Monday, December 8, 2014

Making writing a priority

Writing is difficult. Good writing is even harder. It's the most difficult part of our school day. Shhh...sometimes it gets skipped altogether.

Getting started seems to be the key. Setting aside time is not enough. Physical or mental tiredness prevents me from writing, even when I have the time to sit and think.

Today I have changed up our schedule to make writing a priority. The first 30 minutes of the school day will be devoted to writing. The kids are fresh, the day is new, and I am here to sit on them if I need to!

We used to work on math first. It's my highest priority for the kids and my favorite subject. I have to be the grownup though. We gotta take our medicine first thing and get that awful writing done.

I'm assigning 30 minutes of writing to myself as well. Let's see how this goes...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My God Groove.

I'm enjoying this advent season quite a bit! After a busy and stress filled summer and fall, I have found a groove where I can do my best and let God handle the rest. My God groove.

There is a local radio station that plays all Christmas music, all the time, during this season...but I can't handle hearing WHAM! and Mariah Carey over and over again. A quick search turned up CBN's streaming Christmas radio station. What a breath of fresh air! Really beautiful and meaningful Christmas music that I don't have to explain to my children. Ha!

One of the most stressful parts of my life involves managing the Project TLC caregiving program. I feel such a huge responsibility to the children. Meeting them and hearing the stories of how their lives are being changed had cemented my resolve to help them in every way possible. Every month, by the grace of God, we seem to scrape up the funds needed to continue.

God loves these kids...more and better than I do! How do I know when I have done enough for them? Can I give just a little more? Try a little harder? It's difficult to keep myself in check.

I'm finding peace and perspective in my Christmas music. Today I'm meditating on Oh, Holy Night. One verse proclaims:

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease. 

Get that? Jesus will free the captives...not only you and I, captives to sin but ALSO the locked up and abused children. In HIS name ALL oppression shall cease to exist!! This is such wonderful news!! Ponder it!!

No, Christmas hymns are not scripture, but they echo Isaiah 61:1.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners..."

Jesus is responsible, He's got a plan. We can't do anything on our own anyway. Let us get on His team, give our best and let him do the heavy lifting...get in a God groove today.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Well, it's October again! It's the BEST month of the year, in my opinion. I just LOVE crisp fall weather, the changing leaves and BIG pots of chili! If you have been here awhile, you might know that October is Down Syndrome awareness month. It's no accident that DS Awareness month happens during the BEST month of the year.

I am not going to even pretend that I will be able to complete the 31 For 21 blog challenge of blogging every single day this month. I've already missed day 1 and 2!! Who knows, though...maybe I'll surprise myself...

If you want to join the party, the 31 For 21 challenge is being hosted by Michelle at Big Blueberry Eyes. Head over there to sign up for the challenge or just to find some new blogs to read. 

Happy October!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Survived the summer

The days are suddenly comfortable. The nights are becoming crisp. We made it through the summer. We survived!!

I'm not sure where they came from, there are no bodies of water close-by, a little tribe of frogs has moved in to the flowerless flower bed in front of the house. We've had toads before, but frogs are entirely new. One must be cautious when walking from the driveway to the front door. Daredevil froggies hop from the grass, across the sidewalk and into the flowerbed to hide. Yes, I have stepped on one barefoot. Ick! I won't tell you about what happens when we mow.

Now that the children are back in school, I have more time to devote to household chores and to running Project TLC. One would think, right? One major challenge is that we have children that attend two different school districts with entirely different school calendars. Last week, for instance, one district had no school on Monday while the other district had no school on Friday. Since our home school district belongs to a special education co-op with seven other school districts, they can place our children in any of the seven districts and I have no say in the matter.

How are the kids?

Well, these two are just crazy about each other. They have SO much fun together. The level of total and complete acceptance between them takes my breath away. Oh, and Supergirl/Superman? Tomato/ To-mah-to.

We said farewell to Wes just a few weeks ago. He is on TREK, a mission and discipleship program for the next 10 months. He will be assigned to an international location soon, but we don't know where he is going yet! Yikes!

Guess what? Ralph can climb like a spider monkey. Fast and high! He recently needed to be rescued by some friends. He was actually on the very top of this structure, but mom was freaking out and standing under him, just in case, instead of taking photos!

Ruby is just a neat kid. She has a special "thing" with Max, too. Doesn't Max look great? He's learning and growing like a weed. He meets the bar when it's set high so we have to remember to keep pushing and encouraging him.

Oh goodness, our Chip has left for college! So far, he is loving it. But, the weather is getting colder and he doesn't have a car. He is riding his bike to work early in the morning and I worry about him.

Theo is just a nut. His newest obsession in the piano. He learned how to open it up and has spent a lot of time banging on it like crazy. However, this morning I noticed him playing with one finger, very carefully. Maybe he's tired of banging. Or maybe he got it all out of his system. Maybe he's just ready to make some music?

Zhen got new glasses!! We really like these Centrostyle frames. They stay on his face securely without a strap. Only problem is that he has already scratched his bifocal lens. Ugh. This boy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A bright spot!

Lately I find myself wishing away the summer. It's too hot for the littles to play outside. Even if it weren't, it's too buggy, or they eat gravel and grass and rubber mulch. There is too much TV, too much laying around, too much crying, too much bickering. You might say that our days are full...of the wrong stuff. Why can't we have three months of vacation in the fall when the weather is tolerable?

I'm so thankful for the little bright spots in our otherwise boring and lazy summer. With twelve children, we can always find something to celebrate! Here is the bright spot for today...

I almost can't believe what I saw this morning. If you have followed us for awhile, you might know about Max and his struggles to eat and drink. WHY do children raised in institutional settings have feeding issues? This is SO basic. I believe it demonstrates that even basic care isn't basic enough. Anyhow...

Getting Max to drink has been the biggest challenge. Initially, he would only accept liquid from a spoon. And then he had developed a way of tipping his head back and swallowing without closing his mouth. Like a baby bird. Can you imagine how labor intensive that was?

I brought him juice boxes a few times while we were still just visiting. I'm not sure what they did to him there, but the mere sight of a straw provoked an anxiety attack. For the past year he has used a sippy cup without the stopper. It allowed him to stay hydrated, but also allowed him to dump out water and play in it. Great fun, eh?! 

A few months ago, I put the stopper into the cup to see how he would do. Sure enough, he figured out how to suck enough to get the water out! I would offer him a straw from time to time. I would let him SEE me using one. Sometimes I would just leave a straw on the table where he could see it.

Even though I knew Max was making slow progress, I was FLOORED today when his speech theraptist told me he drank from a straw today. She was shocked, too! He just DID it. He wasn't coaxed or convinced, He just took the cup and drank.

When Max came out to the waiting room, I got a demonstration...and photographic proof that it happened!!

We still have lots of work to do, and another four boring weeks of summer, but today we are celebrating Max, his determination, and his new skills. What are you celebrating today?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Adventures with clearance rack peppers.

I love shopping sales, couponing (don't forget to join my Ibotta team here:  and clearance racks. The other day I found this lovely bag of peppers for just $0.99. We used a few for salads and burritos but there was no way we could eat them all. I sat and looked at them for awhile...pondering what to make.

Oven roasting them was a possibity. I looked up the instructions and wasn't feelin' it.

Then is hit me. Jelly. Yessss...warm, spicy pepper jelly would be FUN!!

I cleaned up the peppers, seeding most of them. Some seeds were left in the mix for a little extra warmth. All the little beauties went into the blender with a cup of apple cider vinegar. I used a half cup of leftover lime juice that I used for Independence Day limades and a half cup of lemon juice. Six cups of sugar and three packages of pectin round out the ingredients. 

So easy! Except that I was multitasking when the mixture started to boil...and yep, my syrup boiled over bigtime. The whole house smelled like peppers and burnt sugar! The inside of my nose felt a little offended. Not hurt, or burnt, but as if I wasn't really supposed to be breathing those kind of fumes.

Even though I made a huge mess, and stayed up way too late, the end result was super tasty...and beautiful! Perfect on buttered toast, cream cheese and crackers, or even just used for dipping pretzels! I'll be scouting that produce clearance rack for more peppers. Maybe I can make enough for Christmas presents!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day

We had a great Indepence Day, how about you? It's always a fun time for our family as we have a couple of 4th of July birthdays. This little boy was a real firecracker from the start!

Now he's all grown up and getting married this fall. 

We had a turkey dinner yesterday instead of a typical American cookout. I'm on a "let's clean out the freezer" project. We are keeping food costs down, and cleaning the freezer out in preparation for hunting season. It felt a lot like Thanksgiving...very appropriate for Independendce day, don't you think? 

After our cake and ice cream, we took everyone out front for fireworks. This is really Max's first Independence Day celebration. Last year he was a tiny little ball of anxiety, so he stayed in the house and went to bed early. 

This year, Max started off much the same when the fireworks started. He was screaming and clawing at me, trying to hide his face in my neck. However, I know him a little better now. This boy gets high on drama. And while the anxety was real, I could tell that he wanted to like what was going on. So I pushed him to participate. I showed him how to cover his ears, which he refused to do. I would help him clap after each showy piece of pyro-splendor. 

Before long Max was clapping on his own. He relaxed a bit and sat in front of me instead of holding me in a clingy death grip. Then our neighbors brought out the big stuff. It's impossible not to wonder how much money they spent, but we sure did enjoy their show. Max was not as appreciative though and started his freaking out once again.

I'll never forget the sweetness that I witnessed at that point. Ruby reached out to Max...covered his ears with her hands...and locked eyes with him. "It's ok,'s ok," she said to him. The only photo of this moment in the one in my mine. It's enough.

I am so blessed. I can't even comprehend it. 

Hope you had a happy Independence Day, too!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Ways to Save

Sorry if this looks like advertising, but I am excited about a new way to coupon. It's new to me, anyway. I'm sure lots of my friends have known about Ibotta for awhile now. I just have one question for those friends...why didn't you tell me about this sooner??

So what is Ibotta? It's a rebate app for Apple and Android. You use the app to unlock rebates for specific items available at specific stores in your area. To unlock the rebates, you may be asked to answer a poll, a quiz, watch a short video, or just read a snippet of information. Easy stuff. 

Then you go out an purchase the items you have unlocked. Some items are things you buy all the time, like milk. Other items are new to the market and have large rebates to encourage you to give them a try. When the rebates match up with a sale, you can save even more. Ibotta also offers bonuses to redeem certain sets of rebates.

For example, I bought the Dial bar soap on sale for $1 and earned a $1 rebate. I bought the Dial body wash on sale for $2.99 and earned a $1 rebate. Then I earned a $1 bonus for redeeming two Dial rebates this week. My net cost for both items was $0.99! 

Ibotta rebates can be used in conjuntion with coupons. I have Ziploc coupons that I've been saving. There is a $2.50 off two Ibotta rebate for Ziploc bags this week so it's time to use those coupons and get the Ziploc bags I need for our back to school supply lists that are coming out soon.

The rebate funds go into an account. You can cash out when you reach $5 or more. If you want to give Ibotta a try click this link: You'll get an extra $1 bonus if you redeem your first rebate within 10 days. 

Join me on Ibotta and learn new ways to save!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fix your glasses. Fix your glasses. Fix...

So this is one of the things that is driving me batty these days. The Miraflex frames were a lifesaver for us, but they are just not doing the job for Zhen anymore.

Here is what I see 90% of the time when I look at Zhen.

This is what I say a b-jillion times each day.

What other types of indestructible frames are available? The strap is a must. The flexibility is a plus. These frames are in pretty good shape considering the abuse they have taken. Who has ideas for me?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer school!

It's the end of June, school has been out for about six weeks, and we are starting to settle into a summertime routine! It's funny because six weeks from now, school will start again and we will be trying to find a new routine. I spend a lot of time wishing for a new, and easier, season to arrive. But, of course, each season has it's own unique challenges. I should know that by now, right? A few weeks ago, I got to take a mini-vacation...a complete break from the challenges at home. Hanging out in California was just the recipe for recharging these old batteries. While I was there, I was blessed to accompany my future daughter in her quest to find THE dress. It was a great day, full of anticipation, excitement, disappointments and ultimate victory! So much more to do before the wedding in November... Back home, I had to learn how to get the three little Amerikrainians out of bed, pottied, dressed, fed and on the bus for summer school by 7:45am each morning. It's like a mini-marathon! But, it's doable. I have until noon to get things done around the house, but really, I feel like going back to bed once I'm done getting those boys ready to go! It's worth the trouble though. Max, Theo and Zhen are loving school...loving life. I thank God for the privilege of caring for them.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Not giving up...

II have been too heartbroken to write for awhile. What do I have to say that anyone wants to hear anyway?

People who were dear to me have turned their backs, removed me from their lives. My friend's cherished little boy died in his sleep. Another friend's baby boy has very serious heart problems including a surgery that didn't go as planned. I have Ukrainian friends who are separated from their family and home in Crimea, perhaps for good. I have children I care for in Crimea, children that I have watched and prayed over for years, who suddenly have no hope of ever having a family. I have witnessed adoptive families threatening each other, turning their backs, slandering each other and worse.

It all makes me want to hide under the bed covers. Tell me when it's over...

But then the darkness wins, doesn't it.

Even though I may be doing this wrong, or even badly, something in me won't give up. Enjoy some photos from the past few weeks...

For a few blessed days, all my children were under the same roof!

Oh my...look who found some scissors!

I let some school supplies slip through my fingers in the chaos of the end of the school year. 

Max has discovered the joy of sprinklers.

Richy spent a few weeks with us...and has inspired a future javelin thrower...

Pizza on the front porch, with your best friend. Priceless!

Just enough room on the front porch for the baby pool. Pure joy for these water obsessed boys. 

We are down a bed tent. Looking at all options to keep the little boys safe. 

Daddy let her have a blue drink and blue candy. Spoiled, I tell you. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ralph can sing!

These friends in every possible way! 

We attend worship services as a family every week. The kids sit with us. Every week. When everyone stands, we all stand. When everyone sits, we all sit. When everyone sings, well...

Ralph likes music, but he isn't crazy about it. If you play something thumping, he might dance. When I sign, "time to sing," he says "no!"

Until last Sunday. I caught him singing! I told him, "awesome job, singing!" He smiled. Will he sing next week? Probably not! I can hope though, right?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ripping seams

There is a very special boy who has just been adopted from Ukraine and is coming home to the USA today. He was once Theo's roommate and was the last orphan to get out of Crimea. His passport didn't make it out though, so that caused a big delay.

I'm working on a comfy, raggy quilt for him. I just put the last piece together and spread it out to take a look. Oops. It's all wrong. If I had looked more closely at this photo I took yesterday when I was getting started I would have seen it. The strip on the left is upside down. 

Out comes the seam ripper. It's got to be right. After years of ripped and patched sheets, communal clothing and no one to give a hoot, he's getting a well done blanket. It's not nearly perfect, my old sewing maching is giving me fits, but it's got to be my best. 

What does your Sunday afternoon look like?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

FB made me a lazy blogger...

Last week I heard from a friend, a dear friend, a really grown-up friend who is taking a break from Facebook. She said she would be keeping up with me through this blog. Ouch!

Let's face it, FB has made me a lazy blogger. 

FB is a great tool for connecting. I have contacts all over the world that I interact with daily. I get instant feedback and validation. I get a lot of work done but it can be like a drug!

Here I feel like I'm writing to a big empty space. I see that there are page views but rarely get comments. NOT complaining! It's just a different experience and I got sucked into the quick-fix, easy feedback world of FB. 

My spring resolution, in honor of my sweet friend, is to keep a better blog. I can make spring resolutions, can't I?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Comfort Food

We are expecting snow today. The sky is heavy gray. It's the perfect morning for some comfort food...biscuits and gravy!

I can't believe I have never really been intentional about the way to make B&G. This morning I found myself pondering which to start with first. If I try to make both at the same time, something would definitely get scorched!

I thought for a few minutes and it suddenly made sense. I prepared the biscuits first and I let them sit while I make the gravy. It gives the baking powder a little extra time to get started and I get fluffier biscuits. I sometimes make drop biscuits, but I almost never regret the extra work it takes to knead and cut them. Who doesn't love all those yummy layers?!

Lately, I have been using this recipe:

I use half butter, half coconut oil in place of the shortening. I also use half unbleached white and half whole wheat flour. 

For the gravy, I use 1 pound of Jimmy Dean sausage. You can use less if you are cooking for fewer people. It's easy to adjust on the fly. I add a little coconut oil to the crumbled, browned sausage because the Jimmy Dean is not too fatty. Dump some white four into your greasy meat and stir. Keep adding flour until the oil is completely absorbed and then add a tablespoon or so more. Pour milk over your meat/flour mix. It's great, and quicker, if your milk is at room temp. (Quick, throw those biscuits into the oven now)

Stir and stir and stir while you bring your gravy to a boil. Don't walk away!! Season with salt and lots of pepper. I like to use poultry seasoning or sage and thyme also. My boys like eggs cooked over-easy on top of their B&G. The biscuits (I make mini sized ones) and gravy disappeared almost faster than I could get a photo!

We really enjoy comfort food on snowy days like today. What is your favorite snow-day comfort food?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

One Year Later

One year ago today I carried my Maximus out of the orphanage he called home. He has blended into our family with apparent ease!

He has his quirks, like any other person in the world...but...

He is obsessed with water.

And you know what? Zhen is obsessed with water.

And Theo is obsessed with water.

What is up with that?

Last week I watched a video about Engedi, an oasis on this western side of the Dead Sea, located on the edge of the Judean Wilderness. The wilderness is dusty, desolate and lonely. Tucked in an unlikely corner of this wasteland, the waters of Engedi pour out of the rocks, creating a lush little piece of paradise.

In the Bible, when the water pours from a spring or a fountain like Engedi, it's called "living" water, as opposed to water from a cistern, or storage reservoir. Living water is life giving, cold and refreshing. Water that's been sitting around is not cold, not refreshing, and who knows what's been floating or swimming in it.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.  Jer. 2:13

Water is so powerful. It is essential for life and well being. Without it we die. I consider my boys' time in the orphanage as time in the desert. They were barely sustained. They were literally and purposely dehydrated by the people in charge of their care. Less pee = fewer diapers. My boys are non-verbal, but just today I heard from a mom of another un-orphan who is verbal. This is what the child told his mom, "I was very thirsty in Ukraine. Nobody wanted me to have wet mouth. It was hard." They were sustained by a broken system/cistern that could not hold water but they knew nothing else.

They knew no "living" water. be continued.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snow Day!!

Ralph and the whole crew are rocking this house today!! All is serene and lovely outside, but inside is a different story! It's loud. Boistrous. A little on the crazy side.

Many of our neighbors hit the store for bread and milk last night. We have been baking out own bread for over a month now, so I knew we would be ok as long as we had flour on hand. I've got two loaves of sourdough raising for supper tonight. It will go great with a big pot of potato soup, AKA heaven in a bowl!

Since I have all the children at home today, I think we will work on cleaning up the basement. It's not pretty, but working up an appetite never hurt anyone.

In other news, we have baby kittens! Look at that sweet little orange kitty. The other is gray, with a vanila splash across the forehead. I'll get some better photos when they get a little bigger, but I need to think about finding homes for these two little peanuts. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Do Something Worth Writing

Among lots of other things, Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

I haven't been writing much, so I guess I'm supposed to be doing the latter. 

My days lately have been filled to overflowing with homeschooling, cooking from scratch, laundry, diapers, more cooking. Is that worth writing about? Maybe...

But I know someone who IS doing something worth writing about. So I'll write about her.

Since early in December, my friend and Project TLC partner, Shelly, has been in Eastern Europe on a mission to adopt four children. It's been a tough road, with inexplicable roadblocks littered along the way including being told she would not be able to adopt the children she had grown to love and worked so hard to reach, but must adopt four different children or none at all. You can read all about it HERE.

Being a strong orphan advocate and experienced adoptive mom, Shelly was not about to go home empty handed. The Lord directed her to four darling little boys who might not have been discovered otherwise. Boys whose ultimate potential in their culture would have been realized in a mental institution. Finally, a ray of sunshine! Court is scheduled this week and she'll be bringing the new boys home to her family after a short waiting period.

With an extended period of time in country, funds for returning home have become an issue. Many of the costs associated with adoption in this country are on the back end. Medical appointments, immigration visas, plane tickets. Right now, Shelly is about $4000 short to get the kids home.

I'm so happy to call Shelly my friend. I love to hang out with people who are willing to do the hard things, the right things, the sacrificial things. After she gets home with the boys, I'll have some fun things to share about her adoption...sweet little threads of God's goodness. But until then, please help us raise the final bit of ransom to get these kids home!

A donor has offered a $100 Target gift drawing for all donations over $25. I'll draw a name from donations under $25 to receive a hardcover copy of The Boy from Baby House 10. Go here to donate and check on progress: 

Thank you!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tightening the Belt

We really had a nice Christmas season. It's always a little nuts having the kids out of school for so long, but with extra helpers around we managed ok. The best part was having our bigs home, if even just for a few days. It was nice not to rush around in the mornings to catch the just hang out with brothers and sisters!

New Year's Eve was a bit different this year, as dad did a series of runs...a 5k late in the afternoon, another 5k at 11:45pm, followed by a half marathon on New Year's Day. Our family "party" just wasn't the same without him and I actually rang in the new year in a hot bathtub, looking out the window watching fireworks going off in the neighborhoods to the south of us.

I planned to do some strategic planning starting on the 1st, but somehow we are back in survival mode again. It's so difficult to plan when you are putting out fires left and right. Soon.

I've been trying to trim our budget in any way possible. Last fall we got rid of our landline as well as cable TV. This month I'm experimenting with ways to cut the food budget. On a whim I made a big batch of bread one day a few weeks ago and everyone loved it so much, I've decided to just make our own bread each week. I've got a jar of sourdough starter fermenting and I can't wait to use it! Thank goodness we finally got another 50 pound bag of I can make granola cereal for super cheap. My kids love to eat cereal, but I don't love paying for it.

We are also experimenting with different ways to include beans in our meals. We have a freezer full of deer meat, so we are good in the meat department. What are some ways that you are able to trim your food budget?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I've been dying to share Max's amazing new skill, but I haven't been able to get it on video! I have all but given up on my formerly institutionalized boys ever developing meaningful speech, but Max is gonna prove me WRONG!

A few days ago he was sitting at the top of the basement stairs. He wanted to go down and play but he's anxious about the stairs. My son Richard said, "mom, is he asking for help? Max, do you need help?" At that point Max shook his head "yes" and said, plain as day, "ELP!"

Max has said words on occasion, but none consistently. Now we are hearing ELP! all day long...and he is using it appropriately! However, when I attempt to take video, he clams up. He's a real smart turkey!