Saturday, May 28, 2011

An anniversary surprise....

Q and I just celebrated five years of wedded bliss! We decided to celebrate a day early on Thursday, since Fridays are always so busy for us. We all got ready early on that morning, so that we could have a few hours to ourselves before Q had to go to work. We took A to the babysitter's house and then we were off for a date--all alone (it doesn't happen much when you have kids as many of you know:).

Our first stop was Starbuck's. I tried something different (I usually get a green tea frap). I got a frap that had a mix of strawberries n' cream and their new coconut cream flavor. Toasted coconut was sprinkled on top of the whipped cream. It was delicious and definitely one I'll have again.

We drove to downtown Denver and parked. Q took me for a walk and led me to this store:

I was so excited! Being a frugal shopper, I scoured the clearance racks and found some things to try on. He told me I could choose a few things. It was fun to try on brand-new items in a store like this (which hardly ever happens since most of my clothing comes from thrift stores). I found a couple of tops and a nice pair of jeans that fit nicely.

While I was in the dressing room, my phone rang. It was a caseworker who said that she had a baby for us and asked if she could bring her to our home. You see, the day before we had heard about Little S and through an unusual circumstance, didn't arrive that day. So we prayed for God's will to be done, and now we were hearing she was coming. She and Q arranged the way we would get her. Since we were in the area, we decided to go to the clinic where she was being checked by the doctor. We grabbed lunch and a couple of treats from the Cheesecake Factory and headed to see her.

We immediately fell in love with this nine-month-old baby. We drove to pick A up from the sitter's house and she was surprised that Little S was finally with us. The rest of the day was so fun and the two girls got along well. But then, the next morning, we found out that she was going to leave us because of the decision the judge had made at a court hearing. Both A and I cried about it; I think she took it the hardest. An hour later, she was gone.

We sometimes wonder why things like this happen, but God always has the best in store for all who are involved in the situation. I took A to go see her mom and then I talked on the phone to family about what had happened. I knew I had more tears to shed so that's what I did. I was so tired and discouraged about it. Why would a decision like that be made so quickly? Inside I prayed that Little S would be safe. I went to get myself lunch at a deli because even though I wasn't really hungry, my body needed it. As I was paying the cashier, my phone rang. It was Q. He asked me to be in a place where I could hear him, so I went outside. He said that the caseworker had called and asked if we'd be willing to take her back. I couldn't believe it! Whoever took Little S back had found out some more things from her living situation that were not safe. So, the judge ordered her back into foster care.

Yesterday evening, Little S came back to us. We don't know how long she'll be with us, but for now, we're enjoying cute baby feet....

....and the most adorable head of curls!

We're grateful for another young life we can be a help to in the days ahead. Please keep us in your prayers as we get adjusted to life with two kids.:)

This was an anniversary I will never forget...through the tears and prayers, we went to bed overjoyed with what God did for us.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Her long-awaited dress

A few weeks ago, I showed A a picture of a pillow case dress. I was asked by a friend at church to make a couple of them and it was finally time to make them. A asked if I could make one for her, too. I found an old pillowcase (that had some pink in it, of course!) to use. I set all the pillowcases aside and got busy with other things. But--she knew a dress was coming her way some time soon.

Not long after that, A said something to me that was so cute. I was reading some crafty blogs and she peered over my shoulder. She saw a picture of a little girl wearing a handmade dress. She asked me what it was all about. I said, "Her mommy made her that dress." Then she said, "Like you're making me one." Of course my heart melted. ;) I've always wanted to make dresses for my daughter, and this opportunity to make one for my foster daughter is special to me.

This past Saturday, I set to work on the three dresses and A was so excited! She even helped me figure out where to put the trim and to make a letter "a" for the dress.

Adding the rick-rack to the top and bottom of the dress was a special touch.

She really likes that appliqued "A" that stands for her name.

She could not wait to wear it, so she wore it to church on Sunday. She enjoyed all of the compliments from everyone at church, too. I loved making this dress for her; it was something I always wanted to do. And I know that she'll remember it, too. It makes my heart smile.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A's creativity

I have been delighted to see A enjoy crafting and baking as much as I do. Sometimes, we put something together using a book's instructions, but there have been a few times when she comes up with something on her own.

I was going to put a large oatmeal box into the recycling box when she stopped me and said, "Can I make a baby bed out of that?"

She came up with the design and I helped her with the cutting and taping. We were both pleased with the end result.

We cut off one side of the box so that her babies could rest snugly inside. She wasn't satisfied with just a regular bed--she wanted one that rocked, too. So, we took part of that extra piece and curved it to fit the bottom.

She has been a great mommy as she puts her babies down for naps in that crib--her very own creation.

I absolutely love it.

Our growing garden (and chickens!)

We have had so much rain here lately, which has been a big help for the garden. We may be stuck indoors some times, but we're grateful that things are growing well outside.

Here's a look at some of the plants that are growing....

First up--the radishes (hope the bunnies don't get them first!)

The strawberry plants are beginning to flower. We are sooo excited that our berries will be here soon. A and I have been talking about recipes we'd like to make using the strawberries.

Snow peas are great in salads, so we'll be able to enjoy some soon.

The gooseberry plant is really growing fast.

We've been watching the rhubarb lately and decided that it needed to be harvested soon. So, today, A and I went outside and brought a bunch inside to clean, chop, and put in the freezer.

Yummy rhubarb for lots of great desserts this summer!

This first picture of Dorothy and Turkey Lurky was taken by A herself. I just love it! Our little chicks are becoming full-grown hens.

The four of them stick together as they search for bugs and plants to eat.

They have discovered that there is fun all around our property. We don't have the fence up yet, so we need to watch them closely, especially in the front yard. They like to walk around on the front porch, too.

Here, Mary Poppins stops to stare at A while she claps her hands. As they have come closer to the house, it has reminded me of the Minerva Louise books. I just read the first one to A yesterday and hope to borrow the others from the library soon. Minerva Louise is a chicken who likes to explore and ends up in all sorts of places. It's really cute!

How's your garden growing so far? I can't wait to begin harvesting more things in the near future.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Celebration story time

This month was my last to do story time for the year. I had a great time and will miss the kids until school starts up again in the fall. The theme for this story time was celebrations, so it was fun coming up with things I could do to fit this theme. I decided to do a book about a mother for Mother's Day and then focus the rest on birthdays.

Before I began, I placed this hat on my head:

I thought it was pretty cute! We sang the "Hello Time" song, then I pulled out a special friend who I have brought out before--Mr. Monkey!

He had on a birthday hat, so he was ready to celebrate, too!

This first book called, Hazel's Amazing Mother, by Rosemary Wells, is such a cute story. Hazel's Mother does so many things for her, and at the end of the tale, shows her courage in a way that demonstrates loves to her daughter. So sweet....

Then I did a finger play about cakes:

A delicious cake

Mix the batter, stir the batter (stirring motion)
Shake some flour in. (shake one hand)
Mix the batter, stir the batter (stirring motion)
Place it in a tin. (pour into pan)
Sprinkle little raisins on, (sprinkling motion)
Pop it in to bake. (put "cake" in oven)
Open wide the oven door,
And out comes a cake! (open oven)

Bunny Cakes, by Rosemary Wells, is another cute and funny book about Max and Ruby. They set out to make cakes for their grandmother and surprise her at the end.

Then we played a balloon game where the kids had to hit their balloon in the air and try not to let it fall on the ground. We played a second round where we sang the Alphabet Song while we did it.

I read a poem called, "The End" by A.A. Milne. It's one of my favorites!

The End

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.

But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six now forever and ever.

The last book was called The Secret Birthday Message, by Eric Carle. It is a simple story about a boy who has to find his birthday present by following clues.

For our last activity, I used these adorable cupcake cutouts that I purchased at the Dollar Tree for an alphabet game. I wrote a letter on each one, then put some velcro on the back to attach to the flannel board. I left several letters out, so the object of the game was that they had to figure out what letter came next. If they did, then I placed it on the board and put a real birthday candle behind it.

When we were done, we sang, "Happy Birthday" to everyone. Then, I brought Mr. Monkey out again and we sang, "The Good-bye Song" to end our time together.

We had fun at our celebration! Hope this gives you some ideas to use for a story time or learning activities at home.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Scripture for kids to memorize

I was excited to see a post at Katey's blog, Having Fun at Home. She shares a list of Scripture passages that have word pictures in them, which are easy for kids to memorize. (To find the post, go to her blog archive for April of this year, and you'll find it easily. I tried linking to it first, but was unable to do so).

I really like her list; here are a few of them:

Psalm 23--The Lord is my Shepherd; He leads me beside the still waters...

Ephesians 6--The armor of God is described.

Hebrews 4:12--God's Word is a sharp sword.

Psalm 51:10--Create in me a clean heart.

John 8:12--Jesus is the light of the world.

I've been thinking about beginning this list with A during our breakfast or lunch time. As she has become more knowledgeable about the Bible through our teachings at home and church, I think she is more ready to do this. The time she is with us is so valuable. We know that if she does leave us, than the things that have been taught will stay with her, including God's Word.

Check out that post today. I hope that it will be a help for you to teach your children, grandchildren, and even the children you work with at church and/or school.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105

(This is another verse to put on your list(if it isn't on Katey's already--can't remember!:). It was one of the first verses I remember learning as a child because it was posted on my Christian school's hallway. It has stuck with me all of these years....)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can't-Leave-Alone Bars

Are ya looking for a new recipe to try using a cake mix? If so, I've got the recipe for you. As A and I were searching for a yummy dessert to serve to some friends, we came across this one in Taste of Home's Fast Fixes with Mixes Cookbook. These brownies are called Can't-Leave-Alone Bars for a good reason--you really can't leave them alone after you've tried one. They are addicting!

Can't-Leave-Alone Bars

1 package (18-1/4 ounces) white cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter, cubed

In a bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs and oil. With floured hands, press two-thirds of the mixture into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x2-in. baking pan. Set remaining cake mixture aside. in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the milk, chocolate chips and butter. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds; stir. microwave 45-60 seconds longer or until chips and butter are melted; stir until smooth. Pour over crust. Drop teaspoonfuls of remaining cake mixture over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before cutting. Yield: 3 dozen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

(Almost) home made birthday invitations

Someone in our home is turning five in less than three weeks and she is soooo excited! A has been talking about her Tinkerbell birthday party almost since the day she came to live with us. So, we've been talking and planning, and now we're getting started on putting it all together.

A couple of days ago, we worked on the invitations. We bought a couple sets of note cards from the Dollar Tree that would be a good base to what we wanted to do.

Since Tinkerbell and her fairy friends live among the flowers, we decided to do a lot with that (as well as butterflies, too) for the party.

This is what the cards looked like when we bought them:

And here is what it looked like after we added a few things:

It took us a while to figure out what we wanted the front of the card to say. A settled on the phrase above (her name is erased for privacy). The paper was cut out using decorative scissors. Then, A placed a fairy sticker on each one.

On the inside of each card, I stamped a "You're Invited" stamp that included the when, where, time, for....and all I had to do was fill in the blanks and write my own rsvp. The butterflies shown above were stamped by A on the other side.

It was a semi-homemade card and we both liked it at the end. She helped make them which makes it very special. Now, we just have to pass them out and see who comes to our little fairy party.:)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My birthday

I had a great time celebrating my birthday this week with my little family--Q and A. They kept everything a secret, so it was fun anticipating what was next. First, they took me to The Egg and I, one of my all-time favorite restaurants that we don't go to very often. It is becoming a birthday tradition for me.

Next, they took me to the Crocs store in Boulder to pick out a new pair of shoes. With all of their new styles, I was excited to see what I could get. I chose a pair of their wrapped Mary Janes. They are so comfy and cute!

Then, we went to Ben and Jerry's for some ice cream. Of course, it was chocolate, but I also tried a sampling of a flavor called, Late Night Snack. You have to try it because it is so different. If you like sweet and salty combos, this ice cream is for you. I don't know if I'd try it again as the chocolate-covered potato chips left a weird after taste in my mouth!;)

We also went to a bookstore and had fun looking at so many books. I was glad that they were able to take me out a little early on my birthday. Fridays are busy because I take A to her biological family visits an hour away. But, I managed to still enjoy my birthday yesterday by doing a few fun things by myself, and later with A.

I had lunch with Q at Noodles and Company, another favorite spot. Then during my alone time, I went to Starbuck's for my free birthday drink!

I know the color looks weird, but trust me, it is good. It's a green tea frap with a shot of raspberry--yum!

After A's visit, I picked her up and headed to Johnson's Corner for dinner and dessert.

Because it was an early dinner, we weren't too hungry. We did manage to eat part of a burger, a few fries and onion rings.

I usually don't eat onion rings, so I told A I was going to try one. She said I should dip it in ketchup, so I did. It wasn't too bad. I thought it would make a great picture, so I held my onion ring in front of the camera. As I did, she held hers up. After taking the photo she said, "My onion ring smiled." (Do you see it smiling, too?) :)

I told Q before our fun outing that I thought it would be neat if our waitress could put a birthday candle on a cinnamon roll for me. He said it would be hilarious, so I knew I had to ask. Sure enough, the waitress said, "Ya, we've done that before." Before long, several of the employees came out with my birthday roll and sang to me. It was so funny!

You've gotta see a close up of these "world-famous" cinnamon rolls.....

We ate a few bites, and packed the rest up (along with the rest of our meal and a roll for Q). We knew we could enjoy this scrumptious roll the next day, too.

After all that eating out, I feel like I gained a few pounds. But it's okay, cuz' birthdays come once a year, and this one was a good one to remember. :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mother's Day cupcakes

When I saw these gorgeous flower cupcakes at Raising Homemakers, I knew this would be the perfect thing to do for all of the moms at church (click here for a complete tutorial). They are called "mum-cakes" as they resemble mums.

A and I worked in two different segments (taking a break in between to spend time at the library) to make these beauties. We spent three hours on twenty-one cupcakes, and that doesn't include the baking time. I used a cake mix (which I rarely do) to speed up the time. I also made a quick and simple batch of buttercream frosting, but this can also be purchased to help save time. The end result was astonishing! I was so glad that A really stuck with it and had lots of fun helping me put these together.

Take a look....

The petals are made out of mini marshmallows that are cut in half and dipped in colored sugar. This is the most time-consuming part of it, so grab a friend or your kiddos and have fun doing this.:) The frosting acts like the glue as you put the petals on working from the outside in. And just a note about might want to frost a handful at a time as the frosting hardens as it sits out.

Most of the cupcakes were a solid color, but as we were getting close to the end, we made a few that had a few colors in them. They still looked so pretty!

All of the moms enjoyed their special cupcake after church. I even got to enjoy one later as A let me know that I could get one too because I was a mom (so cute!).

These cupcakes could be used for any spring or summer celebration. Just make sure you plan ahead and know that these will take a while. The end result is worth it!:)

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Mother for Choco

I recently read a book I came across in the children's section at the library. It's called A Mother for Choco and it tells the story of a bird who is looking for a mother. He finds one named Mrs. Bear and they do all sorts of things together. At the end of the story, we find out that Mrs. Bear has taken in other children as her own. She has become their mother.

This book tugged on my heart a bit because of the life-stage I am in. As we have had a few children in our home through foster care, I can see myself as Mrs. Bear. I am taking care of them, having fun with them and nurturing them. Big Brother and Little Brother did see me as Mom but went home to their real mother after a short time. That time hurt so badly, and now a few months later, I still think of them as my kids and it hurts.

Then, almost two months ago, A came to be with us. She knows her real mother and sees her once a week. She sometimes calls me "Mommy Q", a name she made up for me a while back, but knows that I'm not her real mom. It's been a hard couple of weeks as she has been confused with the situation. Inside my heart, I know I'm a mom but sometimes don't think that I am (sometimes because of others' perceptions). Foster parents and other caregivers out there are moms and dads and love and take care of the children placed in their care.

So, yesterday was a day of mixed emotions for me. I wasn't sure if I should stand up when the mothers were acknowledged at church and given a flower. The little girl who we love so dearly already may not see me as her mom (and that's okay), but she did acknowledge this weekend that I was a mom. I got a few awesome notes from family that encouraged my heart. We had a good family day. We went out for lunch with a dear lady from church. We went to the lake and went fishing. We came back home and grilled hot dogs for dinner. Then A went to sleep.

I don't want to sound selfish or anything, but I wished for more. I wanted what lots of mothers get on this special day....the cards, flowers, chocolates, gifts, the acknowledgment on a more personal level. It sounds really weird, but perhaps when a child calls me "Mom" or when we've made it official by adopting it will be that. I am thankful to those who encouraged me and said I really was a mom to A. Like I said before...I know I'm a mom, but because of our unique situation, don't always feel like it.

So, why write all this after Mother's Day? Well, because it's still on my heart, and if you think of it, could use your prayers right now. And, I also wanted to encourage you to thank and acknowledge caregivers, foster parents, legal guardians, etc. on days like this. There are many of us who wish we could have biological children, but are going through the process of adoption. There are some, too, that give and give and give to children year after year unselfishly in different capacities. They are all parents, too.

I hope I didn't sound too weird, selfish, harsh, or anything. I know that Mother's Day is a sensitive topic to many women out there, too, for different reasons. I just hope by writing this I can be an encouragement, ask for prayer, and bring awareness to those who are not the "typical" mom or dad. We all love to be acknowledged, praised and awarded, don't we?:)

If you get a chance, read A Mother for Choco. It is such a cute and awesome story for kids of all ages.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Just wanted to wish all you moms out there a very happy mother's day. But--there is one mom who I'd like to brag on a bit, and that is my own mother, Debbie. She is one special lady and I'm so thankful for her. When I think of my mom, the virtuous woman from Proverbs 31 woman comes to mind. She works willingly with her hands to take care of others before herself. She's very creative, loving and selfless. I hope I can be that kind of mom some day.

When I was a teenager, I wrote lots of poetry. I went through my file to find a poem that I wrote to my mom years ago. I'd like to share it with you all...

A Friend Waiting for Me (please do not reprint without permission)

At home,
There is a friend waiting for me,
Someone with a heart
Full of sweet charity.

There at home, in the kitchen
Is a friend waiting for me,
Someone with a heart
Full of sweet melody.

There in the kitchen, sitting in the chair
Is a friend waiting for me,
Someone with a heart
Full of sweet mercy.

There sitting in the chair is my mother,
A friend who has been waiting for me,
For a long time she has been there
Waiting to hear what my question would be.

Then with a shaky voice
I reply, "Mother, what shall I do?"
She answers in a small voice,
"Do what the Lord would want you to do."

She then shows me from the Word of God
The answer to my problem,
She reads the verses one by one
In a voice of peaceful solemn.

A moment later
She embraces me with her sweet charity,
As many tears
Run down my cheeks.

Anytime I need someone,
I can clearly see,
There is someone at home, in the kitchen,
Sitting in the chair,
My mother; a friend waiting for me.

May 11, 1990

Thank you, Mom, for your continued love and support all of these years. We love you!:)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baby clothes valance

Here's a cute and creative idea that I've been meaning to post for a while. I forgot about it until I was looking through my pictures and realized I hadn't shared it yet. A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law, Abigail, and daughter, Annalina, were in Colorado house hunting. We drove about an hour to meet them. We enjoyed looking at the homes and giving feedback as well.

One of the homes had the cutest valance in their laundry room. Abigail pointed it out to me, and I took a picture of it. The owner used baby clothes and put them through a curtain rod. What a neat way to remember your favorites and the little ones who wore them. This would also work with toddler clothes, too.

I love it--how about you?:)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gardening story time

My story time for last month was so much fun. It was neat to read stories and do activities about gardening. Here's what I did...

After singing our "Hello Time" song, I pulled out a puppet that starts off as a caterpillar and ends up as a butterfly (you just turn it inside-out!:). I read the following poem while I held my cute critter:

Little Caterpillar

There was a little caterpillar crawling all about
He worked and he worked without a doubt,
Wrapping himself in a snug cocoon.
Waiting and waiting, will it be soon?
Look, he's coming out, my oh my!
For now he's become a beautiful butterfly.

The first book I read was called Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stevens. It is a humorous story with a great lesson: "If you want to eat, you've got to work." It's also a Biblical principal to teach to kids. We shared it with A after we read this same book to her.

The next thing I did was share another poem called, "The Rain."

The Rain

Pitter-patter, raindrops,
Falling from the sky;
Here is my umbrella,
To keep me safe and dry.
When the rain is over,
And the sun begins to glow,
Little flowers start to bud,
And grow and grow and grow!

The next book I read was called, Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert. The story begins with a family planting the seeds, then harvesting it, then finally, putting all of the vegetables in a pot to make soup.

I made a game called Veggie Soup Letter Match. Using some felt and letter stickers, this activity was easy to put together. The kids had to match a lowercase letter to its uppercase letter. When they figured it out, they placed the veggies in a pot. When we were all done, I had a few kids take turns stirring our vegetable soup.

The last book I read was called, The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss. We all enjoyed this classic story of a boy who believed his carrot seed could really grow when others around him didn't think so.

The librarians had a pot with a fabric carrot inside. It was covered with a piece of brown cloth to represent soil. They let me use this to retell the story with the kids. I used a real carrot seed and let them see that up close, too.

At the end of the story time, we sang "The Good-bye" song together. We had a ton of fun and can't wait until this month's story time, which I'm currently working on.

Stay tuned for our final story time of the year. You won't want to miss this one! :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Spirit

A and I were invited to a spring banquet at another church this past Friday night. The theme was "Sweet, Sweet Spirit." As soon as we walked in, we noticed all of the colorful decorations everywhere. The ladies who decorated used the game, Candyland, as their source of inspiration. I was really impressed with it all, so I had to share it with you. You might be able to use these ideas for your next ladies banquet or a birthday party!

After we found a table to sit at, the first thing we noticed were the goodies at our place setting.

Circus animal cookies, M&M's, gum, bottled water, and a pencil (which was used for a couple of "candy" word games) were placed on top of a polka dot napkin. Each table also had a different colored table cloth. Candyland is all about colors, and this was just the beginning of it!

I really liked these neat place cards that were placed at each setting.

The program was placed inside our beautiful stemware.

The centerpiece held our dessert--sweet and colorful cupcakes. Not only did they look good, but they were scrumptious as well.

These giant pieces of candy hung over our tables. With some paper plates, construction paper, tissue paper and cellophane, these could be put together easily.

Colored construction paper lined the walls to make it look like the game board.

I loved these big game board pieces. They were close to three feet tall. Here's a close up of one of them...

Pretty cute, huh?

This is the first bulletin board which says the title of the banquet with colorful dots around it. A Candyland game board sits on the drink table underneath it.

The second bulletin board quoted the theme verse for the evening. The speaker spoke on bitterness, which is the opposite of having a sweet spirit. It was both a convicting and encouraging message. We had a super time with all of the girls and ladies there and hope to go again next year.:)