Friday, December 20, 2013

Quick Takes #10

1.  The holidays are upon us!  Too bad I haven't finished my Christmas shopping, yet!  I really want to figure out a great gift for John, but I am drawing a complete blank!  It doesn't help that we are a bit stressed sleep deprived from the end of John's semester.  But starting today, he'll be home for three solid weeks!

2.  We do, however, have gifts figured out for Grandpa, Grandma, and Uncle Erik, who are coming out to celebrate an early Christmas with us.  We didn't have any wrapping paper, so the kids made some!


(Finn did help color, but refused to be photographed doing it!)

3.  Granddad stayed with us over the weekend as he attended a conference here in South Bend.  The boys warmed up to him right away, but Lucy's initial reaction was to burst into tears!  She did finally come to love him by Sunday, right in time for him to leave ;-)

4.  I thought the kids were old enough for some classic Christmas movies, so we've been watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas nearly everyday!  They love the story so much that they've begun to act it out.  Notice the big pile of plastic bags, which are for taking away all the toys! 

5.  I don't think I'll be doing a another "What We're Reading Wednesday" post for a couple of weeks, but I do want to share two awesome books that I just finished and highly recommend.  Probably my two favorite books that I have read this fall.  Love Does by Bob Goff and Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter.  I'll be sure to write a full review of each in the future, but if you're looking for something to read over the holidays, check these out!


6.  I did a look back at some of the best posts of 2013.  If you are new here or just want to revisit some great posts, click here!

7. I'm not sure that I'll be blogging over the holidays, so have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  

Check out more quick takes over at Conversion Diary!
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

WWRW - Christmas Favorites

We own a couple Christmas picture books, but not as many as I would like, so we picked up a bunch from the library.  Here are five of our favorites for this year!

1.  The Spirit of Christmas
As I've mentioned before, we really love Nancy Tillman's artwork, so it only makes sense that we love this book!  Like her other books, the artwork is mixed media and the words are poetic.  The premise of this book is that even with all the wonderful and fun things about the Christmas season, it just isn't Christmas without love. My kids love the last line that says, "it just isn't Christmas without you beneath my Christmas tree."  We point to each kid when we read it and they giggle :-)

2.  Christmas Cricket 
This was just a random one that I picked up off of the shelf at the library because my kids love crickets.  Why do they love crickets?  Because I HATE them.  This is a really short story about a cricket who is cold, so he hops into someone's house and into their Christmas tree.  The little girl hears him and wonders if it is an angel ornament singing.  Her father explains that "angels sing in the songs of birds, and frogs and people and crickets."  It's a nice feel good story that is appropriate for very young kids.

3.  Itsy Bitsy Christmas 
Another random library pick up. This one is by Max Lucado, and I tend to love his work, especially You are Special.  This book is a telling of the Christmas story, emphasizing how God sent a King to a little unimportant town; how God sent a King to all of us, even the little mice and grumpy goat.  I appreciate this book because it focusing on how important Jesus is and how God sent him because he loves each and everyone of us.

4.  God Gave Us Christmas
God Gave Us You is a staple in our house, so when I realized there was a Christmas version I requested it from the library.  This continues the story of Little Cub who is the main character in most of the God Gave Us... books.  It starts with Little Cub asking if Santa invented Christmas.  The mother bear explains that it was God who invented Christmas and that God is much more important than Santa Claus.  This is a good one if your kids believe in Santa because it does a good job of explaining the relative importance of Santa and Jesus.  It says that Santa is a part of Christmas to remind us of generosity and caring.

5.  The Animals' Christmas Carol 
This was a book that we stumbled upon last year at the library and enjoyed so much that I made sure to request it this year.  I would buy it, but I'm guessing it must be out of print because even used copies are rather expensive!  This book is the classic christmas song, but unlike other books which only talk about the usual animals, this one has a peacock and a lion and even a woodworm!  Stunning illustrations and interesting animals make this our absolute favorite book this Christmas season!

Check out more great books @ Housewifespice!
Enjoy more Five Favorites @ MoxiWife!
And thanks to Clan Donaldson for the idea to combine WWRW and Five Favorites!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Most" Posts of 2013

Sarah @ Amongst Lovely Things is hosting a link-up for "Most" posts of 2013.  She is encouraging bloggers to highlight one post for each of five categories.  I figured this would be a good way to look back and reflect on where I've been on this blogging journey.  I've had this blog since summer of 2011, but have only been blogging regularly since this October, so there's not too much to reflect over!  Ha!  But without further ado, here are my "most" posts:

Post with the most clicks:
This is the first post where we shared with the world that we felt God was calling us toward adoption from the foster care system.  We shared it on facebook and with our friends and family, so it's no surprise that this one comes in on top for the click count!

Post with the most comments: 
With a whopping 4 people commenting, this one comes in on top!


Post with the best picture:

This post is filled with adorable pics of my kids.  But it ends with my favorite, my three joyful babes and their ice cream :-)


Post that was hardest to write:

Hard to write because I was struggling with the idea of a "vocation" to motherhood and admitting that I didn't love my babies at first sight like everyone says you will.


Post that was my personal favorite:

Love this one because it's the first one where I take a strong stand to stop making excuses and start doing things for foster kids, and in a greater sense for the Kingdom of God.

 Connect with more awesome bloggers as they look back at 2013 over on Amongst Lovely Things!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Quick Takes #9

1.  Grandpa and Grandma gifted the kids with an early Christmas present... a Little People Nativity!  The kids LOVE it any play with it everyday.  Funny thing is, Jesus went missing.  John and I joked that the kids were just trying to be liturgically accurate!  Ha!  Thankfully he reappeared a few days later in a shoe ;-)

2.   The original set only came with one shepherd and three sheep, but to be a little more accurate I ordered an extra shepherd from eBay and we borrowed some sheep from our farm set!  Of course now Blaise keeps asking when more camels are going to arrive in the mail!  Maybe next year, buddy!

3.   In addition to the kids' nativity set, we also have set out two others.  One I made in college and one that I designed out of legos as a gift for John when we were dating!


4.  When we moved into our house last summer, every room was painted cream with the exception of our bedroom, which was a strange lemony yellow.  In the first month of being here, we quickly painted the playroom, kids' bedroom and office.  Now we're finally picking back up with our goal of painting everything in the house!  I'm so happy with my relaxing pale purple bedroom!


Oh, and just ignore the fact that there are no baseboards in the current picture! The ones we had before were also painted the weird yellow and were in bad shape, so we ripped them out.  Knowing our track record with projects, I am estimating that it will be at least 6 months until we get around to replacing them!

5.  This week Blaise asked to Skype with Grandma.  After the video call was done, he still wanted to be able to see himself, so I opened up the camera app and Blaise captured nearly 100 selfies!  He also got me and his siblings in on the action.  Here are a few that are just too cute!


6. Granddad is coming to visit!  He's in town Thursday through Sunday for a conference, so we won't get to see much of him, but it's still super exciting!  He'll be staying with us, so the kids will be able to have breakfast with Granddad each day :-)

7.  We finished two more of the required trainings needed to adopt from foster care.  You can read my detailed posts about RAPT II and RAPT III to learn more!  And please pray for us as we work through this process. I know there are many more hoops to jump through before one of these kids comes home :-)

That's all for today!  Check out the Quick Takes link-up over @ Conversion Diary!
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Thursday, December 12, 2013


This past Saturday morning, John and I attended Resource and Adoptive Parent Training 3.  If you missed our first two trainings, go back and read about RAPT I and RAPT II.  This training was about attachment and discipline.  Like RAPT I, it was a 3-hour, in-person, group training.  However, this time we were taking it in Elkhart county, rather than St. Joe, so we had the benefit of different trainers.  And what a difference that made!

The meeting started in much the same way as RAPT I.  We were all asked to introduce ourselves and tell why we were there.  Unlike last time, the trainers did not interject any judgement, criticism or comments for individuals as we went along.  Instead, they waited until everyone was done to speak.  And then one of the trainers gave us an incredibly sincere and uplifting thanks for being there.  She said something along the lines of, "Everyone sees bad things with kids on TV and says someone should do something.  You are the people doing something.  Thank you." 

The meeting was pretty straightforward.  The trainers had a packet of handouts and a PowerPoint that they went through in a professional manner.  Like night and day from our last training!  I did however wish that the training involved more strategies and less information.  There was a lot of talk about how trauma affects kids, but not very much at all about how to help them work through it.  For people who are not looking at adoption, but only fostering, this is the last training.  We will still have one more, an all-day class focusing specifically on adoption.  It seems crazy to me that this is all the training you need to be a foster parent!  (They did, however, encourage us to sign up for more specific optional trainings, and I believe foster parents do have some continuing education requirements).

On the way home from the meeting we bought a mattress, so we're one step closer to being prepared for a homestudy!  We're not exactly sure when that will begin.  Our adoption specialist told us a few weeks ago that the agency they use is full until January, so she can't refer us until after the first of the year.  We don't know exactly what that means for a timeline, but we just keep stepping forward in faith!
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  ~ Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WWRW: Risk

When we tell people that we are planning to adopt from foster care, we tend to get one of two reactions.  Either they tell us how incredible, amazing, awesome it is, or they tell us some grave concerns about the risks involved.  Some people, especially those who care most about us, are very concerned about the effects of the adoption on our current children, our marriage, our life as it is now, etc.  These fears are certainly founded.  We are embarking into an unknown.  Certainly we will do all in our power to make wise decisions and minimize the risk, but there is risk.  And there will be effects.  Life will be different.  So when choosing books for this week, I chose ones that address the idea of taking risks to follow God.

The first book I read was Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It by John Piper.  This book is actually an expansion of a chapter from his book, Don't Waste Your Life, and as such is very short!

Unfortunately I had to return this book to the library before I wrote this post, so I don't have any quotes to share with you, but I will give you an overview.  Basically Piper is explaining how the Bible calls us to be risk takers in order to advance the will of God.  He spends much of the book showing examples of people from the Bible who have taken risks.  He points out that they made bold choices and actions without knowing the outcome.  He shows how God does not promise to make things work out perfectly in this world, but that our reward is eternal.  

The second book I read was Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by David Platt.  

This book is very similar in premise to the previous one.  Platt believes that we have allowed the "American Dream" to shape our view of Christianity.  He combats the idea of the "prosperity gospel".  He says, "Somewhere along the way we [have] missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.  We [are] settling for a Christianity that revolved around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves."

He talks extensively about the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Much of the book centers around our need to bring the gospel to those around the world who have never heard it before.

He also speaks more generally about our imperative to care for the poor:
"While caring for the poor is not the basis of our salvation, this does not mean that our use of wealth is totally disconnected from our salvation.  Indeed, caring for the poor (among other things) is evidence of our salvation.  The faith in Christ that saves us from our sins involves an internal transformation that has external implications.  According to Jesus, you can tell someone is a follower of Christ by the fruit of his or her life, and the writers of the New Testament show us that the fruit of faith in Christ involves material concern for the poor.  Caring for the poor is one natural overflow and a necessary evidence of the presence of Christ in our hearts.  If there is no sign of caring for the poor in our lives, then there is reason to at least question whether Christ is in our hearts."   
Platt uses Matthew 10, specifically the line about Jesus sending out the disciples as sheep among wolves, to illuminate how we are called to serve even in the midst of danger.  He explains:
"We say things such as, 'The safest place to be is in the center of God's will.'  We think, If it's dangerous, God must not be in it.  If it's risky, if it's unsafe, if its' costly, if must not be God's will.  But what if these factors are actually the criteria by which we determine something is God's will?  What if we began to look at the design of God as the most dangerous option before us?  What if the center of God's will is in reality the most unsafe place for us to be?"
 In addition to these two books, my small group on Monday night listened to a talk about being willing to take risks to follow God.  One of the things that stuck with me was the speaker encouraging us "not to try to tame God's spirit within you".

I really appreciated reading these books and hearing the talk this week as John and I continue to discern God's will for our lives.  If you feel like you are in a spot where your lived out faith is comfortable, I encourage you to read one or both of these books and be inspired to take risks for the advancement of God's kingdom!

And check out more great books @  Housewifespice!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick Takes #8

I missed last week's quick take post because of traveling, and visiting family, and Thanksgiving and all that.  But I'm back this week with lots of pictures of the season!

1.  We had a great time visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even great-grandma.  So much fun in fact that I failed to take even a single picture on my phone of anything or anyone interesting!  Sorry about that! You'll just have to imagine all the fun we had!  

2.  Before heading off for Thanksgiving, John was off in Boston at a conference and my parents came to town to help out with the kids.  One of our favorite things to do when they are here is to visit HealthWorks, which is our local children's museum.  It's small, but the kids like the change of scenery and new gadgets!  


3.  We returned from our Thanksgiving travels and got right to work preparing for advent!  You can read more about our goals for Advent in Saturday's post.  

4.  One of my goals for advent is to do a Jesse Tree and we have begun!  We watch one of the Holy Heroes videos each day.  The kids have been really interested and love putting the ornaments on our "tree".  Blaise thinks the tree looks awesome.  I'm not sure I agree!  Ha!  But we only had one piece of green construction paper and I wanted to make it as large as possible!

5.  John has wanted to chop down a Christmas tree for many years and this year I finally agreed!  We found a little mom and pop place where they grow a variety of different trees in a 1 acre lot right next to their house.  All trees were $30 regardless of size or species, so I was thankful to get a good deal along with a super fun experience!  The kids especially enjoyed picking their tree out of the "forest"!


6.  Over Thanksgiving at my parents' house, John showed the kids how to make a snowman.  Blaise loved doing it and as soon as we got back to South Bend, he made one of his own!

7.  Lucy took a tumble and skinned her nose, so we've affectionately taken to calling her Rudolph   ;-)

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Theme Thursday: Lights

This is my first time joining in for Theme Thursday!  The kids are all asleep and I was relaxing in front of our beautiful tree after a long day and figured I would snap this picture of one of our favorite ornaments.  I bought it for John when we were dating as a gesture to show that I was OK with his Catholicism and that I  appreciated many of the traditions and understandings of faith that he brings to our relationship.

Check out more great pictures @ Clan Donaldson!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WWRW - Favorite Christian Books for Toddlers

This week I thought I would once again combine What We're Reading Wednesday and Five Favorites to take a look at my five favorite Christian Books for Toddlers!  Since Housewife Spice's WWRW is focusing on Advent, we'll start out with my absolute favorite book for the season!

1. The Story of Christmas for Children
This is one of my all time favorite books from childhood.  Sadly it is out of print, but you can still find it online at used bookstores.  I love this book for its poetry, beautiful images, and simple telling of how the entire Christmas story fits together.

2. The Rhyme Bible Storybook
Of all the kids' Bibles in our house, this one gets used the most!  The stories are short and all told through rhyme.  There are only a few verses per page, so there are lots of pictures to go along with each story.  My husband actually remembers loving this when he was a kid!  They especially like the Christmas story in this book because it starts with the donkey going: "Clip Clop, Clip Clop!"

3.  God Gave Us You
This is a charming story about how little bear came to be a part of mama and papa bear's family.  On each page the line "God Gave Us You" is repeated.  We often read this as our last book before bedtime.  It's such a nice reminder to the kids both how they are loved by us and how they are loved by God.

4. Prayers of Thanks
This book was a gift to us at Blaise's baptism.  When Blaise was younger, we read this book every night at prayer time.  Each page says a prayer for a specific thing - parents, grandparents, siblings, pets, etc. We still read it occasionally, but even when we don't read it, the ideas have shaped our prayer time for the better.

5.  Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You
Although not explicitly Christian, this book speaks about unconditional love that follows you wherever you go.  The words are lovely and poetic, but the best part of this book is the pictures.  We love Tillman's artwork so much that we have three images from her books hanging in our living room!

Check out more great books @ Housewifespice!
Enjoy more Five Favorites @ MoxiWife!
And thanks to Clan Donaldson for the idea to combine WWRW and Five Favorites!