Thursday, October 30, 2008

That Meal Was Gross!

Apple cider with
frozen cider hands and gummy eyeballs
We decided to make a meal for our Wednesday night kids that would reflect our warped sense of humor. The kids asked before taking any of the food since they weren't sure what the food was and it looked so gross.

Bleeding heart brie
Everyone loved it! We placed creepy spiders all over the counter and table and a skull held vials of bats blood (o.k. it was really ketchup darkened with food coloring). We floated gummi eyeballs and ice severed hands inside the cider filled punch bowl.

Body parts salad
I made a pork mummy, a phyllo-wrapped pork tenderloin. We had a bleeding heart brie cheese with cherry preserves wrapped in dough.

Our body parts salad was black cherry gelatin with cherries and oranges. I wrapped breadsticks around hotdogs and made them look like mummies.

Mummy pork tenderloin
A taco salad stared back at us as we proceeded to eat it. We finished off the meal with bat and bug topped cupcakes.

These evenings with our Wednesday night kids is so wonderful. We get to keep up with what is going on with them and at the same time make sure they are getting a good home-cooked meal at least once a week.

Taco salad with sour cream eyeballs

Skull with vials of bat's blood

Skewered mummy hotdogs

Mary Liz "Lizzie Borden" chowing down

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Treat Bags

Yesterday I made up trick-or-treat bags to pass out to the kiddies on Friday. We don't have any neighbors with little kids so I invite friends to bring their little ones to come by anytime on Halloween day. I had so much fun making and giving out these bags last year I decided to repeat it this year.

Treat bags
I got the idea last year from Martha Stewart's magazine and saw the bag kits in the craft store this year. Even though the kits were available in the store I found that making my own were alot less expensive.

Each treat takes two lunch bags, a piece of raffia, a stick and candy for inside the bag. The first bag I just fringed the top about 2 inches. I placed the candy in this bag. I then took the second bag and fringed all the way down to the base of the bag (not cutting into the bottom of the bag.) I took the first bag and placed it into the second bag. Gathering up the fringe of the second bag, I placed the stick and tied it all with a piece of raffia.

Between the price of the bags and raffia I paid only a couple of dollars to make 20 treat bags. The sticks I gathered from our yard. Since it has been very windy this week there was no shortage of twigs and small sticks. The kits in the store made up only 10 mini bags for $9.99. The sticks also were just too perfect and straight looking, almost like a pencil. My larger bags also let me put a little more candy in each bag

The kids loved the bags last year and they look so festive right inside our door. This also prevents my boys from eating all the candy that is meant to be given out on Halloween night.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

By Any Other Name

As we approach Halloween I am always intrigued by the changes that have occurred since I was a child. Growing up everyone in our neighborhood and church went trick-or-treating. There was no question that the next day at lunch everyone would have a lunchbox full of sweets.

Then when I was in elementary school the candy of a few became laced with drugs and razor blades. Then many schools began to create safe festivals to make sure we were safe. This not only allowed us to dress up, receive candy but also to play fun games on this night.

So much had changed when my own son was born. Christians no longer stayed home to pass out candy to their neighbors. They no longer sent out their children to their neighbors. No, the lights on many Christian homes were dark.

The reason? Because "we don't believe in Halloween" was the answer I received. They didn't want to participate so they brought all their candy and dressed their kids up and headed to church for their "Fall Festival." When I began to question some of the other mothers that gave me this answer asking what the difference was, I was told "the kids don't dress up as Satan or a witch." What, you couldn't dress them as something nice to go out into their neighborhood?

David and his pumpkins
It became glaringly obvious that we were out of step with many of the church officials at my son's preschool (where I was their secretary) when the guest speaker at chapel was preaching against Halloween to the preschool and elementary school kids. The speaker explained to the kids that the carving of pumpkins was always evil. It was acceptable to paint or put stickers on a pumpkin at any other time of the year, just not at Halloween. He explained that people only carved evil images into pumpkins. He also said that his kids and grand kids were allowed to dress up in costumes any day but on Halloween night. Of course, he didn't believe that dressing up as Biblical characters was a costume. So the fall festivals were acceptable.

When the speaker asked if there were any questions my little four-year-old David stood up and told him he was wrong. We had carved pumpkins, but they had "David's House" and nice things. He also told him he was going to dress up as "Bear In The Big Blue House" and he was going to visit our neighbors. David also told the speaker that his mom said he could go out so there was nothing wrong with it. This little speech from the mouth of my babe left the speaker speechless.

Scarecrow David
When David was only 17 months old and we dressed him up as a cowboy, chaps and all, he would take the candy from each neighbor and then sit down on their front steps and talk to them as he enjoyed their treat. It took us about two hours to go to 8 houses, but not only did we enjoy ourselves but the neighbors got a chuckle out of it.

I can respect it if someone truly doesn't believe in Halloween and doesn't participate in any way. One of my friends told me this week that they never participated in Halloween, but that her parents also refused to allow them to attend the fall festival at church. This is consistent with their belief and I can understand and would never question that belief. However, a rose by any other name is still a rose and getting candy while dressed in costumes during the end of October is still Halloween.

I had fun as a kid dressing up and roaming the neighborhood. I even dressed up one year as a witch. And guess what? I never did have any interest in witchcraft or magic. Yes, nowadays we have to be more careful with what houses we allow our kids to visit. But I was more than willing to watch carefully over David's trick-or-treating. This year he is a teenager and will not be getting dressed up or going out, but I am glad we made the choice we did.

Monday, October 27, 2008


David and me looking over one of the three rivers
This weekend our family plans were rained out. We had planned on an outdoor family day before the weather turns too cold. Rain was to come as of Friday, so we thought it might be a bit wet, but had not planned on downpours. So we stayed in and I made cold weather food—baked potato soup and pulled pork sandwiches.

Saturday David woke up in the wee hours of the morning (like 3am) and was up for many hours. We all finally got a few more hours of sleep but it was almost 9:30 before David finally rolled out of bed.

Old train station entrance (next to our hotel)
So as Rich and I tried to be quiet, he turned on FOXNews. They began to cover a speech that Sarah Palin was making in Pittsburg about special needs children. I listened with great interest since this is a topic close to my heart. I felt that since her son had not hit the school issues her understanding of special needs parenting would be limited. However, after listening to her speech I think she has surrounded herself with many others, including her sister, who have been able to express the issues that arise from parenting these children.

One of the points she made in her speech is the need for the federal IDEA funding to follow the child, no matter where they move to. We found this to be a major consideration in our family. We actually receive less services in our new home then we did in our old home. And of the services David is receiving, we have fought hard to get every one of them.

Nighttime view of the skyline
taken from the Dusquesne Incline
In our last community the services were readily offered before we needed to ask for them. Many would then wonder why we would move. After coming to the new community we maintained two houses to determine which area would be best for our family. While the old school system had great services for our son that was where the benefits ended. The mental health care was not sufficient for children and the city environment caused David to become more aggressive. We also had less of a support system.

There was nothing we could do about the health care or aggressive environment of living in Northern Virginia. But I knew we had a better chance of fighting a school system to get David services.

We are very glad for our decision since David is growing and accomplishing more then anyone ever thought he would. If David's funding had followed him we could be receiving more services then he currently receives.

David and me at a pizza restaurant
Sarah Palin also addressed the additional concern for long term needs of these children. While all parents have concerns for their children, there is often the concern for lifetime care and services that special needs children may require. We as David's parents are training him in the skills that can help him hold down a job, provide for his needs and sustain a relationship. But we are also preparing for the eventuality that he may always be under our care. However, we have been told by many "professionals" that this is a hope that is unlikely to occur. One doctor even told us, after an eight hour comprehensive testing session, that children with David's issues were either dead or in jail by the time they were twenty. I told this man to never call again, since I refused to just accept his diagnosis.

It was funny that Gov. Palin's speech happened to be in Pittsburg. Several years ago I attended adoption workshops in Pittsburg and was even able to bring my family for this workweek-long event. This past week as I was purging boxes I found the pictures of that week.

I have included Gov. Palin's speech in its entirety below.

Palin's Speech on Children with Special Needs
By Sarah Palin, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

"Thank you all very much. I appreciate the hospitality of the people of Pittsburgh, and I'm grateful to all the groups who have joined us here today. The Woodlands Foundation, the Down Syndrome Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Autism-link, the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh: Thank you for coming today. And, above all, thank you for the great work you do for the light and love you bring into so many lives.

John McCain and I have talked about the missions he'd like me to focus on should I become vice president, and our nation's energy independence and government reform are among them. But there is another mission that's especially close to my heart, and that is to help families of children with special needs. And today, we'll talk about three policy proposals that are going to help us fulfill our country's commitment to these children: more choices for parents, fully funding IDEA, and efforts to reform and refocus.

Too often, even in our own day, children with special needs have been set apart and excluded. Too often, state and federal laws add to their challenges, instead of removing barriers and opening new paths of opportunity. Too often, they are made to feel that there is no place for them in the life of our country, that they don't count or have nothing to contribute. This attitude is a grave disservice to these beautiful children, to their families, and to our country -- and I will work to change it.

One of the most wonderful experiences in this campaign has been to see all the families of children with special needs who come out to rallies and events just like this. We have a bond there. We know that children with special needs inspire a special love. You bring your sons and daughters with you, because you are proud of them, as I am of my son.

My little fella sleeps during most of these rallies, even when they get pretty rowdy. He would be amazed to know how many folks come out to see him instead of me.

When I learned that Trig would have special needs, honestly, I had to prepare my heart. At first I was scared, and Todd and I had to ask for strength and understanding. I did a lot of praying for that understanding, and strength, and to see purpose.

And what's been confirmed in me is every child has something to contribute to the world, if we give them that chance. You know that there are the world's standards of perfection, and then there are God's, and these are the final measure. Every child is beautiful before God, and dear to Him for their own sake. And the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable.

As for our baby boy, Trig, for Todd and me he is only more precious because he is vulnerable. In some ways, I think we stand to learn more from him than he does from us. When we hold Trig and care for him, we don't feel scared anymore. We feel blessed.

Of course, many other families are much further along a similar path -- including my best friend who happens to be my sister, Heather, and her 13-year old son Karcher, who has autism. Heather and I have worked on this for over a decade. Heather is an advocate for children with autism in Alaska. And as governor, I've succeeded in securing additional funding and assistance for students with special needs. By 2011, I will have tripled the funding available to these students.

Heather and I have been blessed with a large, strong family network. Our family helps make sure that Trig and Karcher have what they need. But not everyone is lucky enough to have that strong network of support. And the experiences of those millions of Americans point the way to better policy in the care of children with special needs.

One of the most common experiences is the struggle of parents to find the best and earliest care for their children. The law requires our public schools to serve children with special needs, but often the results fall far short of the service they need. Even worse, parents are left with no other options, except for the few families that can afford private instruction or therapy.

Many of you parents here have been through the drill: You sit down with teachers and counselors to work out the IEP—an individual education plan for your child. The school may be trying its best, but they're overstretched. They may keep telling you that your child is "progressing well," and no extra services are required. They keep telling you that—but you know better.

You know that your children are not getting all of the help they need, at a time when they need it most. The parents of children with special needs ask themselves every day if they are doing enough, if they are doing right by their sons and daughters. And when our public school system fails to render help and equal opportunity—and even prevents parents from seeking it elsewhere that is unacceptable.

In a McCain-Palin administration, we will put the educational choices for special needs children in the right hands their parents'. Under reforms that I will lead as vice president, the parents and caretakers of children with physical or mental disabilities will be able to send that boy or girl to the school of their choice—public or private.

Under our reforms, federal funding for every special needs child will follow that child. Some states have begun to apply this principle already, as in Florida's McKay Scholarship program. That program allows for choices and a quality of education that should be available to parents in every state, for every child with special needs. This process should be uncomplicated, quick, and effective -- because early education can make all the difference. No barriers of bureaucracy should stand in the way of serving children with special needs.

That's why John and I will direct the Department of Education to clarify the statute administratively. We'll make explicit that when state funds are portable, federal funds are fully portable. We're going to make sure parents have choices and children receive the education they deserve.

Even the best public school teacher or administrator cannot rightfully take the place of a parent in making these choices. The schools feel responsible for the education of many children, but a parent alone is responsible for the life of each child. And in the case of parents of children with disabilities, there are enough challenges as it is, and our children will face more than enough closed doors along the way. When our sons and daughters need better education, more specialized training, and more individual attention, the doors of opportunity should be open.

Like John McCain, I am a believer in providing more school choice for families. The responsibility for the welfare of children rests ultimately with mothers and fathers, and the power to choose should be theirs as well. But this larger debate of public policy should not be permitted to hinder the progress of special-needs students. Where their lives, futures, and happiness are at stake, we should have no agenda except to ease the path they are on. And the best way to do that is to give their parents options.

In a McCain-Palin administration, we will also fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. To his great credit, it was President Gerald Ford who signed the legislation that became the IDEA—establishing new standards of respect and inclusion for young Americans with disabilities. From that day to this, however, the federal government's obligations under the IDEA have not been adequately met. And portions of IDEA funding have actually decreased since 2005.

This is a matter of how we prioritize the money that we spend. We've got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France, or a public policy center named for the guy who got the earmark. In our administration, we're going to reform and refocus. We're going to get our federal priorities straight, and fulfill our country's commitment to give every child opportunity and hope in life.

For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference. That's why we're going to strengthen NIH. We're going to work on long-term cures, and in the short-term, we're going to work on giving these families better information.

Once a condition is known, parents need the best and latest information on what to expect and how to respond. This service is also provided for under the IDEA. And we will make sure that every family has a place to go for support and medical guidance. The existing programs and community centers focus on school-age children -- overlooking the need for assistance before school-age.

But it would make a lot more sense for these centers to focus as well on infants and toddlers. This is not only a critical stage for diagnosis; it can also be a crucial time to prepare the family for all that may lie ahead. Families need to know what treatments are most effective, and where they are available, what costs they will face, and where aid can be found, and where they can turn for the advice and support of others in their situation. As Todd and I and Heather know, there's no substitute for the friendship of those who have been where we are now.

The IDEA is also intended to serve teens and young adults with special needs. And here, too, there is an opportunity to reform and extend the reach of federal support under the IDEA. By modernizing a current law, the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, we can better serve students with disabilities in our high schools and community colleges. This will require reform by the states as well. Just as the federal government expects proven results in the progress of other students, we must require results as well in the achievements of students with disabilities. And the result we will expect is simple: that every special-needs student be given a chance to learn the skills to work, and enjoy the freedom to live independently if that is their choice.

As families across America know, the care of special-needs children requires long-term planning, and especially financial planning. A common practice among these families is to establish financial trusts. These are known as special needs trusts, covering years of medical and other costs, and for parents they bring invaluable comfort.

Understandably, then, many families with special-needs children or dependent adults are concerned that our opponent in this election plans to raise taxes on precisely those kinds of financial arrangements. They fear that Senator Obama's tax increase will have serious and harmful consequences—and they are right. The burden that his plan would impose upon these families is just one more example of how many plans can be disrupted, how many futures can be placed at risk, and how many people can suffer when the power to tax is misused.

Our opponent has an ideological commitment to higher taxes. And though he makes adjustments on his tax plan pronouncements seemingly by the day, his commitment to increase taxes remains the same. John McCain and I have just the opposite commitment. We intend to lower taxes, promote growth, and protect the earnings and savings of American families.

Not long ago, I spent some time at a place in Cleveland called the Michael T. George Center, a beautiful home for adults with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. I met Michael George, too, a boy of five with Down Syndrome. Michael is a healthy, sweet, joy-filled little man—and I saw in him all the things I wish for Trig in just a few years.

Michael's parents, Tony and Kris George, are advocates for children with special needs in their community. They are thinking far ahead, in their own boy's life and in the lives of others. They named the center after their son. It's a public-private partnership. This welcoming place—and so many others like it—shows the good heart of America. They are places of hope. They are the works of people who believe that every life matters, everyone has something to contribute, and every child should have things to look forward to, and achievements to point to with pride and joy. As many of you know better than I, it can be a hard path, and yet all the more joyful and productive when the barriers are overcome.

John McCain and I have a vision in which every child is loved and cherished, and that is the spirit I want to bring to Washington. To the families and caregivers of special-needs children all across this country, I do have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. And I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.

Thank you all, and God bless you."

Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, is the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Satisfaction Guaranteed, Yeah Right!

If you've read my blog for any length of time you know that we normally make our own pizza. Last week we made the mistake of ordering pizza from Papa John's. I should have known better since the previous two times we ordered from them the pizza was late and cold. But, I guess hope springs eternal.

But, last Friday we ordered online at 4:30 when we received our e-mail confirmation it stated that we should expect deliver in 30-40 minutes. After an hour I called the location and after waiting on hold for 8 minutes (yes, I timed it) I was informed by the employee the e-mail time means nothing. I was also informed that the pizzas had already left and would be here in just a couple minutes. Since the restaurant is less then 2 miles away the pizza should not be cold. About 5 minutes later the pizzas finally arrived. I was all for sending them back unpaid since they were lukewarm to cold. Rich was all for just heating them up. But, after paying the delivery guy and heating them up the pizzas still tasted bad. So out of our two large pizzas we didn't even eat three slices. The rest was thrown into the trash.

I then went onto the Papa John's web site and found this statement. "At Papa John's, we believe better ingredients make a better pizza. If your pizza doesn't meet the quality standards you expect from Papa John's, we'd like to know." So I filled out the customer feedback form and fully expected some kind of answer.

Since the e-mail was sent last Friday night I knew it would take a few days to get an answer. But as of now the only communication from Papa John's is an e-mail "Your Papa John's Pizza Offer Has Arrived!" Needless to say this is going right into my trash box and I have sent another feedback form requesting that I be removed from their list. Now I know that it isn't just a local issue, but the lack of customer care stems from the corporate level.

So as you can imagine we are not ordering in pizza tonight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thanks For The Memories

Now that summer is over I have more time since David is in school I have resumed unpacking boxes we have stored. I am finding junk that should have been thrown out instead of moved, hence a trip to the dump yesterday. But along with the junk there are also items that bring back wonderful memories.

One of the items I found was an ImageCD that Rich had made with a few of David's baby pictures. So much has changed since these images were made that Rich had to convert them to JPEG for me. But, the pictures are wonderful.

One of the pictures shows David and his half-birth sister. We had invited David's birth-mother and birth-sister shortly before Christmas to give them Christmas gifts. In one of the pictures his half-sister is kissing him on his head. It was such a sweet moment and I am glad that we have it on CD.

I love the picture of David looking out the back door. He was just learning to stand and you can see his death grip on the pane molding on the door. Don't you just love all those black ringlets that covered his head? This used to cause a real problem, since everyone thought he was such a cute GIRL.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chili Weather

This weekend the weather took a turn to the chilly side. This was perfect timing since our friends Doug and Elaine have a chili-fest at their home each fall. We really missed last year, since it had to be canceled due to Elaine's mother's health. Rich has been scouring the internet for a recipe to make sure his was the hottest at the event. Rich began cooking his brew the night before the event and let it meld overnight. I made an apple dump cake to take and share.

Doug and Elaine own a beautiful home in the country so there is lots of room for the kids to play. With a minimum of 50 guests there is a variety of chili types. Everything from very mild to heart-stopping hot. The kitchen table is laden with a variety of desserts and the drinks are served on the enclosed porch. The livingroom was even set up with a table for additional seating.

Upon getting to the house, families quickly separate. The men head for the field for a game of football, the kids head to the fort, swing and riding toys, and the ladies head indoors for catching up with what has gone on in each other's lives and inspecting the desserts for quality assurance.

One of our college students' moms was visiting for the weekend and was amazed at the quantity of chili-filled crock pots. There were at least 11 pots of chili that I was able to count. There were cookies, cakes and a ton of brownies for the sweet tooth. Elaine had fresh, hot bread for the dinner.

The fellowship at this event is wonderful. At church people tend to sit with friends within their own age group, but not so with this event. Everybody mingled and I got to talk to many people on a deeper level then I have ever gotten to in the past.

Doug pulled out the tractor and hooked up the hay wagon to give several hayrides. David loved it; he even rode twice. We saw many married couples cuddling with each other. Later there was a bonfire, we missed this to make sure David got to bed in time since church was the following morning.

The next morning we found out that one couple even got engaged that evening. Congratulations Lisa and David!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ducky Decorations

Earlier this week Janet expressed the desire to see more of the baby shower decorations from Abigail's shower. So, here are some of what I did to make the theme of an old-fashioned childhood shown throughout the room.

I used my big galvanized tub as a wash basin. I hooked a baby washcloth and baby hooded towel into the handles to keep them in place. I placed two regular-sized rubber ducks in front to reinforce the theme. I also used baby receiving blankets as table scarfs on this table and the refreshment table. In total I used a pack of 5 receiving blankets on the tables. I had planned to give Abigail the towel and washcloth as gifts, but she received so many I thought I would keep them (in case the baby needs a bath at my house.)

I rummaged through the Little Golden Books I collected for David when he was little. I used to check out second-hand stores and found wonderful classics in good shape for just a few cents each. Even though David progressed out of these many years ago, I have kept them for visiting friends with kids. After Stacy and I decided on a duck cake I found this great oversized duck at the local new/used bookstore. It also will be great to keep in the basket I keep in my living room for visiting babies and toddlers.

While in Tennessee I found a Dick and Jane book that I bought for the baby. Once again, another gift I was able to use in the shower decorations. I saw the pirate duck and thought it would be a cute twist on the theme. This also became a gift since when you float it in the bathtub the bottom checks the temperature of the water, making sure it's not too hot for the baby.

My large building block was from my photography days and came in handy to lift the cake up and let it shine as the work of art that it was. You can also see the punch bowl and tub in the background. Also the receiving blankets protect the white table cloth that belongs to the church. Since Abigail didn't receive any receiving blankets I sent several home with her.

You can see the mini ducks floating in my punch bowl. My punch bowl and the unique cups I ordered with it always gets many compliments for their uniqueness. It always looks elegant and expensive since most think it's silver. My secret: my husband and I bought it in Williamsburg shortly after we were married, but it's pewter and not silver. This keeps it from needing constant polishing, in fact I only wash and store and when I use it next all I have to do is wash it out again. The only downside is that it's a softer metal so more care must be taken. But we were able to purchase the punch bowl, without monogram, ladle and 12 cups for less then we would have paid for a silver punch bowl.

For both of the baby showers I threw this summer it was fun to be able to use the gifts as a part of the decorations. The guest of honor and I had fun going around the room to collect her gifts. This also let me adjust to give what the new moms needed, instead of a baby towel I was able to give receiving blankets that had not been given to the new mom.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Drama of Creation

The beginning of Natural Bridge's
"The Drama of Creation"
During our visit to Natural Bridge we were able to see the "Drama of Creation." Because Natural Bridge is still privately owned, they have continued a tradition that began on May 22, 1927, when United States President Calvin Coolidge pressed the button that inaugurated the night illumination of the bridge. The program combines some of the greatest symphonic compositions with an impressive lighting system and Bible readings that walk you through the Biblical account of creation.

There are chairs set out each night for the viewers to watch the drama in comfort from both sides of the bridge. As the sun begins to set the bridge itself becomes the stage for this wonderful show.

The following morning we headed to the caverns. Even though it was July, it became very cold as we made our way down into the cavern. The slow draining of water has sculped rooms and still continues at about an inch every 125 years.

The tour was a 45-minute journey that took us 34 stories into the earth. Even though we took the tour with several other families from the adoption weekend, David (and the other children) didn't have to be reminded to stay close. I think the cold and darkness of the cavern gave them a natural caution while we were in there.

This was a wonderful opportunity to see the marvels and variety of what God has created for our enjoyment. I would encourage anyone who has the chance to take the time to see these wonders.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Natural Bridge

Three years ago we attended an adoptive family retreat. This was put on by a faith-based agency that helps adoptive families with extra support. There were three long-weekend conferences that were put on that summer. Two were located at 4-H camps, but the one we chose was located at Natural Bridge, Virginia.

It was fun to spend the weekend with 15 other families whose family's included at least one adoptive child. The retreats were free for the families, but the accommodations were wonderful. The families came from all over the state—some with only adoptive children and some with biological and adoptive children. The children ranged in age from 18 all the way down to 2. Adoption tied us all together in a unique way.

David playing in the Natural Bridge pool
The hotel, a wonderful Colonial-style building, stands stately with a spectaculer mountain view. We shared all our meals in the dining room there and attended several sessions that dealt with adoption. We could tell the building had been added to over the many years, but that only increased its charm. The conference attendees were all housed in cottages across the road from the hotel. The cottages provided a little more privacy than the busy-ness of the hotel.

There is an old swimming pool that guests can visit located beneath the gift store. It became the gathering place for the families following the sessions put on by the agency that hosted the weekend. It was fun to watch all these kids having a great time together. During the meals, there was much table-hopping as children joined other families to sit with their new friends.

The Natural Bridge
If you have never been to Natural Bridge, Virginia, you are missing one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The bridge is 215 feet tall and 90 feet wide.

The bridge has a very impressive history: George Washington surveyed the site for Lord Fairfax in 1750. There are still landmarks of the work he did there and on the wall of the bridge he carved his initials. In 1754 Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land that included the Natural Bridge from King George III of England for 20shillings.

The retreat also included free tickets to the Bridge, the Drama of Creation held at the bridge, and the caverns. I will be sharing the Drama of Creation with you later this week.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Great Success

Our baby bottle fundraiser is over and God has really blessed it. Last year we collected $41000 so I kept our goal low. But as week after week God's people continued to back this ministry, I carried loads of change to the bank to be counted. The cashiers were very supportive and encouraging with these weekly trips.

The grand total that I was able to turn over to the church this morning was $1,07427. That's two and a half times the amount that was raised last year!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Gathering

This past weekend several ladies in church organized a "Fall Gathering" for the ladies of the church. It was a great time to get to sit and chat with others, without the kids to distract us.

The room was decorated with the fall harvest theme and they did a wonderful job. We had a craft that followed the fall theme. Even the non-crafters had fun and did a great job. We made bows and tied together wheat and artificial leaves to make a table decoration.

Kelly explains the craft
We also were made to pick a piece of paper from a bowl. Whatever color the paper was (all fall colors) that group that chose the same color got together to ask the questions listed on the paper. It was a way to get to know each other on a more personel level. Questions such as "How did your husband propose" or "What one item would you want with you if you were on a deserted island."

The food was wonderful and creative. There was even a door prize—which I won. I received a beautiful mum plant.

One of the nicest aspects of the evening was that when I got home I didn't have to worry about what to make for my boys for dinner. My thoughtful husband had already made their dinner and they were eating.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Many Cows Are In Your Herd?

My cousin sent this to me:

A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, 'If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, Will you give me a calf?'

Bud looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, 'Sure, Why not?'

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with e-mail on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the cowboy and says, 'You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.'

'That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,' says Bud.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Cowboy Bud (okay, Cowboy David)
Then Bud says to the young man, 'Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?'

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, 'Okay, why not?'

'You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government', says Bud.

'Wow! That's correct,' says the yuppie, 'but how did you guess that?'

'No guessing required' answered the cowboy. 'You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew,to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows...this is a herd of sheep. Now, give me back my dog.

Monday, October 6, 2008


This past Saturday evening we went to see "Fireproof." This was written and produced by the same church that made "Facing The Giants", Sherwood Baptisit Church When we began to watch "Facing The Giants" the acting showed signs that it was produced by nonprofessional actors. However, the characters and story line pulled us in and before we knew it we completely forgot the acting. The budget for the 2006 hit was only $100,000, not exactly a Hollywood budget. But many in Hollywood became envious of the $10 million the movie made in the theaters and the additional $12.5 million from DVD sales.

Actor Kirk Cameron (from Growing Pains fame) saw "Facing The Giants" and knew he wanted to be involved with Sherwood's next film. After calling he was required to audition nine scenes to gain a part in "Fireproof." He has stated it is his most challenging part—both physically and emotionally—of his career. He and his wife Chelsea Noble married in 1991 and have six children. In this movie his wife plays a small part, but you would never know it. Kirk has made a decision to never kiss another women—off or on screen. So when he must kiss his on-screen wife in Fireproof, there is a little movie magic. The scene is done with back lighting and Chelsea is actually standing in, dressed as the wife.

"Fireproof" had a cast and crew of over 1,200, of which all were volunteers. The budget this time was $500,00000, a large jump from their last endeavor.

This is an incredible movie! Every married couple should see this TOGETHER! Even though the movie is about a couple that is facing the end of their marriage, it is a reminder that all marriages need constant care. But be warned—BRING TISSUES. You will need them. This is a movie that was enhanced by watching it in the theater. The sense of fellowship can be felt as fellow viewers have the same response to the scenes. Believe it or not the audience of strangers left the theatre in a more caring mood to each other just by sharing this time together. This isn't just a story about how to love your spouse, but it is so much more.

The couple in the movie is about the end their seven-year marriage when the husband's father issues a dare to his son. He dares his son to hold off on divorce for 40 days and sends him a book with a challenge to be completed each of those 40 days. In our instant gratification society, he can't understand why after 4 days it's not working. It is only part way through the dare that he stops going through the motions and begins to work at the challenge.

There are so many parts of this movie I would love to share with you, but I don't want to ruin any part of it. The movie reminds us that fireproof doesn't mean you won't go through fires, just that you are able to withstand the fires you will go through.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Finally Some Results

After six weeks of school David finally got a one-on-one that was supposed to begin on the first day of school. This time we have a male one-on-one and it will be interesting to see how things work out.

I met this week with a representative of the agency that is providing the service. I feel they are more prepared for this type of work than the last agency was. Much of the last agency's work was intense home therapy, which we were not in need of.

The new one-on-one began yesterday and David was testing all the limits so it was a little bit of a rough start. But, today was a very smooth day. I went in to school during the last class today in order to meet him. I wanted him to get his feet wet before asking if he had any questions.

I have now sent a letter to the school department that provides the funding for the one-on-one services to request that they award no new contracts to the old agency. Since the old agency hasn't been able to provide the services of existing contracts they don't need to pursue any new contracts.

Helping Others

One more week to go on our Liberty Godparent fundraiser. We are almost at double our last year's giving total of $410.00. As of last week we have raised $74301.

It is amazing what one little church can do through God's power.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just Ducky

Saturday was Rich's day. But, Sunday was my friend Abigail's day. I had the honor of throwing her a baby shower. Since Abigail likes old fashioned toys I thought that would make a good theme for her shower. I used lots of rubber ducks, Little Golden Books, a Dick and Jane book and a large building block for decorations.

Abigail's cake
Our friend Stacy was wonderful enough to make one of her amazing cake creations. Dots and Ducks made the cake fun and festive. I made the punch and floated tiny little ducks as a fun surprise. Once again I used my huge galvanized bucket to hold cans of soda and water, but this time I decorated it as a bathtub. Little ducks in front with a washcloth and hooded towel laid across the top gave it a different twist.

Since we don't know weather she's having a baby boy or girl most stayed away from clothes. She received lots of bathtime items, diapers and wipes. Some clothes, a couple blankets and several books rounded out the gifts.

The devotion was given by one of ladies and she spoke about the importance of laughter in motherhood. One of Abigail's bridesmaids led the games. She had Abigail try a new jar of baby food after opening a few gifts. Abigail has decided she doesn't like baby food.

Abigail's reaction to her baby food
I gave all the ladies a form asking them what piece of advice they wished someone had told them. As an example, mine was that "I wish someone had told me that I am capable to parent the child that God gave me. There are days when as mothers we question our own ability to parent our children. Take the advice of others and if it works, great. If it does not, toss it out and move on." I am allowing the ladies a week to complete these forms and return them to me. I plan on making them into a booklet for Abigail.

Abigail is such a wonderful and thoughtful person that she brought me some beautiful flowers and a card tonight to thank me for the shower.