Monday, October 13, 2014

What a difference a year makes!

After church yesterday, we went to the pumpkin patch with the kids. We had perfect weather. The fresh air felt so good, a little crisp, but not too cold. 

I was looking forward to this day for a while now but inside I was a little anxious about how it would go. Last year we had such a short and hard visit to this same place. Our youngest little guy was right in the thick of pushing me away and social outings were especially hard for him. 

What a difference a year can make. Last year at this time I was scared, exhausted, and I spent a lot of time trying to predict the future. I worried about every parenting decision I made, for fear that I was only adding to the problem and not fixing it. Attachment, or lack of it, had creeped into my home when I was unaware and unprepared. 


But on this day, we took our time visiting the "farm" and saw the chickens and horses and ponds covered in lily pads.  We were not rushed. We had no agenda. Robert would run up the hill and reach for my hand. The kids climbed on bales of hay, and I even found them laying down, relaxing, on the green grass.



Our family has been talking about living on a farm for quite a while now, and walking around this beautiful place only made us want it more. :) 

                                         

 I was so incredibly thankful to see my handsome boy explore the grounds and ask to hold my hand and be at such peace. What a difference a year makes. A year of therapy, bonding, hard work, consistency, grace, and prayer, all of which have brought my son and I to this day. 


These boys are the light of my life. I am so blessed to have two incredible, handsome, guys. Who love each other so much.



 Katie, smelling the flowers (and maybe picking one or two).



I can't wait to finalize our adoption for these two amazing kids, in just a few weeks!


Mia, was near tears a few times, she wants to live on a farm so bad. She talks about training horses and getting up early to get chicken eggs in the morning.  I think she would live outside if I let her. :)



 Here she is on our tractor ride. Wishing we had fields of corn. :)



We of course had to stop and enjoy some carmel apples and this year we tried an apple cider slushy!


I think the kids loved feeding the horses the most.

These were the best horses. One of them even rubbed his nose on my cheek. The kids didn't want to leave this part of the farm.


Katie picked up some hay that had fallen on the ground and cautiously fed one of the horses. 



Mia's words, "This is amazing! I have never fed a horse before!"


After seeing the animals, we made our way to the hay maze, tunnel slides and bouncy house. Before we left we picked out our pumpkins to take home. I had the most amazing day with my kids. No meltdowns, no raging fits, no rushing. 

Maybe last year it wasn't just Robert that was having a hard time, maybe my heart was just in turmoil, just as much. I know that I lived on edge, I worried, tried to predict, prevent and prepare. I didn't know how to parent a child that pushed me away. It wasn't until I let go and just parented in the moment that I calmed down. I let go of the fears that consumed my thoughts. I remembered that I just needed to love Robert as God loves me. You can read more about our journey to attachment HERE

Today wasn't about the kids having perfect behavior. Overstimulating days can cause tears no matter what age we are. But what I loved about this day was that I felt such joy knowing that we had come so far as a family. We had conquered some of those obstacles and as we get ready to go to that court house in a few weeks to celebrate our family, we will hold our heads high and hearts full, thanking God for His blessings. 



Here is one more picture to brighten your day. I know it made me smile! As we were leaving church earlier in the day, I saw Katie and Robert holding hands as we walked to our car. 

It completely melted my heart. 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Exciting Adoption News!





We FINALLY have a date set for next month to finalize our adoption for Katie and Robert!!! 

What?! I know...it is crazy exciting. 

I can't wait to make it official and have a big party to celebrate this long, brought-me-to-my-knees,  wonderful journey. They have been my kids for so long but to have it be finalized is such a wonderful thing to jump up and down about! 

As a gift to myself, or from my husband, how ever you want to see it :), I ordered this set as part of our celebration. I LOVE Willow Tree. My mother-in-law started buying me Willow Tree Christmas ornaments every year when I first got married. It has been a fun traditional gift that I just love! 

I have been waiting, (and asking) that they create figurines with darker skin and darker hair to help represent adoption. Well they finally came out with some! So now I can have my whole family represented. (I was willing to paint over the little boy figurine if needed.) I do have to add that I think they could be quite a bit darker...there isn't a ton of difference from the other figurines. :(

I have been busy planning the most amazing fun circus themed party to celebrate! Including: clown noses, face painting, bean bag toss games, animal balloons and cotton candy! 

And on a more touching note...I have already purchased children books about adoption for Robert and Katie. We did this with our adoption for Jabar and I had everyone (judge, attorneys, caseworkers, therapists, family, friends) sign the inside page with a little note. I love being able to look back at all of the people that helped support our family. 

So...stay tuned because at the end of next month we will have fun pictures to share!

For now,  I will be enjoying my new decor above the fireplace.



Friday, September 12, 2014

Catering for a Labor Day Campout

Earlier this year I was asked to cook for a campout at the church I grew up in. My parents still attend and this year they were organizing the annual church campout. 

It was an out reach to the community and while it rained most of the weekend, we had a wonderful time. 

Here are some pictures of my food adventures!


I put together these buckets to help people know where to line up for food. I made signs to change out for every meal. The signs had scripture, quotes, thoughts, all about prayer. Unfortunately, it rained after the first breakfast and well, I didn't laminate my signs. :) I was able to use them though for the last meal after church on Sunday, once the sun shined through. :)

These five gallon buckets were easy to put together. Thankfully my dad provided the buckets and filled them with dirt he had on at his house. I got fabric and tied it around them. The signs were stapled into the sticks. The ground was too hard to put the signs into anyway and we were able to move the buckets around as we needed. :)

Ultimately, if the lines were long, I wanted to provide something for them to read and ponder while they waited. 

These were fun centerpieces to put together. I already had the jars, thanks to my mother-in-law.
The burlap and red gingham fabric were easy enough to wrap around and while I thought I was going to get white carnations at the store I was happy to see they had red! I did have red gingham napkins unfolded into a large square under the vase but with the moisture from the rain, they didn't last past the first day. :) 


 Our first breakfast included, scrambled eggs with diced ham and shredded cheese (tillamook cheese, at my dad's request), roasted potatoes and yogurt cups with berries on top and granola on the side.




After the first meal and the pouring down rain, we moved our food table under the big dining tent to let people be fully covered from the rain. We had black carts we could use to bring the chafing dishes out to the tent, from the kitchen.

Here are some pictures of our fruit cups...I layered them with pineapple (the most juicy on the bottom), strawberries, green grapes and blueberries on top. These large trays fit perfectly in the fridge and were really helpful for storing our dished up food. :) 


For the second breakfast we had miniature quiches, sausage links, a fresh fruit cup, and assorted costco muffins. 


Cutting them in half allowed for people to take different flavors...always hard to choose! 

"Rise and Shine happy campers!" Breakfast is ready to eat! 

Our first lunch of the weekend: 
Who doesn't love to pick out their own bag of chips!?

A different view for how we arranged the line and from the kitchen to the big dining tent. This was on the last day, when it was nice and sunny. :)

Build your own deli sandwich. Having servers was a big part on why this lunch was successful. We bought black aprons for them to wear, to look unified, we had gloves for serving and with their help the line moved right along. 

We had three different types of meat: roast beef, turkey breast, and smoked ham.
We pre-portioned them and folded them up to make it ready to put on the sandwich. 

I bought pre-sliced cheese but we layered them so they were quick to grab two slices to put on the sandwich. I separated each layer of cheese with plastic wrap so they wouldn't all stick together. I was able to prepare these after breakfast and have them in the fridge, ready to serve. 

I first intended to group these items together, tomato and pickles laying on top of the lettuce. But because the group wasn't so large we could have more time getting though the line. I also provided squirt bottles for mayo, ketchup and mustard. No messy knives in mayo jars etc...  

Pasta salad! The day before I cooked the pasta in batches, not too well done so they held their shape, I put them in an ice bath, covered in a little bit of oil so they didn't stick and put them in zip lock bags. We chopped up cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots and mixed them all together in a big bowl with italian dressing and a bit of italian seasoning. After dishing them up in a cup we put a little fresh parsley on top for looks. :) 


Having them dished up already was great. The dressing didn't get all over the plate.

Having some of the food already dished up into cups allowed people to just grab some and go. It was a constant theme for many of our meals. It allowed me to know how many portions I had and kept the line moving at a fast pace. Plus, it made the food look pretty! :)


Dinner Time:
With the rainy weather this meal was a big hit! Hot chili and hot dog bar. :) 


We did have to grill these before service with an umbrella over the outside grill. :) It was pouring rain at dinner time. In fact at one point we had to wait until it slowed down before we brought more food out. I was happy to be working in the kitchen all day! :)

Fixin's!  We had a smaller pot of chili for our gluten-free guests. 

Cheese, onions, saurkraut, banana wax peppers, and jalapeƱos. What else could you want for your hot dog? :) 

Watermelon was a perfect side to this meal! 

After church lunch! We had the most guests on this meal and the sun was finally shining!

Our menu: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches (I didn't get a picture), corn on the cob, watermelon, and chips and chocolate pudding dessert!

We had a great group, about 200 people for the last meal. The sun was out and it was a great way to end the weekend. :)  Plus, packing up with sun rather than rain was nice. :)
Pulled pork sandwiches. I bought pulled pork at costco, kirkland brand which is also gluten free. At home, before the weekend, I cooked it on the stove in batches, 28 batches to be exact. :) and mixed it with sweet baby rays BBQ sauce (Also GF) and put it a ziplock bag, flat, and into my freezer it went. :) Then we could reheat it before service and bring it up to temp, add more sauce if needed but it wasn't necessary, and it was ready to serve. Having pulled it apart before hand and pre-mixed it with sauce was a huge benefit and time saver. 

Corn on the cob was fun to cook. We actually did mini portions and cut the cobs in half.  We boiled them on the stove and kept them piping hot in these large crockpots. 

Isn't this just the cutest! I love these little dishes I found that perfectly fit my little cobb-ets! It let us brush butter on top and keep the drippings from getting all over the plate.  


Having melted butter in a crock pot was perfect for one of our servers to brush on the top of the corn. 

Another way we used the cups. These were great to put together. I mixed large bags of pudding mix, with gallons of milk and used a ladle to pour into these cups before they firmed up. Before service I added cool whip and used a chilled chocolate bar and an apple peeler to put curled chocolate shavings on top!

Looking back on it, after the rather filling meal, these cups didn't need to be as full to the top. :) It was a good portion of pudding. :) 

These trays cleared fast! We had cookies and fresh fruit as well.
This camp out was a ton of work, and long hours on my feet but I had the most amazing helpers in the kitchen. There were no emergencies, or kitchen disasters or last minute stresses. Everything came out hot and on time and ready to go. Our only issue was having a ton of food left over. But God used that food to provide for a local sandwich ministry that this church supported. The men were leaving for a camping trip the next weekend and used the rest of the left overs. :) What wasn't opened or still frozen was able to go back into the church for future events. 

Note to self: Do not wear new running shoes when you are going to be on your feet all weekend. After my 14-hour day on Saturday, I had quite battle-wound. :( A two-inch bruise on the bottom of my left foot. :(  

Thankfully my husband had a clean house for me when I got home and I could put my feet up before the school year started a few days later. :)


There were lots of fun events for the kids, pony rides, a giant bouncy house and this rock wall. My dad even climbed up to the top. Here are some of our girls climbing this rock wall. 



Overall, this was super fun and gave me a little outlet for catering. My husband and I used to work as professional cooks and have catered weddings for friends in the past. I love to host a party and see things come together for the big day! 


Friday, September 5, 2014

A little encouragement...video style.

This morning I took my little Mia off to her second day (because of the staggered start) of kindergarten.

Today was the first day that she got out of my car in the pick up line and held her sisters hand and walked in the building as I waved good-bye. My heart ached. I was so thankful that Laura would walk in with her. :) I knew she would be fine and I could see them go inside as I drove away but then I remembered that a few years ago I let Laura walk in- by herself! I thought it would be easier...and maybe for Mia, but for me. :(

I came home and tried to keep busy, and with my three little ones, it wasn't hard to do.

I am in full fall mode, cleaning, taxi driver schedule, alarms on my phone so I don't forget anyone, lunches being made in the morning, and I even made my own coffee since my husband is gone today. :)

After the girls were dropped off and I did a load of dishes I sat down to eat breakfast and check my email. But I couldn't get these songs out of my head. I heard them the other day and kept reflecting on their words.

Maybe they will be an encouragement to you. I couldn't choose which video to share...they were both so beautiful to me this morning. So here you go! Double the joy! :)



Oh, how He loves us... I need not worry about the little things. God loves us. He loves you and me. I think about all of the little things I stress about, most of them being expectations I put on myself. But God loves us and sometimes it is nice to take a minute and reflect on that. So enjoy this sweet soft melody.





Last night, my seven-year-old, Laura asked to have a private talk, as she often does, and I listened to her share her heart with me. She was feeling convicted of some things and we talked about the holy spirit putting those things on her heart and we prayed.  She wants so bad to be the light of Jesus to the world. She wants to be kind to those who might not have friends at school. In fact earlier this week Laura eagerly held her hand up to volunteer to be a special buddy for the new girl in the class. She couldn't wait to answer her questions and show her around. 

Laura has such a heart for those who might be left out. She even makes sure to teach her little sister things and include her and have extra patience with her, and not dwell on the age gap that shows up in their playtime. 

She has become aware that her words are important and she wants to be kind to the others. I have to add, that she has one of the kindest hearts and has been such a wonderful big sister. She has always been reflective of her emotions and those around her.

So this is my prayer for her and myself. 


Let them see You in me....




Sunday, August 24, 2014

Beach Family Reunion 2014


A picture I happened to get of some random kids playing down the beach.
I love how it turned out. 

Every year we go to the beach for a reunion with my husbands extended family. It was the perfect end to our summer break.

Traveling this year was different in many ways for us as a family. I didn't need to pack the big items like, the playpen, high chairs, baby gate or even sippy cups. Although, diapers and wipes were still on the list.

Our kids slept better and played better and even handled the new environment better. It just felt like we had moved up a notch when it came to the ease of traveling.

Our view from the 4th floor. 

Another view off to the left.

We got creative this year. While the two oldest girls slept on the hide-a-bed in the living room, the three littles slept in the extra bedroom. How do you fit three kids on a queen size bed you might ask? Well, this worked wonders!

Every year I intend to bring the guard rail for the bed and every year I manage to forget, and survive with out it. 
They each had their own blanket from home because I knew if they shared a big blanket there would be a lot of pulling and fussing. I put the extra bed pillows on the floor, just in case. :) We wore them out so much on the beach and with all of the fun after dinner that they slept great! Both nights! This was the best vacation sleep we have ever had. :) 

Another fun view in the morning. We had perfect weather. I loved the fog. 

Captain at the play ground! 

Toes! 

The girls loved the tire swing. They thought it was so neat that there was a spot for each of them. :) 

This sweet boy of mine used to be terrified of the sand. He wouldn't set one foot on it. However this year he had such a wonderful time playing on the beach. 

My youngest daughter literally ran in circles on the beach. She was so excited.  She made sand angels and yelled "cannon ball!" and threw herself into the sand. I am amazed that there was no crying from sand in their eyes, especially since I watched them rub their face with their hands covered in it. (I always pack a water bottle just in case we need to rinse out eyes or their mouth. )
 
The kids all played so well in the sand on this trip. We brought some fun toys and trucks and we spent the longest time on the beach with no meltdowns. Just fun quiet play. Their papa buried them in sand, the boys made holes and hills for their trucks and my husband made his annual sand castle (with the kids helping of course).

A picture of a seagull, just because. 

The weather was so crazy, sunny then foggy, then a little sun, next a little fog. 

My little guy was SO happy to play with his trucks. He sat in the same spot surrounded by his toys for most of the afternoon. :) 

One of my favorites...watching the waves. 

Such a sweet picture of my husband and oldest daughter. 

This was a fun picture of most of our group. The fog had rolled in.

Overall, we had such a good time. It was fun to catch up with our relatives and end the summer on a high note. Now I should get back to all of that laundry. So. Much. Laundry.