It dawned on me the other day that for most of our marriage Mark and I have walked this road of infertility. The first three years of our marriage and the past four years.

That is significant only because it has taken that long to come to the place that I am right now in this whole journey.

For many of those years, I faced each month with questions such as:

"But WHY?"

"Why is it so easy for everyone else to get pregnant, but not me?"

"Why is it that You have blessed that woman and not me?"

"How come You've given that friend a child when she.doesn' when, Lord, I do so want one?"

"When will You move to answer our prayers; the desires of our hearts?"

Those questions. Among others.

There have been seasons where those questions, and the seeming silence of God, have been nearly paralyzing.

There have been seasons where those questions are fleeting, but the prayers that follow them fervant.

And in every season I have held on tightly to this thought: I trust my God. I may not understand, I may not agree, I may wonder why, I may fight it, I may grieve, but the bottom line is that I trust my God.

At some point I stopped asking those questions. And in place of them, with each month I prayed a simple prayer of: I trust You, God. And I tagged onto that prayer these reminders, too: And I know You love me. I know You care for me. I know You hear me.

But the questions have ceased. Not out of hopelessness, and not because I think it's wrong to ask such questions. But because of this, from Psalm 16:
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

No longer am I asking, "But why this portion? Why this cup?"

How can I argue, or even grumble- with what He in His sovereignty has assigned me? Oh, I can ask-- and I do-- from a position of humility, but He has assigned me this portion. This cup. I don't know why. Believe you me, there are plenty of times I'd like a different cup than this one I'm drinking. But He has handed me this one.

Elisabeth Elliot's writings have so ministered to me in this area that you'll have to forgive me but I'm going to quote a few portions from her book Be Still My Soul here. [And please, I know you'll be tempted to skim, (I often am when I see quotes!) but please take the time to read these. They are that good.]

Amy Carmichael wrote a poem she called "In Acceptance Lieth Peace." That phrase has become a dictum for me. Acceptance of my circumstances, the first step in obtaining joy and peace, begins with faith. I would have no reason simply to accept the awful things that happen if I had no idea that Somebody was governing this world and that my individual life was completely under the control of One who possesses perfect wisdom, perfect justice, and perfect love.


We have been shown the way of acceptance on every page of the life of Jesus. It sprang from love and from trust. He set His face like a flint toward Jerusalem. He took up the cross of His own will. No one could take His life from Him. He deliberately laid it down. He calls us to take up our crosses. That is a different thing from capitulation or resignation. It is a glad and voluntary YES to the conditions we meet on our journey with Him, because these are the conditions He wants us to share with Him. Events are the sacraments of the Will of God- that is, they are visible signs of an invisible Reality. These provide the very place where we may learn to love and trust.

God included the hardships of my life in His original plan. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Nothing is for nothing. His plan is to make me holy, and hardship is as indispensable for that as long as I live in this hard old world. All I have to do is accept it.

Sometimes it is hardest to accept the waiting parts of life. ...Many times in my life God has asked me to wait when I wanted to move forward. He has kept me in the dark when I asked for light. I like to see progress. I look for evidence that God is at least doing something. If the Shepherd leads us beside still waters when we were hoping for whitewater excitement, it is hard to believe anything really vital is taking place. God is silent. The house is silent. The phone doesn't ring. The mailbox is empty. The stillness is hard to bear- and God knows that. He knows our frame and remembers we are made of dust. He is very patient with us when we are trying to be patient with Him.
I know that if I were a writer of any merit, I wouldn't leave such a long segment of quotes in this post. I know I'm supposed to summarize most of that and pull out just one of those quotes. But that woman has such a knack for writing truth so plainly and with such refreshing authenticity, it would be a disservice for you not to hear it straight from her.

Anyway. So that is where God has brought me. To a place of acceptance. And I may well be the most stubborn woman ever to take so long to arrive at this place, but here I am.

And as the months come and go, and we continue to long for a child and pray that God would grow a sweet little life within my womb, there is a peace that nestles around me. Yes, there are still tears, sometimes. But there is also a peace. And can I just say? --it is a good place to be.

Because all I want, really, is what He has assigned.

Just so you know...

The supermom/wife/nurse that I was at the outset of this flu has completely worn off.

I guess three days is my max.

Because I am so done.

The fact that every two seconds someone (and usually all four of them) is coughing? It completely irritates me. I mean, really. Can't they HOLD IT IN, for crying out loud?

The fact that someone needs a drink and they want me to get it for them? Well, I'd like a drink myself, thankyouverymuch. Would anyone like to get that for ME?

And frankly, if you're feeling well enough to sit and play with toys I'm thinking it's quite time to start doing your chores again.

And the whining? ARGGGH. I could holler about that. (Oh wait. I have. A few times already today.)

So before you click away, would you pray a second that God would fill me afresh with His spirit and that I will be full of love and grace and kindness today?

That'd be great. And now I think I may have a full 21 seconds with which to take my shower (it's 10:39 am) before someone needs something from me again. I mean: before I get to serve my family again and so I'm just going to go ahead and take that opportunity now.

The rest of the family

Isaias is feeling quite a bit better today.

And the rest of the family?

Fevers. Chills. Aches. Sore throats. Ella keeps telling me her tummy hurts and her mouth hurts. Isaac keeps pointing to his teeth and saying they hurt. Hmm.

Isaias, not one to be left out (though I can tell he's much better), keeps reminding me emphatically throughout the day: "I'm sick!"

And everyone is doing a lot of this:

Mark is sick, too. No pictures of him, though. (At the time of my photo shoot he was in the bathtub.)

And isn't God so gracious that I feel perfectly healthy? I am so thankful. Not only that I'm not sick, but that I get to care for my sick family today.

And... two other things to be thankful for. A friend brought over couscous and some yummy Thai Peanut Sauce to put over chicken. We had it for dinner and it was delicious. [Thank you, Tami! You are so very sweet!]

And my parents stopped in earlier with get-well gifts: a puzzle for Ella, a puzzle for Isaac, and a couple of little trucks for Isaias. Very sweet. Isaac even got up for about ten minutes to work on his puzzle. But now he's back to doing more of this:

A sight never before seen on our couch

Our littlest man is sick today.

This sturdy Guatemalan boy rarely gets sick. And this lethargy is definitely a first. The house is unusually quiet today with this little guy abed.

But this mama's heart is thankful for the extra snuggles this day has brought. Isaias is generally so busy I can't get him to stay in my arms for a full minute.

But today? Today he's been tucked into my arms several times, fully content to rest right there.

Pure sweetness.

Caught up

Just dropping by to let you know that although I've been a bit remiss in responding to your comments of late, I think I'm now caught up.

I've now commented back on the book review post, on the housekeeping post, and on yesterday's post.

And a *huge* shout-out to Micah, my little brother, who has just started reading my blog. And he left his first comment yesterday. (And Micah, just so you know: I'm still searching for the perfect picture to post of you.)

Have a wonderful day!


A Post by The Husband

Hi. This is Mark here. Stacy's husband. I've never "blogged" before. But since I was so kindly celebrated here by my wife, I figure I'll write the follow-up post. Here goes...

WOW, what a GREAT birthday I had, thanks most of all to my lovely wife. I was so blessed by her letting me sleep in, by her gifts to me (a subscription to Steelers digest, a Steelers book and a Steelers cap). And that dinner and dessert were phenomenal -- she is an exceptionally excellent cook.

Okay, to answer the questions...
1. I am now 38 years old, I guess, but my youthful wife keeps me feeling at least five years younger.
2. The Pittsburgh Steelers are my favorite team. Always have been. Asking me to choose a favorite player is a little like asking me which one of my children is my favorite. My favorite current player is probably Hines Ward, with Troy Polamalu a close second. All time favorite Steeler? Come on, how can I do that? (Fletch, if I was a Seahawks fan, Largent would of course be my favorite, but that's kind of easy when there's only one Hall-of-Famer to choose from.)
3. My favorite musician/band? Another really tough question. Most days it's U2, but there are times when I think it's Van Morrison, and often I think it's the 77s. Maybe it's Michael Roe (of the 77s) because of his solo work and his being part of both the 77s and the Lost Dogs. Overall, I'll stick with U2.
4. I'm 6'6"
5. We didn't have a snake. I caught lots of garter snakes, but never kept them for a pet.
6. I have 5 siblings: a sister and four brothers.
7. I have a B.A. in Journalism
8. My current favorite game to play is Ticket to Ride Europe, but I enjoy all those on the list.

Jodi, thanks for being such a good sport and playing even though you don't know me at all. And yes, I do seriously love the Steelers. If you do the math, you'll realize I was about 5 to 10 years old when the Steelers won 4 Super Bowls in the 70s. Even at that young age, I recognized true greatness in a football team. I made a lifetime commitment that I've never regretted.

Mike, you got 7 out of 8 right, with a bonus for knowing Ward. That makes you one of the big winners. But that's hardly fair, because you know me well IRL (how's my use of blog lingo?) But you did beat the other contestant who knows me well -- your wife, who only got 6 of the 8. (And I'll give Amy the bonus just for knowing there was somebody named Lynn who played for the Steelers.) [Lynn Swann]

Chad (w/ Michelle helping out) also got 7 of 8. (As for Ken Griffey Jr. being my favorite player, I think it was clear that NFL was meant, but you're right, it wasn't specified, so BONUS to you!!) Chad lives far, far away from me, and I've only seen him on three occasions, so his score trumps Mike's. I crown him CHAMPION of the contest, and I'll put him on the waiting list for BFF status.

Carrie, who amazingly got 5 of 8 right, is the winner of those who don't really know me at all. I am impressed.

Ella, thanks for playing my game, sweet girl. So glad you got the Steelers question right, and yes, Bettis was my favorite Steeler in his time.

Sorry, Cutzi, you didn't win, but thanks for playing.

Fletch, Settlers is probably my all-time favorite game, but the question asked for my "current" favorite.

Cindy, although you skipped the quiz, your comment that I have a beautiful family and an amazing wife who adores me is the best response of the bunch, so I award you SUPER GRAND CHAMPION PRIZE in my birthday contest.

Finally, thanks again to you, Stacy, for making my birthday (and 364 other days every year) so great. I love you and cherish you. To all of you who read Stacy's blog and to those of you who "know" her solely through this strange blog world, I can assure you that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how encouraging, caring, amusing, thoughtful, Godly, and just-plain-wonderful she is. I get the incredible gift of being loved by this woman every day. I am blessed.

- Mark

Happy Birthday! (and a game!)

Today is Mark's birthday!

Mark has the day off today, so we began the day by giving him the gift of sleep. While he was doing that, we crept out of the house to pick up a few groceries. We woke him up with donuts and coffee and a noisy song of Happy Birthday. Then we did some gifts, and then I spent a few hours in the kitchen. We get to have my family and Mike and Amy and family over for a birthday dinner tonight, (and oh how I wish you could join us, Timmons family!)

On the menu:
Two lasagnas (one regular, one butternut squash)
Garlic bread
Caesar salad
Apple pie & ice cream

In honor of Mark's birthday today, I'm posting a little "How Well Do You Know Mark?" game. For those of you who have been to some of our birthday parties over the years, you'll recall that we like to play these types of games. Now, I know many of you don't know Mark all that well, so I'm going to help you out by making this a multiple choice game. Ready?

1. How old is Mark today?
(a) 36
(b) 33
(c) 38
(d) 35

2. Name Mark's favorite NFL team
(a) the Seattle Seahawks
(b) the Cleveland Browns
(c) the Pittsburgh Steelers
(d) the New England Patriots
*Bonus Points (2) if you can guess his favorite player, too!

3. Name Mark's all-time favorite musician/band
(a) Van Morrison
(b) U2
(c) The Seventy-Sevens
(d) Elvis

4. How tall is Mark?
(a) 6'6"
(b) 6'4"
(c) 6'2"
(d) 6'

5. What pet did Mark's family NOT have while growing up?
(a) snake
(b) pigeons
(c) goats
(d) chickens

6. How many siblings does Mark have?
(a) 4
(b) 5
(c) 2
(d) 6

7. What did Mark major in in college?
(a) Elementary Ed.
(b) History
(c) Journalism
(d) English

8. What is Mark's current favorite game to play?
(a) Poker
(b) Settlers of Catan
(c) Ticket to Ride Europe
(d) Carcassonne

Now... you're on the honor system as far as copying other people's answers when you see them in the comments section. I know you wouldn't do dare do such a thing.

Have fun! :)


I'm a terrible housekeeper


I just am.

In our home, it would not be unusual to....

... find a vacuum cleaner that I used maybe two full weeks ago still standing out in the hallway. Right in front of the closet it belongs in. Sure, it's in the way. But I just step around it. As does everyone else in this house.

... find that a corner of my counter is always full of papers, mail, magazines, coupons, bills, cards, a bag of chips, a cookbook, and much, much more. And just so you can all feel, every one of you, quite better about your own countertops, here is a photo:

... find my bed, unmade, for the twentieth day in a row.

... find dirty clothes or towels strewn across the bathroom floor.

... find clothes lying on the bedroom floor.

... find Lincoln Logs, Legos, Wedgits, Tinkertoys, and/or dollhouse stuff strewn across my living room floor. Making it difficult to walk.

... find miscellaneous items on every single seating area in our living room. Right now, as I look around me, this is what I see:

*Across the room, on the blue couch, is the remaining (folded) laundry that I have yet to put away. Also a hamper of socks I have yet to match. There is always a hamper of socks I have yet to match. Also on the blue couch? A library book. And a hanger. Some hair pretties. Some clothes (too small or yet to grow into) that I don't have a place for, so they're waiting on the couch until I come up with a plan.

*Also across the room, on our chair-and-a-half, you would find the remains of a project I was working on earlier today. Some bakers twine, felt, scissors, and paper. Also my sweatshirt. And Ella's. And my keys, I see there now. Which is quite handy because when I need to leave the house tomorrow and can't find my keys, I might just remember typing their location here.

*The couch I'm sitting on at the moment has not one, but six pillows covering it. Two of which belong here, four of which do not. The kids were apparently playing with pillows at some point this evening. Also three books, Ella's baby doll, and another sweatshirt of Ella's.

Just to point out that if someone were to stop by unexpectedly, I would have to SCURRY to clear off a spot for them to even sit down.

I also see a bag of handmedowns that has been sitting in the corner of our room for a couple of weeks. I have yet to go through it. Or maybe I already did and have simply forgotten that I did; I don't know. I see two shopping bags leaned against the couch, my raincoat lying on the floor (Don't ask. I have NO idea. There are hooks for coats right by the front door.) I see my shoes, my purse, my Bible, a picture Ella made for Isaac this afternoon during her quiet time. A blanket lying on the floor. My sweater. Another book.

I hate this. I have always been like this. It used to be a *HUGE* battle; THE battle, between my dad and I when I was younger. I could not keep my room clean. It's not that I don't mind the clutter, I do mind it. When I stop and notice it. But most of the time I really do not see it. I am long in the habit of looking/walking around it. I need to train my eye to notice things out of place.

The good thing about this is that when I go to other peoples' houses, I think they're spotless. I really do not notice your clutter. And if perchance I did--you know, were you to point it out to me-- I would just love you to pieces.

The bad thing about this is,...

Well, there's plenty. To name just a few:

1) I'm a terrible model for my children. I need to get disciplined in this area myself so that they can learn good habits from me. And, um... my clutter plus that of my three tiny clutter-bugs? Not a pretty sight, folks.

2) I love having a tidy house. (Notice I did not say "clean". Tidy would suffice.) It really makes me happier and more at peace and able to rest when there is order in our home.

3) It causes me great anxiety when people do stop by. Really. Great alarm ensues in this house as people are obliviously getting out of their vehicles or walking up the sidewalk towards our home.

4) It makes me crabby. At myself, at my kids, at my husband.

I really want to change, I do. [And don't even for one second suggest Flylady to me. I tried that, once, for about two days. And let me just say that the very last thing I need is four-hundred daily emails cluttering up my already-full inbox in addition to all that clutters my house.]

So. We're working on this at our house. I am trying to be a diligent mama and remind the kids to clean one thing up before they get out another. I am trying to work at keeping our own bedroom clean and free of clutter. (And, HA! If you could see it now you would *so* know this is not going so well. ~smile~) I am trying to tell myself, as I walk through my house, "If you see something out of place, don't just walk by. Stop, pick it up, and put it where it belongs." I am praying that God would help. And teach me discipline. And open my eyes to see the mess. And give me creative organizing solutions. I have asked Mark to formulate a clean-up plan for the kids to be accountable to him for (something like they all have a designated area to keep tidy throughout the day and he can inspect it when he gets home from work.)

So in between meals and laundry and disputes and correction and school, we are applying ourselves to this task of keeping house.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a book review

Okay, this book review is a long time in coming to you. I originally wrote it back in October but just haven't posted it yet!

The book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.

It was on someone's blog that I first heard of this book. (And I'm sorry, but I can't remember whose blog it was.) It was listed with several other books as a resource in a post regarding how to eat healthier or something. The author, Barbara Kingsolver, didn't necessarily appeal to me, as I wasn't actually a huge fan of Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible when I read that years ago. But I would like to learn more about eating healthier so I made a mental note of the title. The next time I thought of it I looked it up online and read a review. The review told me a little more about the book and it was enough to make me decide to put it on hold at our library. Little did I know everyone *else* in the city was also on our library's hold list for this book. I think I was 91st in line or something.

By the time I got an email from the library telling me the book was waiting for me, I'd nearly forgotten all about it. I took it home and picked it up to skim through it. (And truth be told, at this point I figured that was all I would do: skim through the book. I wasn't quite sure I wanted to READ an entire book about eating healthier. Skim, yes. But read? I'd have to be convinced.) But I began reading and that was that. I was hooked.

Kingsolver, in a very conversational style, takes the reader on a journey her family made one year, which was basically to grow or raise all their own food. For an entire year. Or, as Kingsolver describes it: "This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew". [Provenance, for those like me who need a definition, is "the origin or source from which something comes."] Kingsolver continues:
We tried to wring most of the petroleum out of our food chain, even if that meant giving up some things. Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we'd know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be us, as we learned to produced more of what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals and enough sense to refrain from naming them.
While this is not my personal goal, I was truly fascinated to find out how this family achieved it. What did that look like, exactly?

Kingsolver, with the help of her husband and daughter, tells us how they did it. We are told what they planted, and when. With each new month, we learn what comes up in their garden and- my favorite part- what they did with all that came up in their garden. We learn of her daughter Lily's egg (and meat) business. (And I learned that Lily has the same affection for her hens as Ella does for ours.) We learn of their decision to raise turkeys for meat.

We read about their ever-prolific zucchini in July and of countertops overflowing with ripe tomatoes in August. Following each month's information is an excerpt written by her daughter Camille, who shares some of their family recipes as well as their meal plans. When asparagus was up in garden, they had all sorts of meal variations on asparagus, when the squash came up, their menus shifted to accommodate the squash. To get an idea for the types of recipes they share in the book, go here.

I enjoyed the fact that this was a family venture for them. Each family member worked hard from planning to planting to weeding to harvest, and when it was canning time, they all lined up to do their part in the kitchen. There is something so comforting about this type of work to me. I have fond memories of going out to my grandpa and grandma's home when it was bean-picking time. We'd gather in the garden to pick bags full of beans, meet up in the yard for snipping, and then head into the kitchen for the canning. Together. Working alongside one another towards a common purpose. I love that.

Now, I like to try my hand at growing vegetables in our garden, and I do like to go to our local farmer's market. But that's about it. Our garden has primarily been just a hobby for us. We do glean off of it throughout the summer months, but I've never looked at it as a primary way to feed our family, even during the months when it's at "peak" production. I really liked the idea of being intentional about what to plant, and how much, in order to feed our family for a sustained period of time. (Even if the period of time may be 2 months, in our case!) Kingsolver is a woman who planned out how many onions she thought her family would go through for the entire year, and then planted just that many. There's a section of the book that describes their pantry: shelf after shelf of canned tomatoes, dried herbs, root vegetables, and much, much more. All from their very own garden, planted, tended, and harvested by each one, and enough to feed their family for an entire year. Amazing.

While I don't aspire to do the one-year thing for our family, I would like to grow in these three areas:
1. Be more intentional in the planning of our garden (what to plant, how much to plant, what can we plant that will keep?)
2. Harvest more from our garden (I'm envisioning the whole family, working together in this)
3. Get better at planning our menus around the produce coming up in our garden, or the seasonal produce from the farmer's market.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much that I told Mark repeatedly, "I want to own this book."

And now I do. [Thank you, honey!]

Christy's question

Christy writes:

I have a question. A while back you blogged about keeping your kids in church. Did you ever get any of your children to sit through the entire sermon quietly when they were between 18 months and 2 years old? We're keeping our 18 month old with us. She does well during worship and about half way through the sermon. We're training her at home to sit during Bible reading time, but that time is a lot shorter than a sermon at church. We're hoping eventually she'll get used to staying quiet the whole time, but I thought you might be able to confirm our hopes since you've been doing it awhile. We've tried books, coloring, etc, but those tend to make her want to talk more. I'm leaning toward not bringing anything extra to church other than her sippy cup and stuffed animal, but is that unrealistic?

Thanks for any pointers!

[the post Christy referred to is this one.]

My response:

To answer your question, we have had Isaias (our youngest) with us in church since he's been home from Guatemala, so... from 9 months of age to the present (he'll be 3 in March).

It sounds like you're doing exactly the right thing-- starting with training her at home during your family worship times.

Every week (with few exceptions at this point), Isaias sits through the entire service quietly (1 hour and 15 minutes including worship). We bring children's Bibles, blank notebooks (ie- not coloring books with characters in them) and crayons. (I take a notebook and Bible to church each week so I figure the notebooks/crayons are good practice for their own note-taking!) We also bring them a sippy cup of milk or water. They are allowed to sit in our laps or on their seats. After worship they can have their drinks and then their options are to sit quietly and listen, look through their Bibles quietly, or color in their notebooks quietly. (See the pattern? "Quietly.")

Obviously when he was littler he wasn't so much into the crayons. And for a season we did bring cheerios or raisins but now that we don't do that anymore I'm really thankful (dropped crayons are one thing, dropped cheerios or raisins (especially when they get stepped on!) are another.

But boy, Christy, it did NOT come without many battles. For several months we set forth that expectation to him but he fought it. We [usually Mark] had to take him to the bathroom for discipline MANY times. Every week during the service, sometimes more than once per service, he would get noisy. We would remind him to be quiet, he would disobey, and we would take him out. Then we would remind him again to be quiet, carry him back into the service, and if he acted out again, back out we would go. I am quite certain our entire church body is rejoicing that that season is over! But over it is. And now he is regularly quiet and well-behaved throughout the entire sermon. Of course we still offer many reminders: "Isaias, sit on your bum. No wiggling. Shh.... " (etc), but it's a rare occasion that we have to take him out of the service.


Christy agreed to let me post her question here so that any of you could chime in with your thoughts. I know many of you have had more experience than we have in this department, so would you be willing to share some of your ideas or encouragement?
I jotted this down from yesterday's sermon and it's been rolling around in my brain ever since:

We must not allow our hearts to be seized by the things that don't seize the heart of God. ~G. Thomas

Yes. That is my prayer. Lord, show me the things that seize Your heart, and may my heart be moved by those same things. And may I let go of all the other stuff.

On why my husband is the best there is

(Reason #6,000,000,001)

I've mentioned before that we live in a small-ish house. It's an older home, with lots of character, and I genuinely love our home. But occasionally I do wish we had a bit more space.

I've also mentioned that I have this thing for rearranging furniture. I'd say about every 3 months or so we have an entirely different living room arrangement. I reposition the couches and our chair-and-a-half, and the rug and the lamps and the end tables. I may hunt around downstairs or in other rooms to add "new" furniture, too. I do this mainly in the living room, but also in the bedrooms. Now, the bedrooms are pretty small. In our room, we can squeeze in our king-size bed, a small bedside table apiece, and one dresser. And that's a tight fit. But that doesn't mean I don't still like to rearrange it all.

Several months ago I was in our bedroom in a cleaning/decluttering/rearranging frenzy-- trying to come up with some way, some how, to make more room. And suddenly I had an idea: we could remove our bed! (By "bed" I mean our sleigh bed, not the mattresses.) I figured if we took out our sleigh bed (beautiful, but adding an extra foot and a half, maybe two feet because of it's girth), we would have all this extra space! How fun would that be? So when Mark got home from work, I proposed the plan: Let's take our bed apart and simply sleep on the mattresses for a season. See how we like it.

And now we're getting to the "On why my husband is the best there is" part. He was game. We took everything apart- which is no small task, taking apart a big ole' bed with little room to maneuver. And then we carried all the pieces downstairs and leaned them against a wall.

And so we've had these wide open spaces around our bed for some time. I love it. Other than the fact that our pillows always slide down along the wall by our heads during the night and the metal frame kept sliding around on our hardwood floors- we couldn't figure out how to lock the wheels-, so we had to continually shove it towards the wall. But oh, the space! Bliss!

And then yesterday, on a whim, I decided I missed our bed and wanted it back. So I tentatively broached the subject with Mark, "Honey? I was thinking we should move our bed back up. What do you think?"

And I tell you: he was completely happy to oblige.

He did not sigh.

He did not roll his eyes.

He did not groan.

He did not complain one iota.

Not even when, after we'd moved all the pieces back upstairs, propped our mattresses against the closet door and he was ready for the putting-the-bed-back-together step, he asked, "Now where are those side pieces you carried up?" And they were in the closet, where I'd put them. You know, the closet behind the mattresses we'd shoved against it. (Small room, remember? Not so easy to get things moved around in there.) ~Whoops!~

But as I said, he did not complain once.

See? He's the sweetest guy around.

[Thanks, honey! I *love* having our bed back in there. So now, what do you think about getting rid of your bedside table to free up some more space in our room? I am SO kidding.]

January adoption update

The month of December also brought a bit of adoption news, none of it good.

In early December our agency sent out an email indicating that they had lost two case managers and because of that, "placement at this time has to slow down." [Note: We are waiting for a placement (meaning, waiting for children to be placed into our home). But then of course we can't get a placement until we have a foster license (from the state), which we are still waiting for.]

I emailed our agency back for clarification on the "slow down" part. As in, "Exactly HOW slow?" but I haven't yet received a response.

A couple of weeks later (mid-December) we received another email from our agency indicating that they had lost two more employees.

We were discouraged to say the least.

The following day, our social worker called. (From the state. The lady responsible for giving us our foster care license, which we need in order to foster children in this state for the purpose of adoption). She wanted to go over a few things before she submitted her report on us to her supervisor. She said she noticed in our homestudy [done by our agency], that we use the rod of correction [Note: this is not the terminology she used, this is mine, for the purpose of weeding out Google searches on the other term] for our children and she wanted to go over that with me.

And so we talked about that for a period of maybe 20 minutes, during which she said things like:

"Well, you do know that it is illegal to use corporal punishment for children within this state."

Which is not true. But I do know it is illegal to do so with a foster child. We understand that and have written in several pieces of paperwork that we've already submitted to the state that we will not use the rod of correction for any foster child within our home.

Or this one:

"I guess I need to know that as a foster parent, you will be willing to fit within the parameters of what we expect for prospective adoptive parents."

So basically, here, she's wanting me to say that we will stop our current method of discipline.

I stated that we have already agreed to fit within the state's parameters for the children being placed into our home from the foster care system.

And then there was this one:

"Some of the children coming into your home from the system are coming from such abusive situations, where they have been hit or seen hitting. [And let me just interject here to say that this breaks my heart. Of course we know this, and this is why we want so much to bring these children into our home. And to love these who have been unloved, abused, or abandoned.] She then continued with: "We can't have these children in your home watching you hit your ch*ldren."

And exhibiting much restraint, though she'd certainly raised my hackles after that last comment, I calmly explained that we generally take the child needing correction into another room, away from the other children. I emphasized that we will be diligent about doing so when there is a foster child within our home.

To which she said, a bit haughtily- and after a little laugh, "Well. I'm sure you'll understand that it will be VERY difficult for us to place any child of any age in your home knowing that this is your discipline plan. I'll make a notation about our discussion here and forward this onto my supervisor, and we'll see what he says. But I have a strong feeling I'll get this back and we'll need to have further discussions on this issue."

When I got off the phone I felt awfully deflated. And a little angry, honestly. And discouraged. And about ready to give up on this whole thing. She had been so antagonistic in our conversation, and I was left feeling like she was going to make things very hard for us. I described my conversation in detail with Mark when he came home for lunch. And then I emailed Kimmie and asked her to pray. I talked to Michelle on the phone. And I emailed Hilary and vented a bit. And as much as I love these girls and am grateful for their support (and especially, Kimmie, your spirit-filled prayer for us!), I am ashamed to say that I was in communication with each of them before I was in communication with God about this matter.

But after the kids were down for their naps/quiet times, I plunked down on my bed with my Bible and journal and talked to God about it. And He reminded me of this verse, from Ephesians,

"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

So I prayed through this passage, and as I did so, I gained such hope, peace, and a renewed sense of purpose. I thanked Him for the bajillionth time for His word, and I rested in it. It is true, it is good, and I know that I can trust Him fully for all of this. If He wants to place children from the foster care system into our home, then by golly, He's going to do just that. And not one person can stand in His way. I asked Him to remove my anxiety and my doubt, and I asked that I would be pleasing to Him through this. I left that time so encouraged with the fact that God knows exactly what He is doing. But I so needed that time with Him to be reminded of it. To take my eyes off of the current seemingly overwhelming circumstances, and to put them where they belong. On Him. In a place of rest and trust and knowledge that nothing is impossible with Him!

That was on December 21st.

And wouldn't you know it? Just yesterday we received word from our social worker that we did, in fact, get licensed. [We just need to type up, sign and date a statement indicating that we will do all discipline in a room away from a foster child.] We see God's hand in this, and are rejoicing. And I want to thank you, too, for your prayers on our behalf. We so appreciate you!!!

Experimenting with veggies

Have any of you read the book Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld?

Stacey recommended this one to me way back on one of my garden posts. I was intrigued so I got on the hold list at our library and have been waiting ever since. It came in this week so I've been "reading" the book. "Reading" is in quotes because it's primarily a cookbook (and I don't know if you get reading points when it's a cookbook), with a little introduction at the beginning about her method to get her children to eat nutritious foods. Basically, she sneaks it into their meals. What she does is puree all sorts of fruits and veggies, package them up, label them, and toss them in the freezer. And then when she's cooking, she pulls them out and adds them to her recipes.

She gives instructions for the best way to prepare, cook and puree the vegetables (avacados, beets, broccoli, peas, red bell peppers, spinach, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and zucchini/summer squash), and fruits (apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, cherries, and pineapple).

Now. I'm sure we've all tried to sneak good foods into our kids. My girl doesn't like fruit. (I know. Who has ever heard of such a thing?!), so I've tried to be creative to get fruit into her by pureeing berries and/or bananas and "hiding" them in the pancake batter (works good as long as there are no chunks), or offering smoothies for breakfast (which she won't touch, but the rest of us love) or smoothie popsicles (which she does love). Veggies aren't so much a problem if we're talking the basics: beans, peas, carrots, and potatoes they love and eat without complaint. But squash, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach? Um, not so much. Beets? Ew.

So the idea isn't new to me but the method of stocking up on those purees by having them ready in the freezer is a new one.

I must say, I wasn't impressed with the recipe section of the book, though there are a few I may try. For the most part I just liked the idea of trying to get some of these veggies and/or fruits into our diet by adding them (in puree form) to the meals I already make.

Well, then. There are two butternut squash from our garden that have been sitting on my counter since sometime in November. They've been calling my name (Really, I've been wondering how long they plan on sitting there before they'll go bad. And feeling a little guilty that I haven't used them yet.) But today I was newly inspired to try this whole method. So I cut off the stems, took out the seeds, sliced the squash, and roasted them on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes at 400°. Then I let them cool, scooped out the flesh, and pureed them in the blender. As I was scooping it into some freezer containers, I wondered if I could somehow work it into our meal that night.

We were having homemade pizza.

But it was pizza with alfredo sauce and chicken, so I decided I'd give it a whirl.

I made the dough, rolled it out, and put down a layer of pesto, then added a few tablespoons of butternut squash puree, then a few of the alfredo sauce, and finally the chicken and cheese.

It was "belicious!", Isaac said. And Ella's words? "Scrumptious! The best pizza I've ever had. This is my favorite kind.." I told them why it was so good (and it *was* good) and now my mind is reeling with the possibilities.

Beginning with the cauliflower, broccoli, and spinach.

I'll let you know how it goes.

December highlights

Back to the blogging world after a busy but wonderful month of December. And I'm here to tell you all about it. I know I'm long-winded in a *normal* post, but shut me up for a whole month and then sit me back down in front of the computer with an entire MONTH to catch you up on? Oh my. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea because you will be here awhile.

Here are some of the highlights from this past month:

At the beginning of December we celebrated Ella's sixth birthday. Which reminds me: I've yet to write her birthday letter.

We decorated our home- inside and out- with little white lights. No colored lights at this house, no sirree. And Mark put up the outside lights *exactly* how I wanted them. I love it. And I'm getting quite attached to this whole idea of having a window shelf, rather than a window box.

December 14th marked two years since our Isaias has been home from Guatemala. Our adoption journey to get this boy home seems so very long ago. It's been on my heart for some time to put together a little story book of sorts [in scrapbook form] for Isaias. Like a little scrapbook/picture book we can read aloud to him that tells his story. His journey to us and ours to him. Maybe writing that down here will motivate me to get started on it.

We baked, frosted and sprinkled Christmas cookies, a yearly tradition.

We delivered the gift to Koe, winner of my first-ever blog drawing. It was a delight to meet her. She invited us in for tea, introduced us to the three of her children who were home, gave us a tour of their new roomy home, and her boys invited my children to play with them. Koe and I sipped tea and chatted about parenting, foster care, adoption, kids, and a little bit of life history. It was a very nice visit. [Thank you, Koe!]

We celebrated my grandpa's 87th with a big birthday/Christmas party. The tables were adorned with ham, rolls, jello salads, layered salad, potato salad, and pies of every variety. One year I tried to bring a pasta salad and my mother was so alarmed she practically had a heart attack. If you're going to bring a salad to this family gathering, it positively *must* be a jello salad, a layered green salad, or a potato salad. Period. Mark regularly chuckles at the variety of jello salads my aunts and cousins come up with.
My grandparents had eight children and each of them have averaged 3-4 children and each of their children have averaged about that, too. Plus there are always several families my grandpa invites to join us. Families-- usually Cambodian or Vietnamese-- whom grandpa has "adopted" and who gather around the tables with us. We outgrew my grandparents' house years ago; we now rent a church, or a school. It's a joy each year to gather together and be with this wonderful extended family-- from Grandpa Jake's 87 years all the way down to the newest great-grandchildren, still awaiting their entry into the world from their mama's (my cousins') wombs. I love this family. And I am so full of gratitude for the legacy I have in the faith of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. This family represents generations of those who have loved Jesus. And it shows.

We celebrated Christmas Eve day with Mark's side of the family, 27 of us, for a full twelve-hour day of festivities, beginning with brunch at 10:00 am, and ending at 10:00 pm with us and three exhausted children heading home. Packed in between were about a dozen or more homemade pizzas, trays of snacks, games of Twister, Hoopla, Catch Phrase, and Quoridor, a couple of basketball games outside, several impromptu wrestling matches involving Mark and his brothers with a few of the braver nephews and nieces tossed in the mix, Christmas gifts-- the highlight of which, in my opinion, were the matching pajamas for all the younger grandkids, from grandma and grandpa-- and the reading of Luke 2 by Mark's Grandma (in Dutch), and another reading by our young niece.

Christmas morning brought our children into our room, piled atop our bed with their stockings. Judging from our stocking contents, Ella and Isaac had been busy this month! Concealed inside were several cards lovingly wishing us Merry Christmases and I love you's. So precious. And then, amidst a stocking full of Snickers bars and kitchen utensils, I found a little white envelope. Tucked inside was a ten-dollar bill, Ella's entire life savings. Given "because I just love you so much, mommy." I have pressed it neatly between the pages of my Bible, never-to-be-spent, so that I can always remember how much my girl loves me, and reflect on how beloved she is to me.

By 10:00 Christmas Day we were at my parents' house. It was a smaller gathering this year as it was Dan and Stef's off-year. [We missed you guys!] So just my parents, Mark and I and our children, and my two younger brothers, Micah and Seth.
Anyway, nice day with my family.. my dad makes a scrumptious brunch, we read the Christmas story, sing songs and pray together, and then open gifts. They had to head off late in the afternoon to yet another family function, so we took the kids home and napped the afternoon away. Then they came over later that evening to finish out the day with some games.

A few days after Christmas we gathered at Mike and Amy's house for our annual Christmas with them. We ordered take-out Thai food, sang songs, exchanged presents, played Blokus. And then we put the kids down and stayed to play two rousing games of Ticket to Ride, ate chips and dip, foccocia bread, drank yummy drinks (thank you, Mike!)Ben and Jerry's ice cream

Let's see... Mark and I got to go on not one but two dates this month.
We took the kids on a Christmas pajama ride , which included a drive through town to see all the Christmas lights. We ate lots, played a ton of games, put together three 1000-piece puzzles. (Puzzles are serious business at our house this time of year. And my man is an exceptional puzzle-putter-togetherer. Or however you would say that.) Ella and Isaac even joined in on the puzzle fun.

Back for a brief post

To let you know that:

...Mark is back to work after 10 days of vacation, so we're settling into a routine here at home. Which means that we're catching up on all the things we were vacationing from. Mainly: laundry, chores, cleaning, and cooking, as well as our sleep and meal schedules. (Yikes!) And for the record, can I just say that I *love* routine?

I will begin posting regularly again within the next few days. I have lots to catch you up on-- the entire month of December, photos of some handmade gifts, some book reviews, adoption updates, and all sorts of other stuff. It's good to be back... I've missed my bloggy friends!

I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas. Welcome to this New Year! :)

Blessings to you and yours,