adoption update 5.0 – MATCHED!

On the 15th of October, the fifth anniversary of the beginning of our adoption journey came and went. I posted a “Timehop” screenshot of the status I shared five years ago when we had our initial meeting with a local agency to start the process, along with a note saying I never ever would have imagined that five years later we would still be waiting to adopt. The next day, our agency called with our match from Haiti. WHAT.

We’ve been waiting for that phone call for 26 months, and for the past eight months we’ve had a foster child in our home, so we’ve been distracted from the wait a bit. We’d almost, almost given up on our dream to bring a child home from Haiti. Paperwork necessary for adopting reached their expiry dates. Haiti was plagued with strikes in their government and judicial branches.

Then on the rainy evening of October 16, the call came. “You’re matched!” It’s a boy. He’s almost five years old. He was born just weeks after we decided to pursue adopting (not from Haiti, initially, if you’ve been around long enough to remember the beginning of this crazy adventure!). He’s in one of the most wonderful places a kid in his situation can be. (Huge answer to my deepest prayers: I’ve asked God this whole time that wherever our next child was, that he or she would be safe, loved, fed, and well cared for. He is! and has been for his whole little life.)

We are now in the midst of the flurry of paperwork and invoices for payments (thanks to our generous friends and family and savings, we are able to make the next payment right away) and figuring out childcare for our three plus one to coincide with travel dates to go meet him in Haiti.

THANK YOU, Jesus. We are so excited and grateful to finally know a new, tiny sliver of this story He is writing. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us through to this point. Thank you for partnering with us financially. We would not be here without all the help and love and gifts you’ve given. We still need about $10,000 to bring this kiddo home, and the court process in Haiti takes anywhere from 10-20 months or so from when we meet him. So your prayers and partnership in this endeavor are still so needed! Let’s rejoice together at what God is doing! We can’t wait to go to Haiti and meet this little man soon.


  • What’s his name?
    We can’t share this online until he’s a Puelston. But we can tell you in person and show you his picture, and we’d be very happy to do that!
  • How old is he?
    He’s almost five years old.
  • Why don’t you get to bring him home right away?
    The court process in Haiti doesn’t start until we go down to meet him. That process can take anywhere from 10-20 months, depending on many factors. Haiti is a mystifying country – sometimes you just have to chalk delays and strange things up to “it’s Haiti”!
  • How long will you be in Haiti when you go to meet him?
    We get to stay in Haiti for two weeks, required by Haitian adoption law. We will stay at a guest house near the orphanage (creche, in French), and have time to play with and get to know him each day.
  • Feel free to ask other questions and if we are able to answer them we will!


Puelston Family News 2016

2016 Highlights, Month by Month

January – we stayed warm and close to home. We also finished up 3.5 months of a little foster love being in our home 24/7 and started doing day care for her twice a week. Jack was in 1st grade at Art and Science Academy and crushed math and reading scores in his winter and spring semesters.

February – Kyle swept me away for a much anticipated 30ish hour trip to downtown Minneapolis for a performance of Newsies!, dinner at Fogo de Chao, and an overnight hotel stay. We had a great time! We enjoyed Valentines Day as a family too – always a fun time celebrating our love for each other.

March – by the end of this fifth cold month of winter, we’re always a little stir crazy and this March was no exception. The kids and I got out of Dodge over Jackson’s spring break from school (Kyle had to work, boohoo). It was our first mom plus kids road trip to Tennessee! The kids did awesome and we had a really great time visiting friends and family. We hiked in the Smokies, ate apple fritters at the Apple Barn, stayed with Johanna’s aunt and uncle and cousins, just enjoyed sunshine and warmer weather. Hope to do it again sometime! March also brought the celebration of Christ’s victory over the grave: Easter! The kids loved being in our church’s little Easter play too.

April – Spring came, and we got outside more again! Kyle took a trip to KY for the Together for the Gospel conference with some guys from church, and kept training for Grandma’s Marathon. Kyle and I enjoyed an evening with other law enforcement officers and their spouses at the Backing the Blue Line Ball. Super fun to have a great reason to dress up in a formal and hit the town. Jackson started Track and Field for kids and quickly fell in love with running fast on a track and high jumping and hurdles.

May – We had LOTS of family birthdays and events to celebrate! Birthdays and graduations and Mothers Day and more. Kyle joined our church softball league, I became a soccer coach for Jack’s team, and Jack took home a pile of 1st and 2nd place ribbons from his end of season track meet. Jack also wrapped up his first grade year at ASA. It was great to have him there this year and great to be done and on summer break.

June – my friend Heidi came to visit for several days, and I had my 34th birthday. Kyle ran his second marathon, and in spite of ridiculously hot temperatures, bested his last time! PR for the win. Super proud of him. We also camped in tents overnight with the kids for the first time in our married life (what?!) and it went as well as we expected! The oldest two took  swimming lessons and did great – its so nice to have swimmers. Grant was miffed he wasn’t quite old enough, but he’s excited to do it next summer.

July – Kyle and I ran a 5K in downtown Minneapolis on the Fourth of July – my first chip timed one and I almost reached my 30 min. goal. We got to enjoy a Twins game with Kyle’s family on a lovely evening, and Jackson turned SEVEN on the 17th. He had an Olympics party, which was a ton of fun. July wrapped up with our annual trip to Grand Marais with the Puelston family and we had an amazing time hiking/eating/swimming/being together up on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

August – As usual, we went to parks and lakes and had lots of outside adventures all summer long. Kyle’s birthday was crammed in to a full week of summer fun and parties for other people, and he and I spear-headed a week of missions focus at our church. I took the kiddos to Como Town with a friend and her kids and then we spent the last week of the month getting ready for our EPIC ROAD TRIP WEST.

September – the first two weeks of September were consumed by our western adventure! We road-tripped to Oregon via South Dakota (yay Badlands & Mt. Rushmore!), Wyoming (THE GRAND TETONS, OH MY WORD), and Idaho, with a long stop in Boise to visit our dear friends, the Hulsons. Once in Oregon, we prepped for and celebrated my brother Josh’s marriage to his beautiful bride, Taylor. The kids were ringbearers and a flower girl, and we had so much fun getting to know Taylor’s family, and touring the area Josh and Taylor live. Oregon is fantastic. Portland is weird and awesome. The mountains have our love. We headed back to MN via Washington, northern Idaho, Montana (huge!), and North Dakota. We were blown away by the beauty, variety, and grandeur all along our route. God is creative!

Once home, we started our school year with a second grader, almost-kindergartner, and a busy almost-three year old. Jack started piano lessons. Kyle and I celebrated ten years of marriage with a quick getaway to Duluth. Ten years. Wow, that went quick!

October – kicked off this crazy month by celebrating our Taylor girl’s FIFTH birthday! We had fun creating a Pinkalicious party for our pink loving girl. And then…weird medical crises hit the proverbial fan. Kyle had an infected toe turn into crazy cellulitis which resulted in a five day hospital stay and a week long recovery back at home. Grant took an ambulance ride to Children’s for a scary croup flare-up. We were thankful for insurance, doctors, and antibiotics over these weeks. The rest of the month was less eventful, praise the Lord. A little guy in foster care joined our family just before Halloween.

November – Every day life was the norm in November, with field trips to the MN Zoo and the Bell Museum, and adjusting to life with a baby in the house once again. I took an epic trip of a lifetime to Morocco for nine days – a friend and I went to visit a mutual friend and her family in the coastal town where they live. We had an amazing time and I want to go back with our whole family some day. It’s a beautiful country. Kyle held the fort down with all three kids while I was gone and did an amazing job at it too. We celebrated Thanksgiving the day after I returned from Morocco and truly had so much TO be thankful for in this year.

December – the whirlwind month of celebrations, joy, sugar, and Jesus! We filmed our adoption story for Adopt a Love Story (update on that whole saga coming soon), and celebrated Grant turning THREE! He wanted a superhero party and we hero’d it up. So fun. Kyle was given a Lifesaving Award at his department’s annual awards ceremony – we’re so proud of his hard and dedicated work in our county. We enjoyed lots of time with family and friends, and the kids were all in our church Nativity Play (Zechariah, a sheep, and a cute tot choir member). The celebrations of our Savior’s birth were joyous and we rang in 2017 as we reflected on a full, blessed, and busy year.

chocolate    jo-with-a-hat

advent 2014

I’m not quite so on top of Advent this year as I was last year. Nesting was in FULL FORCE last year as we awaited Grant’s arrival. 🙂 But, I finally got around to making the plan for this year.

The kids’ are already asking about the Advent Calendar and talking about the fun of last year…I love that they are old enough to remember and anticipate the season now!

So, these are the things we are hoping to do throughout the 25 days before Christmas/Advent season this year.

Advent Wreath

advent centerpiece

Each Sunday before Christmas, we will light a candle on the table (I haven’t made an official wreath yet, but I put the five candles in a group on our dining room table each year) and read a verse:

1. Light the 1st candle.  It represents the HOPE of the promised Messiah.  Isaiah 9:1-3
2. Light the 2nd candle.  It reminds us that the coming Savior will be the Prince of PEACE.  Isaiah 9:6-7
3. Light the 3rd candle.  It reminds us the JOY we may have in Christ. Isaiah 35:1-2, 10
4. Light the 4th candle.  It reminds us that God LOVES us so much that He sent his only Son.  John 3:16
5. Christmas Day – Light the middle candle and the other four. The Savior is come!

Daily Readings

With the littles – Readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible
For the bigger set – The Dawning of Indestructible Joy

Daily Advent Activities – great ideas from friends, this daily book ideathis blog and this blog.
I’m using the Tin and Chalkboard Advent calendar from Starbucks again this year. This year’s version is even prettier, in my opinion, than the one I got last year! I’ll print out the activity on small pieces of paper and put it in the right numbered tin. Some year I’ll get all fancy and make my own pocket calendar. Or, more realistically, I’ll pay someone to make one for me. 

Each day the kids will tear off a paper chain, and we’ll read the Scripture and the daily reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Then they’ll open the tin for the day and see what activity we get to do! They also get to unwrap a book, which we’ll read that day.

1. Make a Christmas countdown chain using the Names of Jesus chain.
2. Decorate the tree and the house!

Christmas tree3. Play with Little People Nativity Set. Make the Nativity Window Craft.
4. Gingerbread house. Read the Gingerbread Gospel while making.

gingerbread house5. Watch a Charlie Brown Christmas & have popcorn.
6. Celebrate Grant’s birthday!
7. Buy presents for Toys for Tots or other charity, donate.
8. Snowman marshmallow craft (on Christmas Pinterest board)

taylor craft9. Make a borax snowflake and handprint Christmas tree magnets.
10. Christmas Carol Sing-Along! Small group Christmas party.
11. Pajama surprise! Christmas tree lights and hot chocolate.
12. Christmas Tree craft – (paper tree/hole punch/tissue paper/hang in window).
13. Reindeer pancakes for breakfast and Christmas Musicale at Fourth Baptist.
14. Indoor picnic by the tree/lights, make snowman pizza.
15. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and sprinkles w/ breakfast.
16. Make a fort and read all the Advent books we’ve opened so far.
17. Make/bake sugar cookie cut-outs.

18. Decorate cookies.
19. Service Project: Take food to the food shelf. Birthday Party for Jesus with friends.

birthday for jesus20. Christmas music dance party & play the “count the snowball game”.
21. Watch The Polar Express with special snacks.
22. Make peppermint playdough and play with it.
23. Take cookies to neighbors and act out the Christmas story.

jack shepherd
24. Wrap last minute gifts. Christmas Eve service.
25. JESUS HAS COME! Christmas morning: read Luke 2, special breakfast and open gifts.

Christmas breakfast

And if we don’t get to everything, no worries. 🙂 It’s far more important to love on the kids than do a million projects, like this wise mama reminds us. I’m not going to spaz out if we miss a day.

Our Christmas book list (some we purchased and some we borrowed from the library and will renew once in the month), in no particular order:

  1. The Very First Christmas
  2. Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
  3. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
  4. The Nativity
  5. Christmas in the Manger 
  6. Who is Coming to Our House? 
  7. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve
  8. Father and Son – A Nativity Story
  9. Tomie’s LIttle Christmas Pageant
  10. This is the Stable
  11. The Friendly Beasts – an Old English Christmas Carol
  12. The Christmas Story from the Gospel According to St. Luke
  13. Humphrey’s First Christmas 
  14. Christmas in the Country
  15. The Third Gift
  16. Bear Stays Up For Christmas
  17. The Crippled Lamb
  18. A Christmas Like Helen’s 
  19. The Birds of Bethlehem
  20. One Starry Night
  21. The Little Drummer Boy
  22. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  23. A Christmas Goodnight
  24. Little One, We Knew You’d Come
  25. Good King Wenceslas 

That’s about everything, I think! I hope it is helpful for others who might want to create their own list of fun things to build excitement and anticipation for Christmas Day and the arrival of the Christ Child. 🙂 May your Christmas season be merry and bright as you celebrate all the gifts HE has given us, beginning with Himself.

three years…and it’s not getting easier

Eight years ago, I hadn’t even met Rosanna yet. This beautiful woman who would quickly become one of my dearest, most wonderful friends was marrying her Rob and in a few weeks would move cross-country from Nevada to start their married life in a tiny basement apartment in the suburbs here in Minnesota. In that time, I’d marry Kyle and settle into our newlywed apartment in our little town.

I had been the new girl in town so many times before, and having known Rosanna from an online forum we were both a part of for several years, I wanted to extend as much welcome and love to her and Rob as possible. The first time I met her in person was at church the first Sunday they came – she remembers it better than I do, but little did we know that our lives would parallel and intertwine in such a sweet way for the next 5 years.

We always knew this was a “temporary” assignment. Rob would someday finish seminary at TBI/BCS and they would move on to the next place God had for them. But thanks to whatever it was/God, it was prolonged and we got more years/months than we expected to grow in friendship. Even though the time was fleeting, and goodbye was inevitable, it didn’t keep us from letting our guard down and being truly honest, real and going deep in our friendship. That’s a treasure.

roandjo roandjo2
some of our first pictures together

Our pair became a trio with our friend Jessica. The three of us became quite the crew. Shopping dates and coffee and girls nights out and fun times and small group girl times. Our husbands became good friends. The six of us started a small group and met weekly, more or less. Two and a half years of Tuesday nights. 120 evenings of learning, growing, and sharing life.

Five years and a couple months ago, Rosanna and I both gave birth to our firstborns: both boys. Jack and Jude. Just six weeks apart, we entered The Motherhood together – diapers and nursing and midnight feedings and baby food and sleep deprivation and what in the world are we doing? 🙂

preggofab  boysandmoms

The Forest Lake Starbucks became “our Starbucks” because it was about halfway-ish between our two homes. We’d plop the boys in front of an iPod while we attempted to chat. Or on rare days, our awesome husbands would watch the boys so we could have real conversation, uninterrupted by cute toddlers who wanted more pumpkin bread. Rosanna introduced me to REAL makeup and how to put it on. She helped guide my sense of style and helpfully critiqued many an outfit outside the Turnstyle dressing room door. She shared my burdens. Prayed for me. Lifted my heart with kindness.

Three years ago I was hugely pregnant with my daughter and Rosanna was a couple months from giving birth to her second boy. Three years ago I had this impending dread because the day for goodbye was finally here. We’d had at least an extra year together than we’d thought we’d have. But it still wasn’t enough. I knew this chapter was over, but oh how I wasn’t ready for it to end. I knew God had good for them in the days ahead. I’d said goodbye to dear friends before, but this was really, really tough.

theladiesthe night we said goodbye

Today, I’m in Minnesota. Rosanna is in Idaho. Today it’s STILL HARD. The other night I was sitting in the Forest Lake Starbucks, reading a chapter in my current book that happened to be about friendship. The tears started to fall, dripping off my cheek onto the pages of my book. I pulled out my phone and texted Rosanna. “Are you around? I miss you.”

You kind of expect that as time passes, the little wound from having someone important pulled away from your heart…the ache from the distance that separates you…that those would get better. But they just haven’t. I still cry as easily as I did that September evening  when I hugged her close and said goodbye. Planes are nice. iPhones and Facetime are great. It’s precious to me that even though we sorta suck at staying in close touch (because KIDS and LIFE and honestly, it’s just hard to call her up when I want so badly to sit in her living room instead), I know that the minute we’re together again (WHICH CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH!) we will fall into conversation like a year hasn’t passed.

When Jes and I are together, we always feel like a piece of us is missing. Always. And that’s good and right. Rosanna is making new friends in her new town. That’s right and that’s so, so good. I’ve made new friends. Jes has made new friends. Our sons send each other Facebook videos. Our husbands email and message each other. We tag each other in instagram photos. Life rolls on, a steady cadence of time.

We have memories. Lots of really wonderful memories. I’ll always remember the first time we had Rob and Rosanna over. I remember Smirnoff Ice coolers that tasted like kid’s cough syrup and laughing our heads off over Homestar Runner on Kyle’s ancient dinosaur of a laptop. I remember walking to Dairy Queen in a blizzard on New Year’s Eve. I remember the birthday parties and BBQ’s and prayer time on Rosanna’s bed with the black and white comforter. I remember little boys running around and laughter. I always think of singing “We Are Young” at the top of our voices after Fogo de Chao whenever I hear that song on the radio. I remember Jude’s little skinny jeans on Jack’s fat butt and Jack’s big ol’ gansta pants on Jude’s tiny tushie.


It’s been three years since our paths, once so parallel, diverged. It isn’t any easier to have my dear friend thousands of miles away. I hope it never, ever is.

a seed of faith

Jackson, tonight I had the incomparable joy of hearing you ask Jesus to save you.

Who knew that a conversation about wildcats in South Carolina would turn into a redemptive conversation that would lead to you wanting to follow Jesus? I sure didn’t anticipate it as I painted the swing set and you sallied back and forth on the red swing below. But Jesus knew. He knew you’d want to know if bears lived in North Carolina and if wildcats lived in South Caroline. He knew I’d tell you about my Pop-pop’s stuffed wild cat that was mounted on his wall when I was a girl. He knew you’d ask if my grandpa was in heaven…Jesus knew it would go like this:

You asked me if I was going to heaven and I said yes. You asked what heaven is like and I told you it was the best thing you can imagine, but better than that because God was there. Then you wondered what hell was like and I explained it’s the worst thing you can imagine, and worse, because God isn’t there. You asked what was in hell I said fire and darkness.

You asked again I was going to heaven and why I was. I answered, “Because I have asked Jesus to save me from my sins and I was sorry and repentant for my sins. I asked Jesus to save me because I knew I wanted to follow him all the days my life.” And then Jack, you said, “Mom, could you help me do that too?” I said, “I would love to.”

So later in the evening you and I prayed together and you asked Jesus to save you. I’m so glad Jack! So glad that God takes conversations about Wildcats and turns them into redemption. So glad that you want to follow Jesus. Dad asked you why you wanted to go to heaven and you said “to be with God.” I can’t think of a better reason, because He wants you to be with Him forever. He made the way for you to be with Him forever!

I love you, Jackson and my deepest prayer is that you will follow Jesus all the days of your life. God has begun a good work in your heart and I know that he will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. I pray that this seed of faith that God has planted in your heart will grow to be a mighty, strong oak with deep roots. Sink yourself deep into Jesus, Jack. He loves you and promises to be with you all along this journey of life. He is FOR you. Chase after Him with every bit of your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Love, Mom

Photo by jomegs - Google Chrome 7292014 114601 PM.bmp

Grant Joins the Crew

In a week, Grant will be three months old. I’ve had his birth story waiting in the wings, but its been a busy three months, with the holidays, friends visiting from out of state in January and a plaguing stretch of illness that has beaten us all for the better part of six weeks. 😦

So here, finally, is the story of Grant making his grand appearance.


Our third child was due on Thanksgiving day, but a week past that date, I was ready to get this show on the road. I wasn’t miserable, but I was tired of waiting. So that meant talking about inducing. My awesome doctor and I had made a plan together that I was mostly comfortable with, but still, I had my reservations about being induced.

So the plan was: go to the hospital Thursday night the 5th, check to see how far progressed things were. If they were favorable enough, go home and sleep and then return in the morning to start pitocin. If not, try Cervadil to prepare for induction with pitocin in the morning.

We got to the Birthplace around 6:15pm, and got all checked in. I needed Cervadil – all the contractions I’d felt over the past week only had me dilated to a TWO. So we settled in to watch the live Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood. My friend Kelsey came to hang out and take pictures, hoping baby came that night. My mom came a little later. The Cervadil did its job and contractions ramped up and by 11pm I was having steady, firm contractions. But by an hour or two later, they totally petered out. Kelsey went home, and Mom, Kyle and I tried to get some sleep here and there.

In the morning, my wonderful Dr. Barrett stopped by on her way to the clinic and broke my water, hoping to kick things back into gear. My contractions had never quit, but they had gotten much weaker and further apart – certainly nothing I had to work through. I could walk and talk and smile…it was definitely not active labor.

Breaking my water helped – things started getting more real again. But in an hour or so, it wasn’t progressing, and contractions had dipped down to Easyville again. At this point, I was bored and slightly frustrated. I was ready to have this baby! I wasn’t totally exhausted – I was just ready to get this show on the road and finally meet this little person who seemed far too comfortable in their watery, warm nest. :-)

Thankfully, all along the way, the baby’s heartbeat was steady and happy as could be. Around 10am, I made the call: it was time for the “get the baby out cocktail”. “Dear nurse, just juice my IV with pitocin, please and thank you.” They “gave me a whiff” (their words) of pitocin at 10:30am and it was onward ho!

FINALLY things started getting real. I was so relieved to actually feel like I had to concentrate on relaxing through the contractions. They got hard and fast in a hurry, and by 1pm I was feeling like the end was near. My doctor arrived for the delivery – it was finally time to push this kiddo out!

Once again, Dr. Barrett coached me so well. I probably pushed for 15-20 minutes, and at the halfway point I asked, “Why isn’t he coming out?!” because of how quickly Taylor had come. I thought maybe this time would be even shorter, but as it turned out, this Incredible Hulk child was quite a bit bigger than Taylor had been, so that could account for the “slower” pace of pushing. :-)

Anyway, our baby came into the world at 1:59pm and Dr. Barrett and Kyle announced in tandem, “It’s a BOY!” as his wet, sweet, beautiful self was placed on my flushed chest. Grant Richard, our sweet surprise, our second son and third child, was finally here. My first thought was “Jack is going to be so excited to have a brother!” :-) We were overjoyed.


Looking back, I cannot believe how in control, calm, covered with grace, and able to concentrate I was during his labor. It was really awesome. I was so present, so able to focus, and was a lot more verbal – i think that helped me push through the pain in a better way. A lot of people were praying for me – I could feel it. Kyle and Mom were so helpful to get me through the most challenging points. And Char, my mother-in-law, ended up arriving to cheer me on for the last half an hour! Love my labor team. :-)

From the point when my labor REALLY started to his arrival was only 3.5 hours. Grant was easy on me, and he nursed right away like he was born a pro – latched perfectly and settled in for almost an hour before we finally weighed and measured him. We were all slightly shocked to learn he was 9 lbs. 9 oz. and 21 inches long with a 15 inch head. My little beefcake baby. He wins the prize for biggest at birth, coming in at 3 ounces heavier than Jack was.

We had such fun introducing Grant to his brother and sister and the rest of our family and friends that stopped by the hospital. He was doing so well that we were able to get home the next evening and continue to rest up in our own beds.


Grant has the most sweet, cheerful and happy-go-lucky personality! I cannot imagine our lives without his sunshine, so I’m ridiculously glad that God surprised us with his beautiful life. Welcome to our family, Granters. Mama, Daddy, Jack and Taylor love you SO much.

Grant (2 of 49)photo by Sarah Smith – Grant, one week old


books for 2014

I’m totally stoked that i read (most of) 20 books last year! I’ve come a long way, baby. In 2011 I read 6 books. In 2012, I read 12 books. Last year, 20! So this year, I’m shooting for 25.

2013 Books (in no particular order)

  1. Real Marriage – Mark and Grace Driscoll
  2. The Explicit Gospel – Matt Chandler
  3. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Eric Metaxas
  4. Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl – N.D. Wilson
  5. Give Them Grace – Elise Fitzpatrick
  6. The Hole in our Holiness – Kevin deYoung
  7. Peter and the Starcatchers – Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
  8. Peter and the Shadow Thieves – Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
  9. Peter and the Secret of Rundoon – Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
  10. The Book Thief (skipped part of the middle) – Markus Zusak
  11. Fit to Burst – Rachel Jankovic
  12. Building Her House – Nancy Wilson
  13. Forgotten God – Francis Chan
  14. Power of Prayer – E.M. Bounds
  15. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
  16. 100 Cupboards – N.D. Wilson
  17. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows – Alan Bradley
  18. Speaking from Among the Bones – Alan Bradley
  19. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
  20. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Foer

Books for 2014 (again, no particular order)

Multiply – Francis Chan (reading this in small group, started last year)
Standing on the Promises – Doug and Nancy Wilson (started last year)

  1. The Drowned Vault – N.D. Wilson
  2. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches – Alan Bradley
  3. Praise Her in the Gates – Nancy Wilson
  4. Live Like a Narnian – Joe Rigney
  5. How People Change – Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane
  6. Gospel-Powered Parenting – William Farley
  7. Five Days in November – Clint Hill
  8. Songs of Willow Frost – Jamie Frost
  9. Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
  10. The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown
  11. The Monuments Men – Robert Edsel
  12. Call the Midwife – Jennifer Worth
  13. The Astronaut Wives Club – Lily Koppel
  14. Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay
  15. Death By Living – N.D. Wilson
  16. The Grace Effect – Larry Taunton
  17. The Connected Child – Karen Purvis
  18. Thinking. Loving. Doing – John Piper, etc.
  19. Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand
  20. The Kite Runner – Khalid Hosseini
  21. Same Kind of Different as Me – Ron Hall
  22.  Surprised by Joy – C.S. Lewis
  23. Parenting with Love and Logic – Foster Cline and Jim Fay
  24. My Life in France – Julia Child
  25. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

I think that’s a good mix of non-fiction and fiction, self-help and just for enjoyment. 🙂 I’m excited because as I read good authors, good writers, good words – I am grown, stretched and aspire to better writing and thinking and doing in my own real life.

Books I’m most excited to read: Death By Living, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia was left hanging on a serious cliff at the end of the last book – very, very mean of you, Mr. Bradley), Live Like a Narnian and My Life in France.

Honestly, I’m really looking forward to each title on the list for various reasons. They all interest me, or are subjects about which I’m passionate, or are really needed in my life. Some will be easy reads, some will bend my brain and challenge my thinking. Some will be easy to flip through on my Kindle app while I watch the kids play outside, others will require undistracted silence and a hard copy to hold and underline. But all of them will shape me.

As Charlie “Tremendous” Jones said, “You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Here’s to being a better person with more stories read and more stories to tell and the ability to tell them better in five years. 🙂

What are you reading or hope to read in this new year?

2013 Year in Review

I’ve done this simple little question/answer style year in review post for years now. 🙂 It’s become a welcome friend at the end of a year, as I look back on the year that was and look forward to the year that will be. 

The Year that Was – 2013

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? became a mom to three children. 

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I made goals again, not resolutions and accomplished some! Several were made null and void by nature of being pregnant. A little hard to lose 15 lbs. when you’re supposed to gain around twice that. 😉 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? a few friends did this year! :-)

4. Did anyone close to you die? Not anyone close, but many friends of mine have had hard losses this year. 😦

5. What countries did you visit? {Some year I hope i can put countries in here and not just states.} I went to North Carolina in January with my parents, and Jack and Taylor to see my brother Nate graduate from Special Forces school and visit him and Karla. We also enjoyed visiting with my dear friend Sarah and her family! Kyle and I took a little trip to WI to see JJ Heller in concert in March. Then in September, I traveled to Ohio to stand up in my sister-friend Lindsey’s wedding. It was a privilege to be there when she married her Marcus. Love that girl so much. 

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? more patience and grace for my busy preschooler and toddler. Babies are easy for me – kids are harder! 

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? December 6. Grant’s birthday! Our little surprise baby arrived on St. Nicholas Day. SO happy he’s here. 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? surviving another pregnancy, and a wonderful labor/delivery of our sweet Number Three Baby, Grant. 

9. What was your biggest failure? not enough exercise, not being patient with my kids. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? the usual basic colds/sore throats/stomach flus, and sleep deprivation. 

11. What was the best thing you bought? I really liked the gifts I gave Kyle for our 7th anniversary – a wool, hand-knit hat and a copper guitar pick inscribed with “i’ll stay with you”. 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Kyle’s. He supported me so well through this third pregnancy, birth and recovery time. 

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? those who took the lives of innocents. heart-breaking and appalling.

14. Where did most of your money go? housing, food, church/missions and gasoline. 

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Lindsey’s wedding!!! and finally meeting our baby, learning he was a he, since we didn’t find out the gender before the birth. 

16. What song will always remind you of 2013? Goo Goo Dolls’ “Come to Me” and Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive”. 

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier or sadder? happier. My little snuggle bear has brought immense happiness to our home. 

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? exercising, reading, writing and praying.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? sitting on my butt, whining, frivolity, and judging.

20. How did you spend Christmas? we opened gifts with Kyle’s parents and youngest sister on Christmas Eve, then had our own family Christmas in the morning on Christmas day with a special breakfast and gift opening, and wrapped it up with all of my family over for Christmas dinner and gift opening with them. It was a great time! 

21. How will you spend New Years? Kyle is working, and I’m trying to be good about going to bed as soon as the baby does, so I’ll probably be sleeping when the New Year rings in. 🙂 Then on NYD, we’ll be with Kyle’s family celebrating together. 

22. What was your favorite TV program? Parenthood, Southland, White Collar and Suits. 

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? no.

24. What was the best book you read? ooh good question – I read more books this year than ever in the recent past! I’d have to say “Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl” by N.D. Wilson. It totally inspired me and resonated in my soul. Loved it. 

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Rend Collective Experiment. SO GOOD! 

26. What did you want and got? a new baby/child home by December. I thought it would be through adoption, but God gave us one the homegrown way. 

27. What was your favorite film of this year? Either “Captain Phillips” or “Parkland”. They were both fascinating, based on true events. 

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I ticked over to 31, and we had an enjoyable day with my family in a little celebration here at home. 

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? spending more time at the feet of my Savior.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? maternity clothes suck. bump minimization. 🙂 

31. What kept you sane? my husband, my friends, coffee, and the Word. 

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Nelson Mandela. 

33. What political issue stirred you the most? I just don’t get stirred up by politics really, but the health care debacle sure has been amusing/frustrating. 

34. Who did you miss? my best friends that live far away. and my Grandma Alice.

35. Who was the best new person you met?  this wasn’t a year of new people, but rather a year of loving the ones currently in my life better and with more intention. 

36. Tell us some valuable life lessons you learned in 2013:
~The journey of adoption rarely goes the way you anticipate. And the road is long…
~Surprise babies are pretty neat blessings. 🙂
~I need to become more disciplined and structured in my life to create space for what I want to be and want to accomplish. 
~It’s painful to have friends point out your weaknesses and inconsistencies, but it’s better to grow than to have never been so stung. 
~I have far to go, but God is making beautiful things out of my dust. 

This morning, my mother in law posted this beautiful quote that resonated with me, and I leave it with you. 

“Your goodness has been with me during another year, leading me through a twisting wilderness, in retreat helping me to advance, when beaten back making sure headway. Your goodness will be with me in the year ahead; I hoist sail and draw up anchor, with You as the blessed Pilot of my future as of my past.”

Here’s to the beautiful and amazing adventure of 2014, with the blessed Pilot of our future at the helm. 

advent 2013

For the first time ever, I’m actually on top of Advent this year. In the past I’ve done small things, or parts of things, but this year I really wanted to get organized and have a good plan as we try to foster an atmosphere of building anticipation for the arrival of the Savior, Jesus.

This is probably also the first year Jackson is old enough to really “get it” and Taylor is his little shadow, so it seems like a good year to get it together. 🙂 A lot of the execution for this is going to fall to Kyle this year, since I’ll be recovering from birth here soon. But that works out since he will be off for most of the month on paternity leave – government job for the win! These are the things we are hoping to do throughout the 25 days before Christmas/Advent season.

Advent Wreath

advent centerpiece

Each Sunday before Christmas, we will light a candle on the table (I haven’t made an official wreath yet, but I put the five candles in a group on our dining room table each year) and read a verse:

1. Light the 1st candle.  It represents the HOPE of the promised Messiah.  Isaiah 9:1-3
2. Light the 2nd candle.  It reminds us that the coming Savior will be the Prince of PEACE.  Isaiah 9:6-7
3. Light the 3rd candle.  It reminds us the JOY we may have in Christ. Isaiah 35:1-2, 10
4. Light the 4th candle.  It reminds us that God LOVES us so much that He sent his only Son.  John 3:16
5. Christmas Day – Light the middle candle and the other four. The Savior is come!

Daily Readings

With the littles – Readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible 

For the bigger set – Good News of Great Joy 

Daily Advent Activities – great ideas from friends, this blog and this blog 

I’m using this Tin and Chalkboard Advent calendar from Starbucks this year. It says its not available online, but your local shop should have one. I’ll print out the activity on small pieces of paper and put it in the right numbered tin. Some year I’ll get all fancy and make my own pocket calendar. Or, more realistically, I’ll pay someone to make one for me. 🙂 

1. Make a Christmas countdown chain using the Names of Jesus chain and this poem for the top:
Christmas Day will soon be here and I can hardly wait.
I’ve made this little Christmas chain to help me celebrate.
Each day I will snip one loop from it to help me to remember.
To rejoice of Jesus birthday on the 25th of December!

2. Decorate the tree and the house and unwrap/read two new Christmas books

Christmas tree 3. Open and play with Little People Nativity Set. (This is a GREAT price for the set, even shipped.)
4. Gingerbread house or nativity. Read the Gingerbread Gospel while making.

gingerbread house 5. Watch a Charlie Brown Christmas with popcorn.
6. Pajama surprise – hot cocoa and Christmas light drive.
7. Snowman marshmallow craft (on Christmas Pinterest board)
8. Go caroling at the nursing home.
9. Make a borax snowflake.
10. Make/bake sugar cookie cut-outs.

cookies 11. Decorate cookies.
12. Christmas tree craft – (paper tree/hole punch/tissue paper/hang in window).
13. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and sprinkles w/ breakfast.
14. Bell ringing for Jack and Kyle and indoor dinner picnic by the tree/lights.
15. Reindeer pancakes for breakfast and Christmas Musicale at Fourth Baptist.
16. Unwrap and read two more new books.
17. Birthday Cake (or cupcakes) for Jesus (invite friends for a party?)
18. Buy presents for Toys for Tots or other charity, donate.
19. Service Project: Pack VoM action packs with small group.
20. Christmas music dance party (AM) & watch The Polar Express (PM).
21. Play the “count the snowball game”.
22. Make thumbprint snowmen cornstarch dough ornaments for grandparents.
23. Take cookies to neighbors.
24. Christmas Eve service and maybe new pajamas?
25. JESUS! Christmas morning: read Luke 2, special breakfast and open gifts.

Christmas breakfast

And if we don’t get to everything, no worries. 🙂 It’s far more important to love on the kids than do a million projects, like this wise mama reminds us. I’m not going to spaz out if we miss a day.

The Christmas books we got for this year are:
The Very First Christmas
Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
The Nativity
Christmas in the Manger 

That’s about everything, I think! I hope it is helpful for others who might want to create their own list of fun things to build excitement and anticipation for Christmas Day and the arrival of the Christ Child. 🙂 May your Christmas season be merry and bright as you celebrate all the gifts HE has given us, beginning with Himself.

shocking. I’m actually writing.

“tap tap tap. hello? is this thing on?”

<blows dust off the mic>

<clears throat>

warning: tumble of thoughts with no real connection ahead.

today is a grey, blustery morning. the sort that is made better by a steaming mug of coffee with cream and sugar and a pumpkin muffin. mornings like this inspire me to write…and since there’s really nowhere urgent to go or anything pressing to do besides clean the house, i shall write.

last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I thought of how easy it should be to write down thoughts from the day – just spend five minutes before my evening routine to crank out some words. I miss the way I used to blog/write/process life and I think I would benefit from getting back in the habit of pounding out my thoughts.

Kyle is off at the Desiring God conference today, and we have an extra kiddo around – a sweet little red-headed girl for foster respite. She’s seven, and her flaming curls are how Jack remembers her. “When is that curly, red-haired girl coming again?” he asked me repeatedly. It’s nice to give her mama a break. I know how glad I am for a break from my little people. 🙂

I hoped to take the kids to the apple orchard yesterday or today, but the weather isn’t exactly cooperating. Perhaps we’ll go anyhow, rain be damned. 🙂 We can at least eat caramel apples in the van and pet the goats in the barn, I suppose.

Have I mentioned I LOVE this time of year? September and October are seriously two of my favorite months. May and June might be the others. 🙂 Oh and sliver of December. But truly, what’s not to love about this season, especially here in my home state? The chilly mornings give way to warm, sunny afternoons with fresh breezes. The leaves change from green to shades of riotous red, orange, rust, yellow and auburn. Apples are in season! Pumpkin permeates my baking and cooking and drinking. Kyle and I celebrate our anniversary. Taylor’s birthday rolls around. (Ack! She’ll be two in less than a week – how?!)

Yes, Anne Shirley and I agree on many things, this being one:

Jack started one-morning-a-week preschool earlier this month. He’s loving it. I like his teacher a lot and he seems to be enjoying the class, but the thing that seems to have made the most impression so far is that some kids in his class are Badly Behaved. Each week when I pick him up and ask what he did, he replies with some variation of “I obeyed my teacher.” 🙂 And while I’m very glad that he IS well behaved, I hope he doesn’t gain some superiority complex from the experience.

Like I mentioned, Taylor will be two next week. TWO. I’m having fun planning her little birthday party. Birthday parties are my favorite. 🙂 I hope she’ll enjoy the day. She’s a delight and a joy – spunky and sweet.

and with that, I’m going to scoot and get the kiddos ready for our little apple orchard excursion, damp though it may be. If I’m good, I’ll be back with more soon. 🙂