Saturday, December 31, 2011

In the nick of time...

I'm posting the last post of 2011.

And I know it's been a bit lame around here with the lack of posting, but it's been mainly for lack o' time.

Just to keep you updated, my latest little "surprise" with my family is the fact that we are now a foster family. And we picked up our first two little "guests" this week, so we've all been adjusting to a "new normal". They are unbelievably cute -- two sisters, one a toddler and one a preschooler. I can already tell you my heart will break into a million little pieces when they leave us, whenever that may be. But I knew this going into it -- I have to be prepared that my heart will break each and every time, but that's okay. My job is simply to love on these little people and give them a safe place to land and thrive while I have them. Our state is in desperate need of more foster families, and it breaks my heart to think of how many more there are waiting to find a safe place to call home, even if it's just for a little while.

I wish I could post pictures, but I can't show you their little faces, so you'll just have to picture two darling little girls. ;)

2011 was good to us. We went from one son to three, and now we've gone from three to five children who call us Mama and Papa. 2011 was very good for stepping out of our comfort zone, getting out of a more self-centered world into one where we are focusing much more on others. I never thought this is where I would be in life, but I also can't think of a time when I've been any happier. And I'm learning a little more every day that the more I give up to God and hand over the death grip of control I've tried to have on my life, the more He is able to show me such amazing things and allow me to be a part of what He is doing in the world.

Here's wishing you a very Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

You need this music.

I have a very talented fellow associate who used to work at Anthropologie with me.

She's a gorgeous girl, both on the outside as well as the inside. And she just happens to be a skilled violinist that plays in the band, Gungor. Hello, they're kinda famous...

I recently found out via Facebook that she was part of a new Christmas project, another gorgeous offering from those talented Gungor folk.



There don't seem to be any videos on YouTube that I can show you, but you can click here to listen to snippets of the amazingly beautiful Christmas tunes yourself. It's almost like standing out in a beautiful field at midnight with snow falling down and songs of Jesus filling the sky. Really.

Check it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday SOS.

This isn't really an SOS.

But I kinda feel like my posts have been so sporadic that it's almost like I'm sending out an SOS now and then...

"still alive"

"send help"

"send chocolate"

You know, that sort of thing, haha.

But, of course, it's the same old shenanigans --

we're crazy busy.
It's the holidays.
I have three boys to keep up with. (Yes, sometimes that reality check still hits me like a ton of bricks!)
I'm a pianist: at Christmastime I am crazy busy with extra rehearsals and performances, pretty much every night.
Oh, and I started a new job.
I now work an average of 25-30 hours a week.
There's a big change for ya'!

I am now an "Artist in Residence" for our local public school system. (I prefer the title "Arteeeeeest" if you happen to run into me, haha.) Translation: I am a pianist for the vocal music and dance programs at a high school. I should probably clarify that this is an inner city high school. Stress on the "inner city" part of that sentence, yo'.

So far I love it. But what an eye-opener. It is as inner city as inner city gets. Let's just say I might stick out like Little Bo Peep walking the halls, and those halls are more like that Michelle Pfeiffer movie, "Dangerous Minds" (remember that one?), or that TV show on Fox several years back, "Boston Public". Yep, more like that.

But like I said, I love it. I love when they say "hey, Miz Fischer" to me in the halls, I love when they really actually try to sing and glory, hallelujah, what comes out of their mouths is nothing short of heavenly, and I love that I'm (hopefully) making a difference in their lives. Because most of us just can't imagine living in their reality, and that's the truth. Hopefully I am part of the bright spot in their days because they are becoming a part of mine.

And in the meanwhile, we have a few other tricks up our sleeve as a family that we're just waiting on. As if we need more excitement 'round these parts, right? ;)

So what's new in your neck of the woods? I hope you're enjoying a wonderful holiday season so far, and if you're like me, trying to remember to focus on the real meaning of Christmas -- the amazing gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Happy December!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Random awesomeness...

...so you know I'm still alive, haha.

Have you seen this?



Pure voices mixed with empty plastic containers. Awesome.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three little spooks

Before I forget, here is a glimpse into the magical first Halloween we had together as a family of five...




I had no choice but to come up with something halfway awesome for my three Lego-loving little guys, so I made two Lego bricks and a Lego Darth Vader costume (their ideas). They were pretty excited!

*Please, if you want to borrow my image to share the awesome Lego love with others, please please ask my permission in the comments and also source it back to my blog. I'm no professional, but after hours and hours slaving away on these things, I'd say I might deserve a little credit. Thanks...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

We've got it all.

I think Oklahoma needs to change it's tourism marketing plan to something like this:

We've got it all here in Oklahoma!



Blizzards? We've got 'em!

Below-zero temperatures? We've got 'em!

Tornados? We've got 'em!

Floods? We've got 'em!

Hurricanes? (technically we can get the remnants of those, too) We've got 'em!

Over 100-degree temperatures for billions of days on end? We've got 'em!

Droughts? We've got 'em!

And now add to the mix...

Scary earthquakes?

We've got 'em!

I'm just waiting for the "tsunami zone" signs to go up somewhere so we can technically say we've got all of Mother Nature's fury covered -- surely our lakes could get a small tsunami going, haha.

Sheesh.

I felt the earthquake we had last October (2010) which was a 4-point-something. I slept through the next 4-point-something that happened yesterday morning around 2am. But darn-it-all-to-heck if I wasn't WIDE AWAKE for last night's fun, a 5.6 scary ride. Our house shook for at least 20 seconds. We were laying in bed, jumped up, ran down the stairs, and when I thought it was mostly over, I sat down on the sofa only to find my sofa was still shaking for probably another 5 seconds or so. I'm pretty sure I'll be shaking for weeks.

Not cool, people, not cool. Tornados usually give a little warning, and there are places you can seek shelter. Temperatures, high or low, I can deal with. Floods again usually give a little warning so you can evacuate. But earthquakes? What the heck?! There is no warning system and not really much you can do.

And here I'm guessing most people thought Oklahoma must be a boring place to live. I personally would prefer that it be a little less exciting, please...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How did I miss this????

I don't have an official "bucket list" for my life, but in my head there is a running list of things that I've always wanted to see, experience, etc. You know, things like traveling to far-off places, seeing interesting things, etc. Does anyone else do that?

I checked the weather this morning on our local station's website, and lo and behold there were NORTHERN LIGHTS visible in our neck of the woods last night.




And I missed it.

Folks, I've lived up in the cold, cold north and never saw them there either.

Shoot.

Cross your fingers for me that this happens again and I might get a glimpse of the beauty someday...

*image from here

Keep it classy.

Other than this, you will probably NEVER find me posting about Lady Gaga, or as I personally like to refer to her, Lady Gag-Me-With-a-Spoon. It's no secret, I'm not a big fan. I think she's talented, yes, but unfortunately I think she has used her talent in all the wrong ways, and I'm not crazy about the influence she seems to have on the kiddie set.

BUT.

There is always an exception.

Like this ADORABLE video. Tony Bennett + Lady Gaga = fantastico.

Lady Gaga actually keeps it classy! And we all know, that yes, unlike Madonna, the gal can croon.

So enjoy.

And please, pretty please, Lady Gaga, put out some more o' this and a little bit less o' that...


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Great State of Oklahoma has declared it...

OFFICIAL.

Our new and improved forever family of five...




On Friday, September 30th, our little family stood in front of the absolute nicest judge (she even had presents for each of us) who declared us ADOPTED.

What a relief. It took us all by surprise that the process really did indeed take only six months for the state to wrap up (which is a small miracle in and of itself). It's done. These boys will never have to worry about caseworkers, foster homes, shelters, or any other such stuff ever again. As the eldest, Rudy, put it, they are now "just like everybody else", "normal kids with a mom and a dad". I love that.

I also love how Rudy summed it up -- "Mom, my whole life has been filled with short timelines, from my birthparents to different foster homes to here, and now it is just going to be one big ol' timeline going forward".

Amen to that.

And thanks for all of the support and encouraging comments you all have left over the last six months of this crazy journey. Every single word was greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

God is good. All the time.

Imagine my surprise when this afternoon I received a call that our adoption finalization will be THIS FRIDAY.

Thank you, God.

It's gonna be a great weekend.

The September Post.

Hmmm. It's September 28th, and this is my only post so far this month.

Busy much?

September has just been one big whirlwind. The facet of my life marked "adoption" has taken over and twirled me 'round and 'round through the month, and I am just now slowing down, trying to stop my dizzying fall and regain a sense of normal. September equals "school" for much of America, and in my house, it's been the biggest adjustment of all with my newer boys.

Most days I would tell you that this adoption journey (this second one, keeping in mind we did the international thing six years ago) is a piece of cake. But I'm learning to keep my mouth shut because September seemed to be laughing at my standard answer and decided to throw me some curveballs with my boys. So I'm learning a few things as an adoptive mom.

These kids are relatively easy, it's true. They are not your typical "state" kids, inasmuch as they really haven't experienced the same level of traumas and abuse as many of the older waiting kids in our state. For that, not a day goes by that I am not thankful to my core that they were somehow spared a lot of grief and heartache. That being said, they still have six and eleven years of history that didn't include my face, six and eleven years of history and learned behaviors and all of that stuff that I am still learning about (and so are they, for that matter).

This year all three of my boys are at a new school, and thankfully they are all three at the same school which has been a new form of heaven for me. No more long drives from school to school dropping off and picking up. When the weather is nice, we can walk! For the most part, everyone has made the adjustment pretty well. Everyone seems to love learning, everyone is excited about making new friends, and everyone likes their teachers. A pretty good outcome. We also have each of them in a different grade. My youngest two are just two months apart, but we decided at the end of the last school year to hold our newest six-year-old back for another year of kindergarten. Best. Decision. Ever. Although there are times it is like having "virtual twins", they really are quite different in both physical size and personality and learning styles, so now everyone is in their own separate grade. No competition, only support and encouragement for each other, and that part is working out perfectly.

The biggest adjustment for me personally has been the eldest child. Most parents get to work their way up to fifth grade with their child, but I've just been thrown to the wolves, per say. Oh my heavens. He has three different teachers, quite a bit of homework every night, special projects that need to be done at home, lots of tests every week, different teacher websites to keep up with for updates/information, etc. I feel like I need a whole separate planner just for my fifth grader. Anyone out there looking for a personal assistant position? That works for free? I could use one, haha.

Waaaaaay back in the day, I was a fifth grader. I was the poster-child of academic excellence -- nerdy as they come, Coke-bottle glasses and all, but straight-A's on every single report card were my specialty. (I remember crying buckets in high school when I got my first B. Seriously. Oh, the drama.) I was always respectful to my teachers (I had the fear of my mother in me), never skipped homework, never did sloppy work, never forgot papers or tests, etc. It was just second nature for me to try and excel at every single academically that I could. Pretty much picture a milder, quieter Hermione Granger, and you would have fifth-grade me.

Fast-forward to now and it is quite easy to see where the universe is having a great big laugh at my expense. Bless my son's heart, before he moved in with us, he was failing most subjects, and understandably so, as he didn't have anyone checking to see how he was doing in school, to teach him how to be a good student, etc. You can already picture this hilarious new equation, I'm guessing -- my total-other-end-of-the-academic-spectrum son + my overachiever former self = good times, good times.

I'm just going to be honest. September has sucked. It has pulled and prodded, poked and shoved, stretched and strained me. I have had several parenting successes, and I have had more than a handful of parenting FAILS. I keep looking for that parenting handbook that I swear these kids should've come with *winkwink*, and I am trying to figure this all out by trial and error. I've rejoiced with my son in his achievements, and I've definitely cried some tears over his failures. Trying to find a balance between where he is coming from (failing many subjects) and where I would like to see him (hello, straight-A model student, of course, *winkwink*) has been one tightrope act that I have yet to master. Slowly but surely, he is adjusting, I'm being tweaked myself, and we are actually this close to a straight-A report card. We could not be prouder, and it is amazing to see the sense of confidence he is gaining academically. But oh how he has challenged and tested us in other areas as well. We're smart enough to be thankful for the fact that he is challenging and testing us and not just quietly keeping it all to himself, but dang, if it hasn't been a trying month for my husband and I with this one.

In the midst of all of September's drama, I have also struggled with my other two shrinking in the shadows. As most of my focus has constantly been on the eldest, thankfully the other two have still been marching ahead in their own education and thriving. But it has also weighed on me that I have yet to find a good balance where am not just focusing most of my energy on one and not the other two. Dang, how do you mothers of three (or more) do it? Again, a parenting manual would've been nice (haha) because I've had to figure this mother-of-three thing out all by myself, and dangit if I won't be trying to figure it out until the last one turns 18!

Coincidentally, September also marked six months of being a new family of five. Last week we hit the six-month-mark, which is pretty hard to believe! For those of you that have been wondering, we're still not official and are technically just waiting on the judge to set a court date. If you feel so inclined, say a little prayer for us that we get a "good" judge that sets dates earlier than later (I've heard we could expect a court date as late as the end of the year, say WHA????, and that would be no bueno), and that my kids will all be able to write our last name on their school papers sooner than later. It's been official in our hearts since the day they moved in back in March, and not a day goes by that we don't tell them that, but I know that it will just help them feel that much more secure and confident when it's officially recognized by the state as well. They're old enough to understand all of it.

So that's my September in a long-winded nutshell. How was yours?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On the Telly...

Do you get excited about the new fall television shows?

I used to, but here in the last few years, my TV-watching has dwindled greatly, not that I'm complaining. With less TV shows on my radar, I've gotten a heck of a lot more accomplished on sewing, reading, enjoying the outdoors, etc. And my eyes don't bug out nearly as much, haha...

Regardless, there are a few new shows that are going on my DVR schedule to try out. Here's hoping I don't get hooked on all of them so I can keep up my good television habits and not watch too much!

Zooey Deschanel? Yes, yes, and yes. The "New Girl" is looking good. (Is it sad that I recognized her dress in the promo picture as Anthro? Of course, it is.)




Folk music in a cave? Sign me up. "Bluegrass Underground" is supposed to premiere sometime in mid-September on PBS.




Retro and vintage -- right up my alley. I can't wait for "Pan Am" to start on ABC.




Storybook mixed with modern? Intriguing. Could be good, could be a flop. We'll see. But it's got Ginnifer Goodwin, and she's a fave, so surely it has a chance. "Once Upon a Time" starts in October on ABC.




Supposedly there is also a two-part reality show series in the works from TLC all about Sarah Palin's hair salon up north -- "Big Hair Alaska". I might tune in for that -- sounds entertaining to me!

Other returning shows I'm planning on checking out again, at least for a while:

"Gold Rush Alaska" (no air date yet for Season Two) -- my husband and I got hooked on this one for whatever reason

"Sister Wives" -- what can I say, the crazy polygamists suck me in every time. (Well, not really, just suck me in to their stupid TV shows, that's all.)

"The Fabulous Beekman Boys" -- please, PLEASE tell me this one is returning. I think they're pretty fabulous, and Polka Spot the Llama holds a little piece of my heart.




And last but CERTAINLY not least, I'm ready for January to get here so I can start watching "Masterpiece Theater" again! (Fingers crossed for the Downton Abbey Christmas special I've heard about, plus I've heard there will be a second season of regular episodes which supposedly just finished filming.) I'm a total convert, and "Masterpiece Theater" has turned into one of my absolute favorite parts of television.

So what are you planning on watching?

Makin' stuff.

Late yesterday afternoon I actually donned an apron (never happens) in preparation to make dinner, which coincidentally was a very cute full-length-down-to-my-ankles apron from Anthropologie (bargain bin). I only mention this because the whole time I was wearing the apron, I felt drafty in the back (since it was full frontal coverage), and it kept making me think of the scene from "The Parent Trap" (the original, please) in which Hayley Mills cuts the back of her twin's dress off as a prank. I thought that was kind of funny.




Anyway, I digress. Last night I made a deeeeeeeeelicious dinner from scratch. Emphasis on the deeeeeeeeeeelicious. I've never heard such whoopin' and hollerin' from my boys at the dinner table, all of whom proudly proclaimed how much they love my cookin'.

Put a fork in me and call me done.

It was all Pioneer Woman-style up in here last night with some o' this Peach Whiskey BBQ Chicken





and some o' those Smashed Potatoes.




It's safe to say that Pioneer Woman sure knows a thing or two about feedin' boys. And it's always a festive occasion when the Baptists get to take a trip to the liquor store for a big bottle of Jack Daniel's. Just sayin'.

Today I'm a-cookin' some Farm Chicks Granola,




which will hopefully be a delicious alternative spooned on top of vanilla yogurt instead of the usually offering of cold cereal for breakfast. Hopefully one or all of my boys will notice and heap some more lovin' on their mama. Either that or I'm keeping it all to myself. Yum.

And holy cow -- my house smells all sorts of awesome right now from that granola in the oven. Better than any Yankee candle, Scentsy, or other artificial smells. I wish I could bottle it up!

Anything good been cookin' lately in your kitchen?


*First image found via Google; second two images via the lovely Pioneer Woman; last image via Serena, the amazing Farm Chick

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Going green.

Saturday I took my first big step towards being a "greener" household.

I made my own liquid laundry detergent. Boo-yah. I sho' did.

Via Pinterest, I found this brilliant tutorial. Thank goodness I thought to half the recipe my first time. I was unsure if all the ingredients (including the water) would fit in my big pot, so I took the safe route and only made a half batch. Sure enough, I was right, and from now on, I will make this stuff in half batches.



I found both the Borax and the Arm & Hammer super washing soda in my trusty Wal-Mart Supercenter (look on the bottom or top shelves if you don't find it at first). I had a bar of soap in my arsenal already, so I just used it. It was some fancy-schmancy pinky-purple bar of French soap, which made my liquid laundry detergent a pretty pale pink color. Ooh-la-la. I also took the time to read through ALL of the comments on the tutorial blog post, just in case there were any extra tips. Sure enough, many people commented to use only half a bar of soap instead of a full bar. Since my fancy-schmancy soap was a smaller square-ish size, I considered it equal to a regular half bar of soap.



The hardest step in all of this is the grating. I don't have a stand-up grater, so my arms definitely got tired grating my bar of soap. It did kind of give me a sense of Pioneer Woman (not the Ree Drummond-variety, but the real deal like my grandma was who was born in Indian Territory) grating that soap. I then halved my soap shavings, saving part of it for when I make another batch on down the road.



Another smart thing I did (imagine that) was to save my last two liquid laundry detergent containers. Ah, recycling at it's finest. Plus, the cap can be used as a measuring cup as it's capacity is a 1/2 cup just like this recipe calls for. I know how to use my noggin every once in a while...



If you make this laundry detergent, keep in mind three things:

1. Yes, it will coagulate (watch out, big word), meaning it will thicken up and get quite gelatinous. When I made this, I had enough to fill one jug completely and another jug 1/4 full (remember, I made a half batch). Next time I make it I will think ahead and pour both of them half full, giving me room to shake them up before pouring it out if they are really thick. So, don't be afraid if your batch turns out really thick. You can still use it, and most of the comments said their batches were pretty thick so it is completely normal.

2. This does not produce suds. (Suds do not necessarily equal "clean".) This was hard for me to grasp at first, but now I am a couple of loads in and believing in the magic.

3. My batch turned out very lightly scented. Since I use dryer sheets (I tear mine in half to make the box last twice as long), I don't need the detergent to scent my clothes because they end up smelling like whatever dryer sheet I throw in there. I'm pretty sure this detergent alone will not leave much of a scent on your clothes. When I used store-bought liquid laundry detergent, I usually went for the "free" versions without the scents or dyes anyway.

According to the tutorial, this liquid laundry detergent is a huge money-saver. For the $6 spent on a box of Borax and a box of Arm & Hammer super washing soda, this apparently will make enough detergent to clean approximately 576 loads. (I'm guessing it might make less for me since I never feel like I get as many loads as what they say on regular laundry detergent anyway.) Regardless, considering I normally spend $6 on one container of All (or Tide or whatever) that probably gets me somewhere around 50 loads, this is pure gold. You don't have to be a math genius to know that ends up costing mere pennies per load. And better for the environment to boot. And maybe better for your clothes as well since it doesn't have all the artificial crap in it.

So, do you think you'll try it out?

Next up for me: homemade dishwashing detergent, which by the way also uses Borax and Arm & Hammer super washing soda. (And hello, did you know you can use plain ol' white vinegar for rinse aid? Genius, I tell ya'.)

I'm loving this "green" stuff. Watch out, tree huggers, I'm comin' your way!

{Edited to add: I also just read about the benefits of white distilled vinegar in the laundry, so I am adding 1/2 cup to every load (there is a spot in my washing machine I can pour it in to be released during the rinse cycle). Apparently it not only whitens whites and brightens brights (ah, I am a poet), but it also softens the laundry and eliminates static cling. So maybe I can stop using the dryer sheets after all and switch to lavender sachets to scent my laundry...hmmm....}

**I do not have a high efficiency washing machine, nor do I have a front-loader. You should probably read through all the comments on the tutorial blog post to see if it would work in either of those (I think I remember reading that it would).

Monday, August 22, 2011

End o' summer. Thank the good Lord above.

Today marks the first day of kindergarten, first grade, and fifth grade for my boys. I love those boys somethin' fierce, but I cannot lie. I am ECSTATIC to have a quiet house for a couple of hours to myself. It's plain heaven.

So how did we do on our Summer Bucket List?




Out of 48* items, we checked off 41. Not too shabby.

I'm usually a perfectionist and would aim for success being measured in checking off all 48 items, but a month or so ago, I decided, screw it, we'll just get done what we get done.

A much better perspective if you ask me.

One of the most embarrassing items to not be checked off the list?

Yep, that would be "start piano lessons". Hello, I have a piano degree. In "piano pedagogy", no less (translates to: piano teacher). However, in my defense, I did go out and purchase books for everyone, and we are starting this week, perfect timing with the start of school. So we barely missed this one.

Other items not crossed off?

Ice cream truck, go figure. It was a rarity to hear one coming down our street, and when we did, it was not good timing. Dang.
Ears 'n Beers: the party we usually do with neighbors. Totally missed the boat on that one this year.
Mini Golf -- too dang hot, and by the end of the summer, watching my three boys whack each other with metal rods didn't sound too appealing to me.
Farmer's Market: we obviously didn't make it on that one either.
Make a secret clubhouse? We got halfway there, clearing out the cubbyhole closet in the boys' room, so at least it's ready when we decide to do it. Maybe that would be a good idea for a snow day.
No training wheels -- too dang hot here to ride bikes. With most of our summer between 100-115 every stinkin' day, we didn't spend as much time outside as we would have liked. C'est la vie.

I also had to alter a couple of items. With the extreme, record-breaking heat we experienced this summer, we didn't have but a few fireflies, and it was very early in the summer that I even saw them. But for whatever reason, the dragonflies flocked to our yard instead. So I changed "catch fireflies" to "watch dragonflies". And I also had it on the list for us to visit the Oklahoma City Lego Store. On our trip to Minnesota, we took the boys to the much bigger Mall of America Lego Store instead.

Tell me, did you make a Summer Bucket List? Did you cross off many items? I just have to add, while I have been very flattered at the compliments about being a good mom by making our list, the gosh-darn truth is that I knew I NEEDED the list to survive the summer with three boys. If it wasn't for the list, this summer would have been anything but intentional in filling up with lots of fun things. Thank goodness for the Summer Bucket List!

*There were originally 49 items, but after analyzing "our" skillz at the roller rink, I knew there was no way "we" were all ready for the ice skating rink, so I promptly crossed it off.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can YOUR dog do this?

My mom is a dancing queen. No, really. She started taking dance lessons after my dad passed away, and she's been going at it ever since. She's really, really good. Anyway, she definitely knows a good dancer when she sees one, and she showed me this YouTube video. If you've got kids, you'll want to let them watch it. My boys love it, and they think we need to teach Mercy a few dance steps...


Friday, August 5, 2011

For the love of food.

I feel that it would actually be considered cruel for me to withhold this deliciousness from you.

This recipe* came to me via Pinterest, a source I have been wholly utilizing these days in the nightly battle of wondering what in the heck I am going to make for dinner. Pinterest has not disappointed me yet with the recipes I've been trying. De-lish.

When we ate this last night, I was convinced it was the best sauce I have ever eaten. (And I've gotten around, let me tell you, eaten at lots of amazing restaurants across the country.) When I ate the leftovers for lunch today, I knew for sure that it is indeed the best sauce I have ever had. In fact, my three boys gobbled it up faster than any meal I've seen them eat before.




So don't delay. Make this for your family. It makes a lot, so be sure and freeze part of it so you can enjoy it later without the work.

And if you really love your family, buy one of those cheap little boxes of Jiffy pie crust mix and follow the recipe on the box for cherry pie. Good stuff, folks, good stuff.

*I followed the recipe exactly, using all Great Value brand cans of sauce and tomato paste from ye' old WalMart, but for the diced tomatoes, I used what I had on hand -- two cans of Del Monte diced tomatoes with basil and oregano, and one can of Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes, also found at ye' old WalMart. I have no idea if it would matter what I used, but I thought I would just let you know.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Support.

A couple of months ago we got a flier in the mail about a marriage retreat geared towards adoptive families. I guess you could say I normally wouldn't get excited about a marriage retreat -- having to get in touch with feely-feelings, sharing TMI with people we don't even know, etc. -- but I cannot lie, the idea of two days (and a night) away from my wild-albeit-lovely children at a very nice retreat center, all meals and lodging paid, even the CHILDCARE paid -- well, it was kinda impossible to pass up. Being that we are adopting through the Great State of Oklahoma, this is a program offered up to families like us that is funded by state and federal grants. So, heck yes, I signed us up. My poor husband didn't really have much of a choice, haha.

Fast forward to yesterday morning when we showed up for the retreat: like I said, we didn't know anyone else attending, and if I'm being honest, we were wondering if it might be the same "caliber" *coughcough* of individuals that we met through other parts of this process. (Not to say that there aren't plenty of awesome people with hearts of gold that sign up to be adoptive parents, because there are, but there are also plenty of folk you could swear walked in from the State Fair. You know the type.) Regardless, those two phrases -- "no children" and "all-expenses paid" dangled temptingly in front of my weary eyes. No matter what, it was going to be more-than-likely a nice air-conditioned, quiet experience at the very least. So we marched confidently in.

Thank goodness we sat down at a table with another couple with whom we hit it off immediately. I just cannot tell you how refreshing it felt to sit down and automatically find kindred spirits who understand what dealing with the state can be like, what getting children through the state can be like, what being adoptive parents through the state can be like. We automatically just got each other. Throw in sarcastic wit and we were friends from minute one. We knew this would be two days we could sit through for sure.

Funny thing -- remember the brutal honesty in my motivations for signing us up, the "no children" and "all-expenses paid" phrases? -- well, just like everything else in this process that we have very much been blindly sailing through, we had no idea that you could earn credit hours for taking this course. Ha. So as an unexpected bonus, we received enough credits of annual required training to float us at least another year with the state should we decide to take on any more kids in the future. (Someone might be wanting a girl, just sayin'....)

Most of the classes were geared towards the marriage relationship as it applies to adoptive families because yes, being married as an adoptive parent puts a new spin on things. Did you know that while the divorce rate these days is pretty darn high, it's even higher with adoptive parents? I didn't know it either, but it's not too hard to believe. Adoption is hard, ya'll. It's awesome and amazing and rewarding, but it is downright HARD at times, too. Topics from our classes included ways to deal with conflict and resolution, making marriage fun (again), intimacy, and communication. For us especially it was a very good reminder that we need to establish regular date nights, something we keep saying we will do but just haven't made a priority. Now that there are three kiddos in our family portrait, it is more important than ever for us to remember who we are as a couple and not just as parents. Because let's admit it -- more often than not, I wear the hat of "exhausted FUN-SUCKER mama" and not the hat I used to wear as "fun-loving wife".

But there was also an afternoon session about parenting kids who've been through trauma. At first I was skeptical and didn't really see how it would apply to our situation being that the level of trauma our kids have experienced seems pretty minimal compared to some stories we heard from others, but it really ended up being something I needed to hear. There were a couple of lightbulb moments for me -- one of validation for me as the adoptive mother and taking a lot more flak from the kids than my husband does -- and another for dealing with my boys and some of the behaviors they've exhibited that might be stemming from trauma in their past. Honestly, these two lightbulb moments made the entire weekend worth it for me, especially because before leaving for the retreat Friday afternoon, I had pretty much hit my limit of stress for the week. It was a doozie of a week with dealing with the kids and various behaviors, and I really felt at my wits' end, with the bonus of high-blood pressure to boot. I honestly just wanted to get away from them for a couple of days, but by the time it was over today, I was ready and felt more empowered to come home and be a better parent to them.

I guess that's the thing -- while this experience these last four months has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, there have also been more than a handful of times that it has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. I've been pushed to what I thought was my limit as a parent, and I've been going through this pretty blindly. (Ha, that really doesn't sound much different than regular ol 'parenthood, now does it, but adoptive parenting is still a whole other ballgame.) Not that any kid comes with an instruction manual, but especially getting two older children that have their own history they come with, well, an instruction manual would be really nice. And while I use the word "I" in describing this, I don't mean like I'm a single parent. I've got the most supportive husband in the world (I really do), but since I am mostly a stay-at-home mom in between my part-time gigs, there are lots of time it's just them and me, and I'll be the first to admit, I don't always know what to do, how to react, etc. in a lot of situations that are new to me.

All that to say, it took me by surprise in how much I really enjoyed and also needed this weekend. We made some great friends that understand this whole crazy process, learned some valuable tools for marriage, received validation as parents of adopted kids, enjoyed some great laughs (there was a "Newlyweds Game" at the dinner banquet that was downright hilarious), learned more about our kids and how to best help them on their journey to become good citizens of the world, and a mostly importantly, we got a good night's sleep, baby.

High fives to the Great State of Oklahoma for the refreshing weekend and to the grant-writers of these United States for picking up the tab because this is one grateful, refreshed mama.

How was your weekend?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why YES...

...I AM going to be spending the evening with this lovely lady in T minus 24 hours!!!!!!!




And just for the record, I think I would just keel over if in the middle of the concert she said, come on out, my friend, and Kenny Rogers came out and joined her in a little "Islands in the Stream".




That would pretty much make my decade.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I {heart} etsy.

Because these three things are headed my way:

for Mercy...


Girlfriend is going to be stylin' in her Union Jacks! It's very Wills and Kate, you know...



also for Mercy...



because I couldn't decide between the two, but the price for both off of etsy was LESS than the price for one in the same grapevine pattern from my local doggie boutique. I'm all about supporting local business, but not when it is more than twice the price. This one is very Orla Kiely, don't you think?

And for Dolly (the Airstream)...


a 5x7 print from here. I'm just going to pick up a white frame and mat from WalMart or Hobby Lobby and hang it on the wall in the Airstream. We've kept it very simple in there, but a fun little etsy purchase will be perfect. I can't wait to show you pictures of Dolly as she is getting very close to being finished!

Are you an etsy shopper?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On my nightstand.

I'm what I'd like to call a voracious reader.

I enter my local library faithfully once a week. I use the online system of ordering books (and CDs and DVDs) and having them sent to my library for pickup. My librarians know my boys and I by name.

I love that.

And it never fails that I'll have at least 3 or 4 books come in at the same time. Books that are "high demand" and cannot be checked out for longer than two weeks, so I'm always cramming at night to get some good reading time in before I go to sleep. Most nights I don't even watch TV. I go upstairs around 8:30, climb into bed, and read until 10:30 or so.

Here's a sampling of what I've read lately:


Oh my, was this one laugh out loud funny. I picked this one up after getting one of the recommended reading emails from the library, so I had no idea what to expect. But I must tack on a warning -- it's got some language and occasionally there were some moments where it was a bit TMI for me from the author and his partner. I'm kind of a prude when it comes to most things, especially language and such, but I couldn't put it down because it was so dang funny.



Loved this one. Ate it up, finished it in one night's time. Great summer read.



This book made me constantly hungry, and hungry for good food. It's kind of like a cookbook and memoir all in one. I marked a few of the recipes that I would like to try.



Oh heavens. Forget BossyBants. Tina Fey is a PottyMouth. There were some funny moments, I'm not gonna lie, but I was squirming with all of the bad language. It would've been just as funny with a way less f-bombs. I mainly just skimmed through it because I got tired of all the bad language.



Just started this one last night -- another one from the "recommended reading" emails from my local library. Appears to be an easy summer read.



Technically this one is a young adult fiction read, but I loved it. Brought me back to my youth and the type of novels I enjoyed the most.


So, what's on your nightstand? Any recommendations for me?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday: Laundry Day

Monday is Laundry Day at my house.


*Beautiful image from here. Don't you just love this laundry room?

So far today, I've cranked out 4 loads (washed, folded, and put away, thankyouverymuch), and I think I've got 3 or 4 more to go.

I've learned a lot over the years (and over the last few months since we gained two family members), and here are some tips that work for me.

*I stand at the dryer and fold the clothes immediately as I pull each item out of the dryer. Otherwise, clean piles of laundry would inevitably sit around my house. I do not allow myself to take the whole pile of warm clothes out because I don't trust myself they will get folded in a timely manner and actually put away!

*I rip my dryer sheets in half. My clothes are just as soft and static-free and nice-smelling as they were when I used a whole sheet per load.

*The boys now sort their clothes for me into three piles: whites, mediums, and darks. They are expected to turn everything right-side out and empty all pockets, otherwise any money I find I keep (since I wouldn't be able to determine whose money it was). They also each have an embroidered towel with their name on it that they use all week. On Laundry Day, the towels go into the wash with the rest of their clothes. It has saved at least one load of towels for me a week. For now I still wash, fold and put away all of their clothes. When they've "helped" in that department, I've had to go back and re-do what they've done, so we might wait another few months before we attempt it again.

I've still got plenty of room for improvement though. I need to clean and spruce up my laundry room (maybe this week?), and I would like to start making my own "green" laundry detergent to use. And I'm sorry to admit this, but laundry does not include doing the ironing, which I am dreadful at. My great-grandmother, who ironed absolutely everything, would be sorely disappointed. But my confession is this: out of all the household chores, I actually love doing the laundry.

Is Monday Laundry Day for you? Got any tips you can throw my way?

Have Mercy.

We did it.

(Er, I did it, actually. It's all my fault.)

We went and got us another dog.



If you've been reading for a while, you know that we are big animal lovers. At one point we had five dogs for six years. Two years ago, our beloved Golden Retriever passed away. Our hearts were broken. And then a month or so ago, her companion passed away, and our hearts were broken again. That left us without a "house dog". We do have three Italian greyhounds whom we love dearly, but they spend their days in my husband's office with him (behind our garage, he works from home) and come in to the main house on occasion because they've never been fully potty-trained, if you catch my drift. So they are loved and spoiled, but not the main house dogs.

On Thursday I got on Craigslist.

{Note to self: stay offa there.}

With full-own guilt, I glanced through the pet listings, knowing I shouldn't be on there. There was one listing that jumped out at me. I knew, I just knew, this was it. I sent an email to my husband with the listing, and I even titled my email: "I should NOT get on Craigslist". My husband agreed -- I should NOT get on Craigslist, and although it was tempting we should avoid getting another dog. Hello, we still had three. It's not like we were wanting for canine companionship.

But I could not help feeling as if the house was too empty. Our kitties even have seemed a bit lonely since our Mazi girl passed away. So I cheated and sneaked in an reply email to the Craigslist post. I figured it couldn't hurt to ask, right?

Sure enough, they replied back with all sorts of wonderful things to say about this baby. Honestly, she was PERFECT for us, and I knew it. Thankfully, my husband forgave me, even confessed that he had been thinking about her since I sent him the email, and called them immediately.

Mercy came home to live with us Friday night.

She is the BEST dog:

*4 years old
*English Setter mix
*spayed
*housebroken
*quiet
*submissive
*in great health
*fur that feels like mink
*SWEETEST disposition ever
*wants to cuddle and be loved 24/7
*quiet, but a great watchdog

Yes, she came with that awesome name, MERCY. The couple we got her from were actually fostering her for a few weeks. Her owner had to give her up as he just found out he has brain cancer and wasn't sure if he'd be able to care for her. Before that, she was apparently a rescue, so we don't know her full story, but the owner gave her that name because he's a Christian and thought it was fitting for such a sweet rescue dog. Don't you just love her name? And she was FREE. Zero dollars for this beauty. They just wanted to be sure she would go to a good home. After checking out our reference (veterinary clinic) and our assuring them that she would be pampered and the queen of the castle, she was ours.



*Here's Mercy, already settled in on the sofa with Minnie Pearl and Romeo. You can see Harry in the background, sleeping on the side table next to the lamp. Tex was nesting in the other room, otherwise there would have been four doggies on the sofa. And I'm happy to report that Sally, the female cat, has officially finished her "hissing period" and has come around to love Mercy as well. It's unanimous -- the other pets all love her.

I'm more than happy to report as well that I'm her person. Maybe she secretly knows that I'm the one that found her. Who knows. But she has latched on to me. And that makes me all kinds of happy to have a little shadow in the house every day.



She's perfection all wrapped up in canine packaging.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hideaway

This next quilt was made back in February for a darling baby girl. This baby girl has some ultra cool parents, so I was a little extra picky about the fabric for this one. Once I spotted the Hideaway line by Lauren + Jessi Jung, I was sold. Alpine chalets, tiny towns, little forests, and cuckoo clocks? Yes, please!

*click on each image for a closer look*





I basically made a strip quilt (easy peasy and a great way to showcase fabrics), but I added a little panache to this one. I got all fancy-pants and quilted the baby's name on there! I'm not gonna lie -- I was proud as a peacock that it turned out so well.



The two printed fabrics were from the Hideaway line, and the light brown printed fabric and the pink solid were both found at my local JoAnn's. The brown print is a sweet old-fashioned sort of print that I felt helped tone down the brightness of the Hideaway prints. The pink is not normally a choice I would purchase as it is kind of a "country pink", kind of mauve-ish, but it matched the Hideaway prints perfectly while also blending well with the light brown print.

And not to worry, I still have enough fabric to make another one to keep...;)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quilting catch-up...

Because I haven't been able to download my pictures for several months, I'm having to play catch-up on quilts I've made since the beginning of the year. Here is the first of the posts:

This is a lap quilt I made in February. A friend of a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and having a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, so I made this quilt for my friend to give to her. I really didn't have a plan, but I decided to go with the pink idea that is usually attached to breast cancer support. I meant for these to really be modern crosses, and it kind of turned out a bit Red Cross themed, hmmm, but it also made me think of the idea of "thinking positive" with little plus signs. I really like how it turned out.



On the back I used flannel. I've never backed my quilts in flannel, but it certainly won't be the last time I do it because it turned out so nice and soft. I used a breast cancer ribbon printed flannel, mainly because it ended up being on sale and much cheaper than buying other cottons to back it in. I'm not usually one to buy "themey" fabrics like that, but in this case it worked out. For the stripes in the middle of the front and all of the binding, I used a print that had stripes in pink, magenta, and red, and I like how it ended up looking like I pieced it when I didn't.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Morning sillies.

My sweet husband knows me all too well.

This morning he took the boys to breakfast so currently I'm enjoying a quiet, quiet, Q-U-I-E-T house. I decided to go in and steal the last of the chocolate cupcakes for breakfast.

Oh yeah, that's how I roll. I totally keep the last of any chocolate or sweets for myself. Selfish, I know. Bless their hearts, all my boys are used to it.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I opened up the container and found this little remnant.

Guess my sweet husband beat me to the punch...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thriving.

calla lily by valerie-in-wonderland
calla lily, a photo by valerie-in-wonderland on Flickr.

I'm not known for having a green thumb.

I'm trying to remedy that this summer, although I'm doing so on a very small scale with a few hanging ferns and a little container garden. So far, so good. (Except for the poppies which basically ditched me a couple of weeks ago. Seriously, they went from gorgeous one day to brown and all withered up the next. Guess they don't care for the crazy Oklahoma weather either.)

A month or so ago I noticed a little green poking it's head out of the flowerbed in the backyard, so I started watering it every day. I honestly thought it was more than likely another weed (the only thing I'm good at growing), so imagine my surprise when this little sprout turned into a ginormous plant with three gorgeous calla lily blooms.

Someone else obviously planted it, but as the flowerbed was very unkempt when we moved in, I hope they'd be tickled pink (or rather, a luscious deep purple) to see how she's faring now.

...and the back.

baby quilt back by valerie-in-wonderland
baby quilt back, a photo by valerie-in-wonderland on Flickr.

(Just in case you wanted to see the back.)

I wish you could see these pictures up close. The fabrics had lots of flowers, trees, and birds in them. Completely adorable. And I loved the chance to do one of my favorite color combinations -- pink and orange.

Happy babies...

use happy quilts!

This was a baby quilt I finished up a couple of weeks ago. The fabric is "Happier" by Deena Rutter. Pretty cute, no?

Normally my "go-to" method for a quick baby quilt includes strip piecing the front, but this time I had purchased a fat quarter set instead of 1/2 yard cuts, so I couldn't do that. On the fly I came up with my own version of a stacked coin quilt, and I'm pretty happy with it. I used all the leftover strips to make the binding which I rarely get to do, but I absolutely love the look of patchwork binding.

All-in-all a very cute and easy quilt. My only regret is snapping a quick photo with my smart phone instead of my fancy-schmancy camera. It was bright outside that day so the colors in the picture aren't near as vibrant as in real life.

See? I told you I've been cranking 'em out. I have so more quilt pictures to share once my husband gets the ol' iPhoto relaunched on my computer and I can download everything off my camera...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quilty-quilty.

plus quilt by valerie-in-wonderland
plus quilt, a photo by valerie-in-wonderland on Flickr.

I promise I've been making quilts. Lots of them actually, although they were all gifts. Except for this one -- it's all mine.

I started this one on our Tulsa Modern Quilt Guild quilting retreat last month, forever to be known as the "Rapture Retreat" as there was a good chance according to that old spook that we were all going to be raptured sometime that day. Awesome. Actually, it made for lots of funny jokes all day long.

This is a "plus quilt" top made mostly with fabrics from the "Farmdale" line by Alexander Henry along with a handful of random prints and solids thrown in for good measure. I followed a tutorial very loosely, making my own measurements up so I didn't waste too much of my fabric. It's a generous lap quilt size.

So now to pick out some backing and get this baby quilted before I procrastinate...

Best souvenir EVER.

shatto milk by valerie-in-wonderland
shatto milk, a photo by valerie-in-wonderland on Flickr.

Those that know me in life either already know or won't be surprised to know that I pretty much eat ice cream every day.

EVERY day, people.

It's my vice. But I don't smoke, drink (okay, I take that back -- I enjoy one or two margaritas a year), or drink pop, so I figure a little ice cream every day shouldn't hurt anyone.

Being such a lover of ice cream and most things dairy, there is a dairy farm in Missouri that holds my heart -- Shatto Milk Company. We took a tour of the dairy farm two Spring Break's ago and fell in love with their milk. Unfortunately for us, they don't deliver to anywhere outside of Missouri.

So it is now imperative to stop at a grocery store and load up whenever I am passing through Missouri. And this is exactly what we did. Two glass bottles of whole milk and three glass bottles of root beer milk later -- I am a happy, happy girl.

Root beer milk = perfection. It tastes just like a melted root beer float. And that, my friends, is the best vacation souvenir EVER.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Come and find me!




Just when you thought I'd probably never post again, I'm guest blogging today over at the RHOK.

That stands for REAL HOUSEWIVES OF OKLAHOMA.

Ha.

We don't need no stinking reality show here in the heartland. A website will suffice. And I'm pretty sure there is less silicone and less whining and more intelligence and hilarity than those dumb reality shows anyway.

So go check it out.

I've never been a guest blogger before, so this is exciting stuff, folks. Exciting stuff. Well, at least my friend Jonni Baloney thinks it must be exciting stuff since she asked me to guest blog. Bless her heart. If only she knew...'cause her own blog is seriously one of my faves. She keeps me in stitches with her hilarious stories.

In the meanwhile, stay tuned for some posts here next week regarding our little family's own personal National Lampoon's adventures.

Seriously, the Griswold's have nothing on us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meet "Dolly".

"Dolly" by valerie-in-wonderland
"Dolly", a photo by valerie-in-wonderland on Flickr.

What's summertime without a fun little project to work on? ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We interrupt this broadcast...

of normally sunshiney happy posts

to vent.

About how life sometimes sucks.

Yesterday was our ninth wedding anniversary.

(That part doesn't suck, just in case you were wondering.)

My husband was out of town on business.

One of the kids woke me up at 3am.

My husband was supposed to be in town by 11am so we could go to lunch together, sans kids, for our anniversary.

His flight was canceled.

The dog wasn't doing so well.

I began to wonder if the dog was going to make it.

My husband did come home yesterday afternoon, thank goodness.

The kids were not acting their best.

We had some homework issues that made me want to pull my hair out.

The dog continued to get worse.

My husband took the dog to the vet prepared for the worst, but was reassured by some young veterinarian that our dog would probably be feeling better in a few days. So he returned home with the dog.

I didn't know if I could make it much longer having to see our dog like that.

All day long I had already been on pins and needles over the dog.

So stressed.

Ten margaritas couldn't have calmed me down.

We went to dinner with the kids, not exactly what we had in mind for our anniversary.

But oh well, what is a ninth wedding anniversary without some good ol' fashioned reality thrown in, right?

We even drove the kids past our wedding venue on the way home from dinner. Who would've thought we'd end up living two blocks away from where we were married?

Throughout the night the dog continued downhill.

I couldn't sleep too well, aware of the inevitable.

This morning the kids (again) were not their best.

This morning more homework issues were discovered.

This morning attitudes were adjusted.

Unfortunately mine was not one of them.



This morning my husband had to take our beloved dog in to be put to sleep.



You'd think that the people (us) that had five dogs at once would be used to the loss of a dog since we just went through this approximately two years ago, but no. It doesn't get any easier. We're true animal people. You know the type -- even after having kids (of the human variety), our furry children never took much of a backseat. Think about it -- pets can't talk back, throw tantrums, etc. There's a lot of unconditional love going on when pets are involved, at least in our house. So I've done my fair share of crying already this morning. And it's going to take awhile to get used to the empty feelings in the house.

Tomorrow I have no doubt I will be back to my normal, glass-always-half-full mentality, pushing the rose-colored glasses I love back up on my nose. But today, I just need to vent.

And probably cry quite a bit more.

Thanks for letting me get that out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

G'morning, poppies.

G'morning, poppies. by valerie_fischer02
G'morning, poppies., a photo by valerie_fischer02 on Flickr.

I am bound and determined that this will be the summer my "black thumb" is no more. For several weeks now I've been purchasing plants, repotting plants, watering plants, talking to plants, etc., in the hopes that they might actually survive the summer. I haven't had too much luck with plants in the past, but dangit, this year will be different!

And boy howdy, do I ever love my poppies. I still need to repot them, but I've been babying them in the meanwhile, and I think they might stick around...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Seven weeks down.

Yeah.

So I didn't really mean to go AWOL there for so long. It's been almost a month since my last post. Yowza.

But then again, someone handed me two kids practically overnight, so I'd say that's a pretty good excuse for the last seven weeks.

For those of you wondering what our life is like now, here's the skinny. And I'm not going to sugarcoat it so you think my life is like the Donna Reed Show, all shiny and happy 100% of the time. (Are any of you out there in BlogLand like me -- honestly a tad sick of reading so many of these blogs where it looks like Martha Stewart threw up in their house, Mother Theresa was obviously their lifecoach, and every detail of their life is peachy keen with an extra cherry on top? Please tell me you haven't lumped my little ol' blog into that category. I'll have to slap you back to reality if that's the case, after you've come in my house, tripped over my messes in every room, and picked yourself up off my floor that hasn't had a good mopping in weeks.)

I'll be kickin' it to ya' Clint Eastwood-style...


The Good:

*All three brothas are still really getting along 95% of the time. To say they love each other is an understatement. They loooooooooooooove each other. This revelation has honestly blown all of our expectations out of the water.

*The transition, in terms of a typical state adoption of older kids, has been phenomenal and off-the-charts. Any person that would see our family on the streets would probably assume we'd been together forever, or at least I hope they would.

*We're two homestudies down towards the finalization of the adoption. (I think we've got four more to go.) Easy-peasy process so far.

*Three kids = three people to help with housework! ;)

*It's been pointed out to me that I'm a lucky woman having three boys because generally speaking, boys love their mama's quite fiercely. And so far, I think that's pretty true. I feel pretty loved most of the time.

*I love how well they've transitioned to our church, too. Going from once-or-twice a year attending church to every blessed Sunday can't be easy, but they seem to love it already, and we are thankful.

*Three boys + good weather = boys spending time playing outside & extra free time for the mama. God bless the backyard, the mini-penitentiary of my dreams.

*My husband has majorly stepped up in helping me. Although yes, they are with me more than my husband which means a good chunk of the responsibility is on my shoulders, he has not left me in the trenches by myself. When I discipline, he backs it up immediately. When I am tired and overwhelmed and it is apparent to all involved that I might need to step away to cool off for a moment or two, he immediately grabs the reins and takes over. He is a good example to all three boys in many ways, including making me feel special and making sure they understand they need to do the same for their mama. I am very blessed.

*For the most part, I am feeling more and more like their mama and not merely their legal guardian. As you can imagine, if someone handed you two children ages 5 and 10, it might take a little bit getting used to going from feeling like their new babysitter to feeling like their forever mama. We're closer to the "forever mama" end of the spectrum these days.

*I love school. Public education has afforded me 7-8 hours every day of peace and tranquility in my home while the boys are (hopefully) gaining some wisdom and knowledge, and I suppose a little bit of street smarts. And it's free.

*They're potty-trained. You may think that's a dumb thing to add to the "Good" list, but since potty-training was on my list of worst things ever, I am not taking it for granted. Ha!

*85% of the time I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.



The Bad:

*I'm tired. All the time. Ha. And I go to bed a lot earlier every night than I used to.

*Fourth-grade homework stinks. Bigtime. I am not a fan.

*Driving to two different schools every morning and every evening. Thank goodness that ends in another month.

*I've never seen so many pairs of jeans with holes in both knees. Which means I will never be buying so many pairs of jeans at Gap Kids again.

*Boys are messy. Dirty. Stinky. Gross. Take this times three. (Although I could also argue that these qualities make them so endearing all at the same time. Boys are truly a whole different species from girls, and it makes life fun at our house, that's for sure!)

*Let's just say that the new bathroom rule in our house is that everyone sits. I'm guessing you've caught on to this...

*Stepping on Legos with your bare feet -- good times.

*Three messy boys + one messy mama who is trying to reform her ways and be a better example = lots of work. Keeping the house picked up has never felt so daunting. I have a long ways to go before this is overcome.

*He said VERSUS He said VERSUS He said. This is the very reason I implemented Rule #1 in our house: no tattling whatsoever (unless, of course, someone is injured or in danger or about to be one of the two). If you tattle, all three of you will be in trouble. No question.
Best rule ever, by the way.

*Daily reminders to myself and the boys:
I am not a maid.
I am not a short-order cook.
I am not a dictionary/thesaurus/encyclopedia/Cliff's Notes for getting homework done. (I help, but I am not going to give you the answers right out. I'm here to guide you to solve your own homework, etc.)
I am not a referee (well, technically I am, but don't tell them that, as I am making them learn to work problems out themselves). I am not merely offering up suggestions, but rather I am telling you what to do. Yes, I am your parent.
I only have two hands. I cannot do ten things at once, so get in line.
I am new at this, and they don't come with instruction books. ;)
Although I may feel like it a lot, I am not the Fun-Sucker. (*see "The Ugly")
I don't have to listen to whining. (Here's the only other major rule that I've implemented from Day One. Rule #2: NO whining. Period. You whine, you lose a privilege. It's great.)

*10% of the time we look at each other and wonder what in the world we were thinking??? ;)



The Ugly:

*Did I mention fourth-grade homework?

*The middle name I jokingly gave myself years ago as a mama has definitely not been as much of a joke these last six weeks. As the chief disciplinarian (since the kids are with me more than my husband, but not to confuse since he also is a strong force in this area), I jokingly call myself "The Fun-Sucker" since it probably appears to my charges that I seem to suck the fun out of life when discipline comes into play. So take that times three now and you've got a mama that feels unfortunately like the uninvited guest at a party. I'm the Fun-Sucker a lot these days. Laying down the law, keepin' the peace -- I know I'm truly the good guy in all of this since it will make my children better citizens of the world (we hope), but I know to all three of my children that unfortunately more often than not, I'm appearing as the villain in their life story. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it...

*Fourth-grade attitude and stare-down's. I must admit, my eldest guy is not near as naughty as some of the other 10-year-old's out there, so this is pretty minor, but dang, when he does get in trouble, I'm not a fan of the attitude. Quite different from dealing with kindergarten attitude. But *we're* all working on it.

*Laundry. Oh heavens.

*Cooking for five. (Remember, eating out costs a heckuva lot more for our family than it used to, which means not only am I cooking for five now, but I am cooking much more often for five as well.)

*We will have a third driver in the family in five short years. Heaven help us.

*Time for sewing, quilting, blogging, TV-watching -- hmmmm, it's pretty much flown out the window. But the good news is it will be making a return soon. Slowly but surely I'm getting a grasp on this larger-family-business.

*Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime. You know what this means?

79 days of me + three boys.
Lots of togetherness.
LOTS of togetherness.
LOTS of TOGETHERNESS.
SEVENTY-NINE DAYS of TOGETHERNESS.
Dang, I've got to come up with some sort of a plan.

*5% of the time I've got my bags packed and ready to move to a convent in Europe somewhere...

So there you have it. Two not-so-perfect parents raising three not-so-perfect little boys but with the help of a perfect God, we're hoping to do a pretty decent job of it...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Good Samaritan

Are you familiar with the story in the Bible about the Good Samaritan? Here is the summary from Wikipedia:

According to the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) a Jewish traveler is beaten, robbed, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan comes by. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, but the Samaritan helps the injured Jew. Jesus is described as telling the parable in response to a question regarding the identity of the "neighbour" which Leviticus 19:18 says should be loved.

My oldest boy has been learning a song about the Good Samaritan, and we've been singing it over and over in the car. His children's choir at church is putting on a little musical next month, and he's already learned most of the music. I'm pretty proud.

Like the Good Samaritan if you care you can see a need
Like the Good Samaritan if you're there you can meet it
Like the Good Samaritan if you care you can change someone's life
So be there, care, share the love of Christ
*

Like I said, because we've been playing the CD in the car over and over for him to learn the music, our whole family has learned this song. It's got a catchy tune, simple lyrics, and the backup band is fun. But you know, if it really boils down to it, in the car is pretty much as far as that story has gone for me. I haven't exactly played it out in real life recently, ya' know?

I bet your city is a lot like mine where you see the occasional homeless person panhandling for money by the side of the road. You know the type -- cardboard sign asking for handouts. Our city unfortunately has been overrun with this, and although there are probably a few honest folks out there, for the most part it is a whole network of people that beg for money for their living. This means that most of the time I turn a blind eye, although on occasion, I've handed over a bill or a McDonald's gift card, knowing all the while that it might go to purchase alcohol instead of food, but just praying all the same that God would use my bill (or gift card) to bless them just the same.

And I bet your city is a lot like mine where you sometimes get approached by a person in a parking lot (especially downtown) asking for a handout. It's pretty common 'round here. I think I've actually become desensitized to the whole thing. And to tell the truth, we all know that it's really important to be on guard and safe and watch your surroundings in these situations.

All that to say, I honestly haven't been much of a good Samaritan lately. Not in the truest sense of the story, at least. And because I am so immersed in what is happening in my own little corner of the world, I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't even noticed this about myself. Until recently.

I'm married to a Good Samaritan.

He doesn't toot his own horn on things like this, but this is a story that has honestly really affected me and convicted me and inspired me all in the same fell swoop. Maybe you'll get something out of reading it as well.

A couple of months ago my husband came home to tell me about something he did that day. He was at Walgreen's to drop off a prescription, and out in front was a man (who appeared homeless) asking for help. The man wasn't specifically asking for handouts like we normally see, but for help. According to my husband, the guy was in his 30s, in a wheelchair, missing all of his teeth, and pretty darn shaggy in appearance. So obviously, people weren't lining up to help. And I'm ashamed to say I would probably fall into that category if I had seen him there**.

Like the Good Samaritan, if you care, you can see a need

My husband told me that he had a super busy day that day, and that he had no business stopping because of how much work he had to accomplish. But he said that he felt a very strong tug on his heart, that this man was placed in his path for a reason. Simple as that. So he stopped.

Like the Good Samaritan, when you're there, you can meet it

Long story short, the man shared with my husband his story of needing to get his prescription, but having no money because someone had just stolen his wallet. This was not the first time he had had money stolen. It has happened over and over to him. Being that he suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and is in a wheelchair, he is a target. Recently he even had his teeth stolen from him. Can you imagine? And there was one instance of his being beaten up so badly after being robbed that it actually made the local news. My husband later checked it out online and found out that the guy was telling him the truth.

On this particular afternoon, this man was not asking my husband for much, just help. My husband found out how much his prescription was for (I want to say it was super inexpensive, $5 or so), and after picking up the prescription, my husband drove him home. The man never asked him for extra money, etc. He just seemed extremely grateful and thankful to God that my husband stopped to help. He told my husband that he had sat there almost all morning with no one ever stopping even to ask. My husband was the first and only one after many hours.

Like the Good Samaritan, if you share you can change someone's life

From what my husband learned that day, this guy is trying to make it on his own. I don't know if you know much about MS, but it's quite the crippling disease. Apparently this man was a pretty normal healthy guy once, played basketball in high school even, but then MS started to take over his body. It got to the point where his mother was his primary caretaker, but at some point she moved here to our city with him, got tired of the responsibility, and left him here by himself. And I guess he's been on his own ever since. He obviously is getting help from the state to make his bills, but he tries to do everything he can on his own, like taking the bus to go grocery shopping, etc. He even told my husband that although he qualified for an electric wheelchair, he didn't ever want one because he would lose more muscle if he stopped having to use his body to propel his own chair. A guy just like many throughout the world -- dealt a tough blow and simply trying to survive, but dodging roadblocks and setbacks every step of the way. And all alone.

So be there, care, share the love of Christ

I was skeptical when my husband first told me he had stopped to help someone at Walgreen's. Just like any other wife, I didn't want him doing "something stupid" or being taken advantage of or worst-case-scenario, getting in an unsafe situation. But after hearing the full story, and especially the fact that we didn't hear back from the guy asking for more help or more handouts, I came to realize that this was a true blue Samaritan opportunity that thankfully my husband recognized and obeyed.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday -- my husband and I were about to have a rare lunch date and had plans to get some Chicago dogs from Sonic and eat them at the park. But he got a call about an hour before we were going to leave, picked it up, talked for a few minutes, hung up, and looked over at me. He had to cancel our lunch date.

To say I was a bit peeved and disappointed is the truth. But after hearing his story, all I felt was ashamed that I was honestly so selfish.

As you might have guessed by now, the phone call was from that guy. He hadn't contacted my husband since that day a couple of months ago, but this was a call from him asking for help. He was in the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia, and my husband's number was one of the only ones on his cell phone. In fact, when my husband went up to the hospital, the guy pretty much told him that he was his only friend.

I don't know about you, but I don't have just one friend. I'm not living without a single family member nearby. If I were to go to a hospital, there would be a long enough list of people that would be concerned, that would want to help, that would be praying for me and loving me.

But again, I was a bit skeptical thinking, here-we-go, now he's going to latch on to my husband, and my husband is going to take this on as his own personal charity case thinking he can save the world, blah blah blah. (Again, I'm just admitting my own faults here. At least I'm honest.) Thank heavens I don't wear the pants in this family. My husband went up to the hospital with his laptop in tow, and over the course of an hour or two, he got lots of information and set to work. One of the first things he did was call the Social Security office and get some things cleared up in the man's favor that had been mistakenly screwed up. He also was able to find out the deal from the doctors and nurses and extend the guy's stay a few more days until he is well enough to leave on his own. Being the savvy and well-connected businessman that he is, he made several calls and sent several emails to organizations in our city to help get the resources this man needs. My husband is such a caring guy that he even felt guilty about one thing: apparently the guy appeared to have a pretty bad cold or something when he helped him out that first time, and my husband was horrified it turned into pneumonia which landed the guy in the hospital. Somehow he felt that he should have recognized that as well and helped even more. What can I say? My husband is over and above a super compassionate guy. But the wild thing is the one request from the man that was so in-your-face-that-this-is-a-God-thing: he was told he needed a hospital bed. So the man was asking my husband if he knew how he could get a hospital bed donated or for a great low price.

Get this: just that morning, my husband had gone for a quick breakfast at his favorite diner a couple of miles from our house. He is one of the "regulars", so all of the waitstaff and many of the other regulars know him by name. One of his fellow regulars was chatting with him over coffee and asked him if he could take a look at a hospital bed he had, and if he thought he could sell it, find a person to use it, etc. He knew my husband is in the medical sales field. Although my husband does not deal in hospital beds, etc., he was nice and took the guy's name and number regardless to see if he could help him out since he does know quite a bit about that field.

Honestly???

My husband and I don't believe in luck or coincidence or any other explanation for something like this. This was all orchestrated by God, the One who cares for each and every one of us. Even if we don't have a single friend in the world, He cares and loves us more than anyone else in the world. He already had already anticipated this man's need, and He had already orchestrated the solution for that need. He just needed a willing Samaritan to obey and be used.

So my husband, who normally would have no idea about getting hospital beds, etc., immediately had a resource for this guy.

I'm sure this won't be where the story ends. It's our prayer that this man will not only heal from the pneumonia, but that God would work in his life, that God would continue to help provide the resources and support this man needs to survive, and that God would be glorified through it all.

I think we all could learn a little from my husband. It's time for me to take the blinders off, throw away the tunnel vision that I've been very comfortable wearing, and start listening to God and seeking out the opportunities He puts right in front of us. Now I'm not saying you need to go pick up the next homeless man you see on the side of the road, but if you'll just tune out the world and all of it's pressure for us to be self-focused and tune into God and how He wants us to be Christ-focused, it's amazing the opportunities you'll begin to recognize.

So be there, care, share the love of Christ.

**Music and lyrics by Kathie Hill and Melody Morris for "Donkey Tales", a "3-in-1" kids' musical

**Of course, being a male, it is obviously safer for my husband to step up in this situation than it would be for me, so I just wanted to stress to you all that I do understand the importance of being smart, being wise, and not putting yourself into a situation that would possibly be unsafe. I'm sharing this story simply in the hopes that we would all be reminded of God's call to live our lives like the Good Samaritan and that we would tune our hearts to be on the lookout for the opportunities God places in our path.