The truth as I know it:

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life. But those who make their journey home across time & miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God's very own hands. ~~~ Kristi Larson

Thursday, December 31, 2009

To Take Advantage or Not to Take Advantage?

My mom reads my blog.  And she loves me.  And as luck would have it, she's coming to visit today.  AND as procrastination would have it, my tree is still up.  :)  Guess who is offering to take down my tree for me!  There is no end to the amount of things guilt will make a mother do for her children.  I used to feel bad about stuff like this... and I sort of still do feel bad about it, truth be known, because my mom does ALOT of stuff for me.  She is babysitting tonight while we go out for New Years, she does my laundry when she comes in, plays tirelessly with my kids, buys oodles of clothes for Meg every season and sends the boys little surprises in the mail on a regular basis.  In general, I'm still the spoiled child I have always been when it comes to my mom, even though I am far from that child in every other aspect of my life.  But the question is, do I feel bad enough to try to get it down before she gets here so she won't have to do it?  Well, probably not!  :)  Maybe that is something the two of us can do together, actually.  It will definitely be easier to do that than do it by myself.  I know I am whining alot about this tree thing, but seriously, I'd rather drink hot water to wash down a mouthful of dirt than take this tree down! Argh! 

Gwen gave me the COOLEST shirt for Christmas.  On the back it has a quote from Mother Teresa that I have always loved.  It says, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you can live as you wish."  Oh my, don't you just love that.  It has so many meanings.  It's obviously applicable to abortion.  But it's so applicable to orphans as well.  Isn't that truly what we choose when we turn our backs on what we know to be true?  We choose that those faces staring out at us from waiting children websites and TV screens will die, figuratively or literally, so that we can be comfortable.  I am excited to wear the shirt.  Gwen said it was destined for me because I always "bring it with a sledgehammer".  I think that's her way of telling me I could be a little more subtle in my approach! :)

I hope you all have a great New Year!  I'm looking forward to my mom being here. I know it will be a hard weekend for her since she lost her mom, and my Granma, this time last year.  I'm glad we'll be together.  It's the circle of life, but it seems like after a year anniversary, things are always a little bit easier.  

Have a great New Years!  Happy 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

If you really love me....

I hope you all had a very very Merry Merry Christmas.  And I hope that you are looking forward to a fab new year!  I always get a little melancholy about the old year leaving.  I won't go into all the deep seated psyche that goes into my "fears", but I get a little paranoid that the new year will hold something tragic.  I have not had a year that I was ever super happy to say goodbye to.  Last year, this fear was proven out when my beloved Granma died on January 2.  So I think I don't like the new year because I always know in the back of my head that "this could be the year that ...."  Anyway, that's waaaaaay to deep and dark for this post.  You can explore my dark side some other time.

What I really want to ask is WON'T SOMEONE OUT THERE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come over and take down my Christmas decorations?  Seriously!  If you love me, you will!  It's this time each year that I question why in the world I thought it was a good idea to get out ALL the tubs of decorations or why I thought it would be fun to add a few new ones to the collection.  Seriously?  I think next year I will buy a live tree, buy some red and green plastic balls at the dollar store, and throw the whole thing out to the curb the day after Christmas.  It helps me really understand something I never liked or understood as a child.  When I was a kid, my parents had a fake tree that had been flocked.  It had blue glass balls on it with maybe blue or white lights, I can't remember, I just know it was a monochrome homage to Elvis and 1976!  Every year, that tree came out of the attic on December 24.  We removed the sheet that had been protecting it for the other 363 days of the year and plugged that puppy in.  On December 26, the sheet went back on and up it went to await it's two day appearance the following year.  Sort of funny now, when I think about it.  And on December 26th, I TOTALLY get it.  It's always amazing to me how the decorations that looked so homey and ethereal at midnight on December 25, magically transform themselves to JUNK and clutter overnight and I can't wait to not look at them for a few months.

So.... if you love me, and surely someone out there does.... you will come over and take down all my decorations.  You might even organize them when you are in the attic.... if you really really love me.  I'll make you a sandwich and an ice cold coca-cola! :)  Pretty please!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another Proud Parenting Moment, Brought to you by....


Last night, the Hollis family was hosting a Parent's Night Out to benefit Reece's Rainbow. They are raising money for a family who is adopting Evangeline.  The cutest little girl you have ever seen.  When we dropped the kids off, three of my four were totally fine with joining in the fun in the playroom.  There were games, dolls, Wii, and music.  Kid heaven, in other words.  But ONE of my children was having none of it.  He did not want to stay and he had a giant fit to prove it.  For a full 45 minutes, we tried to get him happy.  Finally, we left with him screaming his head off.

I called on our way out of the neighborhood to see if he was doing okay and I could hear him in the background screaming at the top of his lungs, "I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO HER ON THE PHONE!!!!"  Well, okay then.

The comedy is that Melanie said after we left, he bolted out the door.  Chappy looked at Mel and said, "He's gone!"  Chappy ran out the door after him and said he might not have caught him except that Connor had on his gorilla feet house shoes and he had stopped to take them off so he could run faster.  I wish I could have seen Chappy bringing Connor back in, most likely kicking and screaming!  :)  It's a fine parenting moment when your child embarrasses you in front of people who have well behaved children.  Luckily, the rest of my kiddos were apparently on their best behavior because Melanie said she enjoyed having them.

Caleb finally won Connor over by letting him play with their little dog, Trudy.  So at least they knew the way to the boys heart!

And to assuage my horror, I needed to get a fix of something that I am actually good at (since parenting and baking don't seem to be the reason God put me here.)  So we brought this little foster fellow home today!  Have you ever seen anything so cute?

That's Joey with Connor and my niece.  He's so darn precious!

Yes, I know he's wearing a sweater.  Yes, I know I think it's really silly when dogs wear clothes.  But he's only 10 weeks old and it's so funny to me to see him in it that I can't bear to take it off of him.  Though I probably should, but I can't help myself.  I've never had a dog in my house this small.  Vince wasn't even this little when he was 6 weeks old.  Joey is some sort of Chihuahua mix, but he's every ounce of precious! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This is why I don't bake... among other things!

I watch alot of cooking shows.  I love the food network.  Love Giada.  Love Rachel.  Love Emeril.  Love Iron Chef.  Once in a while when I watch Giada (for some reason, she always inspires me to believe I can actually do this...) I will get the bright idea that I can come up with some fabulously tasty culinary creation. Remember the Butternut Squash Debacle?  Well I do!

So for those of you who wanted to know what  Santa cake is, I think you better read this first.  I can share the recipe if you promise to keep it in the family! :)

This is our Santa cake.  I know he looks a little messy.  Believe me, it's an issue I struggle with.  I didn't actually want to let the kids help me decorate him because I wanted him to look perfect.  But I thought that would be really really ridiculous.  So Connor did all the red parts! Which also meant that some of the white got a little messed up too.  But that's not the reason I don't bake.

 See this big crack between the two halves of my Santa.  See all the frosting that is supposed to be holding him together?  See how it has all poured out onto the tray instead of holding him together like it was supposed to?  Yeah, that's because I always take the shortcut.  I decided frosting would surely hold him together as well as Chocolate Ganache (like the recipe called for.)  Right?  Wrong!

This is our elf attacking the cake overnight.  Just thought I'd share that SOMEONE got some joy from the cake.

This is how we found the cake this morning.... you can't tell very well, but there are alot of sections of the cake that are missing their frosting... because Vince... the dog..... stood on his hind legs and licked him clean this morning.  At least all the parts Vince could reach.  Remind me again why I didn't get a teacup poodle?

Anyway, I just wanted you all to know that every time I enter the kitchen, I am reminded again why it's been six months since I last attempted anything closely related to homemaking.  Remember the exploded baked potatoes incident?  Seriously!

Oh yeah... as for the recipe for the Santa.  You have to run down to Willi@ms S0n0m@ and get a santa pan.  The recipe is on the back of the cover.  Or if you're like me and you like to take shortcuts, you can use two boxed cake mixes.  I will take both boxes, by the way.  And icing cannot be substituted for chocolate ganache.  Just in case you were wondering!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm Baaaaack!

What do you do with a sick day? Why, publish two blog posts, of course.

We woke up this morning at 4:37 AM to a sick little girl with a fever.  This is the first fever she's had since she came home from St. Petersburg.  That's over 17 months without an illness.  Let's here it for the hearty girls in the family!  :)

So in addition to sitting on the couch watching every episode of Dora and Diego ever created, we also built a roaring fire.  Daddy came home for lunch to bring us some eggs.  We needed the eggs so we could do this:

We wanted to do this so that we could then do this:

And while we're waiting for our Santa cake to finish cooking, Connor decided it would be a good idea for me to try to photograph him doing some of his most popular stunts.

Sorry about the lighting and the blur in these photos, I just can't work up the energy to edit them.  Give me a break already.... I'm making a cake for heaven's sake.  I built a fire.  I lit some candles.  I can only do so many domestic "mother of the year" things in one day or my system will go into overload and the whole thing might short circuit.

Right now the kids are watching Diego and you know how he wants you to repeat everything a whole bunch of times?  Well, they keep saying llama and I keep saying "What?"  And then I realize they aren't actually saying "mama".  :)

Okay, back to domestic insanity tranquility.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Fun

You may have noticed that I am under contruction.... I was having alot of trouble with getting my photos to post right, so I am changing things up a bit.  It was time for a change anyway.  Why not, I have SOOOO much time on my hands to be changing up the blog.

Today Meg had her Christmas program at school.  I couldn't even tell you what she sang, Connor and I were too busy waving at her.  But I got it all on video and hopefully I can figure out how to upload it soon.... as soon as I find the right cord.

This photo really has nothing to do with Christmas, I just can't resist how cute she is! :)

Liam asked my dad for a cowboy hat for Christmas.  Guess what he got?  :)

Look at this outfit.  My dad gave Connor cowboy boots.  Also the only thing on his list.  How do you like them with those fancy plaid Pippers?  Nifty, don't you think?

This is Connor after his little Christmas concert.

Reilly (my niece) and Meg after the Christmas singing.  Gorgeous girlies!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Got any good suggestions?

I am really desperately in need of a great book.  I have read alot of stuff recently that maybe broadened my perspective or changed my point of view, educated me on a topic that I most likely had hoped never to be educated on, or in general, was probably to my betterment, but maybe not to my entertainment.  I have been feeling some major writers block lately on the blog and I think I need some serious inspiration.

SOO.... please tell me what book you've ready lately that you LOVED!  What is the best book you've ever read?  I am listing my top few books in case you haven't read these, they are must-reads if you're a reader:

1.  The Poisonwood Bible
2.  The Twilight Series (I know, how can I still consider myself a serious reader?)
3.  Ahab's Wife
4.  The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
5.  Crazy Love

So... there you have it... some good suggestions to dig into for the Holiday.  Please share your suggestions... I'm in a dry spell.


Thursday, December 10, 2009


Is anyone else out there totally exhausted already?  I was complaining only two weeks ago that I had no parties to attend... now I have one like every other night from now through December 23.  The 23rd!  Seriously, that's practically Christmas.  By the way, Kristine pointed out that this might have come across as saying I'm popular... it's not that.  I just hang out with popular people (like Gwen) who are nice enough to include me in their revelry! :)

Coming from a "blended" family (isn't that the PC term for divorced parents these days?) I have a marathon Christmas season.  The unwrapping extravaganza starts this weekend with my dad's visit.  It's always a super easy visit though.  He and his wife get the kids one toy each.  He brings his step-son and his wife with them and the six adults and my four kids go out to lunch at Famous Dave's (same place every year.)  They bring their grand-dog (a Westie) and it's a riot because this dog travels with a diaper bag, bed, bowls, etc. for a DAY TRIP!  I guess that's the sort of thing I did for my dog before I had kids too.  Honestly, I look back and laugh that I actually said to someone I couldn't ever imagine loving a child more than I loved  my dog.  HA!  As soon as kids came along, the dog was a second class citizen.  Anyway, I'm off track (again.... oh look, Kristine, there's a chicken!)

So.... let the merriment begin.  And just to let you in on another little piece of the absurdity that is my life... I had a hang-nail last month, that I bit off with my teeth.  You know how you can never exactly get a hang nail all the way off with your teeth and you end up "tearing" it a little too short and it gets sore, etc.?  Well, that happened to me and I didn't think that much about it.  But it never stopped hurting.  In fact, it started getting more and more sore.  Then it started to swell.  Then it got hot and red.  Then the part right next to my nail turned WHITE and started "weeping".  Yuck!  So... only ONLY I could get a staph infection from a hang nail that I am now taking anti-biotics for... seriously people...

1 Peter 4:8
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Are these things sweeping the nation?

Or it is just our tiny town?

Because around here, the Elf on the Shelf is a blessing and a curse.  He gets my kids out of bed in the morning like you wouldn't believe. Seriously, sleepy heads that are normally the last to rise and very cranky even then, seem to spring out of bed with enthusiasm to see where this little dude has landed in the night.  AND, the children are constantly telling each other "be careful, the elf is watching."  Wow, maybe he should just live here year-round!

But the curse?  Well, when you're a sleepy mom who sometimes falls into bed before the kids are actually asleep (they are all tucked in, but I have a "roamer" who finds about 20 reasons a night to get up before finally falling asleep), it's hard to make sure that Carl (that's our Elf's name) is actually on the move.  And the elves are very mischievous (sometimes they TP the house, sometimes they leave "gifts" and sometimes they get into stuff.)  So to keep up with all the elfin activity is nutty.  Plus... it's sort of an elf competition of sorts now, at the bus stop, we have to discuss who's elf did what and then I get chastised if our elf isn't silly enough, or get the long faces!  Grrrr!

So, do you have an elf?  I think we need a support group!  :)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Permission to Hope

I don't often read Angie Smith's blog, Bring the Rain.   But I went there this week to get the link to String of Pearls for a friend who just suffered the loss of her baby on Thanksgiving Day.   When I read the title of her latest post "Permission to Hope", it really settled into my bones.  I thought it was so fitting for Advent.  This is not why Angie titled her post, it had nothing to do with Advent, but that's what it made me think of.  And then today I was talking to one of my dear friends and she read a passage to me that said as Christians, Advent is a time when we HOPE for "the invasion of holiness."  Let that settle into your bones for a moment.  Think of what an INVASION looks like.  For me, it brings to mind someone storming into my home, an army overtaking a city and taking control, ants moving into my house in the thousands!  That is an invasion in my imagination. I can be excited to wait for, to hope for even, an INVASION of HOLINESS!  Ummmm, just imagine it!  Angels storming the city.  Legions of saints overthrowing the darkness and triumphing over all the accepted evils we fight against every day!  Imagine witnessing the glowing heavenly hosts running in, swords drawn, and seating "holiness" in a reign of power!

Webster defines hope this way:
hope is a feeling that what is wanted will happen; desire accompanied by expectation!  A reason for hope.  A person or thing on which one may base hope, reliance, to EXPECT!  YES! YES! YES!  Isn't that Jesus!?!?!?!  An EXPECTATION that some day, this vision will be realized and holiness will prevail?  All will be set right?

All day this theme of hope has been running through my head.  I think little Hope Hollis is hope personified.  Talk about permission to hope, a reason to hope!  And also, isn't Advent a reason to hope?  A season to look forward with expectation that what we wait for (hope for) as Christians will SURELY come to pass!  A day when there will be no more orphans, a day when widows will not be lonely, a day when all will walk, all will laugh, all will love, and all will have peace.

So... for the month of December, I have decided to focus on JOY and HOPE!  I want to embrace the true spirit of Advent, for my family, for my children in particular, and for myself.  I can't forget that there are bone deep pains out there that stir me to the core (orphans, poverty, hunger), but for this season of preparing for the birth of our SAVIOR, I have permission to hope, permission to rejoice.  Permission to know that though these things are a reality on this fallen earth, where darkness rules, my LORD already overcame all of this and we wait in JOYFUL hope for the coming of our Savior.  It's an anticipation that what we wait for WILL happen.  And it will be an absolute INVASION of holiness like no one can imagine!

And since I'm turning a significant number (ending in zero) this month, I think a big dose of hope is just what the doctor ordered.... hope I don't croak, hope I don't get any more cellulite, hope I can keep the next size pants at bay... hope my kids don't kill me... hope my hairdresser doesn't leave town (cause after 15 years with him, he's known me as long as Brian, and I need them both more than ever)... hope gravity will lose it's affect on me.... well, let's just say there's LOTS to hope for.  You get the point! :)

John 16:31-32
"I'm not abandoned.  The Father is with me.  I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.  In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart!  I've conquered the world."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Raising Successful Children

I know it's been a long time since I've posted.  And I have a couple more families to highlight in ways you can give.... but my husband sent me this e-mail this morning and I thought it was too good to pass up.  I have no idea where it came from, but the author is credited to the full in the lines below, so please know these are NOT my words.  But they are my new perspective.  I find it so hard to parent children without applying the world's standard of success to them.  I find it hard not to measure myself as a parent by how much my children "shine" on the world stage.  And therein lies the lesson and the devotion in this following message for me... parenting my children is not about ME!  (I know, a lesson I'm continually learning.)  It's not about how I look or feel as a person, it's about them and steering them toward the Lord, whether that looks like a rock star or a janitor, if they are in the roles God has for them, then I have done my job as a mom.  I think Lysa says it way better than I am....

I Don't Want to Raise Successful Children

Lysa TerKeurst

 "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn
from it."

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)


I don't want to raise successful children.  That's a shocking thing to read,
and a shocking thing for a mother to type.  So, let me clarify.

I used to define success according to my child's report card.  Good grades
and academic achievement would surely equal a good child with great
potential in this world.  But then several of my children wound up being
average students with average grades.  Though we carted them off to tutors
and spent many a late night at the kitchen table helping them, they remained
average.  And I remained concerned and frustrated.

One report card day I found myself facedown in the fibers of my carpet
crying and wondering, "Where have I gone wrong as a mom?"

I dug into Scriptures.  I begged God for wisdom and discernment.  I prayed
for God's perspective with each of my kids.  Finally, one day it dawned on
me - what if I simply chose to embrace the natural bent of each of my kids
as God's way to protect them and keep them on the path toward His best plans
for their lives?

What if my A student needs academic success to prepare her for God's plans
while my average to below-average student needs to be steered away from a
more academic future?  What if my sports star kid needs that athletic
excellence for his future assignments by God, but my benchwarmer kid is
being protected from getting off course by her lack in this area?

And that's when it finally dawned on me.  My job isn't to push success for
my kids.  My job as a parent is to recognize the unique way God created each
child and point them to Jesus at every turn along their journey toward
adulthood.  Yes, I want my kids to learn and thrive and grow up educated,
but it's not a flaw in me or them if they don't have straight A report cards
and trophy cases full of sports medals.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is
old he will not turn from it" (NIV).

I am challenged to ponder these words, "... in the way he should go."  Are
we training our kids that the "way he should go" is to chase worldly
achievement or to chase God?  Whatever they learn to chase as a child, they
will chase as adults.  Therefore, we must be challenged to honestly assess
the way we are pointing them to go.

My daughter, Hope, is one of my average students.  She has also warmed many
a bench in the sports she's tried, and can always be found hiding on the
back row of the stage during school concerts.  Using the world's benchmarks
for achievement, Hope wouldn't be seen as a child positioned for success.
But God...

This past January, my 15 year old Hope, shocked me when she announced she
wanted to go to Ethiopia with some missionary friends of ours and live in
the remote African bush for the summer.  Yes, she may not have trophies and
straight A report cards but she does have a heart of gold.  And because
she's not entrenched in sports and academic pursuits that could have created
obligations for her summer, she was free to go to Africa.  Free to chase God
in a really big way.

One of the first e-mails she sent me from Ethiopia read, "Mom, I've fallen
in love with the AIDS orphanage children.  They rushed at me when I held my
arms out and I tried with all my might to hold all 30 of them at once.  I 

love it here."

Now, don't get me wrong.  I do expect Hope to return to her studies this
fall, give 100% effort, and finish her high school career having done her
very best.  She will most likely then go to college.  But she probably won't
be delivering the valedictorian address or wearing the honors cords and
medals.  She'll be the one with a vision of a dying AIDS orphan pressing
against her heart ready to chase God's plans to the ends of the earth.

So back to my original statement, I don't want to raise successful children.
It's true, I don't.  Though Hope's sister coming behind her is an A student
and can always be found on the front row of school performances - we don't
chase after success for her either.  I trust God that she needs those things
in her life for the plans He's unfolding in her life.  We train with that
bent in mind.  But, we don't chase it.  Just like Hope, we point her in the
direction of God at every turn and pray like crazy.

I stand by what I said and I'll say it again, I don't want to raise
successful children.  Because--- raising God-honoring adults who will set
the world on fire for Christ is just so much more rewarding.

Dear Lord, being a mom is a really tough job.  Please help me, teach me and
show me how to define success for my kids. In Jesus' Name, Amen.