1.16.2012

Happy New Year

...on January 16th. 

To ring in the new year: a new header.  Even though I love that family picture, the "2011" kind of made it obsolete. And since I'm not scheduling family pictures for us anytime soon (a certain someone is working towards dropping 30 lbs by her 30th birthday), I get to experiment with other fun ideas.

Here's a walk down memory lane of blog headers past:


I remember making this one, but I'm not positive I actually used it. I didn't save the headers I made from pre-Kyle days  - I remember one was a picture of Landon, Grant, and I on the beach in Carmel...wished I had saved those!


Used from June - Dec 2009 
Dec 2009 - March 2010

March 2010 - January 2011



All of 2011


That last one should look familiar! 

Welcome 2012 and all the goals I have for you.  #1: get in bed by 11:00 - that might sound already late to many people, but I can be somewhat of night owl and I need to stop it.  I'm not doing myself any favors by not getting a good 8 hours of sleep. #2: the whole lose 30 lbs by my 30th birthday thing. That's a big goal. But my birthday isn't until late June so it's possible. I want to enter my 30's looking a lot better than I have in my mid-to-late 20's. I work really well when I'm motivated with a time frame in mind - I need a deadline and for a good reason to do what I'm doing. I can't just throw out there a vague "Uh, I want to lose weight" statement or my motivation sputters out fairly quickly.  I also can't believe I'm turning 30 this year. I need to wrap my head around that as well.

One thing that is working well so far is "paying" myself to exercise.  I have a large jar in the kitchen and every time I get a good workout in, I put in a dollar (idea found on pinterest). The idea is that when I fill the jar up, I can use it to pamper myself or buy new shoes - something fun for me! I so enjoy dropping that dollar in.


(this was on day one - not a reflection of how much I've done in the last week and half!:)


Hope 2012 is a good year for all of us!

12.16.2011

getting ready for Christmas

Christmas is tomorrow! Ah! This time of year always goes by so fast, but since it's not yet quite over so I can still share some decor and highlights of this season.



This is an advent calendar I bought last year - each date has pockets where we stick this little snowflake to mark the day. Next year (...or the year after that...) I'll print out activities to put in each pocket that we'll do on that day. Sounds like something a fun, on-top-of-it mom would do - hopefully that will be me someday.  


I don't know why exactly, but I just don't decorate like crazy for the holidays for the past few years. I seem to enjoy the beauty of simplicity. Or I just don't want to spend hours decorating only to take it all down in a few weeks. Whatever the reason, I do enjoy just displaying a few touches, like these nativities on our bookcase.  Of course, one BIG decoration is the Christmas tree. The room looks so empty when we take it down after Christmas - and I miss the soft glow from the tree lights.  


There really aren't any ornaments on this tree - mostly just Mr. Preston and Mr. Lawrence - ornaments you can receive when donating $35 or more to that child.  I love seeing their sweet faces.  I just had a feeling that this year the boys (mainly...Kyle!) would destroy and un-decorate the tree whenever possible, so I just left the lights. As I mentioned before, the simplicity really doesn't bother me - I enjoy it! Besides, I will deck out that tree plenty of times in the future - one year of simple lights is no big deal if it saves my ever-waning sanity. :)

I have this complicated method of displaying our Christmas cards - if you want to replicate what I do, you'll need a small truckload of supplies and the craftiness level with that of Martha Stewart.  Pay attention, here are the instructions: I get some tape, put it on the back of the card, and stick it on our coat closet door.
The end.
Did I just blow your mind with my creativity?? Ever since our last house in CA (which also had a nice little coat closet right near the entry) I found this to be the easiest and most fun way to display our cards. I'm not bound by the number some card-holder contraption can hold and I enjoy the collage effect that decorates the door. Like the Christmas tree, this is one thing I miss when I take them done after the holiday - the entry just looks so dull afterward!





Aren't these hats just ADORABLE!!?? My friend Samantha sent these for the boys and we get complimented on them every time we go out - and the real miracle is that the boys actually wear them! The first night we put them on, they both ran around the house saying "Who-who!" and we now call them our Who-Hats.  So stinkin' adorable.


One of my fundraising efforts for Lawrence involved gift wrapping at Barnes and Noble. I was told that B&N offered this as a way for charities to raise money - and since I l-o-v-e to wrap presents - it was a perfect match. A good, kind friend that I'd known in California (who now lives here) even offered to meet me there to help! I had a great time wrapping presents, talking to people, telling them about Reece's Rainbow, and handing out a few brochures about the organization.  And we made a good chunk of money as well from donations. I'm definitely doing this next year.




Grant in his kindergarten Christmas production - - he knew all the actions and was so cute up there with the other kids. He's a natural born performer.



Also next year, I plan to get the word out better for etsy (and other sellers) that work with Reece's Rainbow.  A fellow RR Christmas Warrior makes these beautiful hand stamped necklaces - during the Nov/Dec fundraising season, 100% of the sales of her items went to her own Angel she was raising funds for - Jin Wu (a sweet boy with Down syndrome from Korea). This beautiful necklace was for Grant's teacher.  I purchased several other things as gifts from sellers like this whose sale of products went directly to their own RR angels.  I love knowing that I'm directly helping that child *and* getting my gift shopping done!



These are some gifts for neighbors (the Sprite bottles - how easy, cheap, and fun!) and the crayons were made for Grant's classmates (all 7 of them - had there been 20, might have done something else!).  Every year I have to make these M&M Pretzel treats too. Kyle was very helpful with unwrapping all the Hershey's Hugs - so glad I can put that kid to work now. :)


Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy it where ever you are this year!

12.14.2011

Overwhelmed


If you hadn't noticed, Lawrence recently just met his $1000 Angel Tree goal - and now has a total of $5000 in his adoption fund.  I'm still overcome with gratitude for all those who've donated since this Angel Tree fundraiser started - overcome with hope that Lawrence can find a family and get out of that institution.

I'd like to say that I just check his account once or twice a day - no, I check it far more than that! As if me checking more often will magically make funds appear - but it's a habit!  Late Monday night I checked Lawrence's account - $450. Grateful for that amount and for all those who contributed.  I just had a Pampered Chef Party fundraiser and was planning to go to Barnes & Noble to do a gift wrap fundraiser, so I knew more funds would be coming in on that end as well. And heaven knows Lawrence would have a bit more money himself, except I can't help to also contribute a bit here and there for the other sweet children that catch my heart.



Then - out of habit - clicked on his page one more time just before heading to bed.  His Angel Tree donation amount: $1156.  I was stunned - speechless (which is difficult for me!). Total of $5000 in the fund.  I don't know who - I don't know how (was it one person or combination of people?) because all funds that go through Paypal to Lawrence are kept from us - we can't find out even if we ask.  But I'm extremely grateful. I can't even describe the happy shock that was! I was pretty positive I wouldn't hit the $1000 goal, but would do the best I could and that would have to be good enough.  To realize that the goal had been reached, and that people this whole time have been moved to give to this precious child, is such a humbling, great feeling.

So thank you - whoever you are out there - whether it's been $1 or $700. I'm grateful for any of it because every bit helps to get him home and out of a place where he can live the life a 5-year-old should.  Please keep praying that someone out there will be moved to welcome him into their home - they are out there!

I need to post some pictures of the boys - especially in some fantastic hats my friend Samantha made for the boys (and if I do a giveaway/auction in the near future or next year, I'm so begging her to make one for it!) - but I had to first tell of the happy news!

I post a lot of favorite articles and things on facebook - but if you're aren't on that, I better share them here as well. Just click on the photo to take you to the article.

"Why Giving Matters" by Arthur C. Brooks/BYU Magazine
Very interesting, motivating article - a great read to remind how much good it does you to give!


What difference does it make?
A post from the family that adopted sweet Katie that I wrote of earlier (the 10 lb 9-year-old) By the way, she's doing great! Getting bigger and happier and healthier every day. So good to see!


Give the gift of giving! Purchase Angel Tree dollars for teachers, neighbors, family, and your kids! What a great stocking stuffer - you purchase them directly from Reece's Rainbow (in any amount of at least $5), they send you an email to print them out, then you give them this gift certificate. The recipient gets to choose which angel that they'd like the donation to go to. I think this is an especially great way for parents to get their children into a giving spirit - giving them the funds and letting them choose who to bless! 

12.05.2011

Twins

Hardly a day goes by that I don't get asked if these two boys are twins.  If I had a dollar for every time I was asked I'd ...well, I haven't been keeping track so I don't know how much money I'd have, but it would be a lot of money I know that.



I hear it the most when the boys are sitting together. When they are in a stroller, you don't see that Grant is just a few inches taller. But they are within just about 5 pounds of each other and can wear the same size clothes. They definitely don't look identical or anything, but since Grant is small for his age and Kyle is big for his, they meet in the middle...thus the twin comments.

 I guess it doesn't help that sometimes I put them in matching shirts for church....



 ...or have matching car seats.

 It doesn't bother me of course, in fact, sometimes in some ways their development is so similar that I feel like I have twins...I mostly feel that on the rougher days.:)








 And, why yes, my boys are always hugging each other. They never hit, slap, grab, push, yell, or take things from one another.


Speaking of twins, this was from the Special Olympic games this past summer - I really did not plan this and didn't even notice until I took the picture how identical their clothes were that day!


11.29.2011

Why do I keep talking about these orphans?

I know this is supposed to be a "happy" blog. I post cute or funny pictures of the boys and update what is going on with us. Remember 'back in the day' when you had to email pictures out to everyone? Then blogging came along and everyone could just come to you!

And with blogging I've learned I can also share things that are important to me.  And that's why I keep posting about Reece's Rainbow and some little sweetheart that is tugging at my heart.  I want to share why I keep mentioning this organization, and it may take away a bit of the "happy", but I want to share where it all started. Then I'll end with a thank you - because it's just nice to end on a happy note, of course.

This story begins just a few months after Grant was born. We had finally brought him home from the hospital and were loving being home with him! Naturally, he became the center of our universe and every second we loved him more and more. Coming from a place of heartbreak at the beginning made this ever-growing feeling of pure joy over this little round face all the more sweet.  Seriously, how could we resist this face?


About this time, Landon had read or heard (from a newspaper, TV news program?) of the living conditions of orphans with Down syndrome.  He heard that many were not taken home by their parents at birth, but were instead raised in orphanages.  The descriptions of how these children lived reminded me all to well of our nation's own history with raising children with special needs. Lest we get too high and mighty about the way we treat those with disabilities here now, it wasn't too long ago when we also put our children with disabilities in institutions. We told parents not to take them home - they would be a burden. Just put them away. Thankfully, we've stopped that (though parents are still told now what a "burden" these children will be and instead of putting them in orphanages, most people just prevent them from coming into the world altogether).

My tiny world view suddenly was blown wide open. It was shock to me that people didn't want their babies. Regardless of the number of chromosomes, those were their babies. Then when Landon showed me this picture my heart quite literally broke in two.



A child. A child like my Grant. Ignored. So pushed aside and thought so little of that it is easier for the caretakers to tie him up so he or she can't cause any problems or extra work. Not just tied up, but tied to the crib. Nothing to occupy their time. No sweet face smiling in or reaching to pick up just because. No books or hugs or all those things that we do with our children that are so natural and normal for us.

I cried as I even tried to imagine Grant's face searching for love and attention and not receiving it. I just can't put into words the feeling of realizing your child could be in that crib going through that awful, sad existence if not for being born here to parents that realize that children are a gift from God, no matter the exact package they come in. It still breaks me in half.

All because this child was born with Down syndrome. All because people there didn't understand the intrinsic value of this child. All because perhaps the parents felt entitled to a 'perfect' child.

I remember telling Landon, if we ever become wealthy, I'm taking home ALL those children! I'm hugging them until they beg me to stop!  I had no idea what to do at that moment to help those children that my heart was broken over, but I told myself to keep a look-out for some way to help.

Then last Christmas, I came upon this blog.  The writer talked of Cliff, a little baby boy with Down syndrome, who she was raising funds for in hopes of him finding a home.  The organization he was through was...Reece's Rainbow! It was heaven-sent! I was so happy to have found an outlet for my desire to do something. Here was a wonderful, non-profit group solely dedicated to the very cause that had grabbed me some four years before.  So, I donated to Cliff, shared his button on my blog, and from that day forth, have kept my eye on the kids there and what happens to them.  Cliff had a happy ending - he's been adopted and home for some time now! There are many kids that have happy endings as well, but still even more that wait and wait for a family. 

Not all orphans have the exact experience as the child in the picture above - some are in decent orphanages. Perhaps Lawrence was in a good one, but having been so far not adopted, was transferred to the institution where he is now.   Some are in better scenarios, some worse.  Little Katie, a 9-year- old girl with Down syndrome weighed about 10 pounds when finally adopted.  Yes, you read that right. TEN pounds at NINE years old.  She is getting medical care now (for the first time in her life) and has a loving family that realizes how very precious she is.  This doesn't happen to all children, but even one is too many. 

I'm not writing this as a plea for more donations (though, hey, that would be awesome!). I write this so you'll understand why I keep talking about these kids. Why, now that I know they exist, I can't turn a blind eye and go on like nothing happened.  I'm hoping that others will give me a little leeway to talk about these children and know that it's not just the "cause of the month" - it's something that affected me and stays with me. 

It's changed my outlook on the world and what true need really is. How very little is important, but what is important is loving your family, being grateful for a roof over your head and all those little nice luxuries we get to have, and blessing others when you can.  Suddenly the silly problems I think I have everyday pale in comparison.  It's hard to complain about life when I look into the face of these children.

Perhaps Lawrence is at a good institution. Maybe his institution is one of the better ones. Maybe, but I doubt it. Even if it was the best (adult mental) institution on the planet, it is still a poor replacement for a loving family and normal life.  So I still hope and pray that somewhere out there a family is looking and will choose him. Give him that life he deserves.  

The good news? So far we've raised over $270 towards his total (now up to $4000) - so when that family comes like I hope they will, they will have just that little bit less that they have to raise.  The process will be that much quicker because some of the money is already in place. 

So, THANK YOU. Thank you for any little bit of help you have provided now or in the past.  Thank you for reading and allowing me to emote like this :) If Lawrence only knew what was being done for him by people he doesn't even know - I'm sure

it would make his heart happy.