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The kids, Peter, and I hauled our cooler and patio table out to the street yesterday afternoon and set up a little lemonade stand to raise money for “Feed the Forgotten.”  I posted about it a few days ago on my other blog, so you can read a few random thoughts there… but let me just say again what a great opportunity this campaign is to give a little (or a lot!)   Sometimes it’s hard to feel like I’m even going to make any kind of a difference because I don’t have very much to give — and so it’s easier to just skim over tough articles or not look at the needs smack on because it’s so overwhelming.   We’ve been in a really tough place financially with the business and still are, but in spite of that, I really, really don’t want to just turn my back.   I want to stay involved, giving what I can — even if that’s just my prayers or my passion or my time selling a few glasses of lemonade on the sidewalk with my kids.  And I so want my kids to grow up always seeing mommy and daddy ready to give and serve and love — even when times are tight.   Giving even a little every time  — and making opportunities to give or serve if they aren’t right there…  ’cause giving and loving people and being Jesus’ hands and feet is what life is ALL ABOUT.    

There was one gal yesterday who came to our lemonade stand and Peter and I were both so struck by her giving heart.  We didn’t want to assume anything about her financial situation based on outer appearances, but she was driving an older Subie and she didn’t come across like she had a lot of money (um, as opposed to the other veeeery nice Hummers that kept driving by — we live in on a street that leads to a very wealthy area…)  Anyway, this gal was probably my age and she drove by in her car with a little girl in the backseat and then hit the brakes and flipped a U-turn to come back and give us a twenty dollar bill.  Just like that.  She was driving by, saw the sign and turned around to give us twenty dollars to help feed children in Africa.  Now I know twenty bucks might not seem like a lot, but it just hit me hard because it didn’t appear like she had a lot (and again, maybe she did, but it really doesn’t matter — she was so happy to stop and give what she had with her to help out children in Africa that she’d never met through people selling lemonade on the sidewalk who were total strangers.)  It reminded me of the story of the widow in the Bible who gave EVERYTHING she had, and even though it was such a small amount, Jesus was amazed and said that her gift was more than all the others because she gave so freely of ALL she had.  It’s about our hearts, ya know?  Not about how much we give.  I was so, so convicted.  I still hold back —  it’s like I say, “yes, I want to give it all”  but I’m still not there where it’s my absolute first response… driving down the road, see a need and whoa, stop everything, turn around and give whatever I can.  I turn my back sometimes out of the fear that we’re not going to have enough.  Thank you, lady in the Subaru.  You made a huge impact on me… and I hope on my kids.  God bless you ABUNDANTLY. 

We’re going to set up again on Saturday because the neighborhood is having a community yard sale, and then we decided to just set up every Thursday afternoon for the rest of the summer to raise money for various other projects and organizations as long as we don’t have something else going on.  Hopefully we’ll be able to meet more people in our area and make a difference in their lives as well as people around the world with whatever we raise.  Plus, it’ll be a great thing to do as a family. 

The kids really got into it.  They were standing on the cooler waving at every vehicle and bicycle that passed.  They took turns with the streamer and Henry would yell out “buy lemonade; help the children” in his adorable loud voice.  They got it.  And I LOVE it when my kids get it.  They were helping kids across the world and they were loving it. 

Anyway here are a few pics from yesterday (and please excuse little blondie’s hair in all of my photos past, present and future.  Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO brush it every morning — but by noon it looks like that again… too much hard-playing and the curls get out of control!  Oh, and don’t mind Mr. Brooding Aviator-Shades in the background of the first two pictures, he really WAS happy to be there!  🙂







 …. and to loosen my fingers, here are a few pictures I snapped of the kids a few weeks ago enjoying the spring weather (*and loving the novelty that an asphalt driveway is to kiddos that have been used to nothing but dirt and gravel roads their entire lives!!)


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We’ve been soaking up the last of the year’s warm weather the last few weeks.  I love this time of the year.  There is the unmistakable crispness of fall most of the day, and the leaves are starting to turn — but the afternoons are persistently holding on to the sun-drenched warmness that is Indian Summer.  We can still run around outside barefoot and have barbecues and work in the garden.  And the best part of this season is the over-abundance of fresh, yummy produce from the garden.  I LOVE being able to walk through my garden grazing on fresh tomatoes and peppers and carrots and cucumbers.  Mmmmmmm.  Jo loves it too.   The kid is a tomato-junkie.  I have never seen anyone eat tomatoes like she does.  It’s not unusual for her to devour six or seven huge tomatoes a day.  In fact, it took me a long time to finally get any ripe, red ones because she kept stripping the plants clean of every barely-turned-orange tomato she could find.  Thankfully the plants are producing enough now to stay ahead of her insatiable tomato-tooth. 

I haven’t been canning this year like I usually do.  I have been putting a little bit of produce in the freezer, but I need to get it in gear if I’m going to do anything more than that.  I have grand intentions of salsa and pickles (two of our family’s staples) but actually doing it is an entirely different story!

Here are a couple glimpses into life around here the last few weeks (well, glimpses of the little’s lives anyway…)  

I laughed so hard one afternoon when I came around the corner and saw Joanna floating in the wading pool on this tube.  There was only a little bit of clearance around the edge of the pool, but she was certainly floating on the water and relaxing in the sun! 

Yes, these are my kids… hardly recognizable under all the dirt!  They’ve been enjoying playing in the driveway before it gets too cold to play outside any more.  (And, yes, all that dirt is our driveway! 🙂 )

But, just to prove that they aren’t ALWAYS in the dirt… here’s my newest fav photo of the kids together.  (Special thanks to my sis for getting them to smile at the same time!)

I know I’m incredibly biased… but aren’t they amazingly cute?

I wanted to post some pictures from Henry’s birthday party Friday evening.  He had a double birthday party with our friends (Ross and Tessa’s) daughter, Chloe, who turned a year old on August first.  It was a very laid-back affair.  My family didn’t celebrate holidays or birthdays when I was a kid, and I think that’s the reason why I am TERRIBLE at planning birthday parties.  Friday night was so nice.  We just invited close friends and family to come hang out at the beach with us and eat cake and play in the water and celebrate two sweet little lives.  There was hardly any prep work and zero stress — and I hit the photo-opportunistic jackpot with amazing lighting and adorable kiddos everywhere!  What a great party.  :0)  Maybe I’ll go big for his third birthday.  And then again, maybe not… 

I’m sure these photos are destined to be developed and subsequently stashed in the “if I ever decide to start scrapbooking, these would make a great page!” pile on my desk…  Terrible, I know.  Hey, at least I’m blogging the pictures, right?  It’s a stab at preserving them for posterity!

Our kids love the river.  Being the laid-back (read: forgetful) parent that I am, I completely spaced the swimsuits.  Oh, well.  Thankfully I DID pack a spare change of clothes because Jo waded in up to her waist trying to catch minnows with the cousins.  (I was secretly delighted by her new-found bravery!) 

Chasing after minuscule fish is apparently BIG TIME fun!

Henry’s trying to figure out where all the minnows in his bucket went!! 🙂

Here’s the birthday girl, Chloe, with her dad.  She was very gracious to share her first birthday party with a boy.  However, she didn’t give me one. single. smile all night!  Too overwhelmed by kids, sun and sand, I think.

Okay, this next shot has to be one of my all-time favorite pictures of my nephew, Hunter.  You’d have to know Hunter to appreciate it.  He is SUCH a lovable, mischievous character!  He was goofing around sticking his face down near the water and a big ol’ wave surprised him and splashed water up his nose. 

Hunter, we love you.

I snapped a shot of Ryan and Peter taking a break from all the birthday-ness to solve a few of the world’s problems…

…and here’s my beautiful (preggers) best friend enjoying the sun.

Tessa made a cake for each of the kids and they approached the task at hand from two different angles…

Henry obliged Peter with one bite of his cake sans silverware, and then waited patiently for a utensil.  “C’mon, Dad, I’m not a baby anymore!!!”

“THAT’s more like it!!”

Chloe, on the other hand, was all about the fingers.

Such cuteness…  

Okay, okay… I know this is getting long.  Only a couple more, I promise!  🙂  I love this shot of Joanna because she deliberately took her cake over to this spot to eat overlooking the water.  It made me feel very, very old to have a kid mature enough to enjoy sitting and watching the waves contemplatively while eating dessert. 

And finally, the gorgeous sunset that set the lake on fire.  The picture doesn’t do it justice — it was amazing. 





After threatening (er… promising??) for months, we finally got a trampoline for the kiddos.  My sister and I literally grew up on ours, so it’s something I’ve been looking forward to sharing with my progeny.  Can you tell they love it?  🙂


Well, actually there’s only ONE billy goat in our story.  And he’s not gruff — just stinky!  🙂

We’ve been buying raw goat’s milk locally from a man who lives up the road since Jo was about six months old.  Peter and I have a strong aversion to the taste of goat’s milk (due to baaaaad experiences with really goaty-tasting milk in the past) so we just give it to the kids.  The man we buy it from is super-picky about what he feeds his goats, so as far as goat milk goes, it’s the best — we just can’t get over our past experiences… ugh!

I was thrilled when I found Eric’s goat milk three years ago — it enables me to feed my kids wholesome raw milk without having to keep and milk a goat myself! 🙂  Both my kids love it.  Henry kind of turned his little nose up at it when he first got home, but now he drinks it enthusiastically.

Eric has been affectionately dubbed the “goat man” in our household.  Not really very flattering, I suppose, but he gets a kick out of it.  We always love going to visit the baby goats that are born each spring.  Eric also takes in bummer lambs (baby sheep that are rejected by their mothers for whatever reason…)  and this year he has NINE little lambs running around in addition to all the mama goats and baby goats.  It’s shades of my childhood whenever we visit — we had quite the menagerie when I was a kid.  My parents were the greatest.  They let us get almost any animal we ever asked for as long as we took good care of it (well, within reason… I never did get that monkey that I begged for…)  I am so thankful for the memories I have and feel like I am kind of cheating by VISITING the goats and lambs instead of raising them with my kids.  It sure is a lot less work this way, though!!  🙂

About a month ago I took the kids up and we got to help feed the lambs their bottles.  Henry was so funny when Eric handed us the first one… he knew exactly what was in that bottle and wasn’t too pleased that the lamb was getting the milk instead of him!  Ha! 

I didn’t get any pictures that time, but I snapped a few of the kids playing out in the pasture last week while we there picking up milk.  They had so much fun — it was hard getting them back into the truck when it was time to leave!



I love this look on Henry’s face… “um, Mom — is it SAFE???” 

This little lamb was particulary friendly and SO cute — he looked just like a stuffed animal.

And here’s another shot of that sweet, patient mama goat letting her twins climb all over her!

You already saw the picture of “Mr. Stinky” at the top of the page.  Mr. Stinky, the billy goat, comes calling on the ladies twice a year, and boy, does he smell!  As we were walking over to his pen, Joanna and I were talking about how he is the daddy goat and how he smells kind of funny… and as we got closer she plugged her nose and said, “Ohhhh, he does STINK!  Just like Henry!!!”  Oh my… she is settling in to her role as the sister quite well!  (for the record, Henry doesn’t actually stink! 🙂 )

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but we have an unofficial fifth season that slips in between winter and spring — the not-so-creatively dubbed “Mud Season”.  It comes every year without fail…  This year it is promising to be extra-yucky and extra-long since we got a lot more snow than usual over the winter.  We have a good three weeks of mud left — if not more!   Yeecchhh!  It wouldn’t be so bad if the mud would stay outside, but of course it doesn’t.  It also means that we inevitably have to deal with people getting stuck in our driveway.  We’ve already had a couple casualties so far this season.  And if you have never had to push someone out of being stuck in the mud, take a moment to imagine how messy that could be for the ones behind the car pushing (as the spinning tires are throwing mud back behind the vehicle.  Got a visual??  🙂 )

It’s definitely NOT my favorite season — but the kids sure love it!  Actually, I remember loving it as a kid, too.  The snow was disappearing and there were oodles of puddles to play in and no shortage of perfect mud to “cook” with.  It was also the first time in months that we were finally turned loose outside without having to be bundled up!

I guess there are a few aspects of this season that I still like.  There is that sweet promise of spring in the air… and the birds are back, singing and chirping in full chorus.  The crocuses will be poking through the remaining snow soon — and I think we could find the first of the buttercups if we went out in search of them.  I love opening up the door to the south and letting the sun and fresh air stream it.  I also love standing out on the deck facing the wind.  There is nothing like strong gusts of warm spring wind against my face and in my hair to make me feel wild and free.  I also like donning a pair of rubber boots to tromp out for a walk… although I will be glad when the boots are no longer necessary!

I’m glad my kids have so much fun in it, but I am quickly running out of fresh “mud clothes” for them and it’s not quite warm enough yet to turn them out in the buff.  I guess I’ll have to do some laundry — seems a shame though, to wash clothes just so they can end up looking like THIS in a matter of minutes!!  🙂


Oh, and speaking of getting things clean after mud-play, you should see the bath water after these two are finally clean!! 


I wanted to get a lovey Valentine’s Day photo of the kids for my sister since we are headed down to see her (at my parent’s) this weekend and it’s been a while since I gave her an updated picture of these two…


They weren’t feelin’ the love!! 🙂  It took these shots (and several more!!) to get to the decent ones…





okay, here we go:


…ah, there’s the love!!


These last two are my favorites because she was so concerned about helping him… and LOOK!  He’s standing!!!



It’s been a little while since I did this, so here are a few random stories and pictures of the kids from the last few weeks:

First of all, my disclaimer about the girly shirt on Henry is: we were at my best friend’s house and he got his shirt wet, and all she had in his size was one of Zoe’s too-small sweatshirts.  He did look awfully cute in it, though!  🙂  He loved riding around on Sarah’s vacuum as she was cleaning — anything even remotely adrenaline-charged gets him smiling. 


The little squirt started calling me “Amber” instead of “mommy” last week!!  All on his own.  What a smart little guy.  I was washing dishes one morning and he was in his highchair and I heard him saying “Am-mo.”  I turned around and asked him if he was talking about Elmo.  He shook his head in that funny little way he does and repeated himself: “Am-mo.”  I got it then and asked him if he was calling me “Amber”…  He looked SO delighted and started laughing his funny mishievous laugh!  So I laughed with him and said, “No, I’m MOMMY” — but he just smiled and kept repeating my name… laughing all the while.  What a funny kid.

Since then he calls me “Amber” when he really wants to get my attention.  He is just too smart!  🙂

Here’s a little “attitude” for you: (he sure has plenty of  ‘tude!)


He is really talking VERY well for having just turned eighteen months this week.  He will repeat almost anything we say and usually remembers what the word means.  He says “dad-n” in the CUTEST little voice… and calls our closest friends and family by their names.  He says “Ow, Ow, Ow” anytime he wants to protest something.  I’ve been trying to explain to him that it’s not “Ow” unless he is physically hurting —  but it’s his favorite word lately.  When he sees me coming with the lotion he starts yelling it… or when Peter stops throwing him up in the air and he wants to continue.  It made things difficult when the doctors were examining him because they were worried they were hurting him — we had to explain that most likely he just didn’t like it.  It kind of reminds me of the stories I’ve heard of older Liberian kids who have been adopted dramatically yelling “don’t beat me, I beg you!” when their parents take them to the doctor to get shots or blood drawn.  That’s exactly the kind of dramatic protesting Henry does — only his vocabulary limits him to “ow, ow, ow.”  🙂

He’s also fallen IN LOVE with Dora over the last few weeks…  He sleeps with her and recognizes her everywhere we go.  (And Dora is EVERYWHERE!)  I will be walking down an aisle at the store and he will lovingly call out her name because he’s seen some little girl wearing a Dora shirt, or he’s caught a glimpse of a Dora-themed cake box or shampoo bottle… it’s quite a funny little crush! 


One of these days I will have to get a video to post of his uncontrollable giggles.  It’s seriously one of the funniest things I have ever seen.  You know the kind of giggles that are so intense the person goes silent but is shaking and turning red?  That’s what he does.  It usually only happens right before bed when he is in a goofy mood — but whenever he starts, everyone within earshot is doomed to catch them too.  It’s hysterical.  


He and Joanna are starting to get along much better.  I still have to break up fights, of course — but it’s much more common now to see them playing well together.  I think we have turned a definite corner.  Joanna seems to be settling in to her role as the big sister and has hopefully tested us enough to see that we still do love her deeply.  Things were a lot harder than I was expecting in the beginning with Joanna adjusting to Henry. I’ve had a post half-way written for months now entitled “the hardest part by far” but I haven’t been able to finish it because I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I think one of the things that made the transition so hard was just how easy it had been parenting her before we brought Henry home.  It was a real shock to suddenly be dealing with very uncharacteristic behavioral issues from my sweet little girl.  It was difficult trying to balance correcting her behavior while still constantly affirming our love for her. Thankfully it seems like things are settling down.  We’re falling into a rhythm again and that always helps.  Like someone told me right before we brought Henry home: the mobile of our family that was perfectly balanced before has been thrown out of synch by adding another member… and it is going to take a while before things are aligned and balanced again — I’m just finally hopeful that we are making significant progress toward the direction of balance!


Joanna seems so grown up to me these days.  I can carry on full-blown conversations with her and I never tire of hearing her funny little opinions and perspectives on life.  Really.  It’s such a privilege getting to watch her grow up.  I am amazed by how much she changes and grows even from week to week. 

She is currently fascinated with doctors and all things medical (it may have something to do with the fact that her brother has spent so much time going to see them.)  She thinks it’s pretty cool to “practice” medicine on Henry.  Thankfully he is really amiable about it and lets her doctor away.  Actually it’s funny, he’s become so used to meeting new doctors that often when we introduce him to someone new, he asks them inquisitively, “doctor??”


 A few days ago, Joanna decided that she needed to take her “baby” to the hospital (‘m not sure what was ailing Abbie, but it must have been bad enough that she needed more intensive care! 🙂 ) … so Jo buckled Abbie into the doll stroller and headed off toward “town.”  After she’d gone a few feet she stopped and called back over her shoulder “Bye, Mom…  I’ll be back soon…. I’ve got my cell phone with me.”   Ha!  She takes after her father!!! 


I think she is as ready for spring as I am!  She brought me the little photo album we’d sent over for Henry that has a picture of our house during the summer.  She was SO excited by that picture and said wistfully to me, “Look, Mom, it’s my PLAYHOUSE and my SLIDE!!… and someday it will be warm again… and the snow will leave and we will put down GRASS to play on!!” 

Yes, Jo… someday!!!

She’s also taken to naming her dolls herself.  We have always had Abbie and Gina and a few more with “official” names (that I christened) but in the last few weeks she’s begun naming all the others — the bigger dolls all the way down to the smaller ones that fit in her dollhouse.  Some of her names are pretty funny!  I just wonder where in the world she gets her inspiration!!?!?  Today she brought me a couple of the little ones and told me their names were “Hootie and One-One.”

I wonder if I should be concerned about my future grand-children’s names?  🙂 

… it’s snow. 

Yes, I let my kids eat snow by the bowl-full.



It makes me the “world’s best mommy” in their eyes.

Well, at least in the eyes of the bigger one.


The smaller one really could care less for the stuff.


He just pretends to eat it because, after all, Sissy eats it — so it MUST be fun!  🙂


She would eat snow all day!


Whatever floats her boat, I say.  (At least it’s all-natural and sugar-free!)

A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

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"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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