What you can do/what you did…

I have some incredible creative & thoughtful friends; this blog is a long time coming.  If you have friends adopting or going through some big life changes I hope that you are inspired to help them too.

Here are some of the ways that we were blessed…

First they cleaned out our kitchen & pantry, thank goodness! 2009 expired mustard, it wouldn’t be so bad if they hadn’t had to throw away 4 of them. Whoops!

Before we left we bought a freezer & Tyler built a huge pantry…they were completely empty.

Then our friends showed up all smiles & got to work (this is after cleaning & organizing our kitchen)

Then they cooked & cooked & cooked…

And baked. Until the freezers were FULL & then went shopping until the pantry was FULL!

They washed & put away all of our kid’s clothes.

Sheets were washed.

Beds were made.

They left us encouraging notes around the house.

Helped us finish projects around the house.

Some things not pictured:

  • Put carseats in the van
  • They made “family rules” posters & translated them into Spanish w/pictures
  • Painted our bedroom
  • Cleaned our house & filled it with fresh flowers
  • Labeled every room in the house in English & Spanish
  • Set up baby gates & child-proofed our house to help the kids learn boundaries
  • Lined up meals for us for 2 months
  • Stocked our refrigerator hours before we landed
  • Organized all the donated clothing, toys, etc in the attic
  • Then they checked on us a LOT, & they still do!!

Please know that this did not take much money but it did take a lot of time.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34”  Where is your treasure, are you investing it in others?  Are you allowing others to invest it in you?  We were leaving in 5 days & I was talking with a good friend telling here all about my “to-do list” & she finally took it away from me & told me you focus on your kids, your family & friends will take care of the rest.  Pride was out the window, the realization that none of this happened or would work-out because of something I did.  Find the time to invest & help others, not because of what it can do for you but because of what it can do for them…if you are a Christian this is a command:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

The beautiful gift of time.  To bond & attach with our children, to help with homework, to love on them.  When big brother first came home he didn’t even know all of his letters & now he is very close to reading!!

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

5 in 5…

Celebrating 5yrs of marriage TODAY!  Abuelita & Papi Grande offered to watch the kids today so we would have the whole day to ourselves…then our oldest girl got an ear-infection.  So today we are decorating for Christmas, taking care of a sweet sick girl & having friends over to help decorate the tree tonight with the kids.  It’s a blessed life & we wouldn’t have it any other way.

On a side note we had family photos taken a few weeks ago by our very talented friends at Illuminate Images.  They were so patient, creative & thoughtful of our family & we love how the pictures turned out!  Please take a minute & visit their blog.

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

More days in TX…

Thanksgiving was great, full of food, family, & thanks!  The kids loved seeing all of their family.  Tyler’s cousin asked, “is this too much for them, people-wise?”  So far the kids have been great.  On the way over to the first Thankgiving we remind them that this is all their family who are happy & excited to see them.  Afterwards we get into the car & the kids like to brag about how much family they have.  I am so thankful that both of our families have been 100% supportive & loved on our kids since day 1, they have never been made to feel unwelcomed or unloved.  They were immediately claimed as part of the group & immediately claimed all of our family too.

Also completely forgot to take any pictures of their first Thanksgiving but here are some memories…

1. Stuffing is not a Colombian favorite.

2. Sweet potato casserole is.

3. Pie is not my children’s love language.

4. Rice krispie treats & cookies is.

5. It’s hard to get frustrated at a kid who is misbehaving when he has asked you to call him Santa Claus for the rest of the year.

Also here are some pictures to ease the pain of no Thanksgiving ones…

Finally got some boy dress-up clothes

The girls like it too!

Special visitor all the way from Colombia, the kids were so excited to see Daniela!

We play with our friends at the park

We visit friends & see their amazing trains!

We go out to eat with the Grandparents

We play at the park with the Grandparents

Big brother loved working in the garden, he goes out every morning to check on the plants.

Big sister working in the garden

Middle brother helping with the flowers

Hard at work…

Darth “helping” in the garden, this was not her cup of tea

We dance…all the time!

Also our first homestudy went great!  We get to keep the kids another 6 months 🙂

I’d like to apologize for all of the grammatical mistakes, I am fully expecting a corrections email from the husband later today.  Hoping that you & your family had a great Thanksgiving too!  Navidad here we come!

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Happy Thanksgiving…

This song was the first one that we heard when we started attending church in Colombia…

I will praise You in the good, in the bad, in the easy, in the hard, in the happy, & in the sad.  I will find my joy in You.  He has made me glad!

I am Christmas girl.  I put up decorations in October.  I break-down & start listening to Christmas music as early as July.  Green & red are my favorite color combination.  But I am trying to teach our 5 children about Thanksgiving, so I have held off on all Christmas-ing (we do listen to Musica de Navidad).  Our kids are still a little confused about the holiday; they asked, “Why do we spend a whole day ‘thanking’? Shouldn’t we be thankful everyday?”  YES!  We should be thankful everyday, in every circumstance, in every stage of life.  I pray that we take the time for a prayer of Thanksgiving everyday.

They walk around the house “practicing” for Thanksgiving, these are some of the things they are thankful for…

Papi & Mami, brothers & sisters, dogs, Grandma & Grandad, Papi Grande & Abuelita, Tios & Tias, Primos, Memaw, Meme & Papa, food, beds, clothes, a house, a church, books, school, friends, blanket, a computer, a car, crayons, Texas, pictures, shoes, socks, cookies, & silla azul (AKA time-out chair)…

Family & God’s provision, & the discipline that comes from love (silla azul is mentioned in EVERY night time prayer & is usually followed by the phrase, “please help us be good & stay out of silla azul); we should be thankful everyday.

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Presents of the past (AKA Playing on a budget)

Brought to you by Tyler and the letter K.

We have five kids. They play. Now that we’re on budget, we dusted off a few toys from the attic. We’ve also “ re-purposed” a few things (that’s how fancy people say “used old crap for something new”). After a few months of being home, we are starting to get a idea of what toys work well and what toys don’t. Since I have two thumbs, I’ve included a coarse grading system too.

Constructs

Back Story – This is a toy from my childhood. In the toy world, I grew up at the tail end of what I will call the “Metal Age” going in to the “Pastic Age”. Constructs were a building toy similar to the Erector set without all the fuss of those annoying screws and nuts.

Wow factor – High. Any time you dump out a huge bucket filled with lots of pieces, an “Oooo!” falls over the crowd.

Safety – Average. Turd Furgeson can probably swallow some of the pieces, but if I still had the original box, I’m pretty sure the appropriate ages would exclude her anyway. The good news is, she is mainly interested in destroying the things that her brothers and sister make, and that usually is a bigger-than-mouth sized conglomeration of parts.

Entertainment to cost ratio – High. My parents bought this toy for me, and I don’t think it was one of the cheaper toys in the store. Having said that, I have played with these a ton, and they have provided about six hours of entertainment to my kids. Since there are a lot of pieces and we don’t like cleaning up so much, we don’t get it out very much. Otherwise the hour-count would be higher.

Rundown – I have at least three sets of Constucts, all with a different color-theme, that are all intermixed. Some might call my bucket of constructs a picture of diversity working together. Our kids just build machines with non-consistent color-schemes.  Having said that, it does take some prior understanding of construction to play with this toy. I usually build something basic, and they stick additional, un-needed parts on said thing. When they get to be in their teens and twenties, I’m sure the same thing will happen. I will provide the car, and they will “trick it out” by adding un-needed parts.

Verdict – Two thumbs up.

A “Tricked Out” Constructs Car.

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Robotics

Back Story – Also, a Tyler-toy of the “Plastic Age” (For those of you that are curious, we are currently in the “Touch-Screen Age”). This took the construction aspect of Constructs, and added the flair of providing motors and a keyboard to control a machine of your creation.

Wow factor – Ultra high. The big dumping bucket effect was there, but it was also coupled with the realization that there are motors and wires. The natives said in their own tongue, “We are really building something serious now!”

Safety – Average. Little pieces. What can I say?

Entertainment to cost ratio – Low! Unlike the Constructs, these 25-year-old pieces of plastic did not hold up in this childhood renaissance. When you tried to connect two pieces, they were so brittle that one would usually splinter into lots of other pieces. Further, the motors would not fire up. After much prodding with my Multimeter, I discovered that they were getting power, just not doing anything with it. After about forty minutes of fun, this toy was toast. Hardly worth the investment of tripping around it in the attic for the past quarter-century.

Rundown – YES!

Verdict – Two thumbs down.

Si. Es rompio.

We did have fun making a pretend pipe-organ out of the keyboard and wires that were left after the plastic pieces broke.

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Polly pocket

Back Story – This little fire-cracker is about half the size of a black-cat, and has brought delight to Beth and her sister when they were growing up. Like Barbie, Polly cannot stand alone. She comes with an entourage of other tiny friends and accessories. She has places to live that are stylized to look like cosmetics. When you open them up, you realize that it isn’t a baby mirror and blush, it is a miniature park with a merry-go-round and a slide for Polly to play on.

Wow factor – Average

Safety – Below average. Something about Polly says “Eat me”. Maybe the world has grown (or we have), but she never seemed so small before! Beth tells me that modern Polly has a bit more girth, but “Polly Backpack” or “Polly Moderately-Sized Purse” don’t fall off the tongue as easily. It is almost as if her name was picked solely because it gave excellent alliteration to the toy name! …Sorry. Sometimes I say crazy things!

Entertainment to cost ratio – Average, but I feel this isn’t as much Polly’s fault as it is mine. Polly, her friends, and her accessories, were not as tightly controlled as some of the other toys that we’ve listed. After the initial few rounds of play, her pieces have found their way into the nameless rabble in the catch-all toy boxes. You find yourself saying, “Polly might like to play, but I’m pretty sure her slide and merry-go-round are resting at the bottom of the toy box with the dominos and blocks, and it is too much trouble to fish them out. Maybe she can just sit on this park bench.” And, a Polly without her fun things, just looks bored.

Rundown – Our oldest girl plays with her quite a bit. She has confessed to us that she really likes Barbie toys, but I think Polly is an adequate, albeit small, alternative. If she has two or more humanoid playthings, she can carry on conversations with them for hours, so the lack of accessories has been somewhat overcome.

Verdict – One thumb up, one thumb down.
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Legos

Back Story – The Holy Grail of construction toys. I accumulated at least ten sets of Legos over the course of my childhood. Simple enough for a kid to understand with seemingly unending possibilities. It is said that the number of ways to combine six 2X4 bricks is 915,103,765 according to the first Google hit I had because I was too lazy to do more investigation… my point was already made. In the words of my ninos, “Es MUCHOOO!” Yes, this was the rainy day buster of my childhood. The best part was, one Christmas, I got the Lego monorail space-train set, which with the simple addition of a nine-volt battery, would move on it’s own and provide about three or four hours of continuous fun… until you purchased another nine-volt battery. Despite what Beth thinks, this is an indoor toy.

Wow factor – Huge. I have two buckets of these toys to dump out.

Safety – Below average. Many of the pieces compete with Polly in size.

Entertainment to cost ratio – High. Yes, they are pricey  but a lot of fun can be had (clearly with only six pieces). My kids have only had about four hours of fun with them, but don’t hold that against Lego. We got them down for the first time on Saturday, but I’m sure they will be coming down more often as we head into winter.

Rundown – Still as good as the day I got them! I ran to Walgreens and got a nine-volt battery for the train, and after a little cleaning on the terminal leads, she fired right up. That was definitely the nail in the coffin for Robotics in the favorite “mechanized, plastic construction toy” department. The kids are still new to Legos, so playtime was similar to Constructs… “Here is the start of something great. Put more junk on it as you like.” The train, however, was super fun, and they watched it for a solid hour. After a while, they gave it a cockpit, and stuck about four Lego men on it. I can only imagine what the Lego men were thinking – “Look kids! Big Ben. Parliament.” (a quote from an 80’s movie to stay consistent with my childhood).

Verdict – I wish I had three thumbs to put up!
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Broken Fence

Back Story – Our fence was terrible when we first moved in to our new (to us) house. I have spent a lot of time and money replacing it over the past three years. The old slats were cut down so we could clean up the mess and possibly use them some day for fire kindling. Some day never came.

Wow factor – Very low. Let’s face it, it’s a rotting old fence

Safety – Average. I managed to cut out all the rusty nails, but there is risk of splinters, and it’s pretty unforgiving when you whack your sister on the head.

Entertainment to cost ratio – High! I paid nothing for this toy, and we have used it about thirty minutes to an hour a day.

Rundown – We discovered this toy can be used as rudimentary construction material. We tried making log cabins, but they were only big enough to get one kid in, and once they were in them, they looked like a brown version of that thing that brought Superman to earth when he was a baby. Also this fortress of solitude also gives you a since of how the “house of sticks” is easily blown over by the wolf. On the other hand, the 1X4 size makes an excellent road for matchbox cars. We’ve had hours of fun driving cars all over the back yard on these wooden freeways.

Verdict – One thumb up, but I’m not putting the other thumb down.
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Tonka Trucks

Back Story – These suckers were rode hard and put up wet! A mainstay of my childhood sandbox. I used to lay across the truck on my belly as I let gravity drag me down our driveway out into the street (until I got a skateboard – I had issues with my feet not being independent of each other, so I did the exact same thing with the skateboard as it had more surface area and provided a more comfortable trek into traffic). I could not be more abusive to these toys, but after sixth grade, they made their way into the attic and haven’t been down since.

Wow factor – Not so much. I’m sure they feel like Woody next to a Buzz Lightyear, but they are from the “Metal Age” and built to last.

Safety – Average. Metal and heavy.

Entertainment to cost ratio – Big. Cheaper than a lot of toys by a long shot, and possibly a toy my grandkids can abuse.

Rundown – Without a single word or instruction on my end, I have now witnessed three of my five kids sitting on the truck as it rolls down a hill. Proud Papa Syndrome abounds! These have also been handy in dragging broken fence around the yard as we construct our highways.

Verdict – Two thumbs up.

30 years of abuse and still going strong. FYI… For toys, the brick scored the lowest on the safety scale.

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Play Kitchen

Back Story – Beth’s aunt said she got this guy from a day care at a church. It was going to be thrown away. We had an unused wall in the girl’s room so it made its way from the heart of Pennsylvania to Midlothian, TX.

Wow factor – Pretty great. It is big, so that’s always impressive to a child, and it came with a lot of play-food. A LOT of play-food. I’m still getting poked in the butt by a plastic crinkle-cut fry every now and then when I sit on their floor.

Safety – Good. Large plastic food and wood with rounded edges. Aside from imaginary eating turning into real eating, we haven’t had too many issues.

Entertainment to cost ratio – Good. While it didn’t cost me anything, I feel it is only right to consider the first owner, and their up-front cost was probably high, especially for the kitchen itself. However, the kids really enjoy it, and have probably played with this toy more than all the others.

Rundown – This is more uni-sex than I originally gave it credit for. Boys and girls both play with it, and the cabinets are starting to be convenient storage for other random toys (I think a few of Polly’s things have been found in the back). Also, the floppy rubber fried egg can also double as pretend vomit, so that has also made for a few laughs. Something I have learned is you have to suspend disbelief when dealing with volume. You can endlessly fill cups with pretend tea from a pot that is half the size of the cups you are filling. Perhaps I’m too much of a realist, but I always encourage them to brew more, even when the imaginary cup is still half full.

Verdict – Two thumbs up.

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The verdict is still out on a few toys, but the list is getting long, and I’m starting to get tired typing. Also, we have saved a few toys for when we really need them. The kids don’t know we have a Nintendo Wii in the cabinet under the TV. That’s like “An asteroid is coming to Earth and we have a few weeks to live” kinda day.

It is cool to see the things with which we used to play getting new life. We can also tell our kids about the things we did with them while enjoying their creativity with them too. Not to get too preachy and serious, but I have discovered in my 32 years of living that things are meant to be a blessing. Things are meant to be used. I sometimes got mad when Beth would tear into something that I have kept in the original package for fifteen years because I was sure it was going to be worth a ton of money someday (You Beanie Baby people know what I’m talking about!), but I am realizing that it did not bless my life in any way. It wasn’t being used.

Things need to be used. If I may go a step further, people need to be used (You all know who the User is – The upper-case letter should give it away). To quote Fritz Hollings, “I don’t want to rust out, I’d rather wear out.” I’m right there with you Fritz! I hope you all are wearing out too (in a good way)!

From the dinnermesa,

Ty

“Friends” baby shower…

So if you are a guy, this is not the post for you…it also has not one photo of our children in it!  Also you should know that “Friends” is in quotation marks because we based the shower on the this TV show, not because we are only air-quote friends with the Mommy.

Earlier today my friend Lisa & I got the privilege to throw a baby shower for our beautiful friend Coco.  When we first got married my husband did not understand why I love to craft, throw parties/showers, or stress out about the little details.  I explained that it is my way of showing someone that they are special, what they like matters, it’s an avenue for their family to see that they have friends who care about them & support them.  And it is FUN for me.  Here are some pictures of our morning…

The infamous “Friends” couch

Party favors a little Coco”a” to take home & enjoy, and a reminder to pray for the sweet baby girl who will be joining us soon. Also mag-na-doodles because they go along with our “Friends” theme…the back of Joey & Chandler’s door.

Coffee filter flowers for our “Central Perk” setting.

Love old sewing drawers

Fun quotes from the TV show

Some of Coco’s favorite treats

We had all of the guests draw a phrase or picture for Coco & took their pictures. Baby girl was the only one who didn’t object to me putting it on the computer…look at those blue eyes, she is gorgeous!

My attempt at chalkboard art, not up to Lisa standards but still fun

Congratulations to Coco & Javi, new baby girl is going to be so very loved!

Happy hostesses

The true secrets of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.

~William Morris

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

A Dedication…

Orphan Sunday, a Sunday where the church takes a moment to pause  & look at the plight of the the orphan in the world.  Where the church body is called to action for these children.  Because as David said this morning at church, it is a command not a calling.

In our church we do a child dedication.  A dedication in front of the church that we as parents will be a Godly example for our children & raise them up in the ways of the Lord.  We cannot obtain salvation for them, that is a choice that they will have to make on their own.  This is usually only done with babies but one Sunday out of the year we do it for orphans who are now part of their forever family.

As we got our kids into big church they were enthralled with the theater seats, this kept them occupied & out of trouble for the most part.  And then the music started, my oldest son then very loudly begins to exclaim, “3 guitars, Mami there are 3 guitars!!”  He was in love with the music, especially when there was a saxophone solo.  Then we had a baptism & it was one of the students in big brother’s class.  When the pastor asked for the friends & family to stand he proudly stood up with a fist pump & stated, “Mi amigo!”

When it was time to head onto stage, we were ready & armed with 2 grandpa’s to help with crowd control.  The kids did really well, they loved seeing themselves on the video & big brother could not believe that he got to be that close to the instruments.  After the pastor prayed for them the kids were presented with Bibles.  You have never seen such excited kids!  The bibles were immediately opened & exclaims were made, “we love them, they are just like Papi y Mami’s, & they are in Spanish!”  It means an incredible amount to us that our church actively participates in orphan Sunday, there is just something amazing about being to publicly say, “Yes these are my children, this is the family that God has entrusted me with & I will do my best for them because of Him.”

David also made a great point during his sermon…it’s hard.  The paperwork, the money, the travel, the loneliness…and then you come home & start the hard part.  But tonight I will share some blessings from this weekend:

We went to game night at my Grandparents church, their class wanted to meet the family that they had been praying for all of these months & we were happy to say “thank you” to some of our prayer warriors!  Right as we walked into the room the kids saw a large wooden cross up on the stage & my oldest instantly said, “that is the cross Jesus died on” & then our two oldest told this story together, “he died on that cross for the world but he is not dead he rose again & went into heaven & also into Mami & Papi’s hearts.”  You should know my biggest fear is that my children won’t find salvation because Tyler & I are still learning Spanish & just have a hard way of communicating everything but how good is God, He will find a way!

Game night with Meme & Papa

Tonight on the way home from church big sister was talking to herself & I turned down the music so I could hear her.  “Thank you God for my family, for my Mami & Papi, for my brothers & sister, for my clothing & toys.  Please help us be kind to each other & love everyone because it makes you happy God.”  She caught me listening & said, “I can talk to God anytime, right Mami?”  Absolutely sweet girl.

Tonight at dinner the kids talked about their old house.  Where they were before they were part of our family.  These are hard stories to hear, they break my heart, I learned why my youngest son hates cold water & has nightmares.  But they are sharing, they are trusting us & feel secure enough in our home to let us in.  The more we know about these demons in their past the more we can understand & pray for them.

Sitting in thankfulness that my children are no longer orphans.  Praying for those who still are.

At the dinnermesa,

Beth