Friday, December 2, 2011


A friend asked a question today about kids constantly fighting. Here is the response I gave her.

We have had many of those days. : ) Let me share a tidbit that worked in our family. We made them go into a walk-in closet or somewhere that is closed off and neutral territory for all kids involved (ie, not one of thier rooms!) and told them they couldn't come out until they solved the problem on their own. Life continued while they were in the closet. We have continued watching our movie, or continued with snack, we have even started and finished dinner while some of them were arguing it out. Once they come out, they realize all that they missed out on and hopefully get the message that life does not come to a standstill if they want to fight. In the meantime, I didn't got back and give them what they missed. No rewinding movie, no missed snack, or dinner. Nothing! They next time they started to fight, I would ask them if they need to solve it in the closet. Now they go in there less frequently, and come out much quicker in a better mood because they resolved it on their own.

I only get involved if their is physical aggression which at that point I seperate them and when they cool down, they try again. No freedoms until they have resolved the issue themselves. If I do have to get involved, they pay me for my time by doing a chore of my choosing together. Again, no freedoms until they are done. The kids get along so much better now and think before they decide if it is worth it to argue over such menial things. The cost of missing things is usually not worth it, so they drop the issue before it becomes an argument.

Expect the first time to last a while because they don't realize what they are missing yet. Each time after should be less and less as they see you follow through with not allowing them to makeup that missed time.

Let me know if that helps! : )


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A disrepectful child

Another question and response...

How do you handle a disrespectful child?

A simple technique we employ is make the child try again! If the child says something disrespectful to say, “That was disrespectful, why don’t you try that again in one minute.” This timeout of sorts make the child reflect on a better way to address you while you carry on about your business. Also, tag team defense is the great way to handle this. If Melissa is having a conversation with one of our children and they are disrespectful to her, I will sometimes interject and say “Don’t treat my wife like that! If you can’t treat her with honor and respect in your words, you will show her by folding some laundry (or chose a chore/punishment).” Melissa likewise will interject for me. This shows the children that the marriage is central, solid, and the focal point of family harmony.

With older children, like a 9 year old, you can have them write some verses that explain their fault. When they treat you disrespectfully, you could use Proverbs 30:17, Proverbs 6:20-22, Proverbs 20:20 and Ephesians 6:1-3. Don’t forget the training mindset. Your children must not be allowed to disrespect you, because it is their sin. Confront it as such, and bring God into the conversation. Have them apologize to you and to God when the situation is resolved. Melissa and I recently removed some privileges from one of our children due to disrespectful behavior. She has apologized and made amends, but we haven’t removed the discipline yet. She will endure it until she has shown sustained progress in this area. With older children, disrespect is contagious and can spread to your younger children. Teach your children to model good behavior to their siblings. You may have them explain their wrong doing to their siblings if the disrespect happens in front of them. This way, the child can show what they have learned and show their sibling that it was not acceptable behavior, and you will prevent future recurrences or the perception that this behavior is acceptable.

Lastly, try to give your child a safe outlet to express gripes and complaints. Train them to do it respectfully, and you might be surprised to hear what they have to say. You could become the world’s greatest parent in no time!

Mike and Melissa


Here's another question and response...

4 yr old daughter has constant whining, how do you stop it?

Our experience with whininess has been EXTINSIVE and we have been quite successful at putting an end to it using the following technique. First of all, we believe stopping a whiny child starts with the changing the parents reaction. The primary reason children whine to their parents is that it is successful! Whininess is a learned behavior, and the child learns at a young age that making a high piercing offensive noise garners the care and attention to get their way. In order to stop the behavior, you need to change the rules of the game. The technique is very simple, four simple words. “I can’t understand you.” You choose not to understand anything said in a whiny and disrespectful way. Remember, you are training your child, so don’t reward them and train them to whine (i.e. give them what they want when they whine). Train them to be respectful! When they make their requests in a polite and respectful tone then you give them attention. You may not always give in to their respect, but you can give them the attention they want when they address you appropriately. Now they are learning to get attention is to be polite and respectful to mom and dad.

When you begin to use this technique, initially it will be very difficult. Your child has years of learned behavior to overcome, to finally find their whininess is not responded to will make them escalate. You must be committed to be patient and loving during this time. If the child steps up to a level of direct disobedience and defiance you need to take care of that in addition to the whininess. The best way to get a child with a tantrum under contol is isolation. Make sure to have them apologize to you and to God when they finally calm down before getting what they want. This could take hours at first, but the reward is worth the wait. Eventually, your child will be trained that when they whine, they don’t get what they want. Here’s a role play to help you understand.

You are in the store. “Mom, can I have a candy bar.” “I’m sorry, you didn’t say please.” *WHINY* “Mom, can I have a candy bar please” “I can’t understand you.” *WHINY* “I said please!” No response. *WHINY* “I said please!” no response. Correct tone, “Mom, can I have a candy bar please.” “No.” *WHINY* “WHY?” “I can’t understand you.”

On and on this will go until the child has learned the new behavior. Don’t be afraid to walk out of a store and sit in the car for a while if this escalates to a tantrum. Also, give them clear consequences for wasting your time if they do this. “This is not appropriate behavior for the store, if you don’t calm down we will go to the car (or other suitable place for isolation). If we go, you will pay me for my wasted time by doing some chores for me. Mommy’s time is valuable. What is your choice, calm down, or go to the car?”

This must be a credible threat, so don’t threaten with anything you can’t follow through with.

Mike and Melissa

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rules for the Star Chart

The Star Chart

This is an idea that came together with my teaching background and other parenting books that talk about positive discipline methods. In a nutshell, a child is rewarded with a star for positive behavior. Then they cash them in for earned privileges like staying up later, watching more TV, or earning extra money.

So the next question might be, how does a child earn a star? Well, I set up a list of chores that were age appropriate for my kids and explained to them that if they finished the job well and without complaining, they would earn a star. For our star chart, one star is worth less than ten minutes of work. (Note: This is not based on how long they actually take to do it, but how long you think it should take to be done correctly. A child can take a five minute task and turn it into thirty. Therefore, the task is still only worth one star.) An example would be sweeping the kitchen floor. Anything more than ten minutes of work, I give two stars. An example of this would be doing laundry. If they end up working hard helping you with something, feel free to give more. When our kids help out with yard work, cleaning the cars, spring cleaning or things similar to that, I will give them more stars. We just put those under a miscellaneous column.

Refer to the previous post for an example of how you might set up your own star chart. With our own, I use the star symbol for all of the children. However, they each have their own color. I’ll cover the “allowances” part later, but it is included on the chart for a purpose.

I left a few blank rows so that once a row is filled up, you can use another row rather than having to recreate the chart. Also, you’ll use numbers under the stars. I put the date under them to help me remember if I have rewarded the child for each task they have completed. Plus, this allows the child to keep tabs too. Once the star is cashed in, it is circled. A star chart can be used for several months if made large enough. Now you have a way of keeping track of how efficient they are being with their chores.

You can alter the chart to have anything on it. Our main categories were dishes, floor (for the kitchen), trash, cat box, table (for the kitchen), special (anything that is not covered by the other categories - shoveling snow, weeding the garden, etc.), laundry, and recycling. You may have other chores that you do on a regular basis. Include those too. If done regularly, like on a weekly basis, I would give it it’s own category. When you have exhausted that category, start a new row with one of the original empty ones.

When using the “special” category, you can also decide what they can earn for their stars. They may be helpful in the kitchen and you want to reward them for not having to be asked. You may see them doing a thorough job without having to be reminded of what is expected of them. You can reward them by doubling the stars if they do their chores without complaining. However, be careful to use these infrequently as to surprise them and so they do not expect a reward every time they do what is normally required of them.

The idea is for you to adapt a chart to meet your family needs. Be flexible and creative when designing it. Make it colorful with markers, stickers, glitter glue etc. Let the kids help you make it. It should look more kid friendly than professionally made. Have the kids pick out what color should represent them. This should be something that represents the kids in the family in a fun way.

The most important thing is to be consistent with it. If a child does not see you honoring your word by giving them the stars or if you fail to take them when they have cashed them in, the system will not work. When they ask to cash in stars, have them watch you circle them. When you give them stars, have them watch you put them on the star chart. This lets them know you mean what you say. In addition, count their stars often so they can see the fluctuation of cashing in and earning the stars.

Here are some guidelines I have with our star chart. The child needs to be at least five years old to use this. It is hard for a smaller child to understand delayed gratification with cashing in the stars. They do not understand the concept of working hard during the week so they can stay up a little extra on the weekend. Plus, you can use the delayed privilege method to work on building trust to carry out the responsibilities on the chart. Use anticipation to help them be eager about being added to the star chart on their fifth birthday. If you build it up, they will be excited to do their chores once they have obtained the privilege to do so.

On the other extreme, a child is too mature for the star chart when they become a teenager. By the age of thirteen, you will have an ample supply of rewards and punishments to use with them. The rewards they will now receive will be earned with your trust which cannot be calculated with stars and cashed in for extra money or privileges.

Now that you know how to set a star chart up, I want to share some rules we use with ours:

-Stars are not given for sloppy work.

-Chores are given a plentiful time limit, but once outside that time limit, the star is no longer given. At that point I give them the star, but immediately circle it. It is logged that they did the chore and cashed in because they took too long.

-If a child hurts a sibling or their belongings, they can use stars to pay retribution. For this, I use the offended child’s pen to circle the offender’s star and put the offended child’s mark on top ready for cash in. This also allows for you to see if there is a pattern in offensive behavior.

-Chores can be changed from child to child, especially as they earn the privilege to do more chores. The different colors or symbols keep track of who had the last turn.

-Sometimes our children have to do chores for each other. The child who was supposed to initially do the chore still receives the star.

-We require that our kids keep at least a ten star balance when they cash in their stars. This ensures that they have enough to pay for privileges or offenses before they have the opportunity to earn more.

-If a child runs out of stars, they cannot pay for their privileges and therefore cannot use them. This is where consistency is key. Only let them have what they have truly earned. In addition, if they are out of stars, but have an offense, they must now pay with their money one quarter for every star they do not have.

Again, this chart can be adapted and changed in any way to meet the needs of your family. It does not have to be exactly like this. The only MUST is consistency with whatever system you use.

More discipline techniques to follow... Amen! ; )

Mike and Melissa

Star Chart

We recieved several requests about our star chart. Here was our reply.

Dear Friends,

This is the version of the star chart we currently use in the house, but you can create anything you like and customize it to your house.

The keys are to associate the star with "freedoms". It's what your children want and has real life applicability with money. The nice thing about stars is that they cost you no money and can be very useful to pay "fines". For example, pay your brother two stars when you are mean, you owe mom two stars for being rude, etc... Also, stars can be used for reward. If you catch your kid doing something good, you have real credible value by saying "great job, I'm giving you three stars! I'm so proud of you!"

Please note: This only works if you honor the value of the stars, and if you keep up with it. Don't give them freedoms they haven't earned without stars. Many nights one child who has no stars goes to be an hour earlier than everyone else because they didn't have any due to punishment or lack of work. Be strong, and you will set your kids up for success!

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

Mike and Melissa

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PWOC Conference in Edelweiss

Mike and I had a wonderful time this weekend at the PWOC conference in Edelweiss. We were blessed with the opportunity to teach our first parenting/adoption class together and it was fun! We met alot of great women and are eager to answer the questions we received. So look for updates as we get to them one by one.

In the meantime, feel free to write more questions as they come up. We may not have all the answers, but at least we can pray for you or direct you in the right direction.

Thanks also to Paulette and Tanya and their families for watching our kids for us. We got back to several issues that need to be taken care of discipline-wise. Our jobs are never done! Thank God though, because that would mean my kids don't need a mom anymore. So as you walk in frustration about how to handle your kids, know that we are walking right along side you. We constantly pray for the wisdom (and the patience, and the self-control, and the peace, etc.) to train our children in the way they should go.

In Him,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Making Plans

Sometimes making plans, while in the military, can be overwhelming. And just when I get up the courage to decide on a plan, things change. This is why I prefer for Mike to do all the legwork and I just follow. Yet, I know that is a copout to excuse my fear of stepping out of my comfort zone. I am working on it. Here's my attempt...

Mike was supposed to change jobs come early November. However, due to a paper glitch, the transfer has been postponed a few months. I have been praying that if God took this away or delayed it for some reason, that He has a better plan in store. Since he was supposed to be in a new job, he cleared Christmas leave with his new boss. But now that he is not moving, we are trying to figure out what his squadron will do in regards to his leave request.

While waiting for the job transfer, we decided that the kids and I should finally go back to visit family in the states. Afterall, it has been almost two and a half years. We made the plan to catch a space available flight to the east coast sometime during the last week before school ends for Christmas break. If all went well, Mike would go back home to work a little longer while I visited my mom and step-dad in Atlanta. He will join back up with us a little later. Then the plan also included us buying round trip tickets to Las Vegas for his family reunion. After the reunion, we'd head back to Altanta and catch a hop back over the ocean a few days later. It is a nice plan, right? The kids and I are so excited to go back and see alot of our family. But now with Mike's work issue, I am not sure how this will all turn out.

I share this to ask for prayers! We want to come home for a visit. I want to see our families. I want to eat at delicious restaurants only found in America (Chik-Fil-A!). I want to shop for bargains at the malls. I miss our country! Please pray that Mike's leave would be approved and that we would be able to catch a space available flight to and from Germany in our first few attempts. These would be God things. And I know that He can make it happen.

Thanks for sharing our adventures and praying for us.

In Him,

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Beginning of Fall

It is now the beginning of Fall and not much has changed in the last few weeks. The kids have stayed busy in school, I have stayed busy keeping up with them, and Mike has stayed busy going on tdy's. We have definately found our school routine which keeps me on task when Mike is gone. So there isn't much to report on for this update. We are doing well and praying that Mike's job change at the end of the month goes smooth. I will like his new schedule as he will be home more. In the meantime, if you think to pray for us, we could use wisdom with parenting. We appreciate them! Have a blessed beginning of Fall and month of October!

In Him,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


It's hard to believe that we are almost through September and a month of school. Before we know it, Christmas advertisements will be overwhelming us well before Halloween is here. With that, we'll begin the four birthday celebrations in the midst of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's festivities. And that just reminds me that another year is almost over. How did it all happen so fast?

Our September update is a quiet one. The kids have all been enjoying school. All the open houses revealed that our kids had a good start. We reminded them that we (the teachers and I) now know each other and will communicate on a regular basis. So far, it has worked in bringing about good progress reports with only minor redirections. I have been praying that it stays that way as they get more comfortable with their peers.

Mike is enjoying his last bits of flying before he moves to his new staff job. He is supposed to change over at the end of October. However, nothing is ever set in stone with the military. So we plan the best we can knowing that it can be easily changed to something else. His new job should have regular hours and keep him home more. The downside is the possibility of deployment. Though, that possibility is at any job. Needless to say, God has a plan for us either way. I am just thankful to see my husband happy doing what he loves.

You would think with all the kids being in school now that I would have loads of free time. But that is not true. I am staying busy with our daily household tasks of raising a family, helping with Biblestudy, writing a book, writing more songs on the piano, running a new TLA, and trying to enjoy a little free time to myself. My life is not so busy that I go crazy, yet busy enough that I thank God for each blessing/task and pray that it brings Him glory because without Him, none of it would be possible anyway.

I pray that the end of your summer and the beginning of your fall is as blessed as ours.

In Him,

Friday, September 9, 2011

New Business Owners

We did it! We have now opened our downstairs apartment as a TLA. We are praying that God uses our home to make others feel comfortable in their transition to and from Germany. We had a hard time with accomadations when we got here and know how important it is to feel at home while waiting to move into a permanent place. So spread the word for us. And if you want to visit, we have a nice place for our friends and family to stay for free!

In Him,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Adventures for the Pontiff Clan

The kids' newest adventure has begun. School started today. We geared up for school with the preperation of school supplies and clothes and... school practice. Yes, we had school practice last week. We knew that the kids were out of sorts in regards to their school schedule and would inevitably miss something on their to do list even after reading it out loud. So the first day, we explained that they had to get up at 0800 and go through their list. Each day would be thirty minutes earlier than the day before. If they succeeded, they didn't have to do the rest of the week. They would still have to get up early to acclimate their body to school time, but other than that, they would be off the hook. Only one succeeded the first day. When the list says, "Make your bed" or "Clean your room" or "Get your lunch and backpack" and you read that out loud, most would think that would be a good enough reminder. The other four children read their lists and said it was done and yet had missed these things. How is that possible you say? My thoughts exactly. Hence, more school practice. The next day, only one more succeded. You'd think they would get that I was checking their lists off too and I would know what was not done yet. Still, they decided to try me... and lost. Yeah, more school practice. Day three, the next two finally succeded. And day four, the last one had to try three times to get it right. It all paid off though as today went well for all of them. Only one is now "in trouble" for deception. She chose to put on her makeup rather than clean her room and then tried to pretend that her door was closed "so that the cats wouldn't go in there" when she loves having them in her room. I picked up on that immediately.
I laugh at what they think they are hiding. And I wonder, what does that mean that they think about me? Do they think I just don't know. Then I think, "Wow! That's what I did to my mom too." Well, Mom, I am so sorry I ever did that. You were way smarter than I ever truly gave you credit for. Now as a mom myself, I see your motherly wisdom as something to behold. I always thought you had eyes in the back of your head and now know it was God who had your back and told you everything! There is something about a momma and God on her side. Don't mess with her!

So that was the kids' newest adventure. Now ours, Mike's and mine, is opening our newly vacated apartment as a TLA (temporary living accomadations) for people coming in and out of the Kaiserslautern area. Mike got the idea shortly after we spoke to a rental agency about renting out our apartment again. We decided to use this to make additional income, but to also have the availability to bless people coming and going through the church or our family. This week is getting all the furniture in place before I go out to buy all the curtains and home decorations. So please pray for wisdom for me on how to do that. It's not one of my strengths. I'll post pics soon with a link to our new Schrollbach TLA.

Enjoy the rest of your summer while it lasts!

In Him,

Monday, August 15, 2011

End of Summer Update

Summer is slowly coming to a close with only two weeks of vacation left. We were trying to maximize our travel time, but with all of Mike's tdy's, we ended up just doing short trips. It was to fun, local places that didn't take alot of planning to do. After all our relaxing, the kids are ready to go back to school.

We've managed to get most of thier school supplies. The rest are being sent compliments of Grandma and Grandpa "Where's my hug?". Plus we are getting clothes ready too. My "to do" list now entails cleaning out the old clothes to make room for the new. Each year gets easier as the kids get older and more familiar with our purging system.

As for me, I have delved into a new Biblestudy called Becoming the Woman God Wants Me To Be. It is a 90-day study that encourages us to become more like the Proverbs 31 woman. The author takes a few verses each week and dissects them into applicable and manageable changes that we can make in our lives. I have to admit, I was excited about this at first, but now I am getting out of my comfort zone on some of the homework items and it's making me nervous. This is a spiritual journey though, that is supposed to leave us different than when we started. So I know it is all me and that I need to just get over it and do it. Pray for me!

In addition to all the kids' fun and my new changes, our poor cat, Sumy, had to have emergency surgery last week. Turns out that she bit off something like a cotton ball off of her cat toy and it got lodged in her large intestine. She came home wearing the "cone of shame" because she had a scar several inches long on her newly shaved belly. Our other cat, Rammy, didn't know what to do with her. He stayed on close guard, but if we encouraged him to get closer to her, he'd meow and run off, and then sneak back up to viewing her again. Sumy gets her stitches out in a few days and is already returning back to her old, sweet self. I have a sad-funny to share: she was still wearing her new collar cone one night when she tried to jump up in bed with me and ended up falling off the bed because she couldn't equate for the collar space. I felt so bad for her. Mike picked her up and put her in bed with me where she fell fast asleep with a loud purr.

Mike's update is that he did not get picked up for school opening the door for us to stay in Germany a little longer. We were happy with either outcome. It's just nice to know which one so we can move forward. He'll be taking a new job soon that might open even more years here. We'll see. We love it here! We love our home that God has blessed us with, we love the base, we love our church, we love our friends! Even after two years, I still wake up sometimes and wonder why God has blessed us with this wonderful opportunity because I know that I don't deserve it.

Lastly, I was talking with a few friends from church and they helped me come up with a new idea for parenting questions. Just ask them on the blog! So if you think of anything you want me to answer, leave a post, and I will do my best to answer it in a later one.

Have a blessed last few weeks of summer!

In Him,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thankful for this summer

The last six weeks feel like they have past by quickly. The kids and I have built our summer routine into one of sleeping in and taking things easy. We do try to stay productive, but we are having fun doing it. We visit the library weekly, try to go swimming, and of course, hang out with friends whenever we can.

Mike got back at the beginning of July. He motivated us to finish our back yard garden patch and wall. It looks great now. However, I think we may have to wait until next year for it to produce anything of substance.

I was also able to finish my sister's birthday blanket. It took four months to make and was worth every minute to make for her. Now that I have completed one for all our family members, I am going to use all the leftover yarn to make a kitty blanket since my cats like to sit on the one I am making. It makes it hard to stitch! Now I'll trick them with one of their own on my lap while doing the real project. After that, I think I will make another one for us. I have to pick out a design though. I want to make something new.

Another update was finding out that we are staying in Germany for another year. Mike was not picked up for school. But it was a win-win situation for us. School or another year in Europe? After these last few weeks of life with our Lifegroup (Couple's Biblestudy), I am thankful that I get another year to spend with these precious families that I have grown to love. And we always love an excuse to get together and party. So a few days ago we celebrated with one family as the husband came back from a six month deployment. Here is a picture of some of us ladies celebrating their family reunion.

I am very blessed to have my children home from school, my husband home from TDY, and friends that are like family when you are away from home. God is good!

In Him,

Friday, June 24, 2011

Woohoo! School's Out!

School is out and summer has begun. I have thoroughly enjoyed this last week with the kids being home. I feel like I have been enjoying a seven day weekend. The kids and I have started establishing a weekly summer plan that includes going to the library for books once a week, getting movies twice a week, and going to the pool. We are just taking it easy until Mike gets back and our travels begin. He gets home in one week if all goes according to plan.

I have to admit, I was nervous about how the kids and I would do without Mike for a month. We miss him ALOT. Yet we have handled things well without him here. I must say it is a God thing because I hear horror stories about things that happen when the man of the house leaves. We have been blessed to have everything under control, even the kids's behavior. I was especially worried about that considering what happened around spring break when Mike was on a different TDY.

We still haven't heard anything about the military's plan for us this summer - do we leave or stay. We'll post something about it as soon as we hear.

In Him,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer's almost here

Summer break is almost here. The kids are busy finishing all the last school projects, tests, and homework assignments to get their final grades. And I am getting ready to say goodbye to my quiet house during the day. Though I must say, I am looking forward to the kids being home. It will be nice to sleep in (compared to school mornings) and go to bed later now that the sun is not setting until about 10 PM. We can have sleepovers during the week, have friends watch movies with us in the evening, and hang out until the sun goes down. Ahhh! The joys of summer!

Mike should be back from training in about three weeks and then we will begin our summer trips. Two summers ago we moved here and dealt with moving into a new house and settling into the area. Last year, I stayed busy with homeschooling our oldest to make sure she was ready for 7th grade (it paid off!). This summer will be so different. I look forward to what God will bring.

We'll keep you updated.

In Him,

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Update and New Polish Pottery

Well, an update on the kids brings good news that they are slowing coming around. They still need redirection, but what kid doesn't? School is coming to an end with only 13 school days left. With today being a holiday (thank you to the many soldiers who have fought for our freedom!), we went to a church picnic last night and stayed out late enjoying the sunlight. I am so ready to have that permanently. And I think the kids are too.

Today also brought the beginning of Mike's tdy to Little Rock AFB as he attends training for a month. I am confident that God will take care of us. Yet, I also admit to anxiousness with his absence. I already miss him and he's only been gone a few hours. We'll get our routine established quickly and that will help. There is still no word on whether we will move this summer. But keep posted. We'll write an update as soon as find out something.

In preparation for Mike's tdy, I got to plan a last minute girls' getaway to Poland to buy some of thier famous pottery. When we lived in England, back in 2001, I remember seeing it and not thinkinig too highly of it. However, it grew on me and I fell in love with all the unique designs and the mixing and matching of various patterns. So my friend, Pam,and I drove the seven hours to Boleslawiec on a whirlwind shopping spree filling her car with loads of the beautiful dishes. To make the trip even better, we stayed at a quaint little Bed and Breakfast called the Blue Beetroot. It had the best food, some great tasting fruit-flavored beer (raspberry and apple), and allowed us to indulge in eating desserts while getting pedicures. I was astonished at how little we spent in comparison to the royal treatment we recieved. I'll post pics of some of the things I got. It makes me wonder what kind of dishware we'll eat with in Heaven. Fine china, Polish pottery as unique as each individual, paper plates, or will we even eat in Heaven? I hope we do! If you ever come to our house for dinner, you'll get to enjoy using our new dishes. I didn't want to store it in a cabinet for occasional use. I wanted our family to enjoy God's new provisions for us - every day. Everything is a gift from Him, even dishes!

In Him,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's beyond me...

I must admit that some of the kids are doing better. So I thank God for that. Now I must share our latest update so you can have a good laugh and if anything, pray for me.

Our oldest still continues to amaze me. Her discipline consists of talks and redirections more than anything else. Sometimes I can see that she is agitated for being corrected, yet she controls her frustration and is back to normal in no time. She is also becoming more considerate and thoughtful beyond her years. For example, I asked her one day to switch my laundry (which contained my sheets) from the washer to the dryer after she had pulled her clothes out while I went to a meeting. In addition to babysitting her younger siblings, I asked if she could pull my laundry out of the dryer when they were done and bring them up to my room. I came home and she had put away my towels and made my bed! I was blown away by her thoughtfulness to do that.

Now our second eldest, the one who was bucking the school's authority, is doing amazing at school. Occasionally, she'll have a note saying she needed a little more redirection than normal, but those are so much better than before. The part we are working on now is her social skills away from school and accepting her sister's authority while being babysat. We went over to a friend's house where the boys (the oldest is five) are allowed to play soccer in their room. However, our eleven, almost twelve, year old daughter decided she could play too and kicked the ball so hard it broke a light fixture in the room. Why I have to explain to her the difference between a five year old playing soccer in the house is different from an almost twelve year old is beyond me. For nights that require babysitting, she now has to go to her room for the evening becuase she is undermining her older sister's authority. She asked if two friends from down the street could come over to play knowing it was against the rules to have friends over while her Dad and I are gone. When our oldest told her no, she threw a fit! We told her she has to earn the freedom to come out of her room while we are gone. The blessing is that now she is making a few bad choices that are big rather than alot of bad choices. We are getting somewhere with her.

Our middle child is doing well in school now too. And for the most part is doing well at home too. Her thing is that every now and then, she'll make a bad, spur-of-the-moment decision that has a heavy consequence - like sending a kid to the ER for putting paper in his ear. Well, her thing this last few weeks is that she went over to a friend's house and decided to climb his shed over the fence onto the hood of their nice car! The mom saw it and very kindly came over to tell me what she just did. Why our daughter thinks it's ok do this is beyond me. She knows that is unacceptable behavior at home. I just thanked God that she didn't do any damage to their car and that the neighbors are nice and still like us (I think!).

Our fourth child is doing much better at school too. This is a nice break from all the messages I was recieving a few weeks before. His problem is that same as the other two. He is doing better, but occassionally makes a bad choice that makes you say, "What in the world were you thinking?" Which I know is a stupid question to ask a child because the automatic response that comes back at you is, "I don't know." He undermined his sister's authority one day by telling our youngest that she was wrong and he didn't have to lister to her. He got the same punishment as our second eldest - off to his room while I am gone. They have plenty of things to occupy thier time in there. The kicker story, though, is that our neighbors (the same ones with the car that our daugheter climbed) told us that one morning the mom and son were gone when our child went over to see if their son could play. He found the door open, but instead of knocking, he proceeded to walk right in and starting yelling their son's name over and over not knowing that the dad was still trying to sleep. Again, why our son thinks it's ok to do that is beyond me. He knows better.

And lastly, our youngest, is still having some major battles between good and bad. He gets better for a little while then slips into a series of bad choices that make me ask again, "What were you thinking?" to him all the while knowing the automatic response before I can stop myself. So here goes his story... I have now recieved seven phone calls from the school in seven weeks. The first two and the second two were in the last post in regards to my second and fourth children. The last three phone calls have been about this one. For the most part, his behavior at school has improved alot this year. It's his impulsivity that gets him in trouble. The first phone call came, without his knowing, about him stealing a teacher appreciation gift that another child left on his teacher's desk. He told her he found it, and she politely told him thank you and to please put it back. Well, he decided to eat the treat. When he got home, I asked how he did for the day. He pulled out his folder and showed me a green smiley face which took me by surprise. When I looked closely, he had erased (very well) the big X that crossed it out and the note that went with it. Stealing and deception... not a good combo. He lost snacks for a week and had to buy her a whole box of the treats with his allowance to pay her back. Two days after that, we got another phone call that he "found" his friend's toy and put it in his pocket. He had to give it back. But then when he came home, we heard from our other children that he gave a toy away to our neighbor. That means he stole twice? We got the toy back, wrote a note asking how he got that one too. Turns out that the child gave that one to him since he tried to steal the other toy. My goodness! It's hard to get it all straightened out. The third phone call came because he hurt another child while playing outside. All I can think of is, "Where the heck did he learn to act like this?" And the story continues... Then we found out that he stole, sometime ago, AWANA dollars. AWANAs is our Sunday afternoon Bible club where they earn money for coming to club and saying scriptures. Then they can spend the money at the store to earn really nice things. I had to confiscate all of his money because I had no idea what he truly earned versus what he stole. He watched all the kids buy things this last Sunday. I felt bad for him because I wanted to him to reap the benefits of his hard work in memorizing all those verses. Though I wish those verses would peirce beyond his head into his heart. It's frustrating watching your babies make mistakes and then reap the consequences for their actions. I want to protect them from it sometimes, yet I know it will only make it worse in the longrun. It's beyond me where he feels the freedom to act on those impulses.

So again, we are doing better, but still have a ways to go. I am learning so much through my kids about how God sees us. His love never decreases with our bad choices. Yes, we sometimes have to face the consequences of our actions, but God loves us through it instead of shielding us from it. He disciplines us because He loves us. And so I must discipline my kids because I love them. He never said it would be easy because there is a war going on for thier hearts. I must continue to perservere with love and patience, just like my Father.

Thanks for taking interest in, reading about, and praying for our family!

In Him,

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Living a Bill Cosby Episode

I feel like the last month of my life has been a Bill Cosby episode. He had five kids, we have five kids. They made some stupid choices, ours are doing the same. The only thing that brings me sanity through some of the discipline is to laugh about it, when the kids aren't looking, of course. Let's just say, I am building up my ammunition of blackmail on my children for when they get older. And all I will say when they cry, "MOM! Don't tell that story!" is "Well, you did it. If you didn't want me to tell it, then you shouldn't have done it."

So here goes the last month -

A couple of weeks ago, my 11 year old (almost 12 year old) decided to start bucking the school's authority. She didn't believe them when they asked her to stop talking so much, stop distracting her peers, and not chew gum in school. We warned her that we may pull her out of school if her behavior is impeding other's learning. Her way to solve this? Get worse. She got two detentions for chewing gum, hid a satin pajama top in her backpack and changed at school, then got a teacher conference with five teachers and the counselor in less than two weeks. At home, she kept undermining her older sister's authority and proceeded to climb a windowsill in her little brother's room while three boys turned his dresser into a stairstep to get to the top of a wardrobe. Things are not going well for her.

On to the next child, my 8 year old is doing better, but still has some new things that we crossed in the same time frame as the one above. She chose not to do her homeowork one night and ended up losing TV priveleges for the rest of the week, then used her TVless time to undermine her oldest sister's authority (same situation as the 11 year old) as well as watch her youngest brother and two other boys climb a wardrobe. She didn't think she needed to say anything. She has been doing well at school. However, last week we got a note from the teacher saying that another parent complained about our daughter. She used a pencil to put paper into the child's ear which consquently led to him going to the ER to get it removed. I can say now that one of my children has put another in the ER.

The next one is 7 years old. We thought our sweet little boy was doing great in school because his previous sememster brought raving reviews from his teacher. Well, I was wrong. (I remind you, this is the same time span as the previous two stories.) He brought home his 3rd report card where his teacher stated that he was very difficult this past nine weeks. He was passively aggressive with his teachers, moved alot, and kept distracting his peers. Wow! How did I not know? So, I asked to teacher to contact me daily through a behavior log or email to let me know when I needed to intervene. We got a phone call from the vice principal that he made a mess with water in the bathroom so bad that the janitor had to come clean it up. Then a few days ago, I got another call that he tried to forge my signature on a bad behavior note from Monday. At home, I started seeing the passive aggressiveness too. I told him to do something, and he looked straight at me and said, "I don't want to!" Excuse me?!?! He was also party to the wardrobe climbing in his room.

Then my littlest one is the 6 year old. He is a boy. And I know that boys will be boys. They just need to be redirected alot. But here goes his story too (same time frame also). He started behaving well at school. His bad days are much less frequent, praise God! However, at home he started making some poor choices. He decided to steal gum from our local store and when he was caught with it several days later, he told us he found it on the bus. We didn't realize until two days later that it was a whole pack from the store, not a few peices found on the ground. He gave it to his brother (the story above - so just add this account to his too!). Then they "hid" the other peices they chewed along with all the wrappers. We smelled it on our seven year old's breath right before prayer time. They confessed to the six year old finding it on the bus and sharing it. We thought that was all. They were disciplined and put to bed. The next day came and all was good until bedtime again. We went to say nighttime prayers and our seven year old came downstairs with gum breath AGAIN! Only this time it was a different flavor. We questioned him and found out the six year old stole a 15-pack of gum for his oldest sister and gave it some of it to him... to hide. We found some stashed on both of their bookshelves, underneath one of their pillows, in between the footboard and the covers, chewed gum in between playing cards, stuck to items in their room... It was disgusting. While searching for the last few unnaccounted peices, I found a few more miscellaneous items. Our six year old hid our laundry clorox bleach pens in the pocket of his blanket. While seaching his bookshelf, we found one of his older sister's nice peice of jewely. And the straw that broke the camels back... we found my husband's dress watch that he stole from our dresser. Once we found the last item, we stripped his room of everything, but the mattress and a blanket. We explained that everything he had was given to him as a gift and that he needed to earn them back by not stealing. Upon removing his furniture, we found more gum stuck to the walls, one stuck to the top of his wardrobe and lots of wrappers. Let's just say, he has a very easy time cleaning his room right now.

My oldest daughter has sat back with a look of surprise as each of her younger siblings beats their head against the wall of Biblical values. She has amazed me in her maturity to not join in, but also help when she can. I thank God for at least one sane child at this time.

I also forgot to mention, that my husband has been tdy for alot of this! I can't wait for him to get back.

In closing, I want to preface that I LOVE my kids and I know that they are a huge blessing from the LORD. There are days, maybe even weeks, where they drive me crazy and I think I can't keep up with them. But I know God made them who they are and I have been praying that He will give me wisdom to redirect them in a way that breaks their will, but not their spirit. So, if you ever feel this way, you are not alone. Now I am praying that whatever possessed my children overnight to leave. I want their sweet little personalities back.

I pray that this story has made you laugh as well as let you know we are a real family, with real love, real trials, and a real God who makes all things work together for His good.

In Him,

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Break - Our First Cruise

We had the privelege to experience our first cruise this spring break. And it was so much fun! We started off by leaving for our twelve hour drive to Barcelona, Spain at 9 pm and putting the kids to bed in the van. They did a great job getting some sleep. We were able to drive for five hours before our first potty break and then another five before our second potty break and breakfast. We got to Spain early enough to do a little sight seeing, but then made our way to the ship.

We were able to see Casablanca, Agidir, the Canary Islands, Madiera, and Malaga while on our nine day cruise. A part of me felt guilty for spending money to take our family on the cruise. However, during one of my quiet times on the ship, I felt like God was saying to me, "Let me bless you! Let me show you my creation that I made for you. I gave you the finances to be able to see this. Don't ruin this moment by worrying about the cost." Boy, was I humbled by that thought - God wants to bless me and show me His creation. Once I settled that thought, I thoroughly enjoyed the breaktaking sights and seeing other cultures.

Besides all the sightseeing, the cruiselines had so many fun activities to choose from. I took line dancing lessons. Mike and I learned how to salsa dance. Bryan and I were able to participate in a family game. The kids LOVED the kids' place. We enjoyed the fantanstic shows that they had onboard every night. Mike and I participated in a game of family fued (and lost). Stasia had the freedom to hang out with the teen group and enjoy a 1 am curfew. The kids enjoyed the family scavenger hunt. Then all the food!!! There is so much more we could add to the list.

I have changed my mind about cruises. They are fantastic. We didn't have to worry about where to eat and sleep which is two of our biggest hassles as a large traveling family. I can't wait to go on our next one... though it will be a few years. : ) We still need to recoup from this one.

Thanks, God! Your creation still amazes me.

In Him,

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy birthday to me... from the LORD

So today is my and my twin sister's 35th birthday. My husband, so politely, reminded me that I am halfway to 40. His 35th birthday is a few months behind mine, hence the taunting. I believe that in all his joking, he was saying that he loves being married to an older (and wiser) woman. I am looking at the situation as my glass is half full!

In waking up today, I wanted to tell the LORD "THANK YOU" for all the wonderful blessings I have received from Him all these years. So many times I get down in the dumps thinking of my trials. And yet, I want to turn them into thank yous. So, Mike's work takes him away sometimes for weeks at a time - thank you, LORD, that my husband has a job, loves it, it provides us with experiences we could never afford (living in foreign countries for years at a time), and gives us financial security. My kids are constantly in need of discipline - thank you, LORD, for the blessing of being a parent to five beautiful children who needed a mother and father to take care of them, they are one of the biggest joys in my life. My home is in a constant state of repair (it seems) - thank you, LORD, for a our house that is more than big enough to accomadate a family of seven, is used to host Biblestudies, and have friends over for parties, holidays, and dinners. The list could go on and on.

Though a lot of women dread their annual reminder that they are growing older, I look forward to it. I am excited to see how each birthday marks a tremendous growth pattern in my dependence on the LORD. I falter and fail at times and sometimes cannot see past my selfishness and stubborness. Yet, He is always there to pick me up and guide me to the next blessing in my life though I do not deserve it. This year, I celebrate being 35 as a wife and mother, living in Germany with a wonderful church family and military friends who support and love me every day. Happy birthday to me... from the LORD.

In Him,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Anniversary... from afar

Mike and I have been blessed to celebrate our 12th anniversary... apart. He was TDY in Souda Bay, Crete helping with the refugee evacuations from Libya. I was humbled by his attempt to help me catch a space available flight for one night to see him. He got all the military stuff taken care and then told me the "surprise". Thankfully, a friend volunteered to stay the night with the kids so I could go. The evening before, I got a call that the flight was cancelled. I was crushed! But I also thought, "If God allowed the fight to cancel, then there must be a better plan." The morning I was supposed to leave, Mike called to check in with me. He was sad that I couldn't go either. Then a few hours later, he told me they got the call to come home immediately - all of them! My plan would have seen me passing my husband in the air. I am thankful for God's bigger plan and that he brought my hubby home safely.

So Mike is now home. Yeah! And hopefully, he'll be able to stay home for my birthday in a couple of days.

Another parenting tip:
So here is another quick parenting tip we started using a couple of months ago - Stair Practice.
The thought behind it is that if you have enough energy to whine (that's why we started using it), be mean, argue, use rude manners, etc. then you have enough energy to do laps on the stairs. With whining, we asked our son to do laps on the stairs until he could do one whole lap without whining. This lasted a little while, but once he figured out how much work it is to whine, he has started doing it much less. We give a certain amount of laps for arguing, rudeness, and any other thing that deems appropriate of laps on the stairs. Being slow means they get more. And getting more means they might miss out on something fun like snack or tv. Give it a try! And then let me know what happens.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Email Address

Mike's tdy has brought to life that we have some issues with our email provider. I was trying to check my emails, but was getting sent into a pattern that avoided my inbox. Then when I could access my email, it would take what seemed like forever to open a document. Then ultimately, it would freeze up our internet like it couldn't keep up with our email provider's advertisements. This is very frustrating when you are anticipating a love letter or even a call through skype.

Needless to say, I got a new email address. It has been a headache trying to establish our new account, but I already love the ease and flexibility of using it. My favorite thing so far is that I can now check email from my iTouch. I haven't been able to do that before because our old internet provider wanted me to pay for a Pop3 account. It is also much quicker to check. I am still trying to figure out little tricks, like adding new contacts, but I am getting there. I have to retrain myself to a new and much better format.

So if you need to get a hold of us, send me a message through the blog and I can email you our address. In the meantime, facebook always does the trick too.

I pray you are having a blessed day!

In Him,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Februrary and early March update

Time flies so quickly these days. I think we tend to have a light schedule compared to most families theses days. And yet, I still feel like we are so busy with things that weeks pass into one another without notice. Whew!

Mid-February gave us the opportunity to visit an old neighbor of mine. It's been fifteen years since he lived next to my parents and now he and his wife are stationed here in Germany. We visited them in their beautiful town of Esslingen where they had a house warming party. We also spent most of Sunday with them taking a walk and watching our first Fashching parade (it's like a Mardi Gras parade). The kids had a lot of fun seeing all the different, elaborate costumes, and catching the candy being thrown out. Plus, they liked seeing the pranks being played on some of the crowd members. I was fortunate enough to get squirted in the face by a mask with a fish on the nose. Dasha was on the recieving end of a confetti fight. She enjoyed it though. We all had a great time there and hope to make it back again before we move.

February 25th, we celebrated Adoption Day #1. It's humbling to see how six years ago God answered mine and Mike's prayers to be parents. Dasha and Stasia are such beautiful young women now! We celebrated by going to Baskin Robbins again. The kids were so excited to pick out their own sundae to have all to themselves. I stuck with my favorite - peanut butter chocolate. Yummy!

We are now in early March with the Springtime upon us. The days are getting longer. We are anticipating the time change. The kids are pushing for Spring Break come April. I enjoy this time of the year where the sun starts to shine a little more and the flowers begin to bloom with the temperature's slow rise.

We are still not sure what the summer holds for us, but we'll definately spill the news if/when it comes.

In the meantime, I ask for your prayers for Mike. He got a call Thursday night and left the next morning on an indefinate TDY. He is with several crews in Souda Bay helping the Egyptians that are fleeing Libya into Tunisia. We are not sure how long he and the others will be gone. But please pray for Libya and everything else that is affected by what this country is going through.

Thanks for being a part of our lives!

In Him,

Friday, February 4, 2011

Another Parenting Book...

A couple of months ago, I went to a women's retreat where the speakers challenged us to step out in faith, with boldness, to follow through with things we felt God had put on our hearts but we were too afraid to do. I came home and shared what I had learned with Mike asking him what he thought. We came to one conclusion... to start writing a parenting book. You may be thinking, "Another parenting book?!? There are already so many out there to choose from." Let me explain why we want to start one.

The foster care system does not allow physical discipline to be used with thier children. Due to each child's unique background and the possible abuse that they may have faced, other forms of discipline are required. Through training classes and reading books, we developed our own little system that is based off of privileges. The privilege is the reward while not earning the privilege is the discipline. It is about earning the freedom to have certain responsibilities which carries certain privileges. But with inappropriate behavior, the responsibility is lost along with the privileges it carries. For example, our kids who work hard cleaning up the kitchen after dinner earn the privelege to stay up. If a lazy job is done, we deduce that they are tired and need to go to bed on time.

The ultimate goal is to raise our children to bring glory to God by being Christ-like role models and citizens who help contribute to our nation. That being said, we are raising them to act in accordance with Biblical ideals.

So in future blogs, I might post a quick idea that works with our kids. Here's the first one and it is on respecting each other:

If one child hurts another whether it is through physical harm (hitting, kicking, etc.) or personal harm (stealing, breaking, etc.), have the offender pay restitution with their food or dessert. Our youngest son kept stealing from other the other kids in our home while they were at school. After many trials of trying to get him to stop, we finally found something that made him feel it was not worth it to steal. He stole his sister's eye shadow and gouged out the powder making it useless. We decided he would then pay with his yummy food. We got delicious sandwich kebaps from a local German restaurant, brought them home, and dished them out. After prayer, we let everyone else begin to eat, except him. We explained that he needed to pay his sister back for the eye shadow he ruined and that since he didn't have enough money, he could pay with his lunch. She was saitisfied with the "repayment". We then made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat while we enjoyed lunch-to-go. Stealing has dropped dramatically in our home after that.

If you have any questions on how to deal with certain behaviors, email me. I love trying to help find creative ways to guide our children into making wise choices.

In Him,

Monday, January 31, 2011

Upcoming Travels

One of the things that I love so much about living here in Germany is all the traveling we can do. We have been able to take some amazing trips so far - France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, and lots of weekend trips to other places in Germany. You could add even more if you counted Mike's TDYs. Since we are unsure what this summer holds for us - whether we will move back if Mike gets accepted to school or stay here another year - we are planning as much as we can.

That being said, here are some of our plans:

A spring break trip to the Canary Islands via a nine day cruise leaving from Barcelona. We have never been on a cruise before and are so excited to try this type of travel.

Another trip to Italy this summer, though this time to Rome, Naples, Pompeii and other parts that we didn't visit last time.

A weekend trip to Berlin. I have wanted to see The Wall. My family was stationed here in Germany when I was 12 and my parents got to see Berlin before the wall fell down.

Another weekend trip to the Black Forest.

Instead of buying nice cars or having designer things, we are investing in memories with our kids. Both Mike and I love the memories we have of traveling with our own families when we were young. Plus, I love seeing the uniqueness that God has given each area. He is so creative!

I'll say it again too, "If anyone wants to visit us while we are here, our home is open!" Come enjoy Europe while you have a free place to stay.

In Him,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A New Year... A Fresh Start

January brings all the promises of a new start, a change, something different than before. Usually they come in the form of resolutions or goals. It's already the middle of January and I am still struggling what to make for my resolutions. I have already been praying that God would continue to help me with staying physically healthy. But that's not a new thing. I have already been praying that God would help me raise our five beautiful children in a way that would bring Him glory. But again, that's not a new thing. I've been praying that God would continue to strengthen our marriage, which He does everyday. But that's not a new thing.

So I ask myself, what then can I make a resolution about? I think it is to see each day as a gift from God. Each day is a fresh start, not just the beginning of the year. We have had a couple of friends die this year. Their death has helped me refocus on the fact that God can call us home at anytime. Am I ready for that? Each day I want to live a life with no regrets. To love my husband with no regrets. To love my children and family with no regrets. I am sure that each friend that died this year would have had a different perspective on life if they had known what the future held for them. I challenge you to do the same... live each day as a gift from God. Don't take a single one for granted. Despite the trials we may face, walking with Him daily brings indescribable peace and joy in all circumstances. Enjoy your fresh start... today.

In Him,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Officially Parents of a Teenager

The holidays come and go so quickly with three birthdays to celebrate in the mix. Then the holidays close out with a fourth birthday, on January 8th, bringing the end of all the present giving and cakes/desserts that one could possibly eat in six weeks.

This last birthday marked a special day for Mike and I as parents. We are now officially parents of a teenager! I know that this may not seem like a big deal to most parents. Each child will eventually hit this milestone. However, Mike and I got here seven years too early. Our daughter is growing up so fast. And yet, we've only had her for six years. When we adopted her from Ukraine back in 2005 as a seven year old, I could have never imagined all that God would have in store for us as her parents. We have been so blessed by having the privilege to be her mom and dad. She has grown up to be a beautiful child, I mean teenager, of God both inside and out. I pray that God will continue to keep her under His protection as He uses her for His glory as she shares her testimony. I am so proud to be her mom! Happy Birthday Stasia!

In Him,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Year End In Review (part 2)

As with the first part, I think the best way to share what we've done this year is through pictures. They say so much more than I ever could with words. Overall, you can see that we are definately enjoying our tour over here in Germany, we are loving life, the kids are growing up so fast, and Mike and I are still enamored by each other. : ) God is so good!

I'll start with some of my favorite family pictures that we had taken this summer at a nearby castle. We decided to do this rather than purchase school photos. At least I know that their hair looks good, their clothes look nice, we can take as many shots as we want, and we even get family shots as well as funny ones. It's a much better package deal to have professional family photos, especially when done by a talented friend.

August was filled with a personal day trip for me to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. I was glad I finally got to go, yet I just felt this weight of oppression as I walked through the gates. It was overwhelming to think of what went on just inside the perimeter not so long ago.

We also got a surprise visit from Mike's brother, Sarge. He was passing through Ramstein at the end of a deployment when his flight was delayed for two days. Mike was able to talk to Sarge's leaders to let him come home with us rather than stay at a hotel. The kids loved spending time with "Uncle Sos!"

In late August, our tenant downstairs informed us that there were water spots on her living room wall. Unbeknownst to us, there was a leak under our shower . After ripping up our shower, the plumbers were able to fix the problem. However, we had to deal with rationed hot water hours until they could isolate the problem area and fix it. And in the meantime, we had exposed cinder blocks and piping in the bathroom where our shower was supposed to be. Once the dehumidifiers sucked up all the moisture in the walls, we were able to reinstall the shower and get our bathroom back to normal. I was reminded how blessed we are to have a home with several bathrooms, to have constant hot water, to have a home that can be fixed, and to have insurance and finances to cover the repairs.

At the end of August, all five kids started public school. Stasia finished her homeschooling curriculum as started 7th grade at the middle school. Dasha joined her at the middle school for 6th grade. Alaizha began 2nd grade at the elementary school. Eli started his second year of German immersion in 1st grade. And Bryan finally started kindergarten. It has been an adjustment to have an empty house during the day.

Mike's Mom, Mary, joined us for 6 weeks in September and October. It was such a blessing to have her around. She stayed busy with a few weekend trips by herself and a few weekend and day trips with us.

Mary also blessed Mike and I by watching the kids for four days so we could visit Athens, a long time dream destination of mine. We loved having our little getaway in such a historic city. The sites were amazing. It was neat to walk where some of the apostles walked in the book of Acts, to see where they were probably preaching and teaching. It was a beautiful city!

The day after we got back from Athens, Mike and I attended the Annual Air Force Ball with some friends of ours. Carla and Pam are in a Biblestudy with me and my Mike works with Elisha's Mike at the base. Also note my Mike's shirt. He's on fire! He got it custom made while he was in Turkey.

November began with me being able to go to a women's conference to see a longtime mentor and friend, Bea, who was one of the guest speakers. My friend from our Lifegroup, Misty, was my roommate for the conference and drove with me. It was a great weekend to see God grow both of us.

Mike finally finished his job with the Wing by helping them get an "Excellent" on their inspection that takes place every five years. He went back to the squadron to become one of the ADOs. He loves it because he gets to fly a lot more and go on lots of small TDYs. I really appreciated these small trips because Mike was able to get lots of unique Christmas presents for the kids while getting back his passion for work. Not that he didn't love his work before! He is just thankful to be back to flying on a more regular basis.

November ended with two birthdays and Thanksgiving at our house. Some friends from church came over to celebrate with us. Thanksgiving also brought us our first snowfall. It was beautiful to see a white blanket covering everything.

Knowing we had a third birthday just around the corner, we decided to celebrate all three younger kids' birthdays with one big party at a big kids' play place. They had so much fun playing with their friends.

Mike was on the ball this year with our Christmas to do list. We got the tree up early. He started buying presents that needed to be shipped in November. He had me organize the gifts to ensure equality. We even wrapped them a few weeks in advance. Since we were so on the ball with getting and wrapping gifts this year, we didn't want the kids to compare gifts and boast over who had the most or biggest. So we coded them! The morning after we first placed gifts under the tree, you could hear their confusion and excitement all at the same time. Then they decided to do the same thing with the gifts they were giving away. Too precious!

Christmas Day was a fun celebration as we remembered Christ's birth and gave each other gifts. We invited several families over and a couple of friends who are deployed here to eat lunch/dinner with us. It was a full house filled with the sounds of talking, laughter, and the occasional kids' wail from a fight or a fall. We fell into bed that night realizing how much God has blessed us through the gift of His Son - our salvation, our hope, our faith, our family, our church, our friends, our home, everything!

May 2011 be even more filled with God's glory in our family!

In Him,