Sunday, January 29, 2012


Some fun facts about the way we're living our lives these days:

1. Earlier this week Michael made breakfast burritos for dinner. He used 20 eggs, two green peppers, 25 tortillas, a bag of cheese, and 1/2 a jar of salsa. Not to mention drinks and sides. We go through food like nobody's business, but have found that simply doubling most recipes works well and is super easy. I thought cooking for so many people would be extremely stressful, but it's actually pretty fun, and it's nice to know I don't have to do clean up afterwards :).

2. We have a grocery room here on campus where we get most of our staple items, which is very helpful. Going to the actual grocery store mostly consists of buying dairy, fresh produce, and specialty items. All ten of us (yes, ten - we got our last new girl on Friday - she's in 7th grade like Kat, and she's a fabulous addition) pile up in Big Bertha (what we call our 15 passenger van) and head to Target or Walmart for a 30-45 minute shopping trip. To prepare for this, I make a list for the grocery room, and also one for the grocery store based on the weekly menu I've made, as well as snacks, goodies and frozen foods. I split up the grocery store list 6-8 ways, depending on who's partnering up that week, and each person gets 4-6 items (actually, I usually end up getting 10 or so things, but that's the stuff that can't be explained on a post-it note list :) ). Rather than me wrangling my boys by myself and making it a painful, 2-3 hour ordeal, we all pitch in on Saturday afternoon and knock the trip out in about 45 minutes total, from loading up, to putting away all of the groceries. Nice.

3. Bennett and Jasper are now sharing the large front bedroom in the house. I am so glad we purchased a bunk bed set for them before we moved here, because moving them in together was no big deal at all. Each bedroom in our house has two good-sized closets already, because all of them are set up with the possibility of sharing a room. When Alyssa came, I bunked her up with Kat, our other 7th grader, and moved Milka (our 8th grader who came back in November) into Jasper's old room. Getting new girls and trying to figure out the optimal place to put them is a lot like playing a game of chess. I've tried to be strategic and intentional with the way they influence each other and spend time together. So far our new arrangement is working out beautifully, which I am so thankful for. The Lord has gone ahead of us on each and every decision like this, and He has smoothed the way. B & J love sharing a room and being roomies. Michael and I hear them in there giggling and talking at night, and we just love the memories they are building together. We tell them they need to take care of each other because they are best friends, and now they're actually acting like it, which is so sweet to witness. Thank you, Lord for giving me peace about this transition, and for making it so sweet.

4. Our girls are getting excited about the youth group retreats and mission trips being offered this year at our church, and we're excited that they're excited :). Can't wait to see what the Lord does in these girls this summer, and the way He draws them closer to His side.

5. We have a Family Meeting every Sunday evening at 8:00 where we revisit rules and issues that need to be addressed, and Michael also does a mini-devotional. He really is gifted at this. I am amazed every. single. week. at the message he brings. We've been talking about setting goals, and we have a cork board in the kitchen where the kids have posted their own personal ones, like not biting fingernails (Keke, Kat and me), or not eating after 7:30pm (Cheyenne and Michael), etc. Tonight we're talking about Michael and I's goal to show these girls how to become strong Christian women by the time they turn 18 and eventually leave here. This is what we want for them - to love the Lord with all their hearts, to become wonderful wives and mothers, to contribute to society, to heal and move past what has happened in their young lives.

6. The girls call me Mama J (occasionally Mama or Mom, but mostly Mama J), and they call Michael Big Mac (his initials are MAC, so that's what they came up with :) ). I can't tell you how sweet it is when one of them refers to herself as our daughter, or they say something to their friends like, "My mom would kill me if I did that!" - talking about me. Words like these are ones I will store up in my heart forever. I will never forget that God has given me the privilege and opportunity to be a mother to these precious, lovely girls. I won't ever forget the impact the Lord is allowing us to have. I will be able to see the positive imprint this is experience is having on our boys for years to come. Words really are not adequate for what goes on in our house from day to day - the way these girls are transforming before our eyes. God has placed His hand of blessing on this house. Another testimony He is giving me - one that I will treasure all of my days, I have no doubt. I am allowed to be mom to eight children. Amazing. Sometimes it takes my breath away.

7. Middle school girls are a whole different animal. They are crazy and giggly and impulsive. They are so much fun, and sometimes ridiculously frustrating. I am glad God equips those whom He calls :). The girls are not allowed to have nail polish in their rooms and have to paint their nails in the common area, so imagine my surprise when I went into one of our girl's rooms to do a quick cleaning inspection (which I do randomly and periodically to make sure they keep up with things), and I find a row of blue post-it notes taped down to the carpet by her desk. Huh. I think. What are those doing there? I pry them off the floor and find a GIANT hot pink stain on the carpet, caused by - what else? - nail polish. Girl has been wearing rubber gloves and scrubbing her carpet for days, and has lost all nail painting privileges for the rest of the school year (devastating, I tell you). Believe it or not, the stain is coming up. I highly recommend Goo Gone for such things, in case you ever have a crazy, giggly, impulsive middle school girl of your own :).

Sunday, January 15, 2012


1. Cheyenne's 15th birthday. That girl is a mile-a-minute talker, she keeps us on our toes, and underneath everything, she has a huge heart and the potential to go absolutely anywhere she wants in life, by sheer will-power alone. She wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles birthday (ha!), so that's what she got. We ate out at Texas Roadhouse for dinner and then came back for cake, ice cream and presents with the family.

2. We had two of the cottages over at our house one Friday night in December, and it was nuts. Jam-packed with kids playing Wii, having a Just Dance tournament, playing Twister, playing Hide n Seek in the dark, playing board games, etc. It was SO much fun. We are amazed at how God has put us in this place with other wonderful house parents that we have quickly become good friends with. Our little community here continues to bond closer and closer together. The house moms here have also started rotating having lunches together, going out for coffee, taking walks together, etc., and the house dads all get together to play basketball on Tuesday nights in the gym. It's greatness.

3. When Dan and Vicky (Michael's parents) came to visit us over Christmas, Vicky brought her iPad. Our children's home has provided each cottage with an iPad, so Vicky showed me some wonderful apps, books, and educational programs to download. The boys spent a ridiculous amount of time with "Talking Larry." If you don't know what that is, look it up. I'm pretty sure you can download it to the iPhone as well.

4. A really awesome lady from Michael's school has her own cookie catering business on the side, and she offered to come decorate sugar cookies with us one afternoon when the kids were on Christmas Break. We had a ton of fun, and everybody decorated a sugar cookie for my mom's birthday celebration that night, where we all met up at Freebird's - yum!

5. My newest girl, Kat, is a sweet, precious 7th grade girl. She played the flute at her old school but didn't own an instrument (she had rented at her previous school). I played the flute for years and still had mine, which is in decent condition, so she signed up for band at her school and is using my old flute. She had her first concert in December, and we snapped a couple of pictures before we left. Isn't she adorable?!

6. I tried potty-training Jasper for a couple of days, and right away my suspicions were confirmed: my easy-going little boy is not bothered by messes or nastiness. This was clearly illustrated after a morning of discussing the advantages of being a big boy who uses the potty and gets to wear Thomas the Train underwear (he LOVES Thomas the Train), when he was standing in my bathroom talking to me, right next to his little potty, and proceeded to plop a turd on the floor mid-sentence. Yep. So I sat him on the little potty, talked to him about how that's where the stuff goes, and asked him if he needed to tee-tee. He says, "No," so I give him a book to look at for a couple of minutes to make sure and to bring the point home. Nothing happens. So I set the book down, and stand him up. He immediately begins to pee all over the floor, and the book sitting on the floor beneath him. Fabulous. I have concluded that neither he nor I are ready for him to be potty-trained, and he is still wearing diapers at the ripe old age of 2 years, 10 months. Judge me if you will :). This mama refuses to let bodily fluids stress her out.

P.S. I do not have pictures of this experience, for obvious reasons.

December was a whirlwind of fun and family. We are grateful to be where we are, thankful for the Lord's many blessings, and recognize the necessity and wonderful presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And now on to a new year right by His side!


Christmas was a crazy, wonderful time for us this year. We celebrated right before church on Christmas Day at my parents' house, and again later that day when my extended family came to our home for the day. We were blessed and excited to have Michael's parents with us as well this year. On Christmas Day itself, everyone brought finger foods and we munched on everything instead of having a formal sit down meal, which worked out wonderfully since everyone arrived at different times throughout the day. We played games, had a gift exchange, and renewed our tradition of playing kickball. It was wonderful seeing everyone and having our family all under one roof for the day.

Before Christmas, our cottage went to several parties hosted by churches and organizations, and all of our kids were blessed by the gifts they gave.

On major holidays, our girls all go on family visit for 5-7 days. When they got back, we had our cottage Christmas, watching Christmas movies and opening presents.

We took a ton of pictures, but I don't have them all in an organized place yet. Below is a collection of pictures of all the different ways we celebrated Christmas this year that actually ended up on my computer.

Christmas Day

On our way to the Breakfast Pajama Party hosted by a church in the area.

Cottage Christmas


The ridiculousness of just now posting this entry has to be pointed out. Michael's birthday was two months ago, Bennett's was one month ago. I really love having an up-to-date blog, but I think this will continue to be my life for a while. For the first time in my life, I truly understand the phrase, "There are only so many hours in a day."

Without further ado, here is the post I started about a month ago and am just now publishing. Sure do love my birthday boys!


Michael turned the big 3-0 back in November, and Bennett turned 5 in the first week of December. Craziness in this house. Absolute craziness.

It's funny how some numbers seem so much more significant than others. Both of them hit really significant milestones this year. I'm in denial that Jasper turns 3 in March, and I'll be 30 (gulp) this summer. Time flies when you're having fun, eh?

For Michael's birthday, we had giant sub sandwiches with all the fixings, double chocolate chunk cookies, and vanilla ice cream, all at the birthday boy's request. My parents came over to celebrate. For his big day, Michael said he wanted to spend quality time with each of our kiddos, so throughout the day he spent a half hour doing something fun with each one. He played the Wii with two of our girls - a dance tournament of sorts that was rather hilarious. He colored in coloring books with another of our girls, and took a long walk with our fourth. With the boys, he played golf on a stretch of land running between two of the houses on campus. My dad went out there with them and then we all took about 15 minutes to gather up all of the golf balls.

We didn't have a huge party with tons of people, we didn't do anything hugely out of the ordinary, and we didn't spend a ton of money, but that's not really Michael's style. He basks in simplicity and loves being with family above all else. So that's what we did, and he had a marvelous day, which was all that mattered to me.

Sometimes I hint at what an amazing man my husband is, but truly, truly...he's amazing. I don't say this to make others stand up and take notice. I don't say it to brag, because it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I don't say it to make others envy or wish they had better marriages or husbands, or whatever. I say it to bring him honor. He works hard at being who he is. Everything he does for our family is intentional, thought out, and purposeful. I am blessed with each day I spend with him as my best friend and partner on this road.

The family out golfing across the street from our house. So fun, and such a Michael idea :).

Now on to my Bennett, our "little blessing," who has turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in my life. This child of mine is so complex, so goofy, so funny and unique, it has taken me a full five years to figure out what I know about him now, and I know that I still don't understand everything that makes him tick. It has taken me a full five years to begin to truly appreciate the beauty of who God has woven him to be. I believe I will spend my entire life trying to figure out my first-born. Bennett marches to the beat of his own drum, and watching him do it is fun and frustrating and wonderfully new every morning. My oldest is full of surprises, convincing arguments, ridiculously mature commentary, and silly antics that make you want to either squeeze him tight or scream out loud, depending on the day and the situation. Lord, I love this boy. He brought my motherly instincts to life. He has taught me to pray for patience and wisdom. I have laughed and cried harder over him than anyone else in my life, I think. Our Bennett James is a beautifully made child, and I burst with pride to be his mommy. Not because he always does what he is supposed to, or because he's always where he should be. Not because he says the right things, looks handsome enough (although he is my little heart-breaker :) ), or goes with the flow, or does things the way I think is best. Nope. It's because God entrusted his little heart, mind and body to me. The Lord made him mine, even while Bennett belongs to Him, and I love my little pal to pieces.

For Bennett's birthday this year, we went to pick up donuts on the morning of his birthday, and later picked up his Cars 2 birthday cake and balloons. We spent the day playing games he enjoyed and hanging out with Mimi (the best way to spend any day, as far as he's concerned). When we asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, he told us "QT corn dogs." Classy. We ate dinner and opened presents with just the family. On Saturday morning we had his pajama party at the playscape, and his closest friends all came to make the day extra special. He's pretty proud of being 5 now, and reminds me of his age several times a day :). Here are some pictures from the birthday week:

Mimi got him a giant "snow globe," as he likes to call them. He's a little obsessed with them.

The Birthday Party

Some of my nearest and dearest friends.

And now that I've thoroughly gushed and mushed you out, here is what my Benito is up to at his five year mark:
We've been homeschooling this semester, and so far he has learned to write his first and middle name - we're working on his last name. He is learning to write the capital and lowercase letters of the whole alphabet, and can write his numbers 1-10. Basic phonics books are a breeze for him, and have been from the beginning. I think we're going to have to move onto something a little more complicated for next semester. Counting, basic adding and subtracting, and other math skills such as patterns, sorting, etc., come just about effortlessly to him. He is reading in that he can piece sounds together into words and also use basic context clues to figure out what a book is saying. However, we're starting sight words next semester, so there aren't a whole lot of beginning readers he can tackle yet. I'm thinking this summer he'll really take off with this. Bennett still isn't a fan of coloring with basic crayons or markers, but he loves to do more creative things, like painting, molding clay, cutting and glueing, etc. He also loves listening to all kinds of music, and without fail asks what each and every song we listen to is about. This provides some awesome opportunities to talk about God and subjects surrounding Him when we're listening to the radio or our CDs in the car. He loves playing outside, exploring, and has to be in a perpetual state of motion - the same way he's been since he was a baby. We have decided to put him in Kindergarten at the school where Michael teaches next year, and I know the classroom environment will be hard for him (it always has been), because he pretty much breaks the mold wide open of the still, quiet child, but I also think it will be good for him, and he will learn important lessons about self-control, following through with tasks, and that he will love the social aspect of it all :). At five years old, Bennett's very best friends are David and Taylor, Sage and Joelle, Deacon and Anna, Foy, and of course Jasper John.