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

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!


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


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!)