Monday, December 20, 2010

Wycliffe Contest!

I wanted to fill you in on an exciting contest that is currently being run and sponsored by the New Living Translation.  We’re highlighting three ministries, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Oasis International, and The Dream Center, (click on the link to learn more details about these ministries) and by voting for one of these ministries you’ll be entered to win one of many prizes.
To enter, visit the NLT Facebook page by clicking here.
There are several levels of prizes you can win, here are the details:
With the Give the Word Bible Contest and Giveaway:
    • Ministries win: Each time the NLT Facebook Page reaches a fan count milestone, votes will be tallied and the three ministries will receive cash donations from the New Living Translation and Tyndale House Publishers.
    • Everyone wins: Everyone who enters on the Bible Contest website wins a free download of Matthew West reading the Christmas story.
    • Daily NLT Study Bible winners: Vote on the NLT Facebook page and you will be entered to win two NLT Study Bibles—one to keep and one to give away. A new winner will be chosen every day.
    • Weekly Give the Word Locally winners: Tell us about a deserving local ministry on the NLT Bible Contest website and they could win five NLT Study Bibles and $250 worth of NLT products.
    • One Grand Prize winner will enjoy a unique trip customized just for them and their family (or three guests of their choice), to Wycliffe Bible Translators world headquarters and the WordSpring Discovery Center where they will experience firsthand the exciting world of Bible translation. The Grand Prize winner could also choose to donate the value of the trip--$2000--to Wycliffe instead.

(quoted from e-mail sent to me by Tyndale)

This is a fantastic opportunity to support these amazing ministries.  I love the Matthew West download that everyone wins!  I'm going to have my kids listen to it later on today.  :-)


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa-To be or not to be?

When I was a little girl, my favorite part of Christmas was shopping for my family.  Each of us kids were given $5-10 (not a lot!) to shop for each other and Mom and Dad.  Invariably, Tim would get a puzzle.  For Laura, I would pick something girlie--Barbie clothes, perhaps.  Then, we would all scrape together what was left to fill Mom and Dad's stockings.  We would carefully choose our gifts--a pack of gum, a Whitman's sampler or a box of chocolate covered cherries, a pen and a pencil.  We giggled as we rolled those pens up in paper, picturing Dad unrolling and unrolling and unrolling--because of course he could never guess what was in that package!  ;-)

To this day, it's the stockings that are the most fun for me.  I love picking up the little things for the kids and for Ryan--little treats that will make them smile.  And shopping for the kids is always fun, picturing their laughter and excitement as they open their gifts.

This year, Megan is questioning Santa, mostly due to a friend next door who keeps telling her Santa isn't real.  "You would never lie to me, right, Mommy?"  Wow!  How to answer that question! Even though I knew the truth about Santa at her age, I hate to end that childhood wonder--a wonder that I still have at Christmas time.  Wouldn't it be cool if there really WAS a Santa!?  lol 

I laid the foundation this year by telling her about the real St. Nicholas--a man who loved Christ deeply and gave out of his wealth to the poor to honor Him.  In Megan's mind, it's perfectly possible that God made this man immortal and allows him to deliver gifts to all the children--or that his descendants continue his work.  So the question is, are we really just pretending, or are we really lying?  And for what?  Is the fun of the tree and Santa worth the cost?  Is it just a harmless, fun tradition?  I can't imagine NOT doing Christmas, and since the early church didn't celebrate Christ's birth anyway, I don't think it does any harm.  BUT I still wonder...What do you think?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If you want me to...

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Ten years ago today, Ryan's little brother died, leaving a void in our hearts and lives--here on earth, but not forever thanks to the great love of our Father.  Keep your heart and your eyes open for "those in any trouble." The trials in life may seem overwhelming, but there is always hope...sometimes we just need someone to remind us that our trials are just momentary and that joy is just around the next bend. In remembrance of Matt, I want to ask you to be that someone--you never know when you will be the voice of hope to someone in desperate need.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Baking!

Not nearly as fancy as the ones we made as kids, but still taste yummy!
 I love baking for Christmas!  Baking with my kids brings back memories of when I was a kid helping my mom bake goodies for gifts and the family celebrations.  I remember taking hours to make elaborate sugar cookie creations, competing with Tim and Laura (my little brother & sister) to see who could make the coolest cookies, pressing the Hershey's kisses into the peanut butter cookies (and sneaking some!), and, of course, the fun of finding yummy cookies in my lunch box every day at school!

My shortcut--make 1-1-1 cookies--these are ready in less than 10 minutes!
So, as an adult, I have loved recreating those Christmas memories in my own little family--baking sugar cookies and peanut butter kiss cookies every year, as well as adding some old family recipes into the mix--lepkuchen cookies and peanut brittle from my family and snickerdoodles and cream puffs from Ryan's.

My own addition--peppermint bark, which I think I have perfected this year, thanks to a great idea from Pampered Chef!

Peppermint bark--semi-sweet chocolate swirled with white chocolate, with crushed candy canes on top.  YUM!

If only I had the Hallmark channel!  This is the one time of year that I don't mind the tv!  ;-) 

Ryan's special creation--like the goatee?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Amish Christmas

An Amish Christmas is a sweet collection of Amish romance stories set at Christmas time.  The four interconnected stories are written by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron, and Kelly Long, in typical Amish-story fashion, complete with Amish words and brief discussions of Amish tradition.  All four stories are well-written, though somewhat predictable, giving readers insight into matters of the heart--particularly love and salvation.  This is a great way to relax by the fire during the Christmas season, and the collection would make a great gift!

***Disclaimer...I was given a free copy of this book by Thomas Nelson/Booksneeze in return for my honest review.  ***

Monday, November 29, 2010

License To Dream Monday Post

To continue the journey described in my latest book License to Dream, my co-authors and I have created a blog where we will each share some of our stories, experiences, and advice once a week.  Mondays are my post day, so here is my post for this week:

I hope you enjoy this little peek into my daily schedule.  :-)

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Narnia Code

As a little girl, I loved the Narnia books.  I read them all, several times.  The wonderful adventures of Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund, and later Eustice and Jill, carried me away (ok, they still do!).  And I always felt that, while the spiritual messages within the books and the connections with each other weren't always clear to me, that there was a plan in the books.  In Narnia Code, Michael Ward, who has spent his academic career studying CS Lewis, solves the mystery.  Using his knowledge of CS Lewis--what he loved to study, his views on literature and storytelling, and his other writings--Ward gives the readers a compelling, exciting, and altogether unexpected key to all seven of the Narnia books.  Using Lewis' poem, "The Planets," Ward illustrates how Lewis deliberately hid the key to the spiritual meaning of each book in symbolism of the seven "planets" of medieval times (sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn).  Ward's excitement about having unlocked this secret code is evident in his writing style, and it's contagious!  I found the book to be insightful and fascinating.  I loved learning about the keys to each book, as well as learning more about CS Lewis himself.  I could not put this book down.  If you love the Narnia series, if your kids love Narnia--you have to buy this book! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

License to Dream

At the Treat 'em Right Seminar in Las Vegas this weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about my Why and about who I am--not what my circumstances say about who I am, but who I really am and who I want to be.  As I sat in my seat, thinking back on my network marketing journey, I realized that my Why just keeps getting bigger!

Three years ago, I never would have imagined where I am today--I could not have foreseen the tragedies, but I also would not have believed that the triumphs were possible.  What's really cool is that I am more excited for the triumphs of people I had NEVER MET three years ago than I am for my own!  It was amazing to see some of my team members earn a promotion with lightning speed and walk across the stage at the TER seminar.  I love to see my team members bringing their own teams to events--seeing their excitement as they share their dreams with me.  Whatever you IS possible!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Something to think about...

I heard a long time ago that people in the US are the most generous when it comes to charitable giving.  So I thought I'd do a little bit of research today.

Did you know that as a whole, the US gave $303.75 BILLION to charity in 2009?  Over $200 billion of that giving was by individuals.  Most of the money given charitably goes directly to the people it is meant to help, as most charitable organizations are very careful with how they spend the money entrusted to them.  (Charitable giving #s:

Did you know that the government takes in $2,650 BILLION in income taxes each year?  In 2008, the government spent $25,000 per household.  And yet, where has that money gone?  According to the budget, only $789 billion is allocated to health and human services, including medicaid, social security, feeding the hungry, etc.  And yet, when you look at the actual budgets, only about $25 billion is actually going to health centers and feeding children--the rest is spent on research and instituting programs.  (The president's budget:

After all, we do have a government that doesn't mind wasting $100 Million a year on unused plane tickets.  A government that will pay $1/2 million to ship two 15 cent washers to another state.  The vast majority of our tax dollars are NOT being used to feed the hungry or help the poor.  They are being wasted.  (Government fraud #s:

And I find it interesting that the income reports submitted by presidential candidates shows that the ones who are most for government programs actually give the least, while those who are for cutting government back spend the most.  (Compare Obama's 5% with George W. Bush' 10+%--yes, I think Bush is a tither!).  The big takeaway here is that we know a tree by its fruit.  The people who really care about helping people are helping people with their own dollars--ie Bush.  The people who are just giving the idea lip service are depending on the rest of us to do the giving.  (Income vs giving reports:

Think about much more would you give if you had more of your paycheck?  What if you were given a dollar for dollar tax credit for charitable contributions?  It seems that if we REALLY want to help people, we'll advocate for decreased government involvement and make sure that our dollars go where they will do the most good.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Every year for two weeks, New Braunfels celebrates the Wurst--bratwurst!  :-)  This is one of the events Ryan has been looking forward to since last spring when we first investigated New Braunfels.  So, the other night, we walked down to the celebration.  We walked into Wurstfest to the sound of German polka music and "hey, hey, hey!" from the crowd, past men, women, and children dressed in traditional German costume, toward the wonderful smells of German food.

Megan Being Eaten by a Saber Toothed Tiger
A Raptor Foot!
While the lights from the fair rides called to the kids, we headed to the Kinderhall to see what Dinosaur George was all about.  Sitting on the floor, we learned all about dinosaurs, as the kids got to answer questions and touch dinosaur teeth, horns, feet, and claws.  My favorite part?  At the end, George reminded the kids that, even if something is published in a book, it's still just a guess.
A Baby T-Rex

After learning about dinosaurs, we headed over to find some dinner!  Every vendor it seemed had sausage (and lots of other things) on a stick.  With bottles of water and our food on a stick in hand, we headed down to the pavilion to eat and listen to the live music.  (Ryan has better pictures...I'll try to get them on later. )

After eating about 1/2, Tristan had had enough!

 And, yes, we did let the kids choose one ride.  The boys chose to go through the fun house, which the operator let them do twice.  And Megan went on a scary spinning top ride, where she leaned against the wall and whirled until she was lifted up and very dizzy.  But she loved it!

On the way out, we stopped to grab a funnel cake, which none of us had ever tried.  With the exception of the melted plate we thought was powdered sugar, it was very yummy!  :-)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Network Marketing Mastermind Event Part II

This morning I heard from two amazing speakers, Randy Gage and Orrin Woodward.  Both men have created a legacy of wealth for themselves and their families through network marketing, and they are passionate about empowering you and I to do the same.  I love this concluding quote from Orrin, "You are created in the image of God, so you have greatness in you.  All you need is the courage to let it out!"

As I sat in the seminar this morning listening to the life changing words from these men, Ryan and the kids went swimming!  They were in the pool having a great time together, celebrating Josyan's 4th birthday with the things he loves best--staying in a hotel and swimming in the pool!  :-)

I am so blessed that I am able to bring my family along on events like these--I don't have to worry about childcare because Ryan is here--and not only is he here, but he is having an amazing time with the kids.  And while they are having fun, I'm being inspired to help millions of women with the message that freedom is possible through network marketing!  You can stay home with your kids--you can be a family that plays together.  The dream is real--you just have to believe it!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mastermind Event

I just finished up my first afternoon/evening at the Mastermind Event in Houston.  I am already a little overwhelmed with all the great information that I've received in just the three sessions I attended today! 

I don't know about you, but I often tend to look down on myself...You know that little voice inside that says, "you're not good enough!  You'll never be successful!"  Well, I was hearing that today.  I was walking behind one guy who was talking about his $500,000 a MONTH paycheck --after two years of work.  WOW!  I can't even imagine what I would do with that kind of cash (which is maybe why I don't have it yet, but I'll talk about that in another post sometime). 

We all tend to have those moments of doubt, those whispers in our minds and hearts that say we can't.  But my Bible says that "All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength."  It says that I am "above and beneath, the head and not the tail."  It says that God has a plan for my life, and that I am "beautifully and wonderfully made."  The greatest says all this about you, too!
This is taking time to PLAY!

I know that God has put in my heart to do this business--to share with moms everywhere that they CAN stay home with their kids.  Network marketing offers amazing opportunities for women to have their own successful business with low start up costs and free training.  And, best of all, a business that can be run from home.  I am blessed to be able to offer moms the ability to make a difference in the world and to create financial freedom--and to be home with their children!

After all, part of the reason that little voice tries to make me feel worthless is that it knows that I will use my success to help others and to advance the Kingdom of Heaven.  I hope that you won't let that voice keep you from your dreams, either.  Use the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God and vanquish that voice by saying OUT LOUD all the things that God says you are.  After all, He created you.  And, as the stranger says in A Snoodle's Tale, I can hear God saying to me and to you, "And lastly your wings. You know what they're for. But not just to fly (daughter), I want you to soar!"  

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just another Monday..

Do you remember the Manic Monday song?  "Just another manic Monday...wish it were Sunday...that's my fun day!"  I used to love singing that song along with the radio on Monday mornings, and I was just thinking how apt the song is today.  ;-) Sundays are our fun days...going to church, then out to lunch, then to the library.  It's always a fun day of family time. 

Josyan asks Ryan every morning, "Do you have to go to work today, Daddy?"  When Ryan says, "Not today."  Josyan says, "Yay!  Daddy Fun Day!"  ;-)  And it certainly is fun to spend the day as a family, even when I still have to work.  

And then comes Monday.  Even though Mondays for me no longer mean driving 90 miles to work, they still seem a little sad, especially when the sky is overcast.  (Of course, that could just be the clouds!)  On days like these, I just want to bake some chocolate chip cookies and curl up with a book or watch a movie with my kiddos.  But, alas, we have schoolwork and work work and house work.  lol

And just when I'm starting to feel a little down...I remember that I have a Plan.  A plan that will make every day a Daddy Fun Day.  Of course, the kids will still have school work, but Ryan & I will no longer have work work, and I will hire someone to do my house work. (hurray!!!) I am pursuing my dreams of financial freedom and making a difference in the world--and I'm doing that from my home.  How great is that?!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Connect with Me!

I just sent out an e-mail inviting folks to connect to me via social media--Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In, as well as my blog.  I thought I'd let you all in on the fun!  Every connection = a chance to win the wonderful book by Kody Bateman, Promptings.  Just connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In or follow my blog (if you're not already), and you'll be entered to win.  Send me an e-mail letting me know how you're following me & I will draw a winner next Tuesday.  :-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our Experiment

Wednesday evening, Ryan turned to me and said, "I want to try an experiment."  My first thought was, "uh-oh!"  I was a little wary as he described what he wanted to do. 

"For one week, let's just tell the kids 'yes' to everything they ask."  Like that movie, Yes Man.  Items costing money would be carefully considered, but for the most part everything they ask, we have to say yes. 

The idea came to Ryan as he thought about something that happened on Tuesday.  Tristan had asked him to play "army dudes."  He didn't really want to play, so he said, 'no,' and then went to watch TV.  He got to thinking about how lame that was and how often we say 'no' just because it's inconvenient for us.  We're missing out on so much!

So yesterday was the first day of the experiment.  Josyan asked for hot cocoa for a snack.  That's his favorite thing in the world, but I ALWAYS say no!  So, we had hot cocoa.  Then, Tristan asked to go to the park.  So we went to the park and had a picnic.  On the way there, we passed an estate sale, and, of course, Megan spotted the toy section.  So, we went to the estate sale, where I allowed the kids to each buy a movie (they were $1 each). That afternoon, they watched two movies--Angels in the Outfield and the Tigger Movie

Today, Megan got to watch her movie, The Parent Trap, before starting Latin.  Tristan asked me to play catch, so we threw a football around for awhile (he's pretty good!).  Then Josyan asked me to play cars.  While pushing two cars back and forth (mine was Lightning McQueen!), I noticed that Lightning McQueen's sponsor is a "medicated ointment for the rear end."  LOL 

Later on, we played catch again, and the boys got to come with me to Handy Andy to get lemonade for dinner.  Really, my kids don't ask for a whole lot, but so far, what has happened is I've been able to spend some fun moments playing with my kiddos.  I'm looking forward to seeing what our experiment brings tomorrow!  ;-)

Friday, October 8, 2010

What's Your Why?

The other night, I read a new book called Stay the Course: Lessons Learned on my SendOutCards Journey, by Adam Packard (you can buy the book at the link above or send it to yourself in a card through SendOutCards if you have an account).  I bought the book while I was at the SendOutCards 2010 Convention last weekend.  Adam is a leader in SendOutCards, but also a person who always took the time to say 'hello.'  I admire him because of his ability to lead and because of his ability to make even those just getting started feel like part of the family, and I was excited to be able to support him by buying his book AND to get some great tips on building my business (of course!).

One of the first chapters in the book is about finding your 'why.'  Your 'why' is your big dream--your passion, your purpose, your reason for doing whatever it is that you're doing.  Knowing your 'why' will help you get through anything in your life.  As I read through the 'whys' of several of the SendOutCards leaders I know and admire, I found myself teary-eyed.   (These are just the bare bones--you'll have to get the book yourself to read the stories behind these whys!)

Listen to this:

"I'm building a successful SendOutCards business so that when I'm not here, my family will be financially secure."  David Frey

"I wanted to be home!  I wanted to be with my family!  I wanted to sit down at night with a home-cooked meal and ask my wife and kids face to face how their days had been."  Demarr Zimmerman

"My why is having the time and money to experience Grandma's Ami (Miami) with all of my grandkids."  Dave & Lori Smith

All of these statements are based on a deep, heart-felt need for MORE out of life--more than just running the ratrace and getting a paycheck week after week.  More time with family, more relationships, more freedom, more time to be.

My why?  My why is bigger than me sometimes.  It swells up in my heart until I can't stand it.  My why is to know that I know that my family is taken care of--no matter what.  To know that we'll never have another penny of debt.  To be able to help my family with whatever they need.  To be able to do good around the world. 

At Convention, David Frey showed us a picture of the school he is building in South America.  Up until that point, I had forgotten a childhood dream of mine--to build an orphanage.  Those of you who know me well know that I have always had a heart for adoption.  I don't know where that came from--from Jo's Boys (Louisa May Alcott), perhaps?  But along the way, I 'realized' that I could never build an orphanage and that dream slipped away.  Well, thanks to David's awesome photo--it's back.  That is a huge part of my why--a piece that I didn't even realize was there.  How amazing it is going to feel to be able to call up our good friends Tim & Kathy Mclean (Foundation Stone Ministries) and say, "hey, we're building you an orphanage--where can we send the check?"

Regardless of whether your goals are financial or health-related or spiritual, knowing your why will help you to reach them.  Dig deep.  Dream big.  Go out and do the good things that God created you to do.  Remember--"All things are possible through Christ who gives you strength!" 

PS  If you'd like to learn more about SendOutCards, go to

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

Well, I have no pictures today, but I do have a yummy recipe for you--that every single one  of my kids liked!  :-)  I am by no means a gourmet cook or a kitchen diva, but I do love cooking (especially baking), and it's always fun to share a successful experiment! 

I bought some green bell peppers at the farmer's market a few weeks ago, and Megan has been begging me to make stuffed peppers.  She didn't know what they were, but she loves peppers.

So tonight, I browned some ground beef, putting in some garlic salt & pepper & diced green onions for a little flavor.  I put 1/2 of that in the freezer for another dinner.  I cooked up about 1/2 cup of white basmati rice (SO GOOD!  It smells like popcorn as you cook it, and just has a really yummy, buttery flavor) and added that to the hamburger that was left.  Then I mixed in about 4 oz of shredded cheddar. 

I cut off the tops of the four green peppers I had left and two tomatoes that I had in the fridge, scooped out the insides, stuffed with the hamburger mixture, placed them in a pan (with sides), and cooked them in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes.  Super easy, and they were SO good!  Tristan didn't eat his pepper, but he's my pickiest eater and he ate every bite of the stuffing.   Ryan loved it because it seemed just a tad 'fancier' than what I normally make, Megan loved it because she got to eat a whole pepper, and the boys just liked the rice.  Josyan even said, "That smells really good, Mom!"  :-)  Next time, I'll make a double batch.  ;-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Twelfth Imam

The Twelfth Imam, by Joel C. Rosenbarg, is an end times thriller with an interesting twist.  As in many of his other novels, Rosenberg synthesizes his knowledge of biblical prophecy about the "Last Days" with current political situations to create a fictional, yet plausible scenario.

In this case, a young CIA agent and son of Muslim refugees to the US, David Shirazi, finds himself confronted head on with the question of what he really believes as he attempts to uncover a nuclear arms stash and searches for truth about the Twelfth Imam, the Muslim messiah whose coming signals the end of the infidel and the reign of Islam throughout the world.

According to Muslim prophecies, the Twelfth Imam will only appear when the Muslim world has either completely destroyed the infidels, specifically Jews and Christians, or is prepared to do so.  In Rosenberg's scenario, that means the secret creation of enough nuclear weaponry to destroy Israel and the US.  In an interesting twist, Rosenberg's novel posits that the Twelfth Imam and the Antichrist are one and the same.

Not only is this book a great read, but is educates readers about the plight of Muslims around the world, confronts them with the reality of what the Muslim beliefs really mean for a non-believer, and forces readers to think about their own faith.  If you are looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you think, I highly recommend Rosenberg's The Twelfth Imam

***Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary advance reader copy of this book in return for my honest, unbiased review.***

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We have successfully contained all the mess to the garage!  I am so happy, although Ryan is now ready to get the garage organized.  YUCK!  I know that means more boxes to unpack and more things to try to squeeze into the cupboard space I have left.  Thankfully the many dresser drawers we now have opened up a LOT of storage space.  I think we'll be able to get the majority of the "important" stuff inside.  It's amazing how wonderful it feels to have everything all organized and have a 'home' again! 

I took some pictures today for you...

Here's the Kitchen:
I love the pot rack Ryan hung up--it opened up two shelves in my cupboards!  To the right of the pot rack is a door into the boys' room, which you already saw, and the dining room:

Ryan went a little crazy with the pictures on the far wall.  He says it's modern and cool; I think it looks a little busy.  I'm letting him have his way, for now.  ;-)  To the left out of the picture is the hutch and a french door into the living room.  To the far left is another french door into the living room and the hallway to Megan's room.
I need to get a queen sized quilt for Megan's bed, but this one has great colors for the room.  Lucky Megan has a bathroom in her room, but she does have to share with the boys.  Down the hall from Megan is our room:
And through our room is another door into the living room:
(The door to our room is to the left of the piano.)  And behind me is the breakfast room/school room:
I love all the windows in this room--it's so bright and sunny!  I'm looking forward to working/sewing in here, too. 

And that's the house.  :-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Settling in..

The past week has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.  Putting furniture together and reorganizing rooms is a lot of work.  BUT having a couch to sit on, a beds to sleep in, and our own pretty stuff back has been pretty amazing. For the kids, it's been like Christmas.  Opening up their long lost box of stuffed friends was one happy reunion after another!  Megan has been pining for her Bitty Baby since we left AZ, and her baby, in June.  The boys are super excited to have a new bunk bed, skillfully crafted out of their original captains beds by my awesome hubby.  ;-)  

From this: 

To this:

The drawers, Ryan stacked to make steps (on the right).  Gave us so much more room--and a lot of fun for the boys who have always wanted bunk beds! 

Megan has a 'grown-up" room now, with a queen bed.   She LOVES it!  Josyan, apparently, does, too, as he sneaks in her room every morning.  Tristan was very proud of himself this morning though, that he slept in his bunk bed all night long.  ;-) 

It's amazing how well our 'stuff' suits our new house--sort of like it was meant to be.  I was so worried that our furniture would be too large for our home here, but it just seems to fit perfectly.  I feel very comfortable and at home.  It's a nice feeling.  :-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paradise Lost

Almost five years ago, we started planning our first 'real' house--the one that Ryan would design and build.  We found the perfect property by accident--an irrigated acre about 4 miles out of town in an awesome, quiet neighborhood filled with tall, beautiful trees, green grass, and great people.  From our lot, you could watch the sun set over the mountains, watch horses grazing in the pasture, or just sit and enjoy the quiet sounds of the evening. 

Our house would be 4,000 square feet--too big, I thought, thinking of all the cleaning I would be doing with two little ones, and hopefully a third on the way soon.  But Ryan insisted that we needed the space.  Four bedrooms, formal and informal living & dining areas, a huge gourmet kitchen with walk-in pantry, an office, and tons of storage (three linen closets, a storage room, and a mud room!).  We put $60,000 down and started building, living in a tiny toy hauler trailer we borrowed from our friends.

With the exception of the concrete & drywall, Ryan did everything himself--essentially our mortgage would cover the materials and nothing else.  He once painted through the night to get the painting done before the carpet showed up the next day.  I even helped--hammering in electrical boxes, putting in flooring, mostly cleaning up.  And writing verses on the concrete...verses of blessing and protection.  Any extra costs went on credit cards that would be paid off when we refinanced when the house was done.  We built the house for 1/3 of what it would cost to buy and had $350,000 in equity before the house was even finished. 

We spent the next four years making the house better, putting well over $100,000 in cash back into the house--just in materials (the things you can do with no debt & a mortgage that is only 20% of your income!).  Ryan re-did the master bathroom tile 3 times, finally putting rock on the walls and slate on the floor, custom building a jacuzzi tub surround and tile countertops.  With the help of my Uncle Mike, we installed a spectacular California Closets system in our closet.  He designed and built floor to ceiling bookshelves for the formal living room, and custom built the fireplace surround.  Ryan built the mudroom cabinets himself, along with a mini-office/craft area in the family room. 

Last summer, when times were tight, he installed two whole house fans--we didn't turn on the AC all summer and saved twice what the fans cost us.  Last winter, he installed a wood stove, so we could save money on propane.  And did we ever!  Probably over $1,000!

And on the outside of the house...We created a mini-paradise--at lease I thought so!  We (Ryan) planted rose bushes and trees.  Poured a concrete driveway and sidewalks around the perimeter of the house.  Leveled the yard, installed custom piping for the irrigation, and made the grass grow.  Planted flowers in planters and honeysuckle around the front patio.  We (I helped a little!) fixed the perimeter fences, and Ryan put in a white picket fence so the kids would have a backyard.  Ryan built square foot gardens for me with railroad ties and trellises.  We planted a mini-orchard, with apple, pear, peach, plum, and apricot trees.  Grapes and blackberries grew along the white picket fence, and our hens gave us fresh eggs every day.  Ryan even built a little "home" for the lawn mower that matched the house--even had it's own little white porch. 

With Ryan not working for almost 18 months, we got an awful lot done, and put more money into the house than we should have, especially given what we know now.  But, late this spring, it was finally done.  Everything we imagined it to be.  And there was even fruit on the trees (one apple, two pears, and a ton of peaches and apricots!)--our first harvest!  I thought it was a sign of hope--even planting a garden.  And then, we realized that we would have to leave.  You've heard the Texas story.  We rented out our house to an elderly couple with a little dog (never had a dog in our house, but they offered us 3 months rent and the deposit cash--we took it!).  From all reports, they were taking care of our house.

Today, Ryan went back to the house to get the rest of our furniture (renters moved out at the end of August).  Driving up to the house, he couldn't see the mailbox because the weeds are so high.  Dog poop was on the patio.  He opened the door to the house and was overwhelmed with the stench of rotten meat.  The renters had left meat in the freezer--you know what happens when the electricity is off for 10 days in the summer in AZ.  The house is a wreck.  All my plants are dead.  Except the corn and tomatoes that sprung up on their own in the old chicken coop.  ;-)  The apple that I was so proud of hangs half-eaten and rotten from the tree.  Ryan said that unless someone comes and starts taking care of the house soon, all of the trees will die.  My heart was broken.  All that work.  All that love.  For nothing.

In the midst of my pity party this afternoon, I started thinking about how God often uses situations here on earth to illustrate truths about Him.  I asked Him to show me what I can learn about Him through this.  And He did. 

I thought about lovingly God planned the earth and its inhabitants.  Made everything to work together in harmony.  Everything was lovely.  No death.  It was perfect.  God walked in the garden and it was good.  And then the 'tenants' sinned.  And perfection was overcome by death.  And God left; He no longer walked in the garden in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve.  Visit a city, where the beauty of creation is covered over by asphalt and shopping malls.  Visit a dump, where we make our own mountains out of discarded, rotting trash.  Death, disease, and destruction.  That's what we have without God walking the earth.   The loss I feel when thinking of our beautiful home and all that might have been is nothing in comparison with the sadness God must feel when He looks at the earth and thinks of what might have been.  After all, I (all of us!) was created in God's image--and my desire to create paradise comes from being created in Him image.  But God knows that, despite the destruction, there is hope--for His garden, and for us!  Because He knows what WILL BE.  From the beginning, He knew that in the end, the earth will be restored.  He will come again and wipe out death once and for all and bring the Earth back to its perfect state. And all things will work together for good!

What will become of our beautiful home?  I don't know.  We will have it cleaned, and Ryan will stay an extra day to make the yard presentable again.  And then...who knows?  I hope that someone who will love it as much as we do takes the time to restore it completely--all things work together for good.  The house was His, dedicated to Him from the beginning.   What I do know is that God has a plan for us...a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, a plan to give us a hope and a future.  I choose to put my hope in Him, to look to what is ahead, rather than to pine for what is behind.  For I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able!  :-) 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chicken 'n Dumplins

Just for fun...a picture of me & Megan (probably at 7 mo?)
My first experience with chicken 'n dumplins was at Cracker Barrel in 2001.  I was maybe 8/10 weeks pregnant with Megan & feeling pretty yucky.  Tim & Angela came down to Phoenix to visit Ryan & I with my beautiful baby niece, Madison, and we met them at Cracker Barrel.  Angela thought the chicken n' dumplings would make me feel better.  It didn't.  For years, I cringed at the thought of chicken and dumplings. 

Then, a few weeks ago, we had our weekly after church dining out excursion and landed at New Braunfels Smokehouse, where the only thing on the menu that sounded good was the chicken and dumplings. I ordered it, and I LOVED it.

So, a few days ago, when it rained all day long, I thought some hot soup would be nice and, since I didn't have the ingredients for stew, I thought I'd try chicken and dumplings.  It actually turned out really, really good!  And it was so easy, so I thought I'd share.  (When I can't think of anything profound to say, I just talk about what we're eating over here.  lol)

So, I took a package of frozen chicken thighs (yes, they were organic--go me!) and boiled them from frozen for a long time in 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken broth (my biggest downfall as a wife and mother is remembering to get the frozen meat out of the freezer in time to make dinner--ok, maybe not my biggest downfall, but one of them).  When the chicken was clearly falling off the bone, I strained the broth into the crockpot and pulled all the meat off the bones & put it in the crockpot.  I had two carrots and two ears of leftover corn--that went in the pot, too, (cut up, of course) along with a bit of celery.  (All the recipes I found called for onions, but I didn't have any--not even any Lipton onion soup!) I let that cook all afternoon...smelled so yummy! 

About an hour before dinner time, I made dumplings from the Betty Crocker cookbook that I have--just 1 1/2 c flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 3 T shortening, and 3/4 c milk.  Plopped that on top and voila!  It was very, very yummy.  Even the kids liked it.  Hurray!  Another crockpot meal for fall!
And here's my baby Megan.  Wasn't she precious?!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nickels & Dimes

I just finished reading a book called Crash Proof by Peter Schiff, published in 2007.  In the book, he predicts everything that has happened with the real estate crash and other things.  The only thing he predicts that hasn't happened yet is the devaluation of the dollar.  Basically, what he says is that the US is paying the Chinese IOUs for all the imports we buy, and when the Chinese realize that the IOUs aren't worth anything, they're going to stop accepting them and the dollar will be worth nothing.  At the end of the book, he asks readers to think not just about themselves, but about their friends and family.  So I thought I'd share with you the simplest thing he advises--if you want to follow his advice, that 's great.  It can't hurt.  :-)  If you want more info on his other strategies, you can read the book.  Or ask.  ;-)

I didn't know until recently (maybe you did!) that our money is not really worth anything.  It used to be based on the gold standard--so a dollar was actually worth a dollar in gold.  When we went off the gold standard in 1971, the government just started printing money, and even our coins aren't worth their face value. 

The exceptions are nickels, which are actually worth a bit more than their face value, about 6 cents, and pennies made before 1983 (1982 and older), which are actually worth about 2 cents (their melt value).  Quarters are only worth about 4 cents, etc.  If you can find quarters, dimes, silver dollars, and 1/2 dollars minted BEFORE 1965, they are made of 90% silver, and they are worth about 15x their face value (a dime is worth about $1.43).  Eisenhowers and 1/2s were made with a percentage of silver for a few years after 1965. gives all the values. 

I don't know about you, but I don't have thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars to invest in silver and gold (the US govt tends to confiscate gold in times of crisis fyi).  But I do have lots of nickels and old pennies.  So, I'm saving all my nickels and pre-83 pennies and looking for junk silver--those old coins.  They are rare, but you can find them every once in awhile. It's a little thing that makes sense and doesn't cost anything.  Having our own garden & shopping locally for as much as we can and stocking up on all those items that are imported is another thing he mentions that makes sense to me (and something that we've been doing). 

Maybe it sounds like I think the sky is falling.  The thing is, we started doing some of these things in 2006/2007.  (not the coins thing because we didn't know about that then, but stocking up--and I really wish we had known about the real estate crash!!! we would have saved money instead of 'investing' in our house)  That's how we made it through the past few years--we had 6 months income saved and we had a ton of food and other items stocked up. I always bought our kids' clothes a year ahead during the sales--with handmedowns, I didn't have to buy clothes.  SendOutCards helped a lot, too! If we hadn't been doing these simple things, a little at a time, it would have been even tougher on us.  As our lives show you, you never know what's going to happen in the future. It's better to be prepared than not be--not only will you be able to get through tough times, but you'll be able to help others, too.

A great site that tells you how to stock up a year's supply of food for $10 a week:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Breyers Contest!

What a fun contest sponsored by Breyers!  I love Breyers ice cream because, for the most part, it's made with just milk and sugar--none of the high fructose corn syrup found in so many other brands!  Here are the details for the contest: 

    Breyers Sundae Scoop-Off Contest

Breyers® is in search of the next great sundae with the Sundae Scoop-Off Contest and you have a chance to win!  From now through September 13, 2010, the Sundae Scoop-Off Contest is challenging America to create original, family-friendly ice cream sundae recipes including 10 or fewer ingredients. View complete contest requirements and enter the recipes at for a chance to win $10,000, a trip to Chicago featuring a private cooking lesson with renowned pasty Chef Gale Gand, and one year of FREE Breyers® ice cream. The sundae recipe entries will be judged on taste, creativity, use of Breyers® ice cream and presentation. 

Hmmmm.  I'm looking forward to sampling some of the great recipes sure to come out of this contest!  Be sure to submit yours!   

PS I'm posting this to help spread the word about Breyers' contest, and I may even win some fun prizes, too!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jungle Warfare

In Jungle Warfare, Christopher Cunningham, a sales professional and a lay minister, provides men and women in sales with a solid, Biblically based devotional that will help them to focus on God and improve their sales results.  Based on his grandfather's WWII Field Manual, Cunningham aptly relates the dangers soldiers find at war in the jungle to the dangers Christan sales professionals face in the real world.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from Cunningham's grandfather's field manual that contains instructions for dealing with the dangers in the jungle, including everything from wild hogs to contact with the enemy.  In the short devotion that follows, Cunningham relates the excerpt to a common "danger" faced by the sales professional, giving him/her a 'Battle Plan" to address the danger and overcome it through the Word and prayer.  Readers are asked to think about their own lives and sales' practices, to pray, and to reflect on how they can better serve God in their sales' careers.

At the end of the book, Cunningham includes a "Field Support" section, almost a mini-Bible Promises for the salesperson.  Covering everything from what to do with competition to depression, this is a great resource for finding the right verse to speak to many of the issues dealt with by folks in sales, particularly traveling sales.

The manual is not comprehensive, but it is a great 22 day devotional that provides short, to the point, and helpful advice based soundly on Biblical principles.  The Field Guide format is interesting and makes for some insightful connections between the Christian life and the soldier's life.  After all, we are fighting a battle every day, though the battle is spiritual, not physical.  Whether you are a traveling salesman or a network marketer, this book is a helpful resource to have on hand at all times.

**I received this book as part of the Book Sneeze program in exchange for reading and writing a review.  All opinions here are my own.   **

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yummiest Bread Yet!

So I think I have found my favorite 'regular bread" recipe.  I have been experimenting with whole wheat, etc.  The last time I baked, I added an egg--and the bread is SO yummy! 

So, here is my variation...

Heat 2 1/2 c milk and 2 T butter 3 minutes (1 minute at a time) in micro to 110 degrees.

Stir in 1 tsp sugar & 1 tsp salt. 

Add 1 packet of yeast & wait 'till it's all bubbly.

Add in some molasses (around 2-3 T) and 1 egg.

Add in flour, 1 cup at a time (around 5-6 total), starting with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, then use regular bread flour.  You could use more whole wheat, but the bread doesn't rise as well.

Dump onto a floured surface and knead until 'satiny'--about 5 minutes.

Let rise 1 hour in oiled boil (just enough to lightly coat the dough--I use olive oil or coconut oil).

Punch down, divide, shape into loaves and put into greased pans.  Let rise 1 hour.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. 

I am having so much fun baking bread--and even showed my new friend how to make bread today! I hope you enjoy the recipe!  :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Life Well-Lived

This week in my classes at Grand Canyon, we're talking about observations.  It's fun to read about the different lessons that my students have learned through observing--from learning how to make fried chicken from their grandmas to lessons on life.  The conversation this week reminded me of a lesson I learned from my Dad as a teenager, just ready to head off to college.

One day, I got a call from Bank One, telling me that I was hired.  That was great, except I had never submitted an application or done an interview.  I had no idea that I was even in consideration for the job--or even that they were hiring!  It turns out that my Dad had mentioned my name, and I was hired solely on the basis of his character. (Of course I proved myself, too, later on!)  Amazingly, since I was going off to college, I couldn't work at our local branch, so I was transferred to a branch in Flagstaff with high recommendations--even though I had never worked a day at the bank!

My Dad wasn't a wealthy man.  He didn't have any "standing" in the community.  In fact, he was the assistant manager at the local grocery store.  Everybody knew my dad because of his smile, I think.  He was always smiling or joking with one person or another.  It didn't matter what was going on in his life, my Dad always had something to be thankful for and a kind word for everyone. 

But it wasn't just his good attitude or his kind words that people noticed.  He was also a man of integrity.  Dad always did what he said he would do.  He lived a life worthy of God.  And while the benefits weren't monetary, to my young 18 year old self, getting a job just on the basis of my Dad's character made a huge impression on me.

I hope that one day my kids will be able to say the same about me--that their mom was a person who lived her life with integrity and kindness and always a smile to share.

Karen and Dad

Phil. 1:6:  Have confidence that He who began a good work in you will continue it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Homeschooling Curriculum

Among homeschooling moms, the conversation often begins with the scintillating question:  "What curriculum are you using?"  So, I thought I'd share my wonderful curriculum choices with my reading audience.  ;-)

Last year, we switched from Saxon math to Horizons.  We started with Saxon because we started out with Veritas Press.  They recommend starting K with 1st grade math and so on.  However, Megan hated the boring black and white pages, so I went on a search for new, more colorful curriculum.  We decided on Horizons, mostly because of its Christian emphasis.  Singapore math was a close 2nd.  I'm a little conflicted about the K Horizons because the method of teaching addition is a little strange.  But everything else is good. 

For phonics, I use All About Spelling, which uses flashcards and manipulatives to teach the phonetic spelling of words.  Megan was doing the Veritas Press Phonics Museum for K, which was a lot of fun, but only got through the short vowel sounds and the consonants by the end of the year, but expected her to memorize huge lists of words every week.  She got so frustrated because there was no predictability.  She learned all the phonograms and was reading within 2 weeks with AAS.  I like that it does double duty as a spelling and a phonics text and that it utilizes different learning methods--auditory, visual, and sensory.  I also supplement with Explode the Code.  It's just fun to say.  And it does a great job of getting the kids to practice the skills they're learning in AAS.
Shurley English Homeschool Kit, Level 1
This year, we're trying out Shurley English.  In part because the homeschool program we think we might join at some point uses it, in part because it's a well-recommended part of any classical curriculum, and in part because we're still kinda sorta following the Veritas Press model.  I really do like it (Veritas Press & the Phonics Museum), and I would use it again in conjunction with All About Spelling.  :-)

For literature, we're using the reading list from Veritas Press.  I'm pretty happy that I have a lot of the books on the list already (yes, I have good taste.  lol), and we make trips to the library every Sunday, so we'll supplement the rest with free books!  Yay!

Handwriting Transition Student Worktext (Reason for Handwriting)Handwriting--we use A Reason for Handwriting.  I just love that they are practicing writing verses every day.  This year, we will be doing a lot more writing.  The kids have been writing a letter a week to a friend, so that is one way we're practicing.  I think book reports will be in order, and I think I remember seeing quite a lot of writing in the Shurley English books, too.  As an comp teacher, I'm always running into the same problem with my students--they freak out so much about grammar and spelling that they can't get their ideas down. So I didn't worry about those things with Megan--just get your ideas down and then edit.  But in her 'real life' writing, which she does a lot of, she doesn't do the editing part.  SO...we need some more practice.  :-)

That's quite a lot already, don't you think?!  But we wouldn't be complete without history and science.  This year, thanks to a wonderful new friend who let me borrow her book, we'll be doing Apologia Astronomy.  The kids spent an hour looking through the book tonight, so I think they'll like it.  Megan wants to try all the experiments.  And Tristan, well, his ears perked up when he heard Science.  Why?  Because his book on Nascar says that you have to be good at math and science to drive a racecar.  Thank you Nascar!  ;-)

I would love to do Story of the World for history, but for now, I think, we're going to continue with the TruthQuest American History we have from last year.  This year will be some catching up, for sure.  After a year of "fast school,"  the kids are going to love (I hope) having time to really have fun learning instead of having to rush through everything.  That's one of the benefits of homeschooling--it adapts to your life! 

Some other things I'd like to throw in--Spanish, cooking, art. Oh!  And Megan begged and begged to learn Latin.  So, we're going to work on that, too.  So, we've got a lot going on this year.  Hopefully we'll keep it together.  Maybe next time I'll share with you how I juggle all I have on my plate.   :-)  And I think something that we tend to forget--the overall goals of homeschooling, at least for our family.

Thanks for listening!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fall Gardening in New Braunfels

One of the things I have missed most (besides my family and friends, of course!) about Arizona is my garden & fruit trees.  I was so excited to see actual fruit on my trees this year, and we were taken away before getting to taste it!  I even had blackberries ready to ripen on the vine.  God was so good to give us a house here in TX with fruit trees.  Granted, they are two fruits I have never eaten in my life (figs and persimmons), but they are fruit trees, none the less.  (Ok, I have eaten figs--in newtons.  lol) But, I still missed the fun of picking all the ripe tomatoes our of our garden. 
(Don't you love the hat?)  Can you guess what this is?
So, I was really excited to find out that New Braunfels has a second growing season in the fall that lasts through November!  I've heard that we can plant a second crop of tomatoes and zucchini right now, plus plant cold weather crops, like broccoli and lettuce. 
The kids all got to help.

Carrying the big planter to the back yard.  Ryan also made two small ones.
 So, Ryan built planters for me, and yesterday we went and bought soil (to fill the planters), tons of seeds (I left all mine in AZ--oops!), and some seedlings from the Plant Haus.  I planted tomatoes, zucchini, & bell pepper plants.  And from seed, broccoli, celery (a first for me!), sweet peas, lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, and green onions.  Plus, I bought a chocolate mint and a thyme plant, and planted chamomile, basil, oregano, dill, and cilantro.  I'm really excited to see what grows!
This is where I planted the sweet peas (two kinds!), lettuce, carrots, radishes, & onions...You can see one of the four fig trees to the right in the picture. 
 Next spring, when the fruit trees arrive, we'll be buying several dwarf varieties that will live in pots for a few years until we have our own house.  Pretty much everything grows here--from apples and pears to citrus.  Even bananas!  How cool is that?! Even in the little things, God is faithful. :-) 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A New Author

So, we have been visiting the library every Sunday after church, which is a great treat for everyone but Ryan who has no idea what to read.  lol  He takes the kids to the kid section, and I go find my books, which just so happen to be color coded!  All the inspirational fiction has a yellow binding, so it's easy to find. 

I started in the B aisle, because I know that Terri Blackstock is in that row.  :-)  And I found a new author--Mary Connealy.  The Lassoed in Texas series tells the story of some brave women of the frontier in Texas.  They are great stories of overcoming hardship, finding the good in life's circumstances, with a bit of romance and danger thrown in.  And, look how cute the covers are! :-)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread

I've decided that a super short post is in order after my super long post the other day!  lol

I made whole wheat bread yesterday--and it turned out really good!

So here's how I did it:

1)  Heat 2 1/2 c milk & 2 T butter to 110 degrees.

2)  Add 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, and a package of yeast.  Wait for yeast to fully dissolve.

3)  Mix in 4 T molasses and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour.

4)  Mix in flour, one cup at a time until dough is ready.

5) Let rise one hour.

6) Punch down, put in bread pans, let rise 1 hour.

7) Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

I think you could probably add in more than 3/4 c whole wheat flour, and I thought about adding in some whole wheat, too.  I combined Tim's basic recipe with a Betty Crocker recipe in my old BC cookbook.  It's yummy! 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Our Moving Story...or Why I Need a Summer Vacation

When the economy went belly-up in AZ, my amazingly talented contractor husband and I decided to switch roles for a while!  I went back to work, after being a stay-at-home mom of three little ones for 4 years, in the Spring of 2009.  Since then, I have taught up to 10 to 11 composition courses a semester for three to four different colleges/universities, while hubby became Mr. Mom.  

To make things more interesting, in April, we decided to move 1000 miles from Camp Verde, AZ (where all my family lives) to New Braunfels, TX (where we know NO ONE) in the hopes of finding work for my husband and getting me back home with my kiddos.  The first hurdle?  Ryan needs a truck.  (Unfortunately, he had traded his truck in for a smaller car with smaller payments in December!)  Deciding to be 'wise,' we buy a 1999 Chevy utility truck we find on Craigslist with our dwindling tax refund and sell Ryan's car for what we owe to my cousin.  We will drive to Texas in two vehicles--Ryan pulling a trailer of our belongings behind his truck, while I follow in my little Corolla with our three kids (ages 3, 5, and 8). 

With no leads on buyers for our home, we decide to rent it.  The people renting the house are wonderful, so we know they will take care of our home.  And they even drop hints that if they like it they might decide to buy it.  Hmmm.  We bend over backwards to make them happy--including agreeing on a June 1st move-in date on May 25th and leaving ALL of our furniture.

With one week's notice, we pack up our house, putting only what we really need in my father-in-law's trailer.  On June 4th, we pack the kids in the car & leave for Texas.  Less than 20 miles out of town, Ryan's engine blows up.  A tow truck and $350 later, we are back at Ryan's parents' house trying to come up with a plan.  The good news--There is a flood in New Braunfels this week and we missed it!

We end up trading in my Corolla for a 2002 Chevy that can pull the trailer and hold all 5 of us. I will be without a vehicle in TX, but at least we'll be there! A week later, June 12, we are on our way again.  About 90 miles later, just outside of Phoenix, we decide to get some gas & snacks before heading across the desert.  Ryan notices that all the tread on all the tires of the trailer is completely gone.  Four new tires later, we are back on the road.  Thankfully we were just minutes away from a tire place, instead of stranded in the middle of the desert! 

We are now 2 hours behind schedule on our 14 hour drive.  About 4 hours from our destination (11pm Texas time), Ryan decides to stop and rest for a few minutes.  So, we pull into a Wal-Mart in Ft. Stockton, TX.  Where we sleep all night.  In the truck.  :-(

Finally, we get to our destination--some friends of Ryan's parents whom we have never met, but who have generously asked us to stay in their casita (a one bedroom, one bathroom guest room) in Bandera, TX.  We arrive Sunday around noon, and, with an appointment with a realtor to scout out rentals on Monday, I know we will be in a house by the end of the week.

Unfortunately, a huge flood in New Braunfels, which we thankfully missed with our vehicle drama, has created a run on the rental market.  Any house or apartment immediately available has been snapped up by the 100 families put out of their homes by the flood.  We stop at house after house, only to have the realtor call, shake her head, and say, "They just got a contract." 

Finally, after about 8 hours of searching with all the kids and no lunch...we pull up in front of a cute house downtown--right where we want to be!  She calls...and the house, which had been under contract until 5 MINUTES ago!, is now available.  We sign papers that afternoon.  The bad news--no house until July 3rd. 
Our New House!
We spend three weeks in a one bedroom, one bathroom guest room with no kitchen, no toys, no books, no transportation.  The good news?  Ryan gets a job!  The bad news--the job requires that he spend money to get tools, that he be gone from 7am to 9pm, and he won't have a paycheck for 3 weeks.  The good news?  We really love the Embrees, and they love us!

Finally, it's July 3rd.  We leave Bandera and head to New Braunfels.  20 miles into the 60 mile trip, Ryan hears a strange noise and looks out his window, only to see a tire bouncing down the road.  Pulling into a parking lot, we find that it, is, indeed, our tire--one of the brand new tires from the trailer has completely separated from the trailer and bounced into someone's car.  Good news--no damage to their vehicle.  Bad news--there is no way to fix the wheel and we are stuck in Boerne, TX, with all of our stuff on the back of a trailer that we can't move. 

What now?  We rent a U-Haul.  After about an hour of confusion,  we finally find one that's open and has a truck--the biggest one they have.  We have to unload the trailer onto the UHaul before we can get on our way.  Fortunately, the 3 weeks we spent with the Embrees made them like us a lot!  Mr. Embree came, with his son & daughter-in-law, to help us load the U-Haul and to haul the empty trailer back to their place.

Finally!  We make it to New Braunfels and our cute little house.  Where we have absolutely no furniture--well, except for the two card tables and 5 chairs I managed to squeeze into the trailer and the three blow up mattresses we bought for the kids to sleep on at the Embree's. 

What happens next is the miracle of Texas hospitality.  One neighbor comes over with 3 camp cots for the kids.  Yay!  Three beds.  (And that means that Ryan & I have blow up mattresses to sleep on!)  And the other neighbor brings us a real, live kitchen table with 5 chairs!  Even better, on Sunday, the real estate agent brings us a full tray of Subway sandwiches to enjoy--that feeds us for 3 days! 
Megan in the kids' room with their cots
July 4th--we spend with our new friends and neighbors watching the fireworks in New Braunfels.  Truly a day of independence and hope for our family. 

Ryan left his first nightmarish job two weeks ago and is now working with one of the finest builders in New Braunfels, TX, and I am, of course, still teaching my online classes.  Still busy, still struggling a bit, but knowing that there is hope, a light at the end of the tunnel.  Through it all, we saw that God was watching out for us.  And we realized that we may not have a bed to sleep on, but we have each other, and that's what counts.  Is it any wonder that my favorite Bible verse has always been Romans 8:28:  "All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."

So, why do I need a summer vacation?  To celebrate that God is good.  To celebrate my beautiful family.  And to celebrate a new beginning.

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