Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Each Christmas we get out the Adorenaments (I guess they don't sell them anymore because I certainly didn't pay 92.00 for them!)  and the two week leading up to Christmas we learn about the names for Jesus. Then we put the special ornament on the special Jesse tree. The kids had fun reciting them this year! First Gabe: Then Drew:

A Fresh Beginning

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28-29

It is almost 2012, a new start to a fresh new year. As Anne Shirley would say, " A new (year) without any mistakes."  The hustle and bustle of Christmas is over. I must admit,  I am looking forward to a new schedule and a routine to our daily life again. I love the season of food and fun and chaos, but I can only stay there for so long. I miss routine and (forced) early morning rising with a quite morning spent with the Lord. The Christmas season is so much fun yet so exhausting. There are always things to do and I feel that all those things take away from the season instead of add to them. I must admit - I feel that this Christmas was not what I had envisioned for my family. I deeply desire traditions rooted in Christ and instead I just felt so tired that all the traditions were hard to accomplish on my own. My kids loved the stories and devotions and gingerbread house decorating. They loved Christmas morning and all the presents. I just felt that Christ and his meager manger were somehow missed.

So as I look ahead to a new year I am excited. I am excited that our quest to better health is still exciting and fun. I'm looking ahead and want to make more of my own household things, save more money, give more passionately, look more seriously into adoption and dream big dreams for our family. I'm excited to move past the discipline of fasting - which was a very hard thing for me to do. I can sit back and say that I no longer fear the idea of fasting. I can discern the situations when the Lord is asking me to fast about a decision and plan out a 24 or 48 hour period to fast and pray and be silent before the Lord. The second discipline of prayer is one I will continue to work through . I'm currently reading Richard Fosters book on prayer which has helped me to see my entire life as a prayer or conversation with the Lord. 

My goal for 2012 is to put more of God's word into my heart through a more disciplined scripture memory program and to continue developing a more passionate prayer life. I loved slowing down in 2011 and plan to continue that practice. I am still working on contentment and being satisfied with where the Lord has me at this exact moment, the process of counting blessings has helped me immensely with my discontented spirit.  The act of obeying the Lord, walking in humility, and pushing myself to know Him deeper and more intimately is what the Lord requires from me every year - I pray I don't waste the year away and instead rest in the moment of now  - knowing God knows and orchestrated the plans He has for me - not for harming but to bring me a future full of hope.

“In quietness and rest shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Letter 2011



Blessings from the Williams! Last year’s letter left you with a picture of our sick children and our oldest, Drew, flying around his room on the rope swing. This year was spent healthy – thank you Lord! Our kids haven’t changed too much this year; they still manage to make giant messes, won’t sit still for pictures and make me giggle all day long. Our year was spent counting our blessings, thanking the Lord for His provisions and praying for grace as we learn to do life together. Not much has changed as I quote last year’s Christmas letter, “Life with littles is a delight; nothing goes as planned, comic relief just happens and life shoves onward as we try and measure the moments, memories, and minutes ….”

John – John spent the year of 2011 continuing to use his skills as a Special Education teacher with Fort Worth ISD, in a low-income, intercity school.  He enjoys teaching his children non-traditionally through the medium of shop tools and physical workouts and dramatized literature like – My Side of the Mountain & The Hunger Games. John has also enjoyed the challenge to teach his children sign language, since many of his children are hearing impaired and have never been taught ASL. John loves his job and is thrilled with the opportunity God has provided for him to pour into the lives of his students.  God also used this year to show John that his Cerebral Palsy is a story that was written to be shared; John went this summer to Hanoi Vietnam with our church and helped train parents and educators of special needs children. John’s eyes were opened to the many ways he could use his Cerebral Palsy as an avenue to inspire other parents, bringing hope and vision for their children’s future. John’s story of having a disability also opened doors to share how God uses hard things in our lives to draw us to Himself.  He is excited to start preparing for the 2012 summer trip – so be looking for his letter sometime in March or April.

Melissa – 2011 was a wonderful year of resting in God’s purposes – home seemed to be a central theme for the year: homeschooling, working from home, canning, learning to bake bread, gardening, and keeping up with the house. It was a great year of simplicity - resting in the simple pleasure of family life and trying not to feel overwhelmed and instead “giving thanks in all circumstances.” Speaking of family life, one high of our year was a two-week road trip to Breckenridge Colorado. It was our first time traveling as a family of 5; the trip was wonderful, the mountains made us homesick for Oregon! The family enjoyed snow fights, sledding and riding in Uncle David’s monster truck up the big mountain while it hailed! Our trip to Colorado also required some new wheels, so we sold our beloved cramped Jeep and bought a gently used minivan. We have officially moved into the Mini-van phase of life!

Imaginative Drew - is almost 7 years old! I cannot believe how mature and responsible Drew has become this year. Drew is in first grade, he is learning to read and write. His favorite subject is science – he loves to create exploding volcanoes or messy experiments with vinegar and baking soda and dirt! Drew is also obsessed with animals and often is found flying around the house as a bald eagle or barking around on all fours. He also loves to build beaver dams in our living room with pillows and blankets and toys. Yesterday, I found him perched in the downstairs 1/2 bath, sitting in the pedestal sink pretending he was nesting. Drew competes with Gabe for “talk time” and a constant phrase in our house is “...don’t interrupt me!” 
Drew’s big accomplishment was finishing his 1st grade phonics curriculum, which we celebrated with a family trip to the Great Wolf Lodge. Drew is motivated by rewards, so the Great Wolf Lodge was a huge goal he had been working for all year.  

Peacemaker Gabe – Gabe just turned 4 years old, He loves to follow on the heels of his big brother and asks constantly if he can  “do real school” like his brother. Gabe is a sponge~ absorbing and asking questions all day long! Gabe loves to build Lego creations, play hide and go seek, have tea parties with his sister and build giant train tracks under his bunk bed. Gabe may be a timid Nerf sword fighter, but is great at planning surprise attacks on Daddy when he walks in the door from work. Gabe goes to preschool 2 days per week and loves his teachers & friends – though he is quite worried that we will have too much fun at home without him. Gabe is the ideal middle child – always making us smile and laugh, yet in the same breath comforting his little sister with hugs and kisses. Gabe is just a joy to be around, always happy and singing and dancing, he loves to make up songs and may be the one child who shows interested in mommy’s ¼ Violin in the closet! She is so excited to give one of them lessons.

Joyful Abby - is going to be 2 years old! She looks so small that most people believe she is turning 1. She is a joy and her constant jabbering fills our home. Abby spent the year learning how to walk and talk and keep up with her brothers. We discovered Abby is allergic to some dairy and eggs, which once removed left her healthy and able to go months without being sick!  The doctor doesn’t have us on speed dial anymore! Abby is all girl, she loves to wear hats and bows and changes shoes many times each day. She loves her little purses and baby dolls. She is determined though, to keep up with her brothers and loves to be in the middle of all their Nerf wars. Abby’s smiles will light up a room and are so contagious, especially when being tickled by her older brother Drew or being chased by her older brother Gabe.

This year brought many struggles, but resting in Jesus and clinging to His promises left us realizing that God only gives us good gifts. One book that God used to change us this year was Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. This book changed our family’s  perspective on trials and challenged us (mainly mommy) to write down our own journey to One Thousand gifts. It was a fun family activity counting gifts as we drove down the road, or while we ate dinner at night. You can read our One Thousand blessings at our blog listed above. It is a journey we  will continue to walk - Eucharasteo  - forced our family to take delight in all the missed moments, bad attitudes, hard questions of each day and stop ~ to give thanks.

"Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle."
~ A. Voskamp ~

Blessings,
John, Melissa. Drew, Gabe & Abby
Williams




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Love Hate Relationship with Christmas

 Don't get me wrong here - I love Christmas in all its purity and wholeness.  I love the Bible and the telling of Jesus sacrifice to come to earth and save us from our sins. I love the pure baby in the manger and the virgin birth. What I despise about Christmas is how to actually keep the joy of Christmas in our home. We celebrate the coming of Christ - Advent - with daily bible readings and fun little skits. We bake cooking and play special Christmas music. But, somewhere in there the stress of extra work, making great memories, entitled children and a never ending to do list makes me dread this season.
 I love Christmas morning and the sweet fellowship with friends. I love the break  from routine, having the Daddy home for two weeks and sharing warm cocoa and singing Christmas carols. But, the truth behind the pictures is that my kids, I'm sure no one elses, grow to expect presents and relaxation and fun every minute. My kids will turn a wonderful Christmas tradition of Christmas book reading before bed into the dreaded nightly activity. They argue and it seems the closer to Christmas we get the worse their behavior gets. We have fun things planned, like Christmas shopping together or a  visit to Santa -- ruined by behavior they haven't exhibited in years!
 I struggle with Christmas - the battle of training and working with my kids, verses the spontaneous fun that seems lately to produce whiny children who forget to say "please" and have random strangers at stores asking them what they want Santa to bring them. Ugh! Please stop asking my kids what they want. Seriously, they want whatever they see at that moment.  I  don't have my kids make wish lists, or ask them what they want for Christmas - ssh - I recycle all toy catalogs before my kids see them. If I don't there will sure be a case of the "gimmes"  in our house.
 I am struggling - how to I keep Christ in Christmas? How do I teach my children to be like Jesus and be a servant to all?  If my kids behavior over the last few days is any indication, then they won't have much under our tree. What has happened to my sweet children - they aren't like this all the time, in fact they haven't ever been this naughty. I feel like instead of having fun, I'm using all these teachable moments to train and re-train hearts that are determined to receive instead of give. Even a simple act of cleaning the bathroom to earn a little extra money so we can give a gift to our Compassion child Samara, turns into a 2 hour battle. A simple request of "please go clean your room" turns into a massive fit of rage when caught goofing off for the 10th time.
So, it is a mere 5 days before Christmas, the presents were wrapped  - then Abby unwrapped them. The candy is made - but I can't eat any. The shopping day was planned - then mommy caught a child lying about something they had stolen and instead, the day was spent at home, writing a letter of apology (3 hours long - it shouldn't have taken that long!) and then taking the stolen object back to church and confessing "said child's" sins to the Children's pastor.

So as you think of us - please pray for us! We have company coming for almost the next month and my kids are at their worst. God, please send this mommy some brilliant ideas that will reach the hearts of my children --- fast!

PS - on a more positive note, I found John the best Christmas gift ever. This is one he will forever remember and absolutely love!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How we manage through RSV and colds...

Our sweet little Abby came down with a cold last week, it has lingered and gotten worse in the last three  days which makes me thinks is the dreaded RSV. Last night she was coughing and coughing, finally around 11 am I went in and picked up her sleepy body and took her into a steam bath. It was wonderful, for 30 minutes she lay asleep on my shoulder while the water and steam soother her lungs. Then, I had John get her car seat out and I put her to sleep upright so she could breath. That did the trick, no more coughing! I also have her humidifier with a few drops of Eucalyptus inhalant going in her room. The eucalyptus inhalant is used medicinally to break up mucus and aids as a fever  reducer and fights against bacterial and fungus.

Today was Sunday, John took the boys to church and I stayed home to play nurse. Abby slept until 10 am. then we had a girls morning of hair straightening, bow changing and finger nail painting. Abby loved the pampering - so much that she let me put salt water down her nose and suction out all her snot. Poor baby! She never fussed,  so  I think she was just thrilled to be able to breath from her nose. So far her O2 stats are holding strong and she is breathing well. I've not succumbed to any steroids and I am so thankful she is  doing so well. I'll run and  grab her some raw goat milk tomorrow to help boost her immune system with some extra vitamins.

Tonight Abby is once again asleep in her car seat and hasn't coughed once! Here is hoping and praying for a  great nights sleep

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blanket Time

School Break is upon us, but I thought I'd post this picture of Abby on Blanket Time. I love blanket time, all three of my kids have learned this wonderful skill. I love the fact that I can put my toddler in one place and (after they are trained) not have anything destroyed or ruined when  I get back. I use this wonderful little trick during the afternoon when I am trying to work with Drew on his math or spelling. It gives me about 30 minutes of breathing time before I move us on the the next activity.

One added benefit to this wonderful little lesson is that children, who aren't prone to slowing down (all 3 of mine) will have to creatively figure out how to play. Abby doesn't like to play alone - she has  two brothers why should she need that skill? I've noticed as the months have gone on that her play has become more directed at a specific purpose - like stacking blocks or lining up animals. It is quite fun to watch her play! Normally, she is following her brothers around, eating at the table or getting into mischief trying to do what brothers do - like color or play Lego's. It is nice to see her using her own imagination to create play!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Cookie Time

Today we baked 3 dozen Christmas cookies from scratch, for John to take to his class and decorate. We made icing and brought out the sprinkles, cookie cutters and food coloring. The kids had a blast, I'm exhausted and looking forward to some quiet from the Christmas music and the children who were wired up on sugar all evening! We had a glorious time talking about the kids who would be blessed by our gifts. Each of my kids were given one cookie and the rest are off to bless Daddy's school. The kids were so excited to send them along to kids who probably don't have a home life where they can enjoy cooking and singing and decorating. It was a great afternoon of  serving and baking and praying for the children and staff at John school who will enjoy our laborious cookie baking afternoon.

I think the kids faces tell the whole story! I just love these kids!















Brilliant Mind

Photo Courtesy of the wonderful Mrs. Kelly who took the kids to the Science Museum.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coupon Queen Drop Out

So, many places I go I'm known as the coupon queen. I've saved our family a ton of money using coupons and shopping sales. I always thought cheaper is better - at least when it pertained to groceries. I loved getting great deals and shopping for my family with only a 350.00 grocery allowance each month. It was a challenge for me and I loved it.

These days, I guess you could say I'm singing a different tune. After looking over our crazy medical budget last January, my son breaking out in hives from an allergic reaction to his Asthma medication, my daughter's incessant vomiting, ear infections and runny nose, I began to question why my kids were so darn sick all the time. The final push that  caused the pendulum to shift was when they talked about my daughter getting tubes for her constant ear infections. Two pediatrician blamed all their problems on the fact that  I had 3 kids, they just passed germs all around, they also said it was their premature births and their immune system just being more "sensitive." Their Asthma was caused by their genes and allergies and giving them steroids each Fall and Winter was my only solution. I was spending upwards of 200 per month on out of pocket medications and Dr. visits.

So, back in January 2011,  I went to a new chiropractor for my ever irritating neck pain and he mentioned being able to help Abby through her colds and allergies. I was thrilled for another way - chiropractic care & Acupuncture. As she would become sick we'd try natural methods of getting her healthy, I bought some herbs that helped with virus' and digestion issues. Last January Abby was a total mess - ear infections, digestion issues, vomiting 2-3 times per week for no apparent reason, runny nose, pale skin, and RSV most of the Fall/Winter months.

So, as the year progress I began doing tons of research on natural remedies. We did seem to spend a lot of time at the Dr. though after her 1 year old checkup where she received more shots. I'd been telling the Dr. that the shots seemed to set off a pattern of constant sickness and vomiting and runny noses, but I was told it wasn't related. I knew better! It wasn't until that July that I discovered that she was allergic to eggs - we eat a ton of hard boiled eggs so this was huge. Once the eggs were removed from her diet she stopped vomiting! Many of the vaccines she received had eggs in them, which is why she would get so sick after shots.

By August my husband and I sat down and totally revamped what we were feeding out kids. I was totally clueless to a lot of food issues like - genetically modified foods, high fructose corn syrup in yogurt, whole grain cereal having 50% sugar when broken down and having the health equivalent of a twinky. I thought I was feeding my kids healthy - compared to most standards I was, however when I started to look at everything I discovered how wrong I was - yogurt with tons of high fructose corn syrup, oatmeal with tons of sugar and refined oats, I found a ton of things in my fridge that shocked me when I looked at their labels.

So the last 6 months have not been about seeing how cheap I could get groceries at the store. In fact, 50% of our medical budget moved over to the grocery budget. I still use my savvy deals to buy good foods, but my focus isn't on how little I can pay but instead how healthy I can shop. I'm ordering food more from farms instead of grocery stores, which actually saves us some money. In this whole process we also discovered two of our kids are lactose intolerant, which means that the homogenized store milk makes them sick. I found a  great farm that delivers low temp, non homogenized milk to a drop off near my house and I pick up the milk each Thursday. The cost is just a little more than organic milk (7.00 per gallon). I've discovered that giving my kids raw goat milk when the change in season occur, or when cold and flu season is starting,  helps build up their immune systems so they don't get sick as often.

This Fall is almost over and we have yet to visit the pediatrician! Gabe was on steroids for 1 week when we went to Austin at the beginning of September. but other than that he has been off all prescribed Asthma medications. His late night, early morning coughing spells have even dissapeared. Abby most certainly has proven that a natural approach works for her - she hasn't had an ear infection since June which we treated at home without antibiotics, she no longer vomits, has a runny nose and is also off all asthma medications. She hasn't had steroids since our trip to Breckenridge  Colorado in June which appeared to be due to high  elevation and elevation sickness.

Today I'm singing a new tune, I'm embracing making a lot of my own foods and eliminating much of the middle part of the  grocery store. We still love a good Hansen's soda once in a while, and I love my coffee in the mornings, but overall we're trying to learn how to live a more natural lifestyle that builds up the health of our kids through whole and raw foods.

Here are some places we love to order from:

Azure Standard Blog

Azure Standard Ordering
* like a co-op but you aren't committed to buying monthly and you get exactly what you want! Plus they are from my home state of Oregon so I feel a little at home chomping on an organic Fuji apple from their farm (1.00 per pound)!

Meat from: Zaycon Foods

Milk from: Texas Daily Harvest

Eggs from: C&B Fleece Fur Feathers

Awesome Chiropractor: Ken Parker, DC

Much of my research and information originated at this site: http://www.mercola.com/, I still get a lot of valuable information, though I can't quite live without my microwave and serve raw dairy milk to my kids ( the drive to Lavon Farms for raw milk is 2 hours round trip, just a lot for this momma to do)!

We purchased a Vitamix a while back and use it daily! It changes the way we eat to more raw whole foods - like soups and smoothies.  My time in the kitchen is a lot less as far as preparing daily meals. I've replaced that with time baking, milling wheat and growing yogurt cultures! The kids eventually caught on to our new way of eating and now love my homemade bread and applesauce and cinnamon rolls.

Funny store, we attended a birthday on Saturday at McDonald's and talk about shocking - my kids were horrible the rest of the afternoon  after all the sugar highs from cake and Ice cream and processed foods. Drew even managed to swindle a Coke which he never gets because it makes him a crazy child.  We hadn't gone to the golden arches in months, not specifically because I banished them from our lives, but just because it was so much simpler to eat at home. I also lost the cravings to eat fast food - wonder why, so it just hasn't been appealing to us to drop in for a quick bite to eat.  I am trying to be more moderate in how we eat, so if you see us at ChichFilA or McDonalds, don't think I'm a fake, we just tend not to eat their often, but I know that in today's busy world we will eat from fast food places once in a while. I truly believe a healthy balanced life is about moderation not jumping to and from extremes! Those people I've watched who jump to extremes give up often after a short period of time. I would hope that I am establishing healthy lifestyle habits that my children will inherit through knowledge and modeling - not extremes like "we never eat out,"or "we never eat sugar."  We're searching for balance that still affords us a lot of fun!


I am officially a coupon queen drop out, but still use the organic coupons I clip from the paper when its for a product I use often. But, my budget isn't 350.00 any more! I Overall we're so much healthier and instead of giving our budget to the Doctors and pharmacy, we're investing it into whole, raw foods which are reaping wonderful rewards - like well behaved kids who have crazy big imaginations and love to play outside in mud and dirt without getting sick while its 50 degrees outside and their wearing shorts and no socks!






Friday, December 9, 2011

Pajama Day

Thanks to the encouragement of some ladies at last nights soup exchange, we're staying in our PJ's! I have a ton of laundry to do, one math test to administer, an entire hours to clean, and three kids to "help" me accomplish this. It is going to be a great day of PJ's, cleaning and playing around the house. Then tonight I have some salmon I'm going to grill for dinner with an avocado sauce from my Vita-mix recipe book. Yummy! Today is going to be a great day! I love cold, tea sipping, music dancing, cleaning days!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Distractions

Drew is suppose to be downstairs reading, instead I see him out the window bashing a small pumpkin into the water trough filled with frozen ice. He has this look of pure glee - thrilled to be destroying something and seeing how water freezes and can take on multiple shapes. He also appears to enjoy eating the frozen ice chunks.  I should direct him  back to reading, but I too an distracted by watching all the crazy things he is coming up with. Like throwing the chipped ice in the air and trying to catch it in his teeth, or collecting the ice chips and conducting an experiment, like how long it will take to grow in the freezer. Drew thinks it will take 1-2 hours to expand. I'm thinking he will be sad that his experiment didn't work.

We're distracted today!

Friday, December 2, 2011