Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Traditions and Orname-mories

With the beginning of Advent this year, I dusted off our Advent wreath, positioned its candles around its circle, and eagerly anticipated the reading of our new Advent Book.
As I called the kids in to celebrate the first night of Advent, Brittany, maybe not quite as eager, looked at me and said, "Mom, you really like traditions don't you".

YES! I LOVE TRADITIONS! Aren't traditions what help make "Christmas" feel like Christmas, "Thanksgiving" feel like Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday feel like Super Bowl Sunday, etc.?? Don't traditions give us a sense of security and connectiveness as a family? Traditions bind our hearts together through anticipated and shared experiences which then become shared, cherished memories.

Am I idealistic???? Likely, but I still LOVE TRADITIONS!

One of the kids' favorite Christmas traditions is the receiving of their annual Christmas Orname-mory. On the night we decorate the tree, after all of the other ornaments have found their perfect place, Max and I give each child an ornament that reflects something specific and special about them that year. It can be a new interest, new activity, etc. Decorating our tree has become a walk through our children's childhood as we hang the ballerina, green frog, model car, "Kaya" American Girl, Darth Vader, girl on horseback, and many more.

This year's Orname-mories...


This year, Brittany developed a huge interest in listening to music, and after school she can usually be found plugged into her i-pod listening to her favorite tunes.










One day at lunch, Brant announced in a very 12-going-on-13-year-old-boy-voice, "Video games are my life!" (before anyone freaks out...he is limited to 30 minutes of gaming a day) Thankfully, I had already ordered him this Orname-mory:





Brielle absolutely ADORES the "Wonder Pets", a cute little team of baby animals who travel all around the world saving other animals. She literally screams with delight when they are on, can tell you the color of each of the Wonder Pets' capes, and recites other bits of useful Wonder Pets trivia.





Max and I will likely look back on our 2007 Ornam-emory and remember this unique year when our hearts were so full, yet not quite settled as we still waited for our little son to come home.







Wishing you and your family a Christmas season full of heart-binding, memory making moments!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fall Festivities!

In case you've been wondering....YES, we do have fall here in Texas! Unfortunately, there is no brilliant display of fall colors, but there is most certainly a change in the air - that crisp, freshness that moves in, replacing the much heavier air of summer. Thankfully, this fresh air is for the most part still warm air; however, it's hard to believe that high-70s and low-80s can feel downright chilly at times.

Homeschooling, high school, hockey, and our preteen's and teenager's social lives keep us constantly in motion. I could write a page about the blessings of the awesome homeschool group we are a part of here (it's called SHINE). From the very first day we stepped into this group, they lovingly embraced each of us and made us feel like we belonged. We honestly never felt like outsiders. It is a very unique group of people like none I've ever experienced before...and they are so much fun! Trust me...my kids are not missing out on anything being homeschooled. As a matter of fact, I can't keep up with all of the social functions and opportunities in which they can participate.

Our SHINE group hosts an annual fall "Hoe Down". The kids dress up in western apparel and meet for a Country Line Dance. Brittany had a BLAST and can't stop practicing the dances she learned.

Our Texas "star":

















Below is a slideshow of some more fall festivities. Brittany was in another SHINE Radio Drama performance, "The Tell Tale Talent", and performed on Halloween night at a church fall festival. SHINE recently had a "Roaring Twenties" Mystery Dinner, so you'll see several pictures of our resident flapper and friends. Watch for our little chicken, too!

"You are God's Plan for the Orphan"



November is National Adoption Month. Last November, I was thrilled to find out that three major Christian ministries — FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, and Steven Curtis Chapman’s ministry, Shaohannah’s Hope — formed an alliance to speak out for orphans and to challenge churches and believers with this message: "You are God's Plan for the Orphan". Their Cry of the Orphan campaign is this year's attempt to do just that.

The following is taken directly from the Cry of the Orphan campaign's website at: www.cryoftheorphan.org

The 2007 Awareness Campaign, Cry of the Orphan, marks the second annual unified campaign to heighten awareness of the plight of the 143 million orphans around the world. The scope of this problem is too big for any one person or organization to solve. In the midst of this crisis, organizations from around the world are joining forces to make a difference. The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAO) seeks to “motivate and unify the body of Christ to live out God’s mandate to care for the orphan.” With over 75 members, the Christian Alliance for Orphans desires to see “every orphan experiencing God’s unfailing love and knowing Jesus as Savior.”


“[Many Christians] do not realize that caring for orphans is central to our call as God’s people. Churches so rarely talk about this issue. We are to be his hands extended in caring for the orphans just as God himself would. God’s plan for his people has always been for us to represent him to the world."
Kerry Marks-Hasenbalg, former executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
“We have been blessed with so much, yet too often we squander these blessings on our personal pursuits without a thought that God gives us these things to use for his Kingdom. Yet I believe the adoption of orphans is one of the greatest opportunities today for fulfilling the Great Commission. When children are received into families where they are introduced to the Savior, and grow up in a secure and loving environment, they are positioned to meet and experience the living God in a tangible way."
Dennis Rainey, president and cofounder of FamilyLife


What Does God Have to Say about Orphans?

God is their Father
Psalm 68:5-6a “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” (NIV)

Ephesians 1:3-5 “How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ. Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.”

God is their Defender
Psalm 10:14, 17-18 “But you do see the trouble and grief they cause. You take note of it and punish them. The helpless put their trust in you. You are the defender of orphans LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can no longer terrify them.”

Proverbs 23:10-11 “Don't steal the land of defenseless orphans by moving the ancient boundary markers, for their Redeemer is strong. He himself will bring their charges against you.”

God's Call to Believers to Care for the Orphan
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 “For the LORD your God is God of gods
and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt." (NIV)

Isaiah 1:16-17 “Wash yourselves and be clean! Let me no longer see your evil deeds. Give up your wicked ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows.”

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

How can we argue with or ignore that last one (or any of them...after all, these are God's Words)?!? Understandably, not everyone is in a position to adopt an orphan, but we all are in a position to help in some way. Think of the impact we could have on our society and generations and generations of societies through the changing of the lives of these precious ones. To find out how you can help, go to www.cryoftheorphan.org/

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm speaking up...

Matthew 19:21-24 (New International Version)

21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."


Last July, World, a weekly Christian news magazine, ran a very interesting article about ministries and how they spend their money. Many of the things stated in the article came as no surprise to me, but infuriated me nonetheless. I wanted to post a link to that article on my blog then, but I never got around to it (click on the highlighted words to go to the links).

In light of the recent developments regarding the Roberts family of Oral Roberts University, I am now sharing this article on my blog in hopes that it'll help you discern where your money will be best used should you be happen to be one who supports these types of ministries. I think Wall Watchers is a ministry that should be getting more attention in the Christian community (hopefully, someone is grading their financial transparency as well :o). I also hope Christians will begin to voice their disdain for ministries that manipulate God's Word for their own selfish gain, mock His healing power, and prey on those desperate and less fortunate.

The World article quotes Paul Crouch of TBN telling viewers: "If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN, and have not contributed . . . you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven." Does that not make anyone else absolutely sick to their stomach? I'm serious...my heart is palpatating loudly in my chest right now as I type this. I have been reading the book of Jeremiah, and I can't help but think of the "lying prophets" condemned in Jeremiah 23. Why don't mainstream Christians speak out against such distortion of God's Truth??

I have to be totally honest (this is my blog, afterall), by choice I've watched very few TBN programs. The ones I have watched instantly gave me that same sick to my stomach, heart-palpatating, wanting to scream out "that is not the message of God's Word" feeling! There is just something deep inside me that is strongly repulsed by the prosperity message and the glitsy, pretentious people who often preach it. Not only is it unBiblical, falling in direct opposition to the example of Christ and the Bible's overall theme of humble, sacrificial servitude; this message is also unethical - asking less fortunate people to "sow their seed" into their ministry so that they can be blessed. Just so icky and so obviously wrong to me.

Back to the Oral Roberts University issue: My poor husband has his Bachelor's Degree from this university. After spending four years there (and several thousands of dollars), he saw a lot of hypocrisy and was already "sensitive" about sharing his alma mater with clients and co-workers in his corporate world workplace (he was attending ORU during the late 1980s prayer tower media-event...Oral claimed God would not allow him to live if he didn't raise millions of dollars...ugh). None of the recent allegations about the Roberts' family surprise Max in the least, and as a matter of fact, he could add some of his own to that list. How sad, that the degrees of thousands of graduates and future graduates will be devalued in the eyes of many. How completely more disdainful that the message of the Gospel is being devalued in the eyes of both the saved and the unsaved alike.

Isn't it time Christians speak up?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Shamefully Quick Update

As I predicted, turns out I'm a lousy blogger...

While carrying out my daily tasks as mom, homemaker, and teacher, I am often formulating blog posts in my never-still mind. These "posts", however, never seem to make it to this page. I'm not sure where I'm going wrong in the time-management category, but lately it truly seems like I have NO TIME for blogging. So, here is a quick (rather impersonal) update on what's been keeping us so busy.

School has begun. Brittany is a freshman. Brielle is a two year old. I'm using Tapestry of Grace for the first time. I'm teaching a Roller Coaster Physics class in our weekly homeschool co-op. Need I say more????

First day of school
Our high schooler
Our middle schooler
Our busy, busy toddler


Mounds of paperwork. Background checks. Doctor exams. Social Worker visits. Notarization. Our homestudy is finished, and we now await the USCIS for fingerprinting and the infamous I-171H. Our Letter of Intent to adopt sweet Hao was sent to China on 9-14-07, and we were so excited to receive our Preapproval to adopt him on 8-2-07! Now we can send him a package, and he'll know he has a family who loves him and is waiting for him! We can also post pictures. We are still considering names, but "Brock" seems to be the forerunner at this time. Introducing our handsome little guy...




We can't wait for you to join our busy home, sweet boy!
















A return trip to Wisconsin after moving almost 2 years ago. Visited friends and favorite places. Met family in Green Bay for nephew's wedding. Had a great time with family and friends! We miss everyone sooooo much!

BubbleShare: Share photos - Halloween contest


Other contributors to our busy schedule: hockey season began and Grandma and Grandpa Good are visiting. More on these, later (hopefully)!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Where Were You?

In memory of 9-11...



"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)"

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

The greatest is love
The greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day

by Alan Jackson

Monday, August 6, 2007

What Now?

I saw the face of Jesus in a little orphan girl.
She was standing in the corner on the other side of the world.
And I heard the voice of Jesus gently whisper to my heart,
"Didn't you say you wanted to find me?
Well here I am, here you are.

"So, What now?
What will you do now that you found Me?
What now?
What will you do with this treasure you've found?
I know I may not look like what you expected,
But if you remember this is right where I said I would be.
You've found me,
What now?"...

What Now?, by Steven Curtis Chapman

(To hear this song, scroll down to the end of this post and press the play button)

Six weeks ago, our family was asked, "What Now?", and since that time, we have been seeking an answer to that question.

On June 20th, our adoption agency posted on their website the faces of 20 "waiting children" in need of their forever homes. Every quarter or so, our agency receives a new list of children from China with special needs, and we (like most adoptive families) always look forward to seeing their sweet faces and watching as they are joined with their forever families.

This day, Brittany, Brant, and I were all at the computer to see this latest group of children. The first ones we saw were adorable baby girls. I perused passed their sweet faces, but then my heart skipped a beat as my eyes caught the face of an older boy in the next row. I clicked on his picture to find out more about him and was greeted by four more pictures of this adorable little guy.

Brittany immediately said, "Oh, Mom. He's so cute. What is his special need?"

Quickly reading aloud his special need and other information, I was interrupted by, "Oh my goodness, Mom! That is just like the book I'm writing...", and Brittany proceeded to tell me all about this book based on our family. This family goes to China to adopt a baby girl and sees an older girl named Hao Shan with this same special need. They decide to adopt both the baby girl and the older special need child.

(China's rules and regulations do not allow me to specify his special need nor post his picture at this time.)

I start to feel myself shaking a little as I read more carefully the very limited information given about him:

This little boy is almost 7 years old...He is lively, energetic and fast! He has a ready smile and likes to play with the other children.

I remember reading this and then looking down at all his sweet pictures. Oh yes, he sure does look "lively, energetic, and fast!", and there is no doubt about that "ready smile". I felt my heart melt for this little guy without a home and family. What Now?

I spent all the free time I had that afternoon and night researching his particular special need, homeschooling/adopting a child with this need, adopting an older child, etc. Late that night, I saw a message on our agency's yahoogroup from someone who was advocating for this little guy, hoping he'd find his family. Another lady responded, saying she had seen him on Harrah's waiting child list back in the fall of 2006. No one adopted him, so his file was sent back to China, who sent it to our agency, giving him another chance at a family.

Armed with this information, I launched a quest to find out more about him from Harrah. I went to a huge adoption yahoogroup and did a search for "Harrah waiting child (special need) boy". The first thing that popped up was a description of a boy named Hao with a special need that sounded very similar to the little guy on our agency's waiting child list. Oh my goodness...Hao?!? Wasn't that the name of the little one in Brittany's story? There was no picture nor birthdate with this new information, but I just knew this was the same little guy.

I noticed "Hao's" special need was more specifically identified in Harrah's information, so I next did a google search for this more specific need. The first site that came up was a world-renowned center for treating children with his condition. This site is extremely informative, and I spent a long time there learning more about his special need, it's treatment, etc. I found out that only a handful of doctors around the country are able to reputably repair his condition, the doctor whose website I was reading being one of those few. After all my reading at this site, I wondered if this doctor would be available to answer any questions we might have, so I clicked "Contact Us". Can you guess where this "world-renowned center" just happens to be? Yep...San Antonio, Texas...a short 7 miles from my house! I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I started to sob. What Now?

O-kay...now I really needed to find out if this "Hao" was the same little guy on our agency's waiting child list. One last google search gave me my answer. I don't remember exactly what I googled, but it was likely something like what I had searched for on the adoption yahoogroup. After sifting through numerous search responses, I found a "Hao" on yet another special needs adoption site. This time "Hao" had a picture attached, and sure enough, the little boy who was capturing my heart was named Hao! His description was much the same as Harrah's description with this added: "We think that a loving and active family with a daddy who likes to play ball would be great for this special little guy!"

The next evening, Max and I went running, and I told him about Hao and about all of the "coincidences". Earlier that day, some fears and "am I crazy" thoughts had started to trickle in, so I was surprised when he really listened and responded positively. After our run, I showed him Hao's pictures, and he asked a lot of questions. He said that he'd be open to reviewing Hao's file, with the understanding that reviewing a file was not a commitment to adopt. So, we submitted a request to review his file, but would have to wait until June 26th (my b-day) to find out if we were selected.

Soon after this, the fears and "what ifs" started streaming in. I began to pray that if this was not God's will, He'd start to close the doors that all seemed to be opening. I asked Him specifically to close the door on our file request if this was not part of His plan for our family or for Hao.

June 26th came, and our agency posted on the yahoogroup that only one family had requested to review Hao's file. Assuming it was us, I got excited at the thought that another door was opening. However, the hours crept slowly and without a call from our agency telling us we would be able to review his file. My heart sank as I read on the yahoogroup that our agency had called all the families that were chosen to review the waiting children's files. Did they lose our request form? Had they never received it? Did I somehow make a mistake when sending it? Who was the one family that submitted a request if not us? Admittedly, I was crushed. I had asked for a closed door, but I found out I wasn't ready for one.

Because it was my birthday, some sweet friends stopped over with gifts. I had already asked both of them for their prayers, and when I gave them a quick update, they both said that they, too, had been praying for open and closed doors. One of them encouraged me by saying that God can reopen a closed door. Shortly after that statement, the phone rang. It was our agency telling me that they were sorry, but in the chaos of the day, they had forgotten to call us to tell us we were selected to review Hao's file!

A few days later, Max and I went on a date and discussed Hao the entire night. We talked about worse case scenarios and agreed that we would be willing to handle any of them. We seemed to have come to a "yes" decision, but out of nowhere, the fears started to flood in.

For the next several weeks, we allowed God's "What Now?" to be drowned out by our "What ifs?" God faithfully continued to hold the door open, but we faithlessly were too fearful to walk through it and wanted to feel total peace before doing so. I was relaying some of these feelings to a friend of mine, when she replied that each of her five adoptions were done out of obedience and "in fear, by faith". Wow...those words spoke clearly to my heart and helped turn my focus off of my "What ifs?" and back onto God's "What Now?"

So...What Now?:
*We have chosen to be obedient to God's obvious leading.
*We will walk through the open doors by faith and not by sight.
*We will trust Him with all of our fears.
*We believe "this is right where (He) said (He) would be" and can't wait to find more of Him through this journey to our new son, Hao!
(Br- name to be announced later)

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Still Feels Good Tour Sweeps the Court



**Concert Review by RF's #1 teenage fan in this family (well, RF's only teenage fan in this family)**

A steady stream of people flooded the AT&T Center, which usually serves as a home building for the San Antonio Spurs or the San Antonio Rampage (a hockey team). But neither teams were present. No court was on the floor, and neither was ice.

I attempted to snuggle into my seat in nosebleed section 202, row 10. At first the sheer height and steepness of where we were made me nervous and dizzy. For thirty minutes, Mom, Brant, and I waited, chatted, took pictures on Mom's cell, and watched the stage.


Finally, the lights went out. A rowdy cheer erupted from the crowd. The Still Feels Good concert was on!


Guitars began to blare and twang as Jason Aldean, opening singer and country star with inclining popularity, began his part of the show. People cheered heartily as his modern hits such as Johnny Cash, Hicktown, Amarillo Sky, and Why rolled by. Soon enough, people discovered that he not only sang great, but was extra generous in hand shakes. The audience began to flock to the stage in hope of getting one.


Not too soon, Jason left the stage. By now, the Pit was pretty full, probably largely due to the text messages that you could send to enter for your chance to win a pass into it, and thereby getting an almost on-stage experience.


The lights went out again. By this time, the crowd was more than ready, and they didn't fail to welcome the stars with the screaming and applause that ensued. And the stars were......Rascal Flatts!!!


An orange light and smoke began to emmit from behind the staircase that led to another section of the stage. While we ooed and aaahhhed over this, the violinist came on stage, along with some guitarists.


"Here they come," I whispered amidst the screams and applause.


The whole stage suddenly illuminated and flashed in white and other minute colors. Needless to say, we were awed and excited.


The introduction to the song Me and My Gang played. But no one on the main stage was singing!


"Look, they're down there!" Mom said, pointing.


Brant and I followed her finger. She wasn't pointing to the main stage, but to a smaller, circular stage more towards the back of the room that earlier appeared to be nothing but part of the sound system. And on top of it, were the band members themselves! The guitarists and violinists on the main stage were performers, but were also decoys to lure the eye to the wrong place!


Mom had also had a hunch that the three Rascal leads were going to come out that way because earlier she had seen men rolling in big boxes that appeared to be sound equipment. Now we're not completely sure, but we believe that the trio were in the boxes!


I rose to my feet, singing along to the tune that I knew and loved so well (Me and My Gang). Hands raised up in the air as lead singer Gary LeVox sang, "Raise up your hands if you all wanna hang with me and my gang."


The band made their way onto the main stage by a bridge that was raised up when not needed. They continued by delivering hit after smashing hit. Gary's voice, which has a very large range, tends to err on the high side, but with a uniquely tomboyish tinge, was complimented skillfully by the startling talent of his two backups and their guitars (really, they could probably make it by themselves). Just some of the songs performed were These Days, Bless the Broken Road, Backwards, Feels Like Today, My Wish, I Melt, and Pieces, the last of which the two backups sang by themselves. Upon being asked which song they would like to hear, the audience yelled back "Mayberry! Mayberry!" So, upon command, the band performed the song perfectly.

In addition to this, the lights were amazing. They took on different shapes and were constantly changing colors. After one song, green lasers criss-crossed and were held in the air for a moment before vanishing. During Backwards, the stage was littered in red, blue, and white stars. When they played music videos, the floor of the main stage was so shiny that the whole platform looked like it was one big screen.

After nearly two hours of songs and anecdotes, the band ascended the staircase and walked onto a part of the stage that lowered them down. I was disappointed. They hadn't sung Here's to You, the song that I wanted to hear the most. Neither had they sung Life is a Highway, their most popular song.

The lights came back up. People began to leave. Then the lights went out again. A blue light shone onto the drummer, who had remained on stage. He gave us a few upbeat rhythms that allowed him to show us his skill. The whole time, I was going, "Okay, are they coming out again or not?"

Bright red and white lights suddenly blared onto the platform. Guitars twanged. Gary's voice came on again (he was back on the circular stage!). He began to satisfy the silent cries for encore with none other than Here's to You, a song that thanks the fans for being fans! It also has a fast-paced, fun beat where the guitars and drums match perfectly.

They ended with Life is a Highway, which credits much of its popularity to the motion-picture Cars (yeah, they're the ones who sing that!). The whole crowd stood and sang good an' loud. The whole building rang with it! I'm sure that we could be heard for miles.

Somewhere in the middle of the song, Gary got out to mingle with the people nearest the stage. Once he said something like "This is to all you guys there in the back!" and then continued with the next line, which was "There was a distance between you and I. A misunderstanding once, but now, we look it in the eye."

I was sad when it ended. I was having a good time, and I wasn't ready for it to stop. But, Dad was waiting for us when we got home, and, as usual, I was eager to relay all to him.

In short, even though we couldn't see all that well, it was a great evening and "kid's date" (as I called this evening out with Brant and Mom). I can't wait for my next concert and hope that Rascal Flatts will come back to San Antonio again.

I hope that you'll stay here and listen to a few songs. They sang these at the concert. Enjoy!





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Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Hoppy" Birthday, Brielle!

Brielle turned 2 on Tuesday! Our baby is getting to be such a big girl!

Because Brielle loves bunnies and affectionately refers to them as "hoppies", Brittany suggested we have a "Hoppy" Birthday theme. Great idea, Britt! Of course, the making of the old traditional bunny cake was in order (I think I remember my mom making this same cake for my sister, Michele's, birthday which fell around Easter time...did I dream that, Mom, or did that really happen?).

The night before their birthdays, I always decorate the kids' bedroom doors while they are sleeping. Brielle was squealing with delight when Brittany, Brant, and I opened her door in the morning, singing the happy birthday song, and revealing the crepe paper, balloons, and "Hoppy Birthday" sign adorning her door. I really think she would've been completely satisfied if that was all we did for her birthday. She kept running in and out of the crepe paper hanging in her doorway, repeatedly saying "hoppy", "hoppy". It was definitely apparent that she knew it was her special day!

Thanks so much to everyone who sent cards, gifts, and money. We used her birthday money to buy her first little trike, a play "market" (complete with food, cash register, shopping basket, etc.), a stroller for her baby, and a huge play-doh set. It looked more like Christmas at our house than a birthday, but we really haven't bought her any of those bigger items until now. Everything was truly a hit with her. She has played and played with all of her new things! The big kids and I are also having so much fun playing with the new play-doh gadgets, playing store, decorating her pretend b-day cake, taking her baby for a walk, and reading new books to her. Brant has broken in Brielle's trike with his numerous trips around the house. It is quite funny, and I wanted to post a picture of him with those long legs pedalling that little bike, but he'd kill me for it! Oh, the benefits of having a little sister!

Happy Birthday, sweet Brielle ~
Our lives are so much richer because of you!!


Family Date!

One of the great joys of having a teenager and a pre-teenager is they serve as built-in babysitters for their busy baby sister. Max and I have begun to take advantage of this and plan a "date night" for just the two of us every other weekend. From the outside, our dates likely look pretty boring (dinner, a walk, a trip to Starbucks), but I sooo look forward to these nights and often look back on them with a smile once they've passed.

Last weekend, Max and I went out on Saturday night, and then on Sunday, we decided to plan a surprise "Family Date" for the kids. There is so much to do in this area, and we decided to surprise them with something we hadn't done yet. So, we took them to Natural Bridge Caverns and Natural Bridge Wildlife Park. The caverns were nice, but probably would've seemed much nicer had we not just visited Carlsbad Caverns. The Wildlife Park was definitely everyone's favorite. It is one of those drive-through parks, where the animals roam free. We've been to these types of parks on vacations, so I was a little skeptical of the ads I'd seen and had set my expectations low. Usually the animals in these places are just laying down behind some tree, outside of camera range. Not so in this park! As you'll see, we had a whole zoo checkin' out the inside of our vehicle! It was a lot of fun and definitely accomplished the goal of our Family Date as new experiences were shared and new memories created.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Busy Days of Summer

I can't believe it is July already!

We finished school a few weeks ago, but somehow we still manage to stay soooo busy. We have had several groups of friends over for "pool parties", been to Six Flags a handful of times, and enjoyed several days of Max being off of work. Brant is still playing hockey throughout the summer, and Brittany is involved in a weekly group discussion of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Both kids are also attending a weekly Drama Club with our homeschool group. It is during summers like this that I wonder how we ever manage to fit school into our lives!

What has Brielle been up to???



Last weekend, a friend from Wisconsin was here in Texas for a wedding. We met her and her mom on the Riverwalk and had a great time catching up on all that has happened over the past year and a half. Come back soon, Diane!

Can you guess which one of us lives in WI and which lives in TX??





Max had the first part of this week off, so we decided to spend one morning at the zoo. It turned out to be a relatively cool, overcast day...just perfect for a trip to the zoo!



Lastly, here are some recent pictures of Brielle that are just too cute not to share!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happy 16th Anniversary, Max!!



Looking back to the day I married you, I realize that we were both rather na├»ve and probably didn’t fully comprehend the enormity of what we were committing to. We long-distance-dated for just under a year before you proposed and were married six short months after that. Did we really even know each other? We just knew that we were “madly in love” and wanted “to spend the rest of our lives together”.

Kind of scary, actually…but thank God that He knew there was more to us then starry-eyed infatuation. There is no doubt in my mind that He led us to one another and crafted each of us to be perfect soul-mate for the other. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to Him for giving me YOU!

Things I didn’t know 16 years ago:

*I was marrying someone who’d become my very best friend
*You’d inspire me to become a better person
*I’d cherish our talking “dates” on the couch
*I was getting a great running partner
*My heart would be held and so protected
*Each day, I’d be counting the hours until you came home from work
*You’d be the bright, shining spot in my day
*You'd much rather spend time with me and the kids than watch t.v.
*You’d keep such a great looking yard
*You’d value having a wife who is a full-time mom and homemaker
*I’d be showered with so much love, both in words and in actions
*You’d be such a family man
*You’d invest so much time in our children
*You’d open your heart and our home to our sweet Brielle
*You’d be such a stabilizing force in our family
*I’d want to spend my time with you more than anyone else in the world
*I would look forward to your daily phone call over lunch
*We’d have so much fun together
*You’d make me laugh so much
*How kind, patient, and slow-to-anger you are
*I'd be so much more in love with you 16 years down the road!

Looking forward to holding your hand through the rest of life's journey!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

(One day late...just like my card)

Dad ~

Thanks for:

*teaching me to be disciplined
*modeling and passing on a great sense of humor
*always being there for every event I ever participated in
*your tender, loving side
*the countless hours of shooting hoops at Trinity school
*being my first running partner, and
*still running with me
*your fun energetic personality
*sharing warm cups of coffee and conversation

I love you, Dad!



Happy Father's Day to you, Max!



Thanks for:

*putting our kids and our marriage first
*coming home at 5:00, even though you have enough work to keep you there all night
*joyfully and willingly spending your free time with the kids and me
*being a fun dad!
*your wise fatherly counsel
*appreciating(and often reminding me of) the value of full-time motherhood
*providing a stable home in which our children can thrive
*modeling a positive, non-complaining attitude in all situations

I am so blessed to be sharing this journey of parenthood with you!
I love you!!!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Comfort Food

My sister, Cindy, "tagged" me with the request of sharing the recipe for my favorite comfort food. This probably sounds silly, but I love pumpkin...pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins (last fall, I sooo badly missed the pumpkin and cream cheese muffins from Little Farmer pumpkin farm in WI), pumpkin pie Blizzards from DQ - pumpkin anything and anytime of the year! I actually crave it quite often. Knowing this, I always have a can of pumpkin on hand so that when I crave the comforting taste of a pumpkin-filled carb, I quickly whip up this recipe for Pumpkin Bread:


Pumpkin Bread - this makes 2 loaves

4 eggs
1 cup oil (I often use applesauce)
3 1/2 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups pumpkin

Beat all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into 2 large greased bread pans.
Bake at 325 degrees for 90 minutes.




I love eating a slice or two right out of the oven, accompanied by my favorite comfort drink ~ a hot mug of Starbucks' House Blend coffee.

It doesn't get much better than this!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Hurry back, Mom and Dad...I'm having caffeine withdrawals!



I'm sneaking in a belated post about my Mom and Dad's visit a few weeks ago...
We had such a great time! As I've said before, my parents are so very active, and we always love being on the go with them.

Their visit included a 5-mile hike at Government Canyon State Park, where the cacti and wildflowers were in full-bloom. Next came a trip to Sea World, Missions National Park, a few dips in the pool, multiple trips to Starbucks, and way-too-much going out to eat.

What a blessing it is to share such sweet memories of times with my parents! Thanks, Mom and Dad, for showing us such a good time : 0)!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Ambition

Just before we moved to Texas, a dear friend from Wisconsin gave me Elizabeth Prentiss', The Little Preacher. Simple and unassuming at first glance, this easy read, written in 1867, is full of little nuggets of truth and conviction (as is Prentiss' more well known, Stepping Heavenward...a must read as well).

As I read through The Little Preacher, I started an index card of quotes from the text. My favorite is one I frequently pull out and read, as it truly is my ambition as well :

"As for her, like most women, she had but one ambition. To be a good
wife and a good mother, and to be beloved by her husband and children, was all
she asked. What she was in the old home, that she was in the new; a busy,
affectionate, cheerful little housewife, whose voice would never be heard in the
streets, but whose memory would always live in a few faithful hearts."

You can order a copy of The Little Preacher, Stepping Heavenward, and many other great books at: http://www.graceandtruthbooks.com/




Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"B" Keeping

I've decided to try my hand at blogging. I can't guarantee I'll be very good at it. Turns out I'm a lousy updater of our website, so don't hold your breath for much more here!

Over the last few days, I've been thinking about what to name my blog (as if I have nothing better to think about). One of my very favorite things to do is to read-aloud to my kids. Yes, I still read-aloud to my 14 and 12 yo "big kids"! Together, over the years, we have visited so many places, shared so many laughs, shed some tears, met innumerable memorable characters, learned so many of life's lessons, all through the reading-aloud of great books! Someday, as I look back on my years of mothering, I'm confident that these read-aloud times will be among the memories I cherish most.

O.K. - back to the naming of my blog...

Our current read-aloud is Gene Stratton-Porter's book, Freckles. If you are familiar with Stratton-Porter, you know that she was a lover of nature, and her love and knowledge of nature pours out through her text. If you are familiar with me, you know that I, too, am a nature lover, and that one of my other very favorite things to do is to take "nature walks" with my family; nothing is more rejuvenating to my soul!

We are almost finished with Freckles, so this morning I was pondering what we should next read-aloud. Stratton-Porter's, The Keeper of the Bees came to mind, as this is Max's favorite novel. Just as soon as the title of this book popped into my head, I thought, "that's it"! Keeper of the B's...that sounds a lot like my life (as full-time mom to Brittany, Brant, and Brielle)! As you can imagine, the analogies started filling my head.

So, here it is...my blog..."Keeper of the B's"