Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Craze

Have the kids in your life joined the silly bandz craze? While mine aren't totally obsessed (yet!), they definitely like them...alot! We didn't introduce them to these fancy rubber band bracelets - their friends did and their VBS did. So, they have a few and they wear them daily.

Silly Bandz take me back to my childhood. We had jelly bracelets in many colors and wore so many at one time! I actually think this craze is more fun - the shapes are so cute and really, of all the fads that come around, I'm really okay with this one. I am frequently gifted with a couple - one from each of my older sons. And while it wouldn't be my favorite style to rock at the age of 31, I'll do it for my kids because I know it's their sweet, generous hearts that want to share and want us to be cool together. :)

After seeing how many their friends have and wanting to participate more in the trading of these bandz, I'm thinking of using them as a motivational/reward tool in our household. I have a few more around here and will likely head to the store for a package and give the boys some extra (helpful) things to do around the house to earn them.

Do you like the silly bandz or do you avoid them?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I am amazed at the number of e-mails and notes I've gotten from various women this past week. Do you have any idea how many women around you struggle with some form of loneliness? There are many different reasons but the bottom line is...this is common. People wrote me that I would never have guessed deal with it. And it made me realize busy-ness and an always positive attitude does not (does not!) equal connection. 

What are we going to do with this knowledge?

Here are some specific steps that I will be taking:
1) Schedule coffee or breakfast at least twice a month with different girlfriends and talk deeper than summer activities and pleasantries.
2) Make a point to plan some activities with and for women in my local church.
3) Continue to write and think about ways to bridge the gap between women and keep the discussion open.
4) Seek to build relationships and friendships with people I know are struggling with feelings of loneliness.

It encourages me to hear others opening up about it - and while I was sorry others experience this, it was also a little comforting to know I'm not alone. We really do need to support one another. We need to be sensitive to the journeys of others and seek to connect over the common bonds (which are many!). We must respect the ideas, callings, and challenges of other women. We absolutely must listen to one another and find ways to open up. I had no idea some people quite close to me felt similarily - not for the same reasons but nevertheless lonely.

We can put on appearances of having it all together and fitting in and being busy, but the truth is - if we don't let people into our lives, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. It takes work and it takes a transparency and vulnerability that isn't always (okay, for me, almost never!) comfortable. Let's get real with each other, women! Let's commit to talking and sharing and cultivating relationships.

We can connect. We can work on doing away with the loneliness. We can focus on commonality. We can discuss and embrace differences. We can allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

My challenge to each of you, is to schedule time with a friend - just the two of you. Make it someone you haven't spent time with for awhile or someone you know is struggling through something or someone you suspect or know is lonely. I imagine it will do you both good!

And I would love to continue to hear your thoughts on this topic, what (if any) steps you plan to take and how it goes! If you prefer, you can always e-mail or message me privately as many of you have already done.


**This was the post I wrote on the boys' blog a few days ago announcing the end of that blog - it imported here with the rest of that blog and I'm leaving it. Meant to Be (this blog) will remain open and I will continue to write here! Thanks to all of you that followed the boys' blog - it's been a pleasure!)**

I've been contemplating this blog for quite awhile. I simply don't have the time to keep this blog up and over time I've included my writings about the kids and our life and the cute things they say and do over at Meant To Be. But I've kept this blog because I love that our journey to becoming a family is chronicled here. And this blog was such an encouragment to us when we spent so many weeks in Kazakhstan going through one of the most emotional and wonderful journeys of our life.

And so it is with alot of thought and some sadness that I conclude this blog. I will be merging the posts into our other blog very soon and closing this one. It's time. We are so thankful for the amazing way God has blessed us.     

Monday, June 28, 2010

Life Lessons

We recently expereienced a very mortifying moment: a son said to a very nice older lady that was riding the elevator with us and arrived at her floor, "Just get off, old lady." Oh. my. word. We had a chat about respect and kindness as the elevator doors closed that continued in our room. I was absolutely mortified to say the least. He did not say it in a mean way but that is not something that is modeled or tolerated. I'm not sure how many shades of red I turned and I hoped beyond all hopes that she didn't hear him or at least didn't understand him. I really hope she wasn't offended.

Opportunities for important life lessons present daily - I, however, prefer them to be a little less embarassingly public. :) 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Three Pirates

My sister requested some pictures of the boys from their party so here they are. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Menu Planning

I am absolutely struggling with menu planning. I feel uninspired and apathetic about food. Is it a summer thing? A busy-ness thing? A temporary rut? I'm trying, really I am, but a menu plan I used to have done in 20 minutes is taking me 2 hours. Exhaustion? Boredom? I'm not really sure but I'm desperate to get back in the groove. It will help with the dinner time blues, the budget, and time management.

Any tips? Any great new recipes I should try? I'm sure I'll get excited about cooking again but for now I'm plowing through - one meal at a time, one dish at a time. Perhaps I should plan a cookout or dinner party. I do love to entertain and haven't had a chance to do much lately - it might do me some good! Hmm... 

An Addendum

Just to be loneliness is much my own fault (as I tried to mention) - I am not good at opening up to people. I was in no way implicating or indicating anyone or any specific situation and realized that I had not worded my post very well! :)

Something I have most definitely not written much about is infertility. It was (and often still is) absolutely one of the most difficult things I can ever imagine going through. I recently read a Christian study that concluded, after interviewing many people who had gone through both, that infertility is more difficult than divorce to go through. We know pretty much no one around here who has walked that lonely path. We certainly do not long for biological children - we are incredibly blessed with our awesome sons and we could not love them more if they had been born to us - and yet, we will never belong to "the club." Not belonging can be so hard sometimes! And having seen firsthand children without families - we do feel incredibly passionate for them to find homes. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don't think about it!

Anyway, added with the many trials of the year - it has been tough. Writing is therapeutic for me and yet, it is also challenging. I just do not want anyone to think that the post was directed at them. :) It was written as a reflection on why I have struggled to write lately - it was a cathartic post. I do recognize that many people have no idea what we have been through in the past or even in the past few months - and much of that is our own fault.

Take it for what it's worth! :) As a side note - it's interesting to me how many women commented that they also struggle with female relationships and loneliness (for all kinds of reasons) - is it just because we are hard on each other and hard on ourselves? Are we afraid to open up and be real? I am. I know I am. It's so...vulnerable and uncomfortable. In the past couple of years, I have not regretted the times I've opened up - so you would think that would encourage me.... An interesting topic.   

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kazapalooza 2010

We had such a blast at the third annual Kazapalooza in Milwaukee this past weekend! It is always wonderful to gather with other families who have been amazingly blessed through adoption and particularly through the shared bond of Kazakhstan. It was interesting and sweet to see our kiddos with a shared heritage to recognize each other. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing old friends and making new friends.

I had a chance to participate in the Two Hearts for Hope presentation on Saturday morning which included a moving video presentation of our trip to Kazakhstan last month. I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to serve the country and children of Kaz. I'm also incredibly grateful to be able to serve with Two Hearts through the mission trip and through the Walk - it's an organization that really seeks to bring hope and blessing to orphans.

We shared much joy, much love, and much laughter this weekend. As the boys grow older, I see that the connections they make with other Kaz families (and children) are increasingly important to them. They had such a good time.        

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now...

Blogging has been like pulling teeth lately. I just haven't had the interest or desire. I struggle with whether to continue or whether to just give it up - after all, it's been a good run. And then I realize that one of the main reasons I do it, is for my kids and that's what keeps me coming back - I want them to have some written records and journals.

I think that the first half of 2010 has been one of the toughest years I remember in long while - I know many people who have it worse but it has been very difficult. There are many, many things that play into that - much of which we have not chosen to share here. We have struggled with health, challenging decisions, heartache, loneliness, and then the general inconveniences in life - like the smoke damage. I find myself withdrawing when I have trouble being positive and not complaining. And instead I've chosen to focus on the blessings - especially my husband and kids.

The truth is, I regularly struggle to actually connect with other women in our area - I don't feel I have much in common with them, I feel incredibly lonely in the passion and heart God has given our family, and I often feel judged for different decisions we have made as a family. I recognize that some of this is definitely my own fault and my own perceptions but some of it is not. It's discouraging and sometimes makes me feel alone.

Our blessings overflow even in the midst of challenge. Our sons bring us so much joy. And God has provided us with the perfect jobs for us, a comfortable and nice home, plenty to eat, and much, much more. And in the midst of loneliness, I have also been blessed with some amazing friends. And so I seek to rejoice, to see the blessings, and to know what God desires of me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Birthday Food

Clearly, I've been slacking as a blogger. :) Anyway, here are some pictures of the food:
The table was simply decorated with pirate flags, gold coins, and crystal jewels. The food was kid-friendly, snacky food for our afternoon party. Each item was labeled with a fun pirate sign and name.

Another view of the table.

I found a great link to make these cute little pirate flags which I used to decorate the fruit and cheese platters.

This was my favorite part - the cupcakes. I thought about doing a larger cake but decided on the single serving, easy cupcakes. I got the idea to use brown sugar as sand from Andrew's cousin (she threw a pirate party for her son and gave me great ideas and links!). I used chocolate gold coins, candy necklaces, and miniature gummy bears as the pirate booty in the sand. I found printable pirate stickers that I printed on cardstock and then layered with the colored card stock and attached to the sucker sticks for the cupcake toppers.

One more close up view. :) The boys were thrilled!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Birthday Party: The Setting

I'm a little slow at getting pictures up from the party but here are some! I'm going to do a couple of installments. It was so much fun! I didn't get pictures of the red 'x' on the front door that marked the party spot and the black and red balloons on the mailbox.

The Invitation (purchased from Vista Print)

The Pirate Ship (borrowed from friends)

The Table - Coins, Gummy "Jewels" & Sharks as a centerpiece.

Pin the Treasure on the Map - Prize was beads (one for everyone and two for the winners!).
Walk the Plank - Prize was an eye patch.
Decorate Your Own Pirate Hat
Pirate Coloring
Dig for Buried Treasure
- Prize was a gaudy ring.
Treasure Hunt
The Treat Boxes which were the Treasure Hunt Reward.
Filled with Fruit Roll-up, Candy stick, Smarties, Spyglass, Stickers, Pirate Party Blower, Compass.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The rain is pounding, the wind howling, and the thunder rumbling. The weather forced our much-anticipated pirate party inside today due to the predictions and the general muddiness of the backyard. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time! The boys have such nice friends - with 14 kiddos you might expect lots of chaotic noise but instead it was a peaceful and fun time. Great times. Great day. I feel so blessed and privileged to have these boys as my sons. It was a joy to celebrate the milestone birthday of these precious gifts from God. Lots of pictures to come. :)   

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reason #897 Why I Love Costco

I saved $60 with great coupons including a buy one get one free on Electrasol dishwasher tabs.
And the biggest reason today?
These two finds:

Total for both BBC DVD Collections: $36 ($18 each) - more than half the cost of the collections sold elsewhere. I am so excited to own these excellent classics!
The Jane Austen Collection has Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Pride & Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey. The Elizabeth Gaskell collection has Wives & Daughters, Cranford, and North & South. I have had the latter set recommended to me several times but have yet to watch it - I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


We arrived home this evening around 8:45 after two days of celebrating Grandpa's life. It was full and it was good. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with family - lots of laughter, some tears, and many memories (remembered and made). But we are also exhausted and the boys are in desperate need of some schedule and normalcy. I work tomorrow and Andrew starts his new job on Monday.

This weekend brings the much anticipated 5-year-olds' birthday party. The boys are having a joint party since they share most of the same friends. It's their first "friend's party." I really must get on the planning!

This is a bit boring and brief - we are definitely in the recuperation stage of a physically and emotionally challenging week.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Tribute

Late Saturday afternoon brought the news that Andrew's grandfather passed away. He was almost 94. I'm so blessed to have known him. He was a sincere, faithful, and funny man. He had a great sense of humor, a contagious laugh, a quick smile, and a twinkle in his eye.

And I'm incredibly thankful for the trip we took to visit him and introduce him to our boys last fall. It's a trip that made lasting memories - Calvin and Patrick haven't stopped talking about it.

Goodbyes are always hard but Grandpa was ready. The family is gathering this week to celebrate the life of a great man, a loved man. It will be a good time to remember and to share and to be together.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Garage Sale-ing & Picnic

I don't garage sale much but today I went out for a couple of hours. I went to the nice neighborhood where our friends are having their adoption fundraiser (I actually pre-shopped there yesterday and found some things for the boys :)).

Anyway, for $6, I got a closet shelving unit, 2 shorts, 2 shirts (for my big boys), and a brand-new 6-pack of dry erase markers. Not bad. And that is why I like garage sale-ing. I do not, however, plan to host a garage sale ever again as you may recall that I made a grand total of $12 last time I tried. :)

We planned to build our swing set today but the rain has pre-empted our plans. Later this afternoon, we are going to our adoption agency's annual picnic! We haven't been in a couple of years so we are looking forward to it! (Below is a picture of our family from the picnic - it was June 2007 that we last went. Our family looks a bit different now.)

We were their first completed domestic adoption with Titus and probably about their last placement of two unrelated kiddos for Kazakhstan. We feel incredibly grateful to them for their help in growing our family and placing us with three amazing boys!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Swag Bucks

I will admit that I was a skeptic when it came to Swag Bucks. The first time I tried it, I didn't have much success. My sister convinced me to try it again and I haven't turned back! While it's not my favorite search engine, it can easily get me to my favorite. :) I've been actively using Swagbucks (which mostly means using it as a search engine) since February or so and have already earned $60 in Amazon gift cards. I'm saving them towards a Wii. :)

So, if you aren't using Swagbucks, you should be! The easiest way is to sign up and install the tool bar - it reminds me to use it and keeps me earning. And it helps to have some people sign up under your referral link - you will earn extra bucks for it! You can sign up with my referral HERE if you like!

I'm a convert. Swag Bucks is awesome!

And now I shall step off my advertising soap box. :) I am in no way being compensated by the website for writing this review. :)

P.S. There are all kinds of different rewards you can redeem your swag bucks for - Target Giftcards, Starbucks Giftcards, Merchandise and more. Okay, now I'm really done. :)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Yesterday was perhaps one my best birthdays ever. My sweet boys spoiled me and were so cute about it. Andrew was home since he has not started his new job yet and that was such a treat! We went to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and I had a chance to just have a low-key day. It was so much fun! Thanks to all of you for the facebook birthday messages!

Titus' gift to me was saying two new words. On of which was, "Eh-woah" - otherwise known as "Hello." It was adorable!

I've contemplated the past year and I will admit it's been one of the tougher ones - especially the last several months. I won't dwell on all of that but I welcome and embrace age 31 and with it, the start of another year...besides 31 is much easier to take than the big 3-0 last year. :) Now, if life would just slow down a little more and the kids stay young and carefree. Oh and maybe they could stop growing like weeds!

And for those of you who have asked, I will be finishing blogging my trip to Kazakhstan before too long - it was definitely one of the highlights of the past few months despite being a very emotional journey.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Just wanted to stop in and say that my amazing Grandfather turned 90 yesterday! We had a great time celebrating with him! He and my Grandma are awesome examples of faithfulness and joy and have such big hearts! I love them both so much and feel so thankful for the amazing heritage that they have given our family.

I'm taking it easy today. :) I'll be back perhaps tomorrow. In the mean time, my boys are clamoring for me to come downstairs for a surprise. :) So cute.