Monday, October 31, 2011

Beware of the Ghost!

My kids always do the funniest things right when they wake up. And it's even funnier when I think, "Why in the world was that the first thing that popped into your mind this morning?"

The other morning Sammy came stumbling out with his blanket draped over his head pretending to be a ghost. But instead of saying, "Boooo!" he kept saying, "Moooo!" Then he ripped the blanket off his head and said, "Scare you?" Oh, yes, Sammy. I was terrified!

So, we have a slightly confused cow on the loose who is hoping to get lots of candy tonight for Halloween. Hope you have a Spooky Day!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sammy!

Dear Sammy,

We celebrated your 3rd birthday yesterday, not quite in the fashion that we had planned. Your brother ended up with a 103 fever so we had to call off the picnic to Alum Rock park that we had organized. But, true to form, you never complained. Your daddy sure did enjoy getting to spend the morning with you at Chuck-E-Cheese and Caedmon & I were happy to get to participate in the family birthday party we had around our kitchen table. You said in your precious little voice, "My bert-day. I like it." You are the happiest, most playful child I have ever known. 

As I think back over this past year, I am astounded by how much has changed since we celebrated your 2nd birthday. This time last year, you were so scared and unsure of your surroundings. You never wanted to be farther than a few feet from me or Daddy. Back then, you cried about as much as you laugh now, and you laughed about as much as you cry now. The tables have turned.

The timidity that held you captive has been replaced by confidence and boldness. No more peeling you off me like a monkey when it's time to go to BayKids on Sunday. Now you typically run ahead of me to get there and march in with a swagger like you own the place. Not a week goes by without one of the BayKids' volunteers telling me what a fun and adorable kid you are. It seems that you have captured more hearts than just mine.

Sammy, last year at this time I was in a world of mess with my emotions. I was sleep deprived, being followed everywhere by a screaming two year old, and pouring out my life for a child that I felt I didn't know but who, strangely, belonged to me. I was grieving my own set of losses as our family was catapulted from a relatively peaceful and well-adjusted family of 3 to a chaotic tailspinning family of 4. There were so many nights that I cried myself to sleep, wondering if I would ever feel like your mother...If I would ever love you the way you deserve to be loved. I knew in my mind that you were so precious to God and that you were handpicked for our family, but it felt like I was trying to love a stranger, a stranger that didn't like me very much most of the time.

I've now had over 14 months to get to know you and we are building a wealth of memories together. I now know that you have a big appetite at dinner but barely pick at your breakfast. I know having something to dip it in always makes food more enticing. I know that you have boundless energy, running and hopping your way through life. I know it makes you mad when I pick out your hair. And I know it takes much less discipline to break your tender heart than it does Caedmon's. It is hard to remember what life was like before you were in our family. Having you feels so natural now, and the thought of you not being in our family feels so horribly unnatural. You are my child. I feel it so deeply in my bones now.

It fills up my heart to overflowing when you lay on my chest with your arms and legs wrapped tightly around my body. Sometimes you'll lay like that 10 or 15 minutes and it causes your daddy and me think that you're making up for lost time.

It is a beautiful thing to watch love grow. What began as our dream to love you turned into our decision to love you, not just with words but with actions (even in the moments that feelings were hard to come by). And that decision, lived out day in and day out in faithfulness to God and to our commitment to you, has given room for the roots of love to go down deep, blossoming into a life-giving relationship. I hope that you never doubt how deeply you are loved. Loving you is not an obligation. It is not something I do because I signed some paperwork. I couldn't keep myself from loving you if I tried. You are a part of me.

Sammy, your courage and resiliance in overcoming hardship will take you places that few people are able to tarry. No one wants their life to be marked with pain and difficulties, and the fear that it will holds many back from living their most courageous life. I pray that one day you will look back at all the things you overcame the first 3 years of your life and it will inspire you to live boldly, knowing that God has given you strength and resilience to face the most challenging of circumstances. You are an overcomer.

Thank you for greeting me each morning with that mischievous grin and a few quick Tigger jumps. Thank you for confidently believing that everyone thinks you are as funny and as adorable as YOU believe yourself to be. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me me another chance to love you when I have not loved you as I should. Thank you for the laughter and playfulness that you bring to the mundane and monotony of life.

I am so, indescribably thankful for the gift of you. Happy 3rd Birthday, my precious Son. You are loved beyond words.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chocolate Passion Bowl

Hello, Chocolate lovers everywhere! If you have never tried this dessert you are missing out. This is what I served to our Life Group last week.

Chocolate Passion Bowl (by

2 pkg (3.9 oz each) JELL-O chocolate instant pudding
3 cups cold milk
1 tub (8 oz) cool whip, thawed and divided (I used 2 tubs)
1 baked batch of brownies (cooled & cut into bite size pieces)
2 cups fresh raspberries (substituting with strawberries is not NEARLY as good)


  • Beat pudding mixes and milk with a whisk for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of Cool Whip. 
  • Place half the brownies in 2 qt bowl. Cover with layers of half each: pudding, cool whip, berries. Repeat. 
  • Refrigerate 1 hour. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spa Day!

Before last Friday, I had never been to a Day Spa. I've had a few massages (2 in foreign countries), but I'd never been somewhere that you can stay as long as you'd like to enjoy the amenities. My sweet friend, Dawn, wanted to plan something special as her gift to me for my birthday. I thought we were doing a girls' lunch, but she called me 2 days before and said, "Nope! We're going to the spa!"

WOW! It was so nice. And I'm pretty sure we all could have enjoyed staying a lot longer to lounge around in the hot tub, sauna, misting room, etc... The best part was enjoying it all with 5 of my closest friends. This will be a memory that I treasure for a very long time!

Ok, ok, I promise no more 30th birthday posts! I had one incredible birthday, huh? So, so blessed. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Girls' Weekend in SF

Thanks to my amazing husband (and the husbands of these other 3 gals) my sisters, mom, and I had a AWESOME girls' weekend in SF. My sister-in-love, Laura, had never been to San Francisco before, so it was fun giving her the tour.

Here are a few of my favorite shots with brief explanations under each...

This picture was taken just moments after they surprised me by showing up at the restaurant where Andy & I were enjoying my birthday date. We were all so giddy! After a delicious dinner at Tamarine in Palo Alto, and then stuffing ourselves with cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, we spent the night at our apartment in San Jose before heading up to SF the next morning.

 First stop: Golden Gate Bridge, of course! It was the clearest, sunniest, 
and warmest (maybe even hot) day that I have EVER been to the city.

 Then we enjoyed lunch at a waterfront restaurant in Sausalito followed by a little 
browsing the shops and then an ice cream break at Bi-Rite Creamery

 We drove down Lombard Street on our way to our hotel. After checking in and freshening up, 
we headed out for dinner. Andy had made reservations for us at the Cliff House. The walls of 
this restaurant are pretty much all glass and it overlooks the Pacific. We were there for sunset, 
and there is nothing like a Pacific Sunset.

After staying up way too late talking that night, we got up the next morning and headed to the 
Farmers' Market at the Ferry Building.  My sister-in-love was in heaven and declared that if 
she lived in SF, she would be there every Saturday to buy her fresh produce for the week. 
It was a cool (but slightly overwhelming) experience for me.

 Then we headed back to Pier 39 for our windblown picture of Alcatraz and a peak 
at the sea lions basking in the sun. We stopped for some good ol' clam chowder and 
San Francisco's famous sour dough bread at Boudin.

 We enjoyed an awesome dinner that night at McCormick & Schmick's overlooking the bay and 
the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we walked over to Ghirardelli Square for yet another dessert. 
Did I mention that we ate a lot of dessert (and food in general) this weekend?! Look at my 
ridiculously excited smile as I'm about to kill that chocolate brownie sundae with mint ice cream!

The best part of the weekend was the conversation that we carried on from a restaurant to a coffee shop,  back to our hotel room and then back out on the town again. It was the most "talk time" that I've gotten with them in a looooong time. My sister suggested that we each take turns sharing how we were doing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It was such a great way to frame our discussions because it really covered all the bases of what is going on in our lives at a deeper level.

This weekend will be one of those memories that I carry with me always. I am so thankful for our time together and so thankful to have a family that truly loves each other and enjoys time together!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Birthday Rewind

I believe I may be one of the most blessed people in the whole world. This 30th birthday of mine was so much more than what I had ever dreamed. After a couple weeks of feeling a little fried and emotionally frazzled, I am back feeling reenergized, cherished, and thankful.

There is no way to count the amount of hours that Andy put into preparing for this birthday surprise. He started planning it back in March and has a full page document of all of the "to-do's". With the help of friends and family, Andy planned a surprise party, edited a video of birthday wishes sent in from friends & family, researched a perfect date restaurant, coordinated with my mom & sisters to fly in for the girls' weekend, made hotel reservations, and on and on and on...

Two things that were really meaningful to me:
  1. Andy has been wanting to get me a new computer for quite some time. He always talks about how bad mine sucks and he wanted to buy me a Mac. But, Mac's are expensive. So he started saving with the intention of buying one for my birthday. 3 weeks before my birthday, Filipe was having a conversation with a friend who was selling his very nice MacBook Air. Fi told him he should talk to Andy because Andy might want to buy it from him. Our friend said, "Really? Well, I'll just give it to him." WHAT?!?! That's right! Our friend GAVE us a computer that is nicer than anything we would have bought. Amazing.
  2. At our dinner date last Thursday, Andy had prepared three handwritten cards. The first was sitting on our table with a dozen roses when we arrived. He gave me the second card with the computer gift. The final card took my breath away. When I opened it there was a huge stack of cash. The card explained that he wanted me to have this money to pay for our Girls' Weekend in SF. It was all the money that he had earned from doing his coaching network. Even now, the gift brings tears to my eyes. It was one of those gifts that is so sacrificial that you almost feel awkward accepting. But Andy had such joy in giving it to me. He said that it was one of the reasons he decided to do the coaching network. I thought back over the last 6 months and all the hours he had put into preparing for his coaching network each month. Little did I know, all the while he was doing this in part to be a blessing to me. Wow. 
I never expected ANY of this. A dinner date with Andy and a girls' lunch with a couple friends would have been plenty for me to feel loved and celebrated on my birthday. The thought and planning that Andy put into this spoke such love to me.  He sacrificed a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of energy into making this the best birthday of my life.

Two nights ago we were laying in bed, his arm wrapped around me. And he said, "I don't think you have any clue how much I love you." It was the last thing he said before he fell asleep. I laid there listening to him breathe and thanked God for the amazing privilege of being married to Andy Wood.

What can you do today, large or small, to sacrificially love your spouse?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to ME!!!!

Last night at dinner, Andy showed me a video he had prepared with messages from friends and family. The final message was from my sister and my mom. They said that Andy had been working so hard to make this birthday special for me. As he thought about what is most meaningful to me, he knew family is what matters most. So they told me (in the video) to turn around. This is what happened...

YAY!!!! Girls weekend in SF! Andy is taking care of the kiddos and we are headed up for a weekend in the city. Thank you SO MUCH, Andy, Dad, Steve, & Kevin for making this happen. We are going to enjoy every minute of this!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Top 29 Memories from my 29th Year

Today is my last day to be a 20-something. Tomorrow I will join the ranks with all of you who are already "old"! In just a couple hours, my best friend will be coming home to take me out on a date to celebrate my birthday. But before that, I wanted to reflect a little on all that has taken place in my life this past year. Here are my Top 29 Memories from my 29th Year:

1- Surprising Andy with a skydiving adventure for his 30th birthday. Skydiving was one of the most fun and thrilling things I've ever done! (Besides marrying Andy Wood, of course!)

2- I realized this week that 4 of my "nearest and dearest" (Andy, Filipe, Mandy & Kendall) were all there to celebrate my 20th birthday ten years ago at Charleston Southern University and they were here to celebrate my 30th with me this week. Friendships like that don't come along everyday and I thank God for blessing me with these long term, go-the-distance type friends. I pray we'll be celebrating birthdays together for many decades to come.

3- Cutting down our first live Christmas tree as a family...a new family tradition. Experiencing Christmas with Sammy for the first time.

4- My parents visit in December for an early Christmas last year. Strolling through "Christmas in the Park" in downtown San Jose together. Watching Sammy follow Caedmon's lead in how much he should adore these Grandparents of his.

5- South Bay's Christmas Eve service- the Snuggie video and the "Come Home" segment were my favorite parts.

6- Watching our various family members meet Sammy for the first time

7- Sledding and building a snowman in Michigan with Andy's family. This was Sammy's first time to see snow!

8- Caedmon saved his money for months to buy a Pillow Pet- first "big" purchase with his own money. I was so proud of him as we went to the mall that day to pick it out. I felt like it was great lesson in delayed gratification.

9- Valentine festivities- I'm not sure what came over me, but I got really into Valentine's Day this past year and had a lot of fun doing it...I guess it's never a bad idea to celebrate the people we love so much!

10- Andy surprised me by sending me to the CatWest conference in SoCal with a bunch of folks from South Bay while he stayed home with the boys. It was such a fun trip and a refreshing conference.

11- Most days Caedmon wears at least one costume and typically multiple. People have realized that he has a huge imagination and loves to dress up, so we have been the recipients of many-a-costume gifts. I think it's adorable.

12- Watching Andy's leadership/influence continue to grow and expand. He hosted a "Church Planters' Think Tank" and a coaching network this year and has had a great response to both. He has SO MUCH wisdom to share when it comes to starting a church and I'm so proud of him for being diligent to invest that knowledge into others for further Kingdom impact.

13- Having Andy's brother, Dalton, visit us for his spring break

14- Being blown away by South Bay's Easter services this year with over 1000 people in attendance.

15- Watching Caedmon learned to ride his bike without training wheels. He worked so hard for so long at this. The day he finally got it was a huge celebration!

16- Celebrating my parents 40th anniversary with a week of family vacation at the beach in South Carolina. It was such a meaningful time together as a family and with the physical distance that separates us, we never take those times for granted.

17- Finding out that my brother and sister-in-law are expected their first long awaited baby. And it's a GIRL...first in our family! You should have seen my reaction when they announced it. I couldn't stop jumping up and down and squealing and Andy couldn't stop laughing at me.

18- Two day getaway to Half Moon Bay to celebrate our 8th anniversary. This year I feel like our marriage has gone to a whole new level. It is such a JOY to be married to my very best friend and the person I would rather spend time with than any other person in the world. I cherish these occasions when we're able to get some time alone together.

19- Speaking at South Bay on Mother's Day- I shared about some gut-wrenching lessons in motherhood I've been learning over the last year...this has been the year of extreme motherhood for me, taking me to limits I never knew before.

20- Developing South Bay's first international partnership with a church in Ethiopia through Compassion International. I have a HUGE heart for international missions and I am SO excited that South Bay is going to be involved with such an amazing church and group of leaders in Ethiopia. When Andy boarded that plane to Ethiopia, my heart was aching to be with him and I can hardly wait until the boys are old enough for us to go there together!

21- Preparing gift to send to our Compassion child, Yohannis. While Andy was in Ethiopia, he had the awesome privilege of getting to meet him and his mother. Caedmon, Sammy, & I had prepared special gifts and pictures for Andy to give them. Caedmon included a few of his own toy cars in the package.

22- Watching a dozen godly pastors/church planters lay hands on Caedmon to pray prayers of blessing on his life the day of Caedmon's preschool graduation. I don't know what God has in store for that child, but I believe with all my heart that it is something amazing. In moments like this one, it is so real and tangible to me.

23- Having Kennedy live with us for 3 weeks in July. The boys felt like they had a big sister and miss her dearly. She was such a joy to have around!

24- Experiencing Kid's Games first hand...I was surprised by how much fun I had while leading a small group of girls for that week. Caedmon and Sammy had a blast, too! GO RED CUBS!

25- Celebrating our first "Gotcha Day" as a family. This was the very special one year mark of when Sammy joined our family. SO MUCH has happened this year and it is amazing to me to think back on how far we've come. I can barely remember life before Sammy. He is such a valuable and precious part of the Wood family.

26- One thing that really rocked my world this year was getting to catch up with some old friends from Charleston, Kelley & Erik Shamblin, while they were out here on vacation, followed by their discovery the next day that their 8 year old son, Luke, has leukemia. I pray for Luke every single day at 10 cell phone alarm is set to remind me.

27- Hiking in Lake Tahoe with Andy's family. So, so beautiful. 4 year old Caedmon whined the whole way about hating hiking and Andy ended up carrying him for most of the hike. 2 year old Sammy, on the other hand, insisted "I do it! I do it!" and walked the entire 2 miles almost completely unassisted!

28- Putting so much love and energy into Caedmon's 5 year old Star Wars birthday party. 

29- If I had to only pick one theme for this past year of my life, it would have to do something with being stretched as a mom. God has grown me, strengthened my character, revealed sin in my heart that I never knew was there, and taught me how to depend on Him every single minute for strength, wisdom, peace, and hope. I love my two boys with all of my heart and I know that God is going to use their lives in awesome ways to advance His kingdom. I try to maintain that mile-high view of mothering, but this year has been lived in the trenches. This growth process has been a painful one for me, sometimes requiring more than I feel like I'm capable of giving. But God is so faithful. These trials have not only drawn me closer to Jesus, but has created such a bond of teamwork between Andy and me. I appreciate him SO MUCH as an incredible dad to our boys. His strength, perspective, and support has given me the courage to keep investing my heart and soul into being the very best mom that I can be.

So long, 20's! 30's, here I come!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

In honor of Pumpkin Season, I felt like it was high-time to bust out with a little Pumpkin Cake for our Life Group last night. I think it was a huge hit! This recipe is really simple and turns out perfect every single time!

2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1.5 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1.5 cups pumpkin
2 cups flour

Beat together. Pour into a greased and floured cake pan. (I use a bundt pan, but it's beautiful in two or three circle pans that you can stack once baked.) Bake @ 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. (Cook time depends on the type of pan you use.)

1 cup soft butter
8 oz. cream cheese
1 box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Wait until the cake is completely cool to ice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Season

One of the highlights of my fall is taking the boys to a Pumpkin Patch. I think Andy & I may look forward to it even more than they do! There's something about all of the colors that is mesmerizing to me: bright orange pumpkins, bright green corn stalks, bright blue sky, ahhhh. So nice! Not to mention perfect weather (mid-70's with abundant sunshine) and the beautiful mountains gracing the horizon. There are some really great Pumpkin Patches out here in the Bay area. This year we went to Uesugi Farm down in Morgan Hill.

The corn maze had touch & feel boards to teach kids different facts about bees.

Caedmon's hugs are slightly akin to a headlock. 
Notice how happy Caedmon looks and that Sammy is a little distressed!

 My Ethiopian cowboy!

Such a pretty lil' thing!

I love the look on Sammy's face! He was trying to smile, but was a little freaked out 
by all the noises the train was making! He had a good time once we got going, though.

 We babysat the Santos kids that night so we had a pumpkin decorating party. 
Efraim just chilled at the train table (top left corner). :-)

This was one of about 20 shots trying to get them both looking at the camera 
and showing off their pumpkin. Someone was always jumping or had a pumpkin 
in their face or was turned around or... Really guys? How hard can this be?! 
So, please excuse the blurry, grainy picture taken on my phone!