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Friday, November 30, 2012

Give them grace

We’ve been pretty fortunate in avoiding the awkward public questions about adoption. We certainly get some odd stares here and there, along with lots of smiles. But we don’t get offensive questions. We get questions, sure. And there have been a couple times when I wanted to make a sarcastic comment, but of course I keep that to myself. Mostly, people are just curious and I am ok with that. Although interracial adoption is becoming more the norm, I know we still stick out, so some questions are to be expected. But truly for the most part, we go on about our business in public like any other more inconspicuous family.

I have often wondered what I would say in response to a stranger’s unwanted comment or misplaced question. What I have honestly never thought about is how I would respond to one of my child’s interesting questions. Here is how one incident unfolded:

Angel (age 7): Mom, where is Sunshine’s real mom?
Me: What do you mean? I am her real mom!
Angel: No mom, I mean her real mom.
Me: I AM her real mom! (getting frustrated at this point)
Angel: No, but I mean her real mom. You know, the one in China.
Hubby: (seeing the tension rising and me starting to lose my cool) Angel, I think what you’re trying to ask is ‘where is Sunshine’s first mom?’ ... right?
Angel: Yeah, where is she?
Hubby: Well, we’re not really sure where she is. We don’t know anything about her. But sweetie, Mommy is Sunshine’s real mom. She always will be.
Angel: Oh, ok.
Me: (calming down and finally seeing this is is a great learning experience) That’s right baby, Sunshine grew in her first mama’s belly and now she’s here with us. Her first mom is her real mom, and I am her real mom. We are both her real moms!

And just like that, the conversation was over. I clearly didn’t win Mom of the Year Award with my initial reaction, did I? As under control as I thought I’d have things with strangers, I hadn’t prepared myself for questions from my kids. I almost missed a perfectly good teachable moment because of frustration and frankly, annoyance, because it felt like she thought I wasn’t Sunshine’s “real mom.” Fortunately hubby was there to pick up the pieces before things really fell apart, but man, I totally failed that one! I didn’t extend her any grace. I got frustrated with her because in my mind, of all people, members of our own family should understand the proper adoption lingo.  Right? Right? ... Crickets ...

Yeah, I didn’t think so. This really got me thinking about a couple things.

First, we missed the boat in explaining the different roles of “first mom” and “second mom” ... to our own kids! We’ve had a bazillion conversations about China, birth parents, foster parents, etc. but we didn’t lay enough groundwork for it to all sink in. And then when given an awesome teachable moment, I got frustrated and almost missed it.

Second, if my own children don’t understand the correct adoption lingo, I certainly can’t expect strangers to either. It needs to be taught. This is where the “give them grace” thing comes into play. When being asked, “Oh, is she your real daughter,” or “Are they real sisters?” ... it would be so easy for me to lose my cool and snap back with a sarcastic comment like, “Well are they your real kids?” I can clearly see that in myself now after my frustrated reaction to Angel. Instead, I’m hopeful that I can take a deep breath, focus, extend them a little grace, and use it as a teachable moment for them too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nine Years

Nine years ago, I said "I do!" to my partner in life and in faith, my best friend and the father to my children.  God couldn't have given me a better husband to do life with!  I think of all that has happened and all we've done over the past nine years, and I stand dumbfounded at all of our blessings.  God is so good!  Happy Anniversary honey, I love you!

Borrowed Blue Photography

Borrowed Blue Photography

Borrowed Blue Photography
And just for kicks, here is the first picture ever taken of us on December 24, 1997 - about a month after we had met and started dating.

We are so excited to celebrate our 10th next year!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh my, 1st Speech Therapy Session

In trying to stay positive, it can only get better from here, right?  Lisa, Sunshine's new ST, came today for the first time.  Although things went okay at first, they went downhill quickly.  Lisa mostly just observed, only trying to ask Sunshine a few questions here and there.  Sunshine completely stonewalled her, ignoring just about everything asked of her.  She didn't even answer my questions ... questions I know she can answer easily.  And after we had put away the 57th game that Sunshine requested to have pulled out, she was not at all interested in looking at a book when asked.  (Books are her most favorite things, mind you ... she always has her face in a book!)

She was so not interested that it led to whining ... which led to passively trying to kick me ... which led to time away to think.  It only escalated from there because she refused to say sorry for kicking me.  Oy.  Lisa stayed until after the tantrum ended (we certainly didn't want Sunshine thinking that a tantrum would get Lisa to leave!) and we made an appointment for next week.  For now, we are meeting once a week, although may increase to more if we aren't seeing progress.  After the Physical Therapy experience, I kind of new Speech wouldn't be a walk in the park.  Let's hope she is more interested next week?

Here's a quick iPhone video of Sunshine just 30 minutes later ... reading a book to herself.  Really?!  LOL.

And then, in God's perfect timing, I got this note from a super-precious, sweet local homeschool mama friend:

"Hi Nicole,

Last night I was up feeding the baby around 2:30 am and when I got back in bed starting to fall asleep I had an interesting experience. It was like I was hearing you and the Lord having a conversation. I heard your voice saying 'But Lord, I feel so discouraged, l'm not doing a very good job here.' And then I heard Him say back to you 'My daughter, I love you. You are doing a great job parenting and I am proud of you. I want to encourage you, I love you so much. You are doing a wonderful job. I am here with You.' I hope this encourages you today!"

Yeah, the tears flowed down my face after I read that note, let me tell ya!  After the difficult speech therapy session, it couldn't have come at a better time.  God always knows!

Monday, November 26, 2012

How we're doing Advent this year

We are on a never-ending journey to make Christmas more meaningful for our kids.  And no, I don't mean by purchasing more gifts ... I mean by buying less and helping them truly understand Jesus' love and why we celebrate Christmas.  It is not about Santa, and Rudolph, and Christmas trees, and watching our favorite Christmas movies, and buying a bunch of gifts for people.  Although those are fun secular things too, they are not what we are celebrating.  We made the mistake early on of getting too caught up in the extra bells and whistles of Christmas, and now we are slowly re-teaching our kids
(and ourselves).  It's about getting caught up in consumerism less, and instead giving more of ourselves and our time.

I can't think of a better way to teach our children about the gift of Christmas and to truly honor Jesus on his birthday, than by serving others.  The way Jesus would, on a level that the kids can understand.  I have created an ever-growing Pinterest board of ways to serve others, and I adore all of the creative ideas.  Teaching children to have a heart like Jesus and to serve is such a beautiful thing, and we want to start passing that onto our children during Christmas.  So this year for Advent, although we are still doing lots of fun Christmas crafting, we are excited to be "RACK-ing" people ... doing a Random Act of Christmas Kindness per day, up to Christmas.  The kids are totally on board and keep asking when December 1st is coming :-)  So very sweet!

Although we may have to alter the order of our days, here is a basic rundown, beginning on December 1st:

  1. Create Prayer Sticks for our family and friends to help us remember to pray for everyone.
  2. Read "The King's Christmas List" and then pick out several gifts from their website to send to people around the world.
  3. Handwrite letters and draw pictures to mail to others.
  4. Paint rocks and then leave them wherever we go throughout Advent.
  5. Write happy notes and then leave them on car windshields in a parking lot.
  6. Make homemade cookies to give to neighbors we don't know well.
  7. Handmade gifting!  We will be making handmade gifts all day!
  8. Find a homeless person to give a meal to.
  9. Leave a big tip when we're out to lunch after church with a nice note.
  10. Tape quarters to a few vending machines.
  11. Leave a sweet treat and a note for the trash men in the morning.
  12. Go caroling with our MOPS group.
  13. Take doughnuts to the local Fire Station to thank them for their service.
  14. Hide dollar bills in the toy section of the Dollar Store.
  15. Make and colors cards, and then visit an Assisted Living facility to pass them out to people who need a little pick-me-up.
  16. Pick toys out of our rooms to donate to others.
  17. Take dinner to a new adoptive family.
  18. Pay for someone else's toll on the highway.
  19. Leave a sweet treat and a note for the postal workers at our local post office who we see a lot!
  20. Take lunch to someone at work.
  21. Pass out Sillybandz to any children we happen to see (we are planning on doing this on a special trip out somewhere, but I am not sure of the date yet)
  22. We are hoping to visit a hospital to donate arts and crafts supplies to the children's areas (I am still waiting on confirmation from the hospital).
  23. Tape quarters to a laundry machine at the local laundromat.
  24. Leave a sweet treat for our mailman, who so diligently delivers our mail (even during a hurricane!).

Ok, that's our list!  I will be doing some posts for these throughout December (especially of the ones we're doing at home), but I want to be as present as possible and am going to try to not take my camera with me on outings.  We'll see how that goes :-)  I'd love to hear more ideas for serving with your kids from other readers, especially if you have done something that seemed to really impact your kids!  It will be great to tuck those little nuggets away for future use :-)

Happy Advent everyone!  Here is the note we will be using during Advent - I created it using inspiration that came from several other blogs that have done something similar in the past.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

DIY Advent Calendar

I'm really tickled with how our Advent Calendar turned out this year.  I got my inspiration from (surprise, surprise) pinterest and then tried to use what I had around the house to put it together.  The black frame was a $2 yard sale find over the summer, I already had the wired ribbon in our Christmas decorations and I had almost all of the Christmas scrapbook paper needed to put this together.  I love DIY projects that can be made with stuff I already have!

I did purchase the little paper mache boxes - they were $2.99 for six in a pack.  I also purchased the glittery numbers in the scrapbook section of A.C. Moore - they are chipboard stickers and were the most expensive investment in this project.  So to put this together, I did the following:

  1. I painted all of the paper mache boxes with a neutral beige (I have quite the collection of acrylics, so no cost on the paint.)
  2. After picking out 24 Christmas-colored scrapbook papers to use, Angel and I traced and cut out the papers to fit the tops of the paper mache boxes.  (I only bought a few new papers from Oriental Trading - I guess something good is coming out of my scrapbooking days.)
  3. I then mod-podged the papers onto the tops of the boxes - one coat on the bottom and one on the top.
  4. I picked 2 more scrapbook papers that were the same, without any crazy design, to use as the background of the calendar.  I just put that under the glass and then put the frame back together.
  5. After that, I positioned all of the little boxes on top of the glass the way I wanted them, and then hot glued then into place.  I ADORE hot glue, there's nothing like the smell of melted glue!
  6. Then, I stuck all of the glittery numbers onto the tops of the paper mache boxes.
  7. After that, I hot-glued and stapled a ribbon to the back of the frame for hanging.  I tied a bow with a separate piece of ribbon and hot-glued that onto the top of the ribbon for decoration.
Voila!  Ready for hanging!  Now the boxes just need to be filled.  The only variation I considered was using some kind of magnetic background and adding magnets to the backs of the boxes.  But I ultimately didn't do that because of the added expense and because this was easier :-)

I have another post coming up soon to explain how we are going to use this Advent Calendar and what we're doing for all of Advent.  It's totally new for us and I am so stinking excited about it.  Can't wait to share and I'd love to have some of you join me!

Our Black Friday tradition

Or well, it's sort of a Thanksgiving weekend tradition ... we put up the Christmas tree and do all of the decorating.  No crazy shopping for us, it's just not our scene.  We have had a nice, relaxing day of decorating and Christmas music though ... oh and warmth from the fireplace.  A perfect day as far as I'm concerned, and I am pretty sure the kids agree.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday Sale and GIVEAWAY!

The Black Friday Sale is here!

From Friday, November 23, 2013 through Monday, November 26, 2012, I will be offering a $25 savings when registering and paying for a January 2013 SHOOT MY KIDS! Group Workshop! Regularly $99, the Black Friday Sale tuition is only $74! Each Workshop is capped at around 10 students, so be sure to take advantage of this offer! There are 2 Workshops scheduled for January:

Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 7pm - Online Workshop held as an interactive webinar
Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6pm - Group Workshop in my Perry Hall home studio

Additionally, on Black Friday, I am GIVING AWAY one seat to each Workshop!  That's a $99 value and yes, the winner can gift the seat to someone else if she desires.  Please head on over to this SHOOT MY KIDS! blog post for details on how to enter!

If you have absolutely no idea what a SHOOT MY KIDS! Workshop is, you are missing out!  If you are a mama with a DSLR camera that is always stuck in the "auto" mode because all of the buttons look overwhelming ... well this Workshop is for you!  And even if you have a point and shoot camera, you should still enter the free giveaway!  For more details, please visit the "learn more" tab at the top of the SHOOT MY KIDS! website. Once you have decided that the Workshop is for you, hit the "register" tab and pick the Workshop that works best for you. You *must* register for the Workshop and pay the discounted Workshop fee on November 23, 24, 25 or 26th. The registration links crediting the $25 savings will only be live during those days. After that, the tuition goes back to the regular $99 fee.

Gift certificates are available!! This is a fantastic Christmas gift too, and I have spiffy new SHOOT MY KIDS! Workshop gift certificates on their way. If you'd like to purchase a gift certificate for the Workshop, please email me at after you have registered and let me know you need a gift certificate. When registering, use your email address along with the gift recipient's information.

And spoiler alert, I will be announcing Adoption Fundraising opportunities through the Workshops soon too!

*****I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving day filled with lots of blessings and family time!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

There she blows!

It's funny ... before we had a child with cleft lip & palate, I didn't realize all of the little milestones I would appreciate and want to celebrate.  Boy, was I missing out!  Today, my friends, Sunshine can officially blow air out of her MOUTH!  This is a HUGE step with major progress and lots of hard work involved!  All of a sudden, a few days ago, I just saw that she was blowing off her food with her mouth instead of her nose.  I almost fell over with giddiness!  Looks like the pre-speech therapy stuff we've been working on here and there has been paying off :-)  That's my girl!

And this has nothing to do with blowing air but just for fun, here's a quick iPhone video I shot of her a few days ago saying some of her newly acquired verbal words:

Friday, November 16, 2012

My reluctant reader

Is not so reluctant anymore.  Praise God.  It's amazing what the right set of books will do for a child's desire to read.  Even though these books have plenty of more difficult words also, for some reason, she is happy to ask for help.  Unlike many other chapter books we have been through ... which were more like torture for her to read, she is happy to pick up these books.  Albeit a bit slow, she is doing it.  I think my beautiful girl has finally found the gift of reading, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

A few additional fun facts for my homeschooling mamas ... many of these books have "Fact Tracker" companions that are non-fiction.  They give the kids more information about the time, place, etc. that the book was about.  So for example, there is a Fact Tracker companion to the book Angel is reading about pandas and other endangered species.  AND ... you're gonna love this, many of the books have correlating lesson plans.  So because the characters go back in time, as well as all over the world, these are fictional history books that could be incorporated into history studies!  There is a Thanksgiving book that has a Fact Tracker companion about Pilgrims that I'm planning on working through next week.  And there are several books that take place in Ancient Times ... oh how I wish I researched this series earlier!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Operation Christmas Child - SUCCESS!

And it was a success in more ways than one!

This week is National Collection Week with more than 3,400 drop-off sites available!  The kids and I had a lot of fun shopping for 3 shoeboxes this year, one for each of the kids.  They each helped pack a box for a girl (or boy in Lovebug's case) in their age range.  We picked up lots of little goodies and Angel even brought $11.65 of her own money to contribute.

That was all of her savings.  She gave it all.

Their hearts constantly amaze me and help put life in perspective!  Angel drew pictures for each of the boxes too and was so happy to know they'd be received by kids around the world.  I absolutely adore that they are getting old enough to understand what giving means.  They seem to have a natural compassion and kindness for others that I hope we can continue to foster.  Loving and serving in the name of Christ ... I can't think of better values to teach my precious littles.

If you haven't put any shoeboxes together, but would like to participate in Operation Christmas Child, there's still time!  Shoeboxes need to be dropped off by this coming Sunday, November 18th.  And if that's not possible for you, you could  build a box online with the OCC website!  It's easy peasy and will give the gift of Jesus to a child this Christmas!  Check out all the details on their website and don't forget that you can follow your box to see where it goes!

Photo credit - Samaritan's Purse

"And the King will answer them, 'Truly I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.'"  Matthew 25:40

Saturday, November 10, 2012


I L.O.V.E. this piece.  It just arrived this week.  I think it has a summary of scripture that perfectly describes our Father's heart for adoption and for us.  It's hanging right outside of our Homeschool Room ... so I will see it often.  A very good reminder for me on the tougher days.  Adoption truly is a miracle.

If you'd like to grab yourself one, here's the link for the 16x20 that's hanging in my home.  Or for a smaller 8x10, click here.

Saturday through the iPhone

I've been working A TON over these last 1-2 months, but we did manage to get out for a nice nature walk at local place that I like to take to pictures.  Can you believe our whole family has never been here together?  I come here often and sadly never get the kids here too!  It was a bit chilly but no one seemed to mind much.  I purposely did not bring my camera, but the photographer got the best of me and I pulled out my iPhone anyway.  Some things never change :-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

the daniel fast: one week in

Once I got past the insane headache of the first day-and-a-half (the one that 4 ibuprofens barely dented), I started to feel pretty good!  And now that my body has been void of all sugar, caffeine, chemicals and meat/animal bi-products ... well I actually feel amazing!  I have tons of energy and am sleeping great.  Even on the days that I wake up early, I can still go all day.  Of course I am still craving coffee and all of my normal foods like crazy.  Ohhh, coffee!  I have realized that if I could just have coffee, I'd be a happy camper.  Did I mention I miss coffee?

I do miss cheese too ... and bread.  And eggs.  LOL.  All of the normal foods that I am still preparing for my kids ... the ones that I get to smell and salivate over.  All while my diet is fairly bland and boring.  It's working for me though ... and this oatmeal is getting me through.  It's delish.  Of course I had to get used to the taste without sugar, but oh I love it now!  Oatmeal, raisins, banana and cinnamon.  Yum.  I could take or leave the rest of this diet, but this oatmeal will stick with me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Go vote!

No matter what your beliefs, I hope everyone got out and voted today!

The kids on the front porch before leaving to vote, sporting their Mel's Crocheted Creations hats..

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Defend the cause of the fatherless

Today is Orphan Sunday.

It's a day when churches around the world recognize the terrible orphan crisis the world faces ... all of the children that will go to bed hungry tonight, without someone to hug them or kiss them goodnight.  Many of these children will die from disease or starvation. The number of children living in these wretched conditions is unfathomable to us because of the comfortable American bubble we live in.  It is so easy to ignore.  But Jesus does not want us to ignore them.  It is written throughout the Bible that we are to defend the cause of the fatherless:

"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." Psalm 82:3

"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unsustained by the world." James 1:27

"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause." Isaiah 1:17

"And the King will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Matthew 25:40

I could go on ... there are countless other verses throughout the Bible that teach it is our responsibility.

Orphan care does not always equal adoption.  Although a part of the way our family cares for orphans is through adoption, it does not look the same for everyone.  Here are several ways you can get involved in orphan and widow care that don't involve adoption (in no particular order):

1. Pray for orphans around the world.
2. Make a donation to one of the many organizations that care for orphans.
3. Sponsor an orphan.  If you need help with an organization to work with, please shoot me an email at
4. Host an orphan in your home for several weeks through organizations like New Horizons or Welcoming Angels.
5. Support a local adoptive family through prayer or by helping with babysitting or taking them meals.
6. Find a local group home to volunteer your time with.
7. When shopping or buying gifts, shop with a purpose by patronizing organizations or businesses that donate a portion of income to orphan care.
8. Visit orphans around the world with Visiting Orphans.
9. Consider becoming a Safe Family for emergency help to families in need to prevent more children from becoming orphans.
10. Support a local foster program with needed donations.
11. Become a foster parent.

If you aren't already, would you please prayerfully consider how you can help orphans too? Even if it is in the simple act of prayer, everything is helpful.  As Christians, we are all called to care for the fatherless, let's show orphans that we really do care.

"We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

the daniel fast

Today, DH and I start a 21-day Daniel Fast.  It's pretty much fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Think of the vegan-ist vegan diet.  No meat.  No cheese.  No milk.  No coffee.  No crystal light.  No sugar.  And absolutely no chemicals or preservatives.  That makes the grocery store ... eh, limiting, at best.  Especially given the food and drink (goodbye 3-times-a-day caramel cappuccinos) that I am accustomed to consuming.

So wish me luck.  And if you've done the Daniel Fast, I'd love for you to share recipes you've enjoyed!  I am excited but also a little worried about how my body is going to react in the short-term.  In the long-term though, I am happy to cleanse my body of a few Earthly desires and pray that it helps me to glorify God more.  So maybe this is more of a Daniel Diet?  Either way, I will be doing a Daniel Fast devotional during this time but if you have any other suggestions for Bible reading material, please let me know!

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31