Thursday, March 26, 2009

Money Saving Madness

To add to the craziness of dossier paperwork, home study meetings, fundraising, training courses, and the general craziness of life these days, we are doing our best to save as much money as possible for our adoption. We have tightened up our budget considerably. I have found that it takes lots of time and effort to pinch pennies. I have opened up a bank account just to get the promotional $75 in free groceries; I have put more effort into menu planning and sale watching; and I have even rolled a big bucket of change to put in the adoption account. But perhaps most notably, I have become a coupon superhero.

I had always loved to be frugal. I'm kinda a nerd about it, actually. I enjoy making a game out of how little I can spend on something. For a while I have read on friends' blogs about the crazy-good deals that they have gotten shopping at drugstores, somehow coming home with bags full of goodies for a couple of dollars. It intrigued me, and I wanted to give it a try. But it also sounded complicated to figure it all out, and who has the time? Well, the need to raise $25,000 provided the motivation to get me started.

My friend Robin pointed me to the Money Saving Mom website for the tutorials on how the process works at Walgreens and CVS. Basically you combine sales with coupons with in-store rebates and end up getting lots of items for just pennies, or even for free. Each week she post lists of what is on sale that week and where to find great printable coupons.

This has become my new hobby. I have such fun planning out my shopping trips and coupon strategies. I “reward” myself with time to clip coupons and plan during Madeline’s nap after I have gotten my work done. I know….it sounds terribly dorky. But when I go to CVS and come out with a couple of bags full of items that I paid for with change, I feel high!

Here is what I purchased this week at Walgreens and CVS for $1.30. How fun is that?!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Encounter with the Law

This weekend Daniel, Madeline, and I traveled with my cousins to visit my sister in Georgia. It was about 9 pm on Friday night as we drove down the two-lane highway an hour from Atlanta in the Honda CRV we had borrowed from my parents for the weekend. Then the flashing blue lights appeared behind us. I was sitting behind our driver Daniel, and I quietly patted his arm to reassure him – “It’s OK. Don’t worry.”

We pulled into a nearby gas station, and to our surprise the police office informed us, not that we were speeding, but that the light illuminating our license plate had burned out. She asked for driver’s license, insurance, etc. We waited and waited, and finally she returned with the unexpected news – our license plate did not match the vehicle that we were in. It belonged to a Ford. She questioned us suspiciously, said something about “willful concealment,” shined her flashlight all around to car to get a good look at us all, and asked us to wait, taking the car’s registration with her this time. Soon another set of flashing blue lights were parked beside her. She had called for back up. I have often passed cars on the side of the road with two or three police cars behind them and thought, “Ooooh! Whatever they did, it must have been bad! They are in big trouble….” Well on Friday night, that car was us.

We waited another ten long minutes before the police officer finally returned. We expected that we would be asked to get out of the vehicle so that they could search it for drugs or whatever it was it looked like we were up to. Madeline had finally fallen asleep only minutes before, and I was NOT happy about the prospect of waking her up. To our relief, she walked up to the car, returned our documents, and meekly informed us: there had been a mistake, everything was fine, and we were free to go. “Have a good evening, sir.”

So we happily drove away, already laughing about what a good story this experience would make

Later as I reflected on what had happened, it occurred to me that I never felt any fear. At the time I expected that the situation might have turned out to be a major inconvenience, but I knew that we had done nothing wrong. Eventually the police would figure that out, and everything would be OK. I take for granted that we live in a country that has a justice system that presumes that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Not for a moment did I fear that I would be unfairly arrested, beaten, or even tortured when I had committed no crime.

I recently read Gary Haugen’s book, Terrify No More. In it he shares numerous stories from around the world of the International Justice Mission’s work to free slaves, rescue minors trapped in the sex trade in eastern Asia, and speak on behalf of people who have been unjustly arrested and mistreated by the authorities of their countries.

One such story was about a man named David, living in Nairobe, Kenya. David was a Christian who also owned and operated a video store. One afternoon a policeman barged into his store, grabbed him, and said, “You are one of them too!”, throwing David in the back of his truck with two other men. They demanded money from David, and he gave them all he had. Later at the station, they let David go. But as he walked away, one of the officers shot David in the arm and side. He managed to make it to a hospital, but five minutes later the police officers entered the hospital and demanded that the hospital staff withhold treatment from David. They courageously ignored them, and his arm had to be amputated. The police chained him to his hospital bed and took him to prison as soon as he was released. They charged him with an armed robbery, but David was clearly innocent. The victim stated that he had reported the robbery to the police after the time that David had been shot.

IJM lawyers heard of David’s situation and pursued justice for David. They were victorious, and David was soon released.

God used this experience to make me think about what it would be like if I lived in a different country. What if we had been taken to jail and not released for days because of the issue with our license plate? What if they took Madeline away from me, and I didn’t even know where she was? What if there was no on who could speak on my behalf to assure that I was set free?

The sad and sometimes unbelievable truth is that millions of people in the world today live with that reality. It's easy for us in America to forget that all do not enjoy the same freedom that we do.

“Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, please the case of the widow.” - Isaiah 1:17

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” - Proverbs 31:8

Friday, March 20, 2009

Paralysis of THE

~by Daniel

I have spent most of my life searching and praying for THE right thing God wants me to do with my life. “God, please show me THE thing you want me to do with my life.” Not a bad question to ask -- so long as it’s not paralyzing. The trouble is it often is. When I’m busy trying to figure out if this or that is THE right thing I’m focused inward. The result -- I often miss a thousand daily opportunities to do A right thing for others and for God.

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. “ ~Ecclesiastes 11

If I wait until I’m comfortable and confident before I act, I never will. I do think God wants us use our noggins, to be thoughtful and prayerful when making decisions. Yet I’m sure he doesn’t want us to be like the squirrel I met on the road last week. He first went left, then right, then left, then right, and finally blump, blump. In searching for our purpose we can be paralyzed into “ready, aim, aim, aim…” and all the while God is saying “Child, FIRE already! I love you and I want you to join me on all the adventures I have for you, but I need you to trust me and saddle up.”

Which brings me to our decision to adopt. Is it THE purpose God has for my life? Maybe. Maybe it’s just the beginning. Either way I’m not going to lose sleep over it because I know for sure that it is A right thing in the Kingdom of God. I’m tired of sitting on the bench watching the other kids play ball. I choose faith over fear. Giddy-up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Little Ladybug

I slept better on Saturday night than I had in a week. We had a party for Madeline’s first birthday on Saturday afternoon at my parents' house. We had a great time, but boy am I glad to have it behind me now. I worked like mad last week – planning, shopping, cake decorating, favor making… Event planning is not a natural gift of mine. But I must say, it turned out pretty well! We had a ladybug theme, and I made ladybug invitations and a lady bug cake. Madeline even had a ladybug dress! We had red and black streamers, balloons, and tableware. We kept the food pretty simple – grilled chicken sandwiches, fruit kabobs, chips, veggies, and bean salad. And, of course, the ladybug cake.

The birthday girl had the time of her life. She loves to be the center of attention (where in the world does she get that???), and she gladly went from one person’s arms to the next, entertaining everyone for hours. She was unimpressed with her first taste of birthday cake. It was her first real experience with sweets, and she wasn’t particularly interested. She even spit out the ice cream that my dad tried to feed her. I was thrilled! Maybe she will keep preferring fruits, veggies, and whole grains the rest of her life…

The ladybug invitation

The ladybug cake

The ladybug cutlery

The ladybug herself!

Party favors

With Grandma (Daniel's mom)

With her grand-grandpa (my dad's dad)

With her great-grandma (my mom's mom) and her very first baby doll - she LOVES it!

With Aunt Barbara


Grandma and Grandpa Dubois

The boys grilling

Becca, Brad, Hope, and baby Annie

With Aunt Emily

Mom and Dad and some family friends

Rachel, my sister, and cousin Andrew

The birthday chair

Dinner Time!

Yummy fruit kabobs

Daddy loves his ladybug

Time for cake!

This looks fun to play with...

Not too impressed

Uncle Steve and cousin Annie - almost three months old now!

And if you haven't seen enough birthday pictures yet, here are a few from her actual birthday last Tuesday. We had a picnic in the park and played on the swings. We let her crawl around in the dirt, and she loved it!

Not loving the birthday hat....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hot off the Press!

We have had a busy week in the printing shop kitchen! This is good because it means that we've had a number of orders. A big thank you to all of you who have chosen to help us in this way. We are humbled and honored. Because of the t-shirt and note card sales we were able to make the payment this week to start our home study - a major financial milestone. Thank you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Difference A Year Makes

A year ago today…
I was in great pain.
I had never met Madeline.
I was clueless about how to be a mom.
I was used to sleeping through the night.
I didn’t know how to breastfeed, bathe, or dress a baby.
My heart wasn’t nearly as big as it is now.

During the last year I have…
Grown more patient.
Learned to multitask.
Become better at living out my priorities every day.
Grown to cherish my time alone with Daniel more than ever.
Learned to let go of a lot of little things that don’t really matter.
Grown to love my sweet girl more than I ever imagined and learned to cherish each day.

I am a year into parenthood now, and I would never choose to go back. Sure I miss having a full conversation with Daniel of more than two sentences at a time. And I am more thankful for grandparents than I ever imagined that I would be. (Hooray for free babysitting and date nights!) But I get to live every day of my life now, investing in the heart and mind of one who is dear to me and dear to the Lord. Sweet Madeline. Watching her grow has made my head spin. I never knew that it would really happen so fast. The expressionless blob that she was a year ago has turned into a crawling, squealing, flirtatious one-year-old with a definite mind of her own. All in one year’s time. Oh that God would change me in such profound ways in only a year.











Happy First Birthday, Madeline.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Back from the Beach

We were blessed to spend last week with Daniel’s family at a cottage in Destin, FL. Here are a few highlights from our week:

  • Madeline did AWESOME in the car
  • Daniel and I got to sleep late three mornings while Grandma looked after Madeline
  • I got to take a couple of early morning walks on the beach and had lots of time to think and pray
  • Daniel and I got to spend time just the two of us, talking about and reflecting on the crazy whirlwind that our life has been recently
  • I got to read an incredible book by Gary Haugen – Terrify No More
  • We enjoyed lots of family time and lots of seafood

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for our week of relaxation and reflection at the beach!

At sunset on the beach - it was pretty chilly while we were there!

Sweet Madeline and mom

The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the LORD on high is mighty. (Psalm 93:3-4)

Grandma, Aunt Emily, Sarah, and Madeline

Touching sand for the first time with Dad

Who knows what secrets they are sharing...

Suzie and Emily

My sweet girl

Playing putt-putt golf at the Track. Madeline was evidently having fun with the gorilla while we took this one.