Friday, December 20, 2013

Our Family Christmas Letter 2013



As we pause to reflect on 2013, we are amazed by the wonderful memories and special blessings that filled our year. Here is a collection of the highlights and memories, big and small:
§ We started the year with Isaac celebrating his 4th birthday with a Lego party
§ In February, Jason and Krista enjoyed a trip to Dallas while Isaac had fun with grandparents.
§ Krista's grandpa passed away and the extended family gathered to say good-bye and celebrate his life.  He will be missed, especially as the holiday season grows near.
§ This past spring we added chickens to our acreage which has been quite interesting for the whole family.  We are certainly enjoying the fresh eggs every day!
§ Summer was filled with family fun of all sorts: several camping trips, boating, gardening, Isaac’s first season of Tball, swimming lessons and enjoying the great outdoors together.
§  We also enjoyed  a long weekend away at a cabin/resort with Krista's family.
§ Our family had a wonderful 4th of July holiday, especially at Jason’s grandpa’s 80th birthday celebration party which included more fireworks.
§ Isaac is thriving at preschool again this year. He has so much fun and enjoys learning with his new friends.  We can't believe he will be in kindergarten next year!
§ In the fall, Krista had an amazing weekend away with a several moms from her MOPS group as they traveled to the national convention in Kansas City.
§ After Christmas, we will be celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary.  We are blessed to have each other on this journey of life God has set before us.

We continue to wait and pray for our family to grow through adoption.   We are forever thankful for the prayers and support of family and friends as we continue on this journey. 


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours.
May your holidays be filled with special memories and time spent with loved ones as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  May God bless your family in the coming year.

Thanks for reading this little blog of our Life on the Gravelly Road.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learning with Dad

 
In this last two weeks my husband has been blessed by having a few extra days off.  One of my favorite things is to see my husband and son go down to the big shed to work on stuff together (and not just because I enjoy the break).  I'm always amazed at how much he's learning while out there helping Dad. 

One Saturday while he was helping Dad clean up around the tool box, they sorted the wrenches by metric and standard.  Then the kiddo put them in size order in the wrench racks.  I was impressed.

There is a special work bench where Dad lets him "build" with scrap wood, glue and sometimes a hammer and nails (supervised).  There's also an apron and paint to decorate his creations.

They have also been working on making a wood toys together.  Recent toys that they've built together include a crane, bulldozer, trains and train cars.   I love to hear our kiddo explain the diagrams in the book of woodworking plans to me and what pieces go where. 

Of course he is the happy tester of all the projects.  He is blessed by Dad's woodworking hobby!


Another great reminder to me that learning happens all day long -- especially when kids are observing and helping a parent -- and not just during planned educational activities.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Books While We Wait

Family waiting to adopt buys a new kids book each month of the wait

As I mentioned earlier, we've been buying a new children's book each month while we wait.  I want to do what I can to celebrate the waiting, if that makes sense.  It started back when the homestudy process began.  Some books are adoption focused, some faith related, and other ones just contained sentiment I wanted to share with my son and our future child.  Plus its fun to shop for children's books!


January 2015 -- Emma's Yucky Brother by Jean Little

I bought this book because it specifically talks specifically about adopting through foster care by following Emma and her new brother, multiple visits before staying for good, some unexpected behavior, and the extra time/attention the new sibling will need from Mom and Dad, even though they are not a baby.  I wish "yucky" wasn't used as an adjective to describe people in the book as its easy for kids to latch onto without understanding that by the end of the story it was just meant in jest.  Otherwise it was helpful as we talked about the transition we were in the middle of in January.


December 2014 -- God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner

This book, while not a Christmas title, is what I picked for our December book.  I love how it celebrates God's act of creation and then reminds the reader that God placed his light in each one of us.  The text and illustration draw you in and its one I don't mind reading multiple times.



Novemeber 2014 -- It Will be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear and Change (Little Seed & Little Fox) by Lysa TerKeurst


This book follows two unlikely friends, Little Fox and Little Seed, as they face some seemingly scary changes to learn that God is always with them.  Our kindergartner liked it right away (he thought it was silly that the seed was scared to be planted) but the deeper meaning of the story took a while for him to start to understand.  Definitely a great book for any family bookshelf.


October 2014 -- How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole

This is another adoption book -- this time with the child as a narrator, telling her adoption story and what is special about her family.  The book does a good job including lots of different parts of adoption in an upbeat way, reminding readers that everyone's story is different.  It seems like it would be another book great for starting conversations and telling the stories of how a family came together.


September 2014 -- How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer

This is a great book for any family collection.  Based on the idea that kind actions fill your bucket and the bucket of others, while mean actions cause your bucket and those of others to leak.  The book has great examples and a fun way to help kids talk about how their actions impact others, or even if their own bucket feels full and needs some positive filling.


August 2014 -- Forever Families: God's Gift of Adoption by Natalie Sutyak

This beautifully illustrated book describes how God created everyone to look different but with the same heart and need for family.  It is God that brings together forever families.  The book touches on domestic infant, international and adoption from foster care.  It includes illustrations and photos of many adoptive families, including many transracial families.


July 2014 --  The Knight and the Firefly: A Boy, a Bug, and a Lesson in Bravery by Amanda Jenkins and Tara McClary Reeves

This heartfelt book is about a knight who protects his bug friends bravely during the day but struggles with being afraid of the dark every night.  A friendly firefly helps him face his fear using Truth about our Heavenly Protector, specifically Psalm 91, learning that with God we are never alone.  The illustrations were beautiful and our son connected with the story.


June 2014 -- The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin

This book tells a beautiful fairy tale based on the Chinese belief that there is an invisible red thread connecting all those who are destined to be together.  The story tells of a king and queen that one day began to feel a terrible pain that no one could explain, until magic glasses showed each had a red thread tied around their hearts.  They follow the red thread on a long perilous journey that leads them to a baby.  The illustrations are beautiful and the story is told in a way that conveys the love of parents while waiting and searching for those they are (and will be) forever connected to.



May 2014 -- Wild About You! by Judy Sierra


This book is about zoo animal families of many kinds, including some that wish they had babies but don't -- pair of pandas and a tree kangaroo.  Eventually their "wildest wishes" come true in unexpected ways, creating families that celebrate differences.  I also appreciate the fact that the animal families work together and help each other in the book, because "raising a baby takes a whole zoo!"

Yes this book has adoption themes, but its a book any child would enjoy so it would be great for families that want to talk about the idea of adoption to their child as questions come up about a friend, neighbor or relative.  I'm pretty sure we've already read it more than ten times so I know its a hit at our home.


ABC Adoption & Me by Gayle SwiftApril 2014 -- ABC, Adoption & Me by Gayle H. Swift, with Casey A. Swift

This book was written by an adoptive mom and her daughter bringing together many adoption and family themes tied to letters of the alphabet.  I appreciate the wide variety of topics covered, the diverse families represented in the illustrations, and the different types of adoptions mentioned.  I think it will be a great book to read to start discussions in the future about adoption.


March 2014 -- A Gift for Little Tree by Colleen D.C Marquez

This book is a parable about an apple tree that is unable to grow apples and through careful grafting by the gardener grows apples from the other trees.  It a beautiful and unique adoption story, different than any other we have.  The story is longer than many picture books though, likely for 5+ crowd.  My son enjoyed the story but didn't understand the meaning/symbolism.  He was glad the gardener took very good care of the apple tree and that it was no longer sad :)


February 2014 -- Let Me Hold You Longer by Karen Kingsbury

This book is one someone recommended on our Facebook page.  This touching and sweet book with wonderful illustrations is a great reminder to moms of how fast our kiddos grow up and to treasure each "last" just like we treasure the firsts.  It also does a great job letting kids know how much they are loved and why we want to hold them longer :)  My son loved looking at the pictures and spotting how the boy (and his dog) grew up together.


January 2014 -- One Special Day by Lola M Schaefer

This book is written for big brothers, celebrating all things boy (strong, fast, loud, funny, messy).  It is not about what the baby does, but celebrates the new the big brother role. It has simple text with great illustrations.  My son enjoys looking through it himself and can remember the text to "read" it himself.


 December 2013 --Itsy Bitsy Christmas: You're Never Too Little for His Love by Max Lucado

This story of the first Christmas is told from the perspective of two small mice that lived in the stable.  They hear that a king was coming and search the whole town of Bethlehem.  Along the way, they are met with discouraging words telling them they are too little and unimportant for any king, only to find Jesus in their own stable.  I love the message that He came for everyone, even when you sometimes feel too small or too ordinary.


Ronnie Wilson's Gift children's book November 2013 -- Ronnie Wilson's Gift by Francis Chan

The little boy in this book wants to give his best gift to Jesus as way to say thank you for the gift of salvation.  He decides to give his signed baseball glove, but he's not sure how to get it to heaven.  In the process, he shares food a homeless person, invites a lonely neighbor to play, and gives his balloon to a little girl who lost hers.  He learns that what we do for others, we do for Jesus.  It's a beautiful story of an important lesson.  My son said it wasn't as good as "The Big Red Tractor" (also by Francis Chan) but I really enjoyed it and it led to a good discussion.


October 2013 -- I Love You as Big as the World by David Van Buren

This is a simple board book affirming a parent's love for their child with great illustrations of how big that love is as two bears explore the world together.  It ends with the line "I love you because you are you".  Its a great bedtime snuggle book for the littlest ones.



September 2013 -- Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curis
This book is on most lists of adoption children's books.  The illustrations are adorable and it does a great job telling the story of one family's special day when a baby joined their family through adoption.  While the text won't fit for all domestic adoption families, it would make a great template for creating a photo book of how your little one joined your family, with special details unique to your family.


August 2013 -- Porcupette Finds a Family by Vanita Oelschlager

This is a story is written from the perspective of a young porcupine whose mother leaves to find food but doesn't return.  She ends up being taken in by a mother bear.  The story talks about her feelings of loss, fear and the worry of her new family no longer accepting her.  Yet whenever the young porcupine was acting "prickly" out of fear or worry, the mother bear showed consistent love and acceptance.


July 2013 -- The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village by Francis Chan

This book a fun modern parable for kids.  The villagers love using the big red tractor each spring to work their field but it is so much hard work to pull and push the tractor.  Then Farmer Dave finds the tractor manual that tells of all the wonderful things the tractor can do.  Some don't believe it can't be true, but Farmer Dave makes changes in faith.  The book is a wonderful way to talk about how God uses the Holy Spirit and the Bible to help us live out God's special purposes for us.  I think we'll be looking for other books by this author- this one was a hit here!


June 2013 -- Rosie's Family; An adoption story by Lori Rosove

This is an adoption story for a little older kids -- preschool or older I would guess.  The story is written from the perspective of Rosie, a beagle adopted into a family of schnauzers.  It touches on a number of issues, feelings and concerns an adopted child might have like working through looking different, struggles to belong, having friends ask about "real" parents, etc.  The book even includes a discussion aid for parents.  I hope it is something that aids conversations and discussion. 


May 2013 -- He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

This is a beautifully illustrated book to the lyrics of the song.  I love how the pictures add so much depth to the words and help children connect with the words they already know, such important truths.  My son likes to sing the song with me as we read the book. 


April 2013 -- A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza

This sweet little board book is about a little yellow bird in search of a mother, asking everyone that has any physical similarity to him.  Then he finds Mrs Bear who asks him, "If you had a mommy, what would she do?"  Choco learns that what makes a family is the love they share, not that they look alike.  It is certainly for the younger set with its simple story line.  My 4 year old was concerned with why the bird didn't have a mother and how could it be born with no mother.  We had some interesting discussions after reading the story.


March 2013 -- What is Heaven Like? by Beverly Lewis

I bought this book to help discuss heaven with my son and aid in dealing with the loss of his great grandfather.  This is one of the books mentioned in a great post by Jenae at icanteachmychild.com about children's books that cover the topics of death, loss and grief.   It is well written and has beautiful illustrations as a young boy tries to learn about heaven.



February 2013 -- Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon

The book is about the unlikely friendship and love between a penguin and a pinecone, touching on tough themes like saying good-bye, missing friends or loved ones far away, and a friendship that grows even when apart.  The book is a beautiful illustration of the phrase "always in my heart".



January 2013 -- I Love You Because You're You by Liza Baker
In this book a mother fox continues to affirm her love for her little fox no matter what emotions the little one is acting out or what possibly exasperating behavior is going on. Besides being another great book about how much parents love their children, it also has been a good way to talk about lots of types of emotions with my son.  



December 2012 -- God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Bergren and Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell
I spent a long time at the Christian bookstore trying to pick a book for December.  I couldn't decide so there are two :)

The first book is a sweet story about a little bear asking about "who 'vented Christmas?" and his mother's response to all the questions that followed.  It acknowledges the story of Santa while placing the importance of Christmas on God's gift of Jesus.  The illustrations are beautiful, especially when the mother bear shows her cub "God at work" in the Northern Lights.

The second book is a simple retelling of the Christmas story from the perspective of a Kind Ox who shares his stable with several other animals with no place to go on a cold night, ending with the arrival of Mary and Joseph and the Savior's birth.



November 2012 -- The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
Thanksgiving was on my mind when I ordered this book.  I love that this book celebrates the little things to be thankful for, the ones often taken for granted: music, kisses, feet, etc.  It also isn't too Thanksgiving related -- just everyday thankful.  Of course it includes some kid humor and the bright and bold illustrations like most of Todd Parr's books.  My little boy enjoys this one and it's a great way to discuss thankfulness.


October 2012 -- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
This book celebrates the diversity a young girl sees around her, through her artist eyes.  After a walk with her mom, she goes home to paint all the people she met -- all the beautiful different shades.  I love the illustrations in this one.  My son did not like the book at first ("too many girls" he told me) but has since requested it several times.




September 2012 -- A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman
This is a cute book about a frog named Frank who dreams he can fly and is determined to make it happen, even when everyone else makes fun of him.  His parents are supportive but tell him he can do any "frog thing" he can set his mind to.  Its a fun story about goals, determination and finding dreams that fit your talents.  My little boy enjoys this book, especially since looking for frogs in the backyard is something we do pretty frequently.


August 2012 --I Wished for You: an Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond

This is another adoption focused children's book, this time with a young bear asking his mom about he's her "wish come true".  The illustrations are beautiful and the text is so meaningful.  My favorite part is when the Mama Bear tells about the day she found out her wish was coming true and the emotion conveyed.  My son enjoyed this book and we talked about how we are wishing and praying for a baby to join our family too.


July 2012 -- Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
I first heard this book as part of a devotion at MOPS.  The book defines important concepts using examples with cookies.  Its a great way to talk about big ideas like cooperation, contentment, regret, etc, with children.  For example, "Trustworthy means, If you ask me to hold your cookie until you come back, when you come back, I will still be holding your cookie."



June 2012 -- God Found Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Laura J. Bryant
This is an adoption focused book, with a little fox asking the mother fox about "the day he came home".  As the mother fox tells him the story and tucks him into bed, "when God found us you, it made me the happiest mother in the world" is her refrain.  It is a sweet story and covers adoption topics at a high level.



May 2012 -- Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, Marla Frazee
This book is just about babies and what activities fill a baby's day.  It includes lots of illustrations of babies and their families doing lots of everyday things together.  I bought it as a way to talk about what having a baby is like with our son.





April 2012 -- Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado

I like to use this as a bedtime book (when my son doesn't already have one picked).  It does a great job talking on how God made him special, that we are thankful he's in our family, and how much we love him.  The book then goes through a few basic "growing up" situations (monsters, mean friends, bad day at school), re-affirming he can come to us and we love him, in case he ever wonders. 




March 2012 -- The Family Book by Todd Parr
This book celebrates many different types of families -- acknowledging their differences but also how they are similar.  Becoming an adoptive family will make us "different" than most of the other families my son will encounter.  Its also a great way to talk in general about all different types of families and what being a family means.  The illustrations are all very bold and sometimes silly, making it a fun read.

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