Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Great Christmas Tree Hunt

This past Sunday we upheld our annual tradition of cutting down our Christmas tree at Broadview Farm in Highland. We could go just about anywhere to get a tree at this time of year, but Broadview holds special significance for me because that is where I went as a child with my family to cut down a tree.
The weather was clear, but bitter (with a high of only 20 degrees) but we had fun regardless. The only one to succumb to the cold in the end was Kaden. He kept taking his gloves off and then wondered why his hands were hurting so badly. While Kevin carried the tree up to the checkout, I carried the wailing Kaden to the car to try to warm him back up. The older two boys enjoyed getting the twine and helping Daddy tie the tree to the top of the car.

I love holding on to these fun family times and I hope the boys will remember them with significance in the future as well. I am glad I can share a bit of my childhood with them, and I am glad Kevin doesn't mind being dragged out into the snowy cold either. :)

Even Santa was there!

Too short . . .

Too silly on top . . .

Just right!

Just too cold to have fun anymore!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Snow Much Fun!

The boys needed to get out of the house to burn off some extra energy, so as soon as we finished up school (and Kaden "napped"), I sent them out to shovel the sidewalks and have some fun.

Four inches of fresh snow + two couped up boys + 3 crazy dogs = perfect winter fun!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Fun

A few pictures from our very busy Thanksgiving day.
Brunch with the Wright family:

Dinner with the Autry Family

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fun Craft for Thanksgiving

Thanks to Francis for the inspiration and Plum Pudding Blog for the directions, the boys and I sat down and completed a craft in honor of Thanksgiving. These little cereal box turkeys were fun and simple (although I ended up assembling most of Ethan and Kaden's) and it is amazing how much fun the boys are getting out of them now. Ethan named his "Rooster Booster", Elijah has calls his "Aquamarine" (I'm not sure where the inspiration came from?), and Kaden calls his "Durkey".
Can you tell we like Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast? LOL.

Give Thanks

As we enter into the holiday season we are reminded frequently to give thanks and to count our many blessings. How easy it is to remember my blessings because I have so much to be thankful for! God has been so good to me and my family, and I couldn't help but begin to compile a list of things that I have a reason to give thanks for. There are probably more things than I will remember to include, but these are the things that are particularly important to me at this moment.

Thank You, Lord, for two parents that love you, follow your commands and who fell in love over 38 years ago. (Happy Anniversary tomorrow, Mom and Dad!)

I thank the Lord that He has given my parents a love and a commitment to each other that is strong and secure. I pray that God will continually bless their love and their relationship.
Thank You for a brother and a sister who helped mold me and influence me into who I am today.

Thank You for the relationship I have with my siblings today. Please develop and deepen our relationships even still.

Thank You, Father, for allowing me to be raised in such a positive family environment. Our family was not perfect, but God's presence was with us and His love was felt.

Thank You for godly, loving in-laws. I am so thankful that they raised Kevin to fear God and to love his family. I am so thankful that they are a rich part of our lives. We are so blessed by their love and generosity!

Thank You for the good friends you brought my way growing up. They say you become who your friends are, and I am glad to say that most of my friends helped build me up, not pull me away from my walk with Christ.

Thank You for Kevin and for nine wonderful years of marriage. I never believed I would be so blessed being married to my very best friend! Thank You for the love and commitment we have for each other so that we are willing to fight for our relationship and so that we can overcome our struggles. I am even thankful for the major hurdles that have come our way. I would never want to have to deal with them again, but even though they were difficult, challenging and painful, they have proven to strengthen us and have proven how committed we are to each other.

Thank You for a friendship that grows deeper and stronger each day we spend together. There is no one I would rather spend time with than Kevin.

Thank You for the miracle of life that You have allowed us to experience three times in completion and another that You are allowing us to experience right now. What an absolutely and amazing miracle! Please watch over and protect this little one as it grows.
Thank You for three healthy, strong and intelligent little boys. We are truly blessed by their love and their lives, and our lives are so much richer because of the many lessons learned through parenting.

Thank You for the daily exhaustion of motherhood. It may seem like a surprising thing to be thankful for, but it proves that my life is full and that our family life is active. This is a blessing because I get to spend so much time with my boys.

Thank You for the moments of rest in our busy schedules. We love and appreciate the time to recover and become refreshed so that we are better parents and a better spouse to each other.

Thank You for Kevin's job. With employment in the Detroit area suffering so greatly right now, we realize how blessed we are to be employed. His paycheck may be less than before, but we are far from starving or going without.

Thank You for helping us manage our finances when times are lean. Thank You for the generosity of others that have helped us keep ahead of the bills.

Thank You for our photography business. It may not be turning an income at all yet, but it is a wonderful outlet for my creativity and it has the potential to grow. How blessed I am to be able to do something that I love and that fits into our busy family schedule and allows me to be with my family!

Thank You that we are able to homeschool our boys. The experience has taught us so much and has stretched us in ways we had not expected. I am so grateful for the opportunity to train, build and teach my little boys personally. I pray for continued blessing as we continue this road of discovery.
Thank You for our house. It is so far from perfect, but it is perfect for us in so many ways. Thank You for it's warmth, for it's protection and for it's space. We are extremely blessed with this house and I don't ever want to lose sight of that.

Thank You for our church. We have a great body of believers to learn and fellowship with, and the pastor's are wonderful, godly men. I am so appreciative of their guidance, direction and creativity. Thank You that we have places to minister and give back within the church.

. . . . my list could go on and on - we are so blessed! Thank the Lord for His amazing love and for the amazing abundance He has poured out on us! We are truly thankful!

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Favorite Holiday Season is Almost Here!

I am so excited that it is Thanksgiving week already! Although I absolutely LOVE Christmas, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because we get to eat turkey and all the fixin's (Thursday and Friday!), there isn't the stress of shopping and wrapping, and we get to enjoy an unhurried day with our families. Thanksgiving is both restful and rejuvenating.

This year we will follow the same Thanksgiving schedule as the last few years. Thursday morning we sleep in and enjoy an unrushed morning together as an immediate family. My Dad runs in the Detroit Turkey Trot each Thanksgiving, but as soon as he is finished, we all head over to Mom and Dad Wright's for a mid-morning brunch. We usually enjoy an egg casserole, cinnamon rolls, turkey bacon or sausage, and my sister's famous oatmeal bake. This year, however, my sister and her family aren't able to make it to brunch, so we will have to see what we can make to take the place of her amazing dish. Is it even possible?!?!
Early in the afternoon we pack the kids up and head over to Mom and Dad Autry's house for our first turkey dinner (yum, yum!!!). Mom is a fantastic cook and always has an amazing spread of food for us to enjoy. The kids quickly disappear upstairs to play while we get the food on the table, and then we get to sit together with Kevin's parents and grandparents for a overwhelmingly delicious feast. Did I mention how much I LOVE Thanksgiving?!?!
After dinner we usually quickly clean up and then enjoy an evening talking and sharing about daily events, thoughts and opinions on the latest top headlines, and take turns playing with the boys. The football game will sometimes play in the background, but Kevin's grandpa may be the only one who watches snippets of it. The newspaper comes out and all of the sale ads are removed and passed between the interested shoppers (mainly Kevin, Mom and Dad). I usually find myself feeling stuffed and sleepy, reclining on the living room sofa. Ahhh . . . this is truly the life. Have I told you yet that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday?!?!
We typically pile in the car late in the evening and the boy's fall into serotonin induced sleep on the ride home. We all fall into bed stuffed and satisfied and looking forward to another blessed day of turkey the very next afternoon. Sometimes something psychotic will possess Kevin to get up early on "Black Friday" to go shopping, but I typically drag my feet and volunteer to stay home. My excuse is usually that I have to cook for later that day, but in reality I just can't imagine ANY sale being worth losing sleep over! :)
Our morning is spent lazily getting ready and assembling a dish or two for dinner with the Wright's, and then we head over to their home around lunch time. The Thanksgiving spread is again extensive and impressive - causing me to act as Pavlov's dog and begin drooling at the mere sound of the clatter of dishes. We sit down and enjoy the variety of dishes and good company, unrushed and completely at ease. The only ones to rush are the kiddos. Our boys speed to clean their plates and disappear downstairs to play with their cousins (and maybe Papa, if they can convince him to leave the table too). Us adults continue talking about everything and nothing at all, usually laughing hardily as Jeremy amuses us with his great sense of humor and fun true-life anecdotes. Eventually we will decide the food just has to be put away and the dishes scrubbed and the table begins to clear. Dirty dishes and leftovers are quickly replaced by card/board games and rounds of hot tea and pumpkin pie. The rest of the afternoon passes quickly and is only brought to an end due to our recollection that the dog's at home are probably crossing their legs and doing the potty dance since we've been gone so long two days in a row.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of family, food, fun and fabulous memories. I can't wait for Thursday to finally get here!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Importance of Sleep

This article REALLY hit home with me this week! I think that, especially because I am pregnant, there is just no way for me to ever get quite enough sleep! However, I see the importance of sleep (or lack thereof) in my boys every day and know that being sleep deprived often contributes to my short temper and lack of patience. I liked Jill Cooper's points and her suggestions, and I feel convicted to be more strict with my personal sleep schedule from now on - for the good of ALL of us!

Save In Your Sleep!
by Jill Cooper

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
-Matthew 11:28

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep... We hear it all the time-- You must get 8 hours of sleep and 8 glasses of water a day. We pay as much attention to that warning as our children do when we tell them for the umpteenth time "Don't play with that or you will get hurt". But after living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 15 plus years, I have learned the hard way how very important sleep is.

It is so important that God devoted 8-10 hours each and every day to sleeping and one whole day a week to resting. Think about it. Is there anything else that He gave so much time to? And since He knew we were like silly little children who refuse to take a nap, He put resting in the 10 commandments hoping that that would really get our attention. There were only 10 things that made it on that all important list and resting was one of them.

Sleep is as necessary to life as food and water. Each of us needs to realize how much lack of sleep affects our whole life. Are we too tired to clean the house, prepare meals, or do the laundry? Are we so tired that when our children come to us for our help with something, we snap at them or when our spouses want some snuggle time, we look at them like they have grown two heads?

Lack of sleep affects children even more than adults, but many of us let them keep the same late hours as the adults. When I was a young mom I was told that children usually whine and cry for one of two reasons: They are tired or hungry. If you keep them well rested, and make sure they get snacks throughout the day, you will eliminate most of their whining and crying. I have found that to be so true.
I had an example of that happen just the other day. My three year old grandson is always so good about going down for his nap. He allows himself to be picked up, passed around for kisses and then laid down without a peep. The other day, however, when he was told it was time for his nap he said "NO! I don't want a nap," and fought all the way to bed.
This seemed so out of character for him but then it dawned on me: He always takes his nap at 12:00 but this day, he did some running around with his dad and by the time they were done, it was almost 2:30. He was tired, so there was no reasoning with him. He couldn't think rationally because he was tired. Often, the parent gets angry at the child for throwing a fit, but it was really the parent's fault for not allowing the child to get his proper rest.

We adults act the same way when we are tired. We become irritable, impatient, discouraged and depressed. No one can reason with us. We start acting just like that tired child and usually don't realize it. Exhaustion also affects us physically. Your doctor will tell you that people tend to catch more viruses when they are tired and our bodies simply don't work at 100 percent. We start seeing the world through a hazy fog and everything becomes a burden.

Have I painted a clear enough picture for you? Does that describe the way you feel most of the time (maybe even right now)? Then you need to get serious about your family's sleeping habits.

Here are some tips to help you get your family the sleep it needs:

1. If you are a new mom or a mom with sick children, you may have to let some things go for a season. Just accept it and scale back your activities. I discovered this many years ago when I had an 18 month old and a newborn with colic. My oldest would be up 3-4 times each night and my newborn was up most of the night just crying. If I had two hours of sleep, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

On the rare occasions when they would take naps at the same time, I made the mistake of trying to get really dumb things done, like ironing my children's pajamas and tee shirts, instead of taking a nap. Needless to say, it didn't take long for me to become seriously ill with walking pneumonia, which lasted three months.

Learn from my mistakes and take a nap when you can, even if it means hiring a babysitter to watch the kids at home while you sleep. If you think you don't have the money to hire a babysitter you might want to think again. Which is cheaper, a babysitter or doctor bills?

Keep your meals as simple as possible If all you can manage for a few months is sandwiches, make sandwiches. The same applies to cleaning the house. Do only the necessary cleaning and upkeep. This is not the time for spring cleaning. Even if you have to let the dusting and vacuuming go for a while, the rest will help you more.

2. Give yourself permission to take a nap or, if you have to, make yourself take a nap. You say you don't have the time, but most people can find serious improvement with even 20 minutes' rest to refresh themselves. Find the time. Make your shower 10 minutes shorter or get rid of one of your non essential activities during the day like shopping, volunteer work, killing time on the computer or talking on the phone. If you work, take an alarm with you to work and take a quick nap in your car. Where there's a will there's a way. Find that 20 minutes some place.

3. Make your children take naps. Up until first grade, on the days my kids weren't in school, they always took naps. When they were older and for whatever reason stayed up late the night before, I made them at least lie down and rest the next day.

No matter how old they are, children need some daily down time. If they were too old for naps, I would send them to their rooms for 30 minutes each day during the summer to read, color or do some quiet activity. This not only helped them rest, but it separated them from their siblings and me. No matter how much you love each other, living in the same house 24/7, you will get on each others nerves if you never get a break. This gives everyone a break.

4. Have a regular bedtime routine. Whether it is bath time, story time, prayer time or just tucking the kids in with hugs and kisses, have a routine. When you are tucking the children in, give yourself an extra 15-20 minutes to talk to them. That is one of the best times of day to find out about things they have on their minds. Why? Because they are relaxed and they will use every stall tactic known to man to keep from going to bed, even if that means talking to mom and dad.

Make sure that they have a regular bed time and stick to it. This is very important! Children have their own built in clocks. When you wake them up and put them to bed at different times every day it causes their biological clocks to go haywire. They need to get at least 10 hours of sleep a night. That means putting them to bed at a decent time. Up until they started high school, my children always went to bed at 8:30. That may seem hard to believe but I didn't have nearly the problem with attitudes, whining, sulking or outright rebellion that a lot of parents had to deal with.I don't know how many moms over the years came to me tearing their hair out saying "

I don't know what is wrong with my child but he won't stop whining or throwing tantrums." I knew exactly what the problem was. Mom had taken him to her Bible study the night before and didn't get home until 10:00. She then dragged the child out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to get ready before they left for school and work. The day before that the child got to sleep in until 11:00. You may think that irregular sleeping hours doesn't affect your child but you might be surprised to find that at least 50 percent of whining and fussing would stop if the kids had regular hours.

When you start putting children to bed earlier than usual, you will have to start slowly. If the children are used to going to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 at night, don't suddenly make them go to bed at 8:30. Start at 10:00 for a few nights then move it up to 9:30 and so on until you reach the bedtime you want.

Don't forget to adjust for daylight savings time or if you will be traveling between time zones. A week or so before the change, start putting the kids to bed 15 minutes earlier or later so the can start adjusting to the new time.

Adults need regular bedtime routines, too. As much as possible, try to have a set time that you go to bed each night. An hour or two before you go to bed, try to start unwinding. This is the time to talk over your day with your spouse, read a good book, or sip a hot cup of cocoa. It is also a good time to take a warm bath. Not only will it relax you, but it will be one less thing to do in the morning. If you are a new mom you probably don't need to unwind because you will fall asleep the minute you sit down, so just go to bed while you can.

5. Make your room and your children's rooms as comfortable as possible. Make your bed in the morning. A made bed is so much more inviting then a rumpled mess, where you have to clear off loads of junk before you can crawl into it. Keep a low wattage bedside lamp on your night stand to start letting your body know it's getting close to time for bed.

Keep your room at a pleasant temperature. Be sure to check the temperature in your children's rooms too. Sometimes when babies and young children have their bedroom doors shut, their rooms can be different temperatures than the rest of the house. This can then cause them to wake up because they are too hot or cold. This can also be the reason if they are having a hard time getting to sleep. Soft music or a fan that helps to drown out background noises are good for children and adults alike.

Since we usually write about getting out of debt, you may wonder how being well rested can help save you money? How often do you go out to eat because you are too tired to make dinner? When something breaks, do you just go buy a new one because you are too tired to fix it? Do you buy more clothes then you really need because you are too tired to keep up with the laundry? Do you just say "yes" all the time to your children when they ask to buy something because you are too tired to fight with them? Trust me-- the little monkeys are smart. They know when the enemy is tired and weak and that's usually when they attack! So if you want to win the war you need to get some sleep!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Traditional Applesauce Recipe

Here is the traditional recipe for homemade applesauce that I make. Enjoy!


6 cups apples - peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup white sugar

In a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat, combine apples, water, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and simmer 5 more minutes.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The House Smells Like Applesauce!

I LOVE the smell of apples in the fall! Actually, who am I kidding? I love the smell of apples ALL year round! :) Right now I am in heaven because I just finished making three batches of homemade applesauce with Kevin and the boys, and now the house couldn't smell any better! I doubled the recipe of my traditional applesauce recipe, and then I tried a new one that called for cranberry juice and red hots. It sounded like an interesting combination so I figured I'd give it a try. We were not disappointed! The traditional sauce is sweeter, but the cranberry sauce was a bit tangy and mildly spicy. One nice benefit of the cranberry applesauce is that it boasts extra antioxidants (concentrated in the apple skins) and antibacterial activity (in the cranberry juice). Can't beat that, right?

I've included the recipe below, in case anyone else care to give it a try. I'd love to hear how you like the results.

Cranberry Applesauce

3 pounds cooking apples (about 8-9 medium)
1 1/2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2/3 cup red hot cinnamon candies

Peel apples and place peels in a food processor. Blend until peels are finely chopped. Core and slice apples. Combine apples, peels, juice and red hots in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often. When apples are soft and broken down to desired consistency, remove from heat and allow to cool. Serve warm or cold.

Yields: 10 servings

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


As you can clearly see, I have been missing in action for quite some time now. I was hit with a recent overload of crazy busyness and just have not been able to keep up with all of my communications. Our photography business has been blessed with an incredibly busy fall season, and it has been all that I can do to not become completely buried under the load! Then, on top of that, we recently discovered that our family is about to expand again - yep, that's right, baby #4 is due May 20, 2009! The exhaustion and the nausea have nearly completely wiped me out, and I am so ready for the first trimester to be over!

Homeschooling has been an up and down affair recently. We recently decided that our language arts and reading program were just not working for Elijah, and so we have taken a leave of absence from those subjects until I can order the right program. What happened is that I originally ordered the Sonlight Readers and Language Arts program for second graders because Eli is a fairly strong reader. Well, the Readers were at his level perfectly, but the Language Arts jumped way ahead of where he was at. We did our best to try to make it work, but in the end we are going to have to step back down to the first grade Readers and LA program. The Readers may be too easy, but hopefully we'll be on the right level for LA, and perhaps he'll be empowered by the ease of the books to read.

Also, because we have been so overwhelmed with Photography recently, we actually took a week off of school completely just so that I could make deadlines. It wasn't on our calendar and it may be a struggle to finish up the year before the new baby arrives, but I just felt for all of our sanity, that the break was absolutely necessary. I guess that's what homeschooling is all about - flexibility when you need it, right? :) We are now back to work and I am actually so thankful for it! During the break I decided that we NEED the structure to our day that homeschooling gives. The boys were bored frequently and this made them irritable and ornery. It seemed that the sibling rivalry was at it's worst that week! It was a frustrating time, but we were able to squeak out our deadlines and no one killed the other - an accomplishment for sure! :)

Well, I hope to stay on the ball a bit more now that the biggest few hurdles have been scaled. There is still a lot of demand from the photography end of things, but I am glad to have a least a little bit more calm and order to our days. I hope, too, that I am nearing the end of the yucky part of pregnancy so that I have more energy and a desire to eat again. . . here's hoping! :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

This past weekend we went camping with a big group from our church at Stoney Haven Campground in New Era, Michigan. We got really dirty, spend a lot of good time with friends and had a wonderful time. Here are some pictures from our adventure:

Our annual group Hobo Dinners on Saturday evening

Camp face

Camp feet

One happy camper :)

Heading to the playground

Just chillin'

Sunday morning worship around the campfire

Cruisin the campground

Daddy and Ethan's turn to try the bike

Eli's big bike

We celebrated 3 birthdays for 3 different Ethans over the weekend

Nightime bear hunt

Our group