Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow...

This past weekend, we put together a photo shoot for our Christmas cards! 

Now, you need to understand what a feat that was, we haven't done Christmas cards since Isabelle was a baby over 6 years ago!  Every year I think about it, come up with an idea in my mind, and then Christmas comes and goes and it's the item from my list that doesn't get done! 

This year I saw a Facebook post from Keilah at Vanilla Bean Photography with a link to a photo shoot she loved, and I just had to try it!  I mean snow? ~ In my own back yard? ~ Who could resist?

Here are a few pictures:

I love Sarah's tongue out in this one!

Here's how we made snow...in the Pacific Northwest, no less!
Warning!  The potato flakes make quite a mess - in your hair, on your clothing, in your clothing!  Oh, and they don't melt like real snow when they get in your eyes!

 But the laughter is worth every last flake!

Any other crazy photo ideas out there? {Careful, I may copy them on our next Christmas card!}

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Friends and Gingerbread Houses...

One of my very best friends, Melanie, is expecting their 5th blessing!  Last Thursday was their 12 week appointment.  So while she and her husband were off, all of the kiddos made Gingerbread Houses!

For the sake of keeping it simple, we used graham crackers for the structure of our houses, a ton of frosting, and two tons of candy!

This project kept 10 kiddos entertained for just under 2 hours!


Let me say, one of the great things about gingerbread creations is the ingenuity that goes into them. From a homeschooling perspective, there is a vast array of subjects that creating houses can cover ~ math, art, science, history (one house was a medieval castle), occupational education, etc.  Besides they are just plain fun!

This is what Claire did while the big kiddos were busy! 

It's never to early to start training them, right?

Oh, and how did I cope with the effects of all that sugar?

Some good old fashioned, hard work! {Our neighbor is 87 years old, so my kiddos help care for her yard!}

What other Christmas craft or game ideas to you have?{My other neighbor used to host a children's Christmas party every year - I'll need to pick her brain for some entertaining ideas!}

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Things Children say...

When Connor was 3, we were driving along in the car when he piped up and asked, "If Christmas is Jesus' birthday, why do we give each other presents?"

Just as I was formulating a response in my head, he piped up again:

"Oh, I know - because Jesus is in our hearts!"

"And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18:2-3

Happy Weekend Everyone!  Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feed the Machine Day...

If you walked into our home on any given Monday, this is what you would be greeted with!

My smiling face!

OK, and then this...

Monday is what we term "Feed the Machine Day" at The Cottage.  I have tried many different laundry routines over the years, but I always come back to doing it all on one day - all day - and then not thinking about it until the following week! {Of course there are a few exceptions, but not many!}

What you see in this picture is all of the kiddos baskets lined up and the white chair where the pile to be folded is dumped.

I can already hear you saying, "I only see 8 baskets?"  That is due to the fact that Brandon does his own laundry and Mama and Papa share a basket.

The routine goes a bit like this:

Big kiddos bring all laundry to the furnace room. {Stored in bedrooms during the week.}
Mama and little sort laundry.
Little stuffs machine full and helps Mama with the detergent. {Start}
Alarm sounds when wash is done - Mama calls to little {usually Sarah} to move laundry to dryer.
Mama meets little with next load ~ repeat!
When first load is dry - Mama calls to little to bring load to chair and move load from washer to dryer.
Mama meets little with next load ~ repeat!
Mama and helpers fold and sort each load as they come from the dryer!
Repeat! ~ Repeat! ~ Repeat!

{Our routine is a bit different in the summer, as I hang the clothes to dry.}

Monday is also our "Recoup from the Weekend" day, so I very rarely make any extra plans!  We spend this day hitting our home school hard, doing laundry and picking up the house so we have a calmer week.

OK - I know someones laundry routine is not the most fascinating post...but you would be surprised at how often I'm asked about it!  And, how many times I've searched to see how other large families manage this area.

Hopefully someone is inspired!  Has anyone else found a good system for laundry?

Thanks for stopping by! Be Refreshed!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mama's Little Helper...

A few years ago, my friend Megan was shocked to know that I didn't typically have my kiddos help in the kitchen.  {My reasoning was that I could do it so much faster and get a few minutes to myself if I simply worked alone.}  That day I was convicted that I was doing my children and myself a disservice!

Since then, I try to find ways to include my kiddos as much as possible!

So, while Mama was doing this:

                                                                     Hudson was doing this:

Then, after popping the first couple pizzas in the oven, I went to do a quick check of email. Reminding Hudson NOT to get the flour out of the bin, it turned into this:

and this:

and this:

Who could be mad at this cute boy?
 {Notice the "grey" pants...they were originally navy!}

The moral?  Never leave children unattended in the kitchen!!!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String...

...these are a few of my favorite things! {Can you just see the von Trapp children dancing in Fraulein Maria's bedroom?}

I digress...

This weekend we did a little shopping for Christmas.  Only when I say "little", it's never as little as I'd like it to be! 

We purchase 3 gifts for each child ~ to represent the gifts of the wise men.  But, just with the sheer number of children we have that's at least 24 gifts to wrap (we do a family gift for the oldest), not including extended relatives, friends and neighbors!

Last night I began the daunting task of wrapping said gifts! While I was cutting, taping, and curling ribbon, I was thinking, "I've had this roll of paper for over 5 years now!"  Then it occurred to me that others might like to know of the little trick I have when it comes to packaging...

Keep It Simple!

Every gift I giveaway is wrapped in brown paper. I purchased this roll at a local paper supply store, as well as the roll cutter.  The cutter is an investment at first, but is well worth the price for storage and ease of removing the paper.

I keep a supply of ribbon on hand.  What you see in the picture is some Cotton Curl Ribbon in red for our Christmas packages. {I love all matching gifts under the tree!} I usually have a role of pink and a roll of blue/green ribbon as well for birthday, shower, thank you, etc.

I simply have this roll stashed under my bed with scissors, tape and ribbon...no clutter and quick access!

What other gift wrapping ideas to people have?  Do you like all of your gifts to be the same, or do you prefer variety?

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Want To BE Beautiful…

No Fast Tip Friday...and I promise not to be a Monday/Friday blogger!

Today's post comes from a journal writing that I came across.  I wrote it a few months ago and, by the Holy Spirit's prompting, felt it was something that needs to be posted!  So, believing that He intends for someone out there to read it, I post with an open heart today!  God has definitely been refining some areas in me, and our household! 

So, there is this song by Bethany Dillon:
 “I want to be beautiful, make you stand in awe. Look inside my heart and be amazed. I long to hear you say who I am is quite enough…"(forgetting the final verse to the chorus). 
Anyway, sometimes this song plays in my head!  It’s who I am!  I know all of the ugliness inside of me.  Something that Ken and I always discuss is the radiance of people who have Jesus on the inside…how it creates the most beautiful of creations on the outside.  I want to be that!!!  Yet, I am critical,  impatient, jealous, insecure…I am sure it is a matter of getting to the heart of the issues…but the process seems so slow.
Lately I have been so looking forward to the day I am in Glory…that will be the day that I am fully refined and my beauty will be completely radiant as I no longer have the ugliness on the inside! 
My prayer is that Christ will refine that person inside of me sooner than later…ahhh, refinement!
I want to be beautiful….

I think societies idea of beautiful and God's idea of beautiful are polar opposites!  To the woman who just watched this video and sees herself, my prayer for you is this:
"May you 'have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ'! (Ephesians 3:18) The Lord of Heaven has created you in His image (Genesis 1:27) and you are fearfully and wonderfully made!(Psalm 139:14) May you embrace who you are in Him and commit to living a life to glorify Him daily!  He will refine you and His beauty will radiate through you!"

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Train them up in the way they should go..."

For those of you waiting {ever so patiently} for a winner to be announced, I'm posting it first today!  Then onto a "Welcome Home" to my 3rd born!

So, today's winner was drawn out of a crystal Christmas bowl that my friend Kelley gave me.  It is one of those gifts that makes you think of the giver every time you see it!  See, Kelley gave away one of her own personal crystal bowls in a White Elephant Gift Exchange that we both participated in last year...she sensed that I really wanted to win it and then I didn't!  So, low and behold, she bought me one!  Isn't that the sweetest?  It's a gift I absolutely treasure!

First of all, thank you all for the comments!  I absolutely LOVE them!

So, without further ado ~ the winner is......

Congratulations Susan!  Send me your address!

Here is the boy whom we are welcoming home today!


This is my Connor!  He is my warrior!  He is passionate, protecting, and tough on the outside but soft on the inside!  Today he returned home from a 12 day mission trip to Chile with a group of kiddos from our church. {Here he is snuggled up on the couch and crashed out!}
Connor is the child that has taught me the most about myself and God has used him to refine areas in me that I thought I knew best!

When our boys were little, we had a "no gun" policy.  That meant no toys, Legos, or toast could be a made into a gun!  With our first boy, it was easy - he is my love to please, easy going one. {I thought, "ha - this is going to be fine!" } Then came Connor!  He is all of those things I described above and full of "boy-ness"!  So - everything was a gun.

One day I mentioned this to an older, wiser, woman in my life, telling her of the struggles I was having with him.  Her answer was, "Did it ever occur to you that God created him to be a warrior?"

What?  You mean God has a plan for him that may not fit the plan that I have laid out?

So, that day I took her advice and took the first steps in allowing Connor be who God created him to be.  Turns out most of what Connor thinks about now is being an Army Ranger.  I hear it takes a special kind of person to fill those shoes, and you know?  Connor fits the bill! 

I am proud of him for so many things...

I am excited to see what a terrific man he is growing into...

I anticipate mighty deeds to come of his willingness to follow where God leads...

Our job is to help our children discover the path that God intends them to walk, and train them to go that direction!  Embrace God's plan for each of your children individually - and then encourage their steps!

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Friday, December 2, 2011

So, The Bed's Not Made...{warning, I'm feeling a bit silly! Oh, and a great giveaway!}

In my house, when the bed's not made- it's Ken's first sign that the day has gone a bit catty wampus!

I know it's been quiet around here this week - well, at least in my blog world!  This week has actually been one of those catty wampus weeks!  God has been walking our family through a very difficult trial, but has grown us in many ways!  I can see an area of refinement that He is "putting the fire to", and I'll admit, I'm very resistant!  But, God will have His way!  He always wins!  I'm thankful for that!

So, I'm sitting here thinking about putting together a quick Fast Tip and what to giveaway!  But, my week looms in my head...So, literally, the thought "What to giveaway, what to giveaway..." keeps tumbling around and around!

So, as I'm thinking, I send up one of those quick arrow prayers and say, "God, what would you have me giveaway this week?"  And the thought, "In God We Trust" comes back to me just as quickly! 

"Yeah, OK God, but what should I giveaway?" {Are you catching on to how quick I can be?}

"In God We Trust!"

OH!!! "In God We Trust!"  "I get it...you want me to give away cold, hard cash!  Well, OK!"

So, there you have it!  This week's giveaway is some money! {Let's say $20...who couldn't use $20!}

This week, I'm putting my money where my mouth is!


To enter {as many times as you like} simply leave a comment...it can be about anything you like...maybe an encouraging word to the other blog readers out there! Oh, and if you share this link on Facebook, you receive an additional entry!

I'll announce a random winner on Monday.  {I actually do draw names - in case you were wondering!}

There, now I feel better!  Off to make the bed...

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree..."

Many years ago - OK, like 10 to be exact, I purchased this tree!  My friend had found them at a local Christmas Store at their after Christmas sale for $5!  Five dollars?  Now that I could afford!  We have lovingly termed the tree ~ The Chimney Sweep Tree, because without the ornaments and lights, it looks just like one!  It is only a tad more than 5 feet tall and tilts a bit to the left, but with a few shims and a tree skirt, you would never know!
OK, so the thing is, I get a TON of compliments on this tree!  And of course I can't just say thank you. No, I have to tell everyone it is my $5 tree!  But, really, I've done the math, that's only .50 per year so far!  I'm so excited about how much money this tree has saved us over the years, that I want to share my excitement! 
So, this tree sits in our living room. It has Mama's Touch...basically, only Mama is allowed to touch it!

On this tree I have some very special ornaments:

My very first ornament {from the year I was born}- she's lost her bonnet, but she sleeps under a bough every year!

The billum from missionaries in Papau New Guinea ~ where Ken took his first mission trip!

An angel made by my angel - Tristen!

And of course an Acorn - a gift from Ken embracing my "nuttiness"!

Every year one of my older children mentions us getting a new tree, but I really enjoy the transformation! And I'm also enjoying the process of seeing just how much it's yearly cost decreases! And who can resist the endearment of a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree?"

Don't worry - we have a "kids 'tree'" in the playroom...well, not exactly a tree, but I will blog about that later this week!

The point is - you don't have to have the greatest, most expensive decor to make your home beautiful!  A little love goes a long way!  I'd love to hear your ideas! Any other $5 trees out there?

Thanks for stopping by! Be Refreshed!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fast Tip Friday {and the Chocolate Winners - Finally!}...

So, we spent the last few days preparing for hosting Thanksgiving, - then the big day - then sending our 3rd oldest off to Chile on a mission trip - and finally the annual "D-day" as my kiddos call it, which means Decorating Day {for Christmas, that is}!

Anyway, last year I came across this poem about Christmas that is a great reminder as we are heading into the Christmas Season!  Remember "The Reason for The Season" and everything else will fall into place!

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime: I’m just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity; but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love does not envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return; but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

--Author Unknown

And now for the moment you all have been waiting for...

The Chocolate Winners!

Marsha Van Eaton                     Tristen Haertel                       Annika Manchester

Congratulations!  Send me your addresses ladies, and I will send you some chocolate!  {Well, Tristen, I will give you yours on Tuesday! }

Thanks for stopping by!  Be Refreshed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Only by the Spirit in me...

Last year at this time, I had a very upsetting thing happen to me in the parking lot of Costco.  At the time, I told very few people about it because I truly felt like the Holy Spirit had moved in me that day and I feared that telling the story would somehow come across as me taking credit for what only Christ deserves credit for!  I did share my story with a local radio station through email and did so anonymously.  Today I am sharing this story to all of you for two reasons:

1 ~ Be open to the Holy Spirit in your own life!  As we become more aware of his promptings, we are able to walk in obedience more easily!

2 ~ It’s the holiday season – be careful out there!  It is cold, people are desperate, and will do desperate things!  I pray protection over each one of you as you go about your days!

Here is the story {as emailed to the radio station}:

Not the actual man - but one just like him!

Today, I was shopping at Costco with my 18yo son and 3 of my little ones.  We were parked right at the front door 4 spaces from the carts.  As we were leaving, my son was pushing my daughter in the cart ahead of me with my other daughter right next to them.  I was lagging by about 20 feet as I had my 20 mo old on my back and am pregnant. 

As my son was approaching our van, I heard him say, "Hey Man!  Give me a break!" while looking towards the driver's side of the vehicle. 

I said, "What’s going on?" 

He said, "These guys are siphoning our gas!" 

By then I was to the vehicle...I stood right in front of their car and slammed my hands on the hood and called the man a foul name.  I told my son to call the police and was prepared to stand my ground so that they couldn't leave.  That is right when the Holy Spirit took over in me...I said, "Why would you do something like that?" 
To which the man answered, "I'm just trying to get home.  I live in Seattle and I'm out of gas." 
I then responded, "Do you need money?" 

And he said, "Yes!" 

I told my son to hold on a minute as he had not yet called the police. 

I approached the driver of the car... as I approached; I noticed a passenger on the other side, and another passenger lying down in the back. 

I said, “I’m sorry I called you (that name).  But, why would you do that?  You don't know my circumstances, you don't know if I'm not on my last bit of gas.  Why didn't you just ask somebody for money?" 

He said he didn't know, it didn't feel right to him. 

So I said, “Hold on a minute, I'm going to give you some money.” 

I grabbed $20 {a rare occurrence for me to have cash} out of my wallet, and headed back to him.  As I squatted down next to him, he said, "I can't take your money." 

So I asked him if he knew Jesus Christ. 

He said, "Yeah, kind of." 

I said, "Well, you are obviously not walking with him right now.  But I want you to know that He doesn't care if you are stealing gas, or lying, or doing drugs, or what you are doing, if you are willing to turn from your ways and admit you're on the wrong path, He wants to rescue you!" 

I apologized another time for calling him (that name), and he apologized to me for stealing my gas.   

I said, "I know that I look like a middle class woman with everything going for her right now, but you need to know that I had a baby at 17, did my share of drugs and alcohol and was completely down and out, but Christ changed all of that for me, and he will do it for you.  So when you are in that place where you find yourself with nowhere to go and nothing to eat and totally strung out and your thinking, "what the heck did I do with my life", I want you to remember the face of this woman who you were stealing gas from that gave you 20 bucks, and told you about Jesus and cry out to Him because He will rescue you from that place." 

He again said, "I can't take your money and I'm sorry for stealing your gas." 

I handed him the money and said, "I would give you more, but this is all I have.  I want you to have it, because this is what Christ would do for you!" 

He asked me if I was sure and I told him that yes, because Christ loved him and wanted me to give him the money. He apologized again, and left.

Two things struck me:

The passenger next to him dropped his chin to his chest when I mentioned Jesus, and looked up and looked me straight in the eye when said, "I want you to remember the face of this woman..."

I'm praying for those three young men...even as I was on my way home, that if I didn't do the right thing, if they were meant to be in jail, then God would allow something else to happen so that they would be pulled over. 

Please join me as I pray for those men, they are someone's sons, and Christ loves them too...they may end up doing mighty things for His kingdom one day, remembering a face that hopefully reflected the true heart of Christ!

All Glory to God!

Photo: "Running Out of Time"  by Tom Stone Art