Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wonderful White Christmas

We were blessed with a white Christmas just like I was dreaming of this year! It snowed all the week before Christmas, and on Christmas eve day. The 24th was one of the busiest days for me! Miranda and I stopped by my work to pick up anything that had been donated for the family that had everything stolen a few days before. When I walked into my office, I was surprised to find my desk area OVERFLOWING with gifts, and food, and stockings full of wonderful things for this family. I was so glad people were willing to help out. We were able to deliver it all to them, and it was such a blessing to them and us. We then dropped off a bunch of toys to the Union gospel mission. We continued driving around in the snow and visited with friends and dropped off more cookies and gifts. That night we attended the candlelight Christmas eve service at our church and Miranda sang in the children's Christmas production. Our church even had an amazing spread of food in the lobby available to everyone this year. It all looked very festive and added to the Christmas spirit. When we came home, we all got some egg nog, or hot apple cider, some christmas cookies, gathered around the Christmas tree and watched a holiday movie. Christmas day, it was a world of white outside, and so magical, and since it wasn't snowing that day, it was easier for the relatives to get here. This year was such a special Christmas. We were so blessed. My greatest joy is watching the girls as they experience the wonder in all that is Christmas.
Here are a few pictures of Christmas through a childs eyes...
Lilyann did very well unwrapping her presents. She was a bit more interested in the wrap than the present, but that's okay!

Miranda was in heaven with her American girl doll. Somehow we started getting their catalogs all year, and she would go through them from cover to cover. One of her Grandmas just had to get her one.

And Lilyann got a horsey...her favorite!!

And this is a girl in love...a sweet puppy named Mitten came Christmas morning. Miranda had been searching for a new one since losing her precious Pupcake last summer. She is such a sweet little dog, and it is fun to have a new member of the family. We will be taking her to puppy school very soon. More pictures to come...hoping your Christmas was special too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CHRISTmas Blessings to you!

This is Christmas--the real meaning of it
God loving, searching, giving Himself--to us.
Man's needing, receiving, giving himself--to God.
Redemption's glorious exchange of gifts!
Without which we cannot live;
Without which we cannot give to those we love anything of lasting value.
This is the meaning of Christmas--
the wonder and the glory of it.
-Ruth Bell Graham

Monday, December 22, 2008

The season of giving...

God is at work!! I had to work today, and I was upset that I couldn't be home wrapping presents, and spending time with the family. I also knew I needed to pull everything together for the kids at the mission, and find a family to adopt for Christmas, but there was no time!!! I was very busy at work, it was a snowy day, yet most of my patients showed up! Near the end of the day, a little 8 year old boy I work with came in with his mom. I asked them how things were going, and the mom informed me that their apartment was just broken into and they lost everything! The burglars even stole her shoes, blankets and shampoo! She broke down in tears at one point. I know that she had a few toys under the tree for her son, toys that I suggested would be good for him to work on his fine motor skills with, and she couldn't wait for him to open them on Christmas. It was all gone! She was also afraid to live there now. I would be too! So, I assured her that I would find resources to help! I asked my entire department of physical therapists, speech therapists, and Occupational therapists if they wanted to help. So, we should really be able to bless this family!!! I am amazed at how God places situations in front of you when your heart is open. I didn't have to go looking for someone to help, He brought this single mother to me! On my way home from work, I was trying to think of how I was going to pack up everything I want to bring them because we have no large boxes, but when I walked in the house, I found a HUGE cardboard box that was delivered to us today from my brother and his wife full of gifts. We placed the gifts under the tree and filled the box with anything and everything we could find around the house to give away to this family. Miranda spent a good hour filling it up with things I never thought she could part with. She even wrapped up a dollar bill in a paper bag and put a ribbon around it. I will have her help me deliver everything to this family on the 24th.
Blessings to you all the Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow, Cookies, and Christmas...

The days are all running together....I am trying to slow down and enjoy the season, however I find myself busier than ever. My only goal for this weekend was to bake my Christmas cookies so the girls and I could decorate them, but that didn't happen. I ran around getting last minute Christmas details in order, and that always takes up more time than I hope.
We have snow, and lots of it...and we may have two more feet by tomorrow night! I love it, it is beautiful around here. We did take time to drive around this evening and look at some Christmas lights. We also watched some Christmas movies the last two evenings.
Every year we try to "adopt" a family for Christmas. We then deliver food and gifts to them on the 24th. Some years we have taken on large families, other years we adopt a single mom with a child or an elderly person. This year we are going to take lots of toys to the mission, which they said they are in need of. Tomorrow I will find out if there is a family we can help. This always adds so much to the spirit of Christmas. It is a tradition I hope we can continue with for many years to come.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Journey

This blog has got to be the most heartwrenching, yet heartwarming blog I have read. I found myself glued to this blog tonight, reading, and sobbing, sobbing, and reading more, and that has never happened to me when reading a blog before! It is truly inspirational. What this young girl is doing on her own in a foreign country, taking on the role of a mother to orphans is incredible. Undescribable. As a person who has been on a mission to a foreign land, and who has had a taste of what she is talking about, I understand. I understand when she talks about her children, and how she is their mommy. I felt that way on our mission to russia. Actually going to a country and working with orphans, and realizing the devastating reality of how many children really do have no one, and who are being used, abused, and treated as nothing hits you like a ton of bricks. She is parenting 10 children at the age of 19! When she talks about the excessive amounts of money and abundance of "things" that clutter our lives, but that we think we can't live without, I understand. When she talks about experiencing culture shock, upon returning to your own country, I get it. I can remember when returning from our mission trip in russia almost 9 years ago, and stopping in New York city to visit a friend, this happened to me. Most people would be excited to see New York for the first time. Not me. I was still in russia. I couldn't get it out of my head. I walked into a little convenience store, looked around, and couldn't buy anything. It was like a 7-11 or something, and as I glanced around, I could not believe the vast amount stuff we have access to in this country. I couldn't buy a thing. The store I went to in the little village in russia was next to a well, that the people gathered at daily to bring up their water in buckets. I didn't beleive this until I was there. The store had a counter with a lady working behind it, and a few meager items behind her you could point out to buy. When she counted the total of the prices of your items, she used an abacus. Every once in awhile, they would get a few cans of Coke to sell, and a line formed out the door of the tiny log cabin structure, all with people who wanted to get it before it was gone. After not being able to buy anything at the store in New York, I walked out, and started up the streets of New York city. I walked past many high end stores and shops, and had no desire to go in. My eyes were open to the consumerism, greed, and matierialism that many americans are trapped in. All I wanted to do was get home, and get rid of so much of the stuff I already had. It changed me. I came home, and vowed never to become like my neighbor. Never to want, and want. For a long time, those selfish desires were gone, but over time, I noticed how my environment gradually began to sway me back to that american overindulgent way of life. I work hard to not get materialistic. To do this, I need God. In comparison, I have done nothing close to what this girl is doing. I am in awe of her faith, and her willingness to live out what God is calling her to do. I can hear the cry of her heart, and I can relate to it. To explain this even more, I will use this example. Most things we use are made in China, right? I pondered that often, not being able to comprehend how China could make and supply every person in the U.S. with almost everything we use. How could this be possble, I thought? Well, after actually stepping foot in China, and seeing the amount of people that really do live in this country, I get it now. Yes, you hear that there are billions of people in China, but until I was actually there, standing in the middle of those people, seeing it with my own eyes, I didn't get it. Now I can easily understand how it is possible.

It's the same with orphans. I didn't understand the brutal reality until I was there. Standing in the midst of the fatherless. Holding their hands. Wiping their tears. Seeing the emptiness in their eyes. But it is real. There are hundreds. Thousands. Millions, of orphans in this world. I guess the reason most people here don't help them is because they don't understand. But I have been there. I have seen it. It will break you. I was broken. I have never been the same. When I hear someone around me complaining that they don't have enough money, when they live in a nice house, and drive a newer car, I have to bite my tongue often. Did you know that if your household makes over $40,000 a year, you are in the top 1% income bracket in the entire world?? That's how financially rich we americans who think we are poor really are!!! If you have a warm place to sleep, and something to eat, you are blessed beyond measure!!! Her blog has brought all of these things I am passionate about back to life. I need to do more. I want to do more. This time of year reminds me not of all that I am asking Santa for, but of all the little ones in this world that are huddled in a corner somewhere on the street just trying to stay warm, or the young boys sniffing glue to take the hunger pains away or the babies being left on the side of the road that will not know the loving warmth of a mother's arms unless they are one of the more fortunate ones that will one day be adopted.

I didn't know I was going to write all of this...I really just wanted to share this blog with you. Please read it when you can. It is better than reading a book. There are compelling pictures that go along with her story...a story of girl who stepped out in faith...and who is making an amazing difference in the lives of children who have no one to care for them. And she is doing it all for God's kingdom and His glory.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sun Mountain Lodge

One of our family traditions is to take a mini vacation right before Christmas. We usually try to go somewhere where we can experience a winter wonderland. This year we went to Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, Wa., pictured above. Jeff and I love this place, and we have been going since before we had kids. We think it should be called Snow Mountain Lodge. They have an outdoor ice skating rink with an amazing view. They also offer Sleigh rides, and the ride takes you up into the woods, where you get off for awhile and enjoy a cup of cocoa and cookies. The lodge is decorated beautifully with a huge Christmas tree in the lobby, and there is a restaurant, gift shop, game room, outdoor hottubs, and library. We love relaxing in our room by the fire.
Here are the girls this year, as they helped unpack the car, and go see the room. They couldn't wait to come back out and play in the snow!

Snow came really late there this year, and only started the day before we arrived. Due to this, the Sleigh rides were not ready yet! As we were leaving, we saw them coming up the hill, on their way to the lodge. Too bad we couldn't stay longer. Miranda cried and cried as we passed this scene on the way out. Maybe next year, Miranda.

We visited the little western town of Winthrop. Cute shops, and the town Christmas bazaar was happening in a big red barn. Got some Christmas shopping done! Here's Lilyann, as she discovered snow is edible. Yum!

And, on our way home, we had ot stop at the cute bavarian Christmas town of Leavenworth, Washington. This place is a dream during Christmas time! We love it, and hope to stay there next year, and spend a few days shopping, and enjoying the festive atmosphere. Unfortunately we couldn't stay long. We had to get home, Lilyann wasn't feeling well with her chicken pox, and it was getting late!

Monday, December 15, 2008

We have SNOW!

We were away this weekend on a little mini winter vacation to a wonderful place that had lots of snow, and when we got home last night, we found our home was also covered in snow too! YEAH! It is so beautiful, and we have lots of fun playing in it. Unfortunately, I won't be able to today, since I am working all day, but I wouldn't be able to if I was home either because little Lily has a bad case of the chicken pox! We discovered this after we arrived at our mountain lodge on Saturday. It was a long, long drive home last night, and she was SO uncomfortable. Poor baby. We still had lots of fun, and the girls loved the snow there. Lilyann loved eating it the most!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jesus is Better than Santa

Jesus is Better than Santa
Santa lives at the North Pole.
JESUS is everywhere.
Santa rides in a sleigh
JESUS rides on the wind and walks on the water.
Santa comes but once a year
JESUS is an ever present help.
Santa fills your stockings with goodies
JESUS supplies all your needs.
Santa comes down your chimney uninvited
JESUS stands at your door and knocks.. and then enters your heart.
You have to stand in line to see Santa
JESUS is as close as the mention of His name.
Santa lets you sit on his lap
JESUS lets you rest in His arms.
Santa doesn't know your name, all he can say is "Hi little boy or girl, What's your name?"
JESUS knew our name before we did. Not only does He know our name, He knows our address too. He knows our history and future and He even knows how many hairs are on our heads.
Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly
JESUS has a heart full of love.
All Santa can offer is HO HO HO
JESUS offers health, help and hope.
Santa says "You better not cry"
JESUS says "Cast all your cares on me for I care for you.
Santa's little helpers make toys
JESUS makes new life, mends wounded hearts, repairs broken homes and builds mansions.
Santa may make you chuckle but
JESUS gives you joy that is your strength.
While Santa puts gifts under your tree
JESUS became our gift and died on the tree.
It's obvious there is really no comparison.
We need to remember WHO Christmas is all about.
We need to put Christ back in Christmas.
Jesus is still the reason for the season.
May the Lord Bless and Watch over you and your loved ones this Christmas
And may He prosper and bless the work of your hands in the New Year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Photo Shoot!

Today after church, I came home with Lilyann, while Daddy took Miranda to play at her cousins house. I decided to do a little Christmas photo shoot, since she looked so cute in her little red Christmas outfit. It usually takes about 30 tries before I get a good is just a few of the many photos taken this afternoon. Here she thinks it's funny to cover her face when I want a picture now.
Then instead of looking at the camera and smiling, she decides to read Snowman a story...

Then it's time for Snowman kisses...this went on awhile, along with lots of hugs for Snowman.

Finally, she smiles for the camera!! Snowman looks pretty happy too!

And now we move in front of the Christmas tree. What a sweet pose. She is growing up too fast!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A giveaway, and great craft project!

One of my favorite blogs is flipflops and applesauce and there is a giveaway going on there now, with little time left to enter! Her twin sister makes some of the most beautiful and meaningful jewelry I have ever seen, and I have been looking at it for a long time, and she is giving away a gift certificate for a $100 gift certificate there. I just love the creativity these twin sisters have, and their willingness to share with us is so wonderful! I get so many fun, simple, craft project ideas from flipflops and applesauce, and above is the most recent one Miranda did. She really enjoyed this one, and had fun decorating her popsicle stick trees with lots of glitter and other decorations! If you have young children, this blog is invaluable!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Please Snow!!!

Please Snow!!! The world is so much more magical covered in white! We are anxiously awaiting our first snowfall here in Washington. We usually have a little snow before Christmas, so it could be any day! We are hoping, and praying...and waiting...for SNOW!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More primitive CHRISTmas Decor!!!

These I actually keep out all winter, more of my primitive snowmen. I love this guy!!!

I got this at a little primitive mercantile here in town last's candle flickers!

Another prim snowguy...his home is on the mantle along with about ten other snowmen, and snowgirls!!

The bathroom needed a little snowlady and some trees...don't ya love her little snowbaby?

And my favorite of simple nativity. I love this the most!!! Miranda helped me put it out and she was so excited as I unwrapped each piece. She understands that although snowmen are nice, and presents are fun, the truth about Christmas is God's only son!!! Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A farmhouse Christmas...

We live in an old farmhouse we have fixed up over the years. Primitive decorating fits so well in an old country farmhouse, and I started collecting snowmen right after we moved in, 14 years ago! Above is one of my newest, and most loved snowmen! I got this treasure at a local shop last year, where the owner was so kind and trusting she let me leave without paying, when I realized I forgot my wallet! I came the very next day and paid!! I just love this snowdoll!
Here's another little snowgirl I found last year on a trip to Idaho during Christmas time. I love her and her rusty jingle bell garland.

Here's a snowangel ornament that hangs on my tree. I have collected so many primitive ornaments that I treasure over the years, that this year, not even half of them fit on the tree!

I don't decorate with santa's at all, but someone gave me this guy, and I really liked him, especially his snowman ornament! Can ya tell I'm a bit crazy about snowmen???
This is one of the stitchery pillows I did a couple years ago. It's snowman themed, so of course it had to stay with me!! Anyone else love snowmen as much as me??? They never go out of style, and every Christmas season, I find myself loving them more!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!

At least around here it is. We have spent the day decorating inside and out with all of our Christmas decor. We have old sleds outside, ice skates, wooden signs, greenery and white lights. Jeff has been busy getting the outside done. Inside we have filled the house with all the snowmen from my snowman collection that we could find, lots more white lights, greenery, and much more. We always fill the house with Christmas music as we decorate, and sip hot cocoa, it's become a tradition. Today we listend to an Amy Grant Christmas album, as we opened up box after box, pulling out angels, snowmen and nutcrackers.

Tomorrow we will select our tree, and with great anticipation from the girls, it will go up, along with all the prim decorations, and we will play our festive music and drink hot cocoa as we go. I am very excited to have it all done! Pictures to come...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our littlest girl-an update!

Lilyann has really been changing lately, so I thought it was time for an update!
Here are some things she is doing these days:

1. Still potty training, not quite there yet!
2. She is starting to dress herself, especially shoes and socks, sometimes pants.
3. Although hand dominance is not said to be fully established until a child is 5, I could tell with Miranda by 2 that she was right hand dominant. Lilyann appears to use her left hand more at this point. She still switches to the right at times, but most things she prefers to do with her left, and she will automatically use the left hand before the right.
4. She is starting to do silly things to make us laugh. Her newest thing is when she is sitting in my lap facing me, she will reach up with her left hand, pull her hair, and with this big smile on her face say, "OWWW" I then tickle her, and she belly laughs, and the whole game starts over again. It is so funny to watch!
5. She continues to dislike sleep, particularly naps. Her nap duration averages 15 minutes. She sleeps through the night, but does not like to go down!
6. Speech is slowly improving. She recently started putting two words together spontaneously. She gets so excited when she sees one of us come home. She starts dancing around yelling "Daddy home!" or "Mommy home!". Some of her other favorite words are cookie, cereal, ball, kitty, meow, more. She is getting some short term speech intervention from a friend at work. This will just give us more ideas of what to do to help facilitate improved speech and communication. Yeah!!
7. Horses are her favorite! She runs around saying "horsey" a lot, and she will spot them when we are out driving around and point them out. So cute!
8. She is still sleeping in her crib. We tried taking one side off to convert to a toddler bed, but after falling out a few times, that didn't work. We then attempted to let her sleep with Miranda one night. That didn't work. She was a wiggle worm, and wouldn't stop playing with Miranda's hair! So, the crib will continue for awhile.
9. She continues to be a cuddly, sweet, affectionate and outgoing child. She says hi to everyone she meets usually. She has to give me numerous kisses before I leave to go somewhere. She is such a blessing, and has added so much to our lives.
10. She is active! She is always into something, or up on something. We can get exhausted if we don't provide structured activities for her. She loves most activities we do give her, and she loves to be read to.
11. Eating-I can't even begin to explain how much this girl loves to eat. We are still dealing with her inability to feel full. She loves her high chair, and that is another one of her favorite words. The other day I was in the kitchen making dinner, and I looked in the dining room, where the high chair was and the tray was off. Lilyann was sitting there quietly waiting to be fed. When I told her to come down, that it was going to be awhile before dinner, she was not happy!
12. Overall she is doing so well, after a year here in our family. It is amazing how God just knows exactly what children we are meant to have.

Peace and joy to you!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

4Th Photo Tag

I was tagged by Tereasa to find the 4th photo in my 4th folder. Here it is! Miranda was about 4 here, and holding one of the many siamese kittens we had at the time. This was fun! I need to get these photos printed out! Anyone that would like to play, you are tagged! What 4th photo might be in your 4th folder?

Hey, I won!!

I won the CD over at Jeanette's blog !!! This is the first giveaway I have won here in Bloggyland!! I am very excited and can't wait to listen to it! Thanks so much, Jeanette!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Swap fun!

I participated in a fall swap this year, and recieved my box of treasures tonight! I found out about the swap through The Homespun Heart blog and thought it would be fun. I used to participate in swaps during my "wait" for our little girl from China, and always enjoyed them. My swap partner this time was Amy at A Snip of Goodness and boy did she outdo herself! Above is the beautiful box with with tulips (my favorite flower) on it that she had everything wrapped up in.

And inside I found...(or should I say "we" as Miranda and Lilyann had their hands inside before I did!) some wonderful things! It's hard to tell by the photo, but on the right side of the box, there are many wonderful scrapbook items, such as a mini book, stickers, and punches, and other embellishments! I was really excited about it, because now that my scrapbook/project room is pretty much complete I have been stocking up on scrapbooking supplies! She also sent a candle, a homemade bar of soap, a pretty hair clip in a cute little asian bag, a coffee travel mug, a notepad, a ribbon belt kit, and last but not least, a box of Calgon, take me away foaming milk bath! I have never tried that, and I rarely take time for myself and take baths, so I am looking forward to trying it!!! Thanks so much Amy!!! I love it all!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why I love homeschooling...

Homeschooling is such a precious gift. The other day we went on a nature walk with some homeschooling friends in the morning.
It was a beautiful fall day. There was so much to see, and the kids were able to enjoy fresh air, run and play, and observe nature all around them. They did sketches of some of their observations, or favorite things they saw on their walk.

Miranda actually stopped every once in awhile and took notes of some of the things she saw...a creek, cattails, a bridge, berries. What a blessing it is for children to be able to have the time to stop and look, and learn about God's creation all around them. They aren't stuck at a desk all day, they are free to learn not only the basics, but they can really focus on what interests them, what they love, and as their parent and teacher, we are there to guide them and assist them in growing in these areas.
Homeschooling has really been an amazing gift. It was not something I set out to do, but something I was open to learning about when I first heard about it. A few years later, and here I am, a firm believer in homeschooling! The more I study and learn about it, the more excited I get! It is a lifestyle we are steadily growing into and one with so many positive benefits, I wouldn't trade it for anything!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh, the leaves!!

Here is a picture of our home right now. We have a large Maple tree right in the front yard, and each fall it presents us with a blanket of leaves. This year, even the porch and steps were covered! This photo was taken right after Jeff blew off all the leaves.
I love our Maple tree. There are big, strong branches to hold our tree swings, and it is fun. You can tell what I'll be doing all weekend....yep, raking leaves! This isn't the only tree in our yard either, there are even larger trees, with MANY more leaves. The girls are just waiting for the big piles of crunchy leaves to jump into...let's hope it's a dry weekend.

Lilyann is enjoying the playset now that she is big enough to swing and climb and slide. See her sweet, sweet smile? Wishing you all a beautiful Autumn weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Birthday Blessings...

It's my birthday, and I thought I'd share some pictures from this year and last. Above is the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou China on the Pearl River. Last year, when we were in China on my birthday, I got to go here, and have afternoon tea! They had every kind of little pastry you can imagine and we sat overlooking the river. What a memorable birthday!
Here is the cake our guide, Jocelyn, gave us that day. Very different from your typical american birthday cake, but fun to try!

And now this year...Jeff, Miranda and Lilyann gave me two dozen roses! What a wonderful surprise.

And also from them, this beautiful "daughters" necklace engraved with thier names and a little pearl. I feel a little spoiled! What a special birthday it has been, and remembering my birthday last year has brought back such warm feelings as well. I love birthdays, and we have our share of them in the fall! We have been attending lots of birthday parties lately.
I will leave you now with one of my favorite quotes.
"Do not fret about getting older, it's a privilege denied to many".