Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas? 

Yep, us Dallases are preparing for Christmas.

I’m a die hard after Thanksgiving Christmas celebrator. Like HARD.CORE. No Christmas music, no Christmas decorations, no Christmas candles or cookies, NOTHING until after Thanksgiving. So why are we preparing now? Well, we have some exciting news. We are going to be host parents to an orphan from Eastern Europe this Christmas!!! We are beyond excited.

After reading of Amy and her family’s hosting experience last winter, we were intrigued. As time went on and Dirk and I talked about it more, it became something that we committed to prayer. We have felt the Lord leading us in this way for about 6 months now. To see it start coming to fruition is so exciting!

So, you’re probably wondering…
What does it mean that you’re “hosting” an orphan?

I feel like “hosting” sounds a bit sterile. I don’t know what other word we could use but here’s what we’re really doing.

This is L…

Orphan Hosting | Motherhood in the Trenches

She is a 14 year old girl and while we don’t know her story or her background we do know that she lives in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. She is a great student. She loves art and design and interior decorating.

We will openly welcome her into our home as if she’s one of our own. We will love her and show her the love of Christ. We will take her to church, and to our weekly family night at my parents’ house. We will go look at Christmas lights and bake Christmas cookies. We will celebrate the New Year and just live life as a family of five. We will show her that she is loved and important. Most importantly, we will let her know that there is a God who loves her more than anyone ever could.

Why are you doing this? Aren’t there plenty of children in the United States that you could help?

I know right? There are people, orphans even, hurting everywhere, all around us, why raise all this money and go through all this trouble?

I could give you a list of rational answers, and I will touch on a few of them, but the real reason is because God has led us here. Because every time we think we aren’t going to do it, we are. Because right before we turned in our deposit and we were scared, the Lord confirmed in us both that this is what we are supposed to do. Because although I was praying for a specific verse before we turned in the deposit, we stepped out in faith and that evening the Lord showed me Isaiah 58 (you can read a portion of it at the bottom of this post.) You can’t always rationalize God’s calling and so we move forward in anticipation of all God is calling us to, both to the really hard stuff and the really awesome stuff.

So this brings me to the rational reasons. Every Christian is called to care for the poor and specifically the orphan. (Isaiah 1:17James 2:15-16James 1:27Deut. 24:21) Can we do that here in the states? Sure we can, but here’s where the burden on my heart is. I didn’t even recognize the name of the country our girl is coming from. I knew nothing about it. As I started to learn more about her country I realized that these are the forgotten kids, she is a forgotten daughter.

These kids are just years from “aging out.”

In Eastern Europe, less than 50% of the orphan population will live to see their 20th birthdays.

60% of the girls are lured into prostitution. 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.

In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18.

You guys, L has only FOUR years until she ages out. This is our opportunity to speak life into her, to show her, maybe for the first time ever, that she is loved unconditionally. We are being given an opportunity to tell her that she is better than those statistics, that God has a hope and a future for her. And while we’re over here thinking of all that God has for her, and looking forward to loving on her more than she’s ever been loved before, I know that He has a plan for our family in all of this too and I am so excited to see what He is going to do in all five of us.

I am sharing this with you for three reasons, first of all, will you join us in prayer? Will you please pray for L? Will you pray that God will prepare her heart? Pray that people will come across her path that will peak her interest in the things of the Lord, pray that she will be ready for all God has for her during this time with us. Please also pray for us. I think it’s easy to romanticize ministry and caring for the orphan. Dirk and I are constantly putting ourselves in check and recognizing that we are turning our home, our lives, into a mission field. It will be rewarding but it will be hard too. She doesn’t speak English so that will be a major barrier (although we have heard that many children catch on quickly and we are thankful for the technology available to us to help us communicate with her). We have no idea what kind of life she leaves behind. Orphans became such through trauma and so we will be loving on this child who has been abandoned and has been deeply hurt. We will be breaking barriers and showing her unconditional love. This is no easy task. Pray for wisdom for us, for patience, for God to prepare our hearts to love on her unconditionally. Pray for Big Sis and Little E to have open hearts. Pray for them to be loving and, even at their young age, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Also, please pray for the financial needs to be met.

So that brings me to the second reason why I am sharing. In bringing L here we are responsible for paying for her visa, her transportation, insurance, and other needs. Maybe you are not able to host an orphan, or are not called to serve them physically, but maybe you could help bring an orphan to America, to a family that is so anxiously awaiting her arrival, to a family that can’t wait to show her the love that they already feel towards her. Would you be willing to donate? If so, here’s a link to our donation site. All donations given through this site are tax deductible.

Dallas Family YouCaring Site (please note that this is a general site set up for us by New Horizons so it’s very generic, we will keep it personal over here on the blog).

Lastly, I write this because maybe as you’re reading this your heart is being tugged on and you’re thinking, I could donate but I’d really like to host! There is still time and there are still so many children waiting and hoping to be hosted this winter. Head over to the New Horizons for Children webpage and go to “get started here” under “orphan hosting.” You can get more information and can fill out a pre-app to get access to the photolisting for all of the children available to be hosted.

If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m new at all of this but I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for sticking through this lengthy post and for hearing the burden of my heart. :)

“Here is the way I want you to fast.

Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
Break every evil chain.
Share your food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
Provide for the needs of your own family.
Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
I will heal you quickly.
I will march out ahead of you.
And my glory will follow behind you and guard you.
That is because I always do what is right.
You will call out to me for help.
And I will answer you.
You will cry out.
And I will say, ‘Here I am.’

“Get rid of the chains you use to hold others down.
Stop pointing your finger at others as if they had done something wrong.
Stop saying harmful things about them.
Work hard to feed hungry people.
Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.
Then my blessing will light up your darkness.
And the night of your suffering will become as bright as the noonday sun.

    I will always guide you.
I will satisfy your needs in a land that is baked by the sun.
I will make you stronger.
You will be like a garden that has plenty of water.
You will be like a spring whose water never runs dry.”

Isaiah 58:6-11

Follow Me on Facebook!

This is kind of a weird topic for me, I don’t like self-promotion and I really don’t want this to come off as such. When I started this blog I wanted to create a place where moms could connect, where we could all encourage each other. So many times I’ve heard, “Thank you for sharing that, sometimes I feel like I’m the only one…” These trenches can feel lonely and desolate and we can feel so disconnected. It is all too often that we feel alone.

I realize that blogging is sort of one-sided. I share my project, my opinion, my life and you can comment on it if you choose. In order to take this a step further I’d love for you to follow Motherhood in the Trenches on Facebook.

Follow Motherhood in the Trenches on Facebook

Why? Because that’s where I feel we can really get the conversations going. Do you ever have times where you wish someone would just give you some dinner ideas instead of planning on your own? Are you tired of the same old recipes? What about cleaning tips? Do you have a tip or trick that is working so well that you know other moms just HAVE to know this? Do you need a cleaning tip or trick? I know I could use some!

I would love to start  conversations where we can share what’s on the menu for the week, recipes we’re looking forward to making, Pinterest successes and flops, cleaning tips, anything that pertains to motherhood and caring for a home. I would love to have women of all ages follow so that we can get input from mommies just starting out and those who have been doing this for years, maybe even decades? I would love for you to come be a part of a greater community. Won’t you join me?

Book Reviews with Big Sis | Look a Book by Bob Staake

Here’s another book review by Big Sis. Dirk went to the library with her one day and picked out “Look a Book“ by Bob Staake.

Makenzie fell in love with it! We’ve borrowed it from the library at least three times, along with the second one, “Look Another Book” also by Bob Staake. She wanted to do a video review so I set up the camera and let her go for it. This girl cracks me up. Look for my review after her video.

Mom’s Review:
When Dirk brought this book home, I was like, “Oh, that’s fun. Not something I would get but it looks like fun.” As we read it more we all really liked it, even Little E. As you can see in Big Sis’ review, each page rhymes and there are picture cues so she can “read” almost the whole book. The scenes are super fun and while there is one thing to find on each page, we always choose other pictures that we have to find. I love that Big Sis can take ownership of the book and get excited about sitting down to read to US. I would definitely recommend this one.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten

Shortly after Big Sis was born, I was in the hospital looking at her sweet face, still in shock at what had just happened. I was sleep deprived, beyond exhausted and so emotional. I was excited for the new chapter in our lives but in all honesty, I just wanted to sleep! I remember looking at her sweet self as she was screaming and screaming and screaming and thinking, “Before I know it, she’s going to be walking off to Kindergarten with an oversized backpack on her back, Dirk and I holding each other, shedding tears for our baby who has headed off to Kindergarten.” Over the years I have thought about what her first day of Kindergarten will be like both with anticipation and sadness.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

As the years have gone by, and God has pressed on both Dirk and I to homeschool, I knew that her first day of school was slowly morphing into something that I hadn’t dreamed of, but something that God knew all along. In some ways, it’s been hard to let go of those dreams. Going off to Kindergarten is a rite of passage, it marks the beginning of an era. I still vividly remember bits and pieces of my Kindergarten year, they are fond memories. In fact look at this picture…

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

That’s Dirk and I in the SAME Kindergarten class, what?! The fact that we spent an entire school year together in the same Kindergarten class, ten years before we would meet again, blows my mind. We didn’t find this out until we “met again” when we were 16 & 17 and then 18 years later and we were married. Crazy right?!

Dirk had said for many years that he didn’t want his kids to be homeschooled. I wasn’t as adamant but as a former public school elementary teacher I figured I’d continue teaching and my kids would go to the school where I taught. We never really discussed homeschooling before we had kids. When God called me to be a stay-at-home mom He also slowly started showing us that homeschooling is what we are supposed to do, at least for now. I’ve never been of the mindset that any schooling is the “right” decision. I firmly believe that God calls each family to different choices for each child and for each school year. My parents were a great example of this. All of us kids had times in our lives when we went to public school, private school and were homeschooled. They prayed for us each year and did what was best for us, although us kids didn’t always agree with them, I know in my life it was such a blessing. Following their example we will be praying each year about what God wants for Big Sis (and for Little E when her time comes) but for now, this is where we’re at and I’m really so excited!

I initially thought that homeschooling would be a breeze. If I can handle teaching a classroom of sometimes up to thirty-seven 5th graders, then surely one Kindergartener would be a breeze! Well, that wasn’t the case. We’ve only been at this for three weeks now, and it hasn’t been a breeze but every day it’s getting easier and we are all learning.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

I’m so thankful to have a few friends who are also homeschooling their Kindergarteners this year. It’s been so encouraging to check in with them and share my struggles and hear their’s. This is a learning process for our family, but I’m so excited to see all that Big Sis will learn this year, all that we will learn as a family, and to share some fun projects and units with you guys. It’s been so exciting to be back in the lesson planning phase, coming up with new units and activities. I love being home with my girls but there are still parts of me that really miss teaching. I have so enjoyed being able to be back in the planning and creating.

Big Sis Goes to Kindergarten | Motherhood in the Trenches

And no beginning of the school year homeschool post is complete without sharing the curriculum we’re using, so here it is:

  • We’re continuing with the All About Reading curriculum. Big Sis completed the Pre-Reading curriculum last year and is now on AAR1. We really loved the Pre-Reading curriculum and are looking forward to this next level.
  • We’re also continuing with Handwriting Without Tears. We completed the “Get Set for School” book last year and she’s now working on the Kindergarten curriculum.
  • For Math we chose Right Start Math. So far, we LOVE this. I am so impressed by many aspects and I LOVE that it’s so hands-on.
  • For Social Studies, History and Science, I’m creating my own, standards-based units, which I will be sharing on here

So here’s to our first year of homeschooling. If you’re homeschooling I’d love to hear what curriculum you’re using and how your first few weeks are going.

Back to School with Fellowes

Do you have a laminator? I do…well I have two now. I bought a cheap one a couple years ago when Big Sis started Tot School, I had big plans for that laminator. I got it for a  great deal on Amazon for $20. It came with two laminating sleeves and both got jammed while I was trying to work with it, I never bought any more sleeves for it and it’s just sat in my cupboard collecting dust.

When I was contacted by Fellowes to try out and review the Saturn2 95 laminator AND do a giveaway  (!!!!!) I jumped at the chance. I get quite a few opportunities to review products, but that’s not what this site is about so I tend to turn them down but this was a great opportunity to share a great product and give back to you, my readers!

Fellowes Laminator Giveaway | Motherhood in the Trenches

Okay, so lets get down to it! I opened the box and was totally excited to find 10 laminator sleeves, my mind started reeling about all of the things I could laminate. I’ve been wanting to make some playdough mats so that was the first thing we did.

Fellowes Laminator Giveaway | Motherhood in the Trenches

I printed out these People Play Dough mats from the Picklebums blog. So fun!

Fellowes Laminator Giveaway | Motherhood in the Trenches

 

It took about 5 minutes for the laminator to heat up and then it was ready to go. I placed the paper in the laminator sheet, and fed it through the machine. The machine immediately took the sheet and fed it through, no jams, no issues and the laminating is thick. Perfect! Big Sis was so fascinated by watching the machine.

Next, I laminated a paper doll from the Fellowes Idea Center.
paper-doll

The idea center has some great ideas for moms and teachers. Along with this printable paper doll there are meal plans, chore charts, menu planners, to-do lists, and more. You can laminate any number of those things and use a dry erase marker or overhead wet erase pen to write on them week after week. I also laminated some writing paper for Big Sis to practice writing her letters. This will save money and trees, it’s a win-win!

The laminating possibilities are endless!

Some of the benefits of this particular model are:

  • HeatGuard™ Technology: Double-walled insulation keeps heat inside so laminator is comfortable to touch, making it safe for homes with children
  • Advanced Temperature Control: Hot and cold laminating capabilities for high quality, smooth results every time.
  • Jam Release Lever – Permits easy removal or re-centering of stalled pouches.
  • Laminates 3mil – 5mil thermal pouches and cold self-adhesive pouches

So does owning a Fellowes laminator sound like a good idea to you? Of course it does! :) Enter below and I’ll choose a random winner on Saturday, August 30th. The winner will receive a free Fellowes laminator. Giveaway is open for US only and ends August 29th, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* I was given the product by Fellowes but the thoughts and review are my own.