Thursday, November 27, 2014

Raina's 5th Birthday!

 
My baby girl is 5!
 
Some days I feel like I've missed so much of her life, but I realize we have so much more to be grateful for!  We missed out on welcoming Raina's arrival back in 2009, but somehow November, 2009 will forever be etched in my heart! 
 
 I distinctly remember that in November of 2009, I felt this intense urgency that we had a child waiting for us in China.  It was a crazy thought.  Honestly, how could I really know that?  Not only that; Malia had only joined our family less than 4 months earlier.  There was no possible way to adopt again or even have a proposal for a child before the one year anniversary of bringing Malia home. 
 
 However, I knew!  I just knew that my baby was out there!
 
And God, in all His wonderful love for me, knew that for me to feel this in my heart, would be the sweetest possible gift He could give me!
 
Imagine our surprise when we got our proposal and this sweethearts birthday was in November!
 
 



 Raina's arrival in our family was bittersweet as we watched the only mama she had ever known grieve intensely. 
 
We grieved for her and promised to love this precious baby girl with all of our hearts! 
 
Our first moments with our Raina! :)

 

 
 
As the months passed, Raina learned to trust us and to love us in return.
 


Today, she is honestly the sweetest child I know.  She often tells me how pretty I am.  Tells me that I make the best meals.  She loves to tell her siblings that she loves them and makes them feel very special.  She loves to cuddle with her Daddy and loves to tell him he's handsome.
 
Raina loves horses!  She can hardly wait to have one of her own.  She is drawn to the horses at a carousel or even the horse statues at a museum.
 
She loves to color and do puzzles.  She loves all things princess and spends hours dressing up.
 
She loves to play with Jackson and keeps him entertained while I teach the older kids.  She loves to play with Malia and cook up a storm in their kitchen.
 
Raina is rarely grumpy. However, she is very insistent and begs and begs for things she wants.  It can be rather annoying, but for the most part she is a ray of sunshine!

 This year, Raina's birthday was a simple affair, with breakfast in bed...

 
...her favorite meal for supper...noodles with cream!  Yup!  That's all she wanted!  We added sausage and got her to pick a veggie, which was cooked peas!  She loves cooked peas!
 
Then her favorite part...the cake!  And the scariest part for her...the candle bought while I was in China last year!  It begins as this massive flame and then opens up with all the individual candles lit, turning like a carousel and playing "Happy Birthday!"
 

 
 

And last, but not least...presents!
 
 

Raina weighs approximately 45lbs and measures 42 1/2 inches.  She continues to wear glasses, although her eye sight is slowly getting better.

We love you Raina!
 
 
 

 






Saturday, November 22, 2014

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

It's a snowy day here in Saskatchewan and it's the perfect day to cook up a pot of soup!  So I thought I'd share our new favourite soup recipe! 
 

In the past year, we have had the privilege of being part of a community group where we get together once a week to learn more about God and support each other.  We always start with a potluck supper.  I love these suppers!  There is always a huge variety of food and the food is always awesome!  My friend Manuela brought this soup one day, and graciously shared the recipe. I simply have to pass the recipe on to you!

This soup is fantastic!  Not only does it taste great, but it's super easy to make, only requires minimal ingredients, and is ready to eat in about 20-30 mins.  Easy and convenient have been at the top of my list in the past months as I struggle to feed my family nutritious meals that take little energy and little planning.
 
You can find the recipe here...  
http://traceysculinaryadventures.com/2013/11/20-minute-sausage-and-tortellini-soup-2.html
.   ...or you can use my slightly modified version.

 
1 1/2 - 2 lbs Italian Sausage ( I used a hot sausage, but my littlest 2 would have preferred for it to be a bit more mild, so next time I'll use half mild and half hot)
2 med. onions, diced
15 garlic cloves, minced ( I used Kirkland's Minced California Garlic-so much easier!)
16-18 cups water
5-6 tsp Epicure Chicken Bouillon
3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 pkgs (10 oz) cheese tortellini
18 oz baby spinach
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt
Pepper
Sour Cream
 
Add the sausage to a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Begin cooking, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon. After about 2 minutes, add the onion and continue cooking until the sausage is browned. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until fragrant. Add the water, chicken bouillon, and tomatoes (with their juices, do not drain them!), and Italian Seasoning. Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil. When you reach a boil, add the tortellini. Cook until tender, about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the spinach. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a tsp of sour cream to each bowl.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thankful to be Anemic!

 
I never thought I would say this...but I am thankful to be anemic!  Let me explain why.
 
These past months have been brutal to my health.  After our trip to PEI, I thought I was feeling a bit more energetic, and my tummy issues were beginning to heal. But then about 5 weeks ago I really hit a rough patch.  My energy level plummeted to an all time low, the walls around me were spinning, I was lightheaded and dizzy, my head felt fuzzy and I had difficulty focusing or making decisions.  I had spells of shaking to the point I had to sit down.  I didn't feel like eating and all I could think about was when I could crawl back into bed. 
 
More blood work showed that my iron levels were very, very low.  However, everything else looked fine.  I swallowed more iron pills, drank more orange juice, and doubled the amount of meat I ate, and increased my consumption of anything high in iron.  Still I felt drained. 
 
I began to worry.  Like REALLY worry!  To the point of spending my days trying not to cry, consumed by fear.  As many of you know, I have a family history of intestinal cancer.  Some of the possible reasons for such a low iron level were an ulcer, gastritis, or worst case scenario...cancer in the intestines.  I freaked out!  I sent out prayer requests.  I was so incredibly scared! 
 
Thanks to all of you who prayed.  Amazingly, I was able to give it all to God...most of the time...and I had peace...most of the time.
 
However, I knew I had to book another doctors appointment.  I have the most amazing doctor, who knows my family history and is not willing to take any risks.  She ordered more labs just to be sure.  Once again, they came back perfect.  Whew!  I can now rest, assured that I am simply anemic!  Anemia most likely caused by my tummy issues and feminine issues...which I won't go into detail about!  lol!  I might lose some readers!  :)
 
So it may sound crazy to say I'm thankful to be anemic, but I really am!  Cause it could be something a whole lot scarier! 
 
I am slowly beginning to feel a bit better.  The walls spin less, I'm not as lightheaded and my appetite is better! 
 
To top it all off...I have the best of the best taking care of me.  It's an amazingly humble place to be.  My kids are great at reminding me to take my pills ( I was at a point where I couldn't even remember to take them).  The older kids have stepped up and are helping with more stuff around the house.  Morgun is amazing at watching the little kids. All of it is something sweet to behold!
 
But the guy that does the most, is this guy.
 
 
 
He has taken time off of work to drive us to appointments, cause it wouldn't have been safe for me to drive.  On the days when the walls were spinning extra fast, he has taken time off of work so I can rest.  And he has been going to work late every single day so that I can sleep longer in the mornings. He makes lunches, gets the kids breakfast, gets them started on their school work, does the dishes.  When he comes home in the evenings, he helps get supper ready and does the dishes again.  He bathes the kids and tucks them in at night.   Even though I know his income is less and that he worries about  that, that he worries about losing contractors, he worries about how he'll get all the work done that needs to be NOW... he still takes the time every day and hugs me, with a smile on his face and says it's ok...he doesn't mind...tells me he is so grateful to have me in his life and that this craziness is worth it!  And he really means it!
 
All I can do is nod as tears roll down my face, cause I am so grateful for his love, his willingness to go the extra mile, and for his constant encouragement!
 
PS: This sweet man will be incredibly embarrassed when he finds out I posted this.  He so prefers to be out of the spotlight and prefers to simply fade into his surroundings.  But for today, he'll have to suck it up, cause I can't help but shout to the world that he is the best husband ever!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Morgun's 13th Birthday!

 
 We have another teenager in our house!  I've said it before, but time really does fly...at lightening speed! 
 
Thirteen years ago, after a fairly short and normal delivery, Morgun was born at around 11:30 am!  He weighed 6lbs 15oz.  The perfect little baby!  I held him for all of 10 seconds, when he took an odd gasp for breath and I kinda panicked as the nurses quickly whisked him away to clear his airway.  Little did I know that I wouldn't see him again until around supper time. 
 
What followed, put the fragility and briefness of life into clearer perspective.  I ended up hemorrhaging and was rushed into emergency surgery.  I spent hours shaking uncontrollably.  I was frozen to the bone.  I spent a few extra days in the hospital and was put on strict "you are not to do ANYTHING except care for your newborn", for 2 weeks.  Thankfully, Martin was able to take some time off work and some wonderful folks came to help us out.  I ended up swelling a lot, but oh the joy in finally being able to hold my sweet baby Morgun!!
 

 
 
Alex was extremely excited and impressed with his baby brother!  The look says it all!  :)
 

 
This is one of my all time favorite photos.  My parents admiring their newest grandson.



Proud papa!

 

Look at that grin!  This boy loved to smile and cuddle from day one, and still does!



Morgun had a few friends over and chose to have homemade burgers with lots of yummy toppings!



He picked an oreo cake which made me happy!  So easy to make!
 



The look on his face when he realized he still had one candle burning!  lol!  For those of you that may not know...each candle not blown out means that's how many girl friends he has...oh! oh!  lol!
 


Morgun is in grade 7 this year and enjoys being homeschooled!  His favourite subjects are Math, Science and Social Studies.  At this point he has no idea what he wants to do when he finishes grade 12, but it will be interesting to see where his love of Math and Science will take him!  He loves finishing his school work by noon and having all afternoon to do as he pleases. 
 
 He asked for a yoyo and a camera.  He got both.  He was completely happy with a gently used camera.  I am so incredibly grateful that my kids are happy with used items.  It blesses my heart!  Anyhow, he has been busy taking pictures, wishing he could always have his camera at his side.
 
Morgun is waiting to have a growth spurt and measures in at exactly 5 ft tall!
 
Morgun loves, loves babies!  He always manages to find the babies, and sits admiring them or better still...holding them.  Morgun often wishes we could adopt a baby.  Recently, while shopping, we walked through the baby section and he looked at me and said, "Seriously?!  You HAVE to take me through here?!  This isn't fair!!"  Gotta love that boys heart!
 



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Alex's 15th Birthday!

 
Where has the time gone?!?  Fifteen years ago, on October 28th, we were blessed with our first child! I remember that day as though it was yesterday.  After giving the doctors a bit of a scare, Alex Zachary Martin arrived at 3:59pm, perfect and beautiful!  He turned our world upside down.  It's never been the same and for that I will be forever grateful!

I got a little carried away looking for one photo...haha!  How could I stop at one?  Look how adorable he was!  And still is!  (He'll hate me for saying that!...and yes, he does read my blog on occasion, so I'm pretty sure he'll see this!)


Ahh...these pictures take me right back to that time, and I clearly know how perfect this little boy made our family!






Here he is on his 15th birthday!  More handsome than ever!  But more importantly, he is a young man who desires to live his live for God.  He has grown in so many ways and I thank God for that, cause if I look at all the mistakes we made...well, let's just say, it's amazing that he is so wise and such a gentleman!

 
Alex asked for another Coffee Crisp Cake.  I love making this cake cause it's so stinkin easy...and it tastes great even if it looks a bit lopsided!  lol! We celebrated as a family, with Alex's choice for a meal...kielke and farmer sausage with cream gravy and corn. 
 
Alex is attending a local high school this year and is enjoying it.  Alex is anxiously waiting to take his learners.  He could have taken the coarse this fall, but due to missing a few weeks of school, he now has to wait till the new year.  (And I don't mind one bit!  lol!  So not ready to have my child on the road!  But then, are we ever ready?) Alex loves getting out of the house and spreading his wings.  I'm thrilled to know that he is making wise decisions and is conscientious of the impact his choices have on his life!
 
Alex loves anything electronic!  He loves researching...researching anything!  If we have a question about our phones, computers, etc, Alex is our "go to" guy.
 
Alex has surpassed me in height, reaching 5ft 8 1/2 inches.  He is becoming more and more muscular, thanks to his wonderful job at a local dairy farm.  Alex loves his job...at least when the cows don't step on his toes, swing their tails in his face, or cover him in crap!  He loves the extra money and is enjoying spending it wisely. 
 
My heart overflows with thankfulness that we get to call this young man our son!
 
Happy 15th Birthday Alex!  May the year ahead be the best one yet! 


Friday, October 31, 2014

A Halloween Challenge

This mornings' F*cebook is filled with kids dressed in cute costumes, adults dreaming of raiding their kids' treat bags, and Christians giving their view on whether one should or should not participate in Halloween. And all of it has once again left me somewhat confused.
 
Before I go any further, I'd like to say this...
 
This post is not about the should or should not of Halloween. 
 
 From what I've seen most people seem to have come up with a decision on what to do with this day.  For some it was an easy decision.  One they didn't think about twice.  For others, it's been an ongoing dilemma.  Each side has "proven" their case with scripture verses.  Good for you for doing some research to support your case!
 
What's got me a bit confused is this...
 
We all spend an awful lot of time thinking about, discussing, arguing, proving our point using scripture about things that are dear to our hearts.  And that is very often reflected in what we post on F*cebook.  I'm not suggesting that these things are wrong or inappropriate or that we should stop talking, posting, discussing, etc. 
 
What I am suggesting, is this...that we take a good, long look at what we are actually communicating to our friends, family, coworkers, neighbor...the world. 
 
This is where it hits VERY close to home for me!
 
I am a born again believer.  I believe that God sent His son Jesus Christ to earth to face a horrific death on the cross.  I believe Jesus rose 3 days later so that I did not have to pay for my sin...the payment would have meant my death.  His grace and mercy and unbelievable sacrifice is what gives me eternal life! 
 
I believe, with every fibre of my being, that I am to love God with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and being.  And I am to love others as myself. 
 
BUT, here's the problem.  The part that leaves me confused and quite frankly convicted, is this...
 
Is what comes out of my mouth, what I post on F*cebook, what I fight for, what I think is worth sharing, discussing, arguing about, a reflection of that love?
 
Quite honestly it's not! 
 
When's the last time someone talked to you, argued for, posted on fb, or challenged you to...
 
 ...care for the family down the street that is struggling cause their teenager is in a rough spot?
...be a true friend to your pastor or his wife...someone they can trust 100%? 
....reach out to the family that is dealing with grief over the recent loss of a loved one? 
...tell your kids' teacher what an amazing job he/she is doing?
...thank the person with the mundane, dead end, unnoticed job? 
...encourage the single mom trying to raise her kids on her own?
..share what Jesus has done for you?
...love the "unlovable"?
 
The list could go on and on, but you get the picture.
 
Perhaps this hits me at this time of year cause in two days, Orphan Sunday is celebrated.  Over the years I've approached many church leaders/churches about participating, asking them to bring awareness.  And guess what?  Only one church has ever agreed to participate!  You know who you are and I thank you for your willingness to be different and raise awareness!
 
I've repeatedly posted about Orphan Sunday on f*acebook.  Only a few people have ever reposted the link or even "liked" the link.  It's kind of discouraging!  Please understand, that I know that being as passionate about the orphan as I am may  NOT be what God has called all of you to.  That is NOT what confuses me.  Rather, it's the lack of empathy and compassion needed to be moved to action of some sort. 
 
We all seem to have no problem sharing links we like.  We have no problem "liking" things we like.  We have no problem discussing, talking about, sharing about things we like.  It really doesn't matter how important the topic may be. 
 
 Here's the questions I have been asking myself...
 
"Is what I fight for really a direct reflection of the heart of God?"
"Does all I say, fight for, argue about, post on F*acebook, reflect what I claim to believe?"
And most importantly..."Do I love others as myself?"
 
The harsh reality to that answer once again makes me fall before God, in tears, confessing my sin, confessing my lack of love for Him and for others.
 
So here's the challenge...let's take a moment to think about what motivates us to discuss, share and fight for the things important to us.  Are these things really that important, or are they simply a distraction, keeping us from communing with God?  Are they hindering us from loving others as ourselves?
 
Whatever you find yourself doing or not doing today, may you feel His presence so intensely that you can not help but reach out in love to those around you!
 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Blessings

 
 
If you've visited here for any length of time, you know that the journey I am on is filled with it's fair share of difficulty, heartache, and pain.  Sometimes it feels as though we only get brief moments of "normal".  It feels as though most of our days are difficult.  Some days I think I'm a complete whiner and wuss! Then I look back over the past 8 years and realize there may just be a reason I feel overwhelmed.  As you know my Dad passed away in June of 2006, after a brief 2 week battle with liver cancer.  That Christmas my Mom was rushed in for emergency surgery on a massive cancerous stomach growth.  In December of 2007 my mom passed away.  2008 was spent grieving, learning a new normal.  In July of 2009 Malia joined our family.  We had many months of difficult adjustment followed by a few short months of relative calm.  Raina joined our family in December of 2010.  More adjusting.  2011 marked the year that we knew we had to take some drastic measures to protect one of our boys from severe bullying, and entered the difficult (at least to me) journey of homeschooling.  In 2012 we knew there was another child waiting for us in China and thus began the fundraising.  The fundraising effort almost did us in.  It is something I wish we had never done.  Not because we didn't need the funds, but because of the negativity/judgement we faced.  In July of 2013 Jackson joined our family. More adjusting. More dealing with some less than supportive people.
 
I've waited for many years for life to become easier.  More relaxed.  Less stressful. 
 
But what I wanted and imagined is not happening...unless I choose each and every day to see the beauty in the little things.  Kids waking with a smile, family suppers,  kids delighting in little things, minutes alone with Martin, hugs from teens, gorgeous fall weather.  I'm learning that this thing called life is ALL about the little things.  It's about embracing the "here and now".  It's about taking what comes our way and seeing the "beautiful" in it.
 
All these years I know that God has been working.  Working to mold me and shape me into what He wants me to be.  In the past 2 years I've finally begun to see and feel the difference in me.  Even Martin has noticed.  I'm seeing myself more and more as God sees me.  I'm beginning to embrace the difficult.  I've begun to see the good in it.  I still struggle some days with self pity, doubt and questions.  It seems so unfair sometimes.  But I am beginning to see that "difficult" can be a very good thing.
 
On the days that I struggle to not let the "difficult" rule my life, I am reminded of the song Blessings by Laura Story.  It perfectly sums up what I've been learning.