Posts Tagged ‘Kate’

  • Christmas recap

    Date: 2013.01.28 | Category: Christmas, crafts | Response: 0

    Hello friends!  I know, I know… I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.  Frankly, this past year I’ve had to cut WAY back on all non-essentials.  And blogging just didn’t make the cut.  Now that James is almost a year old I’m hoping I’ll have a little more time for writing.  We’ll see.

    I decided that today was the day to write a quick post to show you the Christmas ornaments I made this year as well as the card we ended up sending out.  I can still blog about Christmas in January, right?  Good, because I’m so pleased with both projects! I have to say that it is SO GREAT having Pinterest to turn to- both my ornaments and cards were inspired by pictures I found on Pinterest.  It’s so nice to have hundreds of other’s ideas to inspire me and a place to keep them to refer back to later!

    For our Christmas card I combined a couple of cute photo ideas into one card.  You can see my inspiration here and here.  I thought that this pose was so sweet and this was the year to do it, with a baby in the house!  It also helped that JT took ownership of it and really wanted to act out the nativity.  He can be pretty tricky to capture photos of right now (he loves to turn his back to the camera and give a stinky face) so I tried to get him excited about the photo shoot and let him contribute ideas and be a big helper.  We also bribed the big kids with the promise of a candy cane before dinner if they cooperated- I’m not above bribery!

    All we did was round up a few brown and tan and blue blankets, wrap them around the kids and set them in front of the tree before we put the ornaments on it.  They really enjoyed being Mary and Joseph and seeing James as little baby Jesus.  I think that part of it’s charm is it’s simplicity- it gets the idea across without actual costuming.  I was thrilled that one of the cardstore.com templates included the phrase O Holy Night with a bible verse- it was the theme I was planning to use and I thought I was going to have to design it myself.  Turns out they did all the work for me!  (Please excuse the cellphone pics- our camera is on the fritz again and we’ve decided to make due with our phones.  It’s hard to complain about not having a working camera when we both enjoy the luxury of new iPhones!)

    When it came to the message on the inside of the card I went around and around about what I wanted to say.  I try to be real and don’t want people to think that our kids are always sweet and “holy”- we took 40 some pictures and only got the one that I was happy with!  Plus I was taking advantage of an awesome deal from cardstore.com- by having them send the cards directly, each card cost less than the price of the stamp, but it also meant that I wouldn’t be hand writing any messages on them this year.  So I ended up using one of our funnier outtakes and writing a short message about how most of our pictures weren’t picture perfect.

    I am really pleased with how they came out.  What do you think?

    For my ornaments this year, I had been pinning every idea that I liked for months and months.  Nothing really spoke to me until I saw this ornament in late October- I knew instantly that it was the one!  I ended up using 4 different fabrics that I had on hand and a variety of trims- no two are alike.  Unfortunately, I seem to have given away all of the ornaments with green fabric!  I didn’t realize it until I went to take pictures and discovered all of ours are white!  (When I make ornaments I always keep one for Chris and I and one for each of the kids.  When they grow up and move out each kid will have a nice little collection of ornaments for their new home.  I also make one for each of my nephews for the same reason.)

    I found the little trees and the salt shakers online and then used fabric and beads and trim I already had.  I tried filling them with regular table salt first, but it didn’t have enough sparkle, so I ended up using a mixture of half table salt and half epsom salt.  I think they turned out darling!

    I ended up making a second batch of ornaments this year.  My group of girlfriends loves to celebrate with sprinkles and when I saw this idea I knew I had to make it happen!  When I ordered the trees I also ordered a package of clear glass ball ornaments.  I already had a big jar of sprinkles, so all I had to do was fill them up, hot glue the tops and tie them with a cute length of ribbon!

    I was glad that I made these this year, because the gifts I ordered for the kids’ teachers didn’t come in time.  I ended up making four more sprinkle ornaments at the last minute and tucking each one in a pair of Christmas socks for a cute little teacher gift.  Of course the gifts I ordered came the next day… so I’m keeping them in reserve for the next time I need a teacher gift!

    So there you have  roundup of my December creativity.  I hope it inspires you!

  • Juarez update

    Date: 2012.11.05 | Category: faith | Response: 0

    We make small plans: God multiplies and magnifies and the truly incredible happens!  He is not limited by our imaginations!  When we started talking about going to Juarez several months ago, we were basically inviting ourselves to tag along with one other family so we could cook a meal.  Now, less than 2 weeks before we leave, we are expecting 5 families to make this journey with us- for a total of 10 adults and 18 children, ranging in age from 6 months (yes, another baby even younger than James is coming!) up to 17!  The momentum that we are gaining (no blog title pun intented!) is nothing short of miraculous.

    On Friday night we gathered with a house full of people for an information meeting about our upcoming trip to Arbol de Vida.  The Schrimps are a couple with whom Chris works at Cherry Hills, they have lived at Arbol de Vida and continue to faithfully serve the orphanage from Colorado.  They will be heading up this little adventure, and they were able to give us more specifics regarding the mission and purpose of Arbol de Vida, our safety risks while in the Juarez area, travel to and from Mexico, and the needs at the orphanage.  We were also able to meet all of the families who will be joining us and to brainstorm about the difference we can make together. We’ve had so many great questions in response to our first letter I thought I’d put as much information as possible into one place for you.

    The goal of Arbol de Vida is to provide a safe, family environment to youth who would otherwise be on the streets where they would surely turn to the gangs and/or to prostitution just to survive.  Because these boys and girls receive an education, learn job skills, and learn about Jesus, there is hope for the future of Juarez.  These youth are life in a town that is desperate for revival.  Arbol de Vida is literally fostering the future of Mexico.  Unlike many orphanages that cut off services when the child turns 18, Arbol de Vida is committed to the long term success of it’s charges.  They provide a safe home for as long as it’s needed, they continue to provide training and support into adulthood, and they serve as a resource when life outside of their walls gets complicated.

    In regard to safety, we will not be using the main border crossing into Juarez, but a small crossing well outside of town.  The compound where we are headed is less than 7 minutes across the US/Mexico border.  We will not be taking our kids into the city of Juarez- and in fact I doubt if any of us will go into town at all.  If we do have needs that arise, it is safer and easier to cross back into El Paso, Texas to get what we need.  The property that the orphanage is on is protected by armed guards who are loyal to the children of the orphanage and to anyone who is coming to serve them. Despite all of the well deserved bad press that Juarez gets, the orphanage is much safer and is apart from the main areas of danger.  The town knows and respects the people who run Arbol de Vida and the gangs and drug cartels have left them alone (and in some cases support them!).  We have been told that they have only ever had one problem- years ago some looters came in and stole and damaged some property and roughed up one of the workers- and that actually served to increase the protective nature of the surrounding community and the guards.  We will be sleeping in the dorms, Chris and JT will be in the boy’s wing in their own bedroom, and I will have Kate and James with me in a private room in the girl’s wing.  We will have access to clean, safe water- for drinking and bathing.  The orphanage has it’s own aquifer well and reverse osmosis filtering system.

    We have made one change to our itinerary- we decided to leave on Friday (Nov 16) to get a head start on the drive.  We would like to meet up with all of the other families and cross into Mexico together on Saturday afternoon well before dark sets in.  We decided that it is unrealistic to attempt the entire 11 hour drive on Saturday since we are expecting stops at least every three hours to feed James and to keep the kids from revolting.  This means we will require an extra night in a hotel and does add to our expenses, but it seems like a more feasible itinerary.

    Regardless of all that, we feel strongly that there is no place safer than where God has called us.  We are trying to be as smart as possible in our planning, but we also have to trust that since God has put it on our hearts to go that He will protect us as He sees fit.  Truly, I am more concerned with the logistics of the drive and time at the orphanage with three small children than our safety due to violence.

    As to what we’ll be doing while we’re at Arbol de Vida, it turns out they have plenty for us to do!  Because of the unrest in Juarez over the past 5 years, most of the U.S. support to the orphanage has dried up.  People have stopped coming to serve, people have stopped sending money, and the youth there feel forgotten and abandoned.  We hope to change that- by spending a few days with them and showing them that they are not forgotten and that they are important to us!  We are planning to provide a big festive meal for them, repair some damage to their buildings, provide sporting equipment, and do some craft projects with them (we’re thinking we will make no-sew bags, duct tape wallets and purses, and hair accessories).  We also will be bringing some specific items that they have requested- bras and underclothes, church clothes, toiletries and hygiene items, new bedding, etc.  I believe that they deserve better than our cast offs, more than a check sent from afar.  They deserve for someone to spend time with them, to look into their eyes and to show them that they are valuable.  That they are beautiful.  That their life is worth something.  That they can make a difference in their community.

    If you have already sent us money to help cover our expenses, THANK YOU!  As of today our family’s budgeted travel expenses are completely paid for ($800!).  As a group, we are hoping that we will raise enough money to purchase ALL of the supplies and goods that we have on our wish list.  Our  group goal is to raise $1500 for the building supplies and I estimate that we need an additional $2000 for the rest of our purchases.  Specifically, we want to pay the orphanage for all of the food and expenses related to our group’s stay, buy food for a turkey dinner, paint, building, and roofing supplies, toiletries, undergarments and hygiene items for the girls, dress clothes for the boys, bedding, supplies to make crafts, and sports equipment.  If you have considered making a contribution toward our trip, there is still time and we would love your support!  We would also love to know if you have decided to partner with Arbol de Vida directly, it would mean so much to us to know that because of our trip you have decided to support their work.

    We definitely appreciate and need your prayers.  Of course, please pray for our safety.  We are facing long hours on the highway, border crossings, and the risks of Juarez.  Pray for good health for each member of our family.  Please pray for unity among those of us serving together.  Pray for the Spirit of the Living God to fall on Juarez- not just while we are there, but that revival would occur and that the community would be renewed.  Please pray for the boys and girls who live at Arbol de Vida.  Pray that they would reject the lies that they aren’t valuable, that life on the streets is the best they can hope for, that it’s time for them to strike out on their own.  Pray that they will be encouraged by our visit and that they will continue to have hope for the future.  Pray that our children would have soft hearts and develop a love for serving others.  Please pray that us parents would have extra patience and wisdom as we are facing extra stresses there.  Please pray as we continue to prepare for our trip, that the essentials will not be forgotten and that the details will fall into place.  I’m sure that you can think of many other blessings to pray over us, and I encourage you to do so.  I would love to know if you are committed to praying over our trip- please let me know!

    I understand that we will have some cell phone coverage and internet access while we are in Mexico.  I am hoping to keep my blog and Facebook updated while we are there so that you can know how to pray and what we are accomplishing along the way.

    If you would like to support us financially, you can mail a check directly to us-
    Melody or Chris Benschoter
    2285 Wynterbrook Dr
    Highlands Ranch, CO 80126

    If you want to learn more about Arbol de Vida or would like to support them directly you can access their facebook page at www.facebook.com/TreeofLifeJuarez or their website at www.treeoflifejuarez.org.

    Thank you for your love and support!  I have loved hearing your reactions and responses this past week!

  • Juarez

    Date: 2012.10.29 | Category: faith, marriage, parenting | Response: 1

    When Chris and I got married we set some short and long term goals for our family.  One of our short term goals was to serve on a mission trip together before we had children.  Sadly, we didn’t meet that goal- in the busyness of life it is something that got pushed off time and again.  As JT and Kate are growing old enough to understand and follow our example as Christ followers, it has become more and more important to us to live out the gospel intentionally with and before our children.  Our desire is to love our neighbors both near and far and to serve widows and orphans the best that we can as a family.

    A few months ago Chris was chatting with a coworker about Arbol de Vida, the orphanage that he works with in Juarez, Mexico and that our church happens to support.  During the conversation it was mentioned that last year the children had oatmeal for dinner on Thanksgiving.  It’s like a lightbulb went on and we saw a need that we could meet.  Why not provide Thanksgiving to these children?  Why not bring our family down and serve it to them ourselves?

    Chris and I have decided to answer God’s call to take our family on an adventure in serving Him over the week of Thanksgiving this year.  On November 17 we will be joining the Schrimp family, the Babb family, and possibly two more families in driving 11 hours south to Juarez, Mexico to serve the children and staff at Arbol de Vida.  We will be returning on Thanksgiving day, hopefully in time to celebrate with family at home.

    We are excited for an opportunity to expose JT, Kate, and James to another culture, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others, to love some children who can use extra love, to help meet practical needs at the orphanage, to show our children how God gives to us so that we can give to others, and to provide a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to the residents of Arbol de Vida.  (Thank goodness I cooked Thanksgiving by myself for the first time last year!  God knew what was in store for us this year!)

    We are nervous about spending 22 hours+ with our three (very young!) kids in the car (especially since James is still breast feeding every 3 hours!), border crossings and travel in another country, safety on the road and in a town known for violence and drug wars, spending 4 nights in a dormitory (no naps = cranky kids!), exposing our children to the older children of the orphanage (most of the orphans are middle and high school aged), and living and sharing the gospel when we have so much to learn ourselves.

    How can you support us on this adventure?  First and foremost we need your prayers.  We know that all things are possible with God and that prayer is a powerful agent of change.  We will face many challenges during this adventure and will need an extra measure of wisdom and grace and patience as we face the unknown.  Second, we would appreciate your financial support.  We will require gas for the round trip drive, a hotel stay for one night, and groceries, toiletries, and goodies (all of which must be purchased in Mexico) for the children of Arbol de Vida.  We would like to lavish the kids and staff with love and practical goods while we are there.  If you feel called to support us, whether through prayer or gifts of money please let us know before November 10.

    For more information about Arbol de Vida or to partner in supporting them directly, please check their facebook page at www.facebook.com/TreeofLifeJuarez or their website at www.treeoflifejuarez.org.

    Thank you for your love and support-

    Chris, Melody, JT, Kate, and James Benschoter

    benschoter@yahoo.com
    melschoter@gmail.com
    2285 Wynterbrook Dr.
    Highlands Ranch, CO  80126

  • Spinach with Black Beans

    Date: 2012.07.17 | Category: recipes | Response: 0

    I mentioned previously that I struggle with low carb side dishes.  Unfortunately, when it comes to vegetables I don’t typically venture very far beyond frozen corn and peas (although I did develop weird cravings for asparagus during my pregnancy with JT and I still love it!).  So, we’re trying to explore new frontiers and I’m trying to be a little more creative with using vegetables in my cooking.  I’ve been perusing the www for inspiration and pinning like a madwoman to my South Beach board on Pinterest. I decided to make a yummy balsamic glazed salmon for dinner tonight from my South Beach 30 minute cookbook (one of my go to cookbooks) and literally came up with a brand new veggie/bean side dish on the spot.  For someone who doesn’t usually create new recipes out of thin air I was pretty impressed!  Chris said that both the salmon and the spinach with black beans were winners.  Culinary victory!

    Spinach with Black Beans

    1 TBS olive oil
    2 cloves crushed garlic
    1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
    1 handful of  bacon bits (I use the large Costco bag)
    several handfuls of fresh spinach
    1 dash lemon juice (I get mine in a bottle!)
    2 dashes cheesy garlic

    Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add garlic and bacon bits and cook for 2 minutes.  Add black beans, spinach, lemon and cheesy garlic.  Cook until spinach is wilted and everything is warmed through, tossing several times.  Serve warm.

    yum!

    In other news, this is what my kids are doing as I type up this recipe…

    and James started solids a few weeks ago- so far he loves avocado and banana!  He is so sweet.  If only he’d take a bottle when I’m at work!

  • What Life is Like With 3

    Date: 2012.05.01 | Category: homemaking, just blabbing, parenting | Response: 1

    Well, I admit it. Having three kids is kicking me in the butt. We’re actually doing fine; we eat 3 meals a day plus a snack, we change out of our pajamas (most days!), we’ve made it to church every week since James was 3 weeks old. You know, we’re fine. But I am exhausted! Chris has track season right now, so 4 days a week he doesn’t get home til 5:30 or 6 which is when I try to serve dinner so I’m doing all that without help- and with the addition of my 2 nephews on Mondays and Thursdays. Plus he’s gone all day Saturdays at track meets. James is doing great at giving me long stretches of sleep at night, but JT has started having nightmares and calling for us in the middle of the night several times a week. Gone are the days of sleeping in until 8 or 9, at least one or two of the kids is up by 7 am most days. Which makes it awfully hard for me to take a shower, so I’m lucky to get one every other day lately. Odds of me getting more than half an hour of all three (or five) kids resting at the same time in the afternoon are pretty low. Maybe twice a week I get a decent break- so then it’s always a big decision… do I sleep? shower? start dinner? catch up on email? pay bills? blog?

    Anyway, all that to say- Hi. I’ve missed you. Here’s what’s been happening around here lately…

    JT has started showing a lot more independence. He’s dressing himself most days, using the potty on his own, helping with snack and meals, doing little things to help with James and Kate. He is a great big brother!

    The other day we got the kids loaded up in the car to head to church. While clicking JT in to his seat we noticed he was wearing socks, but no shoes. So I ran in the house and grabbed a pair. Once we got to church I was helping him put them on and I discovered that he was wearing a pair of jeans under his khaki pants! This week he wore his pajama bottoms under his pants. Silly silly boy.

    JT watched me using the toilet the other day and asked “Mama, is that tricky how you go pee pee without a penis?”

    We had an exercise bike in our foyer and JT pushed it across the room. I asked him how he did it and he said “Well, I was doing really hard work!”

    JT climbed up so his feet were higher than my head at the playground!

    JT broke out in some wicked hives in the middle of the night all over his legs. He started calling them his “bubblygerks”.

    Kate gets super possessive of James. When she’s holding or hugging him she doesn’t want any help and heaven forbid someone else wants a turn!

    Kate was watching me breastfeed and noticed the blue veins on my breasts. She became very concerned and said “Blue! Blue! No drawing!” She thought someone had drawn on me.

    (please note that two of us are still in our jammies!)

    Kate loves to pick out her own hair bows! She has also taken to carrying a pair of footie pajamas around as her lovey. Lucky for us she’s not picky about which pair!

    Kate is definitely two- she’s got a real willful streak and she’s likely to melt down over any small injustice. But she’s still super sweet, so kind, really funny and loves to cuddle in with me every chance she gets.

    The good news is we’re all happy. The kids love James and don’t seem resentful of the time he takes at all.

    We loved having Grandma and Grandpa here for three weeks in March and then our friend Daniel here during spring break. That added some nice variety and was a lot of help!

    (please note the kids are actually fighting over the baby- and they’re in their jammies!)

    Both big kids are go go go all the time. They are super adventuresome and always climbing and jumping and creating and getting into stuff!

    We’ve been having lots of fun playing hide and seek, coloring and using stickers, playing outside (Oh thank you God for the warm spring weather we’ve had!), building with blocks, and reading books.

    It’s nearly impossible to get the kids to sit still long enough to take a picture.

    This is the best Easter picture we got of the family- do you see how crazed we look?!?

    The sweet boy who tipped us over the edge!

    James just turned two months old, he weighs 13 pounds 11 ounces which is 87%. He’s a great eater!

    He’s smiling and noticing his toys and the people around him now. He’s a great sleeper and he’s pretty easy going.

    So you see why I haven’t been on the computer much lately. Most of my Facebook and email time is on the phone while I’m breastfeeding. The blog has just had to go for now. Thanks for understanding, I’ll be around as often as I can!

  • James Daniel is here!

    Date: 2012.03.01 | Category: parenting | Response: 1

    James made his appearance on Feb 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm.  He was 8 pounds 5.3 ounces and 20 inches long with a 14 inch head circumference.  James has proven to be a champion eater.  Unfortunately, he prefers to stay up eating all night long rather than sleeping.  Mama is working on that!

    James was due on the 24th, and I was starting to think that he was never going to arrive, when I suddenly developed blurred vision and difficulty speaking and thinking.  Everyone sprung into action and in less than hour  we had childcare for all the kids (thank you LaLa and Kristin!) and I was at the hospital getting checked out.  By that time most of my symptoms had subsided and my blood pressure was only slightly elevated.  The very kind labor and delivery doctor said that she suspected I was in the earliest stages of labor (I was dilated to 4cm and having strong but irregular contractions while on the monitors) and offered to save me a trip back that night or the next day and to induce labor.  We agreed and they started the Pitocin.  About 2 hours later they broke my water and an hour after that James was here!  It was a VERY quick delivery- I went from 8cm dilated to having a baby in less than 15 minutes!  I have new respect for women who forgo the epidural- even with mine this one hurt!  Everything was very fast and very intense there at the end.  James came out in great shape and was strong and healthy from the get go.

    JT and Kate adore their new brother and are constantly touching, kissing, tickling and holding him.  It’s one big love fest around here!  We are all settling in nicely and enjoying our new family of 5.  JT keeps saying he thinks that he should have 2 little brothers.  I told him that we’ll have to wait and see- let’s just enjoy the one we already have!

  • She’s movin’ on up!

    Date: 2012.01.04 | Category: homemaking, parenting | Response: 0

    Otherwise titled “How I Spent my Christmas Vacation” or “The Yellow Room Gets a Makeover”.

    Since Baby #3 is coming sometime in the next two months we needed to get cracking on cleaning out Kate’s new room so we could move her out of the nursery.  Unfortunately, the yellow room was not only serving as a guest room, craft room and wrapping room, but it had also become the dumping ground for things we didn’t know what to do with.  Papers from the closing of my condo in 2001?  Yup.  Yearbooks?  Yup.  Old financial records?  Yup.  3 boxes labeled “Chris junk”?  Yup.  14 years of bible studies?  Yup.  I vowed that I was not going to lug all those boxes down to the basement until they had been purged and sorted and organized.

    Here’s how the room looked this Spring…

    Totally out of control.  So embarrassing, really.  Not particularly inviting for guests or a relaxing place for crafting.  We made a little bit of progress over the summer, but things kind of stalled when the school year started.  So, Chris and I spent 3 or 4 evenings after Christmas sorting paperwork and hauling things from the second floor down to the basement and from the basement up to the second floor.  The desk and file cabinet had to go down to make room for a dresser (the one I painted months ago- I am so glad I did that before I got big pregnant!) and chair (an extra we had in the basement).  Thank you Matt and Robb for helping us haul the furniture- it was a bit much for this pregnant lady!

    Here’s Chris about halfway through the great purge of 2011.

    Don’t be fooled- that’s totally a fake smile.  This was not a fun task!

    But look how cute Kate’s big girl room turned out!

    I LOVE the letters that Auntie Kristin made for Kate- they double as hair bow storage and I think they’re so fun!

    We ended up adding black out curtains OVER our black out blinds because this room is much brighter than Kate’s old room and she was having a hard time napping in here.  We’re big fans of sleep at our house, so we fixed that problem quick!

    We debated about setting up our second crib in here for Kate, but decided to give the bed a try- so far so good!  Bedtime has been easy, naps are a little harder, but we still have the pack n play as a back up in case we need it.  I’m still looking for a headboard for her new bed, hopefully something will come up on craigslist soon!

    Doesn’t she look tiny in her full size bed?  Sweet girl.

    We decided against decorating her room with any kind of a theme- in a few years when we have an idea of what Kate likes and wants we may change things around for her, but for now the existing yellow floral bedding and some of the decor from her old room work just fine.  She is thrilled and loves running between the nursery and her new room and saying “hi bed”, “hi Katie’s room”, “hi chair”.  It’s so cute.

    I’m calling this project a success!  Now to put the nursery back together and to tackle the mess in the basement…

  • Three quick tree decorating tips!

    Date: 2011.11.25 | Category: Christmas, homemaking | Response: 0

    We’re a two tree house.  We buy a 6-7 foot real tree for the front room and decorate it with colored lights and all of our handmade ornaments.  Then we put up the 13 foot fake tree in the family room for the store bought ornaments and that one is pre-lit with white lights.  Call me crazy- I know it’s true.  I love Christmas!

    Last year we bought a fake tree from Target  for the front room during the after Christmas sales.  (I think it was 90% off, but I can’t remember how much we paid for it.)  We hated to do it, but our tree last year looked dead and dropped half of it’s needles well before Christmas.  It was pathetic.  And we’ve had years where our tree fell over.  And years where we had bug infestations.  And it’s a hassle.  And it was just time.  This new tree is really nice, it’s one of those ones with a lot of details that help it look more real.  But it has white lights.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love white lights, but we already have the big tree with white lights and I like the tree in the front room to have colored lights.  So guess what we did.  Oh yes, that’s right.  We added colored lights right on top of the white lights!  And it looks great!  Both the white and colored lights are LED so they blend in nicely together.

    So tip number one is don’t feel tied to white lights if you want colored- there is no reason you can’t add some.  And really, it’s not like you can have too many lights on the tree!

    My second tip is even easier.  Fluffing fake trees and garland is a pain.  Literally.  My hands always end up scratched and cut and dried out after primping the tree.  So I throw on my gardening gloves.  It makes the job so much more pleasant!

    My third tip is going to be hard to believe, but don’t be afraid to enlist the help of your kids!  We were totally surprised, but JT LOVED decorating the tree this year and stuck with it through to the end.  He did a great job too!  If only he were a little taller…

    There will be more and more Christmas coming in the next few days and weeks, so stay tuned!

  • My little graduate!

    Date: 2011.11.13 | Category: parenting | Response: 2

    When Katie was 11 months old we took her in to the doctor for the croup.  While at the office she was weighed and we discovered that since her 6 month exam she had completely fallen off the growth charts.  The urgent care doctor was actually far more concerned about her weight than about her croup and started throwing around terms like “failure to thrive”; she urged us to see our pediatrician ASAP.  Our pediatrician was much more reassuring, and with her advice (and that of the dietician she referred us to) we started a regimen designed to put some weight on our girl.  And we did have some success.  Kate put on enough weight that she crept onto the growth charts and has stayed there (even if just barely!).  Unfortunately, Kate spent so much of her awake time in the high chair that we started to see her lag behind in some of her developmental milestones.  One of the key things that I noticed was that Kate wouldn’t usually respond to her own name.  She also was not pointing to familiar objects in books, following even the simplest of commands, making any animal sounds, etc.  She was still very babyish in her behavior.  At 16 months we were referred to our local Child Find / Developmental Pathways for a comprehensive evaluation of Kate.  They determined that she did not have global delays (delays across every area of development) as I feared, but she did have significant delays in receptive language (she tested at 9-12 months in this area) and slight delays in gross motor skills (she was only a few months behind, but should have been walking on her own).

    Fortunately we live in an area where were are eligible for services through the county at no cost to us.  They offered us 3 sessions of speech therapy a month and we decided to give Kate another month or so to see if she would catch up on her gross motor skills and then re-evaluate her need for services with a physical therapist.  When it came to her gross motor skills, Kate took care of that problem on her own.  At 17 months Katie decided that she was ready to walk and she just took off.  When that girl finally took her first steps she literally walked from one end of the house to the other!  By the time we saw the physical therapist for her re-evaluation she had caught up to her peers and showed no sign of slowing down.

    Her speech problems were not solved quite as easily, and thus started a new Tuesday morning routine.  Each week we met with a therapist who taught us tricks to engage Kate’s attention and teach her joint attention.  Things like clapping while calling her name and then tapping her near the eye to get her to look at us, physically helping her point to the objects in the books we were reading, playing lots of games like Patty Cake and Ring Around the Rosie.  We worked to make sure that we would stop and catch her attention while giving a command and then give her a chance to respond appropriately or physically help her to complete the task.  We started forcing Kate to use her words or sign language to request what she wanted rather than responding to her cues.  We started narrating her every move to increase her familiarity with the words that go with her actions.

    Right around 20 months I felt like Katie’s “lightbulb” went on.  All of a sudden she doubled and then tripled her vocabulary.  She started responding to commands and to the events going on around her appropriately.  She started requesting books by name and pointing to the pictures in them.  I would hear her singing the alphabet tune or Jesus Loves Me.  She started identifying people by name and interacting with us conversationally.  I mentioned the changes I was noticing to our therapist and she agreed that Kate had all of a sudden jumped into the land of “age appropriate behavior”.  I asked for her opinion regarding continuing therapy and we decided to run Kate through the battery of tests to evaluate her again.  (I say this jokingly- most of the questions were directed at me or were answered by the therapist herself through observation.)  We decided that it seemed Kate’s language skills had reached or surpassed expected levels.  Our therapist then brought in a specialist who interacted with Kate and did a formal re-evaluation and she discovered that Kate was testing at 24 months for her expressive and receptive language skills-an increase of more than 12 months in her development in only 5 months!  Way to go Katie Mae!

    This prompted a meeting with our regular therapist and our service coordinator to officially “graduate” Kate from her services.  And here is where I realized just how blessed (fortunate, favored, etc) we really are.  Both ladies told me that in all of their combined years of experience this was the first time that either of them had graduated a child from speech therapy after only five months.  Ever.  They both said that most children end up in therapy for several years at least, requiring intervention from multiple specialists and often continuing to receive help well into their school years.  Both women were amazed at Kate’s rapid progress and delightful response to early intervention.

    So here is where I thank God for our sweet Kate.  I praise Him for our little girl and for getting us just the right help at just the right time to give Kate the kick start she needed.  I consider it nothing short of a miracle.

    Kate Talking 11-12-11

    (click on the link for a video of Kate showing off her stuff)

    Thanks for walking through this short, but challenging journey with us.  I am so thankful to have you with me along the way!

  • All Day Long With Jesus- recordable storybook giveaway!

    Date: 2011.10.17 | Category: book review, giveaway! | Response: 4

    I was contacted by DaySpring to host another product review and giveaway- and of course I said YES!

    I received the recordable storybook All Day Long with Jesus in the mail and it languished on my counter for a few days because I hadn’t gotten around to recording it yet.  Then JT noticed it and asked if he could read it.  I went ahead and let him have it (even though I hadn’t recorded it yet) and he loved it!  Even with the random lady’s prerecorded voice reading the story he probably carried it around and listened to it 20 times over 3 days.  Now that I finally got around to recording it myself he loves it even more!  Every time he hears his name on the dedication page he breaks out into giggles.  He keeps showing it to Kate and cuddling up in the big chair to read it.  It’s so cute.

    The story All Day Long with Jesus is a sweet and simple reminder that Jesus is with us as we go about our every day.  The illustrations are cute and engaging.  This one is a keeper and a great way to reinforce the message that Jesus loves us and lives within us.

    Recording the pages is simple and if you aren’t happy with how it came out the first (or 3rd!) try you can easily record it again.  The lock switch is hidden in the battery compartment, so there’s no chance of the kids accidently erasing the recording either.  My only complaint is there is a record button that the kids can push (that doesn’t actually work since the lock switch is in the battery compartment) that does interrupt the story.  I don’t know why the manufacturer doesn’t put all of the buttons where they aren’t accessible, it seems to be a simple fix.

    This book is a huge hit in our house, and I bet your kids (grandkids? nephews? neighbors?) would love one too!  Well, you’re in luck, because DaySpring is giving away one recordable storybook (retail price is $29.95, but you just pay shipping) to one of my readers!  This would make a great birthday or Christmas gift, or if you’re like me and leave it on the counter for too long, a great “just because I love you” gift!  You have your choice from 4 different recordable storybooks, Bedtime Prayers and Promises, I Love You Head to Toe, God’s Christmas Promise, or All Day Long with Jesus.

    I’d love for you to share one of these books with someone in your life!  To win just leave me a comment with which book you would choose and who you would give it to. Winner will be drawn on Friday, Oct 21.

    Legal disclaimerese- I was given this product to review by (in)courage by Dayspring at no cost to me.  The opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own!

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