Tuesday, February 25, 2014


We have been smitten with each of our children.  There has been something very magical about each of our children's individual stories...when we first met them.

Micah is sealed to these 2 crazies.  The girls are happy about it, he's rather concerned.

Samantha was a love story that began early on. We were so excited. I loved being pregnant, feeling her grow and move. Looking back, all I remember is the beauty of that time. I feel so blessed that I had that opportunity to be pregnant, to experience life within me. I realize that experience is a gift and don't take it for granted. After she was born, she was placed in my arms. She was this new life...pure and when others saw her imperfections, all I could see was how perfect she was. We were in love. She has never lost that fresh born innocence. She is a rare gift and I don't take that for granted either.  She is a gift that brings purity to our home.

No, Sammy didn't look like this when she was born...her baby pictures are on the other computer.  But I can assure you she was adorable.

Callie's love story began, much like her personality. Swift. Full of energy and momentum. After only about a month after being approved for adoption, I received a phone call. She had already been born and was waiting for us. Sammy and I flew out to Michigan...back to my home...to pick her up. I don't know why, but I was so nervous as I waited for her to be with us. That night, this tiny new creature was placed in my arms and all the nerves melted away. She filled my heart with so much oozing crazy love. I was actually surprised at how intensely I loved her so immediately...after only even knowing about her for a few days. That love deepened quickly. I remember sitting on my parents couch, only weeks later, and feeling that deep bond of mother and daughter. Callie has always been observant, curious, cautious yet adventurous. She is a gift that brings life and energy into our home.  We are so in love with her and her contagious laugh and smile.

Callie.  1 week old.

Scotty and Annie's wedding.  Our two baby dolls.

Micah was a longer journey...but full of love nonetheless.  After failed adoptions and a lot of heartbreak, Lindsey entered our lives.  Over the months, we fell in love with Lindsey and her family.  I felt as if she was a part of our own family, our hearts slowly being knit together by a maternal bond. In the delivery room, I played a different role than when I was last there. Before, I was the one laying on the bed, laboring to bring our child into the world. Now, I was there helping Lindsey as she labored to bring our child into the world. It was overwhelming and one of the most precious experiences I've ever had. Micah is a gift that brings unity (and more testosterone) in our home.  We love our little boy so much.

Mr. Man all gussied up for his newborn photo shoot

We feel very blessed and fortunate to have 3 amazing children who have added more depth and love to our lives. And...we feel incomplete. I wonder what our next love story will be like. I wonder if it will take long like Micah's did, or if it will be fast like Callie. I wonder if we will meet our next birth mother beforehand and build a relationship with her, or if we will build a relationship with her only afterward. I wonder who the Lord will send to our family.

So yes, we begin the adoption process again.  It's exciting and scary to begin this all again.  But I know that going through it all will help us feel more complete.  Creating families is not easy, but it's always always worth it.

Colin and Megan's wedding
Our family...minus 1

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

You Can Too!

Marcus and I have some really cool friends.  I don't use that word "cool" lightly either.  I'm talkin' Criss-Cross-will-make-you-wanna-jump-jump cool.  It's impressive.

Erika is one of those Criss-Cross cool friends.  We met her at BYU.  And Mark Zuckerberg keeps our love  with Erika alive.  After graduating, Erika taught through Teach for America ~ cool, got a Masters Degree ~ cooler, and is now working in Haiti to help the Haitians get the mental health care that they  need ~ coolest.  BOOM!!!

Another really cool friend we have is our daughter, Callie.  We met her when she was days old.  And now, daily life strengthens our thick bond of love.  She reads ~ cool, swims and plays soccer ~ cooler, and can clean the toilets like a champ ~ coolest!
What's up now?!

So, this is how Erika and Callie are now connected.

Erika is trying to raise $10,000 to provide a safe, clean, secure counseling center.  This is their current counseling rented room.

No electricity, no running water, no protection from heat or rain, and no real privacy.  Not an ideal counseling center.
The other day, Callie saw a picture of Erika on Facebook.  I told her how I knew Erika.  Then, I told her what she was currently doing in Haiti.  We looked at pictures like these:

Guess where Callie wants to go now?!  Haiti.  She thinks this place is the best place on earth!  Then I showed her the other side of Haiti...the side that people don't like to think about when they go there on a family vacation to "get away" from the stresses of life.

Callie couldn't believe what she saw.  The stark contrast was completely shocking to her innocent eyes.  She honestly did not believe that the pictures were real.  We talked about these pictures, guessed what may have happened, how the people must feel, etc.  We talked about how much we have...how if we need anything, we can pretty much get it.  Our "difficult" isn't like this at all.

And I told her again about Erika.

So, Callie is taking action.  And we invite you all to join with us.  Callie is doing extra chores around the house.  She is walking a friend's dog once a week.  She's trying to raise money to donate to Erika's project.  I love her desire to help.  She is always asking what she can do to earn money.  We don't have a lot of extra money ourselves...so I'm not paying her too much.  But, she's earning money.  And it's become personal to her.  And I love that.

Go here to find out more and to donate.

And think about using this as an opportunity for your own kids.  Maybe they can earn an extra $10+ to donate to such a great cause.  It could change your child's life...but will most certainly change many lives in Haiti.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What We Eat...on $75/wk

So, it's true.  I've cut our food budget down to $75 a week.  We live in the Bay Area and have a growing family of 5.  Though my children don't eat a lot at one time, they eat all. day. long.  Marcus is still stunned at how much our little Sammy eats.  Never underestimate the Samster.  She may be small, but her appetite is large, eating every 2 hours, at least.  

But, we don't have teenagers yet, and I understand it will be vastly different as we continue to grow.  I mean, look at my kids in 20 years!  They look hungry (and criminally scary).

Seriously, this freaks me out.  Back to the food.  Because this is all too creepy.

Last week,  this is how we ate:

Breakfast: Oatmeal

Dinner: Masman Curry with Brown Rice -- meatless.  Potatoes, celery, carrots, onion.  Masman curry lasts a long time.  You can buy the curry here.  My recipe was given to me by an old Thai lady I met at an asian market.  It's so easy!  I omit the fish sauce and tamarind paste because I'm out, and we have found that it still tastes really good.   

Breakfast: Oatmeal

Dinner: chicken salad wraps in homemade tortillas -- 3 chicken breasts fried in coconut oil, salt, pepper, chili powder, other herbs...cut and chopped up.  Lettuce, cucumber, apples, celery, feta cheese.  Drizzle dressing over it.  Put in homemade tortilla (made with coconut oil).  My homemade tortillas aren't beautiful, but they are filling, healthier, and the kids love them!  This was great as left overs the next day as well.

Breakfast: oatmeal

Dinner:  Veggies stir-fry with noodles  (used this for sauce recipe)  YUMMMMMMY!  Even Callie loved it.  It was so good.  Seriously, so good.

from this.......

to this.....

Breakfast: oatmeal (big surprise)

Dinner: Beans and Rice.  I got this idea from my sister-in-law, Annie.  Then I altered it a touch.  This, though, has the potential for so many different variations, especially because the kids loved it too.  I made a big batch of it and froze it.  We'll have it again for dinner tonight.  It's a nice blend of citrus, sweet, and spicy.  We all really liked it.

I've been using dried beans.  They are easy to cook up, a lot less expensive, and I know they don't contain anything extra in there to preserve them in the can.

Breakfast: Oatmeal

Dinner: Eggs
To jazz it up, I added broccoli, a bit o' cheese, peppers, and shredded carrots.  The kids really liked it too.


Dinner at Grammy and Grandpa's.
Had we not done that, I probably would have done a noodle dish with spaghetti sauce or something simple.

Lunches are pretty standard.  There's always enough for Marcus to take left overs to work for lunch.  I'm lucky I have a husband who not only is supportive and WANTS to eat less meat, but he also wants to bring left overs for lunch.  It's motivating when we're saving money, but also because he sincerely likes our meals.  So, that makes me feel good too.

Callie has been requesting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I always have yogurt and applesauce for the kids for lunches and snacks.  They get 1 yogurt a day.  Same with applesauce.  I get a large container of each and divvy it up into these...

It save quite a bit of money.

For snacks we have pretzels, animal crackers, cheez-its, whatever is the best price for the quick go-to snacks.  You need to have those in a house.  We also try to have nuts and raisins hanging around.  The kids eat a lot of fruit and veggies.  If I have a plate of cut up vegetables on the table, they'll eat them as they are playing throughout the day.

For other snacks/treats, though, I'll make brownies (I replaced the butter with coconut oil), many different variations of this granola bar, cookies, popcorn, etc.  I'll bake things up, individually wrap them, and then put them in the freezer.  These items can go into lunches or be used as a quick snack or treat during the day.  Limit: 1 per day.  

This is how we did $75 for groceries last week.  I try to stick to $75, but sometimes I go over if there's a good deal.  I tell myself I have a budget of approximately $350/mth, and try to stay within cents of the $75 mark.

I have found that as I've made this move to $75/week
* I don't overbuy produce and have it go bad.
* I don't buy junk just-because...to have on hand.
* There's not as much mindless eating, because we don't have a ton of stuff laying around.
* We eat WAY healthier.  I'm making our "junk" food by scratch.
* Callie and I are spending more time together baking and cooking, which we've both really enjoyed
* Our tastes have changed for the better.  Salty things are now soooo salty.  Sweet things are often too sweet.  Our bodies aren't craving the same things it did before.
* I feel very fulfilled as a mother and wife cooking these really healthy meals for my family, while saving money.

This may not be possible in every area of the U.S.A.  And as our kids grow and our family changes, this will change too.  But, that's ok.  For now, this is my goal.  We're doing it, and it feel great.

Caribbean Plate

So many different ways to cook this up.  This idea is from my sister-in-law, Annie.  It was so so good.  We loved it.  

This is how I did it:

* Meatless

* Rice: cooked in chicken broth and fresh squeezed orange juice (from 3 oranges).  A few shakes of chili powder, a bit of coconut sugar.  After it was finished cooking, a handful of flaked coconut and chopped cilantro.

* Beans: sautee onion.  Throw in a bunch of black beans (I've started cooking dry beans.  Because they aren't canned, you'll need to add more flavoring since there's no preservative in it.  WAY cheaper and I feel really good about it too).  Season salt, chili powder, whatever other herbs I have.  I did a few shakes of Italian Blend seasoning.  Handful of chopped cilantro.

Serve rice over beans...topped with shredded cheese and lettuce.  I made a ton, froze a large bag of it, and we'll have it again tonight for dinner...a week later.


These are her words:  

* put some frozen chicken in the crockpot with seasoned salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic, a little orange juice, and sometimes some coconut sugar.  I've also just put some salsa in it before.  Just season it however you like.  When it's done, shred it up.

* For the rice, I use a combo of chicken broth and orange juice for the liquid.  I add chili powder and sometimes coconut sugar if I want it to be a little sweet.  Once it's cooked, I add a bunch of flaked coconut and chopped cilantro.

* For the beans, I like to dice some onion and sautee it before I add canned beans.  My favorite is a can of black and a can of kidney.  Then I just add seasoned salt and chili powder. 

Can be served with chopped lettuce, sour cream, tortilla chips, diced avocado, and/or mango salsa.  It's good no matter what you do

Masman Curry

One of our favorite recipes.  Easy.  Cheap.  Sooo yummy and GREAT left overs.

1 can coconut milk
2 Tbl. of paste  (I don't know what it's called, but you'll see on the container)
3 Tbl fish sauce  (I don't put this in.  Courtney Mangum does and seemed shocked that I don't.  It's not as authentic I suppose, but the fish sauce idea grosses me out, and I still think it tastes the same.)
4 Tbl. sugar
1/2 Tbl. of Tamarine paste
1/4 cup of water
3 Tbl. of peanut butter
raw chicken cut up in chunks
yellow onion
cashew nuts

Mix the milk, pastes, sugar, and peanut butter, and water in pot until it slowly starts to boil.  Stir while it's in the pot.  Put in the raw chicken, onions, and potatoes until done.  

Ok, to make it much faster, I cooked my potatos while I was doing some of hte other prep work, then I put the potatos in when they were done.  The chicken cooks quickly, but the potatos take much longer.  It's not an exact science, this recipe.  It was a home recipe and she just gave me the ingredients.  Sometimes I have to add moer water depending on the boiling time, whatever.  Serve over rice.  We love this stuff.  Well, Marcus loves it, and I really like it.  This is his favorite meal.  I have other favorites, but this was is sure good.  And it's great as left overs too, which is nice.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

I finished reading The Four Agreements about a week ago now.  It was a really great book when I finished reading it.  But since then, the book has become a powerful one.  It's one of those books that the longer I sit on it and think, the better it becomes.

Years ago when I was teaching English, the Senior Honors class read it.  It's been on my list of to-read books since then.  For whatever reason, I finally got around to reading it...and I was surprised.  To begin with, I had no idea what it was about.  I just picked it up and began to read.  Immediately, I was hooked.  Partly because it seems that over the past year or so, I've been on my own little spiritual journey, I guess you could call it.  There are aspects of my life that I'm really trying to improve.  Habits, attitudes, thoughts.  There's so much of me that needs to change and I have been trying to take a different approach to changing it all.  Prayerfully, yes.  Spiritually, definitely.  And so as I read, I felt like what he said really resonated with me right now.

The concept is that we make agreements, agreements, I suppose, with the universe.  We feel a certain way because we agree with the comment.  We call a table a table, because someone told us it was a table when we were young, and we agreed to it.  That idea, right there, gave me a sense of control.  I don't have to agree with everything.  I can challenge certain thoughts that run through my mind.  I've always known this, but you know how sometimes, you hear the same thing over and over again...but then you hear the same concept in a different way and it just clicks?  I think that's what this book did for me.

My friend posted her review of this book stating that it was a waste of time (pretty much).  That it's the same stuff that you find in other new-age self-help books.  She was absolutely right.  When I read that, I stepped back and thought, "Um, she's right.  Why did I like this book so much?"  I think for me, it was all about the timing.  It was the right time for me to read this.  In fact, it was a spiritual read for me, when I felt prompted many times by the Spirit as to specific changes I needed to make.  It was all timing.

It's a great book.  Usually with great books, I'd recommend it to everyone.  This, I wouldn't.  For some, reading the summary somewhere is good enough.  The writing itself felt repetitious and that annoyed me at times.  And, for people like my husband, I think it could feel a little too new-age...too much off in space.  Though the concepts are great and we can all benefit from the agreements, just read to find out what they are.  Maybe don't read the book if you're not totally interested.

So, here you have it.  And see what I mean?  It's not all that deep.  But for me, it was deeper than this.  So, whatever.  Read this little image and you won't have to read the book.  Make yourself a better person. :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Every Single One

I try to get pictures of Sammy...but it's just dang hard.  The other day, I really tried.  And I kept trying.  And trying.  And she just wasn't cooperating.  

Then I looked back and realized that I loved every single one.  They aren't the "best" pictures.  Some are blurry and the color isn't great.  But I see her and I love them all...especially this one...where she was laughing her little head off!

I am blessed.

Miss Delacourt Has Her Day by Heidi Ashworth

What a fun read.  Miss Delacourt Has Her Day is the second in the Miss Delacourt series...the first being Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind.  

The Miss Delacourt books are pure enjoyment.  And I love that.  I have found that most of what I read these days are non-fiction books, or books where I'm constantly thinking of the symbolism, themes, etc.  Those books are fabulous and I love it.  But I have also found that those books take longer to read...and afterward, I need a break.  Instead of watching a bunch of tv to unwind, I decided I wanted my escape to be books again.  Enjoyment.  Fun.  Turn off my brain and love a different world for a few moments.

Miss Delacourt Has Her Day did that for me.  Surely there is symbolism and other literary elements in the writing.  Of course.  Simply, I appreciated how I felt whisked away into this other world that I know nothing about...the regency romance world...and for a couple hundred pages, I get to revel in chivalry, lace, etiquette, wealthy snobbery, and the charming heroine that breaks the mold.  Obviously the author has done her research about that time.  Descriptions of clothing and attitudes of the time were helpful and never overbearing.

I want to read more books like this...books that make me feel good and happy after I've turned that last page.

Bravo Mrs. Ashworth.  You did it again.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Matters Most

Two months ago today, Dale Smith's plane went missing.  Along with many others, my life changed as I spent a lot of time until the wee morning hours combing satellite images looking for signs of...anything.  I became very emotionally involved and wanted to hear a miraculous story about how they were found...huddled together in one of those little hunter's cabins...just waiting for us.  I pictured Dale, as the patriarch, praying with his family for faith, peace, and comfort...until they were found.  My time on the Tomnod site felt sacred.  I was inspired and moved to tears by the many volunteers who were out in the snow and rugged terrain, not giving up, and searching for this family and their small plane.  But my heart ached.  It was hard for me to do much of anything.  I felt that everything else I did was so trivial.  I couldn't imagine Janis, at home with her 2 boys, waiting for any word that they had found her husband and children on that plane...I, and many many others, just wanted closure.  For Janis and the family, when that plane was found and their family members were confirmed dead, I'm not sure closure was what they received.

Closure...there needs to be a better word.  I know what people mean when they say "closure."  But it seems that only people like me...people who brushed shoulders, who crossed paths, can be allowed closure.  There most definitely needs to be a better word for those who have breathed joy, pain, grief, and love together.  Because I don't think when someone has loved so deeply...that the "act of closing" or "bringing to an end," "a conclusion" is what happens when something like this...happens.  I don't think one can close their heart, or bring to an end, or conclude a lifetime of love and memories, especially when their faith insures an eternity more of love and experiences.  Yet, what better word is there?  But today, for me...I suppose I experienced a form of closure.

Today I attended the combined funeral for Dale Smith, Daniel and Sheree Smith, Amber Smith, and Jonathan Norton.  It was a difficult funeral in many ways.  When we pulled into our parking spot, my heart sunk.  Right in front of us were five white hearses, prepared and waiting to take these five individuals to their final resting place.


I took a deep breath and got out of the car.  We sat a little further in the back.  Throughout the cultural hall were tables with pictures.  We sat next to Amber's table.  We had some time before things began, so, even though I knew it may be hard to look, I wanted to see Amber's pictures.  I got up and saw one...she was young...pig tails in a yellow over-sized t-shirt with a soccer ball in hand.  Her smile was bright as ever.  She was adorable.  Callie's at soccer right now.  Amber was so adorable.  Then a picture of her in her wedding dress...the one she had picked out.  The one she would have worn the day they would have gotten married...on January 5, 2014 I believe.  She's too young to be gone.  Just before her wedding.  Just before so much joy.  Just before... and I sat down.  I couldn't look at any more pictures.

I thought of Janis.  And cried.

The service began and my heart was lifted.  Music filled the huge room.  Words were spoken about each of them that gave us a glimpse into their lives...helped us feel who they were on a different level.  I knew Amber from Young Women's Camp.  I didn't know her as a daughter, sister, close friend.  But today, I got to know her and her family better.  Family who I will never know personally in this lifetime.

I felt inspired and motivated to be better.  To try harder.  Yes, I did cry many times during the nearly 3 hour service, but I also felt the Spirit whisper to me that God has a plan for each of us.  And though we may not understand everything, there is a plan.  I sat next to Kathleen and I told her how it's hard to explain why bad things happen to good people.  The truth is, we just don't know.  Her response to this was that, indeed, we don't know.  We shouldn't ask "Why?" because, really, we probably won't know that answer in this lifetime...but rather, "What now?"  What are we do to next with this?  How do we learn from ________?  I've thought about that a lot today.

In a way, I like funerals.  I don't like the headaches I inevitably get from the tears, or the blotchy face and puffy eyes.  But...I have learned that a part of my own heart is healed when I "mourn with those who mourn."  My heart is softened and my life is put into perspective.

Today, I relearned what matters most.

I'm a planner.  I generally know what I want and figure out a way to achieve that.  But...what matters most?  Marcus and I really want to own a home.  We live in an area where a tiny shack is roughly $700,000 ~ and that's a good deal.  I am a stay at home mom.  We are a 1 income family.  We have chosen this together, so I can be home with our kids.  Buying a home, here, is practically out of the question...and it's disheartening.  We are also starting the adoption process again (more on that in another post later).  That is an added financial stress which means, buying a home is doubly near impossible.  But, we feel strongly like now is the time to begin this adoption journey again.  So, this is what I relearned...

It doesn't matter.  None of it matters.  It's all stuff.  And stuff doesn't matter.  I read a bumper sticker yesterday that said..."100 years after your death, no one will care what house you lived in, what car you drove, or (something that I forgot).  What you will be remembered for is the relationships you had and the lives you impacted."  Relationships.  And for me and my faith...this also includes the relationship I develop with my Savior and Father in Heaven.  So, 100 years after my death, will people care that I never bought a house?  No.  Will they care that our family had to rent our entire lives?  No.  What really only matters to me is my faith and my family.  

Today, at the conclusion of the funeral, we sang "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again."  This is a song we have sung many times at funerals.  It makes me cry.  It feels like a final goodbye in a way.  "'Til we meet at Jesus' feet...God be with you 'til we meet again."  I have always felt like I am the one speaking, since naturally I am the one singing.  And yet, as I type now, it occurs to me that I am the one who needs God to be with me.  To sustain me.  To wrap His arms unfailing 'round me.  We, those ones left behind in this mortal life, need our faith, need God.  Perhaps, we are singing their words to us.  What matters most?  My faith.  If I cling to my faith and my God...then I will see those who I love again.  We will meet again.  What matters most?  Those I love.  That I have developed those strong relationships so that we will rejoice together when we do meet at Jesus' feet.

I still think we'll buy a house one day and all that stuff...but today reminded me that it really is just all stuff.

And so, when I got home, I fell in love with Marcus all over again.  I thought Samantha was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen with her magical blue eyes.  I played games with Callie and reveled in her joy, curiosity, and laughter.  And I sang a little longer with Micah before laying him down...and was filled with pure joy when he lifted his head up and leaned over kissing me with his baby lips on my own.

This is what matters most.

Thank you Dale, Daniel, Sheree, Amber, and Jonathan for your examples and for reminding me of all that I have.

I am so grateful.  I am so blessed.  I have what matters most.


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