Friday, December 31, 2010

2010...let's not do it again!

Well, it's the last day of the year. A sigh comes out of my mouth...with relief. Yes, it is only a day...nothing magical does happen at midnight...except my attitude, hope and belief. The year 2010 has been THE worst year of my life. This blog that I am writing has been stewing inside of me for weeks. I knew I was going to write it. It's like I need to get everything off my chest. For those of you who follow my blog, may know bits and pieces of it...but now, here it goes.
We started our year with our youngest son having two major surgeries (in a 6 month span of time)concerning his lumbar artery. The doctors were hopeful to fix the faulty artery, but they also knew that with one wrong move our son could have been in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But we knew that if it wasn't fixed then he would possibly die at a young age. The first surgery did nothing but bring more explanation...but through an awesome specialist God worked His wonders. To God be the glory...they were able to restore everything to the way it should be.
Most of you have also been affected this past year by the economy. And if you haven't...then you know someone who was. At the end of the past year I was able to quit my part-time job that I loved and stayed home full time. But within six months the lack of income was crushing my husband and I had to go back to work. And my former job (which thankfully was still there) required me to work more in the office rather than at home. So, I had to be away from my kids more. This hurt me more than anything. Now, thankfully that has changed a bit and I am only gone for a few hours on one day of the week...God works in mysterious ways.
One of the hardest things to deal with was the stress that my marriage came under this year. After fourteen years of marriage, we came to the reality that it was not going in the direction that we thought. Outside forces and inside forces were destroying it. We came to place of waking up and making drastic changes. This included leaving our church body and making decisions that were very difficult. Because of some of these changes, my mother who lived with us for 8 years decided to move out. I am so close to my mom. It hurt so much. I know now that it was for the good...we never know what God is doing...it is such a trust walk. Matt and I are strong now...and getting stronger each day. We are making good decisions...keeping our eyes more on the Lord. And we are getting off of the roller coaster of this crazy life that the world wants for us. We have been going more inward than outward.
On September 4th we lost Matt's dad to congested heart failure. Though we knew that the doctors were giving grim forecasts...you still keep hope for more times and more days. This loss deeply affected all of us, especially Matt. He doesn't have the ability to call him up and ask a quick question...he no longer sits with my kids and eats snacks. The loss is quite noticeable. But we rest in the fact that he is with the Lord...and there is comfort there in that knowing.
My relationship with my own father continued with its ups and downs. It has always been a difficult path with him. He is very demanding, opinionated and one-sided. No matter what you do, if it is not his way then it is the wrong way. There are huge unresolved issues from my childhood that still linger. We think a different way. He does not respect my boundaries. And because of this we can not at this time have a relationship. It is so hard. Because all I have ever wanted was just a dad. Thankfully, I have a heavenly father who takes that place.
Our continuing hard times with our son Caleb have been difficult. Caleb is mentally handicapped, has PICA and OCD. Dealing with theses difficulties have been so trying. Many doctors have tried to work with him...to handle his out of control behavior. Several doctors wanted us to put him in a facility full time. It crushes our heart to hear that. We want the best for him. Many don't understand the ins and outs of our daily walk with Caleb. I am believing for there to be understanding of what makes him tick this year. I want a full life for him....above and beyond what is predicted.
There are some things that I have not written about...the ups and downs of having a teenager in your house...watching your brother die of a disease that you are powerless to control (though I am very effective through my prayer)...family trials and misunderstandings...believing for God to work in your friend's lives...loss of pets and farm animals. It has been that kind of year. I am believing for so much more. I told Matt that I am jumping out of the water that is crashing over our heads and into the Lord's boat. Though it doesn't take us out of the trials...but it gives us the everlasting peace that we all crave. Have a Happy New Year...and I will see you next year!!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Swinging Good Time


I thought I would post a picture of our new swing set. My mom, aka Grammy, bought it for the kids for Christmas. She ordered the kit and gave us the money for the wood. It took two days (a couple hours each day) and Matt put it together. It looks awesome and I am so grateful for Matt's carpentry ability (inherited from his dad). Other than a little help from us to lift he did it all by himself. Super proud! And of course the kids are very excited...there is more to do outside.
When Matt and I were young, we learned from our friends that when you have children, make the environment the most appealing to them...so that your kids are home with you rather than wanting to go elsewhere. Yeah, sure they love visiting friends...but our kids really enjoy being home. We have made our property full of things to do...bikes, slides, skateboards, jungle gym, miniature houses...and now the swing set. All this was done at a very low cost...we bought all used (from garage sales or friends who had kids out grow their things) which has been awesome for us. This property is for them...to love being home with us and to be able to be outside as much as possible. Thank you Lord for this ability.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Facebook

We finally made a huge decision. It was difficult. I dragged my feet...a little bit, no actually a lot. We let our daughter, who is weeks away from turning 14, get a Facebook account. AAAAHHHHH! It was so hard. I fought this for a long time. Matt wanted to do this for the past month or so...and I just wasn't there. Bryn, of course, wanted one for a long time.
I, absolutely love Facebook. I love making updates...I love reading what other people are doing. And I love seeing my family grow and change, which I would have missed out on because they live in NY. The same goes for a lot of other friends that I wouldn't talk to much if it wasn't for Facebook.
But, we were very weary of allowing our daughter on it. We were concerned about her being exposed to things that were inappropriate for her age. We allowed her to have an e-mail account this past year...which has gone really well. Matt set up monitors on it, so that every e-mail sent to and sent from her account go straight to his account. So, we are able to read everything going on. And, include an occasional grammar or writing lesson (sometimes these kids write like they are in the 2nd grade). We haven't seen any problems with this. We also don't allow our kids on the computer when we are not home (or even upstairs)...there is a password on the computer. She has shown us that she is responsible. She is growing up.
Which leads me to why we made this decision. I was sitting in church on Sunday waiting for the service to start...and I wasn't thinking about anything in particular. And I really felt the Lord whisper to me that we should let Bryn have a Facebook account. I know, sounds weird...but God speaks to us about what is relevant to us. Then He showed me...She is going to start driving in another year...and technically she can move out in 4 years...I have to start allowing her to make good decisions in her life...and deal with the consequences of bad decisions. This was a hard thing. But she has shown us that she is responsible...trustworthy..and she needs to continue to do that as she gets older.
So there you have it...we have moved on. Of course, there are huge monitors on this too. All friends have to be approved by us (which really limits who she chooses)...mainly they will be friends from church. All her messages will be sent to us...and she is on Facebook only when we are home and in the room. This is going to be interesting walking out...it is strange raising a child in this day. It's hard. I thought running after a 2 year old was hard. That was a breeze compared to this teenager that landed in my house. So, we will see. But I believe that we have raised this girl right. I believe that the foundation we have put down is strong and secure. And of course, a lot of prayer will be involved!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Memories!

The first picture is generational...all my kids surrounding their 91 year old great-grandmother. She has been a blessing to all of us...we have so many Christmas memories of her every year on Christmas Eve.



I believe this is the first present that the kids opened up, after their stockings. They are all quite eager and ready to rip in.

Judah and William...holding the controls to their monster truck and race car. Love this picture of them...so sweet and ready to smile for mommy!



Here is Matt, later that day on Christmas...looking tired from not enough sleep and a busy morning. Even so, he is so handsome and I love him so much!




Esther holding her new stylish, winter boots and in her new robe. I have to keep this skinny girl warm some how!





Caleb in his new jammies and holding his new glove that he got from Nana. He was so excited later that he could catch the ball in the glove!







Here is Bryn holding a large present...trying to get her to sit still is difficult. In the present was her full length, bright red robe that she asked for. My kids are always cold...lol!







Caleb holding his new nerf gun...took a while to figure it out, but he got it. There has been a lot of shooting around here lately...duck quick!





Here is our pug Mia...sporting her new winter coat...and she also got a new comfy bed to sleep in!



The boys in their new wagon...I have a feeling there is going to be a lot of hauling going on here on our property!



William sporting his new skateboard...he wanted one so bad, and his Nana bought it for him. He was working hard on it at her condo that morning!


Here is a shot of Judah and his new binoculars from Mimi. The kids always want to borrow Mimi's when we are at the condo, to look down at the park. Now he has his own pair!



I thought I would post the last picture of what the tree looked like before the wreckage...so picturesque!













Friday, December 24, 2010

I Couldn't Let The Day Go By Without Mentioning...


The Tale of Three Trees. A little book that we started reading before Christmas. To keep our mind focused on the real reason that we celebrate this holiday. The kids listen and it brings us together...after a noisy breakfast of homemade apple fritters, eggs, sausage, and potatoes. If you haven't read this tale, take a peak as soon as you can.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Totally Scrumptious!



And so the baking is complete! Our last food project for the holiday season was dipping pretzel rods and Oreo cookies in white and milk chocolate. The kids had fun...sprinkling all the colors on them and of course licking their fingers. What a delightful season it has been! I have spent more time with my kids then I have any other year. It has been magnificent. Have a fabulous day!

Mess Leftover...


I thought that instead of posting another set of pictures of my kids baking, I would put up the picture of the mess they left over. They went to Nana's house yesterday with their cousins and decorated gingerbread cookies...as they have done since Bryn couldn't walk yet. They had a fabulous morning...icing the cookies, decorating with sprinkles. Each child had their own style and each set of cookies came out differently. The most important part was that they had fun...as you can see by the mess leftover!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Singing Softly


I woke up this morning to him singing softly in his sleep, "I want mommy. I want mommy." He continues to steal my heart. As much as these boys of mine are rough and tough...they still are so connected to me. I am blessed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happenings...

Here is our angel, playing an angel at church. Our babygirl was in her first play...with two whole lines to say in fron of the congregation. She did such a good job...quite angelic.
Boys will be boys! Playing outside our friends house...on the only hill in Florida...lol. Skateboards and scooters. Funny thing is that the little boy in the green shirt also has the name Judah. He kept on giving me funny looks every time I called my Judah. And William loved riding on the skateboard. He told me when we got home that he wants one so bad, and he is going to save all his money for one. Little does he know, that he will have one under Nana's tree on Christmas.

Esther painting cookies yesterday. Our little budding artist did a fantastic job.


Our little bear...he liked the skateboard also. He is a "me too" kind of a boy...he will never be left behind.



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Try This Yummy and Healthier Dip

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
A typical serving of spinach and artichoke dip contains up to 1,100 calories and 100 grams of fat, which is almost a day's worth of calories! Substitute high-fat cheese for fat-free Greek yogurt to keep the creamy texture while slashing more than half the calories and artery-clogging saturated fat.

Ingredients:3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese,6-ounce container nonfat Greek yogurt (such as Fage or Chobani),1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise,1 clove garlic, minced1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained,1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded
Directions:1. Heat oven to 350 F
2. Mix ingredients; spoon into 9-inch quiche dish or pie plate.
3. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through.*Serve this dip with the roasted vegetable chips or whole-wheat pita chips. Serves: 8 (1/4 cup)
Nutritional Content per Serving: 126 calories, 8 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 10 g protein, 6g fat, 03 g sat fat, 264 mg sodium

The Shopping Adventure!

'Tis the season to be jolly...or to be stuck in this long line at Toys 'R' Us! This is where Matt and I stood yesterday with all the rest of these folks...waiting to make our last few purchases for the season. It was a long afternoon...and every part of my body hurt by time we pulled in the driveway last night. Matt had blisters on his feet. We shopped in three different cities and in 10 different stores. Now, we are not one of those overboard, crazy parents that get way too much. We have slimmed it down over the years...less each year. But shopping for five kids is a lot of work...trying to keep track of what we have already bought and who needs what. It is a job all by itself. And we have such a huge age range of ages in our house, that makes it difficult. Over half their presents are just needed items...new jammies, pants, shirts. And then the rest is fun stuff that we know they will enjoy. But other than their birthday, this is the only time my kids get anything extra (except seasonal clothing). We don't pick up new toys during the year like a lot of other parents.
The other interesting aspect about shopping, is that my kids don't watch television...so over 90% of the stuff in the stores my kids don't even know about. New action figures, or games...they are oblivious. It made it hard to pick out gifts because they are not going to be excited about something they have never seen. So, we stick with the more traditional presents...trucks, army men, legos and doll house items. Makes life a whole lot easier.
The best part of the whole day, was Matt and I spending time together...talking about our kids and being with each other. What a fantastic date! So I am getting really excited for Christmas...except until I realize I have to wrap all of this!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

And Baby Makes Five...

Here he is...Baby Duncan made his appearance yesterday on December 17th at 5:13 p.m. Very short and fast labor for mommy and a very healthy five pounds six ounce baby boy. It was an honor to be there with my best friend to welcome the newest addition to her family.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And The Festivities Continue...

We worked on our annual Christmas tradition yesterday...our Christmas Countdown. Yummy Hershey kisses to rip off each night ten days before Christmas. My kids favorite thing to do each Christmas.


Esther armed with her candy...me with the glue gun!

Here is Judah picking out his candy for his Christmas countdown...he wanted to eat one so bad!




My mini-man and me! I love this boy!



Great shot of Caleb! He had a wonderful day!




Bryn and I goofing off!






Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Me and My Boy!

I snapped this yesterday of Judah and I when we were making cookies. Loving him and so blessed by him.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Harvest Time!


Sometimes I read about people who live in farming communities up north and families taking advantage of the cheap prices....and it makes me so jealous. Living in Florida, we don't have the same advantages until... you remember about our fruit crops. My friend called me the other day and said a neighbor wanted her trees plucked of all the fruit before the freeze we are expecting this week....and we could keep whatever we picked. Harvest time! We met over at her house and walked over to the neighbors...and for the next two hours we picked two wagon loads full! So awesome! We divided the harvest up and I brought home about five bags full of fruit. My kids (who are fruit lovers) practically toppled me at the door. I will be cutting a lot of oranges in the next few weeks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shower of Candy


The Edgewater Parade was yesterday...and we met up and had a great time with the kids. We sat at the beginning of the parade route, because a friend let us park at her house. Over half of the cousins showed up...and they love being together. When Luke showed up (he is in a stroller and is only 1), seven little kids swarmed his stroller...you should have seen the delight on his face. Because we were at the beginning of he parade route the kids were showered with Candy. All the kids came home with individual quart bags full, and then I filled another gallon jar when we got home (tucked away for future use). They also got stuffed animals, coupons and toys. They had so much fun...together. That was the best part of all! Here is a picture of them all...Xavier, William, Judah, Zachary, Caleb, Esther, Bryn and Luke.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Here are the kids yesterday after we worked on our special Christmas wreath project. We invited our little friend Gloria to come help us. I got the idea from a teacher friend who helped make Caleb a wreath 3 years ago in school (notice Caleb made a tree instead since we already have a wreathwith his handprints on it). Their hand prints are forever printed down on this cute project. The kids love any kind of craft you give them...and when you wrap it up with Christmas it is that much sweeter!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just For Me!!!

I just had to post this picture today....this is how I started my day...with this beautiful rainbow. On the way to work this morning it was raining lightly and cloudy outside. And as I was driving to work, I got a small glimpse of part of this rainbow. Then more was revealed and then more....kind of like what the Lord does to us...shows us small part by small part. And then all of a sudden there was the largest and clearest rainbow I have ever seen...totally surrounded by the dreary clouds. Each color was so distinct and I could see everyone of them. It was breathtaking. I really felt like the Lord said to me, "even in the midst of the dark and cloudy world, I am there in the middle of it." Though things have been really stressful in my life, He is still there. And He is there full of hope, peace, joy, love and provision. It just made my whole day seeing this rainbow. Though I know so many other saw it, I felt like God put this in the sky just for me. What a daddy I have!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ethiopian Sloppy Joes

I copied this recipe from one of my favorite blogs. Simply fabulous, and easy recipe. Made it last night and it was a hit!
Ethiopian Sloppy Joes
By Mary Ostyn

This is an adaptation of a traditional Ethiopian dish called dinich wat. It is a favorite of my family. Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Serves 6
2 large onions
6 potatoes
1 pound ground beef, already browned
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 to 3 tsp cayenne pepper (add gradually, to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
4 cups water
Cook ground beef in a large heavy skillet and set it aside. Wipe excess grease from skillet . Peel onions and puree them in a food processor (or mince them very fine). Peel and mash garlic. Peel and chop potatoes into 1 inch cubes.
Heat oil in a large skillet and add pureed onions. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown a little. Add garlic, tomato sauce, water, and potatoes. Add the ginger, turmeric, cayenne, pepper and salt. Mix well. Add cooked ground beef.
Stir and cook over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 3-5 minutes. The mixture will look a little watery at first, but water will gradually evaporate as potatoes cook.Add the buttering during the last few minutes of cooking. If potatoes stick to the bottom of the skillet even after adding butter, add another 1/2 cup of water and turn down the heat a little. Dish is done when potatoes are cooked through.
Serve hot over rice, or on toasted hamburger buns. (Or serve it alongside a nice green salad.)
~~~

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's too early for this...

I can't remember the last time in early December when we had to cover our plants...but that's exactly what we had to do last night. Matt invested a lot of time and money this year to his garden and he wasn't prepared to lose it. The low this morning...29 degrees. In December? Amazing. Perhaps we will have another cold winter like last year, or it's just a fluke. We will see. Either way, we are loving every minute of it. The kids are snug in their beds and the air is crisp. What a beautiful morning!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Deck The Halls!

Here is the "Christmas card picture" that Matt took last night when everything was done. The tree looks beautiful...the stockings hung on the fireplace and our two little trees on the hearth. So lovely.
The kids were munching on pinwheel cookies while we decorated the house. Judah looks happy!

The kids surrounded Matt, waiting for their turn to put an ornament on the tree. They only put the one's up that weren't breakable. We have a lot of old ornaments that we wouldn't let them touch.


Esther holding her first ornament from 2003. Each child gets a new ornament from us each year. By the time they move out and marry they will have enough to decorate a tree!




Bryn and Caleb stop for a minute for me to snap a picture. Esther is in the back trying to place an ornament.



Judah loved putting ornaments up...last year he did a lot of running around and laughing. Needless to say though, we had to reposition a lot of ornaments this year, lol.





Sunday, December 5, 2010

Baby Shower for Jessica

Here is the mom-to-be, my best friend, Jessica. She is pregnant with her fifth baby, but her youngest is 9 years old. It's like starting all over again.
Here is Irene Negedly (Jessica's aunt and my friend), Jessica and Me.

Here is the cake that my husband made. So beautiful. So elegant. He is so talented.



The food table, decorated with a mixture of baby blue and Christmas. My goal was simple and elegant, and I think I achieved that.


Here is the cake table, with punch and cookies. Everything looked so pretty.





Jessica's aunt, Jessica and our long time friend Marina Owens. Marina was in town from Tennessee, and it was so good to see her.



















Saturday, December 4, 2010

Up Early!


I have been getting up so early since before Thanksgiving. My hour to start the day has been around 5:30 in the morning. Still dark. House quiet. No objections to that. So, I have been able to have my quiet time with the Lord...prayer and reading the word, without any interruptions or noise. Quite blissful, actually. The only bad thing about this hour...is that by eight o'clock at night I am ready to crash. I need to adjust a bit to this new rising hour.

I am up early this morning baking cookies. My best friend's shower is this afternoon. So, I am in preparation mode. Getting everything ready...lists made...crystal brought down...any last minute work that needs to be done. My sweet husband made the cake last night...stayed up late to bake it. How kind, since I was ready to crash.

So, all is well here. I am posting a picture of my little cutie, Esther. Such a blessing she is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Know It's December When...


I make peanut butter balls (or some call them buckeyes). It is a tradition that my mother handed down to me. It's her recipe. But I never make them any time of year...only at Christmas. The kids expect them. And I love to make them. And my daughter Bryn is always wanting to make them too! Matt's boss, loves them! But he asks for them all year long...so as a surprise (for the 2nd year), Matt will bring these to work today for his boss. A little gift for him...to let him know that I appreciate how favorable he has been to my husband. So, I am declaring a great December. Full of cheer, love, joy and most of all PEACE!
Peanut Butter Balls
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
Mix all together. Make them in to small little balls. Melt chocolate on the stove (not too high or use a double boiler). Dip the balls in the pot and roll them around to be covered with chocolate. Put on wax paper on the counter to make them easy to put on separate serving tray. Yummy!