Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Kid-Friendly Advent Wreath

If you have never taken part in an Advent Wreath tradition, none of this will be a stretch for you. If you have, please know that my version of the tradition is not traditional in almost any way. If you want to stick with the traditional readings and candle colors, please do. I began this way of celebrating advent about 3 years ago, during my Man-Cub's second Christmas season. Back then, we could barely get him to sit still long enough to make it through the reading, but we persisted, and now he eagerly looks forward to Sunday evenings and the time to light (and blow out!) the candles. Now we are approaching our fourth advent season since we began doing the wreath and as soon as I pulled out the holiday decorations he was searching for the wreath and candles. That will warm a mama's heart!

The picture above is Man-Cub with the wreath last Christmas morning. I purchased the supplies to make the wreath at AC Moore Arts & Crafts, but almost any craft store should have the supplies needed. It consists of:
  • Wire wreath form with candle holders (check floral supplies aisle if not in the seasonal section)
  • Holiday decorative picks
  • 4 taper candles (I chose colors that coordinate with my decor)
  • 1 medium-large pillar candle for center of wreath

Each Sunday night after dinner we gather back at the family table and bring out the Bible and our Little People Nativity set as well as other props if applicable.

Click HERE for the weekly, kid-friendly readings.

Each week we light the candles from the week before, adding a new candle each week. We read and discuss the message in the reading and ask age-approriate questions to review. Then we take turns blowing out the candles.
On Christmas morning, after stockings are un-stuffed but before we begin opening gifts, we light all of the candles, including the big one in the middle. We keep all of the lights off so that the only glow comes from the 5 lit candles, and we read about how Jesus is the Light of the World. We finish this special time by singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and allowing the little ones to blow out the candles as if they were the candles on a birthday cake. 
This year, now that Man-Cub has become more contemplative, we plan to add one final question to finish our Advent celebration:
What birthday gift will you give to Jesus this year?

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Kid-Friendly Advent Readings

To read the beginnings of this family tradition as well as a list of supplies to make the wreath, click HERE.
The first Sunday of Advent this year is December 2nd. 
If you are late getting started or miss a Sunday, just catch up on a week night. We have been know to move our candle lighting to a Monday night from time to time if the kids are cranky on Sunday nights.
Okay, let's dive in!

Week One: Mary, the angel, and some very exciting news!

You will need: Bible, nativity figures or some other representation of Mary and an angel, advent wreath , candles, and lighter/matches
  • Read Luke 1:26-38
  • Light the first candle.
  • During the reading, point out to your child which of the characters are Mary and the angel, allowing them to hold the figures.
  • Questions for review and reflection:

  1. Who brought the good news to Mary?
  2. How do you think Mary felt? (Surprised, worried, happy, scared, sad?)
  3. What do you think if would be like if an angel showed up in your room to give you a message? How would you feel?
  4. What was the very exciting news that the angel brought to Mary?
  5. What exciting news does God want us to share this Christmas season?
  • Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the good news of Jesus' birth! Please help us to wait as expectantly as Mary did for the coming of your Son. May we always remember the true message of Christmas, and share that message with others through our words and deeds this Christmas Season! Amen.

Week 2: Joseph has an important dream.
You will need: Bible, nativity figures of Joseph and an angel, advent wreath, candles and lighter/matches.
  • Light the first week's candle
  • Read Matthew 1:18-25
  • Point out to your child the characters of the story and allow them to hold them when they come up.
  • Light the second candle.
  • Questions for review and reflection:
  1. What was Jesus' mother's name?
  2. Who was she supposed to get married to?
  3. How did the angel appear to Joseph? What did the angel tell him?
  4. What did the angel tell Joseph to name the baby?
  5. What other, special name did the angel say that Jesus would be called? (Remind your child of the meaning of Immanuel).
  6. Did Joseph obey what the angel told him to do?
  7. Are we supposed to obey God? What does obedience to God look like?
  • Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us how to obey you by showing us how Joseph obeyed you. Help us to listen for what you want us to do and obey you right away. May we remember to be obedient to your will at Christmas time and always. Amen.
Week 3: No room at the inn.
You will need: A Bible, something to represent a stable (from a nativity set or even a box), figures of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus in a manger, and a donkey, Advent wreath, candles, lighter/matches.
  • Light the candles from the first 2 weeks.
  • Read Luke 2:1-7
  • Point out the figures in the story and allow your child to hold them and place Mary and Joseph in the stable.
  • Light the 3rd candle
  • Questions for review and reflection
  1. Who had to make a long trip?
  2. Where did they go?
  3. Did they find a comfy place to stay while they were visiting Bethlehem?
  4. What very exciting event happened while they were in Bethlehem?
  5. Do you know what a stable is? Do you know what a manger is? (Explain these words, being sure to emphasize the fact that a stable is a common barn, and a manger is where an animal drinks. Also use wording to describe the "stinky" or unpleasant environment that a stable would be for sleeping) 
  6. Where were you born? (emphasize the comfort and cleanliness of hospital or birth center settings vs. a stable)
  7. When you were a little baby, where did you sleep? (again, emphasize the comforts of a home and crib). What would it be like to sleep in a barn?
  8. Why do you think that God would send his Son to be born in a barn?
  • Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you so much for the birth of your Son, Jesus! Although Bethlehem did not have room for Him, allow us to make room for Him in our hearts. We pray that we would not miss out on how special His birth was this season. Help up to remember His humble start and to stay humble ourselves. Amen.
Week 4: Shepherds and Wise Men
You will need: Bible, figures of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, wise men, and various animals, some kind of star, Advent wreath, candles, lighter/matches
  • Light the previous 3 candles.
  • Read Luke 2:8-18 and Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
  • Light the fourth candle
  • Point out the figures in the story and allow your child to hold them and place them in their appropriate spots.
  • Questions for review and reflection:
  1. How did the shepherds feel when the angels appeared?
  2. What did the angels tell them to do?
  3. How would you feel if all those angels appeared to you?
  4. What did they do in response to the angels good news? (emphasize that they obeyed, worshipped AND told others)
  5. What did the wise men follow to find Jesus?
  6. How many gifts did they bring? Do you remember what the gifts were?
  7. What is the greatest gift of all time?
  • Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the gift of your Son! We know that He is the best Christmas present of all! Help us to respond to His birth the same way that the shepherds did, and worship Him the way the wise men did. Remind us of the lessons that we have learned from the shepherds and wise men, and help us to live our lives as a precious gift to you. Amen.

Christmas Morning: The Light of the World!
You will need: Bible, Advent wreath, candles, lighter/matches
  • Turn off all the lights, light the 4 taper candles and the center candle.
  • Read John 1:1-5
  • Questions to ask:
  1. Who is the light of the world?
  2. Who's birthday is today?
  3. What birthday gift will you give to Jesus this year?
  • Prayer: Jesus, we love you so much! Thank you for coming to this world to be our light! Help us to shine your light to the whole world, at Christmas and always. Be with us as we strive to live out the gifts we promised to give you this year. Happy Birthday Jesus! Amen.
  • Sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus and allow the kids to blow out the candles as if they were the candles on a birthday cake!
It is my sincerest hope that this tradition has blessed your family this advent season. May the joy of the birth of Jesus permeate your heart and life at Christmas and always!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Get Serious About Celebrating!

Right now I am reading the supremely inspiring book, "The Purpose of Christmas" by Rick Warren.

This book contains the wake up call that we all need from time to time during the holiday season. I am about 50 pages in, and I already have a new mantra; celebrate.
It's that simple, and that complicated, all at once. Just celebrate. Christmas is a giant, one-month-long birthday party for the greatest person that ever lived, and that is cause for some big time celebration. 
So I am taking a few hours today to check my calendar, make lists of to-do's and the dates that they need to be completed by, and then I am letting go of the stress. I am letting go of the impulse to cram one more thing in, to hunt for the "perfect" gifts for one more hour or to allow one more "to do" to ruin my celebration. This holiday season I will simply celebrate. I will attend parties, bake, cook, read, laugh, play and enjoy the wonder and magic of Christmas, but I will not do a single thing that is not celebratory.
Will you take the steps needed to get serious about celebrating?

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Let's Give Thanks Part V: 1 Turkey Carcass 3 Meals

I really hate the word carcass. But when I consulted my handy thesaurus for less graphic sounding alternatives, the options were pretty morbid themselves; body, cadaver, corpse, remains, shell....its not pretty.
But I needed to be specific that these are not recipes for leftover turkey, these are recipes that utilize the bones and the bits of meat that cling to them. One 20 pound turkey carcass can yield 3 recipes, and depending on your serving sizes and size of your family, at least 6 meals. 
My method for brined turkey is here, but if you did not brine your turkey, you will want to add some extra seasoning, which will be listed at the end of the post. If your family serves the wings and drumsticks on the bone, you will not be able to do all 3 recipes, so just pick your favorite and make one nice pot of soup. Also, you will probably want to start this process in the morning, as it is kind of an all day thing.
1. You will begin with 3 large pots and a very sharp knife. Remove the wing, leg and thigh bones from one side of the bird and place in a pot. Do the same for the other side, adding those to the second pot. Finally, put the entire body of the bird into your third pot, cutting into several pieces if necessary to fit. Cover all 3 with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for as long as is needed for bones to be completely bare. It took mine about 4 hours. As mentioned, if your turkey was brined you will not need to add anything to your water and bones, the saltiness and seasonings will be sufficient to make a wonderful stock.
2. Remove all bones and cartilage from each pot and continue simmering as you add the remaining ingredients to each one.

For Herbed Noodle Soup add:
2 diced carrots
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
chunks of leftover meat (if more meat is desired)
2 cups farfalle or other noodles (add after vegetables are tender)

For Spicy Sicilian Soup add:
2 diced carrots
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 can Rotel, do not drain
chunks of leftover meat (if more meat is desired)
1 cup ditalini or other small pasta (add after vegetables are tender)
Black pepper to taste

For White Chili add:
2 cans navy beans, drained
1 can cannellini beans, drained
2 packages "White Chicken Chili" seasoning
chunks of leftover meat (if more meat is desired)

Simmer each of these until the vegetables are tender and the pasta is al dente. For the White Chili you need only simmer until flavors are combined and beans are heated through. Because I serve soup with sandwiches or salads for dinner, I then separated each recipe into 2 gallon sized bags, then froze them flat on a cookie sheet so that they can be neatly stacked in the freezer. We eat all of our leftover turkey meat with the leftover sides or on sandwiches, so I did not add any additional meat to my soups and they are still very rich and hearty. A lot of meat comes off of the bones since I am not very thorough about "picking" the turkey. Talk about being resourceful! With the original holiday dinner,  our leftover meals, plus the soups and chili, one turkey has yielded 10 meals for my family! 

*If your turkey was not brined, you will want to add the following to each pot of water and bones: 1 whole stalk of celery, 1 whole carrot, 1 quartered onion, salt and pepper to taste. Remove the whole aromatics when you remove your bones.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm a Top Mommy Blogger!

As of today, I have officially been accepted to the
directory of awesome Mommy blogs!
This is super-dee-duper exciting, and I am currently ranking at #64 in my category, which is "Stay at Home" blogs.
In order for me to move up in the rankings and garner more exposure, YOU have the vote!
You can vote once per day, just by clicking the banner that will now be in the signature of every blog post or the one in the sidebar. That's it, just click after you read the post!
Thank You-Thank You-Thank You!

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Let's Give Thanks Part IV: Entertaining the Kids

The big day is here! 
The parade, turkey, football, and the pile of Black Friday ads on the coffee table. But if you have little ones, you know that there is little likelihood that you will be hanging on the couch watching the parade until the meal and then following it with a tryptophan-induced mini coma.
Especially if you are visiting someone else's home, one where there isn't any "kid stuff" and the space has not been toddler proofed.
The home where we will be spending this Thanksgiving dinner will contain 5 sets of aunts and uncles, 16 of my husband's first cousins, and enough of his grandmomma's fragile heirlooms to keep me on my toes for the entire day. Oh, and my kids are the only one's under the age of 16 that will be present today. 
When there was just one child in my care, I could easily follow him around the house or, weather permitting, take him outside to play on her lawn or walk him over to see her neighbor's horses. But now I am outnumbered. Not that my fella won't help, but if there is a particularly interesting play happening in whatever football game is on, I may be on my own. 
In my imagination, I spend the day with a screaming-because-she-wants-to-run-around toddler on my hip while I chase the 4 year old around begging him "Don't run in the house! Don't tackle your relatives! That's not a toy!" while the relatives look at me with either sympathy or helplessness.
So, I am taking a proactive approach to avoid all of that. I am packing Man-Cub a backpack full of quiet activities that he has never seen before. I have a few simple Thanksgiving themed craft kits from the craft store, a Christmas coloring book, and some pumpkin-pie scented play dough as well as his Leapster and a spare set of batteries. For the Girl-Child I have some toys that she hasn't seen in awhile and an arsenal of toddler friendly finger foods. I also know that I can always rely on the grandmothers, aunts  and girl cousins to want to snuggle the little one and the grandfathers, uncles, and boy cousins to take Man-Cub outside for basketball or to play catch after the meal. 
And even if there is some chasing and correcting, I will not allow myself to be stressed out, because this is Thanksgiving, and I am so thankful for my little ones. I wouldn't trade them for all the parade floats and long naps in the world!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's Give Thanks III: Friends-giving & Brined Turkey

I really like to cook Thanksgiving, and I have an extra special love for all of those turkey day leftovers. For many years, while we were stationed away from home, I cooked the whole feast and then we invited over as many single sailors as we could find to enjoy the meal with us. Since we are "permanent" where we are now, at least every other year there is a family meal to attend, which leaves me without my beloved leftovers. So two years ago I began the tradition of hosting a "Friends-giving" a few days before the actual holiday.
This gives me the opportunity to do the cooking that I enjoy so much, and gives my fella the opportunity to do the socializing and entertaining that he loves so much. Typically we invite friends that live far from home or for some other reason don't have holiday plans. We eat, we drink, we laugh, and most importantly, we give thanks. We are thankful for the friends that are in our life and for the unique relationships that we have with them. Friends never take the place of family, but having strong friendships is such an important part of a healthy, balanced life.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
-C.S. Lewis
One of the reasons that we host "Friends-giving" is so that we can enjoy an awesome brined turkey that I started making a few years ago. My fella says it "ruined all other turkey" for him. It is a variation on Alton Brown's famous Good Eats turkey from 1999. 

In a large stockpot combine:
2 cups kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup whole peppercorns
1-2 whole cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup dried rosemary (or throw in the contents of the whole jar if you don't have quite that much)
1/4 cup dried sage
2 tbsp dried thyme
Aromatics for roasting:
1 apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled but whole

Fill up the pot with water and slowly dissolve brine seasonings over low heat. Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes to fully bring out the flavors of the dried herbs. Completely cool in the refrigerator. Place thawed turkey in a large oven bag in the roasting pan in case of leaks. With help, pour cooled brine into the bag. Allow to brine in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, turning once during that time. Remove turkey, discarding liquid but retaining herbs (I just pour the brine through a strainer to do this). Add herbs back into cavity of turkey. Place aromatics in a bowl with 1/2 cup water and microwave for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatic (minus the water) to the cavity of the turkey. Pat whole turkey dry with paper towels and coat liberally with canola oil. Place uncovered in 500 degree oven for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 for the remainder of cooking time, tenting as necessary if the bird begins to over brown.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let's Give Thanks Part II:Gratitude

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

This time of year, everyone is talking about thankfulness. About 88% of my Facebook friends are posting each day about something that they are thankful for, and that is totally awesome. I think that most of us, especially me, could use a good dose of that thankfulness stuff every day, not just in the month of November. That is why this week is an excellent time to start some new habits that build gratitude into our daily lives.
This is not a strictly religious thing, this is for anyone, regardless of belief or denomination, and it can be super simple.
Could you come up with a list of 1000 things that you are grateful for? Grab a pen and paper and start making a list. This is surely not a one day activity, but maybe something to work on a little bit each day for awhile. When you are done, keep it somewhere that you can reread in often.
 Try a gratitude journal. Just designate a journal or notebook and keep it next to your bed. Each night, before you settle in, take a moment to jot down the things that you are thankful for. They may be general things like "my home" and "my family" or specific things like "the look on my kid's faces at the Festival of Lights." The list might be short or long, depending on the day. Make it a habit to write in your gratitude journal every day, but don't beat yourself up if you miss a day now and then. Then, next year, open up your journal the day before Thanksgiving and read about all the things you have felt grateful for all year long. I can guarantee that it will be a truly heartwarming experience.
Another variation of this activity is for each member of the family to write something you are grateful for on a popsicle stick or strip of paper every day before bed, and place it in a mason jar. Next year, while enjoying dessert on Thanksgiving, take turns pulling from the jar and reading out loud all of the things you were all thankful for all year long.

There are lots of resources out there about learning to be more grateful. Some of my favorites are:
With wishes for a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Let's Give Thanks Part I: Better Than Your Mama's Sweet Potatoes

Today begins what will be a 4 part mini-series about Thanksgiving and everything that I find important about it.

I am not going to share every single one of my Thanksgiving Day recipes, because, lets face it, I will need things to blog about for future holidays. That, and, most people already know their favorite way to do it, and I don't want to change all that up.
There is one part of the traditional fare that I think everyone should change, and that is the sweet potatoes. Most people serve them in a casserole topped with tiny marshmallows. While you may like this dish, I am going to go out a limb and assume that it is not your favorite dish on the table. Yeah, you probably eat it, but you wouldn't eat it by itself.
My sweet potato recipe is so good that I make it at every holiday. Every. single. one.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, get the idea.
And I make a quadruple batch.
And everyone asks for the recipe.
And we eat the leftovers by themselves (if we have any!) for several days afterward, sometimes even for breakfast.
Still not sold?
They are made in the crock pot.
If that didn't get you, I don't know what will. So here it is folks,
my (sort of) world famous
"Better than your mama's" Sweet Potatoes
and may I add, that even my mama, one of the most talented cooks that I know, says that these are better than hers!

3 large cans of sweet potatoes, drained
1 stick of real butter
1 cup chunky applesauce
2 granny smith apples, cored and diced (with peel on)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
dash of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Allow to simmer all day on low, at least 4 hours. You are looking for a chunky but cohesive mixture. The longer you allow it to simmer, the more integrated the flavors become, and the more delicious. 

A very happy Thanksgiving, from our household to yours!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Questions & Answers About Adopting

November is National Adoption Month!
In that spirit, this blog post is dedicated to answering some of the many questions that we have been asked as we have made our adoption journey public knowledge. I also hope to dispel some of the myths that many people have heard about adopting and link you up to some resources that you might find interesting.

It did not even occur to us that our "announcement" that we are adopting would come as such a shock for so many of our friends and family. Although we had not really discussed the possibility with anyone but each other, we just thought that there would be a few "oh, that's cool" or "congratulations" and the like. The wave of questions that followed was unexpected, but we were happy to answer. 

"But wait, you guys already have kids! Why would you want to adopt?"
The truth is, adoption is not just for people who cannot have biological children. Adoption is for anyone with the conviction to adopt, and God's command to care for the orphaned is pretty clear. Some scriptures on adopting include:
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Psalm 82:3

Take up the cause of the fatherless...
Isaiah 1:17

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.
James 1:27

"Don't you have to be rich to adopt? I've heard it's very expensive."
You do not have to be rich to adopt through the Department of Social Services (from the foster care system), as we are doing. There is no income minimum, as long as you have "some left over" at the end of the month with which you could care for an additional family member. While private and international adoptions can be quite costly, adopting through the state is absolutely free. The only costs to you are any safety improvements that need to be made to your home in order to pass fire and safety inspections, such as installing a fire extinguisher. The state even gives you a voucher to cover your attorney fees for adoption finalization. The state needs adoptive parents, and they do their best to make it as financially simple as possible.

"Are you adopting a boy or a girl? How old will they be? What if you get a child of a different race/ethnicity than you?"
We have applied to adopt a child between infancy and 4 years old, of any gender and any race/ethnicity. We could not imagine denying an innocent child the opportunity of having a forever family based on race or gender. 
We do not expect to matched with an infant. There are 500 approved and waiting families in our state that are only willing to adopt an infant, and only about 1-3 babies become available each month. 

"Aren't you worried that the child will have problems?"
We are not only aware of the possibility that the child may have issues, we are prepared for the fact that the child will have issues to work through. Children are in the system for a reason, and every single child in the system has been neglected or abused in some way, that is why their parent's rights were terminated. Our heart's are full of mercy for these children. They did nothing to deserve the abuse they have faced, and yet they are looked at as undesirable by much of the community. Again, we are not naive to the challenges that our family will face, but we strongly believe that we are at the center of God's will for our lives, and there is no safer place to be!

"What if the child's biological family resurfaces and takes him/her away from you?"
This question likely stems from the recent public attention in our area involving a child that was adopted and later returned to their biological family. It is important for people to understand that this case involved the Indian Child Welfare Act. With the exception of that particular act, once a child has been deemed legally free for adoption, and is adopted, there is no recourse for a biological family member that later comes out of the woodwork. Before a child can be deemed legally free to adopt, the Department of Social Services has done everything within their power to find and notify anyone that might have a legal claim to that child. Once we have adopted them, they are ours.

"What about how this will affect your other children?"
If you want to hear the answer to this question, ask my son how he feels. He is eager to share his room, his toys, and even his parents. We have educated him extensively on the plight of the orphaned, and in his own way, he has a heart for them too. When we asked him how he would feel about getting a brother or sister that isn't a baby and didn't come out of mommy's tummy, his reply was;
"Yes! Let's go get them right now!"
His four year old mind does not understand the wait that is involved in this process. His reasoning is, "If they don't have a mom and a dad, and you want to be their mom and dad, why can't they come live with us right now?"
His personal request is for a 2 year old brother (and a set of bunk beds for them to share).
As for my younger child, she will likely never remember a time without her adopted sibling. God willing, our next child will come into our family before she is 2 years old, and she will never know any other way.

"How long is this going to take?"
As of the date of this post, we have one more training session and two home inspections, one by the Fire Marshal and one by our Family Worker. We have submitted all necessary paperwork and documentation. If all goes as planned, we hope to be completely certified by Christmas. From that point, it could be one day or one year (or longer!) before we are matched with a child. 

"So this must mean that you are 'done' having kids, right?"
This one always earns a laugh from us. Honestly, we don't yet know what the future of our family holds. We can see ourselves as the parents to a large family. We may adopt again and we likely will have more biological children too. Right now all we can say is that we are taking it one child at a time.

"This is all so sudden! What made you make such an impulsive decision?"
Again, this is one that gets a laugh. Just because we didn't talk about it with you doesn't mean that we weren't talking about it. The Lord has been working on our hearts in this area for many years, I would venture to say before we were even married. Yes, once we came to the conclusion that we wanted to pursue this, we moved quickly, but that is just our personalities. If we are going to do something, we are going to do it. Period. No sense dragging our feet about it. We know without a doubt that this time was right for us, and we went for it.

This process has not been a roller coaster for us, as many people have described it. We wait excitedly, but patiently. We know that our next child is out there, waiting for us, right now. That is absolutely mind blowing. We also know that from the moment that child was conceived, although it was not in my womb, that the Lord knew that he or she belonged in our family. 
We have received both encouragement and criticism, both of which have come from the most surprising people.
In the end, while the praise feels good and the negativity is hurtful, the truth remains that this is a deep, heartfelt calling and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right choice for our family.
What about you? Maybe you will discover that it is also your purpose and calling to welcome a child into a forever family. Maybe you will find that you are willing to sacrifice some of your space, time, finances, convenience, and routine in order to save a child.
Or maybe you will find another way to help care for the neglected, abused, abandoned, and unwanted in your community. 
I hope that in some way, by reading this, you have been inspired to act on whatever it is that you feel called to do, and I welcome any other questions that you may have.

A few things to leave you with:

  • In South Carolina, about 1500 abused and neglected children are in the care of DSS and awaiting permanent, loving, adoptive homes.
  • 1/3 of these children are preschoolers, 1/3 are grade schoolers, and about 1/4 are teenagers.
  • Of these children, 57% are African American, 36% are Caucasian, and about 7% are other races.
  • About 300 children who are legally free to adopt are pictured at
  • The majority of young men who age out of the foster care system will become criminals and end up in jail. The majority of young women who age out will become prostitutes.
  • Children who are adopted from the state are eligible for Medicare until they are 21 years old. The state may also provide an adoption subsidy to help with the costs of caring for a special needs child.
  • In our state, "Special Needs" is the word used to describe any child that is for any reason more difficult to place for adoption than a "typical" child.
  • To listen to an audio recording of an excellent message about adoption and orphan care, click here and select "Orphan Sunday."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Inspiring Great Character Part V: What matters most to you?

In the Top Ten post in this Character series, I frequently mentioned teaching character by displaying good character. Have you ever thought about how your children see you? I can't say that I really had, until a friend told me of a little exercise she tried out with her kids. She asked them to tell her what she thinks is most important to her. Some of their responses inspired her to make some changes.

Later that week, I decided to try that out for myself. The conversation went like this:

Mommy: "Man-Cub, what do you think matters the most to me?"

Man-Cub: "Ummmm...good behavior?"

Mommy: "Okay, but not just about how you act, out of all the people and things in Mommy's life, what things do you think are the very most important?"

Man-Cub: (thinks carefully) "Loving God, and decorating when it's my birthday or Halloween or Christmas."

Now, while I was super happy that my child sees my quest to know the Lord, and amazed that he even notices the time and attention I put into decorating for special occasions, there were a few things missing from his assessment of me. First of all, he didn't say that he is important to me, or that his sister is. He pointed out that his behavior is important to me, but not that he himself is. He also didn't say that his father is important to me. I decided to ask him about Daddy.

Mommy: "Okay, that's great, thanks for answering! What do you think matters most in Daddy's life?"

Man-Cub: "Loving God, loving you, and making sure that I do the right thing."
(I would like to note that I think he said "loving God" again because of my hugely excited reaction the first time he said it)

Mommy: "What makes you think that loving me is important to Daddy?"

Man-Cub: "Because he always kisses you in the kitchen."
(heart melts!)

Again, there was good and bad to his response. I am so glad that he knows that faith is so important to his parents. I am overjoyed that he sees his Dad being affectionate and knows that his parents are in love. Yet, when it came to himself, he once again focused on the fact that his behavior is important to his dad. 

I am really thankful that I asked my little boy this revealing question. It opened my eyes to many things. For starters, I am resolved to make sure that he knows that he is important to me just because he is my son. That I love him unconditionally, and that nothing will ever make him less important to me. I want both of my kids to know that they have great value and worth, not just because of their actions, but in spite of their actions too! I want my kids to see me being loving, respectful, and affectionate towards their dad so that they know that he is as important to me as I am to him. And I want to continue to show them that we both love God above all, and that our ultimate goal in life is to know Him and make Him known to others. Finally, I want to be sure that I don't focus so much on decorating and preparing for special events, that I don't enjoy them as well.

I intend to ask my kids this question about once a year, and I encourage you to do so too. Make sure that your kids see that which is most important to you being a priority in your life!