Friday, January 31, 2014

Quick Takes #13

1.  I haven't blogged at all this week because I left the door open to my room and Lucy unattended for all of 30 seconds and she did this to my keyboard:



2.  It wouldn't have been quite so bad if she hadn't taken off the space bar.  And it would have been fixable except for a moment about a year ago when I decided to give all extra computer stuff including multiple keyboards to the thrift store!  But my parents came to the rescue and gave me one of their old ones!  So here is my new set-up:



3.  Obviously I desperately need to clean my desk!  But I can type again!  The keyboard may actually be older than the laptop (which is from 2005).  I didn't think age would matter, but these keys are soooooo loud!  Who knew that keyboards have gotten quieter over time?!  Smart engineering :-)


4.  Our county declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, so Notre Dame was forced to cancel classes and close the library, so John got a snow day with us!  He offered to do a house project, so I put him right to work painting the kitchen!


He got the ceiling painted and together we got all the trim painted white!  Goodbye orange-ish wood trim!  


5.  Since we were in the middle of the kitchen project when our oldest turned 4, we decided to do a little decorating for his birthday!



He loved it!  And this may even count as a birthday theme!  A little bit Harold and the Purple (Green) Crayon (Paint) meets trains!  Ha!


6.  We had a couple "warm" days here where it was in the 20's, so the kids were able to go outside and play.  Lucy wasn't too sure about it all, but the boys enjoyed playing on the big pile at the end of the driveway.




7.  Even on the really super cold days, we still tried to enjoy the snow!




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Monday, January 27, 2014

Meal Plan Monday: Pulled Pork

This week we celebrate Blaise's birthday!  We'll do a little something on his actual birthday and then celebrate fully on Saturday with Grandpa and Grandma.  You can read about our yummy cake choice here.  For his meals, Blaise requested pizza and hot dogs!

We're also going to try a new recipe this week on Tuesday.  One of my vegetarian friends suggested some yummy recipes on facebook, so we'll try either these black beans or this red lentil soup.  Black beans and lentil soup are already part of our usual meal rotation, but it will be fun to try a new preparation!

Monday: Quiche
Tuesday: A new recipe!
Wednesday: Birthday Pizza!
Thursday: Lemon Feta Chicken
Friday: Putanesca Sauce with Spaghetti
Saturday: Pulled Pork and Hot Dogs

Pulled pork is pretty much the easiest recipe ever.  So here goes:

Ingredients:
Pork shoulder (as large as you want or your crockpot will allow, about 4 lbs for us)
2-3 yellow onions
2-3 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce

Directions:
1.  Place pork in slow cooker and cover with onions and barbecue sauce.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours, until the meat easily shreds with a fork.  
2.  Shred all meat and remove any bones.  Stir.  Cook about 30 minutes longer.
3.  Serve on buns with extra bbq sauce if desired




Saturday, January 25, 2014

Theme Thursday: Catching People Unawares

Yes, I know it's Saturday.  But I just stumbled across these pictures on my phone and they are just too cute not to share with the world!  For Christmas, the boys each got two classic Richard Scarry books. While I cringe at the lack of political correctness (especially the portrayal of women) in his writing, nothing beats his detailed and exciting pictures!  On many a day I find Blaise engrossed in these books :-)


        



Check out more great pictures @ Clan Donaldson!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Quick Takes #12

1.  On Sunday my boys participated in the preschool Christmas/Epiphany play.  It was delayed a few weeks because of weather!  Blaise was a shepherd and Finn was a sheep.  They did a great job for nearly the entire thing... until... one of the other moms reminded them to bow down and Blaise burst into tears, followed by Finn!  Thankfully I was close by, and scooped them both up into my lap before they made too much of a commotion!  Sorry for the blurry pictures, but aren't they cute?!

      


2.  Isn't this how everyone's kids eat breakfast?!

    


3.  For John's birthday (ummm, 2 months ago) he requested in lieu of presents that we have a nice date night for mexican food.  We knew scheduling said date was going to be challenging, but had finally penciled it in for January 18.  But that was a really busy day, so we postponed once again.  Finally, as we're putting the kids to be on Sunday the 19th, John decides that tonight is the night and he is going to run out and get us some food.  He comes back with chips, salsa, queso, and flowers for me.  He mixes up some whiskey sours and we set about to enjoy the second half of the football game.  It ended up being the perfect birthday celebration!  (and how lucky am I that my hubby gets me flowers for his birthday!)

      


4.  As I've mentioned before, this past Christmas I introduced the kids to The Grinch who Stole Christmas, and they are hooked.  I haven't let them watch it since the holidays, but they still love to reenact it!  Here is their "sleigh" with all of the goodies they took from the Who's!



5.  I love having a basement playroom where the kids can play and not worry about making messes, but sometimes it just gets to be too much and we need to clean it!  Here is the before and after.  Of course the "after" only lasted for about 30 seconds while I snapped the pic and then it started looking a lot like the "before" again!

      


6.  If you look in the foreground of the "before" picture above you might notice that light blue ring.  You may recognize it as part of a training potty.  A training potty that should be in storage.  Funny story... we're playing in the basement and Lucy has been bringing me pretend food to eat on her toy plates and bowls.  One time she brings me a bowl of water.  Hmmm, where did she get water from... from the potty... only it's not water... ewwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!


7.  Last weekend I finished up my last training to become eligible to adopt from foster care.  You can check out my thoughts on RAPT IV here.  Unfortunately, our adoption specialist has been unresponsive to our requests to get our home study started.  If you could, would you please pray for her and us and this whole process?  We're getting really frustrated, and it hurts my heart to think of all the kids without families that just keep waiting while we (and others) desperately want to adopt them.  And pray for the kids. Especially pray for the kids.  


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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our Birthday Presents

Earlier this week I blogged about our birthday celebrations, which are all about the cakes!  But that doesn't mean we forget the presents!  John and I have been discussing lately how much money we want to spend on gifts and what sorts of things we want to buy.  I grew up in a home where you got exactly what you asked for, whereas John grew up in a home where surprises were valued.  We've only just started to give it thought for us as the kids are getting older and especially as Blaise has begun asking for things on a regular basis!

We haven't come up with a solid plan for the future, but at least for this birthday, we put a $50 limit on ourselves and I spent time talking with Blaise to focus his desires.  The #1 thing Blaise wants for this birthday is more trains!  We got a train table about 1.5 years ago, and Blaise is ready for more trains and tracks!  Here is a picture of our current one.  We bought it used, so we don't quite have all the accessories, but it's pretty close.  The kids used to beg me and John to set it up on the table for them, but now they have started using their own creativity to build it all over the basement floor.


I was hoping to find supplemental pieces on Craigslist, but after about two months of searching, I decided to go ahead and buy new.  We went with a set of tracks and a set of trains, both from Amazon.

       
Grandpa and Grandma are also coming, so they will have a few surprise presents for Blaise - things that he might have mentioned in the past or that I have observed him loving.  

But I don't think it's the presents that make a birthday special, it's the quality time with loved ones and the words of encouragement.  Grandpa and Grandma will take us on special outings while they are here, Blaise will participate in making his cake, and in a house of three little toddlers clamoring for attention, this will be Blaise's day.  Finally, while we eat the cake or birthday meal, we will take time to honor Blaise, telling him what we appreciate and love about him.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WWRW - Grace Based Parenting


I just finished reading Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel.  This was the first parenting book I have ever read (except if you count Ferber's sleep training book).  The catch phrase inside the cover says, "Raise your kids the way God raises his".  Before I even started reading, I knew I liked the idea of this book!  We don't like to spank or be too harsh with discipline, but have worried about how to balance that out and create a solid foundation for our kids.  This book was the perfect fit for us!  He actually doesn't take much of a stance about discipline techniques (to spank or not to spank), but focuses on every interaction we have with our child.

I really liked this book because it reinforced what my instincts have been telling me.  I also really liked this book because it fit well with what we have been discerning about risk in our lives, about stepping out in faith.  Kimmel teaches you how to raise kids who are secure in their faith and unafraid to step out in that faith.  I also felt like the parenting he was describing was the parenting that I saw in Bob Goff's Love Does book.  He warns against legalistic methods of parenting and also means of parenting that aim to keep your kids safe/sheltered.

He talks about how children (and really everyone) have three driving inner needs: a need for security, a need for significance, and a need for strength.  We can meet those needs for our kids by giving them the gifts of love, purpose, and hope.  He goes through each of these (a chapter on each) and does a good job of both explaining through description and through examples, both of how to do it right and wrong.  After describing these needs, he goes on to talk about how we should give children the freedom to be different, the freedom to be vulnerable, the freedom to be candid, and the freedom to make mistakes.  Again, he explains in a chapter on each how these will look in our lives.

While most of this book resonated with what I already think and feel, it did challenge me in certain areas.  One thing Kimmel points out is that we often tell our children 'no', not because they are actually doing anything wrong, but because others around us might think we are a "bad parent".  I know I have been guilty of this with my overly rambunctious kids!

When I was trying to describe the book to my husband, he got a little worried that what I was describing was loose parenting and letting kids do whatever they want.  Kimmel warns that this is not at all what he is saying:
"If anything, grace should motivate you to a higher holiness.  Grace-based homes aren't places where family members assume they can say whatever they want, see whatever they want, hear whatever they want, taste or drink whatever they want, or touch whatever they want.  That's not grace.  That's someone wanting to live his or her own life with no regard for what God has said or what He thinks.  But when grace is in place, there is clearly a different attitude toward sin than in homes without grace.  If I could summarize grace in one sentence it would be something like this: "As love as you are pleasing God, you're pretty much free to do whatever you want."  But keep in mind that "pleasing" God is contingent on our faith in Him, not on our ability to maintain a righteous and moral standard as so many assume.  Hebrews 11:6 says that "without faith it is impossible to please God."  People who walk by faith are far more capable of developing a godly and righteous lifestyle because they are finding their power for living in their personal relationship with the Lord."  
I think this book is a worthy read for everyone with kids, especially those who want to figure out how best to infuse their kids with a love of Christ.




And check out more great books @  Housewifespice!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Our Birthday Celebrations

I'm a regular reader of the blog Carrots for Michaelmas, and recently Haley wrote a post entitled "How We Do Simple Birthdays (and a Beatrix Potter theme)"  I chuckled a bit when I read the title because I can't possibly imagine in my world how a birthday celebration involving a theme could be simple, but I read on.  Ultimately, I think her idea of simple is a little more complex than I am up for, but she does have some creative ideas about using things that you already have around.

I also regularly read Enjoying the Small Things and Kelle just blogged about her daughter's Little Italy Party.  Her's would certainly not be considered simple, but it was adorably cute!

Finally, I love getting insights from Young House Love.  John and Sherry do not miss a single detail when they plan birthday's for Clara.  Here is her most recent Dragon themed party.

Unlike all these wonderful bloggers, I am totally missing the artistic creative gene!  But we do want to make birthday's special for our kids, so one tradition that we have started is that each child gets their very own special type of cake.  It's a cake that we only make once a year, especially for them on their birthday.

Blaise's birthday falls between epiphany and mardi gras, so a king cake is the perfect choice for him!


Finn's birthday is at the start of summer and the boy loves his blueberries, so we do an angel food cake with fresh fruit!


Lucy's birthday is at the end of the summer, so fresh fruit was also our guiding factor, but for her, we do a blackberry pie!  We were lucky enough to even get to pick the blackberries last year!


All of our birthday desserts are made from scratch (mostly by John) and are soooooooo yummy!  

Last year the adults also started getting in on the fun.  John got carrot cake, I got chocolate orange cake, Grandma got black forest cherry cake, and Nana got her own version of angel food cake.  

All of this is not to say that I am anti-themes for birthday parties.  But I do like to take things one step at a time!  I'm thinking maybe this year since we have made everyone's cake at least once before (and three times already for Blaise!), I am up for trying a very basic theme.  Blaise's birthday is in a little over a week, and so I am thinking for theme either trains or Harold and the Purple Crayon.  I'll be sure to blog about my creative genius (or lack there of!) after the celebration!  And maybe someday I can throw a party as awesome as the three bloggers I linked to above :-)


Monday, January 20, 2014

RAPT IV

On Saturday I completed Resource and Adoptive Parent Training 4, which is a 6 hour training specifically about adoption.  I have previously blogged about RAPT I, RAPT II, and RAPT III.  I went by myself this time while John stayed home with the kids.  He'll do the same training next Saturday.  The meeting was full of a lot of information, much of which I already knew, so from that perspective it was fairly relaxing.  It was a good day to sit back and process.

The first exercise of the day was a reflection.  We were asked to look at a set of characteristics that are necessary for successful parents and assess whether we feel we have them.  One of them stuck out to me:  "Awareness that healing doesn't come quickly, not all wounds can be healed, and your child may not attach to your family."  While this was certainly a hard thing to hear, it is also reassuring.  We're not adopting with the idea of "saving" a child.  We fully recognize how very very challenging this path will be.  I regularly read many blogs about adoptive parents struggling with their kids' Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).  We're adopting because we believe EVERYONE deserves to be loved.  EVERYONE deserves to have a family who supports and encourages them.  I have hope because I believe that God can heal all wounds and soften all hearts.  I am also realistic that faith in a loving God does not promise a perfect outcome.  I accept that healing and attachment may not come, but I step out in faith because of the great love that I have.

A little while later in the training we did an activity to look at the racial make-up of people we regularly interact with.  We had beads in a variety of colors, each representing a different race.  The trainer would read a statement and we would place the corresponding colored bead into a cup.  The statements were things such as, "My immediate family is...", "My close friends are...", "People who visit my home are...".  After the statements had been read, the trainer asked us to look into our cups and consider what life would look like for a child of a different race.  It's hard to put myself in that position.  I was thankful to see that my cup was not all white, but it certainly was heavily tilted in that direction.  I think my time teaching at St. Martin has helped me understand some of the challenges, but I think trans-racial adoption is an area that I want to read more about.

The remainder of the training was mostly dedicated towards talking about general issues that children who are adopted might have - grief, loyalty, control, self-esteem, etc.  Much of this I felt was a duplicate either from past RAPT trainings or from my own reading.  One new piece was our discussion about claiming, "the process by which the adoptive parents come to accept the adoptive child as their own as a full-fledged member of the family."  To illustrate this, our trainer used examples from the movie The Blind Side.  First she talked about how the family claimed Michael by including him on their Christmas card, which is an obvious statement to the world about claiming.  She also talked about claiming in the scene where Michael sits down at the dining room table to eat Thanksgiving dinner and the family, who is previously eating in front of the tv comes to join him.  This is an example where claiming can mean the bio family joining in with a tradition or desire from the adoptive child.



These illustrations from The Blind Side made me want to see the movie again, so John and I rented it on Saturday night.  I remember enjoying the movie last time I watched it, but I certainly didn't cry as much as I did this time!  While the movie certainly tells an uplifting story about adoption, it ends with showing images and news articles about those who were not so lucky.  Sometimes I am overwhelmed with emotion when I think about the grave inequities in our world.  Watching the movie made me want to read more about the real story, so I requested two books from the library:  Michael Oher's book, I Beat the Odds and the Tuohy's book, In a Heartbeat.  I'll be sure to post reviews after I read them!

         


Sorry this post was a little disjointed and rambling, but that's just how I roll :-)



Friday, January 17, 2014

Quick Takes #11

I had planned today to do a complete rundown of our holiday festivities, complete with lots of pictures.  But unfortunately, nearly all of the pictures we took were on our real camera, which doesn't play nice with this very old computer that I use for blogging!  Pretty much every picture you see on my blog was taken by my phone, which backs up automatically onto Google Plus, so no actual saving of pictures on the hard drive required!  So instead of getting a cohesive overview, here is a smattering of things from the last few weeks that made it onto my phone!  Enjoy the poor quality pictures :-)


1.  Christmas morning!  There was also a large doll house under the tree that John was still finishing staining when I took the picture!  We enjoyed a meat laden brunch to celebrate the end of our vegetarian advent!

   


2.  The day after Christmas we drove through the night to see John's family in New Orleans.  Though the drive was rough, and the kids were sick for most of the 10 days we were there, seeing family is always the best :)

     


3.  Finn loved the drum set in Nana and Granddad's garage.  Look at him go!


4.  Our main Christmas gift from John's parents was a gift certificate for a fancy dinner date at Antoine's.  The restaurant is located in the French Quarter, so we did a little strolling before eating.  I'd never been to Bourbon Street before, so we got to experience the craziness, but also the charm - there was a little bar where we listened live jazz music!  Our dinner was just astoundingly delicious. We spent the meal discussing the exquisite food and also reminiscing about our relationship, especially the early days when we were dating!




5.  We took an afternoon trip with Nana and Granddad to Gulfport, Mississippi.  It was a chilly and windy 50 degrees when we played on the beach!

   


6.  Last year we went to the Children's Museum and Aquarium, so this year we tried out the Zoo and Insectarium!  Seeing all the bugs was certainly a highlight, as was climbing the big tree at the zoo!




7.  Some awesome non-photographed things include:
  • Grandpa, Grandma and Uncle Erik visiting South Bend to celebrate and early Christmas
  • Early Christmas dinner with my cousin and his family
  • The Sculpture Garden  (I was amazed at how much the kids enjoyed this place!)
  • Beignets and duck feeding in City Park
  • Celebration in the Oaks
  • Trampoline jumping with cousins
  • Saints game party
  • Probably lots of other things that I will remember only after I hit publish!



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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WWRW: Love Does & Three Little Words

After a month hiatus, I'm back for What We're Reading Wednesday!  As I mentioned in my last quick takes post, right before the holidays I read two amazing books:  Love Does by Bob Goff and Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter.  

            


I was hoping to write amazingly detailed reviews of each of these, which would persuade you instantly to read them, but alas, the holidays have zapped my energy for such things and I had to return the books to the library.  (Plus, if you've been here before you know that even when my brain is sharp, I do not write detailed posts!  Ha!)  But I will give you a brief insight into each of these.

First, Love Does.  Each chapter in this book tells a short story from the author's life that illustrates some aspect of love.  And as the title implies, the type of love he is talking about is the type that shows itself through action.  The stories from his life are nearly unbelievable, and yet he convinces you that they are attainable simply by not placing limits on love and God.  One of his points is that God can best use us when we have an idea rather than a plan.  We likely cannot dream anywhere as big as God can, and thus by having a specific plan, we achieve far less than if we just start running with an idea and trusting God along the way.  This is an easy read, fun, humorous, and inspiring.  Definitely a must read!

Second, Three Little Words.  This is an autobiography about a girl who was removed from her mother at age 4 and stayed in foster care until she was adopted as a teenager.  The story of her life is so painful as she moves between foster and group homes.  She is adopted as a teenager into a wonderful family and it takes many years for her to finally know and feel loved.  Ashley does an excellent job of explaining the facts of her life and also her thought process throughout.  After reading this, I can much better understand the emotional needs of foster children, and really any child who is not surrounded by a loving family.  Of all my past WWRW books, this is my favorite.  Read it.  




And check out more great books @  Housewifespice!





Monday, January 13, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - Lentil Soup

John was off from school for 3 whole weeks, so as a result, I have been off from blogging just as long!  We had so much fun with our extended families, which I'll be sharing about later this week.  But today is Monday, and we're back to a typical schedule, so it's time to start meal planning again!

Monday: Veggie Chili (leftover from our football watching this weekend!)
Tuesday: Baked Potatoes
Wednesday: Black Beans & Rice
Thursday: Leftover black beans and rice
Friday: Lentil soup with biscuits

Our lentil soup recipe is modified from the recipe on the back of the bag of red lentils.

Ingredients:
2 cups red lentils
8 cups water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbls olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:
1.  Add lentils and water to large pot and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes (until lentils are tender), stirring occasionally.
2. Uncover and add cumin, turmeric, and curry.  Continue to simmer.
3.  In a separate pan, saute onions and garlic in the olive oil until golden brown.  Then add to soup and simmer 5 minutes.
4.  Stir in lemon juice right before you are ready to serve.