Thursday, December 30, 2010

May...or may not

Today I'm not feeling very well.

You know what that means, right?

Yes...it means fettuccine alfredo is absolutely necessary for my survival. I wish it weren't so. Alas, it is. I'll be adding some pesto - you know, because I need the extra veggie content since I'm sick and all. Garlic and basil are really good for you. Really really reeeeeeeeeeally good. 

I may or may not be forced to use my new pasta rolling pin to make noodles. 

I may or may not be forced to lay on the couch and eat bowl after bowl while finishing Season Two of Arrested Development on Netflix. 

Poor me. Poor poor me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Oh by gosh by golly...

A few days ago my dear friend Momma K9 sent me a text that simply read "Bluuuuuuuuuurp. The sound of my thighs expanding."

Can I get an amen or what? Seriously...the food.

We spent all of Christmas Eve with Mike's side of the family. The day began with a peppermint mocha, almond scones, breakfast casserole, and gingerbread pancakes with homemade syrup (also known as maple flavored fat, or, heaven in a bottle). Dinner was a combination of carne asada tacos, homemade refried beans, Mexican coleslaw, fresh corn tortillas, Jamaican patties, curried chicken with peas and rice and too many cookies to remember. I found myself wishing for my leggings and regretting my choice of size 4 jeans.

Christmas day began with cinnamon rolls and candy from the stocking. I know it may be weird, but we're all about health around here. Or...not. After my third truffle of the morning I decided my size 4 jeans mistake would not be repeated and I grabbed my elastic waist leggings. Best. Purchase. Ever. After gifts we went to my parent's house where we dove into the jalepeno artichoke dip, and the seafood dip. And a few more cookies. My sister showed up with hummus and vegetables so I decided to eat a little more healthy and in between bites of almond rocha and sips of hot buttered rum I would eat a cucumber slice. For dinner my dad did up an awesome prime rib roast, potatoes from the garden, 7-layer salad (as requested by Lincoln), and...a crab pot. Oh yes. Prawns, clams, crab, red potatoes and corn on the cob all in one delicious place...with butter for dipping. Of course. My sister-in-law made an amazing trifle for dessert.

On Boxing Day we once again went to my folks for turkey, more potatoes, more salad, loads of gravy and green beans with bacon. And leftover trifle. You can't let dessert go to waste...it's kind of a commandment.

And that's just Christmas weekend. I won't even divulge the kind of food that I put into my body in the weeks leading up to Christmas time.

So, this morning, bright and early, I spent some quality time with Jillian Michaels. I'm hopeful she can help undo what Christmas eating has done.

And if not? Well...I'll maintain that every bite was totally worth it.

(Will you remind me I said that in a few weeks when I'm trying to squeeze into my bathing suit for our trip to Maui?)

Chocolate covered Peanut butter bacon balls. Just one (of many) things I ingested in December. Pretty much, if you want to be a hero to everyone you know, you will make these. Recipe to follow soon!

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Celebrate the Day

Ah...Christmas. The most glorious wonderful commercialized time of year.

You know what I really started thinking about this year? The Christmas carol Little Drummer Boy. I really started listening to the words and I started to get a little annoyed. Who, who in their right mind would invite a drumming kid into a birthing suite? As if poor Mary wasn't miserable enough to have given birth amongst lambs and goats and cows and pigs and all the glorious mess that they produce...someone felt the need to ask a kid to come play a stinking drum? Are you kidding me? Mary nodded, pa-rum-pa-pa-pum...Are you sure? Because I'm pretty sure she would have drop kicked that kid if he tried playing a drum near her newborn baby while she was trying to recover and attempting to figure out how to get her baby to latch on. Seriously...who writes this stuff?

Regardless of my newfound distaste for the Little Drummer Boy and whoever invited him into the stable that night, I really do love Christmas. We have a few traditions we've worked on establishing in our little family - I really hope they carry through with us each year.

* Gifts - Each child gets three of them. We are actually just starting this one. Last year a friend of mine told me they get each of their children three gifts because that is how many gifts the Wisemen brought to Jesus. I loved the correlation and this year we adopted it. Limiting ourselves to three gifts has helped us to reign in our spending, especially since, with young children, they usually open one gift and are so enthralled with it they could care less about the other gifts. There was one year, a few years back, that they had so many gifts some gifts weren't completely unwrapped before they moved onto the next gift. I'm pretty sure that kind of excess isn't really going to help the character building. We also know that as they get older the gifts will get more expensive ... it will be nice for the kids to know they are limited in their wish list.

*Santa - we've gone back and forth on Santa but finally settled on Santa fills the kids stockings. Our main reason for this is, if our kids get a gift that totally knocks their socks off, I don't want to be giving credit to some strange fictional character. I also don't want our kids experiencing the disappointment of finding out Santa isn't real. So, although we talk about Santa filling their stockings, and leave him egg nog and donuts every year, we don't try to shelter our children from knowing the truth. There is something really fun about the magic and mystery of Santa though, so we didn't want to do away with him completely.

* Chinese Food - The last few years we have celebrated Christmas a few days early. This started one year when Mike was working Christmas day, but we've carried it on even though he's been home. It's been nice for the kids to open their gifts without the stress of having to get anywhere. Then we usually do something fun - a movie or the Children's Museum - and we end up at the local Chinese restaurant for dinner. The kids always always want fried rice and egg drop soup. Then we drive around and look at lights and finally head home and have ice cream. It's been so much fun creating our own little tradition. This year the kids will open gifts on Christmas morning since we don't have to be anywhere until later in the day and Mike is off, but he is off in the days leading up to Christmas as well, so we will still do something really fun and end up with Chinese food, lights and ice cream.

That's pretty much it. I would like to start a cookie making or gingerbread house making tradition - but that would require forethought and planning. I would also like to start making gifts for our families but again...the whole preplanning things seems elusive.

Anyway, there is a real possibility I won't be posting again until after Christmas and so ...

Merry Christmas!  I pray your Holiday is filled with family, laughter and love and most importantly the remembrance of what we are really celebrating - the birth of the Savior who was born to die so we might live. I'll leave you with my favorite Christmas tune of all times and the pictures we sent out on our Christmas cards this year. Merry Christmas!!




And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You've touched my life
Because here is where You're finding me, in the exact same place as New Year's eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We're less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I'll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might [ really ]live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life









Monday, December 13, 2010

Before and (Very Happily) After

Our second son, Judah, has always been our sickly child. Thankfully, sickly for our family isn't really very sickly ... but still, we've had some struggles.

Without boring you will all the details (of which there are many) I will tell you that when he turned three Mike and I could hardly understand what he was saying and that people outside our home never could understand him. When I brought these concerns to our then pediatrician, we were told, without having ever heard Judah speak, that we didn't need to worry about it until he was closer to Kindergarten age.

That didn't sit well with us and we began looking for a new doctor for our kids. While we looked we took Judah to our school district to have him evaluated. They were more helpful, and affirmed that he did have some speech issues, however he scored an 81% on his evaluation and in order to qualify for services he needed to score lower than 78%. I felt stuck - I didn't know how to be an advocate for my son. While Mike was more relaxed about it and hopeful that Judah would grow out of his poor speech patterns, I was increasingly concerned that they would only get worse as he got older and by the time he was in Kindergarten he would be behind before he even started. It took awhile but we found a new pediatrician and when we went in for our first meeting and I asked about Judah he looked me square in the eye and asked,
"Do you think there's an issue?"
"Yes," I said. "I know they said he should be fine, but I really do feel like there's an issue."
"Good enough for me," he replied. "In my years as a doctor I've learned that mom's know a lot more than they are often given credit for. Find a speech therapist and I'll send my referral."
I felt so affirmed as a mom! It felt so good to be listened to and trusted that I did know what was best for my son.
We found a speech therapist not far from our home and while she was doing Judah's evaluation she asked me to look at Judah's mouth. "Notice," she said, "how when he talks his tongue doesn't move? Do you see that he's using his jaw to move his tongue around? That would be the reason for the 'lazy' speech you hear."
"Is that something he would grow out of?" I asked.
She looked at me wide eyed. "No," she replied. "That's something he'll have to work hard to stop doing." Once again, affirmed in the knowledge that I knew my son and what was and was not normal for him, we set ourselves up on a speech plan.
Judah was in speech for nearly a year when his therapist called me into her office before the session and asked me to watch this video of a student using a new device called a palatometer. I (not surprisingly if you know me) burst into tears. Judah's speech had indeed improved since he'd been in therapy, but it was a very slow process. Seeing the video gave me so much hope that Judah wouldn't need to spend years in therapy; that we may only have months left. Without even knowing if our insurance would cover the new device I asked our therapist to sign us up. The video gave me so much hope I didn't care if we had to pay out of pocket; I just knew that it was what we needed.

Since the spring time, Judah has been using the palatometer for his speech therapy sessions. Even with our sporadic schedule, the improvement has been immense. We only have one car, and Brooklyn has also needed some speech help, si there have been some months when Judah was only able to get one therapy session in. And still, he is talking clearly. It seemed to start slowly, but suddenly, people have been having conversations with Judah. And those same people have been saying, "Wow...I understood every word he said."


I wanted to share these Before and After videos his therapist took of him. I am beyond proud of the strides he's made and am so thankful that we were led to his current therapist. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to embed these videos directly into the post so (sorry!) you'll have to check out the speech therapist's website but take a look! Especially if you know someone who's child is having speech difficulty, they need to know about a palatometer and how it can help.

See Judah's Before and After Videos


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Debt Stuff

Ahem.

So, it's been awhile since I've written on our debt story. Honestly, I shouldn't openly admit this, but I grew tired of writing it. That, and there was just a lot of waiting between paying off our credit card and paying off our car. It was month after month of tight budgeting, not going out to eat, not really doing anything fun ... on and on. It went by quickly though so it is difficult for me to sit down and remember every detail.

However (ah...thank God for however's!) I received this email yesterday from an old friend and it made. my. day. In fact, I cried for a bit when I read it, and when I re-read it to Mike later, I cried again. Not only did the email make my heart very very happy, but it also affirmed me as a friend and encouraged me to continue to stay on our debt free path (which can, admittedly, become tiresome sometimes) and to continue writing our story.

I thought I would write another chapter in the debt free saga but my daughter just vomited over the entire living room and so ... I'll leave you with the email I received. But soon, like, a few days soon, I'll continue the debt free story.

(Oh...and for a little history on this friend of mine, her youngest son was recently diagnosed with DMD (Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy) and she is pregnant with her sixth child! She's pretty amazing to begin with but this email put it over the top for me...)

Hey Genesis,
It's been a while since we've talked but I wanted to thank you for something.
It was a long time ago, right after Simeon was born, I came to visit.  (which by the way, we need to do again, it's been tooo long).
We talked about babies, Simeon's birth, how you weren't having more babies, etc.  But we also talked about $$, bills, paying for stuff, mortgages, credit cards, etc.  You were telling me about (I can't think of his name, pregnant brain, right) the financial guy, you read his book about keeping a budget, no credit cards, putting money in envelopes.  Anyway after I left I told Tom all about our visit.  At the time, I thought there is no way, there is no way that I ever will be able to be debt free.  
About a month or so after that, you posted on facebook that you were officially debt free.  I was so happy for you an Mike (I hope things are still well??, I know more than anyone that life happens, and things come up, but I hope you've been able to stay debt free).  
Well, long story short, I took your advice and decided I was going to try really had to do that too.  Then not very many months later (maybe 2 or 3 months) we got Wyatt's medical diagnosis.  And so much for debt free.  We ended up spending about 7000 to 10,000 dollars out of pocket on medical bills since then.  So we were in debt twice what we were when we talked.  
But after so many hard decisions, fights with our mortgage company, fights with our medical insurance, fights with our car loan people, almost 15 months since I saw you we are officially debt free (except mortgage, which we got a loan modification and are saving about $1000 a month on our house payment) as of today.  No credit card debt, no car loans, medical bills are paid, man does it feel great.
The whole purpose of this email is to thank you.  I have a lot of friends who try to give me advice or say you can't be without a credit card, you need one, that's bull!  You were my only friend that gave me a solution.  As you well know, it's still so hard to live on a budget.  EVERYTHING is more expensive, but Tom doesn't make anymore money.  We've made huge sacrifices, but haven't had to give up what's truly important....a safe place for our children to live and the best medical care money can buy for Wyatt.  I don't know how I can ever thank you enough.  You may not know how much you encouraged us to make a change.
We didn't do this for us, we wanted to prove to our kids, that it is truly possible to live with in your means, I hope that in the last year the kids seeing us struggle to get though everything will not only prove to them ANYTHING is possible, but that also that they need to budget when they want things (as adults) and I hope and pray that they don't make the same mistakes we did.  This is the first time (other than right after we sold our house when we moved here 3 years ago) in our almost 18 year marriage that we have been debt free.  I am a changed person and I hope that my kids will LEARN from my current example, not my mistakes of the past.
Thanks Genesis.  You truly made a difference in the lives of 8 people.  Our family can never thank you enough.
Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.
I'm honored to call you my friend.
Love, Melissa
  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I am Momma Bear

Most of you know I'm the oldest of six children. This information, in and of itself, is pretty boring. Just another tidbit about me. However, being the oldest of six children has ... uh ... shaped me into the woman I am today. I basically grew up feeling like I was their second mother. (Side note: our mom is awesome.) In fact, as we've grown into adults, growing out of being their second mother has been a difficult transition for me. And, I know I joke around about this, but there actually was a time when I saw an actual therapist and he actually told me I had to let go of parenting my siblings; you know, especially since I had my own children that needed their own mother and that my own brothers and sisters were all adults and could take care of themselves ... and also that little detail of our own parents being pretty freaking good at the whole parenting thing.

Still, years after that counseling session, there are times when I find those misplaced mothering tendencies towards my siblings creep back up again. The biggest one I struggle with is bossing. I've even tried bossing my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. I'm terrible. I apologize a lot. (Um...at least, I should.)

But the other thing that pops up? My Momma Bear. Like, the big bad grizzly that only tends to come out when someone comes after my own children? Well, she comes out when someone comes after my siblings too.

Which is why, last night, when someone tried posting degrading comments about my baby brothers on my photography blog, I kind of lost it. First, I should say, I will never allow anything about my client's personal lives to be posted on their pictures. Second, I will especially never allow anything hateful or destructive to be said about my client's on my blog. And thirdly, you weasly little anonymous coward, I especially will not allow insensitive, uneducated, misguided comments about my baby brothers and their wives to be posted on my blog. Ever.

I told Mike the things that frustrated me the most:
*I knew the comments were put there to get me riled up and I hated that it worked.
*I knew that the decisions my brothers have made and the paths that led them to where they are, are beautiful stories. It bothered my that they were called into question. I hated that I felt like I needed to defend them; especially since they had done nothing that needed to be defended.
*I was bothered that people were passing judgement on my family; people who don't know all the details, who haven't taken circumstances into account and who don't really even understand the situations.

While I lay in bed last night and pondered how exactly I was going to defend my poor baby brothers and their wives and verbally rip to shreds the person who posted the comments, I had this moment where I heard the Lord ask me, "When did I defend myself?" I thought of the things that had been said about Jesus; the false accusations, the beatings, the questioning and how he never once defended Himself. He didn't need to be defended. He let His accusers say and do what they wanted. Granted, He, being God, had a little more self control than I do and He also knew the whole big picture ... still, I think the lesson is there. Let people say what they will. Don't defend, don't engage in the conversation. Just let the truth speak for itself.

And then I began to think of all the people I have passed judgement on without knowing details. Oh man...sometimes without even wanting to know details. Sometimes, without even knowing them. Sometimes, I try to get all the details and say it's so I won't make a wrong judgement. Wow...how's that for justifying gossip? Once a new mom came to MOPS and was asking how to get her 18 month old to sleep through the night and not in bed with them? Yeah...um, take care of that when he 18 days and it won't be an issue. Later I found out they had adopted him only two months before and he'd been living in a cardboard box before that.

OH. MY. GOSH.

The judgement's I've made against so many people! Without apology, without care, without love. And most notably, without concern for how my words will affect them.

Or those who love them.

So today ... I've felt less harsh toward the person who made those comments. I'm still upset, my Momma Bear still hasn't fallen back to sleep, but I've been reminded of the many Momma Bears who's anger I've ignited with my own callous thoughts and words. I'm thankful for second chances and the opportunities I've been given to apologize for the hurts I've caused. I'm reminded that talking gossiping about others doesn't help them or me; it just hurts. It has kept me from friendships that could have been amazing, it has blocked me from hearing stories that could have changed my life, it has stolen away opportunities for me to show Christ's love.

So, anonymous blog commenter ... I'm sorry you feel the way you do. But thank you for giving me the chance to look inside myself, question my own motives, and learn a little bit.

"As for you, you meant evil against me (and my family), but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result..." Genesis 50:20 (parenthesis mine)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Assassination

Yesterday Lincoln asked me why President Abraham Lincoln had been so disliked. This led to a discussion about slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation. At the end of our discussion Judah said,
"And that's why President Lincoln was shot in the back of the head." Then he paused thoughtfully and asked, "Did he get shot with a regular gun? ... or with a rocket launcher?"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time4Learning Review

The opinion expressed here is mine. I'd like to disclose that I have been supported in writing this review by receiving a free month to review the program.

As I've said before, homeschooling has not come to me as naturally as I'd anticipated.
I had visions of very structured mornings - first we'd do our daily devotions, followed by quiet playing for Brooklyn and Simeon while Lincoln read and practiced his handwriting and I taught Judah how to read. Then we would seamlessly transition into handwriting practice for Judah while I went over math lessons with Lincoln. In the meantime the younger kids would be done playing with blocks and would quietly begin putting together Lego castles. After math with Lincoln was finished, we would take a small break for lunch and the two babies would go down for their afternoon naps - without any tears or temper tantrums. The babies would sleep for approximately three hours - during that time I would finish any history and geography lessons, send the boys to their room to read, catch up on my blogs, catch up on my Psych episodes, write a new blog post, finish the laundry, make my own bed and clean the toilets. At 4 pm all my children would emerge from their bedrooms happily and well rested and we would all sing educational tunes while I made dinner. And then Mike would come home and I'd throw my arms around his neck and say, "Oh Darling! Homeschooling is the most fun ever!" and he would twirl me around and we would laugh and the children would fetch his pipe and slippers and we would all gather around his feet while he read us a chapter from The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Then I remembered Mike doesn't have a pipe OR slippers and that my children learned their alphabet by watching Leapfrog videos and that playing quietly is a joke and that naps never never happen unchallenged and I realized ... I'm kind of screwed.

Thankfully, Melissa had told me (on more than one occasion) about Time4Learning and I'm so glad she did. It has saved my butt and made me feel like less of a homeschooling failure. Originally we signed up for Time4Learning as a way to tide us over until we got our act together and came up with an actual plan that was going to work for our family. I was glad for the free month because one of my biggest fears is putting money into something that ends up not working for our family. I've read over and over that most homeschooling families put a lot of money into curriculum that they end up tossing and we just don't have money to be blowing around so anything free grabs my attention. After spending a month with the program, I'm hooked and I feel more than ok spending the $35 each month for my boys to use it.

One thing that I've really enjoyed about T4L is one of the same things I have enjoyed about homeschooling over-all...flexibility. For example, Lincoln has a difficult time with math. It doesn't come easily for him, therefore he hates it. T4L makes math fun. Their lessons are done in a colorful interactive format - instead of listening to someone ramble off facts and tell him what to do, he actively participates during the lesson. T4L even has worksheets that can be printed off that he can do with the lesson. This came in handy the other day as he was having a lot of frustration with one lesson in particular. After two times through the lesson I had him take the quiz. He scored 1 out of 10 correct. I printed of the hand-out and he went through the lesson again, this time writing down and practicing each concept. At the end, when he took the quiz again, he scored 9 out of 10 and was able to tell me what he had done wrong on the one he had missed. (It also helped that I told him he could say the questions out loud to make sure he understood them.) Most of the math lessons also have games as part of their lesson. It's a great way to get the practice in - Lincoln is having fun while also solidifying the concepts he has learned. Tricky tricky! When Lincoln finished his math unit (in this case Number Sense) he is given a comprehensive exam. He scored a 68% so I knew some of the concepts hadn't sunk in. I also realized at that point that he struggles with the terms 'test' and 'quiz'. I had to explain to him that the quizzes and tests are really for me to make sure he understands what he has learned - another great thing about homeschooling is we can go at our own pace and make sure he really understands. He seemed satisfied with that and wasn't as freaked out by the low score. When we went back into the program every aspect he had scored high on was marked with a star that said MASTERED over it, while the areas he scored low on just had a check mark with a COMPLETED over them. We spent the next few days going over lessons in the ones he didn't master and yesterday when he retook the comprehensive exam and scored 100% and he saw a huge star and a MASTERED over everything he'd done, his smile went nearly to his ears. It was good for me too; I knew spending the extra couple of days on the things he didn't totally understand had been worth it.

The curriculum for Judah (Kingergarten) is a little slow, but he seems to be enjoying it. The first lesson is computer basics, teaching how to use a mouse and navigate the website. From there it has moved onto basic Kindergarten stuff. Judah, unlike his brother, seems to enjoy taking quizzes. He tends to rush so he doesn't listen to all of the instructions half the time and misses what he is supposed to be doing, but if there is nothing distracting him he does well.

I like that T4L offers lesson plans. Coming up with a plan has been a huge struggle for me so it has been helpful to have the subjects broken down into lessons. I am able to determine how many lessons I want each child to cover during the week in order for them to be able to move onto the next level. They also have a bunch of online support and parenting forums which have been helpful when I've not know exactly how to go about teaching or helping the boys learn a specific concept.

I'm not sure how long we'll use T4L, but it may end up being our main plan. In addition to math and language arts they also have science and social studies. I usually let Lincoln do those subjects on his own since he finds them to be fun, but I want the main teaching of those subjects to be done by me and Mike. I feel less stressed about those areas as they seem to be less foundational than math and reading. We also have to supplement the math and reading a little bit. Lincoln draws a blank when it comes to basic math facts so we recently purchased some flash cards by EduPress and a CD full of skip counting songs by MathUSee. I also feel it will be important that they continue to be challenged in their reading, although T4L does a great job of introducing new sound combinations (for example, /io/ and /ou/ ) that I would probably not even think about until I realized they didn't know how to pronounce them. However, we are slowly building our own personal library and I am working at making reading a more important part of our day.

Overall, after just one month, I'm excited about Time4Learning. We still have to figure out our day and how to give both the boys equal learning time in an undisturbed environment. I'm sure that will forever be a challenge, but as far as what they'll be learning ... I'm thankful to know that part is taken care of.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oh the weather outside is ...

Random.

During the beginning of November we had record high's for our area - in the high '70's. Two weeks later we were having near blizzard conditions and record low's for our area; in some places it was in the single digits.
On Thanksgiving morning we had received two inches of new snow and by Thanksgiving night all the snow had been rained away.

My children are on the edge of utter ecstasy (snow) and total devastation (rain) on a day by day (sometimes hour by hour) basis.

The Pacific Northwest is like a box of chocolates I suppose.

How confused do you think this azalea bush is?


Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving List

I have so many things to be thankful for. Yet somehow, sometimes, I get into this whining grumbling rut where I seem to wallow in my self pity and focus only on what I wish I had to be thankful for. The last few years God has really worked on me in this area and I think (hope?) I'm getting better. One reason I love this time of year is because we have a holiday devoted specifically to being thankful - it forces me to look beyond my little grave of self pity and think about all I have been blessed with. And although I don't feel I've been in my little wallowing hole as of late (thank you Lord) I still wanted to come up with a list of a few things I am especially thankful for ... (not in order importance...except #1 and 2 of course). Happy Thanksgiving!

1. The thing I am always most thankful for is that I have a relationship with God through Jesus. Also, that He really truly leads me so gently. I feel like that last couple of months have pushed me to another level of faith and understanding - and it's pretty cool.

2. My husband that still makes my knees weak when he smiles, the children he has given me, and the life he has made with me.

3. I tolerate gluten. Hallelujah for carbs. Amen.

3. I am beyond thankful that the great state of Washington is so lenient with their homeschooling laws and that I have the freedom and flexibility to educate them the way I feel is best.

4. That my husband not only has a job, but a job that provides well for our family ... and one that he enjoys. Rare and wonderful.

5. That I have four children. It's just cool.

6. Hot showers. Mmmm...tankless means endless. So. Very. Thankful.

7. I'm thankful for my DSLR camera.

8. Riesling. And I'm beginning to be thankful for merlot.

9. I know I've mentioned it before (and I'm sure it will be mentioned again) but my mom lives less than a mile away. And I love that. And she's one of my best friend's. And she let's me use her Shark steam mop. And she babysits for free. And she makes me dinner. And she lives less than a mile away.

10. I have a group of women I meet with once a month - they are all married to police officer's. I have grown to depend on these women immeasurably. Not because my husband is a jerk, or his schedule sucks, or his department is difficult ... but because they accept me and encourage me and uplift me. It is rare to find a group of women who refuses to berate and belittle the men in their life. I am proud and thankful to belong to this fabulous group and to count those women as some of my closest friends.

11. I have some girlfriends that I grew up with - and we all still get together. How cool is that? It doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but at least once or twice a year we've been able to make it work and the time is sweet. I am thankful that we continue to make the effort to maintain and cultivate our relationships.

12. I was able to spend some quality time with my sister and niece from Arizona this year. I cried when they went home. I miss them.

13. Jen came for almost a week. It was wonderful. I cried when she left.

14. My sister in laws - Tara, Sarah-Jane and (soon!) Candace. I'm also thankful for the men who made them my sister in laws... my pesky little brothers Isaac, Micah and Matthew. How I love them.

15. My in-laws. No woman is as fortunate as I am (in my opinion).

16. Julie. Technically she's Mike's sister in law, but she's one of my dearest friends. She's basically wonderful.

17. My sisters. Rachel and Rebekah.

18. My coffee grinder and barista.

19. Starbucks.

20. Worship music.

21. My King size bed.

22. My dad. I'm 31 years old and to me - he's still pretty Supermanly.

23. I'm close with my cousins and I count them among my dearest friends. Family reunions are probably near the top of my "Most Fun Weekends" list.

24. Being debt free.

25. Netflix on the Wii.

What are some things YOU are thankful for this year? Does being thankful help you to stay out of self-pity ruts?

Monday, November 22, 2010

What I am not.

I am not a hot weather fan. Nor am I a cold weather fan. Which is why the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for me.

Although I love hot weather. I mean, Mike is taking me to Maui for our anniversary in 66 days (give or take a few hours.) And it is snowing out and I love love love snow and am hopeful that this winter will be as snowy and cold as they say it it going to be.

So, I'm pretty much a mixed up jumbled mess of loving a tan as long as their is air conditioning and wanting to sled as long as their is a roaring fire and hot chocolate (preferably with a little Bailey's. Just sayin'.)

I'm glad you all got to know me a little better today.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Giveaway!

Since I've had such an overwhelming positive response to my little photography venture I teamed up with my friend Jenny at Pixy Print Lane to do a giveaway...
I wanted to make sure you all got a chance to get in on the action so click Genesis Ann Photography to get all the details!

Tell your friends!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Best Decision

I've started reading Keys For Kids with my children every morning. I grew up with Keys For Kids - they are great little devotionals. Every day there is some scripture to read, a verse to memorize, and a Key - a shorter easier little phrase that sums up the story. It really is a great little resource for my family - the verses are good to have my older boys working on memorizing, and the Key is awesome for the babies. They feel such a sense of accomplishment when Mike walks in the door and they can all tell him what the Key for the day was! And for me ... well, I feel like I'm taking care of some of my most important jobs as a mother.
First, teaching them how to read and understand the Bible.
Secondly, teaching them to memorize and hide the Scripture in their little hearts. The times when verses from the Bible have come to mind exactly when I needed them are too many to count. I want, so badly, for my kids to have that same assurance and guidance as they grow.
Thirdly, leading my children to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and helping them to develop their own personal relationship with Him.
We are backed up a couple of days on the Keys For Kids since we took the kids away for a couple days at the beginning of the week. I opened up today's Key and found that it was part 2 so I found yesterday's story and printed it out. I sat down with the kids and scanned the verse and key.
The verse was John 3:3 "I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The key was "Live forever in heaven."
Oh boy I thought. We're getting to some meat today!


After reading the little story I read the 'How about You' section: Did you know that your soul is the most important part of you? Nobody can see it, but it will live forever - in either heaven or hell. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you'll live with Him in heaven someday. If you haven't done that, don't wait. Trust Him and be born again today.


As I read that, Lincoln raised his hand. "Mom," he said, "I don't know if I've done that. Can you ask Jesus into my heart for me?"
I had to explain that only he could ask Jesus to be his Savior - that it was a decision I couldn't make for him, but that I could help him if he wanted me to. I explained that we all sin, and because God is perfect and can't look at sin, that our soul had to go to hell. Then I explained that Jesus had lived perfectly and that because He died, and more importantly rose from the dead, that if we asked Him to be our Savior, when we die, God will look at us and see Jesus in us - His perfect Son, and that our soul can go to heaven. And then I told him that if he believes that in his heart and says it with his mouth, then he will go to heaven.
And then we prayed and my son asked Jesus to be his Savior.
And I bawled like a little baby.
"Why are you crying Mom?"
"Because Honey. Not every mom knows for sure that she will see her child in Heaven - but me, I know. I know without a doubt that you will be there and that makes me so happy the only thing I can do is cry."

I'm still crying. The joy in my heart makes me want to explode. This decision that determines the course of my son's life - I don't take it lightly. I understand that he doesn't totally get it all; that Mike's and my responsibility for leading him and directing him is only just beginning. But Lincoln has taken that first step - he has a faith now and this momma ... well, she's a blubbering joyful mess.

An unashamed blubbering joyful mess.

Click HERE to read Keys For Kids

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An Admission

Can I admit something?

When I have something percolating through my mind, it kind of takes over everything. Like ... everything. For example, Mike has walked into our room a few times while I've been busy pondering what it is that's been on my mind (and probably making funny faces while talking to myself) and I just about kung-fu chopped him in the face each and every time.

Have you ever been sneaked up on? It's terrifying.

My husband's ninja assassin skills aside, this thing that has so consumed my thoughts is the same thing that has caused all my writer's block. I've tried writing about it a couple of times but it never comes out right (I know...rehashing what I've already said). So, instead of powering through it, I have a friend over and talk about it because that is so much easier.

And I feel less sneaked up on.

Then, a day or two ago, while reading the Bible, I read this verse.

Psalm 27:13 
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

And just ... whoa.

I can't even write much more about it because it doesn't do justice to what it meant to my spirit.

And all of that to say, now I have even more to think about. Which probably means more writer's block. And more kung-fu chops to Mike's face.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A List

1. I tried Time 4 Learning with Lincoln this morning. After two math lessons he was able to play a math game, which  he loved. At the end of the game was a quiz, which he did not love. He cried and cried when I told him he had to take the 5 question quiz. This made me wonder two things.
     a) Oh my gosh, would you behave this way if Mrs. Bedlington told you you had to take a quiz?
and
     b) Oh my gosh,  did you behave this way when Mrs. Bedlington told you take a quiz?

2. My children have been playing in their own little make believe world for about an hour without any tears or hitting. What is sweeter than that? (Ok...when they are sleeping. But, other than sleep ...)

3. A few weeks ago Mike and I decided that we weren't going to let the kids watch TV anymore; that it would be a special 'treat' instead of what they got to do every time I didn't know what to do with them. It went really well for the first two weeks - and then Mike got Netflix for the Wii and now the TV's been on for like ... I don't know. Thirteen hours straight. Give or take.

4. I have decided that beginning on Monday November 1 I will no longer be eating sugar. There are a few reasons for this.
     a) Sugar triggers my migraines.
     b) I am addicted to sugar 'like a cocaine addict is addicted to cocaine' (direct quote from my naturopath)
I have done this a few times over the years and each time the result is wonderful. I lose weight, I stop getting migraines and daily headaches, I no longer crave Nerds for breakfast. It's beautiful. I can never go too long as eating seems to be such a social behavior and I hate sounding like a total tool when I'm offered dessert.
"Oh, no thank you. I don't eat sugar. You do?"
Ok, it isn't that bad, but it feels that bad. And inevitably I end up eating Skittles and claiming that they are basically fruit so it's okay and I spend days in bed with migraines and I put on five pounds and I end up needing to go cold turkey. Again. Cold turkey is the only way I know though - I have never been able to figure out how to wean myself off of sugar. It's all or nothing.

5. This year we aren't letting the kids Trick-or-Treat. Like before, I have a few reasons.
     a) My children are petrified of every. single. thing related to Halloween. At the grocery store Mike had to take them out another route while I checked out because there was a skeleton by the cash register and they all went into convulsions. Or something.
     b) I'm having a hard time answering the hard questions, most of which are from my oldest son, Lincoln.
"Mom, are witches real?" "Mom, why do people dress up for Halloween?" "Mom, what are zombies?" "Mom, are there really ghosts?" "Mom, why do people celebrate Halloween?"  and the zinger ... "Mom, if everything about Halloween is about the Devil and evil, why do we celebrate it?"
     c) My strong affection and slight addiction to sugar. Please re-read #4 above.
This will be a year by year thing. Perhaps when they can walk past a spider without screaming and running the other direction, or when they can understand the difference between dressing up and getting candy and actually celebrating Halloween, or when their mother is no longer fighting the sugar demons...perhaps then.

6) I roasted about 100 cloves of garlic yesterday. My house smells delicious but I'm pretty sure that I don't smell so wonderfully.

7) The Bible study I've been doing, One in a Million by Priscilla Shrier, has been amazing. When we got to the chapter on the Oasis of Complacency - I quit. I was terrified of what I'd learn; of what God would show me. One (of the many) things she said was, "If you aren't feeling attacked, then you aren't a threat." Gulp. I can't remember the last time I wondered why the Enemy was hounding me.
Last night as I fell asleep I apologized to God and this morning I picked the study up again. I'm still really terrified of what He's going to reveal to me...I've felt for a long time that change was coming to my family. I'm still unsure of what that means or how that will look ... but I do know that if I'm willing to step out of the comfortable oasis and head for the promised land, even if the journey is tough, the rewards will far outweigh the difficulty.

8) I apologize for all the Christian-ese in #7.

9) Our external hard drive crashed. It had over three years of videos and pictures - not to mention all our other important documents - on it. I started thinking of the first time Brooklyn (and Simeon!) walked and their high pitched, off key singing, or when Lincoln recited his first memory verse or Judah sitting in his seat in front the washing machine crying while his Blankie took a bath, or the video of the kids playing with my tummy as the baby inside it jumped around ... and now I'm a basket case. Blurg.

10) A month ago, when we discovered our washing machine was leaking, I thought it was one of the worst things that could happen to me. (Sometimes I tend toward the dramatic...but only a leeetle.) When the repair company said the part wouldn't be in for two weeks, I complained a lot. When they called back and said that it actually wouldn't be in for four weeks I went a little crazy. When my husband called and talked to GE and they replaced our washer within two days and sent us a check to repair all the damages (and then some) I felt slightly ashamed and very sheepish. I thought about how God had allowed something temporarily inconvenient and uncomfortable so that He could bless us with something unexpected. I watched Him provide for my family in a way I never would have thought of. I saw how He had been taking care of me from the beginning - that although he led me to a hardship, he'd already had a plan in place to take care of me. I wonder, if I had had a better attitude when the washer first broke, how much more I could have learned from this situation. I also wonder, if when I'm faced with another difficulty, perhaps one that actually matters (like death or illness) if I will be able to remember how He provided for me with a stupid little washing machine and if I will remember that if He cared enough about me in that situation, how much more He must be taking care to provide for the big ones.

11) My brother's wedding is over. Thankfully. One of my great joys was tate my sister was able to come up from Hell ... er, I mean Arizona. I have missed her so much! For the first time ever, all six of us kids were in the same wedding. It was so awesome!



You can see some of my pictures from the wedding HERE

12) Thanks for putting up with my random posts and flighty-ness lately. You guys are the greatest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What I thought was ...

I thought homeschooling would come naturally to me. Come to find out watching TV, sleeping in and staying in my jammies all day truly seem to be what I'm good at. Sigh.


Thankfully my dear friend Laura has agreed to hold me accountable and we have scheduled to meet on January 7 in order to plan out our entire school year. I made a list of goals I have to accomplish before we meet and as usual ... I haven't really started on them yet.


All of that to say, Melissa, another dear friend who is also homeschooling, referred me to Time 4 Learning, a web based learning program. I think it is going to be a good supplement until we get a definite plan down. Maybe it will be the plan? Who knows. 


I know I have been MIA and I have a lot I want to write about. Hopefully during the next few days it will all come together.


I’ve been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment and for summer skill sharpening. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.  














I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as an online homeschooling curriculum, a web based afterschool tutorial or an online summer program. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Am I forgetting something?

I can't believe how quickly the time goes by and I realize how long it has been since I've posted.
Can I blame the children? The photography? The husband? My brother's wedding? Mmmm...I'm blaming them all. Lord knows I would never actually blame myself!

I had a photo session with a high school senior yesterday and as I was getting my equipment out of the car  (*Side note: Thank you so much to all of you for your encouragement and kind words regarding my photography. It has been very very affirming!!) I noticed the gal in the car next to me. She was a little bit older, maybe in her '60's, and she had a young child with her, probably four or five years old. She got out of the drivers seat and ...


WAIT?! WHAT?!

Yes, I really got out my zoom lens and took this picture.
If my mom ever needs a note to remind herself to put the car in park ... well, she won't be driving my kids around.
I just think that's fair. Right?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Elusive

I have this huge long post that is dying to be written. The words are eluding me. I've been working on it for days. I am seeing life with new eyes and my heart is totally changing - these are very good things. So I try to write it down and I find that what I write just sounds stupid. 

Just thought I'd share that.

In other news, I took my kids for a walk today. After having to turn around after two blocks because B forgot to pee before we left, and after she almost got run over while I was helping J find his flip-flop that S had knocked off his foot, we finally made it to the sidewalk a few blocks up the street where I could finally breathe again. 

I figured, since I'm trying to start a photography business and all, I should bring my camera along and get some pictures of my own kids.


I have to admit, I don't know why getting them to smile/stand still/look at the camera/not throw temper tantrums is so difficult for me. Other people's kids smile/stand still/look at the camera/don't throw temper tantrums for me! Sheesh!!


But this one turned out kind of cute. Because it didn't require smiling/standing still/looking at the camera.


And at least they are all looking at the camera here. It only took me saying, "Ooookay...how about we all say what costumes we want to wear? How about we all pretend we're happy! How about I make you snickerdoodles? How about, um ... Say HI DADDY!" 
That got 'em. They'll do anything for Daddy. 
Little stinkers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Some things ...

1. My baby brother is getting married. I had this hair brained idea that, since my future sister in law was trying to plan a wedding from London, that I should get involved. Since she arrived only last week we have spent nearly every day running around like wild yay-hoos getting everything 'tidied up'. Today, less than three weeks before the wedding ... we ordered the wedding cake. 

2. I fully launched my photography business. Yikes!
Actually, it's been very fun. I've had actual paying jobs and it. is. amazing. 
I started a blog for it, Genesis Ann Photography. It's still pretty rough around the edges but Melissa is helping me (God love her) so hopefully in the next few weeks it will look totally rad.



3. I just said rad. Ha!

4. I still have no idea how to home school. My oldest said he loved homeschooling so much because we didn't really have to do much work. Which means...we have a lot of work to do.

5. I have, however, started teaching J to read. The other day he read his first sentence and the joy on his face almost made me cry. It was awesome.

6. I have no time to sit down and write something.

7. Oh, speaking of my photography business, if you're on Facebook you can Like me if you want. I hate the way that sounds ... but, look me up!

8. My washer has been broken for two weeks. The GE repair man said they would have the part to fix it on October 12. I think not having a washer is quite possibly one of the worst things that can happen to a mother. Ever. 

9. I'm doing a Bible study right now called One in a Million by Priscilla Schrier. It is absolutely changing my life and changing the way I see everything about life. It sounds silly to say but ... wow. If you ever have a chance to take this study, do it.

10. I'm sorry (TWYLA!) that I haven't written more of the debt story. I want to. I think about it. A lot. I just ... don't ... do ... it. So...sorry. I will. Soon. I think. Probably.

11. Oh! This very evening I booked our tickets to Maui for our 10th anniversary. And that will get me through the next four months and the Holidays without (hopefully) gaining weight!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jen


My friend Jen is coming on Tuesday night from Texas. Her flight arrives at 11:05 pm. Stinker. I think she does this to me on purpose.

I know I said I don't have a 'best' friend ... but ... She is one of my dearest closest bestest friends. I cannot wait to see her. Jen is one of those friends that is my heart, if that makes any sense. Really though, one of the (many) reasons I would consider her a best is because Josh (her hubby) and Mike are also besties (although, I'm pretty sure they don't refer to each other as such) and Mike is slightly highly bitter than Josh isn't coming as well. He hasn't seen Josh since we went to Texas last November to visit them. I think he may be going through withdrawls. It really isn't fair since Mike and Josh were friends first and Jen and I married into the friendship but ... well, too bad for them.

We aren't always on the same page. 
Ok, often we are in totally different chapters. 
But it works.

When Mike and I were engaged we went to California with Josh and Jen. When we'd been married a couple of years we went to Mexico with them. We had our first two babies weeks apart from each other. When our firsts were less than one we packed them up and went to Las Vegas together. Because we are smart and awesome like that. (What were we thinking?!)


Our firsts, Jillian and Lincoln, have pretty much already made life long committments to each other. Lincoln says things to me like, "When I grow up and marry Jillian and we live in Texas, will you visit us?" And Jillian does things like turn a paper plate into Lincoln's face and carry it around all day.



We all do it  ... when our friends have babies we say things like, "Oh, Lincoln! Here's your girlfriend Jillian!" and everyone laughs and says "Oh! How sweet!" while the babies do things like drool and poop and we take pictures of them together as if they actually know what's going on. But no one actually grows up and gets married to that one special baby.

But sometimes, I really think Lincoln and Jillian may be the exception. Actually, I really hope they are. Because just like her mom, Jillian is my heart ... and I find myself hoping ...


Last night as we were putting the kids into bed Lincoln asked, "Is Auntie Jen bringing me anything?"
I told him she would probably bring him a picture from Jillian.
He responded, "Maybe she'll bring me Jillian!"
Mike said how nice that would be and Lincoln sighed, "That would be paradise."
My little Romeo...er, only, without the whole fueding families and suicide thing.

Suffice to say, I'll be MIA for a few days.

Have a great week everyone! (And Twyla ... sorry AGAIN about the Debt Story ... you know I love you!)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thirty One-derful

Today is my 31st birthday.
There is much to discuss about officially being 'in my thirties' although I wish to dismiss all of that and focus on one simple thing.

Last year at my 30th birthday party ...

I was ... um ... ample.

I was uncomfortable being that big but I wasn't ready to really do anything about it. I covered my body with baggy jeans, flowy shirts and lots and lots of hoodies. If I were complimented on how I looked, I could never accept it. I wanted to be comfortable with my physical self, but I really never could get there.

In Januray Mike and I began working out and dieting and we both lost weight. I began to become more comfortable with the way I looked, a little bit more confident but I could never totally just embrace my body. I was proud of what my body had done ('Well, I've had four healthy babies ... it worked like it should have!) but not proud of what my body looked like ('I may have lost weight ... but these stretch marks sure aren't going anywhere!')

Yesterday Mike took me to the Westin for a night. He had booked a room that came with a $100 shopping spree at the mall across the street. So, we checked into our room and then walked over to work on spending some money and to find me a comfortable pair of jeans. I have lost just over 20 pounds since my last birthday but was only wearing one size smaller than I had been before losing weight. I chalked it up to having had four kids in five years - after all, ones stomach can only be extended so many times before it just gives up, right?

We walked into the Lucky Jeans store and when I told Stuart, the oh so friendly and abundantly helpful sales clerk, what size I was he looked me up and down and said, "Oh honey. No you aren't." Then he laughed and pulled down a pair of jeans that was TWO SIZES SMALLER than the ones I had on.
"Oh Stuart, you flatter me. But really ... this number here? It's much too small. Much. Much."
Again Stuart laughed and walked me to a dressing room.
And then something very strange happened. Something totally unexpected. I put those teeny tiny jeans on ... and they actually buttoned. They didn't just button though ... they actually looked good. And my stomach, that I had given so much grief, stayed put, not popping over the top like I had expected it to. I stood there in disbelief, and honestly, total shock. I could not believe those jeans fit me.

Upon seeing the $115 price tag I thanked Stuart for his help and left the store. We went to a few more stores and at each place it was the same; they laughed when I told them my size and pulled smaller sizes down for me to try on.

We ended up at the Gap where I purchased their Perfect Boot Jeans ... two sizes smaller than what I had been wearing.



I don't know about you, but this was a HUGE confidence booster for me. And a wake up call. Why am I constantly selling myself short? Why, when someone gives me a compliment, do I blow them off? Why can't I accept my body for what it really is? Which is apparently, a lot smaller than I thought?

So, with a little bit of angst, and also a little pride, I had Mike take this picture of me this morning.



I feel better about my body today than I have in a very long time. I've worked hard to get here and I'm proud of what I've accomplished. I know I have to continue to take care of myself if I expect to stay in these jeans, but getting them on and looking good in them only solidified that in my mind. What I've been doing ... it's been working, I'm not going to quit.

As I head into my thirty second year of life, I am determined to change my attitude about myself and my body image. I resolve, that when I look in the mirror, I will see the woman in the size 4 jeans and stop mentally adding the layers and pounds until I resemble the woman squeezing into the size 10/12, hoping that they'll loosen up just enough so I can sit comfortably.

I'm ready to start seeing my body the way Mike does - or, at least, start attempting to.

And I'm finally ready to truly appreciate that with everything I've put my body through during the last eight years of pregnancy and nursing, it has come out a winner, without feeling the need to attach any "except for's" to it.

*I went back and forth about sharing my actual size because I know sizes are arbitrary and we all are built differently. I had a huge wake-up call yesterday that totally shifted the way I saw myself so please take the post as I meant it - just a small retrospective about where I've come from and realizing where I'm actually at - and my attempt to start seeing the beauty in my physical self.*