Saturday, August 29, 2009

Our new "son"

This may come as a surprise, but then again it probably won't. :)

A few weeks ago we were contacted by {what felt like} a completely random call, asking if we would be interested in taking an exchange student. My stunned response was, "How did you get my number?" That response seems funny to me now, but at the time it was well founded--how does a telemarketer just ask people to open their homes like that? As you should know by now, we love to open our homes to others. The reply of the person on the other end of the line was just that--somehow we had been selected because we were known to open our homes to others (most likely because we are licensed daycare providers). I said, yes we were interested, and was given a website plus a promise that someone would be calling in a few days.

At first I really didn't think anything would come from it at all. The promised call did come, however, and suddenly I felt like someone was asking me to "put my money where my mouth was." A plan began to take shape, but we never knew for sure that everything would come together. We were "just interested" but things moved SO QUICKLY right from the moment we had our first phone call. It still seems so surreal. But God was not surprised. He knew from the beginning. :)

The organization is Youth for Understanding (YFU). Our area representative contacted us and then sent me several emails with students they are waiting to place. As I read through profiles and letters, Patrick's stood out among all the others. Some things I noticed right away: he loves math, he juggles, he has a sister who loves horses, he is interested in computers and computer programming...and the list of similarities to our own family goes on. I was impressed with his English as well. As I began to be more interested in Patrick, I then began to worry that he would be already taken by the time we called back. :) Of course, Mitch told me not to worry.

We met for a home inspection/visit on August 16th, and Patrick was scheduled to fly here on August 27th. When I say things happened fast, I really meant it. We filled our days with rearranging rooms (again). We moved Eden out of her room so Patrick could have his own space. We packed up many books and other things that we are not using right now to make our space less cluttered. Mitch did so much hard work! We talked about Patrick lots and lots. He was able to contact us via email and send us updated pictures. We read letters to the kids and showed them his picture and the excitement mounted. Finally Thursday, August 27th arrived. They were so excited they could hardly contain themselves!

His flight didn't arrive until 10:30 pm, long after their bedtime. To help kids stay awake we put on a movie, and we spent time making a welcome sign.

Joshua, Malachi, and Tirzah all went to bed. Holly came over to stay with them. Micah, Eden, Caleb, and Zeke went with Mitch & I to the St. Cloud airport.

This was the closest they had ever been to a plane. We got to see it land and taxi up to the "gate" (which was outside). We had the full attention of everyone in the waiting area--our excitement over seeing the plane, and the special person on that plane was obviously contagious. :) We all stayed with our faces glued to the windows until we saw the people get off and head for the doors.

We recognized Patrick right away, who gave us a big, exhausted grin and "Hallo."

On the way home we talked, probably way too much. Caleb said to Patrick, "I'll bet you have a lot of questions for us." Patrick said, "Yes, but I don't even know where to start." Later after pondering that for a while Caleb said, "Maybe when you are not so tired you will be able to think of where to start and then you can just fire away!" LOL

Patrick's spoken English is very good, just as reflected in his written English.

{playing a game of Jenga}

Patrick is so kind. He is like a magnet to the kids--they want to be sitting next to him all the time. Josh said, "I love you, Patrick" at least 7 times today. :) We love having him here. All I can think of over and over is how God was leading us to do this--how He put everything together and made it happen. How He gave us a love for Patrick just like for our own children. It is a feeling of joy and gratitude that just makes me want to cry!

Today we went to the grocery store together. My normal trip takes 2 hours, but I knew with all the kids it would be much longer. We had fun talking with Patrick and figuring out what things are and what he likes to eat. I know it was quite the scene having all 10 of us parading through the stores, and a few times we blocked isles. Here we are bagging groceries at our favorite grocery store. Not so bad, eh?

I have tried to imagine what it would feel like to be Patrick's parents and sending my son off to a foreign country for an entire year. I have tried to imagine what it would feel like to be Patrick and saying goodbye to everyone I know for that long. The feelings are overwhelming! One thing is for sure, he comes from a good, loving home. His parents have worked hard and instilled many good values in him. :) We will do everything we can to provide him with a good American experience and help him learn as much as he can this year while he is here.

Patrick came with gifts from his home for each of us. They were thoughtful and beautiful. Our children were thrilled. His mother and sister made this beautiful mobile for Tirzah.

We have enjoyed learning some German from Patrick. Don't ask me to spell any of the words. So far we have learned one, two, thank you, hello, there, here, love, and a couple others. I'm sure it will continue to grow. We also spent some time today sharing music. We had Patrick pull up some of his favorite songs on youtube and our kids played some of theirs also. We look forward to the adventure that lies ahead with great joy.

P.S. YFU still has quite a few students that need good homes. You can visit the site to see student profiles.

Overheard at Supper

Zeke was whining and not wanting to eat his taco because a little pineapple juice had gotten on it.

Mitch: Zeke, suck it up and eat it buddy.

Zeke (while pouting): Not suck it, Daddy, chew it!

Steph (who turns away while laughing): Yeah, Dad!

A Day with Friends

Look're about to be blasted with new blog entries. First up is the very special meeting Kristin & I had with our online blogging friend, Courtney. We met Courtney through a homeschooling group. She made a huge impression on me the first time I saw this. And this post of her clean kitchen will forever be frozen in my mind! :) We have been sharing life together through blogging for many months, and recently she and her family made their annual camping trip to a place not so far from here. We HAD to meet! Courtney and Chris drove down to our church for Sunday morning worship, then we had a cook out at our house--with all SIXTEEN kids! It was so much fun. :)

The dads playing Kuub in the backyard--Chris, Mitch, and Tim

Our beautiful, angelic children. :)
Ok, they're not angelic, but seriously--look at them--we are blessed!

Kristin, Courtney, and I all had babies this year

Me and my friends, Kristin & Courtney
It was such a fun, blessed day. We felt like we had always been friends--meeting Courtney for the first time was like getting together with an old friend. Sure, we met online, but I believe that it was ordained by God. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Look what Tirzah can do!

She is officially the first one of our children to do this...

She's been practicing all day. So far she's best at it when she's on my shoulder, but she has been trying to get it in other positions too. I think she did this a lot before she was born (it's part of my theory as to why she had a hard time learning how to nurse).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sovereign Grace Music

We love to listen to music produced by Sovereign Grace Ministries. We have been singing a lot of their songs in church lately. Our pastor and worship leaders just went to a conference and brought back a great new song, "Completely Done." Since it is stuck in my head (of course...isn't that how it always goes?), I decided to pop over to the website and see if it was available to buy a download. It is, but even better, it's FREE!! Sweet! :) Actually, Sovereign Grace has a lot of free songs on there. So bop on over and get your free copy of this song. It drips with theology.

So now I'm going to go sing that song like I wish I could sing it in public (you know, with maybe my hands in the air, and a little loudly). LOL. One of these days...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sort of Gardening

We used to have a kidney-bean shaped rock garden in our back yard. It had the bricks we used in our front lawn remodeling project and it was filled with white rocks. We tried 3 times to grow a lilac bush in it, and killed the bush every time. It's too wet back there. Anyways, as part of our remodel project, we dug all the rocks out (not an easy task!). Then Mitch built me a raised-bed garden. It's not huge by any standards, but I am excited to think that it is big enough for a few things. :)

Without the rocks and bricks

Laying it all out, Mitch and Zeke

Using rebar to hold it together, Mitch, Eden, and Malachi

Filling it in with dirt we had from the front lawn. Yes, we realize that in Minnesota terms it is too late to plan anything this season. So for now we're composting it.

We had to take this picture to tell a funny story. While we were picking out all the white landscaping rocks, Caleb looks up and says, "Is everyone in our family out here?" We said yes--even Tirzah was there in the stroller. He says, "Oh, we don't have that big of a family!" We had to agree--crowded around that little hole, all of us dirty from picking rocks, our family felt quite small. Good times. :)

Mitch, Tirzah, Steph, Micah, Eden, Caleb, Zeke, Josh, and Malachi

(P.s. Coming soon--our family is growing again--we are adding an exchange student from Germany later this week!!! I'll tell you more later.)

Tirzah is 4 months old!

Tirzah, at 4 months, you

~are happy and smile most of the time
~eat every 2-3 hours
~sometimes forget how to nurse
~always spit up, especially on Daddy
~sleep up to 7 hours in your bassinet some nights
~sleep in my bed other nights
~sleep on your tummy
~roll over from your tummy to your back
~try to roll over from your back to your tummy
~try to crawl
~like to stand with help
~giggle the most at Joshua
~calm down best for Eden
~tolerate Malachi
~have a crazy tuft of hair on top of your head that curls when the humidity is high
~take 1 tsp. of omneprazole for reflux
~hate your meds
~scream at night if you don't have meds
~have "sandal feet" because you spread your big toe so far from the others
~are really, really long
~have the nick-name "Long Baby" from Mallorie's mom
~squeal when Daddy tickles you
~have to be held upright for 20 min after eating
~love to suck on your hands/fingers all the time
~wake up at night when you roll over and can't get back and can't get your fingers
~take several naps a day
~sometimes take a really long (4 hours) nap
~don't pee much at night
~pee a flood in the morning, multiple times
~pee less in the evenings
~"talk" a lot
~are really loud!
~drool a lot, I mean a LOT!
~sometimes aspirate (inhale spit up) and scare mommy when you gasp and cough to clear it out
~change who you look like almost every day
~wear a LOT of pink
~wear a lot of dresses
~wear cloth diapers made by Mom during the day
~wear disposables at night

~looked so much like your Papaw Jim yesterday that even Papa (Paul) said so!

We are so thankful for you!

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Bamboozled by Bamboo"

How's that for a title?

Well, you learn something new everyday. Yesterday I learned something new about bamboo. It took me all day to "process" the information. Here it comes. Sigh. A little background:

"Bamboo" fabrics are commonly used in diaper making, and they are also relatively new. I remember the first time I got my hands on some. Kristin and Tami and I stood around petting this wonderfully soft, delicious fabric. I couldn't wait to put it into my diapers! We also dreamed about jammies and other wonderful things we could make for ourselves. It is soft, and thin/trim, and absorbent. When I would tell people about this wonderful fabric I had made from bamboo, I was met with astonishment--flooring, bowls, and other things, yes, but fabric? Companies online boasted that bamboo fabric is antibacterial and antimicrobial (wonderful features in a diaper)!

Yesterday I learned that bamboo is not what I thought it was. It is actually a rayon. To understand, I had to learn a little about how a fabric is made in the first place. "Rayon" is actually describes a process...not an end product. [Just like "fleece" describes the surface of the fabric, but does not automatically mean "polyester."] I never knew that. I thought of rayon as: fragile, wrinkly, unwashable, man-made, like polyester, and most importantly, EWWWWW. But I love my bamboo! According to the Federal Trade Commission:

"As the Commission charges, even if the rayon used in the companies’ clothing and textile products is manufactured using bamboo as the cellulose source, rayon does not retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. The rayon manufacturing process, which involves dissolving the plant source in harsh chemicals, eliminates any such natural properties of the bamboo plant. Similarly, the Commission charges that the companies’ clothing and textiles are not made using an environmentally friendly process."

Why is this important?

According to the FTC, who brought charges against four manufacturing compainies, "that these four companies make a number of other 'green' claims about their clothing and textile products, none of which are true or substantiated."

As customers, we have been led to believe certain wrong things about the bamboo fabric. While I think the fabric has a lot of GREAT qualities, I'm very sad to learn that I was misled. I would have rather known the truth up front.

How does this impact Pampered Cheeks?

Well, now that I know the truth, I can not further mislead my customers. Which means that I must properly label my diapers. Any diapers made from my stash of "bamboo" must have the fiber content listed as "Rayon" or "Rayon made from Bamboo." I can only use the latter if I know for certain that bamboo is used as the cellulose source. :(

It's not the end of the world, for sure! But it is perhaps the end of a fad. :) I think many customers will be turned off by the gritty details. Some people, like me, will love the fabric anyway. Some people, however, loved the former, incorrect thought that Bamboo fabric is a green product and that it has antimicrobial properties.

I do have one thing to say though: it explains why my "bamboo" fabric shrinks and shrinks and shrinks!!! Also, the fabric I use is not "100% bamboo"--it is blended with cotton and a touch of polyester for stability. Ugh...just thinking about the false claims of these companies makes me sick...but whatever!

Articles from the FTC:
Charges against companies for false claims

For Consumers

For Manufacturers

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Abortion is not healthcare!

I am on the phone tonight listening to Michelle Bachman and a panel of women talking about HOW abortion WILL be covered under the health care reform bill. Abortion funded by tax payer dollars is disgusting and revolting. I got this call from what is called the Susan B. Anthony list. There are about 350,000 people on the call, which is being called "Keeping Faith with the Unborn." Michelle Bachman (I think...relying on memory of who was who simply by voice recognition, and I'm known to fail on both) challenged believers who are listening to be on our knees the next three fast and pray...and repent. She quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14. They are ending the call in prayer. :)

The main focus of the call was to clarify specifically that abortion will be included in the health care reform bill if it is not explicitly excluded. In fact, an amendment with the language to exclude abortion has been proposed 31 times and has been shot down every time. :(

One thing that was said stemming from this that I just loved was: sometimes it's not the law that's the issue (after all, "abortion" is not included in the language of the law), it's the bureaucrats afterward that must interpret and implement and argue about the law.

Hmmm...CPSIA, anyone???

Anyways, poking around on the website,, I found a blog post titled "Abortion Industry Can't Have It Both Ways." Here is a chilling excerpt:

"So let's review : The abortion industry says that abortion is just another medical procedure, but it should not be subject to any medical standards because it's different than other surgical procedures.

The abortion industry can't have it both ways. It is time they publicly admit what they privately acknowledge in practice. Abortion is NOT just another medical procedure. Unlike any other surgery, it begins with two beating heats and ends with only one. It takes away one life and adds emotional trauma to another."

Read it all (it's short) here. And go add your name to the Susan B. Anthony list.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Almost Gardening

Mitch has been lamenting the fact that we do not have a garden. So I requested that he take on a little landscaping project. It's kinda similar, right?

A month ago, during our very dry June, the grass in our front yard looked like this. This is a persistent problem year after year, especially up next to the driveway.

We are landscape-challenged, but we planned out a simple design. We used bricks we formerly had in our backyard from a different (failed) landscaping job. We didn't have enough bricks, so the new ones don't match exactly...but we don't care.

Mark Emerson came over to give a hand with the shovel.

Malachi gave a hand with the shovel too. See his small piles?

He also found a worm.

It was really hot, so the kids made sure to cool off on the waterslide.

Tirzah wasn't much help. But she is cute!

Micah and Eden pulling some teamwork.

Caleb pulling some stunts (what else is new).

Done! Time to clean up! The project, including the costs of lights, probably cost somewhere around $ Mitch says. I say it definitely improves our curb appeal!

My beautiful daughters

Saturday, August 08, 2009

God Provides!

Even in little things and unexpected ways, God provides.

Mitch and I have found it easy to trust God with our family size. We are trying to learn to trust Him with our finances. Since I spend most of the money (or at least more regularly spend) around here, for me that has begun to look like this: running everything I buy through a filter of questioning if that's what God wants me to spend money on.

To be honest, this is very difficult. I have found that I have a few wants and desires that are hard to say no to. Here is one recently that I had to say no to. I really, really, really wanted a new diaper changing pad. I bought this one for around $20 only a year ago at a second-hand store, but I'm pretty sure it was new (it was packaged). It ripped the day I brought it home. I was devastated. It didn't take too long for it to need significant repair:

Do you know how embarrassing that is as a daycare provider?? Our changing area is required to be sanitized with a bleach water combo after EVERY diaper change (yuck, yuck, yuck)...but it's kinda impossible to sanitize one of these ripped pads. It was embarrassing for parents to see that diaper area, too.

What I really wanted was one of these:

This fancy-shmancy changer costs a whopping $60. But I had a $50 gift certificate designated "for baby." This counts right? I even got pre-purchase approval from my husband (after relentless nagging). But I never did feel a peace about it--and believe me, I had prayed much!

Yesterday I was changing a baby and I felt God speak clear as a bell. I have all this wonderful fabric here. PUL is a poly-urethane laminate. It's durable enough for diapers, it should work for a changing table. My concern had been that the bleach would break it down. It might. But the little sleeve I made, with the waterproof side out, cost less than $7. I could make a few more to replace it if needed before getting up to the $60. But I didn't have that clarity of thought until yesterday when I felt God's direction. He is faithful to provide the things we need and to help us make decisions as well.

It looks so nice now and works wonderfully. I know it doesn't match the color of the closet walls, but it DOES match the rest of the room.

This isn't just a matter of learning not to be impulsive with our spending. It's also not as simple as just asking God to provide what we need. After all, had He not provided the gift certificate? Yes, He had, but just because it is in our hands does not mean it is ours to spend on what WE see fit. But through prayer it was obvious that God has a different plan for the money in our pocket. Trusting. Listening. Obeying. It can be SO hard!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Creating a Spectacle

Can you guess what's new at our house?

Micah, the first one of our kids to need glasses, is slightly near-sighted, needing a -1 and -1.25 correction in his lenses. Not bad...considering Mitch's is -12 for contact lenses! We always prayed that the kids would get my eyes and Mitch's teeth. This is not SO bad. :) Micah LOVES his new glasses and is super happy to have them. When he first got them I asked if he could see better. His answer: "a little." LOL Oh well! He looks smarter, doesn't he?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Found on my camera card...

Micah brought home 3 pike and a lite beer after fishing with Papa (Papa cleaned them), and we made a beer batter and fried them...yummm.

kids enjoying time at the beach on Middle Spunk Lake in Avon

Tirzah and Jericho..."bow sisters"

Anybody seen Malachi?

Found him wrapped the sheets drying on our deck
He was soooo comfy...

Tirzah can roll over front to back

Boys love toads

A game of leap frog?

Daddy's whiskers never fail to tickle

I hope you enjoyed my photo journal!