Friday, November 25, 2011

Nine and six days

'Tis the season of birthdays... and thanksgiving of course.  Which is why I'm already almost a week late with Alyssa's b-day post.  Well over half of our extended family member were born in the last third of the year, so lately it's been party after party.  In a rare departure from our family-only dinners of 30+, we also let our newly-minted nine-year old host her first-ever sleepover.  The giggles and whispers from a roomful of sweet little girls brought as much joy to this mama's heart as it did to the birthday girl herself.  Our biggest baby is clearly no longer a baby at all.  We have been so blessed through parenting the easiest infant, the softest-hearted toddler, the most-confident young school-girl, and the most beautiful, mature, nurturing young lady we've ever met.  She certainly has her flaws - the most noticeable being those that reflect the sins and nature of her mama - but even in light of those she is a joy.  Happy birthday babe! 

Monday, November 07, 2011

A few more cute kids...

Or rather, the same cute kids over and over again!  We accidentally showed up an hour early to our home school group's annual trip to the pumpkin farm - which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  The kids don't particularly like to pose for photos (with the exception of Alyssa who seems to like it a little too much), and they dislike it even more when there are friends around to play with.  A lack of such distractions meant that mama, children and camera all enjoyed the field trip! 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The obligatory costume post

Anyone who's on facebook is surely tired of such photos by now, but since this clearly is a blog for which the posting suits primarily me, here they are!  Themes are obviously a thing of the past.  Someone suggested we might have been going for a past, present, future theme; it was really more about what was in the closet and what was in stock at Goodwill.  The exception of course is Alyssa's outfit which was lovingly fabricated by her grandma and reflects her current fascination with prairie girls (not homeschooling conventions).   Over the past 5 days we've attended no less than 4 carnival-type events, so we have had more than our fair share of cotton candy, dunk tanks, bounce houses, kettle corn, face-painting and everything else fun and fall-ish.  Last night the kids came home with over 17 pounds of candy!  They choose about 9 pounds worth of "favorites" and we took the rest to a candy exchange program at a local dentist (if I could remember which of you bloggy friends first mentioned this I'd give you credit!).  The kids received cash, bags of sugarless treats, and the opportunity to thank many of our service men and women (in person and via thank you notes) in exchange for their less-loved sweets, which will soon be shipped to our military personnel overseas.  It was a really fun way for them to give a little of what they got.  So how about you?  Do you have any great ideas for dealing with the mountains of candy?  Were your kids any cuter than mine?  I hereby give you permission to continue to fill up the blogging world and facebook with scores of costumed kiddos.   

Monday, October 24, 2011


Here's taking a little break from my unexpected and unexplainable blogging hiatus to honor my new favorite 5 year-old!  Though I wasn't in Vietnam to celebrate Reagan's birth in 2006, our hearts rejoice every day for the gift God gave us through a woman who chose life for her baby girl.  We have been indescribably blessed by our "little one" who is still oh-so-petite in stature but is becoming quite a little lady.  She is undoubtedly the most generous child I've ever known.  When we asked her what she wanted for her birthday she said she'd have to check with Alyssa and Parker to see what they would like so she could share.  She routinely asks if she can be last and is always giving up her seat, toys and treats to anyone who asks - or even just shows interest!  But lest anyone try to take advantage of her sweetness or her size, she also has backbone in spades.  Reagan's not afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right or defend herself against an overpowering sibling or two.  She's enjoying kindergarten, making some dear little friends, gaining confidence and winning our hearts over again every day. 
When I think back to all the people in Vietnam that told us what a lucky baby she was, I wish I could go back and convince them that the blessing has truly been ours.  Happy Birthday baby girl!   

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Summer flashback

School, and most other fall activities, are back in full swing, so it doesn't really feel like summer anymore (aside from the 100-degree temps that is), but recalling our last beach hurrah with friends makes it seem not quite so far away.  To be honest, it was also our first beach hurrah this summer.  I know, I'm a terrible mother.  We live less than an hour from the most magnificent of oceans, but we rarely wet our toes in its saltiness.  Seeing how much the kids enjoyed it makes me want to go more, but then the sand... oh the sand!  It's everywhere.  It's still everywhere!  And then I relive the joy on these faces and wonder if it might be worth it...          

This is probably my favorite picture of the summer.  I was really only trying to get a shot of Reagan, but ended up with all three of my favorite children, with each of their personalities on full display.  Reagan, as always, is contentedly fetching water for her own little sand creation, blissfully unaware of the water dribbling out of the enormous gap in the side of her bucket.  Just boogie boarding isn't daring enough for Parker.  He has to throw his own little twist into the sport, neverminding the potential for injury.  And Alyssa, ever the rule-follower, is here in the background with a sweet friend, enjoying the toys and water in the way they were intended to be used.  Every once in a while my camera actually catches more than I was hoping for!  This photo makes me smile every time I see it.   

Monday, August 22, 2011

First day!

Oh wait... that was last Monday. Needless to say, our first week back to full-time homeschool has been full! The kids have started to wrap their minds around the fact that we really do have to do this every day, and I've started out working out a new routine that now includes three grades. Reagan's an official student so if not for the joy of homeschooling I'd be all by myself for most of the day, most days. Though I never dreamt this would be the path God would lead us down, I'm abundantly grateful I don't have to say good-bye to these sweet faces each weekday morning! Wouldn't you agree they're worth being "tied down" to? 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Funny faces

What do mama and the little kids do when Alyssa gets invited to a sleepover?  Head over to Chick-fil-A of course!  We're not ones to pass up free food, bounce houses, face painting, Dig It! or a beautiful summer evening if we can help it.  Somebody remind me what we did on Tuesday nights before they came to town...  Wow, that sounds a bit pathetic.  Life is good, but clearly my definition of fun has changed a little since becoming the mother of grade-schoolers.  Somebody please tell me I'm not the only one whose social calender revolves around a fast food joint!  And then tell me if these aren't two of the sweetest painted faces you've ever seen:

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Fair Fun

Some of my favorite memories as a kid are from county fairs. Really, does anyone have bad memories from the fair? How can you not have a good time when you're surrounded by fried everything, pony rides, enthusiastic Cutco demonstrators and three week-old beribboned baked goods? We're trying to carry on the tradition with our kids via the "Country Fair with Ocean Air," so Friday we spent the day mutton bustin', stuffing ourselves full of funnel cake, cheering on the racing pigs, and trying to pretend we know a little more about livestock than our children.  

Monday, August 01, 2011

Alyssa's Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Alyssa is a helper.  There's nothing the girl seems to love more than finding things to clean, set in order, fetch, create and schedule.  At times it's quite frightening just how much she's like her mother in this regard.  We're constantly reminding her that she is not, in fact, a mother, nor is she in charge.  But it is more often a joy to see the little lady she's becoming... and to have a little help.  Saturday night we had guests for dinner and I was late getting everything put together.  When my s'mores idea fizzled due to a lack of wood for the fire pit, Alyssa volunteered to make dessert.  She's assisted with this favorite cake a few times before, but this time she did the measuring, dumping and stirring all on her own.  I believe the original recipe came from my sister's MIL so here's giving Debbie credit where it's due, but in our house this will now be Alyssa's Sour Cream Chocolate Cake.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we all did!
1 cup sour cream
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 box yellow cake mix "with pudding in the box"
1 large box instant chocolate fudge pudding
12 oz bag (2 cups) chocolate chips
1/2 cup hot water
Combine all ingredients.  Bake at 350 for 50 minutes in buttered bundt pan, or until edges are darker brown and top is puffy but not completely dry.  We like it slightly under-done in our house, so don't expect a toothpick to come out clean. 
Serve with vanilla ice cream for an especially delicious (and caloric) treat!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm back?

So I guess I was on a blogging break.  We didn’t go anywhere, we haven’t done much of anything, and nothing’s wrong.  I guess there’s just something about summer that makes me want to sit down with a good book and a lot of Diet Coke and watch the kids be kids.  All three are very comfortable in the pool, and even though Reagan usually looks like she’s drowning, it’s just that she so badly wants to be able to touch the bottom and keeps bopping down to pretend like she’s more than 3 feet tall.  No one even asks me to swim anymore so I really do get a break when they’re in the water.  In the evenings, which have been remarkably pleasant due to our rather mild summer weather (sorry to all of you in the East!), we’ve been doing a lot of bike riding.  By “we,” I do of course mean “them.”  Aside from helping Reagan perfect her training-wheel-less skills and nursing the occasional scrape, I’ve been free to immerse myself in thousands of pages of Christian novel goodness (with some real meat thrown in for actual growth).  On the weekends we’ve had oodles of guests, which reflect one the things I love most about our home:   We have plenty of room to host people for dinner or overnight, whether it’s just one guest or 30.  We actually try to not go out of town in the summer, partly to avoid the crowds wherever it is we’re going, but mostly so we can enjoy our friends and family here, where this relaxed, summer pace of life allows us to swim together, roast smores over the fire-pit together, or just sit around talking into the dark.  Blogging just hasn’t seemed all that important.  And as you can see, there hasn’t been that much to blog about.  I haven’t even taken pictures this month!  I hope to get back into blogging with somewhat more regularity, but no promises.  I trust you all are enjoying your summer too and have also been too busy doing nothing to miss me at all!   

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Something new

So my sister has always wanted to be a stylist.  Stacy London has her dream job.  To be fair, she really is a stylist: to me, to Danny (at least as far as settling disputes about what he really can't wear), to our parents, and to her many friends who schedule shopping dates before any big event.  Anything even remotely cute or trendy in my closet was either purchased for me by Sarah or handed down to me from Sarah (no, I really don't have any shame in pawing through her left-overs... they're cute, and free!).  She just has a knack for putting outfits and accessories together in a way that looks beautiful yet somewhat unexpected.   A few months ago she approached me about a way to convert that talent into a little extra money... presumably for buying more of those darling clothes I'll someday inherit!  I played around with my friend Blogger for a while, and this is what we came up with:  Daily Style.  Basically, its a way to get Sarah to do all your clothes shopping for you.  Complete an easy questionnaire and she'll tell you where to buy and how to put together pieces that will complement your body and your style.  Danny still doesn't get it... do you?  I've explained the premise in a little more detail here, but please let me know if it's still a confusing mess!  As a way to say "thank you" to our real life and bloggy friends for checking us out, our first customers will get 3 virtual outfits for $20... as well as our undying gratitude for preventing this thing from being a total flop.  Thanks =). 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A little more Malawi

In case you haven't had enough... a few more photos of our
life-changing journey to Malawi:
Lake Malawi.  According to all-knowing Wikipedia, it's the 8th largest lake in the world and the habitat of more species of fish than those of any other body of freshwater on Earth.  To us it was just a relaxing retreat away from the craziness we'd faced in the preceeding week.
The best travelling companions anyone could ask for, my parents,
and further evidence of God's grace towards Danny and I.

If this bridge doesn't look rickety enough from the top...

... take a look underneath!  Believe it or not they have to rebuild
these each year after the rains come. 

Those seasonal rains started while we were there, bringing with them a much-anticipated feast from the Lord:  flying termites!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Birthday boy

As of midnight, my favorite 6 year-old will magically transform into my favorite 7 year-old... for at least the next year.  If joy and enthusiasm were ever bundled up into a cuter package, I would like to see it.  I'm sure most mamas think God saved the very best for them, but I know I am the most blessed.  And though all my children are (usually) a joy to parent, Parker is especially skilled at making me laugh.  His antics sometimes get him in trouble... and sometimes land him in the pool fully clothed, as happend here when kite flying occuppied a little too much of his attention.  Mostly, they just make me want to scoop him up and give him a kiss... which he still happily lets me do.  Happy Birthday bud! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Picture Perfect: Black and White

It's a good thing my bloggy friend Nancy keeps having (very amateur) photography contests or I'd be left with nothing to blog about at all.  This month's theme is Black and White, and if I my skills are limited in color, they are undoubtedly even more limited in B&W.  I do however love this shot of Parker - the mischief behind those eyes and the lashes that never end.  That boy never fails to make me smile!  Head on over to Ordinary Miracles & the Crazy 8 if you'd like to play too...

Picture {Perfect}

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Be still my cherry-loving heart

There aren’t too many culinary delights that exceed the joy of fresh cherries.  What I didn’t realize until today was how that joy would be multiplied when the fruit made its way directly from tree to mouth.  The kids, my nephew, my mom and I took a little road-trip to a local orchard for our first picking experience.  Needless to say the fruit was delightful, and watching the kids made it even more fun.  They scouted out the ripest cherries and sampled some from each tree to make sure they were sweet enough.  They were.  We got so carried away in the excitement that we came home with almost fifteen pounds of treasure.  Good thing we have a birthday party coming up with lots of cherry- and (Parker-) loving  friends to share them with!

Monday, June 13, 2011

We had FUN in Malawi too!

Though we certainly experienced our fair share of heartache while we in Malawi (the Whole Story begins here), we actually had fun too.  A trip to Africa would make many Americans’ bucket list, but it’s unlikely we would ever have taken the time away from our children, or the money, to go there if not for an adoption.  You all have borne with me through the sad parts of our saga, so I thought it was only appropriate to share our more joyful moments as well. 
These first photos are from what will remain my most memorable of birthdays.  Our dear friend Kondi took us to a village just minutes outside the capital city of Lilongwe.  It’s just a quick drive, and not much longer walk, to a developing, urban environment, yet most of the children – even teenagers – have never left their village, and very rarely seen “uzungus” (“white people” in Chichewa) like us.  If our skin alone wasn’t enough of a novelty, the soap, rice and candy we brought along made us instant hits.  The chief gave us a tour of his home, the villagers sat us down in their nicest (only?) plastic chairs, and the children all gathered to sing a number of their favorite songs.  They especially enjoyed seeing themselves on our cameras’ LCD screens, and patiently waited in line for their share of the Tootsie Rolls.  Everyone there was impoverished by our standards (some of the children even had the orangey hair of the malnourished), but were remarkably hospitable, kind and happy.  On that particular day I was feeling rather sorry for myself that I couldn’t be home with our children, and was struck with the realization that I’ve never once had to worry about getting them enough to eat.  I was humbled by the thought of all that I choose to complain about when I truly have so very much.