Sunday, January 31, 2010

Made Me Laugh

We always eat a later lunch on Sundays.

The girls came in around 3:00 asking if they could have a snack.

My response: "You just had lunch not too long ago."

They came in around 4:00 once again asking for a snack.

My response: "No, it is too close to dinner."

After they left, Rick and I laughed. We couldn't believe that there was no protest! That was easy!

February Challenge

When I think about February, I think about love. One of my traditions with the kids is to memorize 1 Corinthians 13 each February. We haven't done that in a couple of years, but we are bringing it back this month. Whenever we are learning this passage I try to use it when dealing with discipline issues with our kids, especially sibling rivalry. I will ask, "Was that kind, was that envious, are you boasting etc.?" It is a great tool for teaching.

We also have a heart box that we secretly pass around throughout the month on each others' pillows with a surprise in it. It is fun. No one knows who will get it next and what will be in it. We celebrate mid-month with a Candlelight Valentine's Dinner as a family. The month always ends celebrating Rick's bday. He will be 39 years old this year!! Wow! I am married to an old man! (I am putting this in to see if Rick really reads my blog like he says he does.)

I have recently met a new friend in the blogging world. Her name is Cathy. You can check out her blog here. She mentioned on her blog the idea of showing kindness as a challenge for Feb. She has not shared the specific details of her challenge, but reading that got me to thinking about my own challenge.

Showing kindness comes fairly easy to me. I get blessed when I can bless others. It is fun to me to do things for other people. Serving is one of my spiritual gifts. It really wouldn't be too much of a challenge for me to show kindness each day. I feel like as I write this, it sounds like I am bragging. That is not what I am trying to do. I am just sharing how much fun it is for me when I can serve others. What I do tend to do is show kindness to others at the expense of my own family. So, I decided my challenge should be to show kindness to my children in the month of Feb. Each day, I want to do some act of service or some kind of surprise for one of my children. I want to really bless them and be purposeful about it. I am asking God to show me ways that I can minister to my children this month. Does anyone want to join me? If so, let me know. We can share how we are blessing our kids and showing love to them in the month of Feb.

Spending Fast - Day 31 - The Results

Today is the last day of our spending fast. It has changed my perspective on how we spend money as a family (needs vs. wants). We have worked really hard as a family this month on this challenge. We have all sacrificed, and I am really excited to share the results with you.

My budget for grocery and household items each month is $650.00. I feel like that is pretty tight already for our family of 8 so I wasn't sure how I would be able to spend less. I am very proud to report that I spent $472.00 on grocery and household items this month!!!!! That means I saved $178.00 in that category of my budget.

By donating their allowance, and doing their store, the kids saved $43.00. I am so proud of them for making this sacrifice. They have been impacted as well.

Rick calculated all of the money that we normally have budgeted in various categories each month. Instead of keeping that money that was not spent in those categories, we are going to take it all and put it towards our adoption. So, calculating the money the kids saved and the money that we saved by not spending in the month of January, we saved a total of $657.00 this month!!! Wowzers!! I didn't know what to expect, but that is definitely more than I expected.

Rick asked me if I thought it was worth it. I would say, "absolutely!" I would do it again and I may do it again later this year. I have so enjoyed having a challenge set before me this month that I have decided to do a different challenge each month of the year. Stay tuned in my next post to see what my next challenge will be.

I cannot end this post without acknowledging the special blessings God gave to us this month. Rick and I were able to go on a date and eat out because we had a gift card given to us. We were treated to a meal by friends. Chick-fil-a had free bfast every Wed. morning. We had a meal brought to us when we had quite a bit of sickness. We were also given pizza money for an evening when I was too sick to cook. We got a special gift of batteries from special friends(if you read my "resourcefulness post" you will understand why). These things spoke volumes to my kids as we sacrificed and saw God provide some of our wants.

So, what will I do tomorow? I am getting my boys haircuts. I am scheduling a haircut for myself. Some time this week, I am getting Chipotle, my favorite!!! I am buying a stylus for my Palm Pilot. I have been using a pen top for the last couple of weeks. We also need a new doorknob to our garage. It is falling off, and we have been waiting until Feb. to keep from spending. I don't have a long list, just a few things that I have been waiting to purchase once this fast is over. We told the kids we would celebrate our accomplishment in some way. I'll take pictures and share about that later. If you are still reading my blog, I commend you. It has been a long month of many spending fast blog posts. Now to February's Challenge!!

Sam's 6th Birthday

Wow!! I really cannot believe it has been 6 six years since Sam was born. My world changed that day in so many ways. He had a rough start in this world coming in at only 4lbs. 6oz. Over his first year, God protected his little life multiple times. I KNOW God has big plans for this little guy. I just know it.

We are starting a new tradition for Birthdays this year. Instead of our whole family going out for a very expensive and chaotic Birthday meal. We have decided that Rick and I will take the Bday kid out for a meal at the restaurant of their choice some time during the Birthday month. This gives us some one-on-one time as a couple with that child. Sam got to start off this tradition. His choice: Panda Express. We don't get a ton of one-on-one time as a couple with each kid so it turned out to be really good. I am looking forward to doing it with the other kids throughout the year.
Rick and Sam at our bday lunch
The kids are allowed to have a "friend" party every other year. This was Sam's year. He chose a skating party. As part of the party, he got a free pair of skates.
I love this little guy so much!!
Daddy and Sam
Skating with friends
Go, Sam, Go
The girls enjoying their cake and ice cream
I have to tell you this funny story about Isaiah. We decided to let him try skating. I had the guy at the rink tighten his wheels so he wouldn't fall a lot. Well, he pretty much tightened them all the way. So, Isaiah got out there and walked around the rink several times perfectly. Then, he figured out what was going on. He kept looking at his wheels and everyone else's wheels. He realized his were not moving. He kept saying, "My wheels broken," and refused to continue skating. So, we had his wheels loosened a bit and he was happy again. He is so smart. We can't get anything past this kid. He had a blast and was very sad when it was time to leave.
Sam requested spaghetti for his bday dinner. He also wanted strawberry ice cream cone cupcakes. It was so funny because they were pink. We joked that he had Barbie cupcakes!! He thought that was funny. I didn't buy special plates and napkins because of the spending fast, but I found some orange napkins with spiders on them(orange is his favorite color) from Halloween. He loved them! We also had some Cars bowls leftover from last yeare for the rocky road ice cream. Once again, I didn't have to spend!!!!
Sam in the bday chair
Isaiah was a little grumpy at the end of the day
Sam, you are such a wonderful son!! I love your sense of humor, your charm, and your sensitive heart. I love the unexpected hugs and kisses you give me each day. I love the way you bring joy to our family. You have worked so hard this year in Kindergarten. I have seen you grow and mature and face your obstacles well. I can't wait to see what this next year holds for you!!
Love ya,
Mom

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not Again?!?!

Cody had Renaissance Day on Friday at school. He, once again (sigh), needed a costume! If he didn't wear one, it would affect his grade.

Really? Do you people not know how complicated my life is right now? Don't you know that I have 6 children, I am NOT crafty, and my son has sensory issues that make wearing these costumes very uncomfortable?

To top it all off, I forgot. Cody reminded me the night before. This was the same night that Rick was out of town and I had no self control with my kids(see previous post titled, "Lots of Drama Makes Me a Grumpy Mama").

All of these circumstances make me even more proud of myself when I see the end product that Cody and I came up with. Please, tell me you are impressed with my mad crafting at the last minute skills?
Here he is(yes, I know he needs a haircut. Remember, we are on a spending fast!)
I love this pose

Good Times With Good Friends

Our friends, Jumbo and Kriek are in town from Africa. Let me tell you, I love these two. Their lives are a living example of what it means to serve and love the way Christ does. I have seen them do this for the last 3 years that I have known them. I have ministered alongside them. I have stayed in their home. I have seen the service and sacrifices they make when no one is watching.

They walked with us through our adoption, literally. We imposed on them as our days continued beyond what we expected in completing the process. They took us into their home. They drove us to South Africa as we entered the last stage of the process. They fed us food. They loved on our kids. Really, what else can I say.

Spending time with them is always a treat. So, we could not let their visit pass without a party. Not only do I love them, but I love the people that have embraced this calling to Africa as their own. I can't even believe the relationships that God has brought into my life over the last 4 years as we journey together as a group of people that love the pastors, the children and Gogos of Bhalekane carepoint. We have laughed together, cried together, seen unimaginable pain in others' lives together, and rejoiced in seeing God work in the lives of a people that we deeply love. You see, when you experience what we have experienced together, there is a bond like no other. We don't have to see each other every day for that bond to remain strong.

Last night was a time to come together as a group and just be us. We could catch up on our lives. We laughed a lot. We shared our hearts. We missed those who could not make it, and we especially felt an emptiness as we talked about David Hames. His absence was obvious. We could all feel it. We have been feeling it for over 2 weeks, but to come together and feel it as a group is both comforting and painful. We continue to pray for David, Renee, and the boys. We are still asking God for a miracle, but trusting Him regardless of the outcome.

Here are some pics from our time together:

The Cressmans are so amazing to welcome us to their home
Jumbo, The McCoys, and Sarah Jackson
A whole crew of people
Some of the girls
Kriek opening the gifts
The highlight by far of the night was the head massager that Sue got for Jumbo and Kriek. We all had to try it out. It was luxuriously relaxing!!Jumbo wasn't so sure about it until he had a turn. Then, he was sold on it!!
We love you, Jumbo and Kriek!

Bday At School

On Thursday, Sam celebrated his Birthday with his classmates at school. He wanted me to bring ice cream sandwiches in for the treat to share with his class. I was so excited when I found "Ice Cream Sammies." As you know, we call him "Sammy" quite a bit. Here he is with is bday hat and his sammies.

Sister With An Attitude

Laila has developed quite the attitude lately. She expresses her frustrations by throwing things, or carefully laying herself down in protest(at least she is smart enough to know that throwing herself down could be painful). She also protests sleep by throwing her favorite blanket and noni(pacifier) out of the bed. Sorry, Sister, you throw it out, you take a nap without it!

I know that they all go through this, but each time it makes me sad. Sad that my baby is getting older. Sad that some of the innocent sweetness is leaving. Sad that I have more work to do.

This I can promise to her, "No matter how hard you test me, I will always love you. No matter how much of a fit you throw, I am waiting with open arms to reconcile with you. You are my baby girl. Nothing will ever change my love for you!"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 28 - Sacrificing Bargains

The thing by far that I have missed the most about this fast is shopping for bargains. This is the time of year that I buy the clothes my kids will wear next winter. I can get them for 70% off or more. I have a list right now in my head of some things they will need next winter. Lauren will need a new winter coat, Cody will need jeans, Lauren and Abby will need tights, etc.

Cody and Lauren need the most things because they are the oldest. Between hand-me-downs and new clothes they receive as gifts, the others tend to have plenty of clothes. Cody and Lauren start out with nothing. So, I especially need to shop for them this time of year. I can get new clothes cheaper than yard sales and consignment stores when I shop these sales.

In order to honor my spending fast commitment, I have chosen not to spend money on these sales. I have pretty much avoided the stores that I usually shop at in order to not be so tempted. Last week, Rick needed me to return some things to Old Navy for him. As I approached the store, I saw the sign that sends shivers up my spine, "50% of all clearance prices!!" Oh, no! I returned Rick's clothing. I then remembered that in the fall I returned a uniform shirt that had a hole in it, and since I didn't have the receipt, they gave me a store credit of $5.37. Normally that would not buy much, but with 50% off clearance prices, not so. I was able to get Cody two really nice shirts. The total: $5.34. They gave me $.03 back!!!

Then, I received my $10 certificate in the mail from Children's Place as my Place Perks reward from my Christmas time purchases. I looked at it and saw this: "Expires Jan. 30, 2010." If I don't use it, I will lose it. I found out when I went to use it that the price before taxes had to be at least $10.00. That meant I would have to spend some money. I had a dilemma: Use the certificate and spend a minimal amount of money, or let it expire. I can tell you this, I cannot bear the thought of basically throwing away a $10 bill, so I decided to spend it. I purchased snow boots, and 2 shirts for Lauren today. I spent a total of $2.12. I broke the fast. You could argue that these items were not needs, but I did purchase only things that Lauren "needs" ( I put that in quotes because it is according to our American standard of needs.). There you go, I confessed.

I had one other victory today in my no spending quest. Sam has a bday party coming up on Sat. He wants goody bags for the party, but I didn't want to spend money. I started scrounging around in my gift stash. I had totally forgotten that I did have some boy party favors stashed away. We found enough items to put together goody bags that Sam is really excited about. I am so proud of myself. It would have been so much easier to go out and buy the things because I did give myself an exemption for his bday party. Instead, I was able to please him and not spend the money.

I find that when it comes to money, I often live in fear. That fear rises up in me when I think about missing out on bargains. "How will I get all the clothes the kids will need if I can't by them on clearance?" "What if I miss out on a really good deal?" I will NOT live my life according to fear. I will TRUST God to provide for us in whatever way He sees fit. I am excited to see how God will provide the things that my kids need whether it be bargains I find once this fast is over or through ways that I can't even imagine right now.

Lots of Drama Makes Me A Grumpy Mama

The drama in my house abounds tonight!!

Lots of disobeying going on. Lots of discipline being dished out.

It doesn't help that Rick is gone for an overnight pastors' retreat.

After battling with multiple children over multiple issues, I lost it.

I am embarrassed to say that I found myself yelling at one of my kids.

I was telling this child about how he/she needs more self control, and it hit me.

I was not displaying self control at that moment.

In fact, I was being the perfect example of what it means to have NO SELF CONTROL.

Wow!! My kids and my relationship with them teaches me soooooo much!

Maybe that is why God has given me so many kids. There are so many things He wants to refine about my character. Each one of them teaches me something different about myself.

I had to stop in the middle of my ranting and raving and apologize. It was very humbling.

I am not perfect. I don't claim to be. My prayer is that my kids can see past my weaknesses to my heart and my deep love for them and for my God.

Much Work To Do

The words I hear coming out of Isaiah's mouth as he sits at the table eating lunch:

"Three, Four, Eleven, Purple, Six."

Boy, do I have a lot of work to do. Obviously my Potty Training method of teaching colors and counting is not working.

Too bad, I was thinking I could develop a whole curriculum for preschoolers around that concept.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Renee's Plea

If you have been praying for David Hames, you can only imagine what the last 15 days have been like for his wife, Renee. She shares her heart here.

We are still praying for David's rescue.

It is heartwrenching to go day after day without answers.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 26 - Eating out at home

As many of you know, I have had some stomach issues I have been dealing with for about 7 months. The one thing during that whole time that has sounded good to me to eat is Panera Bread's Baked Potato Soup. It is the one thing that could I eat without feeling sick. I have felt really good for about two weeks until Sunday.

On Sunday, I woke up sick. I think this sickness was a stomach virus, not the same sickness I have been feeling. It came and went and I had some amazing people who helped me and the family while I recovered. (Thanks, Ellen, Laura S., and Andrea)

I haven't eaten much since Sat. The thing that sounded so good to me today was that yummy potato soup. First of all, today is not one of the days that Panera is serving that soup. On a regular day, I might just swing by there and get some or would plan to get it on the next day it is served, Wed. Since we are doing this spending fast, I won't be able to go there tomorrow and get that soup.

Cody also had 2 teeth pulled this morning, and I thought soup would be good for him tonight as he recovers. By the way, he did beautifully getting his teeth pulled.

How did I solve this dilemma? I followed the example of my friend, Melodie, as she is doing this same kind of fast. You can read the post that she wrote here that inspired me today.

I looked online and found a recipe for Panera's Baked Potato Soup. My family LOVED it, and I do have to say, it was pretty good. Not as easy as going and buying it, but still yummy, and it hit the spot.

Here is the recipe:

4 large baking potatoes
5 slices bacon
1/2 cup butter
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups milk
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups (6-ounces) grated cheddar cheese, divided*
1 cup sour cream

* I usually use a combination of cheeses that I happen to have in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub potatoes well and prick several times with fork; bake approximately 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out potato pulp; set aside. Discard skins.

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving drippings, crumble, and set aside.

In a large soup pot over low heat, add reserved bacon dripping and butter. Add onion and saute approximately 4 to 5 minutes until soft. Stir in flour until well combined; cook for several minutes, but do not let brown. Gradually add milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, crumbled bacon, and 1 cup cheese. Stir and cook until cheese is melted. Stir in sour cream. Add extra milk, if necessary, for desired thickness.

NOTE: At this point, soup may be refrigerated until ready to serve. When ready to serve, warm over low heat, stirring until hot. Remove from heat and serve in soup bowls.

To serve, serve in individual soup bowls garnished with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Additional crumbled bacon, sliced green onions, and/or chives may be served to sprinkle onto the top of the soup.

*I substituted gf flour in the recipe so that Cody could eat it and couldn't tell a difference.

I was proud of myself for figuring out a way to still have the soup without breaking the fast. Yay! Me!




Monday, January 25, 2010

Multiple Prayers for Multiple People

My heart is heavy. I feel burdened for those families in my life that are struggling, waiting and battling for various reasons. I know that all of these families would appreciate all the prayers they can get for their circumstances. Please join me in lifting them up

1. Hames family - There is still no word of David's rescue. We are still praying and believing God can do miracles. Our pastor, Kelly Williams, keeps reminding us that no matter where David is, he is alive, whether it is on this earth or in heaven. We know that God loves David more than we can imagine. We have to trust in that.

2. Dickson Family - Jeremiah and Liz's 2 1/2 year old daughter Eleanor was diagnosed with cancer and today is her second day of chemo. We are praying that the chemo will do its job and give Eleanor no side effects. We are also praying that Eleanor stays healthy. Any sickness can put her in the hospital.

3. Melanie and Jeremy - This couple is in the process of adopting from the same place that Isaiah and Laila are from. Melanie has now been in Africa for 2 1/2 months. She is ready for her family of 6 children to be all together at last in their home. Please pray that this will be the week for her to finalize the adoption and all of the paperwork after that.

4. Cole Friedan - This little guy is also battling cancer. We know his mom from our church in Dallas. We are praying that God will use the treatments that the dr. is doing to kill all the cancer.

5. Adoptive/Foster families - We have many families right now that we are in relationship with that are in the process of fostering and adopting. If you haven't experienced it, you just don't know how hard it is. Please pray for the Goads, Clines, Briggs, Vetters, Kodaks, Hays, and Racelas. Waiting for our children was one of the most excruciating things I have ever done. It is a long, painful, emotional process.

6. Haiti - There is really no more that needs to be said. I am burdened for this country and its people, especially the orphans.

No wonder I feel so heavy. This heaviness leads me to God and reminds me that only He can do something about each of these circumstances.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 24 - The Cost of Convenience

This is the last week of our spending fast. Mostly, it has been easy, but I am ready to have a break. That doesn't mean that I will spend money the same way that I did before. I will definitely spend differently. I don't think you can go through a month of giving up anything and go completely back to your old ways, at least not right away. I am actually praying about another fast for Feb., but haven't determined what that will be yet.

The biggest struggle that I have faced in this fast is giving up my conveniences. It takes planning and work to live on only what you need. This past week was one of those where I would have gotten something easy for us to eat at least one night like pizza. It was a hard week emotionally and physically with sick kids and going through some really difficult life circumstances with multiple families in our church. We had something going on every night as well. That makes cooking a lot harder.

There have been several opportunities to spend money this month for things that would make our lives easier, but we have sacrificed. There have been times where we did some fun things that would have been enhanced by the opportunity to spend money, but we stuck with our fast. I missed out on a women's event at church. The kids missed out on getting snacks at their school's talent show. There have also been a lot of fun things that we have done where we didn't have to spend a penny. It was fun to experience those times as well and celebrate together our commitment that we kept.

With six children 11 and under in the phase of life that we are in, choosing convenience over cost is sometimes the wiser option. My time is very valuable, and I am spread very thin. To be able to order pizza or get takeout periodically helps me keep my sanity. Right now, my time is better spent doing other things than even more dishes so I buy paper plates. I think we all have to examine where we are in life and what our resources are. Then, decide what things to spend on and what things to put in the extra work for.

I am excited to see how much money I have saved this month. I know it is going to surprise me. I am also excited to be able to take advantage of some of the conveniences that are out there that make my life a little easier. Just a few more days. I am sure I will have more lessons to learn before this week is over.

Another One Down in the Clapp House

If you have more than one kid, you understand how frightening it can when sickness hits. When there are 6 kids, it is terrifying. Whenever one kid gets sick, I brace myself because we could be in for a long ride of sickness.

I shared earlier in the week that Laila was sick. My sweet baby is still recovering. It has been an ugly fever, coughy, runny nose, crying a lot, lay around kind of sickness. She seems to be over the worst of it, but I have no idea how long this runny nose and cough will last. Not to mention the fact that I am still bracing myself for the potential that it could develop into an ear infection.

On Friday night, it began with Isaiah. Let me give you a little background so you will grasp the intensity of this. When Rick met Isaiah, he was very sick. He was struggling to breath and had to be taken that day to the hospital. By the time we were finishing the adoption in Africa, not only was he doing great(hey, he had a month to get better before we were able to leave!!), but his chest x-rays were completely clear with no evidence of any scarring(contrary to an earlier report we had received). So, either the earlier report was wrong or he was healed. Either way, it was a huge relief. He has been with us for 9 months and there has been no sign of any breathing problems.

Friday night, he was really struggling to breathe. Thankfully we know how to handle that. Both Abby and Sam have had breathing issues in the past. I have been doing breathing treatments on Isaiah regularly since that time. Last night, it seemed as though some of the congestion was beginning to break up. That is encouraging. Today, he is still really miserable.

Listen, when this boy asks to take a nap and lays around, we know he is sick. He is not running around. He is not getting into things. He has been very quiet. That is not the Isaiah that we all know and love. His little body is fighting so hard. It makes me sad, but as I said with Laila's sick post, I am so thankful that he is here for us to love through this sickness. As much as they try, it is really hard to devote one-on-one time with a sick child in an orphanage of 18 children and 2 workers.

So, I cross my fingers that this will not continue to spread. It seems to last about a week. In our house that means everyone will be better by the middle of March!!

I think this is going to be "medical" week in our house. Cody is getting 2 teeth pulled, I have these 2 little sick kiddos, and Sam has his 6 yr. appt. Who knows what else will happen. It is always an adventure!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Update on David Hames

Here is the latest update. Please pray like you never have before. We are still believing for David's safe return.

Renee Hames just talked to the State Department. 6 US rescue teams at the Hotel in "full mode," continuing to look for "accessible voids" and signs of life. 17 Americans still missing at the hotel. Pray for these rescue teams for guidance and strength. There are no additional signs of life, but people have been known to survive 14 days in these situations. Please pray!

They are now working inside the lobby where David was last seen. Making holes in the cement and clearing rubble. Searching for life as they go. Come on, David!!

My fortune cookie today said, "Good News Will Come To You From Far Away." I am praying for that to be about David's rescue!! Obviously, I trust in God, not fortune cookies, but reading that reminded me of the hope that I have.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 21 - The Gift That Keeps on Costing

I want to begin this post with a statement. What I am about to write does not at all mean that I have regrets about our adoption. I am thankful and blessed to have these two little ones in our family. What I need to write is my frustrations in conjunction with our spending fast. I think what I have to say is something that most who have adopted would agree with. Somebody needs to express it. I have chosen to be that person. Let the venting begin.

Adoption is ridiculously expensive. Many people are turned away from the idea of adoption because of the expense. This was one of our biggest concerns as we entered this process. Rick, as the provider for our family, was especially concerned. I can remember the first night we met with our case worker and got her list of upcoming expenses. Rick was shell shocked. That didn't even include the fees we would owe to the agency and the money it would take to travel.

God made it very clear to us that we were to adopt despite this financial burden. We had 2 big amounts of money due one week apart from each other early on in the process. Both weeks, God provided that exact amount of money from friends. It was amazing. One friend didn't even know we had that amount due, but God put it on his heart to give us EXACTLY what we needed. That was what Rick needed to move forward.

One thing that made our adoption expenses harder to tackle was the fact that the process was so fast. I am thankful that we did not have to wait for years to get our kids. In fact, they were in our family only 4 months after we began our process. That is a miracle that we thank God for every day. Not having a long, drawn-out process gave us very little time to gather the money needed. We were so BUSY getting the process done in record time that we couldn't put forth the effort to raise funds. We had many amazing people sacrifice their own money to help us with this adoption. I feel overwhelmed and blessed by that. Thank you to those of you who participated in that way and are reading this right now!!!!

Now it is 9 months after bringing Isaiah and Laila home, and the expenses continue. In addition to paying off the leftover debt that we have from the adoption, we still have 2 post-placement visits required that go above and beyond what we have paid to our homestudy agency. We will owe $300 this week for a quick visit with our case worker and the report that she completes. We will owe that same amount again in April.

UGH! It frustrates me. I have been so diligent in saving this month. I guess I know where those savings will go. I just wish it didn't have to be this way. I wish that there was some way for us to make it possible for families to bring children into their families from wherever they are called to adopt without all the effort and expense that it takes. It is wrong, and I am not okay with it.

If you know someone who has adopted or is in the process of adopting, do what you can to support them. Not just with your money. Support them with your prayers and your help. Wherever they are in the process they have what seems like insurmountable needs. God hasn't called everyone to adopt, but I do believe He has called EVERYONE to care for orphans in some capacity. My challenge to you: Ask God how He wants to use you in the lives of orphans.

I did not begin this post heading in this direction, but I feel like I have said what needs to be said. Money is only a tool. It does not rule or govern my life. If my sacrifices this month have been to provide what we needed for this visit on Friday, then my sacrifice is not in vain. Each time I look into the eyes of Isaiah and Laila, I KNOW without a doubt that we have done what God called us to do. I would pay twice or triple the amount if that is what it took to get my babies home.
Seriously, who can resist that smile?
Cheesy picture grin

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

World Changer

I want to be a World Changer.

Today I am just a diaper changer.

But, maybe, just maybe, changing those diapers will some day change the world.

Poor Baby

I am sitting here right now in my "big comfy chair" holding my sick baby.

This is Laila's first time to be sick since she has joined us.

This is her first fever.

She is a cuddly baby already, but she wants nothing but to be close to me.

I want nothing else either.

I think it was best said by my friend, Laura Schwarz, when I told her that I couldn't help at church tonight because of Laila's sickness, "So thankful she has a mommy to love her through her sickness."

I am too. I REALLY AM.

The only thing missing from this picture is a Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. STINKIN' SPENDING FAST.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Believe

God, you can do it!!
You can bring David safely home!!

"Just enough strength to live for today
So, I never have to worry what tomorrow will bring
'Cause my faith is on the SOLID ROCK
I'M COUNTING ON GOD!!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 18 - Out of control hair and resourceful children

We are in day 18 of this fast and doing well. Honestly, in light of all that has happened this week, talking about the spending fast seems so trivial and insignificant. I do feel like God put this on my heart before Jan. So, I continue and I wanted to share where we are with this thing.
So far, this month, I have spent $97 on gas, $25 on a dr. copay, and about $225 on groceries/household needs. That is it. Pretty good and I haven't felt hugely deprived. Rick and I were able to go on a date with a gift card, and we rented a movie as a family with a gift card. We had frozen pizza from the grocery that I had in my freezer instead of our usual ordering pizza for our movie night.

I don't really think that my kids have been hugely impacted by this in a negative sense. They know we are doing it, they are participating in their way, and every once in a while, I have to remind them why we are not going to buy or do something that they ask about. Their response has been positive without complaining.

We did encounter one obstacle, but they were very resourceful. The batteries went out for their Wii controllers. They have a few new games from Christmas, so they have been playing more than usual. I told them I was sorry that we were out of batteries, but we would have to wait until Feb. to buy more. So, they have been going around the house looking for batteries in toys that they aren't playing with. Pretty smart!!

The only other dilemma we have faced is haircuts. I have not had my hair cut since Oct. I usually do every other month so I was due for one in Dec. I scheduled an appt. for Dec. 30 and received a call about an hour before saying it was cancelled. I almost panicked. I was already way overdue. Surprisingly it is halfway through the month, and I think I will make it. Cody and Sam really need haircuts, too, but they aren't upset about waiting. Rick is trying to hold out to. I am so proud of him for being so involved in this with me and taking it seriously.

Obviously, there is not much difference between spending the money now than in Feb., but for me, this is a test of my commitment to this fast that I clearly felt called to. So, I buckle down and make it through the month. If you see me, and I look weird, you can blame it on my shaggy do. It is a reminder of my obedience to God.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Praying Without Ceasing

This week has truly been an example of what "praying without ceasing" is like.

Even in my sleep, there has been a restlessness in me that cries out to God for David, Renee, and their boys.

Going to bed without answers is unsettling and heavy. Waking up in the morning brings a sense of hope and a feeling of anxiousness all wrapped up together.

I wanted to update, especially for those of you who are not a part of the Vanguard Community.

Rescues are still occurring at the site where David was last seen. People are still ALIVE!! We believe David is there, awaiting rescue.

I look forward to being in church today. We will worship God as a body and beg Him for David's safe rescue.

It is times like these that the Body of Christ must unite, cry out together, and support each other.

That is what true family and community are all about.

Whether you are a part of Vanguard Church or not, whether you know the Hames family or not, I invite you to join us as the Body of Christ.

As you worship God today, join us in lifting this family up to the Lord. He knows exactly where David is. He is bigger than these circumstances. NOTHING is impossible with Him.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 15 - What Is Really Important

I haven't spent any money in the last two days.

Honestly, it is not really important in the scheme of what has happened this week. Don't get me wrong. I am not giving up on the fast. I will continue.

My energies right now are focused on praying for and with Renee Hames as we wait for the rescue of her husband, David in Haiti.

We also have friends in our church who have learned in the last week that their 2 year old daughter has cancer.

In light of these circumstances, I am reminded of what is really important in life. It is the people God has given us and not the things that we "think" we need.

As I look at my two adopted children, my heart aches deeply for the families who have children in Haiti they have not brought home yet. It is hard enough to wait for your children, but not knowing if they are alive or safe is almost unbearable.

My heart is heavy. The tears have been flowing freely. We cry out to you God and ask you to deliver in all of these situations.

Clapp Fashion

I don't know what this is called. I think dressy camo sounds good.

Sam found a tie in some hand-me-downs we got out for him. He has worn it with everything including these pajamas since the day we found it.

It is so cute!!

Praying Fervently Today!!!

Still no word on our friend, David Hames. We pray that today is the day we will get the news that he is being rescued!!!! Please pray with me for him and his family.

God is more powerful than this circumstance that David is in!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Multitasking

The only way I can survive is to multitask.

So, while potty training Isaiah, he has also been learning his colors and how to count.

Each time he goes potty, he gets m&ms and has to tell me what color they are.

When he goes poo, we count the poops in the toilet.

Brilliant, right?

Who needs preschool?

Pray for the Hames

UPDATED!!


Latest update on our friend in Haiti: David's hotel collapsed during the earthquake. At last
contact 30 mins prior to quake, he & his team were considering
leaving for dinner. We have no lock on his location or condition. I am
begging God for David's survival and ability to contact Renee. Will you
pray for that, too?


Our church is praying Psalm 91 this month. I am specifically praying those verses for the Hames family. Will you join me?
My heart cries out for this family as they endure this trial. Please pray for God to do miracles in this situation!!

David, Renee, Aidan, and Zander, WE LOVE YOU!!!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Please Pray!!

A friend of ours, David Hames, has been in Haiti filming for Compassion International. So, far his wife, Renee, has not heard from his since the earthquake. PLEASE pray for his safety and the ability for him to contact her. PLEASE pray for Renee and her 2 boys as she waits.

Spending Fast - Day 13 - Proud Mama

This canister is sitting on my island.

The kids are using it to collect the money that they are "saving" during our spending fast.

Every time I look at it, I am reminded of my commitment.

Every time they look at it, it encourages them to continue.

I love it when my kids hold me accountable.

I spent $25 today at Wal-mart on fruit and a couple of other food items we needed. I am almost halfway finished with this fast. It really hasn't been that hard. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the realization that I don't really spend that much money. I hope that by really being aware this month, I can curb any excess spending in the months to come!!!

The Help I Don't Need!!

My big kids are frustrating me. They are always more worried about each others' behavior than their own. It drives me a crazy!!!!!!!( I can't type enough exclamation points to fully express how I feel.)

Half of the time, they are complaining about something that I gave their sibling permission to do. All the while, they are doing something they shouldn't be doing!

As the oldest, Cody is especially good at this. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and is VERY black and white when it comes to issues. I have threatened over and over to him that I am going to buy him a "World's Greatest Mom" shirt and make him wear it for a whole day if he can't focus on his own behavior.

I don't really have an answer for this problem, but God is showing me how I am like my kids. I want to point out to God the sins and lives of others. I am sure He is shaking his head at me thinking that I need to wear a "World's Greatest God" shirt. Instead, maybe if we all just focused on our own struggles and behaviors we would all get along a lot better, and our world would be a much better place to live in. Just something I am pondering today. :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 12 - Seeing God's Provision For What It Is

I spent $25 today on a dr. copay. I consider that a need. Abby has been having headaches, and after doing many things suggested by the dr., it was time to take her in. So, now I am armed with a new set of tactics. If those don't succeed, we will go back for the next step.

I also had to buy gas. $97 to fill it up. Yep, that one was painful, but, once again, a need.

I have been thinking about how God has provided for our family over the 15+ years of our marriage. Whenever we received unexpected money, we would always get really excited and start to plan how we would use it. Inevitably, in the next week something would happen where that money was needed for an unexpected expense. It usually made me mad. Then, with that attitude, I missed the blessing that God provided for us. I was ungrateful instead of thankful.

I don't want to live my life that way. This is how God continuously chooses to provide for us in situations where there was no other provision. I want to see God's provision for what it is. I want to experience a gratefulness that draws me closer to Him. I want to trust Him that He sees our needs even before we have them. In God's amazing goodness, He provides before we even know we need it. How loving and caring is that? It brings a whole new perspective to me.
Thank you, Lord for your loving care. Thank you that you are in control.

By the way, we received the news of some unexpected money that is coming our way. Now I just sit and wait to see how God will use it as His provision for us!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 11 - The Gift Card Question

This effort on my part continues to be a learning experience for me. When I focus on what I have, I just don't feel the need to buy more. Hey, I can't even keep the stuff I have under control on most days. Obviously, food is something that has to be replenished, but I am trying to make a concerted effort this month to use some of the stock I have built up in my pantry and freezer.

I will have to purchase some milk and fruit this week, but other than that, we should be good for the week. That is exciting to me. I am cooking more than I have in quite a while. It takes planning and work, but it is much more enjoyable to sit down together for a meal than to fix misc. items for everyone and have them come and go at the table. Sitting down together at the same time to eat is a great touch point for our family each day. We can't do it every day, but I like doing it as much as possible.

I have read some discussions on other blogs of people doing a similar experiment for the month. One of the issues that has been brought up is gift cards. Should they be used during this month? My answer is, "Why not?" We received some gift cards for Christmas. We haven't used any of them yet, but we may before the month is over. Some would say that is "cheating." I guess my response is, "If someone bought me a latte, I would drink it. If someone brought a meal to our family, I would eat it." I view gift cards as a gift given to me by someone else to use at my discretion. I don't see the use of one or two gifts cards taking away from a month of lessons and experiences. So, there. That is my stand. That is what I have decided in my rules. I will let you know if I decide to use one of those gift cards.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 10 - Service over Legalism

I don't expect to spend any money today. We have a busy day with church activities. But I have been thinking all week about my heart in this process.

I have had several opportunities this week to minister to others, and I expect more will arise throughout the month. I have a choice. I can focus on this spending fast in a legalistic way and not serve others. I can justify it by saying, "If I serve them in that way, I will have to spend money. I have committed to not spend money this month." Or, I can be sensitive to God's spirit in my heart and serve those He has placed in my path. It can come in many forms. It could be a meal for a family, a visit to the hospital with a small gift of encouragement, or even a cup of hot chocolate to a carpool worker at the kids' school as she stands out in the single digit temperatures each morning. I don't want to EVER become so wrapped up in my sacrifices to God that I drop my obedience to His callings for service.

1 Samuel 5:22
22 But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

So, this fast is a good thing. It is making think A LOT about how I spend money, my motives for spending money, and my own selfishness in it all. My desire in ALL that I do is to listen to the VOICE of God!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 9 - Spending for a Good Cause

I have to confess. I broke the fast today. When you hear this story, I think you will understand why.

As I shared earlier, my kids have joined me in this fast. The four big ones have decided on their own to give up their allowance for the month in order to put the money towards our adoption and also to experience a month without spending. Their allowance for a 5 Sunday month totals $45. I am really proud of them for doing this. I am excited to see what God teaches them through this experience.

Today, the girls came to me with a piece of paper. It was a flyer they had created. On the flyer it said:
Lauren and Abby
Store
Where: girls room
When: 12:00 PM to 12:00 AM
All money goes toward adoption
Thank you

They decided to set up a store in their room today.(I will say, I told them they would have to close it before midnight.) Any money they receive, they want to put towards our adoption.

So, you see, I had to shop in their store. I bought two pieces of handmade pottery. They were only charging $.05 for one and $.10 for the other. I told them that I thought each piece was worth at least $.50. So, I spent a dollar. One of the best purchases I have ever made. I hope my spending will spur them on to greater ideas of how they can serve others.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 8 - Disaster avoided

Our heat that warms the back of our truck where the kids sit has not been working. We have been putting off getting it fixed, but after yesterday's bitter cold temps, we figured we should do something about it. Rick was going to take it in the shop today. I was bummed. It stinks to be trying to save money and not spend to then have to spend it on truck repairs. Rick did some investigating and trouble shooting and experimenting. So, our fingers are crossed that his attempt will be successful not just because of the spending fast, but because we don't want to spend money on truck stuff right now!!! If it works, he will once again be my hero. Heck, he is my hero just for trying. I love that he tries to fix things first before dumping a ton of cash on someone else to do it.

I don't expect to spend any money today. I am staying home and it feels good. As much of an extrovert as I am and as much as I like to get out of the house, a day here and there where I don't have to is just the right medicine for this weary soul.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 7 - No shopping = Happy Mama

I didn't spend any money today.

I like my children more when I don't have to take them shopping.

Being off for Christmas and shopping alone spoiled me.

After my shopping trips yesterday, I may do this spending fast for my sanity more than to just save money!!

Potty Trained, Check

I have to say, I write this post with much joy in my heart. On the other hand, I also write it with hesitation. Hopefully I won't have to take back what I am about to say.

I do believe Isaiah is potty trained. In the last week, he has only had 3 accidents. One of those was today, and I don't think it was an accident. I think it was a premeditated act of sabotage against me and all that I stand for. (Rick says I take this disobedience stuff way too personally.)

Anyway, I rejoice. I will save money, and it feels good to check that one off of my never ending, very long, impossible to accomplish it all "to do" list.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 6 - Little Blessings

I did a run to Wal-mart and Albertsons today that totaled $80. That was more than what I wanted to spend, but I think I am set for a while other than a few basics like milk. I think, if I am remembering correctly that brings my total so far for the month to about $145. That is more than I wanted to spend at this point, but I don't think it is unreasonable considering that I am feeding and housing 8 people.

I think the thing that God has shown me today are that He gives little blessings in the midst of this sacrifice that we are making. I have been able to share these examples with the kids, and it seems to have made a big impact on them. Here are two examples.

Yesterday, at MOPS, we did a kids toy and clothing swap. I was able to round up a few things to give away, but I was shocked at some of the great things I found for my kids, jeans for Lauren, something that she goes through like crazy, some shoes for Sam that he REALLY likes, and some great items for Isaiah and Laila. I also found a Curious George monkey for Abby. She is crazy about monkeys.

I found out that Chick-fil-a is doing free breakfast every Wed. morning for the month of Jan. So, this morning, we left early and took advantage of it. All of these things cost absolutely nothing. The kids and I talked about what a neat blessing it will be to have a free Chick-fil-a breakfast every Wed. this month. We saw it as a little blessing from God.

So, not only are we sacrificing, but we are seeing blessings in the midst of it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 5 - Temptation Resisted

I went grocery shopping today at Sam's. I spent $41.70. I was pleased. I left with the things we needed and no extras. I didn't even look at clothes because I am almost positive they had some kid's clothes on clearance. I figure why put myself in that position. I need to also make a trip to Wal-mart for some essentials, but wasn't able to get there today. I will save that for tomorrow.

So, I made it through the whole day, and then at 4:45 in the afternoon at my own home, I was tempted to spend money. Who would have thought? We arrived home, and as I was getting everyone inside, Cody comes in and says, "There is a man outside that wants to talk to you." I was thinking, "Seriously, I have about a million things to do before a meeting I have tonight," but I had no idea that anything this man could say would appeal to me. I was wrong. He was selling beef, steaks of many sorts and hamburgers. I know the spiel, but I was tempted. Every time, I told him, "no," he would lower the price even more. Before I knew it, I had large amounts of beef at my fingertips for minimal cost. I don't have a ton of freezer space right now, but I could have made it work. Finally, I looked at him and said, "You know what, I see that this is a really good deal, and we would use every bit of this meat, but I made a commitment to spend only what is necessary this month and this meat is not necessary. I am really sorry." He go the picture and left.

I was so relieved once he was gone that I had not given in to this temptation. Just because it is a good deal, does not give me the right to back down on my commitment. We don't NEED 35 steaks. Heck, we don't eat steak that often, only when it goes on sale for a really good price. I am not saying there is anything wrong with buying steaks. I am just saying that for us, steak is not a need and does not fall into the category of what I should be purchasing this month. Enough said.

I am thankful to have completed another day and to be able to say that I stuck to my commitment. Who knows what temptations lie in the days ahead. I never would have dreamed this one up!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Spending Fast - Day 4- Experiences over Things

I had Rick stop by the grocery store today on the way home to pick up a few items I needed. The total came to $6.28. So, far, I have spent less than $25 for the month. That will all change tomorrow. I have a grocery list of some food and household items we NEED. So, I will be shopping with that in mind. No extras.

As I ponder this whole spending fast in a lot of ways it is very freeing. I don't have to rush out to the sales. I can just "delete" those emails about the current sale at some of my most shopped at stores. I don't have to spend my mornings going from store to store trying to fit it all in.

The thing that I think God started teaching me a few months ago is that things don't matter. I am a pack rat. I have a really hard time getting rid of things because I might need them again someday. Rick and I cleaned out our closet over break and have the whole back of my truck full of things to give away. Now, I don't feel so burdened by the mess or even the idea of keeping things I don't need. I can walk in my closet and have a visual reminder of that burden being lifted.

What I am learning to value more is experiences. I would rather have an experience together as a family over a new toy that my kids get tired of after a week. That just clutters my house, but the experience lives on in our memories. That is why I think traditions are so important to me. It is about the repeated experiences that we have together.

I am excited to see what else God will teach me, and I am looking forward to my first "real" shopping trip tomorrow with my new mindset.

Isaiah-isms


Isaiah has some cute things that he is saying right now.

He calls pineapple - apple pie

Today he referred to Lauren and Abby as "the single ladies" when he said, "the single ladies messed with my blanket." Cracked me up.

He loves his Christmas jammies and calls them the "color bear jammies" instead of polar bear.

Clementines are called "clemen balls" because he prefers them whole so that he can separate the segments.

He is truly spoiled. When he lays down to sleep he wants his blankets warmed, and when he gets out of the tub, he wants a warm towel from the dryer.

He also wants us to blow his hot food for him. At the orphanage, I saw them get steaming hot bowls of food, and they would just dig right in.

I have a hunch that these are luxuries he has never experienced before.

When he is concentrating on something, he sticks his tongue out. I think that makes the work easier. :)


He is doing great with the potty. We are into day 4 of no accidents.

He is as strong willed as ever, and some days completely exhausts me. Yesterday was one of those days.

I love him, he is mine, and I am thankful.

New Year's Eve Festivities

The traditions continue around here on New Year's Eve. If after reading this post, you don't think we are completely crazy or even slightly disturbed, then I think you would enjoy these traditions, too. We like to have fun, even if it is silly, and on New Year's Eve we did just that.

Our evening starts with a dance/theme interpretation competition. Each person or group chooses a song to perform to. It is really fun, and we have lots of laughs in the process. At the end, we vote and declare a winner.
Sam doing "Eye of the Tiger"
Lauren and Abby doing "Party in the U.S.A."
Lauren, Abby, Isaiah, and Laila doing "All the Single Ladies"
Yes, it was hilarious, and they looked quite cute in their Swazi skirts.
I am sure Isaiah will thank his sisters for this one some day.
Isaiah doing Chipmunks singing, "Funkytown," his favorite song
I can't even believe I am posting this, but if I am going to do pictures of them, I have to be willing as well. Me doing "Halo" with a guest appearance by Laila. (She actually did guest appearances in most of the performances!)
Cody doing "Livin' On A Prayer"
Rick doing "Jesus Freak"(the loud choir man version) with a guest appearance by Laila
Cody won the dance competition for the second year in a row. He has a streak going!!!
After the competition the kids did "freestyle" dancing to "I Like to Move It." Here are the pictures from that:
Like mother, like daughter
Look at that boy swinging those hips
Break dancing

Break dancing, also
On Christmas Day, there is always a present under the tree that cannot be opened until New Year's Eve. It is some kind of game for that night. The kids opened their gift this year to see that they had Shrek Carnival Games for the Wii. We spent some time competing with each other. Then the little ones went to bed.
DISCLAIMER: NONE OF THE FOLLOWING PICTURES INVOLVE ALCOHOL. IT IS ONLY SPARKLING GRAPE JUICE!! Of course I say that jokingly, but after seeing the pictures, you might wonder.

We always have sparkling grape juice and homemade donuts to toast to the New Year. I try to make it a time where we talk about the previous year and look forward to the New Year, but they don't take it completely seriously yet. Oh, well, maybe some day they will. For now, we have fun.
Gathered around the table
A toast to all that God did in 2009 and looking forward to 2010
Forget the glass
My silly boy
Who raised these kids, anyway?
The fun just keeps coming
A little lady thinking about her year
Seriously, is there anything a boy will not make into a gun?
The evening was fun. At midnight we watched the fireworks on Pikes Peak from the girls' bedroom window. Welcome, 2010!!!

It is the Simplest Things

The day after Christmas, I went out to get some wrapping paper for next year. We totally wiped out our supply this year, and wrapping gifts for 8 people uses a lot of paper. So, I went out to get the deals.

You would have thought it was Christmas all over again for Isaiah. He played with those rolls for quite a while, "building my house," as he said it. He just got new toys for Christmas, but they did not compare to the fun of wrapping paper rolls. You gotta love it!
Isaiah in his "house" he built
"Building"
Another creation that stretched across our house