2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Celebration!

Christmas Eve Appetizers


We had a wonderful Christmas time, visiting with family for several days.  We went to church Christmas Eve afternoon and when we arrived back home, it was time to start eating!  I am a BIG fan of appetizers, so this time of year is my favorite....appetizers for Christmas Eve, for New Year's Eve and every Sunday while watching football!


Delicious Christmas Dinner!




Christmas morning, we opened gifts, cleaned up and took a brisk walk in the cold weather.  Then it was time to eat again!  Ham, Green Bean Casserole, Twice Baked Potato Casserole and Homemade Rolls was on the dinner menu.  For dessert, my sister made the traditional dessert we have on Christmas- Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Frosting!  Oh my goodness, it's SO GOOD!  She also made a Rum Cake, which was also excellent.  I think we'll have to talk her into making BOTH each Christmas from now on!


Hiking off all that food!


Besides eating a LOT of GREAT food, we also played some games, watched some movies (Dolphin Tale is a sweet movie!), went shopping and took a hike through the woods.

I think the best part of the weekend was that my husband finally got his wedding band re-sized!  He had lost about 40 lbs 4 years ago and his ring didn't fit without a ring guard, which was highly annoying for him to wear.  The jeweler did such a great job that you can hardly tell where they made the cut in the ring!

But now we're back to real life..... The house was a mess, there was laundry to be done, work to go back to.  We picked up Zana today from the family she spent Christmas with, did a little shopping at the mall and a few other stores and took her to Kanki for lunch.  Then back home and back out again for groceries.  My husband had just enough time to shovel down some soup before heading to work.  By the time he got to bed this morning, he had been awake for almost 24 hours.  Plus, he started the shift with a dead battery in his car..... I'm hoping that was all the excitement for his night but I have a feeling it wasn't!

I'm looking forward to my next post, about my goals for the New Year!  But I have a few more days of this year to enjoy first!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The BIG day is almost here.....Christmas!

Once again, the month has flown by way too quickly, as I'm sure it has for many of you.  Once again, we may have let the fun times with friends and family and the buying, wrapping and opening presents overshadow the TRUE reason we celebrate Christmas.

Luke 2:10-11 "Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Ok, so a baby was born over 2,000 years ago.... He wasn't just any baby, he was the Savior of the world!  So as we reflect on Jesus this Christmas season, let's also include the following verses to bring the full meaning of His existence to light...

John 3:16-17 "For God SO LOVED the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

 The BEST gift this Christmas season can't be wrapped and placed under the tree.  It doesn't cost you any money.  You don't deserve it but it has been given to you for free.  All you have to do is admit you are a sinner who needs a Savior, believe that Jesus is God's Son who died for your sins and rose again and this free gift of salvation is yours for all eternity!

Enjoy this Christmas season with your family.  Open your presents Christmas morning.  Eat all that good food and spend lots of time with your loved ones.  But don't EVER forget the TRUE meaning of Christmas.

I'll be taking some time off from blogging to do the same.  I'll be enjoying my family and remembering why we are celebrating.  





Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We're Having Fun!

WOW!  What a 10 days it's been!

I feel like we've been going non-stop, but we've been having fun!

Zana arrived from Latvia on Sunday December 11th.  She's a chaperone with New Horizons for Children and we decided to host her for the month that she's in America.  

The kids did their best to get their schoolwork finished during the last week of school before Christmas Break started.  Adding a new person into our home takes some adjusting, even when the person is a wonderful as Zana.  The kids have done very well and I can see they are also being prepared for the addition of their new sibling(s) hopefully this coming year.

We've done a lot of fun things in the 10 days since Zana has been with us: Playing Dutch Blitz, making S'mores in our firepit, going to an Elf Party (she loved it!), seeing half of the Nutcracker Ballet (free!), going to see a movie at the $1.50 theater, making Christmas cookies, watching football, going to church and a special Christmas program, opening Christmas presents, playing soccer several days, making homemade ice cream and helping Zana make dinner one night!  And that's just some of the things we've done!

I find myself getting (almost) everything done while adding in these others things and sleeping very well at night from being tired.  My days are not normally this full, so it's nice (although I think I need a day to do nothing soon!) to have so much to do.  I can imagine this will be close to what it's like in adding a child to our family, although the house will be louder and there will be a bit more stress when that happens, I think.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Adoption Update

(Technically, this IS an adoption update, but bear with me as I go through several other topics to get there....)

Wow, life has been busy this week!

We went to the airport 3 hours away on Sunday to pick up the Latvian woman staying with us for the coming month.  We arrived home around 12:30am and I got to sleep around 2am.  I remember telling my husband somewhere around midnight that I don't know how he functions on his first night of night shift with so little sleep!  I could hardly keep my eyes open after waking up at 8:30am, which is just about when he wakes up for that first night of work.  Crazy....

I was home a total of 1 hour the first day Zana was with us....Not very hospitable of me, but I had plans already and thankfully my parents came over to visit, the kids were home and Rich was able to arrange his work schedule to be home at dinnertime.

Tuesday, we spent the day at home, sleeping in and getting settled.  My husband was working 2 "nights" of 3pm-3am, which is just crazy.  Wednesday, we had appointments, lunch out and errands.  So, we saw my husband Tuesday when he left for work around 3pm and we saw him again when he woke up around lunchtime on Thursday.  Thankfully, this is not his normal schedule.  If it was, I would not be a happy camper!

OK, here is the adoption update!  I think it was Tuesday when I started thinking that I should email our social worker to see our status and then also find some time to give her a list of kids we're interested in learning more about.  So I was happy to see a letter in the mail that day saying we had been approved for adoption!  Of course, our foster care licensure is still being processed, but there is no chance of having kids placed with us in the next few months so we will patiently wait for our foster care license.

Now I need to find the time to send an email to our social worker with the list of kids.  In the meantime, our information is on a website, waiting to be matched with children.  Also, there are social workers throughout the state that can and will contact our social worker with information on children to see if she has a family that would match well.  So, we'll see how we progress!

I'm sure things will move slowly.  That's ok, because we have such a busy first half of the year coming up.  3 BIG birthdays within the first 6 weeks, several trips, and just life in general.  Then before I know it, it will be time to start planning for the next school year.

I'll continue to update on the progress of the adoption as well as on anything exciting (or maybe even boring!) going on around here......

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Preparation

I can feel it.....  God's preparing me for whatever might come this next year.

Who knows what it's for....Adoption, maybe?  Could be.... But I've learned in the past year that MY plans may not be HIS plans, or just not in His timing.

We've had to stretch ourselves this past week, as well as this coming week.  Stressful days at work for my husband, working 16+ hours one of his shifts..... Extra kids in the house one night...... Hosting friends for dessert, along with a friend of my son..... Hosting a woman from Latvia whom we've never met before.....Christmas, New Year's, crazy work schedule.....Lots to do, lots of noise, lots of change!

I normally don't do well with change.  I like to know my schedule, my plans.  And even as I think of all that has gone on and all that will happen in the next month, my stomach is in knots.  But instead of letting that take over, I find myself remembering that God is preparing me....for more noise, more kids, more change, and in turn more of HIM!  Because without more of HIM in my life, I can't handle more noise, more kids and more change!

There is so much we want to do next year.  A foreign mission trip for my husband and son, maybe even a family mission trip as well.  We have trips "planned", special birthdays to celebrate and in the middle of it all we will be in the matching process for adoption.  We've heard that can take a while, and we're prepared to wait.  But I think we're also ready for an addition to our family and all the noise, change, challenge and fun it will bring into our lives!

The "good" things of adoption and mission trips, homeschool and vacation may be what are my plans for next year, but unless God wants us to do these things, we are planning in vain.  In order for me to know if these things are in God's plan, I need to make time to be still and know what He wants us to do.  I need to listen and read.

As these days, weeks, and months come and the noise, change, stress and challenge comes with it, I will remind myself of this:


Philippians 4:6-7  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

24 hours of Tragedy

Psalm 34:17-18 "The righteous cry out and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit."

What a day it was yesterday.  It started off normally, I'd say.  Then the news started pouring in.....

An officer shot at Virginia Tech..... A deputy shot in Moore County, NC.... It took hours to get details, and when they were given they weren't good.  Both of those men had been murdered.

The deputy was a retired police chief, with a wife, a son and 2 grandchildren.  The VT officer was an Army veteran, husband and father of 5.  Wow.... my brain couldn't really grasp it all.

Then another news report that evening of a Virginia State Trooper shot and injured.  I don't know any more of the extent of his injuries.  Then other reports overnight of 3 officers shot and injured in the Oklahoma City area.

WOW....  Now, I'm not a worrier, but I can say that this increased violence does concern me.  But I'd never tell that to my husband.  I don't want him distracted at work with being concerned about me, I want him focused on his job and getting home each night.  


There have been 147 in the line of duty deaths in the US so far this year.  Far more have been shot and injured and many others have been in car accidents.

I know that it is dangerous driving on the highway each day.  Everyone is at risk of leaving for work, school or errands and not making it back home.  To top that inherent risk off, my husband straps on a bullet proof vest and 20 lbs of gear each day to deal with people who don't regard his life very highly.  Some, as happened in NC and VA yesterday, would not think twice about killing an officer before killing themselves.  

I've never seen a reaction like my husband had last night when he heard on the news that the shooter in the NC case had previously told a neighbor that he'd rather die than go to jail.  My husband said "Then why didn't he just kill himself and be done with it?  Why did he have to murder the deputy?!"  And then he went to sleep.... He's exhausted from a long week of early mornings and working late.

It doesn't always make sense.....Life in general doesn't make sense sometimes.  Thankfully, I know that my God is in control in the middle of the chaos, He is not taken by surprise when tragedy happens, and He has a plan that is better than any I could have!  And it's in these times that don't make sense that we can cling to those promises. 

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you WILL have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Exciting News!

We got exciting news!  It has nothing to do with adoption, though......

Many of you know of our experience with hosting 2 Ukrainian orphans last Christmas as well as our hosting a Ukrainian chaperone for 2 weeks this summer.

Well, we're doing it again!  This time, we're hosting a 33 year old chaperone from Latvia named Zane.  I have no idea how her name is pronounced, so we'll figure that out when we meet her. 

We had hoped to host a chaperone but didn't think it would work out.  Then we got the message on Monday about the possibility of hosting Zane.  There were a few details to work out and thanks to some friends (and their friends) we were able to finalize the commitment Tuesday night.

We had to laugh when we looked at our calendar last night.  The next month is already SO busy!  The good thing about that is we should have a lot of things to keep Zane busy, as well as a few down days with little to do.  She'll get a quick introduction to my husband's weird work schedule as the week she arrives is as weird as they get around here..... We had already planned having visitors here a few different days so she'll get to meet some of our friends and relatives during her stay.  And if we have good weather, maybe we'll go on a hike or take a day trip to the beach.  We're also going to go to the history and sciences museums nearby.  And of course we'll be watching lots of Christmas movies!


All we know about Zane is that she speaks a little English but can understand more and is looking forward to learning more English and eating new foods.  She also likes to cook so I'm looking forward to another helper in the kitchen and maybe we can convince her to cook us an authentic Latvian dinner one night!

I'm still hoping to keep up with blogging while my schedule gets busier over the next month, but I can imagine I will be posting less often.


We are excited to meet our visitor this weekend!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Starting to Shred

My arms are shaky even as a type this.....

I just did Day 1 of The 30 Day Shred.  

I'm a big fan of The Biggest Loser.  We look forward to Tuesday nights where we watch people work out for hours while we sit on the couch eating snacks.  And I plan in my head when I'm going to start exercising again.  Usually I never follow through.

I blogged a few weeks ago about wanting to train for an October 5K and not being able to do that.  I think I may have even mentioned about planning to train for a spring 5K.  Then "it" started again....the ankle aches!

18 years ago, I had reconstructive surgery on my ankle.  I had sprained it severely my sophomore year in college and completely tore all the ligaments.  I had surgery the following summer.  I've had little to no problems ever since.  Until last winter, when it started aching for no reason.  I mentioned it to my doctor and she thought there could be some osteoarthritis going on due to the original injury.  I thought maybe it was stress from all we had going on last December and January.

Then the colder weather of this November arrived and the ache started again.  My doctor had suggested not running because that is harsh on my joints, but I don't have much else I can do for free......  Except that I already own The Shred.....

So, I made a schedule.  For those who know me, they are not at all surprised.  I do find that when I have a detailed schedule, I am more likely to follow through.  So, even though it's the "30 day" Shred, I should be finished with it (7 days at each of the 3 levels) by January 6th!  Just over 30 days is pretty good for me!  If I can actually accomplish this, maybe I'll be more likely to continue with some form of exercise a few days a week in 2012.

Now that it's out there and people can hold me accountable, maybe I'll actually do it.  So, feel free to check on me a few times this coming month to see if I'm keeping up with it and if I am truthfully crossing it off my schedule!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Decorations in Pictures

Here is our decorating experience in pictures.....


The stuff for the living room tree and the outdoor wreathes....



Time to move the bookshelf to make room for the tree....



My daughter asked for some slice and bake tree cookies to eat while we decorated the tree....



The failure tree.... Only 1/3 of the lights worked and since it was a pre-lit, it needed to be thrown out and a new tree purchased.  Fun.... 



The new tree looks a lot like the old tree, except the lights DO work!  ;)



The first ornament to be placed on the tree!



Our "Places" tree- with ornaments from the places we've been.... Disney, Williamsburg, Charleston, The White House, Mt Vernon, Jamestown, Cape Cod, just to name a few!



Our stockings, along with some nativities on the mantle....



A "Police" tree for my husband!  Blue lights and police ornaments....and the only Sheriff decoration we've ever seen, given to us by a friend!



A few more nativities on the piano....



I had a small tree and a place for it, so it's in my kitchen!



All decorated and lit!



The tree in my daughter's room....



The tree in my son's room....



I have to have one Poinsettia in my house for Christmas!


There you have it... 6 lit trees, a bunch of nativities (and believe it or not, less than in years past- I only bring out the ones I really like), lots of lit garland (inside and out!) and we're done decorating for Christmas!  Now to put on some Christmas music (I've got some great Christmas playlists on Spotify- Third Day, Michael W Smith, Mandisa and Toby Mac!) and enjoy the house!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Pictures

Here is our Thanksgiving celebration in pictures.....

Apple Pie with crumble topping, hot out of the oven!



Cranberry-Pineapple Cups "gelling" in the fridge.


The table is set!


Table level view.....   

 
I love my Grandma's China!  Good thing my favorite color is red, so it goes well in my house....


Getting ready.... I labeled all the dishes with what would go in them so I didn't have to guess or have 5,000 questions while trying to prepare the meal.



Turkey in brine overnight....YUM!



The traditional early lunch appetizers while watching the Macy's Parade....



Between the brine and the cooking method (500 degrees for 30 min, then cook at 350 for the remaining time), this turkey was beautiful and delicious!



The menu.....



The food table.



My plate- a little bit of everything!  So delicious!



The dessert table- Pumpkin, Chocolate Chess and Apple Pies, with homemade vanilla whipped cream!



My dessert plate- a little bit of everything, of course!



The low-light of the evening....I broke a salad plate while washing dishes!


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Hope yours was great too!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

I can't wait any longer.

I must put up my Christmas tree!  Or should I say, one of my Christmas trees.

At last count, I think we have 5 Christmas trees.  I know I should wait until after Thanksgiving to put them up, but I really, really want to put one up today!  How nice it would be to put on some Christmas music, put the guys to work bringing down and setting up the tree while I make an Apple Pie for Thanksgiving, and then my daughter and I can put the ornaments on!

I think today we'll just put up our main tree in the Living Room.  Ok, maybe also some of the decorations in the Living Room too.  And maybe also the outdoor lights.  But that's it.

The rest will wait until the day after Thanksgiving.  The kids each have a tree in their rooms and they will decorate those themselves.  We also have my husband's tree- the Police Tree.  I'm not a "good" police wife who lets her husband decorate year round with police memorabilia (we do have a print of the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial on the wall, right next to his framed advanced certificate, but those are down a hallway).  But when Christmas comes along, we put up the Police Tree, add the blue lights (that blink at a variety of speeds- it's really pretty cool!) and the police ornaments.  The master bedroom and kitchen each have a tabletop tree to add to the festivities.

Because it's so much work to put all of the Christmas decorations up, I like to do that around Thanksgiving and leave them up until a week into January.  We like sitting in the Living Room at night, with only the lights of the Christmas tree on, either listening to Christmas music or watching a Christmas movie.


It's my favorite time of the year!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A List

I love lists.

I especially love lists this time of year.....

Right now, I have a list of what we're having to eat on Thanksgiving, the schedule for cooking on Thanksgiving, a list of Christmas presents purchased and those left to buy, a list of who to send Christmas cards to and soon I will start a list of surprises for Rich for his 40th birthday in February.

But since this week is Thanksgiving, I thought I'd add one more list....A list of what I'm thankful for.  Here are some things that I would put on that list:

  • My husband's job.... It's dangerous, difficult, has a crazy schedule and sometimes annoys me.  But he has a job and he is good at it and for that I am thankful!
  • My parents....The kids enjoy spending time with them and get to see them practically any time they want.  Not every grandkid can say that!
  • My house....It's way more than we need, especially compared to what many in the world have.  I don't ever need to complain about it- I have a roof, heat/AC, running water and plenty of room for my family plus more!
  • My sister and her family....Whenever we get together, there's always great food and lots of laughs!
  • My God....Who else would know everything about me, including my thoughts, and still love and forgive me? 
  • My kids....I've said it before and I'll say it again- they're weird and I love them!  I truly enjoy spending time with them.  These teen years have been lots of fun!
  • My husband....I can't say enough good about him.  Even when I get frustrated with him, there's still no one else I'd rather spend my time with. 
  • My friends....Whether it's friends from my childhood I've reconnected with through Facebook, friends I've had for 10 years and see weekly, or even the long time friends that I don't see often but are still there for me when I need them, or friends I've only talked with on the phone but hope to see in person soon, I appreciate the people in my life who encourage me, pray for me and support me!
  • My church....I won't go into the details, but I will say that I'm so glad God brought us to RCCC.  To see my children excited about church, learning doctrine and to see my husband challenged and encouraged means so much to me.

This list is not all-inclusive, but hits the basics.  It's a shame I don't start making this list until November.  Really, I should be thankful every day because in even the hardest of days, there's always something to be thankful for!

Friday, November 18, 2011

What's For Dinner?

Do you find yourself asking that question many nights around 5pm?  Does it stress you out not knowing what you're making for dinner each night?  I hate to tell you, but if you answered "yes" to either of those questions, you may need to.... gulp.... have a menu plan!

First I'm going to say that if it doesn't stress you out to NOT have a meal plan, then you do NOT need one!  Many people want to know what they are having for dinner each night but they just don't know how to start making a menu plan!

A year or so ago I gave an informal presentation on how to make a menu plan to a group of moms in the church I was attending.  It seemed to go well and several of them later told me that they began planning their menu because of the information I shared.  So, I thought I'd put it all in writing here in case anyone else needed a place to start...


1.  Decide how long your menu plan will be:  I plan by the month, but I've been doing this for at least 10 years.  If you're just starting out, plan a week at a time.


2.  Write out your schedule for that time:  I write down my husband's work schedule, then add in any church, homeschool group, and sports practices or games.  That way I can see if we are going to have a busy night with not much time to make dinner and I can plan a Crock Pot or freezer meal for those busy nights.  I use a simple printed month calendar and put it in a 3 ring binder along with the recipes I use for the homemade things I make each week along with the recipes for the dinners.  (I was going to post a picture of my November menu, but then I realized it had my husband's work schedule on it and I don't really want that out there for the world to see until the month is over!)


3.  Make a list of dinners your family enjoys:  You will add to and use this list month after month, so take your time making it and ask your family members for their suggestions.  I have my master dinners list broken down into categories (chicken, beef, Crock Pot, vegetarian, etc).


4.  Start planning what dinner to make on each night:  I try my best to have a variety: chicken, beef (we use turkey), at least 1 vegetarian, breakfast for dinner, etc.  If you have young children, you may find you have enough food to have a leftovers night.  As your kids grown into their teenage years, you will no longer have leftovers!  ;)


5.  Make your grocery list based on your meal plan:  List all the ingredients you need for your dinners, add in your lunches, breakfasts and snacks.  Go through your pantry, fridge and freezer and cross off the foods you already have on hand.  Make your grocery list from the items left on your list!


6.  Enjoy!  It could take a few weeks to fine tune this process, but stick with it.  You should end up with a bit less stress because you don't have to figure out your dinner menu an hour before it needs to be one the table as well as a little bit of extra time from not having to make multiple trips to the grocery store each week for items you didn't know you needed to have for dinner.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Being a LEOW......

I've been a LEOW (Law Enforcement Officer's Wife) for almost 16 years.....  In some ways, it's gotten easier and in other ways it's still just as hard as the first day.

I have a few friends whose husbands are in the military and have been or are currently deployed.  I admire them.....I sure couldn't live that life!  I also have friends whose husband travel for their jobs- a LOT!  I admire them as well because I don't think I could live that life either!

Sometimes I don't think I do that well living this schedule either.  During his 16 year career, my husband worked 1 year in the courthouse (8-5 schedule....the good ole days!), 10 years on patrol (12 hour shifts- 4 days on, 4 days off, rotating days to nights) and 4 years in Investigations (Mon-Thurs 8-6, and on call every 6th week which was 3pm-midnight Mon-Fri....but in reality he was on call all the time, subject to staying late or going in whenever a major crime occurred).  Now we're back to the rotating patrol shift for the last 9 months.  Honestly, I haven't gotten back into the schedule as well as I'd hoped.  We are still adjusting and some weeks are worse than others, mostly because of me!  :(

But regardless of how hard I think this life is on ME, it's worse for him.  He's the one working 12 (or more) hour shifts (one time he worked 24 hours straight without sleep on a murder investigation!), he's the one with the high level of stress, he's the one who sees the worst of the worst, and he's the one who is constantly on guard....even if we're out to dinner.  He does a wonderful job of transitioning from work mode to home mode, but we can still tell when he's had a particularly stressful day, which seems to happen more lately now that he's a supervisor.  I remember back when he was on patrol and he would get phone calls when he was off duty from people who had questions and we thought that was stressful.  Then he was promoted to Investigations and after some time he commented that he didn't know what stress at work was until he started in that division.  Now that he's a Sgt, it seems that he is under even more stress.  His first shift as a Sgt on Patrol, he came home each night with a smile on his face.  I loved seeing that smile and thought that maybe it would continue.  It didn't.

I hate to complain (or do I?) about how "hard" my job at home is when I know how much harder his is.  Sure, it's hard to run a household, homeschool 2 teenagers and keep up with a strange work schedule.  But on the other hand, I don't have to wake up at 4:30 after barely getting 6 hours of sleep (or be awake 24 hours straight on the first night of shift), put on 20 lbs of gear including a bullet proof vest, work a 12 hour shift where you are the "bad guy" (even though you're really the good guy!) and are complained on for the silliest things.

Over his career, he has been assaulted several times, needed stitches in his knee, been involved in at least one shooting, had a man die in his arms, had 5 co-workers die (one from natural causes, 2 in on-the-job car accidents, one suicide and one murdered in the line of duty), seen many dead bodies, was cyber stalked (which was a bit scary since it involved me too!) and experienced more horrible things than I care to know about.  He thankfully keeps so much from me.  I think the hardest thing he's had to go through recently was the suicide of his Lt.  Because he is such a thorough and level headed worker, he was asked to oversee the investigation.  Even though he's seen dead bodies, there is something different about it when it's someone you've known for years and have worked closely with for 3.  It was so hard for him and I wasn't able to do much since it happened when we were in the last week of hosting the orphans from Ukraine.  Thankfully, he did talk about it with our friend/pastor and I know that helped him to get through a tough situation.

With this job and it's crazy schedule, he has missed birthdays, anniversaries, Thankgiving, Christmas.... He has missed church half of the time when he's worked the patrol schedule..... He has fallen asleep on the couch at 8pm and missed out on countless hours of sleep in order to not miss some family time.... He has worked off duty in places he'd rather not so that I can stay home and homeschool..... He has worked so much that he ended up in the ER and worked as much as 30 days in one month to provide for our family.

While it's a difficult job, a crazy schedule, and sometimes a challenging life, I can honestly say I wouldn't change it for anything.  He is good at his job and despite all of the challenges he enjoys it.  I don't think I could imagine him doing anything else.  I just need to be more flexible and more creative in juggling the job, the house, homeschooling, the schedule and just life in general.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas in November

 It's that time of year.... Time to pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child!

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/Pack_A_Shoe_Box/

For the past several years, the kids and I have participated in this program, where you pack an empty shoebox full of toys and other items to be mailed to a needy child somewhere in the world.

We have a lot of fun doing this.  One afternoon, we head out to the dollar store with our shoeboxes and start shopping.  Some items that are suggested for purchase are small balls, crayons, pencils, small notebooks, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a comb or brush and hard candy.  They do not allow chocolates, liquid, used items or war type toys.  We set a budget, usually $10 per box, and start placing the items in the shoebox to make sure we get enough things but not too much.  When we get home, we pack each box and add a check for $7 for each box in shipping costs and it's ready to be brought to church and then on to Samaritan's Purse for delivery to a child somewhere in the world who may not otherwise get anything for Christmas.

This year I wasn't sure if we'd be able to participate in Operation Christmas Child.  It may sound silly to say we couldn't afford the $35 or so that it would cost to fill and ship 2 boxes.  This year when my husband was promoted, he was no longer able to work the off duty jobs he had been working for 6 years.  There is a policy that any off duty work getting paid through the county can't be worked by anyone with rank.  Apparently, they make "too much money" when they get their pay raise with the promotion.  Because my husband was transferred to another division, the number of hours he now works in a year has increased (I think he now works a month's worth of hours more now that he's on patrol!) so it turns out that his hourly salary is now a whopping 12 1/2 cents more than it used to be!  So, we had a good laugh that he can't work that off duty job now that he'd have to be paid almost 19 cents more each hour!  Oh well, the government isn't always logical and we are still thankful he has a job when so many other people don't!  However, the budget is tighter than in years past and so anything extra has to be evaluated and that even includes charitable giving beyond our tithe to our church and monthly giving to a few places we commit to.

Thankfully, a check for the fall off duty work he is still allowed to work arrived and we are looking forward to spending some time at the dollar store today picking out toys that won't break and then packing our shoeboxes.  It's a simple way to have your children help other children while realizing that Christmas for the needy isn't about getting the latest and greatest toys, but about getting the everyday stuff that we tend to take for granted.  We can even track our box to see what country it ends up in or add a letter and picture of ourselves and maybe receive a letter back from the child who received our box.

So, if you don't already participate in Operation Christmas Child, please consider going shopping with a shoebox in the next few days and finding a drop off location by Sunday the 20th.  And if you do fill a shoebox each year, I hope you had as much fun as we did!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FINALLY!!!

The day we've been waiting for has finally arrived!  Our homestudy has begun!  

We had originally been told that the homestudy could be done at the same time we were taking our training classes, finishing up both at the same time in early August.  However, the social worker who told us that left the job in June and no replacement was hired until mid September.  She then had to work on other cases before starting on our homestudy.

We met with our social worker last Tuesday in her office, bringing with us a stack of paperwork to turn in.  First, she read down the list of what we needed for our foster care licensure.  Then we started on the list for adoption.  It turns out we had already filled out much of what we needed.  We were able to fill out a few things in her office and we also left with a list of about 8 things we needed to work on before the home visits were completed.  Some of the things we still needed we had never been told were required!  We had already gotten 5 references for foster care, now we needed 3 references for adoption. 

We are quite impressed with this social worker, as we met with her on Tuesday and by Friday our 3 references had already received the letter with details on what they needed to do.  We spent the rest of the week finishing our Autobiographies (we had already done a Documentation of Family History for foster care), filling out our medical forms, getting our birth certificates copied, and writing a long distance evacuation plan.  The last item to turn in will be our NC Kids Registration Form.  This is what they will use to match us with children.  We are taking our time on this because there is a section where you check off all of the "conditions" you are willing to accept in a child.  The less you are willing to accept, the harder it will be to find a match.  We are not equipped to handle a child with a terminal illness or severe physical disability, but we can handle developmental delays, learning disabilities, ADD, etc as many of the kids available for adoption will have several issues such as those.  The good thing about this form is that even if we say we are willing to accept a child with a certain issue, we can always refuse the match if we find we can't handle it based on the information in the child's file. 

Today is our first home visit for the homestudy and next Tuesday is our (hopefully) last home visit.  We are almost ready, with just a few little things to do.  We're all a little nervous (well, I'm sure Rich isn't!), mostly because we don't know what to expect during this phase.  We know we will answer any questions the social worker has from our autobiographies, we'll show her around the house and then she'll meet with each of us individually to ask more questions. 


And then comes more waiting.  We've been told that once the homestudy is complete and all of the information is gathered together and submitted, it is a 1-3 month wait to become licensed foster parents.  On the other hand, we could be approved to adopt within a few days of the paperwork being submitted.  I don't quite understand that time difference, but while we wait for our license, we will start looking at children available for adoption and submit our information to their social workers and go from there.  If we are not a match to any child by the time we are licensed foster parents, we will start in foster care and see if anyone becomes available for adoption.  We are fairly flexible about the age and race of the child/children we want to adopt, so we think our chances of a match are better than most.  But, we also realize this part could still be a long process!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Date Night!

I'm sure you've heard it said before that the best thing you can do for your children is to show them a strong marriage.  And one way you can help your marriage is to have regular date nights.  Now, if you don't have date nights that doesn't mean you won't have a good marriage, but it sure can help!

Early in our marriage, we didn't have much money left over at the end of the month to go on a date.  We also didn't have money for a babysitter.  I didn't ask friends from church to watch the kids.  Looking back, I can see that we didn't make spending time together a priority and we used lots of excuses as to why we couldn't do that.

Often times I blamed my husband for not coming up with the idea of having a date night.  He would work 12 hour shifts plus off duty work, often times working 50-70 hours each week.  Instead of appreciating his hard work and helping out by planning time out together, I expected him to be the one to plan date nights.  Then I would get mad at him for not scheduling a date night!  Now, I'm not at all saying that stay at home moms don't have a lot to do, but in comparison to Rich's job I'd say that I was the one who could've and should've taken the lead in the date night category!

As the kids started growing up and the budget wasn't as tight, we did go on more regular dates, maybe every other month.  Friends of ours with kids close in age to ours would trade "babysitting" time with us so each couple was able to have a date night several times a year.  We all enjoyed this, especially the kids who were able to hang out with their friends.

Now that the kids are older and don't need "babysitting", we have a lot more options for date night.  And with Rich's weird work schedule, sometimes we'll go out to lunch, go shopping, get coffee, or even something as strange as getting our fingerprints and background checks done for our upcoming adoption (hey, it's time alone together!).  In fact, this month's date was going to our first Homestudy meeting with our social worker, then doing some Christmas shopping, and maybe getting some coffee before heading home.  The point is to spend time together without the kids.  After all, when the kids are grown and out of the house, you'll need to feel comfortable spending time together!

These days, I find that most months I need a date night.  If we don't have that time alone, I get grumpy!  Sometimes I'll call or text Rich to ask if he wants to take me out on a date.....He's smart and always says YES!  We put a little money aside in the budget each month to go out.  Sometimes it's only enough for coffee and other times it's enough for dinner.  It honestly doesn't matter to me where we go, just that we leave the kids at home and have fun together!  Once or twice a year we'll go on a double date, but most times it's just us!

If you don't go on regular date nights, now might be the time to start!  Just think of how often you go to your child's school to have lunch or meet a friend for lunch.  Why not put just as much priority on your marriage?  Start a habit this month and keep it going every month!  I don't think you'll regret it!


Getting ready to go on a double date- IOP, SC

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Good" Morning?!

I am NOT a morning person!  I never have been and I think I never will be.  

You will not see me spring out of bed before the sun comes up in the morning.  I know there are people who can do that, but that is not me!

But I have created a problem in letting my lack of need to go to sleep early take over my schedule.  You see, I'd rather go to bed around 11:30pm.  I don't have little kids who wake up early or children that need to get up early in the morning to go to school.  So, I figure there's no reason for me to get to bed before 11pm.

It doesn't help that Rich's schedule this year, and especially in October, has allowed me to stay up late.  When he is working nights, there is no one telling me to get to bed.  When he is working days, he has to get up early and works long hours so he falls asleep before I do.  I'm allowed to stay up late.

I think I need to make a few changes.  I don't have to jump out of bed at 5:30am, but I do need to be awake and ready for the day at a more reasonable hour than I am doing now.  But it's hard to get to sleep at a reasonable hour when you're not tired because it's the time of day you are most awake!

My sister mentioned to me last week that I should walk or jog in the mornings to feel energized for the rest of the day.  I'd gladly do that, if only I could have the energy to get up out of my bed!  For a little while over the summer, I would walk at 7:30am with 2 friends who live about a mile away.  It's a great concept, but it's easy to talk yourself out of doing that especially if it means getting up at 7am in the summer!  If anyone in my household was a morning person and would go jogging with me, I think I'd try it out again.  Matthew's less of a morning person than I am, Julia doesn't have an interest in jogging (not that I do either!), and there's no way I'm going to ask Rich to get up any earlier than he does now!

So, I'll just have to set a new nighttime routine.  Even getting to be 30 minutes earlier would help.  Or I could set myself a morning wake up goal and find someone to hold me to it.  Maybe that could be one of my New Year's Resolutions?!  (I've had a few of those that have succeeded and many that have not!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Made At Home

I told you recently that I make my own chicken broth.  Truth be told, I make a bunch of things homemade.

It all started almost 2 years ago with a friend who would grind her own grain (with a machine, not by hand.....) and make her own bread.  I thought she was crazy..... but then I tried the bread.  My family was hooked!  So, we bought a grinder and started making bread and rolls twice a week.  As of now, mixing the ingredients is Julia's job.  Setting the bread to rise and placing it in loaves or as rolls is my job.  It's nice to have a helper with such a job.

As I started to see the benefits of fresh, homemade bread without preservatives, I also began researching other ways we could become more healthy.  At that time, I was using coupons to get great deals on all sorts of food- processed foods.  While this was a deal for my food budget, it wasn't great for our health.  We made the decision to continue to be as frugal as possible with our grocery spending while making as many healthy choices as possible.

Here is a list of some of the homemade items we make:
  • Yogurt
  • Granola Bars
  • Granola (I eat in for breakfast in my homemade yogurt)
  • Muffins
  • Relish
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Chicken Broth
  • BBQ Sauce 
  • Pesto
  • Bread and rolls
  • Cookies
  • Trail Mix (that's an easy one!)
  • Ranch Crackers
  • Laundry detergent
  • Antibacterial Wipes
  • Bathroom cleaners

I don't give that list to make myself look better or to make you feel bad if you don't do the same.  This is simply a choice that our family has made and it definitely doesn't work for every family! 

There are a few more things I'd like to try to make for myself, but my family has said NO!  This includes coffee creamer, mayonnaise, peanut butter and dryer sheets.  But I did get a request from one of my children recently to see if we could make our own cheese.  I think I may save that project for next year!

I mentioned in the start of this post about the health benefits of making our own bread.  One tangible thing we noticed was that within weeks of removing store bought bread and it's preservatives from my son's diet, his migraines disappeared!  He had recently been diagnosed and was experiencing several migraines each month.  In the 22 months since switching to homemade bread, he's had 1 migraine and it was much less severe!  While I can't prove the connection, I believe the preservatives triggered his migraines.  Plus, the addition of whole grain/wheat into our diet is healthy, as well as the Flaxseed we use in the bread.


So, we'll continue using our homemade recipes.  We enjoy them and they really haven't added much of a cost to our food budget.  Yes, they do require more time because of the preparation, but I have helpers in my house to call on when I need them.  And that's an added benefit as well...spending time together while we're working around the house!