December 2008

One of the gifts we received from friends this Christmas was a terrific book about the hiking trails in the area. We haven’t done a lot of hiking since all the kids came along because we just weren’t properly outfitted to carry the gear we needed. As we have learned, when you have 3 children under 4, a 2 hour hike can be a pretty big deal! One of things we lacked was a good day-pack that would be a good size for me to help carry gear. Well, unexpectedly, the day after Christmas, we came across a perfect backpack–sized for a woman, a good brand, and just like new. It was a steal! S snatched it up immediately, so on Saturday, we decided to use the new pack and our new book and go on a hike. We decided that we needed to find an easy, low-altitude trail so the kids wouldn’t get too tired, and so I could use it as training. We found the perfect hike–an old railroad that has been converted. We were even able to take the jogging stroller for the kids. Although I didn’t need the pack for this hike, we decided I would take the opportunity to stuff it and train with it a bit before we do anything longer. Here are a few pics from our adventure.The new pack is just big enough for JR to fit into! Who needs those fancy kid-backpacks?

There are several tunnels along this hike. It looks small, but it is big enough for a train to fit through. If you look closely, you can see a person standing on the other side.

A family photo just inside one tunnel. Little A is fast asleep beside M in the stroller.

Another family photo-op moment in front of beautiful lake view.

S thought this would be a cool shot of us walking out of a tunnel. Nice to see he still has the eye for good photos!

The hike was several miles, so we were all pretty tired when we got home. I am little sore, and obviously out of shape. Need to do more training hikes I guess–all for the kids of course!! There are few things that make me feel closer to God then being out in nature, where you are just surrounded by his beautiful, perfect creation.

We had a wonderful family Christmas. It started at 6:30 this morning with some Christmas music, and the Christmas story from Luke 2. Here are just a few pictures from the morning:

We tried to take a pic of the kids by the tree, but JR disappeared to get dressed (and came down looking like a cross between Steve Urkel and Farmer Brown), and after reading the Bible story, M decided she was the Mother Mary (yes, that is her gown that has been pulled up over her head). We decided that trying to round-up excited children for a picture on Christmas morning was futal.

JR doing a little jig after opening one of his gifts.

JR receiving his 2nd annual collector’s nutcracker…or “peanut cracker” as he calls it. This is something special between him and Grandma, who got him hooked on the Christmas ballet “The Nutcracker.”

A few of M’s gifts were a new robe, new slippers, and
a collection of Bible story books.

She got a princess dress-up set from Nana and Grandpa. So now she can really lay
claim to being “Daddy’s Little Princess!”

And her new bike almost brought tears she was so excited!

A had way more fun playing with the paper than with his gifts.

The kids each had several other gifts, some of which I will show in the coming days. I gave S a long-desired self-teach piano instruction manual and a good set of bicycling gloves for those cold morning trips to work. I got a GPS navigation system….something I have missed terribly since we sold our Prius. I get lost in my own backyard without a good map, as I have NO sense of direction! Thank you so very much, honey!! We also got some very nice items from friends and family, so thank you all very much as well!

A quick spin on the new bike before the rain came.

I spent the morning preparing a yummy Christmas lunch. I totally failed in both the organic and health departments today, as my desire for some good Southern-style cookin’ overcame my desire for healthy. I will have to come up with some new recipes that are at least more organic. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a lunch of honey glazed ham, homemade french bread, sweet potato souffle’, green beans, and my first ever pecan pie.

Hope your day was as Merry as ours!

Here is a little school project we worked on today. I got the idea out of a cute little Bible craft workbook I use. After they make the craft, you talk about how shepherds take care of sheep in the same way that God takes care of us–he guides us, provides our food and shelter, keeps us safe, and so on. It is a cute little activity that teaches a Biblical lesson while also practicing counting skills.


1 egg carton, cut lengthwise to make 2 6-cup “feed troughs”
cotton balls
black construction paper or felt, cut into small triangles
black puffy paint
Sharpie marker
small snacks such as cheerios, goldfish, etc.


Glue 2 cotton balls together to make a head and a body, then glue the body of the cotton onto one side of the egg carton–one cotton per egg cup. Glue two triangles onto each “head” cotton ball to make ears. Use the puffy paint to create 2 eyes and a nose on each “head” ball. After all the glue is dry, label each cup 1-6. Then, have the child count out their snacks to “feed” the sheep– 1 cracker in cup #1, 2 in cup#2, 3 in #3, and so on. After the activity is complete, they can eat the sheep food!

I have been a really good girl this year. Of course, I have had my faults, but who doesn’t, right? I mean, I try really hard to behave, be a good wife, and a good mom.

Can we just forget the time that my dear husband tried to help my morning by pre-filling the baby bottle with water, and I dumped it thinking it was just soaking?

Or his favorite chair that I promised to sew a seat for 7 months ago, and have yet to do.

And the time I laughed at my 4 year old who, while relieving himself, kindly shouted a warning, “Mom, I’m sorry if the kitchen stinks, but the smell goes out the space under the door, and I can’t help it!”

Or the way I have taught my children to recycle to the point that my 4 year old asks, “Mom, if we die, and we leave our skin, and God makes new people who need skin, then why doesn’t God just use our skin instead of making more?”

I mean, my kids love going to church, at least…even if JR only goes to watch the drummer, and M only goes to see what yummy snack they are having that day.

It can’t be all that bad that my 2 year old honestly thinks the technical name for hiccups is either “hic-em-ups” or “hiccup-a-potamus?”

And let’s not even bring up the REALLY bad mommy-moment when I was a new mom-of-3, and I loaded all the kids in their carseats, and started backing out of the driveway, when JR suddenly stated, “MOM! You forgot A!” Sure enough, there was little A, securely fastened into his carseat, sitting happily in the middle of the kitchen floor. But, I have learned to do in-car headcounts now!

OK, ok, I guess I can resign myself to a bag of coal this year. Maybe it will actually inspire me to plan a camping trip when the weather warms up.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

I was in an overwhelming baking mood today, so I decided to try a new recipe. These are by far the BEST chocolate chip cookies I have ever made! While I must confess it came off the chocolate chips package (with some modification by me), I was able to use all organic ingredients.

1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In medium mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and egg, and beat on low speed. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until well blended. Add chocolate chips and stir well. Spoon onto greased cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

This recipe makes about 15 2-inch cookies.

Note: You can also add 1/2 cup chopped nuts if desired.
Here is a recipe that is far from healthy, and, in fact, I haven’t even found a way to make it organic. I do try to use as many natural ingredients as possible, though. But, oh, it is SOOOO good, and is no doubt a family favorite around here!

16 oz. pkg pasta shells
12 oz. canned tuna, drained if necessary
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic
1 can sweet peas
12-16 slices cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups crushed regular potato chips

Boil pasta according to directions, drain, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Mix tuna, soups, milk, and spices thoroughly. Gently stir in peas. Pour half of mixture into a greased casserole dish. Layer with 6-8 slices of cheese. Pour remaining mixture on top of cheese, and layer remaining cheese on top. Finish by sprinkling crushed chips on top of cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until chips began to golden. Enjoy!

We have had a terrific week so far, with lots of adventures. It all started with a trip out of town to visit friends at our old church and attend their Christmas concert. We returned home on Sunday, and picked up Grandma from the airport.

Between playing with the kids, seeing the sites around here, and participating in our unexpected final adoption homestudy, she stayed pretty busy for the few short days she was here.
As if we didn’t have enough to be excited about with Grandma here, on Wednesday it started SNOWING!! OK, so a little snow is no big deal in the northern states. In fact, our lowest temp only got to about 30 degrees. Nonetheless, in the actual area that we live, snow only happens about every 2-4 years is my understanding. JR has seen it before, but was too young to remember. Oh, was it beautiful! I love snow (at least for a short period of time), and particularly around Christmas! We got about 2-3 inches, and it stuck around through the next day. We were all so excited!

This is the street in front of our house. Palm trees really are not crazy about snow. They all looked so depressed after a few hours!

JR refused his hat and gloves, because he wanted to “feel” the snow. He lasted about 15 mnintues like this, then came in to get some on.

M didn’t know what to think, period!

Daddy taught JR how to build his first snowman!

After all the excitement over the snow settled, we decided to have a little early Christmas and open Grandma’s presents while she was with us.

We had a lovely time together and look forward to Grandma’s next visit!

I needed to find a yummy way to use some beef bones in my freezer, so, on S’s suggestion, I learned to make this stew. It is delicious and perfect for a winter day! You can take shortcuts, but I did it totally from scratch:

Step 1–

2 approx. 6″ beef bones with bone meat still on
4 qts. water

Boil the bones in water at low-med. heat for about 4 hours. Remove the bones and meat and set aside. Strain the broth through a cheese cloth (or similiar linen) to remove any particles. Set aside. Remove meat from bones, and seperate meat from fat. If you want to gain a friend at this point, feed bones to dog. Divide meat into small stew chunks. At this point, you can save some broth and meat to freeze if desired, store it overnight in the fridge to stew the next day, or continue to the next step.

Step 2–

Beef Broth and meat from 1st step.
Carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Celery, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Onions, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1.5 cups raw Barley
2 bay leaves
2 tsps. oregano
2 tsps. Seasoned salt
1 tbs. garlic
2 tsp. pepper

Mix all ingredients in crockpot, and simmer for 4-6 hours. Serve with homemade dill bread.

Note: you will probably want to add more salt and/or pepper. We don’t season with much of either. The great thing about this recipe is that you can’t really mess it up. All ingredients are added in desired amounts, but I wrote what we did to give you an idea. Enjoy!

We are officially waiting to be adoptive parents! We got an unexpected phone call from our social worker yesterday that our finger prints, FBI clearances, and DCFS abuse/neglect records had all come back much faster (a whole month) than expected. He wanted to come today to do our final inspection. So, needless to say, I did some last-minute cleaning this morning, he came, and said he would be mailing our offical report to the agency today. I called the agency to let them know it was on the way. So now the wait begins. I am eager to see what child God has in store for us.

We had a bit going on over the last couple of weeks, so I have tried to divide it into several posts tonight. Here are a few other miscellaneous occurrences:

M got her first haircut. Her hair was constantly in her face, and it appears as though she is cursed with my cowlicks, so I thought I would give her a trim. She felt so special. I only slightly trimmed up the back, but I actually cut the front and created bangs for her. They turned out a little shorter than I had planned, but not too bad.



We spent some time this past weekend assembling a Christmas train Nana and Grandpa sent for the kids. There was only one problem. The kids past experience involved edible gingerbread houses and candy, so they were convinced that this foam train was edible as well. A left lovely little chew marks all over several of the wheels (guess he thought they were some kind of biscuit). Later, the little white “chimney” (I have no clue what it’s called) that goes on the front of the train came up missing. We soon discovered it in M’s mouth…she was convinced it was a marshmallow, and she was doing her dead-level best to chew the thing. It still has molar prints all over it, but it was pretty durable, and we were still able to use it.

Notice that I am blessed to have a man who actually reads directions!

The finished product

 The following are just some miscellaneous shots from the last couple of weeks:

In related news, A is finally learning to crawl! He is so much happier now! He gets up on all 4’s and bounces, he can use his legs to lunge himself forward, and he can pull himself along with his arms. Now he just has to coordinate all those motions to get the crawl down. He is so happy now, that I have let him go to only 2 naps a day (from his previous 3). I think we have also FINALLY managed to shift his schedule ever so slightly so he gets up with the older kids, still naps around the same time as them, and goes to bed shortly before them. It seems to be working well. Another milestone!

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