Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back {2013}

Tonight we will say good-bye to 2013 ... it has been a hard year to say the least. God had our family on a journey that required us to invest all of our time, money, and our hearts. We would never have imagined that the journey we were on would end this fall in such heartache.

While part of me would like to just pretend 2013 never happened I cannot look at it that way ... trials are a part of life. And, looking back at 2013 there were beautiful moments ... those were blessings in disguise now as I reflect on them ...

{Lots of ballet ...}

{... and baseball}

{Fun fieldtrips ... like this rock climbing one}

{Our family spent a month in a European country ~ amazing lessons in culture and history}

{Fun times with friends ...}

{... and family}

{Ave Mae cast as Cindy Lou in "How the Grinch Stole Found Christmas"}

Good-bye 2013!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Hope you had a very Merry Christmas ... our family is enjoying some much needed downtime as we finish out the year.

Wishing you all the best as the new year approaches!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

How the Grinch "Found" Christmas

Last weekend we enjoyed the girls' ballet school performance of "How the Grinch Stole Found Christmas". Like two years ago, we had the privilege of having a daughter dance the part of Cindy-Lou. Ava Mae absolutely loved every second of rehearsals and performing. She took the role quite seriously, even deciding the choreography would be better with acrobatics - so we spent several months taking tumbling lessons so that Ava Mae could add in two aerials {cartwheels with no hands} to her dance. Ava Mae also had the blessing of having her very good dance buddy as the other Cindy-Lou {there are two shows and a different Cindy-Lou for each show} - so fun to be able to attend all practices with a friend.

Lexi also enjoyed performing in several dances - including an amazing opening tap "Rockette style" number. And, for the first time Ava Mae and Lexi had a ballet dance where they performed together.

Always love this performance of The Grinch... and though Ava Mae has repeated constantly how sad she is it is over ... I, for one, am glad to have a break from all the ballet school craziness for a few weeks.

All photographs are courtesy of professional photographer, Andrew Savasuk - who did an amazing job shooting the performance!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Advent Season Begins

This year Christmas seems to have arrived more quickly than usual ... with everything that the early December calendar holds it is sometimes hard to come up for air.

God has taught me a lot this year ... it has truly changed my heart and thinking about many things. One of those was the feeling that for us to celebrate Christmas we had to decorate a certain way, spend each day doing some sort of Christmas activity or baking some special treat. Not this year .. it is not to say that any of those activities are bad but, they are not necessary. I have been reminded several times during our Advent studies over the last week that to fully participate in this Advent season we must quiet our selves ... which is hard to do if we are not "quieting" our calendars. It is not easy ... and truthfully, I will be happy when the busyness of this week is behind us and we can settle into a slower pace. It reminds me of the last night we were in Asheville over Thanksgiving ... standing in the breezeway of my parent's mountain home - snow still scattered on the ground, the sun setting behind the mountains, and the absolute silence - other than a breeze rustling some fallen leaves. I felt - this is what it means to truly quiet ones soul.

As we dive into Advent this season, we are enjoying Bartholomew's Passage as our family Advent Study. Loved Jotham's Journey last year and this is another book in the series.

We are also keeping our focus on Jesus by, performing Random Acts of Christmas Kindness ... it helps the kids to keep their focus where it needs to be - rather than on gifts for themselves.

Two recent acts of kindness ... donuts for our local police station and fire station and picking out a Christmas wish to fill with our local radio station's morning on air personalities.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving {2013}

This year we had what we could only call the Hallmark Thanksgiving ... my parent's invited us to join them in Asheville for Thanksgiving at their new home on top of a mountain. It was just the time away our family needed after a very rough few months.

We enjoyed spending time with family {6 out of 9 siblings were at Thanksgiving Dinner} and the kids loved playing with their cousins from Florida. My sister's little ones are just 1 and 2 years old and absolutely adorable.

Even Maggie, our golden retriever, came along for our family holiday ... she enjoyed countless hours outside being walking by many members of my family. She is now depressed after coming home to what she now must realize is a boring life.

And, what a blessing to be able to enjoy snow ... which arrived the day before Thanksgiving. {Pictured above, the kids with my mom and dad and below, my parent's new home}.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Art Birthday Party {Painted Initial Canvas}

When Ava Mae decided on an Art Birthday Party I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration ...

We decided painted canvases and jewelry boxes would be good projects for this age group. I covered our dining room table in butcher paper. And, each girl had supplies at their spot - canvas, paint brushes, paint tray.

We had several color schemes to pick from for the canvases but, it seemed all the girls either wanted blue or purple. We began the project by taping each child's initial on the canvas. Then we had the girls paint a stripe of dark and a stripe of light colored paint down the canvas - one after another. It was not easy as I thought it would be - the pin I had did not mention that the tape might easily pull up. We had to have the girls constantly go over the tape with their fingers to get a tight seal before they started painting.

When the paint dried we pulled up the painter's tape.  Some edges still pulled up and paint got underneath during the process.Thankfully, I had purchased white paint and it was easy to touch up the canvases. Here was my daughter's finished canvas - 

Food for the party was simple ... we had lots of colorful things to pick from - fruit, veggies, crackers, and various dips. For the cake ... we did cupcakes. All were frosted in different colors  and we added breadsticks which resembled paintbrushes stuck in a pot of paint.

A bonus for this type of party is that you already have a nice favor ... we also gave the girls some art supplies in their favor bags to take home. 

Linking this up over at See Jamie Blog and her Pinterest Challenge for November. Hop on over and see what others have been working on ...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Season Ends ...

Last month a season came to a close in our lives ... our adoption journey ended.

To protect Hope's privacy we will not be going into all the details publicly. It was a very sad ending but, we have peace in the way things came to a close.

Thank you to all of my blog readers - who prayed for our family and supported us in our journey. Please know how grateful we are! Our ways are not God's ways ... we can only be obedient to him in faith and know that He is sovereign.

"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ava Mae Turns "9"

Last week Ava Mae turned "9"! She was finally brave enough to get her ears pierced with a gift card she received from MeMaw and PawPaw. We celebrated a few days after her actual birthday with an Art Party {a more detailed post on that later}. Ava Mae invited over seven little girls who all enjoyed an afternoon of painting.

 Such a sweet group of crafty girls ... everyone went home with a painted canvas sporting their initial and a painted jewelry box.

Ava Mae our talented little dancer and acrobat! You are our vivacious little girl who never meets a stranger. Life with you is never dull!!! We love you!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lexi Turns "11"

Last month our ballerina girl turned 11-years-old. It was a low key celebration ... we had a family dinner out at her favorite restaurant - The Marietta Diner.

A few days later we let her take a few friends for shopping and lunch after church. All the girls had gift cards for Bath & Body Works and Michael's {two of Lexi's favorite stores}.

Lexi, you surprise us so much ... you are mature beyond your years but, also know how to be silly and fun. You light up any room you walk into and you have the ability to make friends easily. Some days I wish I could stop time and keep you that sweet little girl with two pigtails in her hair following me around the house asking to help take care of Ava Mae.

Thank you for the joy you bring to Dad and I!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Easy Orange Cranberry Scones

I am always in search of the perfect yet, simple, scone recipe. I like the Bisquick ones as they always seem to rise in a more uniform fashion.

My daughter {pictured above helping zest an orange} and I attended a baby shower this weekend for one of the teachers at her ballet school. I was asked to bring my well loved orange cranberry scones. I decided I would finally write down the recipe I use and blog it for future reference.

3 cups of Bisquick
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/2 cup orange blossom honey (I used Tupeolo Honey as I had run out of orange blossom)
2 eggs
1/4 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed is best but, Simply Orange works too)
Zest of 1 orange


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine Bisquick, cinnamon, and dried cranberries. Add honey and mix well. The add, eggs, orange juice, and zest - mix until all ingredients are combined - mixture should be moist, if not add a little more orange juice.

2. Scoop out using a medium size cookie scoop onto ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes or until scones are a light brown on top.

Makes 18 scones.

1 cup of powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons of Orange Juice (more or less to your preferred glaze consistency)

While scones are still warm - brush with glaze. Store scones in an airtight container - best served the same day or the day after baking.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekly Rewind {September 20, 2013}

Week four of school is behind us ... here is our week in pictures. {Pictured above Ava Mae dressed as a pirate for Talk Like a Pirate Day - it earned us a dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme.}

Devin pitched for the first time for his middle school baseball team. He was so excited and nervous! I was sad to miss but, had girls at the dance school that had to be picked up at varying times. Thankfully, my husband was there and could text me a play by play. :) Devin did a great job and had a good time pitching. It really was a surprise to us as we figured it would be a year before they allowed him to pitch. Loving his baseball team and the sweet boys and parents!

Pictured above, Devin and one of his teammates during prayer after the game. Ava Mae doing a science experiment at Classical Conversations. Our history and science cards from school this past week. And, the last picture is Lexi and Ava Mae on a cool fall morning doing their school work outside on our deck - along with their golden retriever, Maggie.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Devin Turns "12"

Just three days after we returned from Latvia, Devin turned 12 years old. We had a low key family celebration as we were all extremely jet lagged and my brain was in a complete fog. {Which is probably why I thought I had already done this blog post.}

We ordered Devin's favorite treat - a cookie cake from a local bakery. The cake came decorated in an Atlanta Braves theme.

I was so thankful I had the forethought to get Devin's gift before we left for Latvia. He was so thrilled to receive tickets to a Brave's game.

Devin, so proud of the young man you have grown into. You have shown maturity beyond your years this year. When I doubted where God was in this whole adoption process you remained strong in your faith. You were willing to give up everything material if it meant bringing home your new sister. We love you Dev - Happy Birthday!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekly Rewind {September 13, 2013 ~ Finding Our Groove}

Three weeks into school and I think we are finally finding our groove ... albeit for me an exhausting groove. You wouldn't think adding just one extra person to our homeschool mix would make things so crazy. It does not help that we also added a new hybrid school program this year that is new to all of us.

I felt like this week I could sit down and actually fill out a reasonable lesson plan - which did not include having my middle school student staying up until 10pm at night to complete a paper for school. Hoping the coming weeks will see us all settling into this new routine and getting comfortable. {Probably, just in time for us to have fall break.}
This week, Hope and Devin began their Middle School/High School Physical Education class with our favorite Coach/Teacher ~ Coach JJ! Hope absolutely loved it ... especially the "Capture the Flag" game they played at the end. I am always amazed by that child's athleticism and quick reflexes.

Our Classical Conversations classes have been going great ... Devin, Lexi, and Ava Mae are really enjoying their groups and already learning so much! Hope is enjoying her time working in the childcare nursery. She absolutely loves little children and they have even taught her a few songs like "Three Little Monkeys".

Last week, Devin played in his first Middle School Baseball game for JFCA. He is so excited to be on the team!
Hope is working hard on her English skills and loving her new Rosetta Stone that a very sweet family in our CC community purchased her.

So that is a peek into our week ... if you want to see what others are doing in their homeschools - head on over to HomeGrown Learners Collage Friday.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Adoption : One Month Home

So hard to believe that a month has already quickly passed by since we landed back on American soil. Our first two weeks were a roller coaster but, we have now settled into a more typical everyday routine here. Or, as some may call it "a new normal".

Hope is enjoying making new friends and having new experiences. She is singing in the choir, attending youth group, taking ballet class and art once a week, and getting opportunities to spend time with friends - doing things that teen girls enjoy in their spare time.

This past weekend Hope was able to meet her grandparents and a few of my siblings for the first time. Our family all met up at the "half-way" point between Asheville and Atlanta at Black Rock Mountain for an afternoon picnic.

Our required social worker visit was a few days ago and we sailed through. Our adoption agency rep was blown away by Hope's outgoing personality and  all the skills she has - such as knitting, painting, braiding hair, and photography. Our next step ... we await 2nd trip dates for our final - formal court hearing.

Keep praying as we all adjust to our "new normal"!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Weekly Rewind {Aug 30, 2013 ~ Our First Week of School}

We survived the first week of school! Woo Hoo!! And, I should say we not only survived but, everyone was still smiling on Friday - bonus points for that! It was our first week with an almost full schedule {only thing missing was our Monday Middle School/High School PE class for Devin and Hope which will begin on September 9th}.
This year Devin, Lexi, and Ava Mae are in Classical Conversations - they are all doing the Foundations program and Devin and Lexi are also enrolled in the Essentials program. Hope is enjoying her time in the nursery working with the little kids. This is new for us this year but, just what our family needed as we tackle adding a new child to our homeschool mix and finish up required trips for our adoption. We love our community and all the friends we get to attend school with!

We are all back at Timothy this year too ... I am teaching Exploring Creation with Anatomy & Physiology and Knitting for Beginners and Advanced Students. So thankful that Devin and Lexi are both assisting me in my science class and Hope in my knitting class - as my student count in both is high. The kids each have an enrichment class or two they are taking this semester. 

Pictured above is our fun science project of the week ... we made models of animal cells out of jello and different candy.

In other news this week, Hope had her check up this week at the pediatrician - everything looks good and she just needed to get 4 shots this go round. Brave girl ... I think I freaked out more than she did. Devin is now on the JFCA Middle School Fall Baseball Team - a goal he has had for the last two years. We are proud of him and he is so happy to have begun practices!