18 December 2010

a little family Christmas

We headed out to see some of Santa's reindeer last night. We had cocoa and cookies while we waited in line...Wilson didn't care to see this Santa up-close, so I hopped in the sleigh with Walker. Santa requested chocolate chip cookies and milk for Christmas eve. Wilson also wants to leave him some fudge... I am sure Santa will appreciate the fudge!
This morning we did our little family Christmas... The boys got to unwrap their three presents from us. Walker found the pickle on the tree so he got to open the first gift (there is a video of the pickle-search, maybe Brad will upload it later...) He was pretty excited...
And here's Wilson with his first gift... I am not really liking how old he looks here... His daddy picked out a special card for his DS so all his games are consolidated. He was pretty happy about it.
Walker was SO thrilled to get a fake lizard and a fake tank for it. I have to admit, I was a little worried that he would be disappointed, but he was SO giddy about it! I love his crazy Christmas wishes!
Wilson is so serious when unwrapping his gifts...
And here is Walker with his third gift, a put-together-take-apart-vehicle set, called "Motor Works."
Wilson got a Lego Architecture set... he says he wants to be an architect when he grows up. He wanted to put the Empire State Building together immediately. He and daddy got it done really quickly.

One (out of three- how sad is that?) of Walker's gifts was a duplicate of another puzzle he already had so we are going to donate that to a Toy Drive today. Brad is picking up the requested puzzle at the PX after he signs out on leave today. Oops.

Tonight we're having a little family Christmas dinner. I am attempting to make my first torte, a Lutz family favorite. I sure hope it turns out! We'll also be packing up so we can roll on out of here soon. Christmastime is officially underway... and its continuing until the 31st so that makes it extra special this year! =)

14 December 2010

adoption update

A couple folks have asked about an adoption update, so here it is.

We are waiting.

In so many ways, I feel like there is nothing to report.

And in other ways, I feel like there is so much going on, but little of it is at my level of understanding.

God is at work. He is teaching Brad and I (and the boys) a great deal about waiting with hope. He is teaching us about believing that His plans will bring about the most hope and best future for all parties involved. He is teaching us about the vast expanse of His plans and the smallness of our own.

On the practical side of things, our adoption packet is somewhere in the process of being approved locally and then being sent on to be approved by the state. At this point in time, I don't think anyone will call us to let us know exactly which stage our packet is at. Our social worker has told me to call and check in with her periodically.

So we pray. We invite others to pray with us. And we wait. And we hope. This season of advent holds a new sense of anticipation for us.

All the while, we are aware that as we pray, and wait, and hope; our child might be experiencing some hard things. I have moments that I am overcome with urgency to pray for our child. I admit, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what might be going on... but ever so patiently God has been working on my heart to stop figuring and just pray fervently for this little one.

This song is on my iPod shuffle, and always makes my eyes well up

(You might remember it from last winter. I posted it either here or on FB shortly after the earthquake in Haiti. It was written and performed by an adoptive father, waiting to get his kids home from Haiti. His daughter, Story, was home at the time of the earthquake, but his son, Amos, was still there. He is home now too.)

The first time I heard this song, I bawled. And truly it gets to me each time. Brad teases me about having slow songs on my iPod, but I swear I run faster when this one comes on! Then I have trouble breathing as I fight the urge to cry.

Some of my favorite lyrics:

The day will come when all of this is gone
You've got to find a way to believe

I'll find a way to get you here
If it takes my fleeting breath
Another sunrise hits the ground and its a dark lonely sight
Light years away I hope you know
There is somebody searching for the way to get you here

so close your eyes and dream
of a better day with me
as angels hold you tight
may you sleep in peace tonight
so dream dream dream my child
Hear the whisperings of hope

Last week as I ran and sang along (I swear I was the only one in the workout room that day), I thought of our child and some other friends that are in various phases of the adoption process. I thought of the struggle, the difficulty of waiting. Of doing everything we can, and then just waiting.

And softly clearly, God reminded me of this waiting. He reminded me of the lengths He went to make a way to get me home. He sent His son, so long ago to be the perfect sacrifice. He waited for me to accept the Hope that He gave so willingly. He knows all about this waiting for a child to come home.

He is teaching us well as we wait. We pray that He gets all the glory as each day goes by.

"But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Romans 8:25

13 December 2010

zhu zhu gifts

I think most of you know that we usually do the Angel Tree each year... we usually choose kids the same age as each of our boys and let them pick out gifts. Well, last year that changed because our church hosts a Giving Tree for some local families. We sign up to help two kids and they tell us their names and ages (instead of choosing our own). This year we got to shop for a little girl, and she wanted a Zhu Zhu Pet. I decided to make her some accessories to go with it, so we could stretch our dollars a little further. I used Walker's Zhu Zhu pet as a model.

I am not sure which is cuter in this picture, the Zhu Zhu's dress or Walker's face. And here's the little bed and pillow...
I wanted to make sure that the little girl knew what these little bits of fabric were when she opened them so I made some packaging to go with it.

Walker decided that the dresses were "adorable" (his word!) and asked if he could keep one because his Zhu Zhu pet is a girl. I told him no, but maybe sometime after Christmas I'll make one for his.... if he asks again ;)

09 December 2010

cub scout Christmas party and something for Mom

so we get the award for taking the worst pictures at the Christmas party Monday night. Good thing Wilson is so cute, makes up for the fuzzy-focus... Here he is getting some more belt loops, and a present from Santa - a pinewood derby car kit!And here he is with a bunch of other scouts getting a patch for selling some popcorn.
And this is for you, Mom. I thought I'd be extra nice and get the boys and the dog in the wreath picture too... They didn't think it was extra nice though. LOVE the wreath, Mom! It is SO pretty on our door. Thank you =)

06 December 2010

How Junior has changed our lives...

... also known as the Compassion International post.

So, if I am honest with y'all, I've put off this post for two weeks now. I have been prompted to write it - clearly, without a doubt - and yet, I've talked myself out of it. And here I sit, deciding to be obedient. I don't doubt for a second that this is intended specifically for one of you.

So be prepared.

We started sponsoring Junior through Compassion International last year. I first thought about sponsoring a child while Brad was deployed but I didn't want to sign up for it while on our "deployment" pay and then have to back out of it when Brad came home. Finally we made time last year after we were settled here, to look on the website and select a child to sponsor.

This won't be a surprise to anyone - we knew we wanted a child from Africa. We also wanted a boy so our boys could relate. We choose Junior because he is in between Wilson and Walker's age.

After we signed up, we received a packet with his picture and some background information about him and his family. We wrote him a letter and included some stickers and coloring pages.

A long while later, we got our first letter from him. I had no idea how amazing that would feel.

We've exchanged a few letters now. Junior is still pretty young, so his letters are brief and you can tell that someone helps him write them. He also draws us pictures. There is a format for his letters so he includes information about what he is learning at school and what he likes to do at home, etc. Its always a treat to hear from him.

But his last letter brought me to tears.

Brad and I had just had to make a financial decision that was somewhat disappointing. We felt like we had let the boys down, and that perhaps other people were unhappy with us too. I did a lot of crying about it. I did a lot of praying about it. I also cried and prayed as is common in my relationship with Jesus. God can handle that sort of thing. In the end, I felt a lot of peace about our decision, although I wasn't very thrilled with my initial response. {Lord, if I could learn to respond to circumstances immediately the way you want, wow, that would be awesome!}

Then we got Junior's letter. He told us about school and a song he is singing there. He told us that he likes to fetch water and collect firewood for dinner preparation. And he told us that his family prays for us. And my eyes stung immediately. This little boy, who has so little in terms of worldly possessions, prays for my family.

I've been to Africa, I can picture what Junior's house might be like. I can imagine the sounds and the smells. I am humbled to think that in that little home prayers are offered for my family.

I thought about how I had just been crying over a financial decision we had made. A decision that in terms of eternity will have little to no impact. I cried over it. Meanwhile, this family in Africa was praying for me. I thanked God for Junior. I thanked Him for leading us to sponsor this little guy. I thanked Him for letting us be a part of His bigger picture.

Junior gives us perspective. Junior teaches us about being thankful and working hard. Junior teaches us about faithfulness. We hope to sponsor Junior throughout his entire childhood. One day I hope to meet him here on earth. I look forward to the day we meet him in heaven. There are many more children like Junior, would you consider sponsoring one?


02 December 2010

fire station

Wilson's cub scout pack headed over to the local fire station this week... it was pretty much a dream come true for all of the boys when the fireman started spraying water from the water canon on top of the truck...The scouts got to try on some gear...
...as did their siblings.
They even got to try out the headsets in the truck, I wish I knew what Walker was saying when I snapped this picture...
They really had a great time.

01 December 2010

Fantasy in Lights

we heard about this last year, and thought we'd go after the holidays but we missed it. So this year we got our tickets before Thanksgiving. We had to go on a "value" night or we wouldn't have gone at all... so this Sunday we loaded up. Pj's, hot cocoa, and the big white dog...Walker was mesmerized...
We had to wait in a line-up before we could drive through. After about 30 minutes we got to go... we drove through the gardens on very dark roads for what seemed like for-ev-er. We even wondered at one point if the car we were following took a wrong turn... but when we rounded the corner and saw these guys - we knew we were on the right road
This might have been my favorite section with all the snowflakes and white lights twinkling....
Walker could not get over the fact that "We drove through a big reef!"
And of course, Callaway would have to have some butterfly lights by the butterfly pavilion...
Brad appreciated me snapping pictures while he was driving.
It took us about 50 minutes or so to drive through the entire Fantasy In Lights. We had our windows down for most of it, because there was music that corresponded to each section. It was wonderful. Walker is still talking about the "reef."

28 November 2010

snowing inside...

we did a little art project this weekend... something about creating together as a family makes my heart really happy. Its the dorky-crafty-part of my heart I think. Here are the boys being silly by our snowflakes....I found the tutorial to make them on Craftynest.com, click here. I highly recommend printing the instructions and having them on-hand while creating (or have your laptop handy). I tried to make one from memory... and well, let's just say that after Wilson and Walker had completed theirs, it was obvious that mine was horrible. I told Brad that anyone that saw them would think Walker had made mine. And Walker replied, "Mom, I will tell everyone that my mommy made the ugly one." Super.
I ended up ripping mine apart and re-doing it while following the instructions. Much better! They are pretty simple to make, and rather stunning, I think. We didn't bother with paint or glitter, I am guessing they'll get trashed at the end of the season, but maybe we'll make more again next year. Let me know if you give them a try.

For full disclosure, we didn't have a protractor so we had to eye-ball our angles. Also, Walker did not get to use the glue gun. (Sometimes we are cautious like that.)

25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are so blessed by our family members! Thanks for sending all your thankful feathers back! We love reading them every year!Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100


We went for our annual pre-dinner walk to burn some extra calories before eating some extra calories! I think this year was the warmest pre-dinner walk yet (except for when Brad was in Africa, it was hotter for him there!)
And here's the dinner spread... thankfully there were no kitchen mishaps!

We are truly blessed! The boys and Daddy are waiting on me to go join them in a round or two of Mario cart. Perhaps by then, we'll have room for some pumpkin pie!

24 November 2010

kitchen help

we did some baking this week... well, candy-making isn't really baking, but I just lumped it all together, ok? we made some caramels on Monday and we also made pie crusts. Yesterday we made some mini chocolate tartlets. I only made one pan of them because I am using my other pie crust for pumpkin pie today. I didn't think about halving the recipe for the filling, so there was a bowl-full of chocolate filling sitting on the counter... can you see Sir Sneakysneaksalot helping himself?He didn't mind getting caught either! I asked him how many times he had already done this, and he said, "Uh, I think three times."
This is a shot of the finished product. They are so-so in my opinion. I'll figure out a way to eat more of them, but I will use a different recipe for the filling next time.... probably Grandma Rose's chocolate pie recipe.

20 November 2010

Twilight 5k Run

Last night was Amanda's first attempt at completing a 5k. When our church announced they'd being doing one to support wounded warriors at Fort Benning, we both decided it would be a good place for her to start. Her running had been hit or miss until about 5 weeks ago. She found a workout plan online, and she stuck to it for 5 weeks. I really wasn't worried about how fast she would finish it, but I just didn't want her to walk. She came close a couple of time last night to trying to walk, but she gutted it out and finished really strong. I have a GPS for running, so I was able to capture our run route and statistics. Below you'll find an animated map of it.

Twilight 5k Cascade Hills




This has been her theme song, but since I was running we her she ran without headphones.

18 November 2010

how to save a life

Wilson had a rather fun homework assignment this week. He had to disguise a turkey and then tell a story as if he were the turkey. He knew immediately that he wanted to make his turkey a batman disguise... he colored it...then asked me for some help... we modeled the turkey's mask off of Wilson's Halloween mask... except much tinier (is that a word? tiny-er?)
Mrs. Z said the kids could cut out their turkeys, so Wilson did some cutting and folding to accommodate the Batman disguise...
...tiny cape and all =)

I asked Wilson if he wanted to read his story on video so y'all could hear it, but he declined (vehemently). He started typing it, but then he kicked the surge protector and shut down the computer and now its shower time so I will retype it for him (hard to believe, but I actually type faster than someone, granted he is in 2nd grade, but still, I am a little surprised). Here's the story:

I picked this disguise so they will think I'm a super hero. Who would eat a super hero? I was feeling pretty lucky in my disguise. The family looked and looked but all they was a empty frezer. When I heard them on the phone ordering pizza I knew my Batman disguise had worked.



and this picture below, is just to show you how well Walker is doing with his "pumping." I'm glad we decided to keep the swingset a little while longer!

16 November 2010

{the genuis got the video to work}

On the way to school this morning, Walker was explaining the wordless book to Wilson. For some reason, he thought for sure he would get a "copy" of it today at church. So when we got home, we made one. Here's a video of him telling the meaning of the colors...












***
thankful for:
me: God's goodness
Wilson: four seasons instead of just two
Walker: night and day, and the weekdays

15 November 2010

finished and refreshed

so after church we came home and had leftover pizza soup... then the boys played with GeoTrax while I played with girly fabrics, trying to make itty-bitty dresses... And this is what I came up with. Many prayers were uttered in the making of these little dresses, mainly that I would get them done and that my machine wouldn't break down! E's surgery was this morning and I wanted to make sure the girls' had their dolls before that... I ended up making 5 dresses for each doll, pretty simple design but man that super-hero-fabric is so fussy -- I thought it would make for some flashy dresses for the mommy dolls! Look at Wilson, I told him to "look happy!" He's got that down! I put little pig-tails in the dolls' hair too... Hopefully the girls have fun with them this week...
I got an update from E today. They removed a large portion of tissue from her cheek, but they did not have to go all the way to the lips and the nerves were unaffected. She will begin reconstructive surgery on Wednesday and will be in the hospital for at least two days once that begins... she isn't here in town, she is in her hometown with her momma. Please keep their family in your prayers this week, if you think of it.

Thankfully, I slept well Saturday night and was refreshed at church Sunday morning. (Brad was working.) We sang a new song at church and I found it today on youtube. It has pretty simple lyrics, but the words just bring things into clear focus. If you are struggling with things, big or small; if you are unsure about a decision you have to make; or if you just need to get a little perspective. Find yourself five quiet minutes and take in this song. I played it a couple times this afternoon (back-to-back) while Walker was laying on my chest. Those kind of midday snuggles with him are so rare. My heart was so grateful.

13 November 2010

check this out...

little brother is getting in on the bike-riding action... he took off awesomely; and then he realized he was riding by himself and well, he's been practicing since that first time =)there is something so spectacular about watching Brad with these boys of ours. He truly is a fantastic daddy. There are so many spiritual lessons mirrored in this journey of parenthood, mostly because of the whole God-the-Father thing. And while I know Brad is not God, I do get a good picture of God's tender love for His children when I watch this man of mine with his boys. And when Walker pitches a crazy fit - yep, I get a real good glimpse of myself lashing out at my Heavenly Father. And man it looks ridiculous!
We are pretty excited around here because David and Casey are going to be joining us in this parenthood journey. We are thrilled for them and all the ways God is going to bless them in this. We are also pretty excited to have a new niece or nephew... and the boys are pretty happy about a new cousin coming soon!

In other news, I am trying to transform two of these "daddy dolls" into "Mommy dolls"
... one of my neighbors around the corner was in my Bible study class this fall and she called in a favor... She's having surgery (pretty extensive) to remove a tumor on her cheek. She is a momma to 6, her youngest two are girls. She brought me the dolls and asked me if I could make some little dresses for them. She has a picture of herself and hopes her girls will be comforted by them. I've been hitting a brick wall tonight, so I am hoping after some sleep I will be more creative. I want them to be fun for the girls, their momma is going to be gone for a week. I am sure she would appreciate your prayers on behalf of her family. (Her husband just recently got back from a deployment too).

***
in thankful news:
me: for hang-around-at-home Saturdays

and no-schedule means I totally forgot to ask the boys this morning.... but I think they appreciated the laid-back day too =)

12 November 2010

struggle

struggle: an energetic attempt to achieve something

"Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won't let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God's throne! So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won't get discouraged and give up." Hebrews 12: 1-3

So, you might know that I have been running again. One week from today I will be participating in my first 5k. I still sort of hate running... but also sort of love it. Weird, I know.

I like to run outside best. I've found that if I leave the TV off in front of the treadmill, that I like that better too. Weird, too, I know.

God and I cover a lot of ground (mentally at least) when I run. All sorts of topics at rapid-fire speed. That is the part I absolutely love about running. The actual physical exertion part of it is the struggle for me.

Brad has loaned me some ear-bud-things that don't slip out of my sweaty ears when I run (gross!!). So the last two weeks, I've been listening to my favorite selections while running. It seems to help quite a bit.

The first week that I started seriously running to get ready for this 5k, I didn't have my iPod. And while I was running, I was struggling. And a song popped into my head. And the words encouraged me. As I sang them, a little voice condemned me. "How ridiculous. Those words, for this? A little run? Really?"

But a stronger more trustworthy voice replied, "If you can't trust me for this? How can you trust me with something bigger?"

And my heart swelled, and I belted out a little bit of the song - at least in spirit. "The enemy's been defeated. Death couldn't hold you down."

I am trusting God to continue to reveal to me, His perfect plans. I believe Him for the big things, and I am learning to believe Him for the little things too, because oftentimes the biggest lessons are learned in the littlest of details.





****
thankful for:

Veteran's Day:
Me: Veteran's
Wilson: Veteran's
Walker: friends

today:
Me: date night =)
Wilson: Thanksgiving
Walker: my church

10 November 2010

surprise

surprise: the astonishment you feel when something totally unexpected happens to you

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

I've been meaning to tell you this story for over a week now.

So, you remember when we went downtown to the "Market" to look for pumpkins? And we didn't find any... but we walked around the block and checked out a new store called The Outside World. It had some camping gear and lots of kayaks, canoes, etc. It was fun to see this little store opening up right downtown (which by the way, is actually called Uptown here). We wandered around and couldn't convince ourselves that we needed anything so we headed toward the door. We saw some backpacking maps so we stopped to look at them.

Brad pointed toward a book about Wilderness survival and said, "Man, I'd like to take that course."

And on we went to the pumpkin patch.

We carved pumpkins.

The pumpkins rotted within days.

Brad was off the following Friday, but had to run in to work for a cook-out they were having for some guys that are leaving the unit. From there, he calls to tell me that they want to send him to a class next week. He wondered about it interfering with Boy Scout camp... we decided he should go for it.

Sunday afternoon he left for a week. Of WILDERNESS SURVIVAL TRAINING.

I didn't realize until he was gone, that the class they were sending him to was the very class he pointed out at the store last week.

He mentioned it in passing. We continued on with our business.

God let us know that He knew all along.

This is another marker on our faith journey. A stone to remind us that He is faithful; that He knows what we need, and also knows what we want. A gift of immeasurable value.

He knows your heart. He might even be working out the details right now while your pumpkins are rotting. His timing is perfect. Sometimes He gives us hints at what He is doing, and sometimes He just gives us a big surprise. What an extravagant Father!

-----
thankful today for:
me: President Bush
Walker: my house
Wilson: new days

09 November 2010

thankful day #9

Brad: that our dog won't be stinky anymore (she is at the groomer as I type)
Wilson: that I get two weeks off of school at Christmas
Walker: for my family
Me: that Brad is home this morning hanging out with us... and then he and I (and Muskoka) got to go for a run while Walker was at Mom's Morning Out =)

08 November 2010

thakful day #8

Me: morning snuggles
Walker: my dog and a yard to play with my dog
Wilson: friends

07 November 2010

boy scout encampment

so, this weekend was supposed to be a boy scout camp-out weekend. But with Brad's last minute trip out of town for the week, we were leaning toward just making it a day trip... and then as the night-time temps kept creeping lower and lower, we were pretty confident that the day trip plan was the right plan. Wilson was a little disappointed, but he had a good day anyway...

(my pics are in crazy order)

lunch break! We brought the camping stove and tailgated for lunch. The hot cocoa hit the spot!How could I possibly pass up this photo-op?
There were ALL kinds of stations set-up all over this activity field, camping area. Wilson did 19... and I am not even sure if that is half of them. We basically just kept asking which one he wanted to do next and on we would go. Here are the boys at the Paleontology Dig...
This was some sort of Pow-Wow demonstration, Walker LOVED the drum...
The boys got to sit in a race car that the Auburn engineering students designed... they race them in MI in May each year. Wilson really liked trying the mountain boarding. And he got to put out a fire too!
We ended the day with a lake-side show that was followed by fireworks. We made it through most of the show, but finally decided to leave... it was after 9pm and getting chillier by the minute. When we were walking to the car, we asked Wilson if he was disappointed that we weren't going to get into a tent... He said, "No!" So thankfully, it all worked out in the end.

On a side note, they had a band playing at the show -- a praise band from a local church -- as we were walking out to the car they were playing "How Great is Our God." I like these boy scouts.

******

Thankful for:
Me: Our church & its desire to reach the military community
Wilson: my brother
Walker: my mom and dad, my bunkbed
Brad: our dog