Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Thunder Rolls

Usually I love a good thunderstorm. We had a great one tonight, but I wasn't able to enjoy it like I usually do. Let me explain why.

When we went to our conference in KC a couple of weeks ago, I walked away feeling like I needed to seek out some cross-cultural ministry opportunities. I began to pray that God would show me opportunities to get involved in that way. So, when I called my friend Sarah to chat about church business a few days after my conference, I was once again amazed at God's hand. After catching up on church details, Sarah explained that she had had an experience that she wanted advice about. It turns out that while we were gone, she had become aware of a migrant camp in our county where there were 20+ children living in 3 very worn trailers (as in sub floors with no windows or doors) and a hodge podge of tents. She had met them and felt that maybe she needed to get involved in their lives. She knew she needed help, but she wasn't sure what was next. I immediately knew that Ryan and I needed to be a part of whatever it was. That afternoon, Ryan went out to the farm, met the children, and asked if we could come back on Thursday.

Today, about 9 adults and 9 children from our church drove to the farm and spent about 3 hours with the kids and a few women. We took simple things like parachutes, bubbles, kickballs, and crayons. They were delighted and they played and smiled with us. They graciously accepted the sack lunches we had prepared and they listened as Ryan shared the story of creation. We asked if we could come back again next week and got a resounding yes. It was such a blessing.

My girls went with us and they were shocked at the conditions in which these children are living. Who am I kidding? So was I. Seeing things like that makes you different. It changes your perspective and it convicts you of your wastefulness. We didn't even have to discuss these obvious things with our girls. All day long, they were commenting on what they had seen and experienced. They saw, they knew, they understood.

Tonight when we were eating our warm dinner around our nice clean table in our cool, air-conditioned home, Lily paused and said with a sad face, "I wonder what those kids are eating for dinner tonight?" What do you say to that?

Just a couple of hours later, when the thunder and lightning were dancing across the sky Elizabeth came to find me and with tears in her eyes she said, "Mom what about those poor children who are out in this storm?" What do you do with that?

I suppose that's the time when you emphasize to your children the power of prayer and the value of developing relationships with people so that just maybe you'll have the opportunity to change their lives. Realistically, we know that we probably can't change much about their physical circumstances. But, we can share with them the hope of heaven and shower them with our love and prayers. We can trust that God will use our pitiful efforts to make a difference in a way that will bring him glory.

In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:2-3

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It was fun while it lasted

Okay, so my blogging roll came to a screeching halt. I'm not even going to try to defend myself. Here are those Kansas City highlights I promised. We went for a conference, that was good- it's always nice to step away from ministry and be ministered to a little bit.

After it was over, we drove up to St. Joseph where a dear friend of ours lives. We had served for 3 summers with this gal at Ridgecrest and we have shared lots of fun times together. It had been 10 years since we'd been together, but it didn't take anytime to reconnect. We got to meet her husband and her very funny little girl. We attended church with them, which was also refreshing. We sat and chatted and ate brownies and laughed and just enjoyed visiting. It was a good way to spend a couple of days. And, let me just say, we fell in love with their little town. Who knew St. Joes would be so very charming?

After we left their house, we drove to Independence and visited the Truman House and Library. That was very neat. The story of how he came to be president and his courtship with his wife delighted me. I so love a good story!
This was an exact replica of how the Oval Office looked when Truman was president. The thing that amazed me most was that there were no less than 6 ashtrays on that desk. Do you remember those days when everyone had ashtrays on their tables?
This man really had a large amount of history making material going on during his presidency. Interesting history lessons for me!
The Truman House

There were so many other things there we wanted to see. There was the National Frontier Trails Museum and the Pony Express Museum in St. Jo. But, we knew the kids would really enjoy those, so they have made our "next time" list. We did spend some time in the Country Club Plaza enjoying the architecture, window shopping, and eating cheesecake.

The plaza area had beautiful fountains, mosaics, and features everywhere.

Our final day we visited Crown Center and enjoyed the Hallmark Visitors Center. We got to see some of the cool parts of the greeting card making process. It was a fun (and free) way to spend the morning.

The one thing that my sweet husband wanted to do was eat some of that world famous KC barbeque. I am NOT a barbeque fan, but I wanted to accommodate him, so we ended our trip at Gate's Bar B. Q., a Kansas City original. I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and so did Ryan. I can't even imagine how many calories they were, but buy those french fries were the best!
A close up of Ryan's "burnt ends on a bun." Notice the puddle of barbeque sauce?
Yummy fries and onion rings!

It was a great time away, but it's always just as nice to come home. Home to children who make me laugh everyday with crazy moments like this one:

Siblings, swim googles, and bedtime delaying tactics always make for a good photo op!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Manna and Quail

One of my favorite Biblical characters is Moses. Aside from Jesus himself, he falls right in there with Joseph and Daniel in my ranking. However, one of my least favorite parts of scripture is the section where the Israelites are traveling in the desert, after seeing one miracle after another, and they begin complaining about their hunger. Those whiney Israelites get on my nerves. Funny thing is, it seems as though every time I study the Exodus passages, God shows me some things about my own whiney nature.
Well for those of you who have been reading my blog lately, you may have seen that I am battling my will in that area these days. I have been praying hard that I would be able to see God's goodness in spite of the pressures that we're struggling through right now. Many times in the last few months, I have asked him to show me that he is intimately acquainted with the details of my life. I have needed that stroking a little more often right now than I sometimes do. He, in his precious way, has met my request- not with manna and quail, but in ways that assure me he knows my heart and my every need.
Just today, on our journey to Kansas City, he has done it again. Money has been tighter than usual at our house with Ryan's school issues and we have been trying to cut back anywhere we can. We have been very convicted that we need to be good stewards with every penny. We didn't realize that checked baggage now costs money (don't ask me how we missed that) and we would have each brought a piece to check without a second thought, costing us $100. That's like 5 pairs of shoes for growing feet! But, fortunately, the Lord orchestrated a conversation between Ryan and one of the gals at church this week which made us realized that we needed to check that out. We did, and thankfully, we were able to cram everything into our carry-on roller bags, saving us those fees.

Then, when Ryan booked our flights a couple of months ago, he picked the first flight out, even though we didn't need to be in Kansas City until 6 PM. I scolded him a little bit because I didn't see how a 4 AM departure from Raleigh was going to help our sleep deprived state in any way. We knew we were going to get a rental car for the weekend, after our conference ends on Saturday, so he suggested we just pick it up today instead and we could go touring for an extra afternoon. Which would have been a great idea, except for the fact that it would be more than double the cost to pick the car up on Thursday as opposed to waiting until Saturday. I didn't say much about it, but in my heart I have pouted about an entire afternoon that we would lose waiting in a hotel lobby for nothing.

So, today dawns and I am finally okay with the fact that we are going to be waiting all day long. We climbed onto our first airplane as the sun was coming up this AM and headed off to Cleveland for wait number one. We got there without any problems and found our connecting gate, only to find that it was late. No problem, we're going to wait somewhere, why not the Cleveland airport, right? But, that's when things began to get fun. Turns out, they overbooked our flight and needed 2 folks with flexible travel plans to give up their seats. We looked at each other, smiled, jumped up, and headed for the desk. We quickly volunteered and in exchange, we now have $600 in travel vouchers and they bought our lunch. We had to eat somewhere while we were waiting, right? Too bad manna and quail weren't on the menu.

Just to put the icing on the quail cake, we came to check into our hotel room and found that the internet in our room would be an extra $10 a day. The wi-fi in the lobby, however, is free. Now, that would be fine, EXCEPT for the fact that my husband is currently a slave to and often is up at all hours of the night submitting his deepest academic thoughts. We discussed what to do and decided that he would work on things in the room, and he could just walk to the lobby for the submission part of it. But, lo and behold, out of 11 floors in this hotel, we get assigned to the 2nd, just above the lobby, where the wi-fi signal is good and strong and deep thoughts can be submitted free of charge.

Can't wait to see what sweet surprise comes next!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ev'rythin's up to date in Kansas City

When I was teaching school, I tried hard to avoid taking a day off. It wasn't because I didn't like time off. It was simply that preparing for a substitute was WAY more work than doing it myself. Now that I'm a mom, traveling falls into the same category.
Ryan and I are flying to Kansas City on Thursday AM and while I'm looking forward to it, the effort required to get the heck out of Dodge is a bit exhausting. The house needs to be clean as we have grandparents staying here to care for the children. They will need groceries. And clean clothes. And directions on medicines and schedules. Packing has to happen and everything has to be in place at church for Sunday AM to go smoothly in our absence. Throw in the need to remember the laptop, the GPS, the reservation papers, etc., etc., etc. Well, you get the picture. Not to mention it all needs to fit into a 40 pound 42 inch carry-on because I'm too frugal to pay $50 in baggage fees and well, it's good times here at the Campbell Inn.
So, I'm going to go now and finish all of those details and sometime soon I'll share with you the wonders of Kansas City (and I can promise you, my list won't involve the barbecue.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stressed, Who Said Anything About Stress?

40! That's the number of days it rained when Noah was on the boat and it's also the number of days until my husband finishes this horrendous round of school. Then, maybe we will have some sort of life again. One that doesn't involve stacks of education and systematic technology textbooks on our night stands. On that first Sunday night in 30 weeks that he doesn't have a pile of assignments due at 11:59 EST, I think we will eat large amounts of ice cream in bed while rotting our brains out with TV. Now, how about that for kingdom purpose?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We Campbell's love Chick-Fil-A and we love a good deal too, so yesterday we spent our 3rd year celebrating Cow Appreciation Day. Isaac and Lily cut out our spots. Abby and I put together some head gear, and off we headed to eat our 30+$ meal absolutely free. Abby missed out on the fun as she had a Sunday School sleepover to attend. She didn't seem too broken hearted, but we missed her.
The Wake Forest Chick-Fil-A stays busy, but last night, it was iNsAnE. I think the funnest part was definitely watching the expressions on the faces of the people who entered the restaurant and obviously had NO idea that it was Cow Appreciation Day until that moment. Ryan and I got tickled several times at the folks who thought they were just stopping in for a quick bite to eat and instead encountered a restaurant chock full of grown adults covered in cow accessories.
Of course, with all of the money we saved, we decided that we had to go across the street and try out the brand new Krispy Kreme donut shop. The funny thing is, lots of other cows from the herd had decided the same thing, so it was like a cow reunion.
Our Friday night fun ended with a stop at the local playground where Ryan and I decided to try and walk/run off at least a bit of the Krispy Kreme damage while the kiddos played. We vowed we were never eating another one again. We both decided that there are much yummier "bad for you" things we'd rather indulge in next time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

my: of or relating to me or myself especially as possessor, agent, object of an action, or familiar person

The word "my" is such a little word that has been bringing such BIG delight to my heart lately. 18 months ago, tomorrow, we stepped onto a plane and flew across the world to meet the toddler whom God had made our son. We were over the moon and we just knew this was God's perfect plan for our family. And I still believe that today. However, the reality is, there was a period of about nine months there where I wasn't so sure. Before you gasp, allow me to explain.

People, adoption is hard. It truly is one of the hardest things God has ever called me to do. You may remember that news story from a few months ago about the adoptive mom of the little Russian boy who put him back on the plane to Russia with a backpack and a note. The media had a great time feasting on that story and my heart broke for that little boy, but at the same time, my heart was breaking for that mother. Because, while I never felt that desperate, there were some terribly low moments in the beginning, where failure seemed imminent and I was convinced that I would forever be counting the days until his 18th birthday.

There is no way that a person who has never experienced it could ever fully understand, but let me try to explain a little of what we struggled with. Abe is adorable, he has been since the moment we met him. In fact, one of the things I said to Ryan on the ride from the foster center after receiving placement was, "He is so much cuter than the pictures." Anytime we take him out in public, we hear about how cute he is. So, he's had that going for him from the start. But, for a long time, that was painful for me to hear, because while he was cute on the outside, the behaviors and emotions we were dealing with were not cute, they were terribly overwhelming.

Here's the bottom line. When you birth a child, you're not going to be a perfect parent, it is impossible. But, if you are a decent parent, you are going to feed the child when they're hungry, hold them when they cry, and play with them a little each day. They are going to learn that you are a safe place and that there is security when you are around. From an early age, you are going to teach them what the word "no" means and you are going to lovingly discipline them for behaviors that might endanger them or show disrespect for others.

Now, we don't know exactly what happened in Abe's first 15 months of life. We have a few details, which are enough for us to realize that his first months of life did not provide those basic securities that most children experience. I knew this when I climbed on the plane to Ethiopia. What I did not realize was that a little love and good cooking would not be all that was necessary to reverse the effects of that deficiency. I was naive.

In the beginning, every day with Abe was a challenge. People have tried to explain to me why it was so hard and here are some of the things I heard: "You've been out of the toddler stage too long and you've forgotten how hard it is." or "Things are really stressful with all of the changes at church, give it a little time." or "It's because your other children were just easy personalities, Abe is an intense kid." and there were many others. But, I knew that there was more to this than any of those things could explain. Here's the deal...Abe didn't trust us. He couldn't understand that for us, adopted meant forever. He didn't know that we were part of the same team and that we were always going to feed him, always going to hold him, and always going to come home to him... always. How could he? With the background he came from and the tender age he was, he could only understand one thing, survival at any cost.

That's why meal times became dreaded. Making him sit in the high chair for even a moment without food in sight would send him spiraling and we'd all pay for it with kicking and screaming. If anyone forgot and left the pantry door cracked, he would sneak food and begin cramming his mouth full, then our removal of it would trigger the tantrums. Hitting and biting were his normal modes of interaction and going out in public always resulted in tears for both of us. I felt like I was a hostage to a 27 pound toddler. It was horrible. The bottom line was, no amount of food and no amount of discipline seemed to help. Those were some long, dark days. I remember telling Ryan several times during those months that I didn't want to go to bed, because I would have to wake up and face another day and I just didn't think I could do it.

And the guilt. I mean here was this child for whom I had prayed and wept and prepared my home and heart to receive and it was going horribly wrong. Not to mention, my other children wanted to love him, but he was so cold toward most all of their affections. And the energy he took from all of us was overwhelming. All of us could sense it and all of us wondered if we'd done the right thing. Every one of our children expressed disappointment and frustration at some point and we all struggled with anger at times. I remember thinking that I would never be able to recommend adoption to a friend because it was just too hard.

However, the Lord is faithful. And, like so many times in my life, He sustained me. He brought resources and people into my life that spoke truth and sound advice into our world. When I felt like giving up, he would show me some inkling of progress that would spur me on for another day. People prayed faithfully alongside us as we struggled through. And slowly, over time, we began to round the corner. I'm not exactly sure when it happened. I can't put my finger on any one event or week or month. But a day came when I realized that the "days of survival" had ceased and we were living again. And that my friends, is a remarkable revelation.

Truth be told, the difficulty of the early days brings such joy to the ordinary. Every day, I have these moments where I look at Abe in absolute disbelief that this is the same child who lived in my house 12 months ago. This boy, who initiates kisses and asks politely for his "juishe cup" and delights in his siblings is the same little boy that fought me tooth and nail on everything.

All of this brings me back to my initial thought about the word "my." Abe loves that word these days and he uses it most often when referring to us, his family. In a way that none of my other children did, he delights in the meaning of that word. Just tonight, we were at a playground and Lizzy had walked out of sight and he turned and looked at me and said, "Mommy, where my Yizzy go?" He asks me every morning, "Mommy, where my daddy go?" He has begun consistently referring to us as "my..." MY mommy, MY daddy, MY Abby, MY Iyaac, MY Yizzy, MY Dado (that's his name for Lily?) It truly is as if he finally understands that we are his and he is ours and that's the way it's gonna be always. And for that, MY heart is truly thankful.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baer Project

Too tired to really blog tonight. But, I wanted to share this video from some folks we met when we were in Ethiopia to get Abe. They were there doing some volunteer work (they are adoptive parents too) and have since moved to ET and are doing some neat work there.

My question to you would be, what are you doing with the much you've been given? This is something that Ryan and I have been very convicted of over the last year or so. If you are not sacrificing something to contribute to folks who are struggling for survival, I challenge you to make a small change. I encourage you to find an organization that will not only give physical water, but will share the truth of God's living water too. Do something, even if it seems small, to make a difference in the life of someone who doesn't have the opportunity to live in a place of such wealth and blessing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Two Sides to Every Story

The results of a quality education

Several weeks ago, I posted these thoughts about the benefits of homeschooling. At that time, I had quite a few homeschooling posts running through my mind and I had ambitions of posting them all in a row. Ha, HA, Ha. Now, 6 weeks later, I'll get on with those thoughts.
In all fairness, I thought I ought to be honest about the "not so beneficial" aspects of homeschooling. I am sure that every homeschool mom has different things she loves/struggles with when it comes to homeschooling. For me, it's not as tough as it used to be, at least not today (not sure what tomorrow holds.) There were times, in the early days that I just knew they would all be better off in school. Now, I have seen enough fruit and we've worked through enough bumps that I am much more confident that it will all be okay in the long run. There are still some things that plague me for one reason or another. So, here they are in no particular order:
  • Mommy guilt. Oh, how I hate that! I constantly struggle with the nagging worry that I'm failing someone and I think it is sometimes compounded by the fact that I am not only mom, but teacher too. I hate that Lily doesn't get as many picture books as Abby did and that Abby has to help with so many household tasks. Isaac needs more time to read-aloud to me and Lizzy could use more spelling instruction. Not to mention Abe needs to memorize Goodnight Moon like all the others did AND I have one ready to move ahead in writing programs, but I can't currently give it the attention it needs... it's always something. Sometimes, it's really overwhelming. Then, I usually melt down on my poor unsuspecting husband. Who usually tries not to laugh as he reminds me of all the reasons why we're doing this. He reassures me that we have not lost all hope of producing contributing members of society just because their reading fluency came 6 months later than I'd hoped.
  • Adult interactions or should I say a lack thereof? I do envy my public school mom friends who occasionally get to enjoy Y workouts, ladies Bible studies, or coffee with a friend. I rarely get those types of experiences. When we first started, I was able to fit those things in a bit. I suppose it was like a step down program, with my "preschool mom" commitments and play groups falling away a little at a time. I'll never forget the day I realized that my weekly morning Bible study was going to have to become a thing of the past. Lizzy was ready to start Kindergarten and it became obvious that with two "school" kids, our daytime schedule was going to have to stick really close to home. That was a true sacrifice for me. While I don't get coffee with the girls, I have been blessed with a wonderful community of ladies that I am able to "do life with." Even though many of our conversations are focused on curriculums and discipline issues, they are a blessing to me.
  • Time to myself. Sometimes I would give anything for a few hours to myself to do something that is just for me and not feel like someone wasn't getting what they needed because of it. The thing is, there are people who would be willing to take my kids for a few hours. But, the bottom line is, I am a teacher and just like I would expect my children's teacher to be there at a public school, I feel like I need to be at "school" most of the time too. Part of what makes our day so intense is simply the number of children that I have who are all still heavily dependent on me for their school work. I can already tell with my oldest two that it does get less intense as they become more and more independent in their learning. I know that all too soon, they'll be gone and I'll have more time for myself than I could possibly imagine.
  • A tidy house. What would it be like to have a whole afternoon to clean out a closet without someone in the next room tearing something else apart? Or to pick up the living room at 9:00 and have it remain that way until 3:00? That is one of the things I envy. I know, it's ludicrous and there's nothing eternal about shiny baseboards, but it makes me all happy inside.
  • Few relationships with unchurched people. This is one of the things that I miss most. I hardly know anyone who doesn't go to church. Even my dentist, our pediatrician, our piano teacher, and my hair dresser are all churched. It's certainly not because we looked for them to be believers, it has just worked out that way. Because my kids don't go to school and they're not interested in sports, we don't know many families that aren't in our church. The fact that Ryan and I both work at the church only compounds this fact. We're praying about how to change this because the bottom line is, it's hard to fulfill the Great Commission when you don't interact with people who don't know Jesus. Most homeschoolers would argue that it's more important that we invest in our own kids first and then we can worry about that later. I would argue that we should be actively doing both, now.
  • Friday dates with my husband. So, my husband's day off is Friday. I just know that would be the perfect day for us to go to lunch together each week, if the kids were in school. I know several pastor's wives who do that. I am not one of them. Instead, I teach at a history co-op on Fridays. But, it's a great co-op and my kids love it. So, Ryan and I have decided our Friday dates can wait a while, and we're still happily married.
There they are. My nearly exhaustive list of complaints. They seem sort of piddly compared to my benefits list, but they're real. And sometimes they seem like giants in my world. Other times they seem sort of laughable.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

The last time I camped in July was 16 years ago and it was a 12 mile backpacking trip. I have great memories of that trip. But, I was in Alaska. Camping, in July, in Alaska, makes sense. Camping, in July, in Virginia, not so much.

Fortunately, the company was top-notch, the pool was large, and the evenings were cool, so our 4th of July camping trip was a good time overall. I do not think, however, that is the new tradition. I think we'll save any "annual" potential for the fall or spring. What can I say? Heat, sun, and large swarms of biting gnats are not my thing. This is what our vehicle thermometer was registering as the outside temperature as we drove away from our campsite this afternoon:

Yes, that says 102 degrees!

One of the funniest things about our trip had to be our wardrobe on day 1. We had decided to tie-die shirts. Don't ask me why. It seemed like a festive idea at the time. However, when Ryan's school spiraled out of control last week, the actually tie-dying was left to our camping buddies, Ryan and Eve. They took our kids for a few hours, tie-died shirts for everybody, and allowed us to get some school work finished so that we could actually go camping. Now, when I went to pick the kids up on tie-dying day, the shirts were all hanging out on the line and they were red, white, and blue, just as we had planned. I was impressed. However, when Eve washed the shirts, they actually became more of a red, mauve, and blue. Lovely. But, Eve said we could all just look like dorks together. So, we did. And boy, did we get the looks. It actually made for lots of laughs. Somehow, we "forgot" to take photos of all of us in our regalia, but here are some shots of the kids decorating cookies while we set up camp.

The kids had a great time swimming in the pool, playing in the dirt, and chasing fireflies by the lake.
Boys and arm wrestling- why is that?

Raring to head down that bank with the big kids.

The goggle girls.
Good buddies!
Me. Thinking about how my forehead is probably going to be hurting tonight in spite of my 85 SPF which has already been reapplied once.

Abe loved, LOVED, loved this water slide. We just took turns standing at the bottom and catching him over and over.

It was a fun time for all and we were thankful for the chance to spend some down time with our kids and some good friends. So, Staunton River State Park, thanks for the loads of memories, the little bit of sunburn, and all 32 of these bug bites!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th Fun Ahead

Happy 4th of July! We have been working round the clock for the last 3 days to get ahead on Ryan's schoolwork so that we can have some family fun. Though we're certain we don't have time this week, we're going camping anyway. Our dear friends invited us to get away with them for 48 hours and since it's split between 2 academic weeks and will only involve 1 day away from the office, we're going.
And, praise the Lord, Ryan's season of 6 classes simultaneously will be over on Friday. We can do this for 5 more days, right? Then, we'll only have 6 more weeks with just 3 classes going and we'll be done! Maybe there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
Anyway, here are some random photos of what packing for 7 people to go camping looks like

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Confessions of a Chocoholic

I am a chocolate lover. I do not remember a time when I was not a chocolate lover. I learned early on that a grocery store trip would most likely result in candy if you ask your mom to split a Reese cup with you. If you set out a table of desserts I will always choose the chocolate one. Always.
But, alas, I am also trying to lose weight. I have managed to lose 21.5 pounds since Christmas. Part of me thinks, "Wow! You've lost 21.5 pounds since Christmas, way to go!" Another part of me thinks, "Oh, you've only lost 21.5 pounds since Christmas, really!" It just depends on what frame of mind I'm in on any given day, or hour, or millisecond.
One of the things I've learned in my slow and steady journey toward a healthier weight is that I do best with moderation, not denial. If I decide something is off limits, it makes me grumpy and I tend to overeat in another area. This is especially true of my favorite vice, chocolate.
In an effort to find the middle ground, I eat chocolate pretty much every day. But, instead of a 200 calorie brownie, I settle for a 70 calorie Ghiradelli square or just 1 truffle. This has been my habit many evenings since I started working toward this goal. Now, I know that if I did the math, I would realize that for every 40 Ghiradelli squares I cut out, I could have lost 1 additional pound. That means I could be down about 4.5 more pounds since Christmas. But, let's be real here... which member of my family would have enjoyed living with me in the mood that would have brought about?
So, imagine my delight today when my small town Walmart had my favorite portion controlled "decadent" snack on sale for about a 1/3 of what I normally pay for them. Apparently, they're downsizing their varieties or something. Let's just say, mama now has the next 4.5 pounds of moderation in the pantry and my grocery budget is just a little off this week. But, imagine the savings over the next few months as I eliminate that item from my shopping list.

As my mother-in law likes to say, "I'd give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter!"

Friday, July 2, 2010


When you have 5 children, there is always a birthday on the horizon. There have been some years where we've taken a year off of birthday parties and used that energy and money to do other things. When Abby turned 10, we had an all-out slumber party and we told her that we would not be having another party until she turned 13. Instead, we would let the littles have parties for a while. She agreed and we haven't discussed it since.
However, when her 12th birthday was approaching this year, I just had the sense that I wanted to do a party. For a variety of reasons, it seemed like a good idea. But, since she wasn't expecting it at all, I thought it might be fun to try and surprise her. It helped that she was at camp the week before the party, so it gave me time to make and mail invites as well as plan and pick up supplies.
I just knew someone in her Sunday School class would spill the beans at church, but they didn't and we were truly able to surprise her. So much so, that she had to go to her room for a few minutes to regain her composure before she joined the fun. When it was all said and done, she had a great time!
Ready and waiting. Aren't those lovely flowers Ryan cut out of a highway ditch for me?
She thought she was coming home to rest up after her annual birthday shopping day with Grandma, but...
instead she was coming home to this gaggle of girls!
Everything was orange. Here they are playing "orangeagories."

Decorating flip-flops.

Enjoying orange snacks and that orange punch was a big hit. Several girls asked for the recipe, which cracked me up. They are changing into little homemakers, already!

Our orange cake. My second try at homemade fondant, and it worked!
The birthday girl!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16

For years, this has been one of my "challenge verses." I use it to challenge my children, and lately it's been kicking my tail too! Quite frankly, it's one of the reasons I haven't been blogging much. I'm having a hard time staying "on the happy side of life." I figure I'll just follow Thumper's advice from the classic film, Bambi. Which is, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nuttin' at all."
Ryan and I are going through a very tough and demanding time right now, and it's hard. It seems like the last 18 months of our life have been some of the most intense and exhausting of our adult life, and we are weary. As in bone tired, worn out, dried up, spent. It's not a fun place to be and I'm ready for the Lord to decide that I've been in the fire long enough for now. However, I trust that the Lord knows our limits and he knows just how he desires to shape us and what his plans are for us and that is what I'm clinging to right now. It's hard, but it's also a precious time. Ryan and I keep saying that when we make it out of this season, we're going to look back at it as one of those times when the Lord was so obviously sustaining us.
There are many things that are contributing to our stress, most of which I'm not ready to share. But, the good news is, Ryan only has 8 weeks left of school. When we make it to August 20th, that man will have completed 36 credit hours in 7 months. He has done this while juggling a demanding ministry job and fathering 5 children. Not to mention, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, and caring for his needy wife. He is amazing.
Through all of this, there is one thing that I have realized. The Lord is enough. He really is. He has been stripping away so many of the things that I hold dear, and while it hurts, it's okay. It's as if I am standing on a piece of pavement and the Lord has a jackhammer and he is just knocking away every bit of ground until all that's left is the little bit of concrete under my feet. But, he has left me everything I need for that which he has called me to. And so, I watch and I wait and I hope and I cling and I pray, because that's all I know to do. Thankfully, my precious husband is clinging with me and together we're growing to better understand God's will for our lives. It's hard, but it's good.
In an effort to change the morale in my world, I've decided that this month, I am going to "do something for myself." Something that will encourage me without spending lots of money or taxing my family. So, I've decided to blog again. I love it and it's like therapy for me. It encourages my soul, even if it's just sharing some silly family story. So, I'm going to try to post SOMETHING every day in July. We'll see how well it works, but that's my goal and my little "gift" to myself. I have at least a dozen posts that have been rattling around in my head and heart for weeks, and it's high time, I put them out there in cyberspace to look back and laugh at in a few years. So, if there is anyone out there still stopping by, I look forward to spending July together!