Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Parks, Picnics, & Playdates

It has been all parks, picnics, and playdates for the Littles and me this week. We have eaten our lunch outside 4 out of the last 4 days! I love picnics, not only for the fun and beauty of eating outside, but also because when I get home for naptime I don't have to think about making lunches. Whew! That part is already taken care of.

Our playdates this week have all been special ones because they are people we don't get to see very often: friends from Texas who were vacationing in SF, a church planter's wife, and another adoptive family. Caedmon, especially, has enjoyed the variety of playmates and trying out some new playgrounds in the area.

Here's a peek at our trip to Happy Hollow with the Jokisch family visiting from Texas...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Compassion Sunday

Compassion Sunday may very well be my favorite Sunday of the year. Well, maybe 2nd in line after Easter. It is when we see the body of Christ in action. When we can become the hands and feet of Jesus. When we take our eyes off our own needs and choose to look beyond ourselves into the rest of the world. It's when we remind ourselves that there is a great big world out there...much of whom lives in poverty. We take time to remember, as Andy said in his sermon, that Jesus is not American. He does not have blonde hair and blue eyes, He's not a republican, and He does not live in the good ol' U.S. of A. He is a global God.

This video was made from the footage of Andy & Filipe's trip to Ethiopia to begin a partnership with a Nazeret Emmanuel United Church through Compassion International. WARNING: If you are at all like me, this video will inevitably bring tears to your eyes and may leave with with a strong urge to get over there as quickly as possible.

South Bay had info packets for 67 kids from Nazeret available for sponsorship on Sunday. All 67 kids now have a sponsor and we have a waiting list of 15 more families that would like to sponsor as soon as more come available. I love our people!

YOU can sponsor a child too! $38 per month provides spiritual, educational, nutritional, and medical development and assistance for these beautiful children. Simply click here and follow the instructions for how to sponsor a child. YOU could be a part of freeing a child from the bondage of poverty!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Great Day at Monterrey Bay

My friend, Nadine, and I loaded up my van with four carseats, two strollers, two picnics, and 4 children ages 4 and under to head to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. We had such a good time! The aquarium is just as fascinating for adults as it is for children...sometimes even more so. The kids were mesmerized with all of the colors and variety and creativity of God's creation. 

 I love the looks on Caedmon & Laura-Ann's faces. Complete wonder.

 Listening. Looking. Learning.

 I could watch the jellyfish all day. The room where this exhibit is has dimmed lights and 
peaceful music. The way the jellyfish float about is almost hypnotic. So beautiful.

 Sammy is stuck to Caedmon like glue. Absolutely adores him, although Sammy does 
try to conceal his adoration with whines and screams whenever Caedmon touches 
him. Caedmon pretends he doesn't like his little shadow, but he can't fool me! If his 
shadow disappears for more than a couple minutes, Caedmon comes looking for him!

 Caedmon & Laura-Ann surveying the Pacific

 Beautiful Alyssa

Alyssa also adores her older sibling!

 This is an enormous red octopus. Absolutely fascinating to watch. He was moving all 
over the place while we were there, back and forth across the glass with his 
hundreds (thousands?) of suction cups. The picture doesn't do it justice. I've heard 
that octopuses are as intelligent as a 2 or 3 year old, which may not seem all that 
intelligent, but when you think about the levels of complicated mischief a 2 year old 
can get into, it's pretty amazing.

 Sammy & Laura-Ann checking out the penguins

My beautiful, kissable, lovable boys

On the way home all 4 kids fell asleep and Nadine and I had a glorious hour and a half of uninterrupted conversation!  It was a wonderful day. I'm sad that Nadine will be moving back to Canada in just over a week. She will be dearly missed!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gripes Be Gone!

If you notice me wearing a rubberband on my wrist these days, it is not an accidental wardrobe flaw. It is quite intentional. I'm calling it my "Gripes Be Gone" bracelet.

A couple girlfriends and I are reading a book together entitled "What's It Like to Be Married to Me?". I'm only on chapter 2, but so far it has been very challenging and inspiring.

The second chapter of the book focuses on a wife's tendency to nag, gripe, and complain. Check out this amazing quote:

A few years ago, Jody [the author's husband] and I were involved in a project surveying five hundred Christian couples. The husbands were asked, "What is the one thing you would most like to have in a wife?" Surprisingly, the majority answered, "A positive attitude about life."
That quote floored me! The number one trait desired: a pleasant, happy-hearted woman! Not beauty, not sex. Just put on a freakin' smile and quit complaining about every little thing! Wow. (And, maybe, ouch.)

The author, Linda Dillow, suggests for wives to wear some type of bracelet as a reminder to never let a complaint slip from their lips. Every time you catch yourself being negative, complaining, or grumbling (even under your breath) you have to switch the bracelet to the other arm. It creates a conscious awareness of the words that come out of your mouth and your desire to control them.

I've been wearing my rubberband for 5 days now and Andy has joined me in this little experiment. I am SO much more aware of what I am saying and I find myself spinning a gripe into a positive statement. For example, instead of saying, "It's so hot!" I said, "This is perfect swimming weather!" It is making a difference in my attitude as well as my husband's and children's.

The visual reminder of the bracelet keeps my mind fresh and alert throughout the day. So, I would love for some of you to join me in our effort to kick griping to the curb. Grab a rubberband and let me know if you're in!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cinnamon Biscuits

Piggy-backing on yesterday's post about celebrations, I thought I'd share a recipe that I pull out for special occasions. I got this yummy recipe from my mother-in-love (Andy's stepmom), Denise.

For Father's Day breakfast I made a ham & cheese quiche, fresh strawberries, and cinnamon biscuits. I think it was a hit! Notice the giddy smile as he's about to dig in. :-)

Cinnamon Biscuits
Denise Wood

2 cups sifted flour
3 T. sugar
4 t. baking powder
½ t. cream of tarter
½ t. salt
½ cup oil
2/3 cup milk
2 T. melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425.

Sift together the first 5 ingredients.

Add the oil and milk.

In a small bowl, combine the last three ingredients.

Knead the dough and roll it flat. Spread butter, sugar, cinnamon mixture evenly across dough. Roll into a jelly roll. Cut into 12 pieces.

Bake in muffin tins w/ paper/foil cups for 10-12 minutes.

Cinnamon biscuits are different then cinnamon rolls...they have more a biscuit texture and they are not as sweet and gooey. But don't read that and think they're not as good because they are. Just different.

Also, to add a little more sweetness, I doubled the last three ingredients that make up the "filling". You can also mix some powdered sugar with a little bit of milk to create a glaze/icing to drizzle on top.

Let me know if you give it a try. I'm sure you'll be hooked if you do!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Reason to Celebrate

One of the things I love about the family I grew up in is that we never needed a whole lot of inspiration to celebrate. We didn't have to wait around for birthdays or Christmas. EVERYTHING seemed to be reason to celebrate.

Good grades on a report card? Ice cream for everyone!
A complimentary note home from a teacher? Pillow fight in the living room!
Your team made it to the playoffs? Pizza night!
You completed all your chores this week? How about some roller skating!

It kinda became a family joke how much we liked to celebrate. And celebrations were, by no means, always big and elaborate. It could be something as simple as having powdered sugar doughnuts for breakfast on Saturday morning. But it was special because it was out of the norm and we knew we were celebrating something or someone.

I love that. I think there is something worth celebrating almost every single day. And although, I concede, you could overdue the celebration thing to the point it would no longer feel special, I think most of us celebrate far too little.

This past month and a half has been one celebration after another for us.
  • 8 year wedding anniversary
  • Skydiving trip for Andy's 30th bday
  • Mother's Day
  • Surprise bday party for Andy with South Bay staff
  • Trip to SC to celebrate my parents' 40th anniversary
  • Caedmon's preschool graduation
  • Welcome home from Ethiopia
  • Happy (actual) 30th bday to Andy
  • Father's day
 All within about 6 weeks of each other. Now that's a lot of celebrations!

I hope that you find some reason to celebrate this week. When you see something wonderful and beautiful in one of your children or your spouse, declare to the whole family that you have cause for celebration and bust out a few popsicles! They are so worth it!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Sweet Sammy

"When I see your face
There's not a thing that I would change
Cause you're amazing
Just the way you are.

And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for awhile
Cause you're amazing
Just the way you are."

                 Bruno Mars

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I think he was tired...

Caedmon is of the age now where he doesn't nap everyday. I'm a firm believer in holding on to a nap as long as possible. Caedmon went through a phase at about 2.5 years old when he tried to give up his nap, but I could tell he wasn't ready because he was a bear in the evenings and would fall asleep in his carseat if we ever went somewhere in the evenings. However, when he started staying up after 10 PM even when i put him in bed at 8 PM, I realized it was time to give up the nap.

I still have him take a nap once or twice a week. On Sundays, we all take a nap...a family policy. But most days, he just has some "quiet" playtime during Sammy's nap. The other day I noticed that he was a little too quiet, so I went back to check on him and this is what I found:

So stinkin' cute I just want to squeeze him!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The boys and I have done really well since Andy has been gone. Any one who has taken care of kids by themselves for an extended period of time when you're used to having a little back-up knows that it can go either way. It could be fun and adventurous as we do some special things out of our everyday norms. It could be intimate and bonding as we get to spend more focused time together. OR, it could be a total nightmare if the Littles decide to try to stage a coup.

Caedmon is my wild card and I never really know from day to day what kind of mood he'll wake up it. When he is sweet, he is oh so sweet and I could kiss him until my lips are chapped. But when he is a grump, it is not a pretty sight.

God has been amazingly gracious to us and Caedmon has been so precious during this time. I have really ENJOYED my time with both of the boys and I receive that as a gift from God.

Sunday morning, however, the wheels came off for a period. I will spare you all the details, but Caedmon just woke up in a funk and was committed to pulling all of us into it with him. On the way to church after quite a dramatic morning, I felt that I should pray over Caedmon. So while driving down the road, I extended one hand back toward him and began to pray for him out loud. I almost couldn't contain my laughter as I prayed because the whole time he was screaming in an out-of-control voice, "IT'S NOT WORKING! IT'S NOT WORKING!"-- veins poking out of his neck and all!

Don't you feel like that as a parent so often? You are giving it your very best effort. You are begging God for wisdom and strength and creativity. But all your efforts seem to fall flat and don't bring the change you desire in your kids. Your kids might not be quite as forthright as Caedmon, but their actions are screaming at you, "IT'S NOT WORKING!"

If that's where you are today, let me exhort you to press on because, indeed, it IS working. Although Caedmon may resist my prayers and efforts at times, I know in my heart (and have to remind myself constantly) that those seeds are taking root in his heart. One day it will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace in him. And the same is true for your child.

Just to finish the story, once we got to church (I literally had to drag him out of the van), our amazing Bay Kids team took over and Caedmon has been fine every since.

Click here to read an update from Andy regarding his travel status.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Special Prayer Need

I sent out this email to South Bay's prayer partners today and wanted to include you in the loop. Would you help "pray Andy home"?

Dear Prayer Partners,

As most of you know, Andy has been in Ethiopia this past week with our executive pastor, Filipe developing South Bay's first international partnership through Compassion International. It has been an extraordinary week and we look forward to sharing with you pictures and details in our next newsletter. But we have a more immediate prayer need right now...

They were supposed to be leaving Ethiopia today and arriving home tomorrow, but they are currently stuck in Ethiopia due to volcanic activity in Europe. Did you realize that there are currently 3 volcanoes erupting in the world? I sure didn't (and it doesn't seem any US news station does either). Nevertheless, they are grounded for now and hoping to get out in the next day or two.

Obviously they are very anxious to get home and we are very anxious to get them home. So, will you pray with us?

Please pray:
     * for the air to clear in order for flights to be safe again
     * for stamina for me with the boys and Filipe's wife, Mandy, with their 3 kiddos
     * for God to be glorified through their extra time in Ethiopia

Thank you so much! I thought about titling this email "Urgent Prayer Need", but I realize that it probably would only seem urgent to me and a couple little guys who are missing their daddy. Regardless, we would truly appreciate your prayers right now.

Surely God is my help. He is the one that sustains me.
Psalm 54:4

Friday, June 10, 2011

Against all odds

An amazing story of an orphan who is overcoming all odds to make something of his life.

Of the 147 million orphans in the world today, I wonder how many of them will ever get the chance to bless a family with their God-given talents and the gift of WHO THEY ARE.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Confession: Public Restrooms.

I am not a germ-a-phobe.

I have been known to eat food off the ground. I do not always wash my hands before a meal. I do not typically sanitize my tray table on an airplane. I don't mind drinking after other people. Double dipping in the queso does not scare me. And I've never owned a grocery cart cover to protect my kids from all the germs lurking out there.

However, there is one place that makes my skin crawl. A place the can literally make me gag just thinking of it. A place I try to avoid at all cost. Where?

A public restroom.

There are varying degrees of tolerability:
     A friend's house? Acceptable (unless it is, say, a young man's bachelor pad in which case I would resist)
     Church? The smell freaks me out a little, but I'm still ok
     Target, the mall, the playground? Only if one of the Littles has an emergency
     Airplane? Only on an international trip.    
     Port-a-potty? Absolutely not! I would rather find a tree or, if worse came to worse, wet my pants. That is, sadly, not an to which Andy could testify.

When I was in college I went to China for one month and never used a public restroom! We even went on an overnight trip and I was able to make it. I just dehydrated myself (so unhealthy, I know). I tried one time to use a public restroom while we were there, but the smell was so bad from 15 yards away from the building that I couldn't get any closer. (fyi, not all public restrooms in China are like that. Some are quite nice, I'm sure. But I'm not the one to tell you about them.)

I'm not sure exactly how this phobia developed and I'm sure it seems completely irrational to lots of people (isn't that part of the definition of a phobia?). But, nevertheless, it is where I live.

It is the reason I require everyone to go to the bathroom and/or get a diaper change before we leave the house and I don't offer an endless flow of beverages to my kids while running errands. It is the reason that I thank God (seriously) that He has given me and Caedmon two of the largest bladders known to man. AND, it is the reason why I may possibly be the worst candidate in the world to potty train a child. If it hadn't taken Caedmon so flippin' long to potty train (about 13 months!) we would likely have stayed quarantined to our own house until he learned to hold it for extended periods of time. 

Can you imagine this scene...

We're at Target and the 2.5 year old potty-training Caedmon announces he needs to go potty.

Me: Silent GROAN. "Seriously? Can you hold it?"

We trudge into the bathroom while my exploratory child touches everything he sees. He does not yet realize (like I do, of course) that it is possible to contract a terminal illness simply by breathing too deeply in the bathroom. Fungus and bacteria literally crawl right up your body if you sit down on that germ-infested floor. And you might grow a third eye simply by allowing any part of your skin to touch the toilet seat.

Poor 2.5 year old Caedmon did not realize this, but thank goodness he had a mom like me to protect him!

So our 10-minutes-too-long in the public restroom was punctuated with me shrieking and squealing like a hyena and it's no wonder that my son had such issues with potty-training! It's also no wonder that I've not even begun attempting to train Sammy, although I'm confident he's quite ready. I'm still recovering from the trauma of the experience with Caedmon and keep telling myself that Sammy will be fine as long as we get him out of diapers before kindergarten!

The other day I had a strange combination of emotions (amusement, pride, and a tinge of guilt) as I watch Caedmon use a public restroom. He didn't touch a thing with his bare hands. He lifted the seat with a piece of toilet paper. He flushed the toilet with his foot. He scrubbed his hands vigorously while singing the ABC's and then opened the door with a paper towel! I laughed to myself as a realized that it is TOTALLY my fault that Caedmon is this way.

So, Caedmon, I'm sorry if your friends make fun of you when you get to middle school and they see all of your "routines" when you use the restroom. But take it from me, Son, you're not going to be the one growing a third eye. And who's gonna be laughing then, huh?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spend well...

Here's a company worth investing a little money in. I adore my TOMS shoes...Caedmon says to me, "Mom, are you going to wear those shoes AGAIN TODAY?!" Why, yes I am. And I'd like one in every color, please! Anyone else out there a huge fan of TOMS?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

 This morning, Andy, Filipe, and Mark Lewis boarded a plane with the destination of Ethiopia and I could not be more excited for them!

South Bay is beginning a partnership with Compassion International called "Church-to-Church" or C2C. Andy and I have been supporters of Compassion through the child sponsorship program since we were in college. For a relatively small amount of money each month, you can provide education, food, spiritual development, and basic needs for a child in a poverty stricken country. It is such an amazing program and a shockingly small percentage of the monthly contribution goes toward administrative fees. Almost all of it goes toward meeting the needs of the child.

Compassion is now piloting this new program, C2C. Instead of only partnering an individual families with an individual child, Compassion is partnering churches in the US with churches in these impoverished countries.

So South Bay was fortunate enough to get to be one of the first churches to pilot this program. We are partnering with a church in Nazaret, Ethiopia and will be able to develop a long-term relationship with them. We'll get to serve them in any way we can and benefit from the opportunity to mutually learn from each other.

One of the coolest parts is that people from our church will be able to sponsor children from that church and then go to see them on the mission trips we take in the future! We will actually get to have a personal relationship with them and watch them grow up!

Saying goodbye this morning was tough because I so wish that I could also be going on this trip. International missions is one of those things that makes my heart beat fast and I can hardly wait for the opportunity to take the boys on a trip with me. But this week I am celebrating getting to be on the team through prayer and I'm considering my time at home a "mission trip" of sorts as well. I have the awesome opportunity to invest in two little show them the love of Jesus, to play with them and laugh at them and marvel at them just like I would if I was loving on the kids in Ethiopia. This is my way to serve the Lord this week, and I'm going to embrace it with both arms.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A few more graduation pics...

 Our friend, David Andrews, has his two boys & our two boys on his lap!
His son, Aiden, is one of Caedmon's best buds. 

 These are the South Bay Church kiddos:
Caedmon, Aiden, & Lily
It was so much fun for them to get to be in the same class this year!

Andy was heartsick that he couldn't be there. He scheduled the monthly coaching network that he leads for that day long before we knew the date for Caedmon's graduation. If it had been ANY other meeting, he would have rescheduled it. But several people fly in from out of town to attend it, so he couldn't reschedule. 

I took Caedmon by to see him after the ceremony where Andy had a balloon and present waiting on him! All the guys in the coaching network sang "Happy Graduation" to him. Andy put him in the middle of the room and read a verse from Scripture to him and then shared with him a brief "charge" / blessing. It was really special. Then everyone gathered around him and prayed for God's blessing on his life. That was the only part of the day that made me get choked up...watching these 12 men of God praying over my son, knowing all the while that God is raising that boy to be a Champion for His was a powerful moment. 

The slightly funny part to this story is that Caedmon will get to do this all over again next year! His birthday is mid-September, so officially he could have gone on the kindergarten in the Fall. But we've opted to give him one more year of preschool and let him be the oldest in his class instead of the youngest. Another year of maturity can't hurt, right (especially for boys)?! So, Andy will get to be apart of Caedmon's preschool graduation after all!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy Graduation!

Dear Mrs. Casas & Mrs. Dunn, 

I just wanted to take a moment to let you know how much we appreciate Milpitas Christian Preschool and what a blessing it has been to our family this year. As we considered educational options for Caedmon, a loving, nurturing environment was a top priority for us for the preschool years. Sitting in your classroom at various times throughout the year has confirmed to me that that is precisely the type environment you’ve created.

Having taught kindergarten for a couple of years and now having two little ones of my own, I understand how exhausting and even frustrating at times it can be to work with children all day. I admire and respect the way that you love each child and maintain so much patience with them. I’m sure there are probably times that they “make you crazy” on the inside, but your responses to them exude kindness and tenderness. Thank you for that.

Sending your child to school for the first time is a strange feeling. I so desperately want everyone in the world to know how special Caedmon is, how much he is loved, how God has amazing plans for his life. I know first hand and full-well what a stinker he can be at times, but that is not what I want others to judge him by. He is a treasure and for anyone to treat him as less than that would be crushing to me. Entrusting him into someone else’s care is unsettling because I don’t know if they will value him like we value him. I want you to know that I was so abundantly pleased by the loving environment that you created where he could be free to be himself and bloom into all that God created him to be.

I feel like you brought out the best in him this year! He loved school and looked forward to it every day. AND, he loves you. You have blessed his little life in ways that he can’t even understand right now. But I understand. And I am deeply thankful. 

Thank you for serving our children well!
                                                                                    Many Blessings!
                                                                                    Stacie Wood

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Feasting, Fasting, & Body Image

Yesterday, I mentioned that we consumed enormous amounts of food and desserts on our vacation. Here's the dessert list if you missed it:
  • Peach cobbler with ice cream
  • 2 (TWO) nights of homemade peach ice cream
  • 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies
  • 2 pound cakes
  • 1 chocolate bundt cake 
  • smores
  • Chocolate Passion Bowl
  • 2 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts
  • 1 loaf of cranberry bread
(My mom & sister-in-love pointed out that I forgot to mention the 2 loafs of banana bread, turtle cheesecake, and rice crispy treats that we also enjoyed!)

I realize that food issues are a major area of struggle for so many women (and men too), regardless of age, size, or how "in shape" they are/are not. I think there are two unhealthy ditches that we tend to fall into.

Ditch #1:
Some of us just let ourselves go...always feasting and enjoying every bite of it. We throw moderation to the wind while we feed our hungry bellies (and perhaps our hungry souls) with the richest of foods. We may do this publicly or sneak it in private. But we like to feast and life is one big all-you-can-eat buffet.

Ditch #2:
Others of us can never seem to enjoy a single bite we put in our mouth. We count every calorie, measure out every portion, and feel overwhelmingly guilty if we "sneak" a little dessert. We deprive ourselves, abstain from our favorite things, and often find ourselves judging those without the same level of willpower that we possess.

The funny sad thing is that women on both ends of the spectrum are often suffocating under low self-esteem and poor body image. They'd like it very much if there was some type of exchange policy or refund they could cash in to get a new body all together. Taller, shorter, thinner, more curves, etc... Such a defeating and miserable place to live.

I'd like to propose a third option that I think is both Biblical and life-giving. This approach to food includes both elements of feasting and fasting without the guilt. It actually enables you to fully enjoy food for the gift that it was intended by God to be.

The majority of our lives should be lived with a healthy awareness of what we eat. I don't count calories (although Andy often does), but I eat healthy most of the time. There are many nights after a healthy dinner that I feel a little hungry an hour or two later. Sometimes I'll eat a light snack and sometimes I allow myself to just be a little hungry. We don't typically eat desserts during the week and I don't even keep desserts in our house (lest we would eat them!).

However, on Friday nights for date night, I will eat whatever I want. On family vacation I will indulge in ridiculous amounts of dessert. And at Christmas time, there's no holding back when it comes to enjoying the tastes of the season!

Because the feasting times are special and time-bound, it makes them all the more enjoyable. I don't feast every day. If I did, I wouldn't know how to truly appreciate the times of feasting when they come. I also don't try to count calories when the times of feasting arrive. I feast, and then I pull back.

So why don't we all attempt to climb out of whatever ditch we tend to fall into, and meet each other in the middle of the road to enjoy life, food, and the bodies God gave us.