November 26, 2014

Snowmen and Warm Hearts In the Kitchen

As promised we had our first snow day today.  Thanksgiving preparations had to be put on hold for snowman building. 
 Samuel built Walle.
 And Aedan's Fashionista

 Our own little snowman
 Time out to shovel the neighbor's drive
And then we warmed up in the kitchen while we prepared dishes for our party tomorrow.  25 guests equal 2 turkeys.
 Pies... pies and more pies.  All in all we have 4 pies and a pumpkin cheesecake.
 Nathaniel's cherry pie is my all time favorite... just the right tart and sweet with a touch of almond.
 Aedan learned how to make stuffed mushrooms this year.
 Emma's Rosemary Pear pie with cheese crust and Samuel's green bean casserole
 Carmella helped with a new recipe I am looking forward to tasting.  Anyone been trying out Harissa this fall?
Once everyone was warm and toasty and the sledding hill had sufficient time to ice over, it was back outdoors to hit the hill. 
Carmella built Olaf, of course.  A very tiny Olaf.  Emma decided Disney should have thought twice before giving a snowman legs because she says it is impossible to get a snowman to balance a snowman on two little snowballs. 

Are you cooking tonight?  Sledding?  Out of town visiting family? How are you unwinding and getting ready for a weekend of celebrating?

November 25, 2014

Pumpkin Outfits

I love finding special seasonal outfits for my youngers.  I fell in love with these when I saw them.  We took the girls outside for a photo shoot on one of our amazing autumn days... like a month ago.  But I never have had time to actually upload them.  The girls have since moved on to their turkey outfits (and actually Elisabeth was wearing her Christmas outfit today).  I want to get these up before the Christmas decorations go up next week. 
These two girls are so very precious.  They used to look like opposites with Elisabeth being all about blond and fair skin and Carmella being brunette and olive skin.  This last year Elisabeth has gotten so much darker and Carmella has lightened up.  The result is they look a lot more alike these days.    
 Their personalities are still very different, though.  Elisabeth is the MOST outgoing and chatty person.  Carmella is so shy and reserved.  We have been working with our Winnie girl for so long to get her over that bad attitude.  We have had a breakthrough in recent months and it is so rewarding to see her cheerfully greeting people.  She cracked us up the other day.  Every time Addison's therapists come we ask Carmella to say hello to them.  And this has been a big problem for our girl.  But the last few times Addison's physical therapist has come Carmella said hello and had a little conversation with Miss Trudy.   Which, Miss Trudy almost fainted.  Last week when Miss Trudy came Carmella said, "I am going to say hello to Miss Trudy today."  We praised her for being so proactive.  Later she asked, "Why don't big girls have to say hi?" 
 These two girls are so inseparable.  I love to see them together.  If Ellie says something, Carmella will say the same exact thing the same exact way right after.  And whatever Elisabeth is doing, Carmella will do.  Now that Ellie is in school, Carmella must do school.  And if she isn't doing school she is asking if Elisabeth can play with her instead of doing school work.  Carmella wants to be with Elisabeth so much she hasn't even slept in her own bed for more than a year because she always wants to sleep in Elisabeth's room. 
 In other news, we had a beautiful fall with many great outdoor days and all the beauty of autumn colors on the East coast.  A big wind the other day took the last of the leaves off the trees. 

The weather continues to be crazy.  Yesterday, we stacked a load of firewood, while working on our Thanksgiving preparations.  That is nothing to speak of.  Except, we had to put a sun hat on the baby and we wore short sleeves and bare feet because it was almost 80 degrees.  The local radio station was playing Christmas music.  It is an odd day that we prep turkey while the kids play in the yard and a spring like breeze blows through the house.  I imagine that must be what it is like living in California.  I don't think I would like to do that regularly.  

Oh, and I almost forgot.  When we were done with that stack of firewood the boys cut back the sledding hill.  That's right, our first snow is due to arrive tomorrow with the sunrise.  Go figure.
What about you?  How are your Thanksgiving preparations coming?  Are your plans being rearranged by an early snow fall? 

November 22, 2014


October has come and gone and November is more than half done.  Yet, I would count myself remiss if I didn't post some fall happenings before Thanksgiving arrives and with it the change of seasons and Christmas holiday.  After the local radio station starts playing Christmas music Autumn quickly becomes a thing of the past and all we love about it fades into the background until next October. 
You can tell the season by the coffee we are brewing up.  Autumn is all about Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Caramel Macchiato.
After months of waiting Samuel was delighted to harvest his Moon and Stars Watermelon.
 With Prednisone a thing of the past, Addison is back in full scale therapy three hours a day.  Carmella makes certain every doll in the house has mouth therapy right alongside of him.
 And speaking of dolls... I love listening to these two play dolls.  There are moments I look at them and think... my life is so PINK!
 On Wednesdays the big kids spend several hours at music lessons and band practice.  This leaves me and my youngers to have some special time together.  It always involves a tea party.  Elisabeth and Carmella like to make up the tray and serve.  Addison gets his very own (yes pink) cup.
 On one particularly rainy Wednesday we made popcorn and watched a video.  I think Carmella must have taken this picture because she was the only other one there who isn't in the photo. 
For the last four years, we have taken a day trip to Lancaster to the Sight and Sound theater.  It has become something we really look forward to.  This year Moses was playing.  Every time we see a show we say, "That's my favorite." 
 This was no exception.  A wonderful depiction of the Bible.  I love how the writers show how Christ present in each part of the Bible.
 Well, just because.  Addison looked like a big boy sitting in his high chair when we stopped for dinner on the way home.
 October brought the first day of school.  Some of my kiddos retrieved the only apple the chickens didn't eat off our tree to bless me on our first day of school. 
 With the fall, comes the close of the pool season and the return of Friday night pizza and video.  No one makes better pizza than my girls.  We have been experimenting with pumpkin pizza this fall.  Don't knock it until you've tried it.  We are hooked.
 The kids hatched a couple dozen chicks this summer.  They named them all after Kings and Queens of England.  To simplify it for me the black ones are all George and the white ones are Mary, Elizabeth and Anne Gloria.  We had one that was different from all the others and turned out to be a rooster.  He is King Henry.  Allen doesn't want a rooster so Henry has gone to live with a friend of ours. 

And speaking of chickens... the boys continue to work on their chicken coop and tractor shed.  They have worked so hard all summer and fall.  Allen is there with them but he is more directing so the boys can add to the skills they've been building all these years.  It is his hope that (should we ever get settled with a contractor) they will be able to do a lot of work on the house during the renovation and addition project.  

In this project they have learned framing, installed windows, done roofing, siding and mixed and poured concrete.  Now it is a race against the weather before snow sets in and puts the project on hold until next spring. 

And speaking of weather, we have had a year of crazy weather and this fall has been no exception.  Last Tuesday it was nearly 80 degrees.  We had a picnic for lunch.  Two days later we saw a day of freezing rain and snow flurries that never got above freezing.  With the leaves off the trees and the wood stove going full tilt and we are looking forward to some snow.  Although, I hear it is predicted to be in the 70s on Monday. 

What about you?  Are you missing summer, enjoying Autumn or looking forward to winter arriving soon?

November 18, 2014

Giveaway | Rescue by Candy Gibbs

It sounded old when my parents said it.  It sounds old when I say it.  But it's still true.  The world is a different place than when I was growing up.  It is a harder, colder and more dangerous environment.  The challenges of raising our children, particularly young adults, in this caustic culture can often seem overwhelming and insurmountable.  But it doesn't have to be.

Everyone, even Christian parents, assume there must be trials, conflict, rebellion and drama through the teen years.  Most anyone will tell you it is not a job for the weak and if we merely survive it then we should count ourselves lucky.  But I disagree.  With two grown children and two teenagers in the family, I am here to tell you this is not inevitable stage of child rearing.  With the right foundation and some good tools this season in our parenthood need not be a war zone and in fact can be a time of great blessing. 

Allen and I have safely seen two of our children through the teen years and have two more there right now.  Our teen years have been full of fun and laughter as we purpose to tie heartstrings with our young adults whom we count as our very best friends.  Granted we have a few more kids to get to the other side... and there is no telling what might happen between now and then...  Just the same, because our adult children equal the total number of kids in most families... and because I spend countless hours counseling parents on these issues...  I feel  I can speak with a little bit of authority.  To date, we have never faced any of what is considered "normal" or "typical" teenage behavior.  We have skipped the drama, hysterics, rebellion, mouthy attitude, eye rolling, etc.  In fact, we have managed to get our kids to adulthood without any scars on either side.  Indeed, we count both our grown daughters as well adjusted, happy adults who spend their lives fully committed to serving the Lord and ministering to those around them.  They are in high demand as workers, babysitters, mentors and friends.  This makes me think others agree with our assessment. 

How did that happen?  Well, it wasn't by accident!

I get so annoyed when people meet our kids and say, "You are so lucky you got good kids."  There is no luck to it.  My kids are imperfect sinners just like your kids.  Another annoying statement is, "You must be saints to raise such good kids."  Wrong again.  Allen and I are sinners just like the rest of the parents out there.  And yet another popular comment, "Well, God sure blessed you."  Well, that's true.  He has blessed us immensely.   But guess what, he's blessed us all who have a child to raise for His glory.  We didn't get an extra helping of blessing that happens to make our kids better than any other children. 

Nope, there is nothing amazing or special or particularly blessed about us, our kids or our family that makes our young people turn out the way they do.  The magic is in the fact that we decided early on, as God entrusted these children to us, we would fully and completely dedicate our lives to raising them.  We were certain we would not allow the schools or government to do the job for us.  Nor would we would hand the baton off to the church, babysitters or anyone other than ourselves.  We asserted we would not let any of our authority or responsibility be usurped by individual or any organization. 

We knew it was the two of us who would be completely and fully held accountable for whatever became of these lives and as such we set out to intentionally raise them for the Lord.  We made decisions about what our life would look like.  And we never accepted what anyone said would or should happen.  We never believed that anything had to look any one way or that any behavior or outcome was normal or inevitable outside of what the Lord has laid out in His word. 

We never wanted adult children who were mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious and therefor my toddlers were not permitted to be mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious.  And because my young children were not allowed to behave in such ways and I don't believe well adjusted adults behave in such ways we certainly did not accept the idea that all of a sudden our children would start carrying on in such ways simply because they entered the "teen" years. 

We didn't want adult children who couldn't hold a job therefore we started teaching our children to work, and to love work and to love responsibility and take it seriously from the time they could crawl.  Since that was expected of our preschoolers and that's what we hoped for our children when they are adults we didn't accept socks lying on the floor or chores left undone in the teen years simply because some worldly expectation said it was "normal" for teenagers to behave in such ways.

That's intentional parenting.

Add to that well established lines of communication and by the time our children were faced with the time of transitioning from a parent's authority to independence and autonomy the hard part was already done. 

An important key to intentional parenting in this very difficult environment is to have your tool box stocked leave no move or decision to chance.  No!  Parenting is not a task which should be undertaken by the seat of your pants.  But rather with a humble spirit, a prayerful heart and a plan in hand. 

For those who  are looking for a good resource to help create a plan or make some of these hard decisions I am thrilled to introduce a new book by Candy Gibbs, Executive Director of a major Crisis Pregnancy Center in Amarillo, TX called CareNet Pregnancy Center. She has an amazing story of redemption.


In Rescue Raising Teens in a Drowning Culture, Mrs. Gibbs shares much hard earned insight gained from her own trials, helping her children through some hard times and from her work with families and young adults.  Candy uses the analogy of a Coast Guard Rescue swimmer to depict the tumultuous culture, our drowning young people and the parents who are trying to rescue them.
Together with a team of young adults the author addresses some of the toughest issues facing young people today from dating, drugs and homosexuality to abortion and higher education.  On every page you will find personal accounts and concrete suggestions to help parents win the hearts of their teens and help them safely through the difficult decisions and transitions which come with the journey into adulthood.  For those who have fallen into hard times there is good information to help your child through the consequences of bad decisions to rise victorious in a society that seeks to destroy.

Some of my favorite points in Rescue was when Candy was sharing about the importance of communication.  I feel as if most people are missing the boat when it comes to communication and all kinds of relationships are hurting because of it.  In no other relationship is communication more important than when trying to reach and guide the hearts of our young people.  Mrs. Gibbs says,

"Communication isn't easy... Yet, communicating in any circumstance-having the nerve to stand face to face with another and take time out of our busy lives to address what is going on in this relationship, says, 'I love you enough.  You matter to me.' "   

I had a big old aha moment on the topic of homosexuality and the Christian.  Even though I believe this is a choice people make, not just the way God creates people, it is still something that must be addressed by Christians.    Candy offered the perspective that all Christians are called to sexual purity.  In it's simplest form that means not having sexual relations outside of the guidelines God has laid out for marriage.  To the heterosexual that means we do not have sex if we choose to remain single.  For the homosexual that means since God has defined marriage as one man and one woman they can not be married and therefore must choose a life of abstinence.

Candy Gibbs
One more area I found delightful and which I believe can be helpful to many parents was creative ways to communicate with our young people.  Top on the list was inviting your teen to have nachos at 2 am and taking turns writing to each other in a journal.  This were ideas I could really relate to.  Allen and I have often shared how we never missed a night's sleep with our newborns.  They were always trained to sleep through the night from day one.  However, since our kids entered the teen years we never get any sleep.  It's not, as many parents share, because they are out until all hours of the night.  Nor is it because we are up arguing or worrying over what trouble our kids are into.  It is simply this, they want to talk.  And usually about the time we are ready to go to sleep.  And they want to hang out with us.  Which we LOVE.  But that means sacrificing a lot of sleep.  And, that typically means some kind of junk food.  Because our three oldest are young ladies this time in our house is called girl time.  Only now some of our young guys want in on the deal.   And Addison is usually there.  I imagine we will have to come up with a new name soon.     It is not uncommon for me or one of the kids to get an email or text from other young people saying they wished they were at our house for girl time tonight or asking what we are eating for girl time.  Parents, your kids want and need this time as much as you do.  Make it happen.

You can check out Candy's blog and ministry at her blog.  And you can buy Rescue at Amazon

Thanks to Candy Gibbs and Brigette at the Fedd Agency for giving me an opportunity to review Rescue.  The publisher has given me an extra copy to offer to my readers.  If you would like a chance to win Rescue leave a comment with some thoughts on raising young people.  Advice from your parents, advice from raising your own young people, a trial you have faced, maybe some thoughts on what you think is the greatest difficulty you will face when your children reach the teen years, or an anecdote from your teen years or when your kids were teenagers.  Drawing will be Friday November 21st. 

November 17, 2014

10 Gifts for Down Syndrome Advocacy

When we found out Addison had Down Syndrome it was very important for us to hear some positive feedback.  In our search for support we came to know and love a wonderful group of people who form the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Network.  In September F.R.I.E.N.D.S. hosts a Buddy Walk which raises money for everything from medical care for people with Down Syndrome to college scholarships for people with DS and those who have dedicated their lives to working with people who have special needs.  This event always takes place during our family vacation so we were not able to participate last year and we did not think we could participate this September.  We wanted to find a way to be part of this great event to celebrate the special way God creates us all.

As part of the event people assembled baskets to be raffled off.  We tossed around lots of ideas... coffee, tea, movie night... just to name a few.  What we actually ended up settling on started out as an advocacy basket.  We were going to fill it with items which promoted Down Syndrome Awareness... A T21 coffee mug, t-shirt, book...  But as we started to put it together we found a world of products made by people who have T21... pottery... stationary... art work.  And a world of products made by the caregivers of people with Down Syndrome for a plethora of reasons.... to raise money for their care... to create a business for their future... or to promote awareness. 

We quickly realized this was the ultimate in advocacy and awareness... this was proof positive that people with Down Syndrome not only can but are doing lots of useful, valuable and gainful, self supporting and meaningful things with their lives.  We renamed our basket, Possibilities...  A basket that shared just a sampling of the future possibilities for Addison, and all those who have Trisomy 21. 

As we embark of the Christmas season and searching for that perfect gift, please consider checking out 10 Gifts for Down Syndrome Advocacy.

1. Furnace Hill Coffee
I love this place! Coffee doing amazing things? Yes, please! Not only is their vision " employ developmentally disabled people in jobs while competitive jobs while providing high quality product that keeps customers coming back." [from their website] they also feature special blends of coffee for The Buddy Walk and The Arc, proceeds from which go to support those organizations. Learn more about their mission and the work they are doing on their website:

2. Christian Royal Pottery
Christian Royal is such a talented young man! Based in Charleston, Christian designs and sells the most beautiful pottery. The details are just amazing. Christian also has Down Syndrome.  From their website: "The stoneware incorporates the natural splendor of leaves or the artistry of beautiful laces, which are shaped into flowing designs and functional forms. The making of stoneware involves numerous steps over several days. Each piece involves Christian and his assistants in a collaborative effort, following many sequential steps. While some of the pieces may be similar, none are identical due to the process. Handcrafting produces variations in size, shape, color saturation, depth of impression, and minor imperfections that give each piece part of its appeal. Thus, the studio adage: Stoneware With The Charm of Things Imperfect and Simple." Visit to learn more.


For the next six days Christian Royal Pottery is hosting an project kickoff on Kickstarter. Head to their page to back and get involved in this amazing enterprise (with beautiful rewards for pledges 18+).

3. Sweet Sycamore
Jill Taylor is the mother of a sweet girl with Down Syndrome. Based in Richmond, Jill designs beautiful prints she sells on Etsy, such as this print inspired by her daughter. Visit Jill's Etsy shop, Sweet Sycamore.

4. Mt. Lebanon Soap Company
These soaps and so beautiful and even more beautiful is the story behind the creation of Mt. Lebanon Soap Company.  In 2010 Erin and Chris Csernica combined their professions of chemical engineer and massage therapist to create soaps to sell as wedding favors. In 2011 their first daughter was born with Down Syndrome. They decided to put all the profits they make into a special trust fund for her future and hope one day she will share this budding business with them. Find Mt. Lebanon Soap Company on Etsy.

5. KK Glass Art
From their website: "Kelderman Klassy Glass is a new microenterprise of Kailin Kelderman's family in Reno, NV. KK is 15 years old and has Down syndrome. All of her life she has been fully included in her community, attending school with her sister, Eilish, who is 13. We have always had high expectations for both of our daughters. Both KK and Eilish are enrolled in the Nevada Pre-Paid College Tuition program, so their college educations were paid for when they were young and we expect them both to go to college. This microenterprise began when Mary, Kailin's mom, took a class in glass fusion...She enjoyed it, took a few more classes, and started to see some potential for a future business. Kailin has always been very creative with color, but not so great at precision, and with glass fusion, there is the opportunity to create beautiful pieces of jewelry without the need to be extremely precise. Kailin has already created many beautiful glass pendants. We are hoping her interest will continue to grow and that this will eventually become an income-producing business for her. Currently, all family members are working on the new business and enjoying creating art together. Kailin continues to create, while Mary and Bill handle the glass cutting, drilling and wire wrapping. Our first showing of jewelry was at the 2009 - 2010 National Down Syndrome Congress' national conference in Sacramento. We sold a lot of jewelry and had a great time! Since then, we've done a few craft shows and are starting to market the jewelry in local Reno stores. Money from the microenterprise goes into savings accounts for the girls and reinvestment in the business."
Visit to learn more.

6. Stampin' Off the Path 
I love this "Keep Calm It's Only and Extra Chromosome" key chain from Stampin' Off the Path. Carissa, the mastermind behind this Etsy shop, is aunt to a sweet girl with Down Syndrome and made a bunch of these last year for her Buddy Walk. Find at Stampin' Off the Path's Etsy store.

7. The Henry Owl Initiative
From their website: "In 2012, [my big sis!] Kaitlin Wachter designed a plush owl for her yet-to-be-born baby brother, nicknamed “Henry”. A friend saw the owl and loved it so much she asked Kaitlin to create another owl for a friend adopting a son from China. Shortly after, the owls were added to A Stitch In Lives' inventory and from there the Henry Owl Initiative was born. Henry was born on April 28, 2013. Within hours of his birth he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Shortly after receiving his diagnosis Kaitlin decided to donate over 50% of the proceeds from Henry Owl sales to support Down Syndrome Awareness. During a promotion from September 1 to December 3, 2013 over 140 Henry Owls were sold. A Stitch In Lives donated more than $1,000 to F.R.I.E.N.D.S., a Down Syndrome Advocacy group based in Frederick, Maryland. The Henry Owl continues to be A Stitch In Lives’ best selling product. We are proud of our owls and what they are doing to educate and inspire the Down Syndrome community and the world."
Visit for more info or find your owl at A Stitch In Lives

8.  Beauty In The 21st
Christina is a dear friend of my family and mommy to Madison, a brave little girl with Down Syndrome. At her Etsy store, Beauty In The 21st, she sells the cutest headbands and necklaces, including this headband and this necklace in the blue and yellow Down Syndrome awareness colors.
Visit Beauty In The 21st on Etsy!

9. Inspire 2 Aspire
Todd says on his website: "Inspires2Aspire, wants to inspire others, including individuals with disabilities and their families by seeing that they can do great things. This site exists because people like you helped me to achieve my goals even though the odds were against me. Many people inspired me to work hard at whatever I did and to never give up. I learned to believe in myself and others. Living my life has its challenges, but it's also a lot of fun! That's why my company Inspires2aspire. You can make a difference in someone's life by offering encouraging words, but sometimes the words don't come easily. Let us help. My cards are about my life and experiences. I hope they inspire others to take a chance and try new adventures."
Visit Inspire 2 Aspire's Store to check out their posters and notecards.

10. Miss Katie's Kreations
From their website: "Miss Katie Henderson is an internationally recognized artist who happens to have Down Syndrome. She grew up in Lake Ridge, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC and moved to Florida with her family in 2004. She used fashion design books to teach herself how to draw posing models...She practiced for several years before discovering her own technique. While sitting at the kitchen table, Miss Katie said to her dad – “Hey, Pops - Why don’t you be an entrepreneur and give me some money so I can start my own business.” Miss Katie’s Kreations was established in August 2011...Miss Katie has exhibited her work in both public and private galleries, juried fine art shows and events in Florida, Indiana, Texas, Washington, DC and Colorado. Miss Katie's original drawings and/or giclees have been purchased throughout the United States including 33 states and the District of Columbia. Miss Katie gained an international following with her works being sold in four countries - Mexico, Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa. In December 2012, "Marie Claire - South Africa" featured Miss Katie in their article - "Eye on the World - Florida Boundless Ambition - The Success of a 30-year Old Artist and Designer is Changing The Way We Look at Fashion." Her story has been featured on blogs, and in on-line fashion magazines around the world including Australia, Poland, Japan, Greece, Mexico, and Russia. In March 2013, Miss Katie exhibited her art in the Rotunda of the Florida Capitol." And if that wasn't  impressive enough, Miss Katie has done amazing work for Down Syndrome advocacy, including raising $2,200 for ARC and $1,500 for The Special Olympics. You go, girl!
 To view and purchase Miss Katie's artwork visit

And as a bonus...

11. Amazon Smile
If none of these gifts catch your fancy, no problems! You can still support Down Syndrome advocacy this Christmas by going to and choosing F.R.I.E.N.D.S. of Frederick as your charity. Amazon has pretty much any gift you could want and they will donate a portion of every purchase through to F.R.I.E.N.D.S.!

November 4, 2014

Fall Styling

It is something like 80 degrees here today so it kind of feels like summer.  But with red, gold and orange leaves covering the ground it sure looks like autumn.  Other signs of a great season?  The magazine covers.
 And my annual dish of candy corn and pumpkins on the coffee table.  What exactly makes these things taste so delicious?
 A basket of apples
And a seasonal porch display
 Complete with mums
And an array of pumpkins.  Gee, wondering who made these ones?  Yes, Carmella and Elisabeth.
 I love seeing all the kids varying personalities come out in their different talents and interests.  Nathaniel's love for his peanuts and music
 Aedan's argyle
 Brianna's candy corn
 Emma is all into chevron anything this year
 Samuel's completely randomness of color
 I'm sure this is just what Addison wanted
 And Kaitlin's owl, of course... so glad it wasn't a hedge hog.

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall... F. Scott Fitzgerald