there was nothing I could do but leave him in God's hands.
Since he's been gone, life has been different, especially for Noah, who had gotten very used to having a brother and constant playmate/partner in crime. Noah has definately grown closer to his dad these past few months, which has been wonderful to watch. Still, somedays He'll say things like, "I wonder if I'll get another foster brother again so my room won't be so lonely anymore." He did get a new foster brother, but not necessarily the one he had hoped for...a week after Austin went home we received a call about a sweet little 2 month old boy...Who actually will be going home tomorrow. God has kept us (we think) from getting too attached to this little one-since we knew from the very beginning he would be going home. But tonight everyone at our house just couldn't get enough of him on our last evening with him. Even Lexie cuddled and kissed him all over his little head before she went to bed. We think she will miss him for about five minutes, and then she realize she is once again the queen of her little universe and be very happy! Speaking of Lexie... We found out today that her adoption will be finalized on October 1.
When we told the kids Noah said, "Now she will be my sister forever!!!" It has seemed like such an impossible thing-it is so hard to believe that we are finally realizing this dream of adopting that we've had since before Mackenzie was born. Mae is counting down the days. Mackenzie is trying out Lexie's "new" name on her. She will still be Lexie, or "Lulu" as we all affectionately call her (Mackenzie found out that Lulu means little elf-very appropriate for Lexie!). But her new given name will be Alexianna Marie Barnes. The Girls begged for Alexianna and Marie is for Mike's sister who died when she was just a toddler. Her first name was Gladys-but we just couldn't make that work....well, I didn't even try to make that work...
So now we are officially caught up...