"Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it...but I'm afraid God might ask me the same question."
-Anonymous

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas
2011

Wishing you the peace, joy, and love that the true meaning of Christmas brings...




Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Year Later...

This is a video that I posted exactly one year ago...I enjoyed watching it and remembering how special last Christmas was.  Grace had only been with us for a few months, and we were so excited to share the holiday season with her.  She looks so tiny in this video...and her hair...it was so short!  

Our family is so blessed, and we know that being able to celebrate Christmas as a family is a true gift. We will forever be grateful for the miracle of adoption!
Hope you enjoy my little "walk down memory lane..."


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So, what have we been up to...?

I have been a terrible blogger lately.  This holiday season is really kicking me in the rear end.  I would have to say that we are one busy family these days.  Most of the stuff we have going on is wonderful (lots of dance competitions, basketball, school stuff, traveling husband, etc.).  There are days, however, when I really question the amount of activity in our lives...perhaps there will be a few New Year's resolutions in the works for us...
Grace has been enjoying the holiday season and is keeping busy with the preparations.  
Here she is sporting her new holiday apron.
 We had a great time at the annual gingerbread party we attend (Thanks Kneelands!).




The moms had a great time catching up.  The party was fun and one of my favorite parts was talking adoption with the other moms (four out of five of our families have adopted).  ***this picture makes me laugh- have you ever heard the song "Red Solo Cup?"
 Grace got to hang with Santa during Alyssa's holiday dance show.  She told him that she is hoping for a horse.  Santa was nice enough to clarify that the horse would be a toy and come with a "brush."
The dance show was wonderful...Alyssa's dance studio raises thousands of dollars every year by having two holiday shows - all profits go to support a homeless shelter in Green Bay (last year over $15,000 was raised).
  We can finally get Grace's hair in TWO "puffs" (although I can barely make them stay).  Love it!
And...last but not least, a couple awesome ideas that I found on (my favorite) Pinterest:
These adorable reindeer nose cookies were such a hit.  They are the perfect size, so easy to make, and make a cute little treat to share this time of year. ***My smart little high school daughter did point out, however, that reindeer noses would be blackish, not brown***

The other cool thing I have been working on, are these super easy (and fun to make) stamped metal ornaments. They are made out of washers...I am currently stamping anything metal I can get my hands on.  It's so fun. I decided to give these as gifts along with a card that explains that "water has been donated in your honor" instead of just buying little gifts for people.  I am donating to Living Water...love their advent conspiracy project.


So, that is a little bit of what has been keeping me from blogging. 
FOUR more days to get ready for the main event...here we go!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grace Attempts An "All Nighter"



Grace decided that she did NOT want to go to sleep. She wasn't tired...yeah, right. Well, I figured, why not call her bluff. I told her that she could stay up ALL night long. I am so fun like that (NOT). I told her she could stay up ALL night, as long as she was wearing pjs, stayed in bed, and had the lights out. She was so excited that she wanted to get in bed without reading bedtime stories. She was so excited that she couldn't wait for her "fun" to start. She crawled in bed beaming with joy. (I love how Grace starts reciting our family rules when I ask her what the "rules" are about staying up all night).

This is how I found her two minutes later...



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

LOVE This!!!!

Another Good Idea for Attachment/Bonding...

I came across one more cool item that just might be helpful for the process of attaching to, bonding with, and appreciating an adopted child (or any child). The like book is a very simple book that allows a parent to take a minute each day to sit with their child (for me, before bed) and to verbally (and in a quick written sentence) acknowledge something that they "like" about their child. The book is meant to be used daily as a type of journal for expressing the things you appreciate about your child.
I think Grace and I could both use this tool to bond through this simple, fun type of nightly routine. The entries can be as simple as "I like ...your smile" or "I like...holding your hand" or "I like...when you say funny things."
I am hoping to start using the book with Grace (and maybe another kid or two or three) after the holidays. The book is written in a 12 month open date format, so it can be started any time (of course the Type A personality in me wants to start January 1st). There is even a "like book" for couples...hmmm...that could be interesting. I think I'll stick with the kiddos to start!
If you are interested, you can check out the "like book" website. If you decide to order, you may want to use the code: likebook for a 25% discount.

"Kind words are short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless" - Mother Theresa

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Great Gift Idea for Adopted Toddlers/Preschoolers!


These little stuffed animals are perfect for helping kids express their feelings and share emotions. Each stuffed animal comes with a pocket that hides three "emotions." The animals all have their own "personality" and come with emotions that are specific to their personality. The little "emotions" can be taken out of the pocket and shared. Grace is such a verbal little girl and seems to be doing great, BUT...she has her moments. From time to time, she says things that clue me in to her frustrations, inability to express herself in a kind way, and her self-protective behavior. I thought these little "critters" might help her to express herself appropriately, and would allow us some good dialog when times are a little tough.
The reason I am posting about this TODAY, is that I just got an email from "8 moms" and the Kimochis toys are over 50% when you shop 8 moms for them. Check out the Kimochis website to learn more about the toys, and then register with 8 moms to order at a huge discount.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011


Today is World AIDS Day. Did you know that? Have you heard? It seems to me that we (as a country) have not been talking as much about AIDS in recent years. There was a time (in the early 90's) when the AIDS epidemic was featured on news programs daily. Magic Johnson brought attention to the issue in 1991. I remember going to visit the traveling AIDS Memorial Quilt when it came to a city near me...it was a very powerful sight to see...so many people who lost their lives to the disease.
Fast forward about 20 years, and here we are today. I held my little Ethiopian girl today and thought about how AIDS has not really gone away at all. Just because we don't hear about it every day in the U.S. doesn't mean it doesn't continue to change lives, cause heartache, and in Africa specifically, leave millions of children orphaned. We are choosing to keep much of Grace's story private (until she is ready to learn more about it and can decide what she wants to share), but we do know that her immediate (birth) family in Ethiopia has suffered the loss of some of their family members. Now...when someone dies in rural Ethiopia, they are not always dying in a medical facility or hospital. More than likely, they are succumbing to a disease that has been labeled something very vague. I am quite confident that many of these "diseases" are the result of untreated HIV/AIDS.
In memory of the millions in Africa that have lost their lives to AIDS, I took a few minutes to make a digital quilt square to add the the ONE campaign's digital AIDS Quilt. It was fun. It only took a few minutes. Most importantly, it reminded me of those affected by AIDS in Africa. It breaks my heart that people continue to die when two pills a day that cost about 40 cents can keep someone with HIV and AIDS alive and healthy.
The quilt will raise awareness and symbolize a pledge that people are making to help eradicate HIV by the year 2015.
To make a digital quilt square of your own go HERE.


***In sub-Saharan Africa, 4,400 people die daily from preventable, treatable disease
***Every day in Africa, 4,700 people become infected with the virus
***Africa has been hit harder by HIV/AIDS than any other region in the world; over two-thirds of people living with and dying from HIV are in Africa
***In sub-Saharan Africa, young females are three times more likely to have HIV than their male counterparts.
(statistics found in Shayne Moore's book Global Soccer Mom- a great read!)

AND...did you know that you can buy some really good (RED) products for Christmas gifts?
(RED) harnesses the power of companies and people to help fight AIDS in Africa. To date, over $180 million has been raised with 100% of the money going to work on the ground. Over 7.5 million people have been impacted through Global Fund programs that (RED) supports. When you choose to buy (RED) a portion of the profits goes to AIDS programs. Current (PRODUCT)RED Proud Partners include: American Express (UK only), Apple, Beats by Dr Dre, Belvedere, Bugaboo, Converse, Dell, Gap, Nike, Penfolds and Starbucks and Special Edition partners include: Feed, Girl Skateboards, Mophie, Nanda Home, Shazam, Solange Azagury-Partridge and Timbuk2.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Few Of My Many Blessings...

A few of my many blessings...
To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven. ~Johannes A. Gaertner

Monday, November 21, 2011

Month In Review...(where do I begin?)


It's been such a long time since I've blogged about what we've been up to, that I thought I would do a quick month in review (basically the highlights in pictures).

October was a busy and fun month for us. We started off by participating in our 2nd annual Africa Hope Run. Our church began this awesome 5K/10K race last year in an effort to raise funds to support orphans in Malawi, Africa. Grace had only been home a few months the last time we participated. This year she was ready to take the race by storm.

Here is Grace at the "starting/finishing" line. She was so excited...she still tells everyone that she"won" the race.
The "big boys" ran the race.
The "little boys" walked the race.
Grace ran AND walked the race. Here she is on the final leg. She had such a great crowd cheering for her as she crossed the finish line.
Celebrating after the race...
The high school girls had a great time as well. I love that Alyssa's friends come out to help support a cause that is so close to our hearts.


October was full of costumes and partying. Alyssa's first high school dance was a "masquerade" dance. She was dressed like a rock star with her friend Annie. They both looked a little too cute to be serious rockers. Her friend Haley did a great job of being cute AND creepy at the same time...

The SECOND high school dance of the year was called "Fall Ball." Once again, Alyssa and her sweet friend Annie looked adorable.
Alyssa is blessed with great friends.
OK...back to costumes. Our family has been hosting pretty cool Halloween parties for years. We pride ourselves on our Halloween spirit. Last year we passed that party torch to Alyssa and she hosted a great party for her friends. This year was no exception. Alyssa invited a bunch of high school kids to party at our house.
Grace was allowed to attend (some of) the party...she is still quite a novelty with Alyssa's friends. Her Little Mermaid costume was a hit as well.
We were lucky enough to find a great DJ (and a great deal) for the night.
Times have sure changed. I am pretty sure that if I had a Halloween party in high school, I would have probably had a few cassette tapes and my giant "boom box" to provide the music (and NO laser light show).

We watched a little soccer...Grace and her cousin Kayla...
We carved pumpkins.

Grace had fun dressing up for preschool.

And, of course, trick or treating was a blast. I can't believe the time has come for my boys to have such bizare costumes. I used to dress them in such cute costumes. Now, they are creepy and weird.
Thank goodness for cute little "Ariel" or my kids would have completely embarrassed me.
Grace and her BFF Kemily.
October and November also included some fun time with friends.
I was able to travel to Chicago TWO times to be a part of the taping of the new "Rosie" show on the OWN network (long story).
Here we are outside of Harpo Studios. It was fun to see the studio where Oprah taped her show (I was also lucky enough to attend a few of her tapings in the past).

Here we are IN the studio. We saw a few celebrities (Jim Belushi, Jane Fonda) and had fun seeing the production side of the show.
AND, last but not least, Grace made a new friend (and so did I)! We were able to meet a fellow blogger and her adorable son. He was welcomed home from Ethiopia this year. It is so nice to get together with other adoptive moms and their sweet kids. The kids seem to really "click" and recognize that they have something special in common.
So, there you have it- a little look at what our last month has been like. Busy, fun, and always interesting.

Now that I've caught you all up to speed, I can start writing about what has been heavy on my heart...my passion for, and desire to serve, the beautiful and remarkable people of Ethiopia. I have some REALLY incredible things to share about some great opportunities for YOU ALL to serve in your own way...details to come soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Help Influence The Next GOP Debate...(it only takes 30 seconds)


This Tuesday, November 22, the GOP presidential candidates will debate foreign policy in DC.

Now will you submit a question for Tuesday’s live debate?

To make the process easy, ONE crafted three questions below. If they can get enough of the same questions submitted, they hope CNN (who is co-hosting the debate) will notice and make sure one of the questions gets asked.To make the process easy, they've crafted three questions below. If they can get enough of the same questions submitted, they hope CNN (who is co-hosting the debate) will notice and make sure one of the questions gets asked.

First, pick your favorite question below:

  • If you favor cutting foreign aid, can you justify cutting off potential access to new markets for American goods - all to save less than 1% of the federal budget?
  • A number of well-respected military leaders, including General Petraeus and former Secretary of Defense Gates, believe that development assistance is critical to US national interests. If you disagree, which programs that fight AIDS, malaria and other preventable diseases would you cut?
  • Do you believe that Ronald Reagan – who thought America should be a beacon of hope and a moral leader in the world - would support cutting foreign assistance that is saving millions of children from AIDS, malaria and polio?

Then submit your question to CNN here:

http://act.one.org/go/226?akid=2743.1382008.Tp1RwV&t=2

Let's make sure the fight against extreme poverty is a priority in the presidential campaign, so let’s try and get a question asked at this nationally televised debate. Submit your favorite question and then ask your friends and family to do the same.

Thanks for helping shape the debate!
( Taken from and email I recieved from:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
ONE Vote 2012 Campaign Manager)

PS: The debate will be live on CNN at 8pm ET on Tuesday night, so tune in to see if one of our questions gets picked!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crazy Busy Life...


November. Thanksgiving is coming. I have so much to be thankful for, yet I find myself in a place where I can barely get through the day without complaining about the crazy, hectic schedule that our family has created.
Yes, I realize that our life is busy because we CHOOSE to be involved in a variety of activities (sports, clubs, dance, music lessons, volunteer opportunities...the list goes on).
Here's the thing...I am a type A person living in a Type B household and I don't enjoy the chaos. I read blogs written by busy moms who so eloquently describe their days and show beautiful photos of their homes and perfectly tidy lives...really? I try not to be envious, but
when I look around I see dust. Lots of dust (it sort of worked during Halloween, but I really must get it under control now...) The funny thing is, people tell me that I am organized and that my house looks great...they don't SEE my disorganization. They don't see the hidden piles of papers in the laundry room or the baskets of CLEAN laundry in my bedroom that still need to be put away (I knew we built a two story house for a reason...no one is invited upstairs!). And, they definitely don't know how disorganized I FEEL on the inside. I feel frustrated and overwhelmed with our busy schedule and disorganized house. I gave myself a break after bringing Grace home because I felt I deserved a year to adjust. It was sort of my "maternity leave" of sorts. Well, the year has come and gone.
So, I am writing these words no to complain, but to hold myself accountable. There are so many ways that I can improve the craziness that is our life and home. I love organization. I crave organization...now I just need to make it a priority.
So, I began reading a new book.
It is called Throw Out Fifty Things, Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life.


Sounds perfect for me. I begin by cleaning the clutter out of my house and then I move on to the clutter in my mind. There are so many things that I am not taking the time to appreciate because I am too busy yelling "come on, hurry up, let's go!" I absolutely adore the days that we stay home as a family. Days when we don't have activities, sports, work. Those days are few and far between. BUT...I know that we can do better. We can make an effort to say "no" to some of the activities and slow down to enjoy our home and time in it. We have so much to be thankful for- it's time to appreciate the people and things we have been blessed with! Right now, we are just going through the motions of everyday life. I want to work extra hard this holiday season to STOP and appreciate the beauty of the holidays and why we are celebrating and enjoying such an awesome time of the year.

I took a few minutes to read from Jesus Calling the other day. Like so many things in my life right now, I am frustrated that I haven't kept up with my reading or devotions. I picked up the book and read for a couple of minutes. This is what it said:
"...When you realize that your mind has wandered away from Me, don't be alarmed or surprised. You live in a world that has been rigged to distract you. Each time you plow your way through the massive distractions to communicate with Me, you achieve a victory. Rejoice in these tiny triumphs, and they will increasingly light up your days."

That is what I am going to shoot for..."tiny triumphs."

*taking five minutes to read a devotion book
*Cleaning out ONE cabinet in the kitchen (even if 15 are still chaotic)
*finding the matching hats/mittens/ski clothes needed for winter
*straightening the linen closet (learning to fold a fitted sheet...anyone else?)
*dusting the family photos hanging throughout the upstairs hallway (and enjoying the memories of the photos while I dust them)
My list could go on forever. I am just so thankful that I have a family who supports and loves me even when my house is a mess, I am crabby because of chaos and I didn't cook a healthy dinner. And most importantly,
His grace is enough and I know that I am doing a great job in His eyes...tiny triumphs...tiny triumphs...tiny triumphs...(my new mantra).

Still to come...my month in review. I have a few great pictures to share (as well as a couple of funny Grace stories). Hoping to take time to blog again very soon!!!




Tuesday, November 8, 2011

AWESOME giveaway and some great Christmas ornaments!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE head on over to our friends, the Henderson's, blog and take part in their awesome giveaway! You must act fast. The winners will be chosen on 11/11/11.

They are giving away TONS of cool adoption t-shirts, ornaments, accessories, and beautiful artwork. PLEASE make a donation to their adoption fund and you just might end up with a TON of cool stuff!!!

The Hendersons are also selling these super cute Christmas ornaments. I am making every effort to give gifts this Christmas that will help adoptive families or organizations that give back and are helping to support orphans and projects in Ethiopia...why not give a real gift this year?

Grace wanted to wear one of her many (I know...ridiculous) holiday dresses to pose with the Henderson's ornaments. These make great gifts - you could even make a nice size donation to their adoption fund (as a gift in someones name) and give the ornament to represent the donation you made...you could even use these to add to Christmas gifts as a very special tag attached to show your love of orphans!
Please go check out the Henderson's blog...
We traveled to Ethiopia with JT when we brought Grace home. Grace and Tedi are buddies from the same orphanage. We are hoping they can continue to be lifelong friends and we are so excited that this awesome family will be adding another little one from Ethiopia! Please pray for them as they embark on their second adoption. They are a wonderful family and we are honored to call them friends...who would have thought we would meet such awesome people when we started this adoption journey? ...another reason why adoption rocks!