Saturday, December 24, 2011

From Our Family to Yours...

May your Christmas be blessed with the presence of Jesus as we reflect on the most amazing gift ever given to mankind. I'll be back to blogging in the New Year. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

For Unto Us A Child Was Born!

Today my brother & his wife had their first baby, Taylor Lynn Cloud! She is our first female addition among the grandkids on that side of the family. And might I mention that she is perfect in every way, complete with a dimple in her chin! It is so hard for me not to be there in South Carolina today, because that is definitely where my heart is. But I am thankful to already have a plane ticket for January and can't wait to smother her in love and kisses!

6 lbs 12 oz.
19 inches
Born @ 12:21 on 12/22

Let the spoiling begin!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

South Bay Staff Christmas Party

It is my joy, once a year, to get to host the South Bay Staff Christmas Party. I don't want them to have to plan their own party or think about anything but getting there. This is my chance to show them how much Andy & I love and appreciate them.

I feel so blessed to get to serve along side people who we truly love and enjoy. 

We had a great time and shared many-a-laughs that night. A couple people threw in some really funny gifts for our gift exchange. Andy and I came home with quite the risque board game called Tantric Love (which Andy is convinced we are going to play)!

The kids had fun too as we had some special activities planned for them. The highlight of my evening was probably watching all the kiddos open their gifts that South Bay had purchased for them (& I got to pick out!). They were so happy and having such a blast playing together. We want each of those precious children to grow up knowing that they are a valuable part of this team!

Here are a few snapshots of our evening...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

An [awkward] Christmas Greeting

If you live in the Bay Area, we would LOVE for you to join us this Christmas Eve as we celebrate the birth of Jesus!

Here's the details:
WHEN: Saturday, December 24th at 4:30 & 6:30 PM
WHERE: The Marriot @ 2700 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara

Click here to get your free tickets. (Those with tickets will get priority seating.)

And here's your personal invitation from South Bay's very sophisticated pastors: 

Ahhh... aren't you just so proud to call those men your pastors?!
 They make me laugh. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Presents & Kids

Most parents struggle with knowing what is the appropriate amount of presents to get for their children on Christmas.

  • We don't want to be Scrooge, but we don't want them to think Christmas is all about the presents. 
  • We are excited to see their excitement, but we don't want to create spoiled brats or unrealistic expectations. 
  • We feel embarrassed when we hear our friends are getting their kids a much nicer gift than we are, but we feel guilty when we realize that we're getting our kids a much nicer gift than another family. 
I remember walking through Toys-R-Us last Christmas almost disgusted over the idea of getting more STUFF that they don't need and probably won't even play with in 2 months. 

It good for every family to come up with some type of plan that works for them. A little structure to help them make decisions for what's appropriate to do for their kids for Christmas. 

Some people set a dollar amount to limit their their kids might get one bigger present or 5 smaller ones, but the amount of money stays the same.

I have another friend who does 3 gifts per child per Christmas.

The latest idea that I heard (which I really like) is getting each child:
  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read
What guidelines do you use to help you not get "The Crazies" when it comes to shopping for your kids?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gingerbread Men Recipe

I found a great recipe for Gingerbread Men that I wanted to share. Unfortunately, all of my gingerbread men got eaten before I remembered to take a picture, but they turned out really cute AND were yummy (unlike a lot of gingerbread men I've tasted). They are a little "spicy" and chewy instead of dry and hard. I used brown M&Ms for his eyes, green and red M&Ms for buttons, and red icing for a little flair on his arms and legs. Even my picky eater, Caedmon, loved them!

Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Men-

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (depending on the size cookie cutter that you use) in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Still Alive...and Coming Up For Air!

Every year about this time, no matter how hard I fight against it, I seem to take an unintentional Sabbatical from blogging. I wish I could say it was because I am taking this time to really focus on Jesus, to be still and quiet before Him as we remember and celebrate His birth. But alas, I have just been trying to stay afloat through the busyness of this month. I am typically the "early to bed, early to rise" type, but late nights have become my specialty as of late.

Anyone else out there been stuck in the spirit of, "Go! Go! Go! Merry Christmas!"

This week I went to the post office to ship 30 (THIRTY!) packages and about 120 letters. I'm pretty sure the only reason I didn't get cussed out by the long line of people behind me is because I had an adorable little Ethiopian boy dancing around, playing with his train, and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. (Way to go, Sammy!)

But, I think I am (finally) about finished. Just a few minor details remain and the heavy weight of preparations that had to be made has been lifted. I have definitely been more of a Martha than a Mary this month, and I'm ready to make the switch. (Luke 10:38-42)

Leave me a comment to let me know one thing you do to help yourself stay focused on Jesus and keep a quiet heart during this season.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Minivan Express

I came across the coolest Christmas idea on this blog and had to pass it along to you!

Most of you are familiar with the children's book/movie The Polar Express, right? Well, this activity allows you to bring the book to life for your kiddos!

There are several different parts to the activity that can obviously be modified to fit your needs. So feel free to pick & choose to make it your own!

First step, make a Rudolf cup with your kiddos. All the steps are right here, but the finished product can look something like this:

2nd, click here to download some of these Golden Tickets.

3rd, research where there are some good Christmas lights in your area. In the South Bay area, Vasona Park in Los Gatos has a great display. Click here for more info.

4th, either read the book to your kiddos, watch the movie together, or take them to the Barnes & Noble story time this Friday, December 9 at 7 PM to be apart of the special reading of this book. Most Barnes & Noble's nationwide are participating in this event, I believe. (Unfortunately, Andy & I already have plans and won't be able to take the kiddos to the story time, but we'll read the book at home on a different night.)

5th, get your kids all ready for bed just like you would any other normal night. As they climb into bed, however, they will discover their Golden Ticket that you have snuck in there!! They are getting to go on an adventure!!

While one spouse "puts the kiddos to bed" the other spouse should be popping popcorn (to be placed in the Rudolf cups) and making hot chocolate (I'm putting our hot chocolate in sippy cups so as not to spill). Have the popcorn and hot chocolate waiting for them in The Minivan Express!

6th, As the kids climb in The Minivan Express, have the conductor punch the ticket and then enjoy a fun evening of viewing Christmas lights together as a family!

Please leave a comment to let me know if you do this with your family. I'm sure I'll post pictures later whenever we do this with ours!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Other Side of the Story

This week I shared a ton of pictures and fun Wood Family Adventures. Lest you think that our family time together is all smiles and laughter and nostalgic photographs, I thought I'd give you a peak at the "behind the scenes" of our vacation. The out-takes and bloopers, if you will.

The reality for most (probably all) of us is that our kids are not always adorable and cheerful. In fact, quite the opposite can be true. You may be in a season where it feels like you only catch glimpses of the adorable/cheerful side of your child and the majority of the time you find yourself struggling to maintain composure with the ornery/ungrateful/contrarian/defiant/highly-emotional-in-a-not-so-good-way side of your "sweet angel".

And that can suck the life out of anyone.

Caedmon has two polar opposite sides to his personality. One is all sweetness, tenderness, kisses, and laughter. And in those moments, I could just eat him with a spoon! It only takes a glimpse at this side of him to melt my hardest heart.

The other side to the Caedmon Coin is, well, quite different than that one. And the crazy thing is, you never know what you're going to get. 

Our first night in Sacramento we went to get some pizza. A picture says a thousand words...

The attitude carried over to the next morning which required Andy & Caedmon to have some heart-to-heart time in our hotel bathroom...which was not the way we wanted to start our vacation.

On Wednesday afternoon when we got home from Sacramento (after spending 3 days at the zoo, Chuck-E-Cheese, children's museum, and Chick-Fil-A), Caedmon got upset about something and screamed, "I never get to do anything I want to do! I never do anything fun!"

As we were heading out the door to meet our friends for our Thanksgiving feast, Caedmon informed us that, "This is not what I had planned to do today."

A couple days ago, after spending the morning inside playing with and reading to the boys, I suggested we go outside to get some fresh air. Caedmon had a blast playing dodge ball with me, but then turned on a dime when I said let's ride our bikes to the playground. Screamed and cried the whole way there. It was so bad, in fact, that we actually just turned around and came back home where Caedmon had to play by himself in his room for an hour while Sammy and I played cars, trains, and puzzles.

I am not at all trying to make Caedmon out to be some horrible, no good, problem child. I would move mountains for that kid. I love him to pieces. And, after Caedmon spent an hour in his room, he was nothing but sweetness the rest of the day...well, until one more episode around 7:00.

You've been there, right? Every parent has. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 years old saying to my parents (in the middle of my birthday party that they had worked very hard to pull off) "This is the worst birthday party ever!"

What do you do in those moments? Do you yell, "You ungrateful spoiled brat!" Do you let it ruin the whole vacation or family time?

Andy & I are working very hard to think of consequences that speak loud and clear to the "offender" but  don't hurt the rest of the family.
  • We're not going to stay home from some fun activity that we planned just because you have a bad attitude. But you will have to sit on the sidelines and watch instead of getting to participate in the fun when we get there.
  • We're not going to forgo dessert as a family just because you turned up your nose to the dinner I cooked. But you'll have to save your dessert for tomorrow once you've eaten a good meal. 
The truth is, no matter how hard you try to minimize the fall-out, a bad attitude or bad behavior from one child does affect everyone else. It's really unavoidable to some extent.

But, as parents, we cannot allow their attitudes to dictate ours.  That gives the child way too much power and control. Plus, it is our job to set the tone for our family. Sometimes that means you force yourself to laugh and have fun with your spouse/other child when you're boiling mad on the inside over whatever just happened with the "offender".

We have to hold the offender responsible instead of allowing the offender to hold the rest of the family hostage. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Once Upon a Christmas Tree

Our final hoo-rah last week was a trip to the Santa Cruz mountains to cut down our Christmas tree. If you live in the Bay Area, this is where we went and had a great experience. We packed a picnic, drank some hot chocolate, and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

The rope swing was probably the highlight of the whole experience!

Sammy wasn't into the rope swing, but he was more than willing to pose for the camera. Ha! What a ham!

We got the tree in place that afternoon and were planning on saving the decorating for the next day. That night, Andy went to the Stanford football game with a couple friends. Not long after he left, Caedmon started throwing up. Poor guy. It was so sad (and gross). We went through quite a bit of carpet cleaner and three rounds of sheets & blankets that night.

When I finally got the boys to sleep, I thought it would be good to go ahead and put the lights on the tree. Much to my dismay, the hole tree fell over, dumping out all the water in the stand! Argh. I set the tree back up and began again. But I decided to wait for Andy's help because I could tell the tree was still rickety.

The next day, Andy helped me get the tree stabilized and we added the lights and ornaments. The boys and I were sitting on the carpet admiring the tree after I hung the last ornament, when TIMBER! The tree fell right on our heads! (My poor carpet!)

For all you parents trying to figure out how to get your young kids to stop touching the Christmas tree, there ya go. Just let it fall right on their little heads and I promise you they won't touch it with a ten foot pole!

The finished product. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All About the Kids

We did NOT eat at Chick-fil-a 5 times in 3 days while in Sacramento. That would be gross. And embarrassing. And we were certainly NOT having personal conversations with the owner of the Chick-fil-a regarding our vacation activities, where we live, and when a Chick-fil-a may be opening in our area. No, that never happened. Not to us, at least...

Ok, moving right along.

One thing that Andy and I realized (remembered?) while away is that vacationing with young children requires the vacation to pretty much be all about them. Kids aren't really into extending reading sessions at  a quiet Starbucks. Nice restaurants end up being more of a battle than its worth. And there's no such thing as taking it easy in the morning when the Littles are rarin' to go by 6:30.

So, you just gotta embrace the season and go with it...

After a morning at the zoo, we headed to Chuck-E-Cheese for the afternoon. Ten dollars in tokens can go along way. Caedmon and Sammy obviously had a great time, but what I did not get a picture of was Andy tearing it up at basketball. You know, the game where you stand about 3 feet in front of the 7 foot high hoop and start thinking you might be eligible for the NBA because you're just so darn acurate. Not sure how many tokens we invested in that game.

The next morning we headed over to the Sacramento Children's Museum. Can you tell which one is the monster in the picture below?

While the Children's Museum was highly entertaining for the kiddos, Andy and I felt a bit like puppy dogs tied on a leash with a 5 year old and 3 year old master. We just followed them around for a couple hours while they explored, discovered, and created. I would love to say that we were fully engaged and in awe of their little minds at work, but that would be a slight overstatement. I had my camera to entertain me while Andy used up the entire data plan for my phone in one morning. Just being honest, people!

They are pretty cute kids though, aren't they? And one day, they'll get to bless their own children with Chick-fil-a and Chuck-E-Cheese and Children's Museums. In the meantime, we're trying to make some memories and enjoy each moment in this phase of life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

And We're Back...

Did ya miss me?

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving week with your families and friends. I sure did! Andy took some time off last week and I thoroughly enjoyed not opening my computer in order to spend more time with him and the Littles. We did a lot of fun stuff, so this week you will be receiving a picture overload.

Consider yourself warned!

We took a little trip to Sacramento just to "get away" for a few days. When people found out we were vacationing in Sacramento without any family there or meetings or reason for going there, the response was always the same... "Really? Vacationing in Sacramento?" Ummm, yes.

It really is a pretty cool place. The leaves actually change color there unlike in the Bay Area. There's lots to do for kids. And, perhaps the number one reason to vacation in Sacramento, they have a Chick-fil-a!

The following are pictures of why little boys need a dad (or someone "fun") in their lives. As we walked to the entrance of the zoo, we passed through a park covered in fallen leaves. Andy started making a pile for the boys to jump in. I'm not sure that thought would have even crossed my mind walking through the park. I would have admired how pretty the leaves were, maybe even tried to force my boys to walk hand in hand down the path surrounded by fall leaves so I could get a few snap shots, but I don't think I would have thought to do this...

And that would be Reason #482 that Dad out-awesomes me every time! 

Oh, I just love it when I catch a shot of Caedmon's sweet face. He normally tries to hide it from me but every once in a while, I get one! I thought you might pass on all of my shots of the animals. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on our Thanksgiving week!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A little break...

This week I'm going to take a bit of a break from my blog to enjoy some extra time with my family. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures to share with you next week. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An Adoption Interview

November is Adoption Awareness Month and I did an interview on another blog to shed some light on our adoption. Click here to check it out.