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.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Unlikely Friendship

On the way to preschool today, Caedmon and I were discussing the first Thanksgiving. I explained to him how the Pilgrims had moved to North America and how things weren't going well for them. They didn't have enough food, people were getting sick, many had died, and winter was coming. If the Native Americans hadn't helped them out, it's possible that all or  most of the Pilgrims could have died that winter.

But, I told Caedmon, the most interesting part is that the Native Americans and Pilgrims weren't really friends. In fact, they were kinda like enemies. They were both really scared of each other, scared that the other might kill them. It was an extremely kind gesture for the Native Americans to offer help to the Pilgrims. Courageously kind.

Caedmon and I talked about how there are some people that we just naturally get along with, like his best-buddy Kaden that he met the first day of preschool this year. As soon as they met, they became inseparable.

But there are other people who we don't naturally get along with. Those are the people it takes courage to be kind to. I prayed for him as we drove that God would help him to have the courage to be kind to someone today, just like the Native Americans were kind to the Pilgrims.

I wonder who is in your life that is difficult for you to love. Thanksgiving is typically a time we think about getting together with people who we love and enjoy. And there's absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. But maybe God wants you to forge an unlikely friendship this week. Maybe there is someone to whom you need to be courageously kind. What is one gesture of kindness (big or small) that you could do for that person this week?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Christmas Story from Joseph's Perspective

Every time I read the Nativity Story from the book of Matthew, I am always struck by the same thing: the obedience of Joseph. Matthew records 4 different dreams that Joseph had over a 3-4 year period, each with a divine message.
  1. Marry your pregnant fiancé.
  2. Flee to Egypt.
  3. Time to come back to Israel.
  4. Don't settle in Judea.
Each dream was met with immediate obedience. There's no record of Joseph trying to bargain with God or asking for further clarification. The Bible makes it seem that it's as if he woke up from the dream and did whatever the the instructions were instantly...even in the middle of the night if needed.

There is no way that Joseph could have fully understood the significance of each of those decisions. He didn't have the 2000 year hindsight perspective that we have. Most likely he didn't grasp the fact that the Messiah's life and plan for the salvation of mankind was hanging in the balance. If he hadn't obeyed each of those for divine messages: 
  1. Mary may have been stoned to death while pregnant with Jesus
  2. Herod may have killed Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem
  3. Jesus may have gotten accustomed to life in Egypt & not grown up w the very people for whom He was sent
  4. Herod's son, Archelaus, may have killed Jesus in Judea
Now I fully believe in the Sovereignty of God and I believe that nothing would have thwarted God's plan for salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. If Joseph had chosen not to obey, deliverance would have arisen from another source. 

BUT, Joseph did obey! 

He got to be part of the story. Part of the divine plan. Part of restoration of mankind to relationship with God. All because he obeyed the instructions given to him.

You may not feel like much is hanging in the balance when it comes to your decision whether or not to obey God. What difference will it really make if you don't give that money you felt prompted to give, or if you don't maintain purity in your relationship with your boyfriend, or if you don't reconcile that broken relationship? 

What we can't see from here is the 2000 year hindsight perspective of our own lives. We have no idea the rippling effects that every decision in our lives has. Each choice we make builds on the previous choice, and it is creating the person we are layer by layer. With each decision we are taking a step, either down this path or that one. 

Your obedience to God is much more significant than what it seems from here. Even when the instructions don't make sense from your perspective, trust God's perspective enough to obey right away.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Matrimony: What Does God Think About Sex?

It's been a while since I posted an edition of "Monday Matrimony", so I thought I'd just start off the week by shocking everyone with a great post about sex! Who doesn't love a little Monday morning sex?! :-)

I am currently reading "What's It Like To Be Married To Me?" with two different groups of friends. I am loving this book and loving that I need to read each chapter twice (since one group is ahead of the other, not because I'm that dense, ahem). Reading it twice really solidifies the chapter themes in my mind.

The book is intended to help wives take a hard look at themselves as wives and ask tough questions that lead to practical growth.

Last week the title of the chapter was, "What is it like to make love with me?" Well, if that's not a question every small group is just bursting to talk about, I don't know what is! I'm glad my discussion group was with two very close friends!

Linda Dillow does a beautiful job describing the type of intimacy that God desires and intends for a husband and wife to enjoy. She tells stories of various women who hated/ resented/ or simply endured sex  and how they found their paths to freedom. Women who had been abused. Women who had a background of sexual sin. Women who had abortions. Women whose view of intimacy was all but ruined by Hollywood. Women who had the courage to take God at His word, do the hard work or renewing their minds, and start believing that their intimacy with their husbands could be so much richer than what they were experiencing.

Linda says,
Lovemaking can be playful and fun, and it can be intense, with tears of deep release and emotion. Incredibly, it can create a child and bring oneness or great physical pleasure. It can bring comfort and release tension. Sex is God's gift to His people. Enjoy His gift. Use it wisely, use it freely- and use it often.
It breaks my heart to know that many (most?) women are not experiencing that type of exhilarating, intoxicating, unifying intimacy with their husbands. You were never intended to simply endure sex.

No matter where you are today in your relationship with your spouse, please know that it can absolutely get better. God can heal any wound and restore any brokenness in your life or in your marriage. Believe Him for that. Do the hard work of pursuing that. You will never regret it! Your marriage is worth the effort.

Two ideas to get you started:

  1. Order (and read!) Linda's awesome book. If you apply every concept in this book, your marriage will be richly blessed. Click here to go to the link.
  2. Find a friend to discuss the book with. It's always nice if you're able to find a woman who is a little more mature than you spiritually to talk with. But it works with any friend who honestly wants a thriving marriage and is willing to grow.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Masterpiece

Every night as I put the boys to bed I sing them this song. They both lay there in their bunk beds, sometimes singing along, sometimes being rowdy and not paying attention, sometimes half asleep.

Last night was particularly special as Caedmon was out with Andy so I put Sammy to sleep by himself. Instead of singing to him as he laid in bed, I held him in my arms...his head on my shoulder and arms and legs holding on like a monkey. I love to feel Sammy's love. And to feel him receive my love. It wasn't long ago (only a few months really) that he would squirm to get out of my arms if I ever tried to hold him this way. But now he melts in my arms and loves to be held. As I sang these words over him last night, I prayed that God would allow the meaning to penetrate deep into his soul and that he would know that he truly is a beautiful, priceless masterpiece.

Before you had a name
Or opened up your eyes
Or anyone could recognize your face,
You were being formed so delicate inside.
Secluded in God's safe and hidden place.

With your little tiny hands, and little tiny feet,
And little eyes that shimmer like a pearl.

He breathed in you His song,
and to make it all complete
He brought the masterpiece into the world.

You are a masterpiece.
A new creation He has formed
And you're as soft and fresh as a snowy winter morn.
And I'm so glad that God has given you to me.
Little lamb from God, you are a masterpiece. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Taste of the South

My mom grew up in the South. The deep South. We're talking the "Delta of Mississippi" South. Where the tidy rows of cotton fields stretch as far as your eyes can see and the selling price of a bale of cotton determines what kind of Christmas you'll have. If you have read the popular book, The Help, you have a picture of some of the things that were common in my mom's growing up years. My mom's family did have "Help", and let me clear, she was dearly loved and well taken care of. She was a valuable part of the family and worked for them from the time my mother was a child until I was a teenager. My grandmother and Mary Lee worked side by side in running the Dunaway household and there were plenty of things (my grandmother would readily admit) that Mary Lee did even better than her!

While there may be some things that could be criticized about the deep South in Mississippi, there is a way of life so thick with culture and tradition that it demands a little appreciation and admiration. Like the fact that an 8 year old girl would know how to properly set a table with fine china, crystal, linen napkins, and REAL silverware. Or that women would often get together to play a game of bridge at 3 in the afternoon. Or that it's not uncommon to plan the dinner for your own funeral before you die, making sure everything (especially the deviled eggs) are assigned to someone's care. You may not care about these things, but once you have seen it and experienced it, there is something to appreciate about it.

One thing that the South knows how to do is COOK! Not so much the "Cooking Light" or Weight Watchers version of cooking. But if you want to find some good 'ol comfort food to warm your soul, Southern Food is the way to go. The South...where macaroni and cheese is categorized as a vegetable. Where no meal is complete without at least one casserole. Where everything tastes better with cheese or barbecue sauce. And where it would be seen as absolutely rude (and unheard of) to end a meal without some type of dessert.

On that note, I would like to share with you my Grandmother Dunaway's Deluxe Pound Cake, straight from Hollandale, Mississippi. Please do not post a comment informing me of how many calories this one recipe contains. :-) Just bake it and blindly enjoy it! Think of it as a lesson in Southern Culture...

Grandmother's Deluxe Pound Cake

(Let butter and eggs get to room temperature.)

2 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup Crisco

5 whole eggs (1 at a time)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. rum flavoring
1 tsp. coconut flavoring

3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Alternate adding to the batter the flour mixture and 1 cup of milk until all is added.

Pour in greased and floured tube pan or 2 loaf pans. Bake 90 minutes (or so) at 300 degrees.

Optional glaze once cake is cooled:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. almond flavoring

Serve with a dollop of Cool Whip and some fresh cut strawberries!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

My college roommate (and one of my best friends in the whole world), Kendall, is expecting her first baby! To celebrate, some of the South Bay staff girls threw Kendall a shower this past weekend. Sanli, who is not officially on staff but might as well be, opened her home for the party. I gotta be honest, throwing parties like this typically isn't my cup of tea. But I had a great time helping with this one as it was, to me, an expression of my love & excitement for Kendall.

Get ready for picture overload because you know I have to show off all of our hard work!

The fabric for the tablecloth is the fabric Kendall chose for her nursery. 
That's where we got the theme for this shower. 

We had lots of hostesses that each contributed something special!

Kendall's mom SURPRISED her by flying in from Alabama for the shower.
Oh, how I love a good surprise!!!

So full of joy!

A special prayer of blessing for a special new mom!