Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free e-book

My friend Kat has published an incredible (and FREE!) downloadable book on her new website, Inspired to Action.

It's really worth reading. Full of not just great ideas, but the tools you'll need to implement them.

Go ahead, download it. You'll be inspired!

free ebook for moms - maximize your mornings

Here are a few things you’ll learn in this ebook.
(From the Inspired to Action Website)

-Learn why getting up early is so important.
-How to get out of bed – tips to make it easier to crawl out of your cozy bed.
-How to develop a doable Prayer and Bible Study plan.
-How to find an exercise plan that works for you.
-How to plan your day so that you actually get things done.
-Learn the key to developing a great morning routine.
-Download forms and charts to help you plan and stay on track.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thanksgiving 2009

I'm a little behind in blogging, and there are some things I don't want to this wonderful holiday!

I just LOVE Thanksgiving. It might be my favorite holiday. (It's hard to commit to a favorite, you know, when they're all so wonderful!) I enjoy the colors of fall, the focus on God's blessings and abundance, the anticipation of the Christmas season just around the corner, the wonderful yummy food, family and friends intentionally gathering together to celebrate and proclaim our thankfulness together....yes, it's a great holiday!

The year that Sam and I were dating (we met in August of 1998) Sam was in the process of buying a house. It had an unfinished basement, and somehow he convinced the builder to allow him to do the work on the basement before closing on the house. He asked his dad to come up (to Montana, from Colorado) and help him finish it over Thanksgiving.

In my 20 year old wisdom, I spontaneously offered to cook them a Thanksgiving feast at Sam's apartment. Nevermind that I had very little cooking experience, had never cooked a turkey or many of the side dishes that I was planning and thought mashed potatoes and stuffing came from boxed mixes! :)

I honestly don't remember much about that first Thanksgiving, except that everyone seemed pleased that I had pulled it off. The turkey was fully cooked and nobody got sick from anything that I had made. I'm pretty sure I even came up with a pie, although that detail slips my mind now.

The following year we were newly married and I had yet another chance to have Thanksgiving at my house. I think we did it because we wouldn't be able to travel to Sam's parent's house at Thanksgiving AND Christmas, so we said we would do Christmas and they could come up for Thanksgiving. I was so excited. I made up cheesy little invitations out of construction paper and sent them out to Sam's parents, his sister and brothers. To my great joy, Sam's sister and family were able to come too! My mom and brother were there and it was a really special time.

So with two Thanksgiving dinners under my belt, I claimed the Thanksgiving holiday as 'mine.' Every year after that I had the privilige of hosting the gathering at our house. It grew over the years to include more children, friends and even friends of friends. My brother would invite anyone he knew who didn't have a place to go and we would ask our single friends to come.

This has been something that I look forward to all year. I really thrive on opening my home up to others and this gives me a creative outlet for cooking and serving and decorating. Once we moved to Texas, we continued the tradition of hosting at our house the first year. We had a table full of people from Sam's work. The following year, Sam's sister Amy offered to host. Their neighborhood has a beautiful, large clubhouse that anyone can rent out. She rented the facility and set up an incredible (and very loooong) table and served a wonderful meal. It was fun to have everyone together, but it was a little sad for me because I enjoy the cooking so much!

The year after that, Kelly and Jon were in the process of adopting Matthew from Russia. MaryBeth and Kelly were there over Thanksgiving. We had a smaller celebration at our house but it was an odd one, having family members so far away! That all bring us up to this past Thanksgiving.

This summer we were talking about plans and trying to figure out what everyone was doing. MaryBeth offered Thanksgiving honors to me, if I would want to have everyone over at our house. Of course I jumped at the chance! With so much more family down here, it's harder to 'claim' a holiday as one's own, so I had no illusions that this one would remain mine. :)

This was the largest group I've ever hosted and it definitely presented it's own challenges. We seated 27....but our dining room table comfortably seats 8. We ended up borrowing a couple of 10 ft long tables and turning them sideways. We had an immediate-family-adult table, a friends-and-girls table, and a boys only table. We put the boys table in the study (which is within sight of the dining room, but slightly removed) so they could be themselves, which is to say rowdy, noisy, silly, etc! It actually worked out beautifully. We might have been packed into that dining room like sardines, but we were able to keep conversations going between the tables and everyone seemed to truly enjoy themselves.

I know I'm a little behind, but Happy Thanksgiving! Hope yours was a blessed holiday full of family, friends and the joy of our Lord! :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

One more Elmer story...

Last night I was thinking about my previous post on Elmer and I realized that I hadn't posted about a couple of my favorite memories of him.

Our first house in Bozeman was in a cute little neighborhood and was about two and a half blocks away from an elementary school.

We didn't have our yard fenced for a long time, and when we finally did fence it we shared a backyard with our neighbors behind us (we both fenced the sides but left the back between our houses open).

Those backyard neighbors had a lovely dog named Lucy. She mentored Elmer and mothered him, always watching out for him and keeping him in line.

In the mornings we would let Elmer outside, and for the longest time we just assumed he was either in the backyard or over at the neighbor's house.

What we discovered later was that Elmer had found that groups of kids walked through the neighborhood on their way to school. He would walk with them to school every single morning and then head back to his own backyard.

We were none the wiser until I was talking with a mom down the street one day and she said, "We just love having Elmer walk the kids to school every morning!"

He always did love kids! :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Elmer (July 4, 1999-January 9, 2010)

Sam and I were married in July of 1999. Just a few short months after the wedding, we were still settling in to married life. We had talked about maybe getting a dog but decided to wait a little while until things slowed down a little.

Then Sam came home one day and told me about a litter of puppies he had heard about. Seems a vet in Ennis, Montana had bred a chocolate lab with a german shepherd and was trying to find homes for the sweet pups. We debated back and forth a little and I don't remember coming to a resolution on whether or not we would get one. All I remember is seeing Sam pulling into the driveway the next day with the cutest little puppy I had ever seen.

I held him right away and he snuggled up as close to my neck as he could, licking my face and whimpering. He had these huge, floppy ears and giant paws that made him look sort of goofy when he walked. He settled down right away and was content just to be held.

We waited a day or so to name him, as we wanted something that really fit. We tried a number of names for him but none of them really suited this dog. Most puppies are full of energy and in between sleeping for long periods they will run around like crazy, but not his one. He was just mellow. Actually I think the word we used at the time was 'lazy.' He was so sleepy all the time and just liked to sit in our laps. Even when it was time to eat he would lay down in front of his bowl, with his head hung over the bowl and lap up his food. We would stand him up and slide the bowl away and he would crawl over to the bowl, flop himself down in front of it again and eat a few more pieces of the food.

It entertained us immensely watching him eat in this fashion. It was while watching him eat that I realized what he needed was a sweet old man name. That is where we came up with 'Elmer' and we knew right away that we had picked the right name.

Don't think for a minute that just because Elmer was a lazy puppy that he wasn't mischevious or crazy. He definitely perked up and acted more typical after a while, but he had a lot of growing to do right from the start. You see, Elmer was the runt of the litter. The smallest of the group and we were told he probably wouldn't get very big. We told ourselves that for a long time, denying the fact that his paws were as big as dinner plates. ;) (Elmer evenutally topped out at about 120 pounds as an adult...he certainly didn't remain the runt!)

As a puppy, we let Elmer sleep in our bed with us. He was so little and sweet and of course he would cry if we left him downstairs (our bedroom was upstairs). At first we would have to carry him up and down the stairs because he was so scared of them. Nothing could coerce him to try it out on his own! Our bed was built up pretty tall and Elmer was scared of the edges. He had to sleep right in the middle of the bed and wouldn't go near the edge. Even as he got older (and bigger!) Elmer was terrified of that edge. He would roll over in the middle of the night and crush us, trying to stay directly in the middle of that bed.

That first winter we were so excited to introduce Elmer to the snow...and he LOVED it! He always had so much energy when it would snow. When we would get deep drifts in the yard, Elmer would bound in the deepest parts and come back out sneezing fluffy snow.

Elmer always had a highly irrational fear of the vacuum. I never did understand that and he never did get over it. I would have to send him outside every time I turned the thing on, and even then if he was close to the screen door and heard the vacuum he would go running.

Another great love Elmer had was swimming. He was never happier than when he was in the water. We used to take him to a little pond not far from our first house in Bozeman and throw tennis balls as far out as we could...he would swim out and bring them back as quickly as he could and he was always eager to go right back out. As he got a little older, Sam even trained him as a duck dog since he had such natural tendencies toward it.

Elmer liked birds and we always had quite a few at our houses in Montana. The funny thing was that we would get hordes of sparrows and red-winged black birds and they would fight over the feeders and take over the yard and Elmer would just watch them from the back patio. But whenever a robin dared to step foot into our yard, Elmer would bark and go running after it. I don't know what he had against the robins, but he never let a single one hang out in our backyard.

Elmer was my constant protector. Sam worked nights during those first years of our marriage and Elmer was a great watchdog. I always felt safe being home alone, knowing that Elmer could take care of any intruder or problem. He was also incredibly protective. Even as we added children to the family, Elmer became very attached and quite protective of each of them. He would have done anything to keep us all safe.
Speaking of children, we were a little nervous when we were expecting our firstborn. We really had no idea how Elmer would respond. He was four years old and had captivated our attention all by himself for that entire time. I worried that he would be jealous. We brought a blanket home from the hospital to get Elmer used to the new scent. Turns out I shouldn't have worried. He loved Henry right from the very start. As Henry grew and learned to crawl, pull ears and tails, sneak food out of Elmer's bowl, turn Elmer's water bowl into a mud bath and ride Elmer like a horse....Elmer adored him through it all. We would say, "Give Henry kisses!" and Elmer would lick his face.

Same thing happened when Jonah came along, and Bridget too. He loved each of the kids and never showed anything but patience to them. Even though Elmer was never good at the game of fetch (he just hated to drop the ball or stick) he would always drop anything for Henry. And when Henry would throw the object just as far as he could and it would go about two feet away, Elmer would gladly bound the one jump away to get it and wait for him to throw it again.

Elmer had many camping adventures, hiking trips and bike rides with us. He enjoyed running with us and also running along with our bikes. Sam has a great story about the time Elmer had a run-in with a moose. Sam was mountain biking and came across a mama moose who was separated from her calf by the road. He stopped and tried to grab Elmer, but Elmer went running after the calf. I don't remember the details, but I do know that moose are notoriously angry when it comes to messing with their offspring so we felt pretty lucky that he survived that encounter.

Elmer had a special affinity for very large sticks. When we were out in the woods hiking or whatever, Elmer had a knack for finding the biggest stick (or sometimes LOG) that he could find and trying to get us to play. I have some great pictures of him dragging sticks that are about ten feet long, trying to convince us to throw them for him. :)

Elmer and Sam always had a special relationship. Sam enjoys puttering around the house and working on projects. Elmer was his constant companion through it all and Sam would keep a running commentary about what he was working on. Elmer would lie down beside wherever Sam was working and when Sam would leave the room to get something Elmer would faithfully follow.

When we moved to Texas, Elmer gladly took the plunge with us. He enjoyed the property we own out here as he has always been fascinated by squirrels and they are abundant here with all our trees. He treed a number of them (and even caught a few) and always enjoyed watching the birds. In the summer his thick coat would get pretty warm, but Elmer enjoyed the shade in our backyard and always did enjoy a nice breeze. In the winter he would always have a bit more energy as the temperatures dropped a bit.

When we had our house fire a month ago, Elmer played with the firemen when they weren't fighting the fire. Even afterward when they were cleaning up and packing up their hoses and everything, there was a group of firefighters throwing sticks for him.

Everyone who ever met Elmer loved him, even those who wouldn't consider themselves 'dog people'. He was just that kind of dog. We had a number of people over the years tell us they thought he was the best dog in the world...and we know that is true.

We'll miss you, Elmer.
You were an invaluable part of our family for the last ten and a half years.
We love you!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Sam's new job

Sam recently took a new job. He had been working with his brothers for a local ministry and has felt led to move on for some time now. He actually looked into a number of different ideas and careers and we were surprised and maybe a little disappointed when God kept shutting the doors we had thought would be wide open. As much as Sam's heart told him it was time to leave his position, God didn't seem to be releasing Sam from this ministry. He really tried to immerse himself in his job and give it all he had, but it just didn't seem right somehow.

A few weeks before Christmas we found out that a family we know from church would be moving out of state. The husband (who was Henry's Sunday school teacher) worked for a local Christian camp and retreat facility. Sam thought to himself, "If he is leaving, then perhaps they are hiring!" and he gave it one last shot. He got in touch with the friend who is leaving just to discuss the situation. Turns out, they hadn't filled his position and he was helping to find someone to put in it!

The position they wanted to fill was right up Sam's alley. It would require his specific skill set and his prior life and career experiences would make him a perfect fit for this job. The friend thought that Sam was the answer they were looking for, but it was really up to the CEO of the camp. They set up a time for Sam to meet with her the following week.

Sam met with the CEO and they got along famously. She agreed with our friend that Sam would be a perfect fit for the job and asked how soon he could start. She personally called all his references that very day and officially offered him a job the following afternoon.

Since then it has been a whirlwind of change! Sam agreed to finish out the rest of December with his old job and begin his new one on January 4th. Over the last few days he has been working out the details of insurance and I just have to share one incredible blessing about that.

The new company's insurance coverage is similar to what we already had, with one exception. To cover the entire family it was going to cost close to $700 a month. When the HR person explained that to Sam she noticed his not-quite-pleased reaction. She asked if that was more than what he had paid at his previous place of employment and he said "YES!" She told him not to worry, they would fix that.

He came home and did, indeed worry. With only one income in our family we are already pretty tight on our budget and he couldn't figure out how we would be able to afford the extra expense. Sam spent most of that evening looking into private insurance and other options.

The next day he found out that they would gladly cover all but about $30 of those expenses! Praise the LORD! Are you kidding? :) Then he asked about dental and found we would have to pay about $85 a month for the entire family. Again, higher than what we were paying previously. "No problem," he was told, "we'll take care of that too!"

Needless to say, Sam is really pleased with his new position! The people that he is working with really love their jobs and seem genuinely happy. The CEO has been out of town and then sick since Sam started, and she sent Sam the nicest email last night apologizing for not being there during his first week, asking how he is getting along, making sure he doesn't need anything and letting him know how she is praying for him. Seems like this is going to be a wonderful change for our family.

Congratulations, Sam! I am so proud of you and glad that you waited and trusted God to show you where he wanted you to be. :)

January 7, 2010

At the end of the year I always like to reflect on what has happened throughout the year, what we've done as a family, and places we've gone. In the past I've just opened up my picture files on my computer and revisited everything month by month, which kind of gives me an overview or highlights of the year. This year I wasn't able to do that as the restoration company has our computer and all of my pictures are tied up without me being able to access them....what to do?

I turned to my blog. And I was ever so grateful that I had kept a record of at least some of the things that we have done as a family over the past year. It gave me a new appreciation for my blog and left me with a desire to be more faithful in recording things in this way.

As much as I love to scrapbook and would enjoy having complete books for each of my kids, the reality is that will probably not get done in this season of my life. My blog, however, takes only a few minutes out of my day to update and keeps things well organized and easily accessible.

All this to say I am committing to blog more consistently this year. :)