Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spending Fast

Over the last month, I have felt like God was dealing with my heart in the area of spending. I have gotten relaxed about my spending, not extravagant, just relaxed. The changes of this past year to our family have often led me to choose the easier, more expensive route in many cases. My relationship with money has always been something that has created fear, frustration, and temptation for me.

So, I have been seeking what God wants me to do about all of this. I feel like He is asking me to give up spending for a while. For now, I am starting with the month of Jan. As the end of the month approaches, I will evaluate and pray about what my next step shall be. Rick is joining me in this endeavor.

Here are the rules I have established for myself. For the month of January, I will only spend money on needs. What qualifies as needs? Food, household items we can't live without(toilet paper, diapers, etc.), gas, bills(mortgage, utilities, etc.) Any money that we have budgeted for other things like entertainment, clothing, spending money, etc. will all go into an account so that we can determine how much we have saved. I am also hoping to significantly lower my grocery spending this month to be able to save even more. I want to shop very little and spend very little and see how this impacts me. All of the money saved will be used to pay off adoption debt.

The funny thing is that it is has already impacted me quite a bit in leading up to this time. I have seen myself feeling fearful that I might need something and not be able to buy it. I have found myself tempted to buy some things now so that I will have them for the month. The hardest part for me will be the bargain shopping. That is how I make our income work for our family. I buy things on clearance. Whether it is stocking up on food when it is cheap, or buying clothes for my kids on clearance. I am not going to do that this month. Even yesterday, I felt a bit frantic as I realized that Bath and Body Works is having their Semi-Annual Sale. I was thinking that if I shopped online, I could buy the stuff before the deadline. Then, I realized what I was doing. I didn't buy anything and I am glad.

We are making one exception. Sam has a bday this month. We are going forward with our original plan to celebrate and not taking away his "friend party" for this year.

There you have it. I am going to blog about this experiment throughout the month. I will share the good, bad, and the ugly. I am just asking God to use this sacrifice to develop my character and draw me closer to trusting Him more.

Messy, I mean, Merry Christmas

One of our Christmas traditions is that the kids get matching pajamas for Christmas morning. I realize next year may be the last time I can find them in everyone's sizes to match so I am enjoying this as much as possible. We wear them all day on Christmas day. It is fabulous. Since the kids were young, I have not let them put them on until Christmas morning in fear that someone might mess them up during the night and ruin the beautiful photos for Christmas day. Events occurred this year that confirmed that decision.

We did not wrap any gifts until Christmas Eve night. So, once the kids were finally in bed at 10:00 PM, it was time to get to work. I was exhausted and commented to Rick that we would probably be up until 2:00 AM. He laughed at that idea. As we were getting to the last gifts around 12:30 AM, we heard some noise from above us. Rick rushes upstairs and calls me up immediately. I run upstairs to see Sam throwing up. It was horrible. One of the biggest throw up messes ever. He was covered and his bed was covered. Rick absolutely cannot deal with vomit. I hate it myself and dry heave the whole time I am cleaning it up, but I am able to deal with it better than Rick, so I always get that lovely job. In the process of cleaning, I accidentally left the water on in my bathroom. As a result, the water overflowed from the sink and flooded the floor. Mess #2 to clean up. As I was wrapping up all of my cleaning and getting Sam settled back into a clean bed, he started throwing up again all over his carpet. So, I was trying to clean it up in the dark with a flashlight so that I didn't wake Cody up. It was really bad. Needless to say, we got to bed around 3:00 AM. Now you see why I don't let my kids wear their pajamas to bed on Christmas Eve.

The kids were really sweet to us. They found out in the morning what had happened and did not wake us up until 8:00 AM. That is sacrifice on their part!!
The Coveted Christmas Morning Pajama Picture
Stockings(Isaiah is way too distracted by the gifts to look at the camera)
Abby's Bitty Twins - Sarah and Caleb
One happy boy and one happy mama
Cody's Star Wars Game
I know, I look rough. I just had to say that I got a lot of chocolate for Christmas. That should last me about a week
Sam's Big Bakugans
Lauren's boots
Christmas Brunch - Country Ham, Biscuits, Garlic Cheese Grits, Eggs, Mandarin Orange Salad, and Chocolate Milk(as you can tell, Sam still wasn't feeling well)
After Brunch, we played for a while with our new fun stuff. Then, it was Christmas Day nap time. Something I had been thinking about since the night before. For Christmas night, we eat Fajitas Fa Jesus. Julie joined us. It was fun to have her participate in this tradition with us.
Fajitas Fa Jesus- Sam was still feeling puny so he didn't join us.
I told you we wear our pajamas all day!!
Julie and Isaiah - special buddies
Laila got 2 binkies for Christmas. She decided to enjoy them both at the same time!!
Christmas was perfect this year. Having Isaiah and Laila with us felt complete. Last year was so hard knowing they were out there, but really knowing nothing about them and if our dream of having them join our family would come true. Now, they are here, we are a family, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Christmas Eve in Pictures

Christmas Eve was a big day full of lots of fun and traditions. Here is a sampling of our day:

Our day began with brunch at the Goad's house. It was delicious, especially the biscuits and gravy. Thanks, Ellen, you know my love language!!
Adult table(plus Laila)
Little kids' table
Big kids' table
This was Rick's year off of work, my favorite!! So, we got to go to church together and leave together. Our Christmas Eve traditions are so much more fun when Rick doesn't have to work!!
Don't we look so pretty, boys in their suits, girls in their dresses.
My girls
My guys
After church, while our yummy food is cooking for dinner, the kids open their gifts to each other. Each year, they draw names with each other. They also get to open their ornament from us!! Cody got a Chick-fil-a ornament(one of the only fast foods he can eat), Lauren got a snowman with glasses(since she got glasses this year), Abby got monkeys(her favorite), Sam got a chalkboard with "ABC"on it(since he started school this year), Isaiah got a soccer ball(he loves to play), and Laila got a cute little girl crawling(her first Christmas with us).
Here are the pics of their gift exchange:
Sam got Laila this walker musical toy
Isaiah got Lauren headphones
Laila got Sam a Burger Builder Play-doh set
Abby got Isaiah a soccer ball
Cody got Abby a sock monkey
Lauren got Cody a football and football cards
Our Christmas Eve meal: sausage balls, lil' smokies in biscuits and bacon, cool veggie pizza, fudge, and truffles(really nutritious, I know)
We put Isaiah and Laila down for bedtime. They were exhausted, and we had a serious cookie competition to begin. They were not ready for this one, yet.
Let the Games Begin
Lauren at work
Sam at work
Rick at work(listen, people, this man takes this very seriously)
Abby in action
Cody with his gf dough
Baking the cookies
Cody's entry - A Gogo
Lauren's entry - Isaiah and Laila
Abby's entry - smiley snowman
My entry - Handstitched Homespun Angel(Simple yet classic)
Sam's entry - rainbow angel
And the winner is:
Rick's entry - Larry Boy(We will hear about this all year!)
I do have to say, I voted for his. It was pretty good. Whew! That was Christmas Eve. Now you see why it took me so long to post this. Up next: Christmas Day

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gingerbread House Makin'

While the little kids were taking their nap on Christmas Eve Eve the big kids put together a Gingerbread House.
Rick helped them construct it with icing
See Lauren's arm in a homemade sling? She hit a pole with it sledding that morning. We thought we were going to have to take her to the ER, but we waited it out and it was okay.
I supervised the decorating, but mostly just let them do what they wanted. My kids love potty and violent humor, and I have to say, I kind of do, too when it is not extreme. So, it wasn't shocking to hear some of the following phrases while the house was being built.
"Hey, we could use fudge for reindeer poop on the ground."
"I am going to put this gumdrop as a siren on the house so when Santa comes, the alarm will sound."
"I think I will put guns on the house, too."
We had snowmen marshmallows. I found many of them in pieces laying around the house.
The really fun part came when they figured out that when they put powdered sugar on the roof and blew on it, that the house looked like it was on fire with smoke coming out. Yes, these are my children. What can I say, but that I was laughing along with them most of the time. We had fun, and I think it turned out pretty cute despite the alarms, guns, and random snowman parts.
The finished product from the front
On the roof, the gumdrops spell "HO"(they are supposed to be Christmas lights). That is the shortest word they could think of that was Christmas related. They only had so many gumdrops.

Couldn't resist

A couple pictures of my African cuties

Laila in one of her many holiday dresses. That is what happens when you have 2 older sisters to give you hand-me-downs!!
Laila was not real thrilled about this one.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Big 3!!!!

We have all been looking forward to Isaiah's Birthday!! Even though he is 3, we are pretty sure this is his first celebration. He has had the opportunity to experience the birthdays of some friends and 5 of his family members. He pretty much knew what was coming. I was surprised at some of the emotions that I experienced as a result of this special day.

First I should backtrack. When I look back at the time that God began laying Africa on my heart, I had no idea that it would some day mean 2 children joining our family. Not only that, but when we look at Isaiah's birthdate, I am amazed to realize that at that very time that God was placing Africa on my heart is when our little guy was conceived. Wow! I am floored by that. I can look back on my calendar at the day that Isaiah was born, December 18, 2006. It is crazy to me that I went through that day not realizing the life changing event that was occurring on the other side of the world. My son was born, and I had no idea.

The night before Isaiah's bday, I was really sad.
-I was sad for him. Sad that he has experienced the loss of his mother at such a young age. He was with her for 18 months of his life. That is how old Laila is right now. She has only been with us for half of her life and she is so attached to me. I can't imagine how it would affect her if I was gone from her life. How did he feel? There is no way he could really understand other than to realize that the most important person in his life was gone and never came back.
-I was also sad for his mom. Sad that she is not getting to experience life with this amazing little guy that was created within her body. It is my hope that they will be reunited some day in heaven.
-I was also sad for myself. I missed out on over 2 years of my son's life. I hate that I will never know what he was like as a baby. I will never have the privilege of seeing those first steps and hearing those first words. The youngest picture I will ever have of him is as a 2 year old, barefoot, with a bloated belly and fearful look on his face. It is painful for me to think about it. We have every reason to believe that he was loved and cared for as best as is possible in a poverty situation. Even with that love and care, how many times did he go to bed without food? What have his little eyes witnessed that he may never fully be able to articulate, but that impacts him deeply every day? I pray every day for God to give me the wisdom and insight as his mom in how I raise him.

I don't want to sound like a total downer. Mixed in with this sadness was great joy. Joy that we can finally celebrate Isaiah's bday with him. Joy that God has brought him to our family. Joy that we have the rest of his life to get to know him, love him, and create a new story for his life. Joy that God has given us the privilege to be his family.

Here is what our day was like:

We started by greeting him with streamers hanging down from his bedroom door. He loved running back and forth through them.
His favorite breakfast of oatmeal and a banana
We took him to Lil' Biggs to celebrate. They have games to earn tickets for prizes, a little town to play in, a bounce house, a huge sandbox, and food. He LOVED this place!!
He headed straight for the sandbox when we got there
Cody spent most of his time playing basketball
In the bounce house, going down the slide
Laila's favorite thing: pushing the shopping cart
Eating lunch
Table #2 - We can't all fit at one table
One of his gifts, an airplane set from Papa and Grammy
He also got a little race car set, and a gift card from Grandma
Sam made him a picture. Love this picture!!
Abby made him a card with M&M's attached
Lauren gave him sunglasses, 3 candy canes(for 3 years old) and a light up sucker
Cody used tickets that he earned to get Isaiah a green ball
He really was happy even if he doesn't look like it!!
Isaiah with the Bday chair cover, a Clapp family tradition
He talked all week leading up to his bday about cake. The kid doesn't even like cake, but where he was born, cake is a big part of a bday. So much so that most children when given the choice will choose cake over a gift. So, we made ice cream cone cupcakes. He chose chocolate. We put suckers in it because they are his favorite candy. He ate about 2 bites of it and decided he was done. We also had ice cream!
It really was a great day!! I was so nervous about making it perfect. I just wanted it to be the most special day for him. I believe it was. In the midst of all of the joy, we were reminded again of the bittersweetness of his little life. As it was time for bed, he broke down crying and did not want to leave his toys. He was so sad. We realized that at the orphanage, that is the way it went. Even if someone brought you a gift, at the end of the day, it went with the other toys and it was no longer yours, but everyone's toy. He was afraid that when he woke up, his toys would be gone or not his anymore. It is sad that he has to feel this way. Even in that moment, I am reminded that we have the opportunity to show him it is not that way anymore. He can experience life differently, and it is my hope that each time he does, he will trust us more.