Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December Blessings

Just like Nov......and Oct....and get the picture!......December has been crazier than I planned. Prov. 16:9, "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Most definitely true! : D I went on Dec. 3rd, spent one night with Briana, saw her in It's a Wonderful Life, then brought her back home for 2 nights so that she could help us decorate for Christmas. James took her back on Friday, and my plan was to spend the rest of the month until the 18th working on Christmas lapbooks with Marissa and Daniella, bake with them, finish up my shopping, etc.

However...the Sunday and Monday after James took her back, Briana went out of town. When she got back at about 11:00 Monday night, she found someone had broken into her apartment while she was gone. She called me, and was standing at the bottom of the stairs still in the building with her dog. Her apt is upstairs. I had her get back in her car, lock the doors, and call 911. I called Troy and my parents, and they all went over to be with her. They got her computer (which mostly upset her because of all of the pictures on it, along with a story she had been writing on for about 2 years.), an old video camera (which naturally had a tape of her Oct. Utah trip in it), a $150 bracelet that was a graduation gift from her aunt, some misc. cheap jewelry, get this....a large pack of toilet paper!, vacuum cleaner, a couple of dvds, some art pencils. about $250 cash, and a bag of chocolates out of her refrigerator. They completely trashed her bedroom~dumped everything out of the chest of drawers, papers strewn all over the room, dumped everything out of the laundry hamper, jewelry thrown across the room, dumped everything out of her dance bag. Some random things from the bedroom were in the living room, 2 pieces of chocolate laying in the hall. We honestly believe from the looks of things~ the way things were randomly scattered, and things like the art pencils missing, but 2 dvds were taken out of their cases and stuffed into the bag that the art supplies were in~that a child was with them.

Whoever it was also knew she was out of town and had plenty of time. It turns out that the apt downstairs was broken into also, but their front door wasn't busted down like Briana's. They went in through a maintenance door in the back and cut a hole into their bathroom wall. Those people were also out of town, and the only person who knew both of them were gone is the girl (and her boyfriend) that lives across the hall from Briana. It also had to be someone who knew the layout of the apts to get into the one downstairs. If it wasn't them, the detectives believe it was some of their friends.

Briana spent the next 2 nights with my parents until the detective gave her the okay to go back. I went over on Wed. and helped her clean up, wash all of the clothes they had been through, and just to keep her company for a couple of nights. James came over for the day on Thurs. and installed metal reinforcements around the door frame, making it virtually impossible to kick the door in again. After those 2 nights AND the metal reinforcements, she was okay, and ready to stay alone again. I was not so confident and ready!!!

I came home, spent the next day in bed, then had less than a week before it was time to go back over to see Troy in the closing of Sanders Family Christmas, both of them in the closing of It's a Wonderful Life, and to have dinner with them, Troy's parents, and his sister visiting from Texas. Troy and his sister came back with us that night after the last show, and spent 3 nights, leaving on the 23rd.

Why is this post called December Blessings? Because there were many!
~Briana got to come home to help us decorate, which she didn't get to do last year
~She was not home when her apt was broken into
~She had left her amethyst purity ring there, because it needs resizing, and she didn't want to lose it. They missed it somehow. A picture frame on her dresser fell over on top of it and hid it from view....I think that was God's doing!
~They could have taken a lot more than they did or damaged all of her brand new furniture.
~Her dog was at my parents' house. They could have taken or hurt her.
~They didn't take her extra car key, like we had been afraid they had.
~What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger! LOL
~Someone invented metal reinforcements to go around doors, and her apt managers didn't care if we installed them.
~I got to see Briana twice in It's a Wonderful Life, and saw Troy in Sanders on a date with my husband.
~I managed to get a batch of sugar cookies cut and decorated with Marissa and Daniella before I left that day to go back over after the break-in
~Ashley helped them make and decorate gingerbread cookies.
~Ashley is loving her job in camp ministry, and she and I got to spend time together.
~Briana and Troy both auditioned, and made it into Annie.
~Briana got to come home with us on the 20th, and was here until yesterday. She will be back tomorrow for 4 more nights. The 4 sisters have had the BEST time this past week.
~Troy came and spent time with us last week.
~There was snow up in the mountains still, so we all went up and had a snowball fight while he and his sister were here.
~Somehow, some way, all of the shopping got done by Christmas (with MUCH help from my husband, who did all of the grocery shopping on Christmas Eve!)
~I had a FABULOUS Christmas with my husband and 4 girls!
~I got to go out to dinner with 2 of my friends this week.
~And, LORD WILLING, I will be home (not out of town) for 36 days straight! That will be the longest stretch since April.

~a left over Nov. blessing.....after having to have her kitty put to sleep in Oct., and after much searching on the internet, Briana adopted a dog from the animal shelter here over Thanksgiving break. She is so sweet and adorable. AND, even though the apt has a 20lb dog weight limit, they let her have her 53 lb blessing!! She named her Maddie.

I'm sure there are many more December blessings I've skipped over, and December isn't quite over yet!

I pray all of you have a terrific and blessed New Year!!!

Briana and Maddie~

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"It's A Wonderful Life"

Briana has been in the musical version of It's a Wonderful Life for the past month. It closes this Sunday, and we're going over to see it again.

George Bailey contemplating jumping off the bridge~
"I'm worth more dead than alive."

Briana on the right talking to Ernie and Bert while the
main scene if playing out somewhere else on stage~

"I'm On My Way"~

Mr. Potter (in the wheel chair)~ played by Troy, the guy that Briana has been courting the last 7 months.

"Syncopation Rog" ~ high energy dance!

George and Mary's wedding~

Run on the bank. Briana is the one who looks like she's about to knock him
upside his head!

Briana got to play Elsie, Sam Wainwright's wife from New York. She got to talk with a heavy NY accent (think the old movies). .......with a southern twang. ; ) She's in the middle with the hat.

"Sam's going to take me around the world!"

I had to throw this picture in even though it's not a very good one. : ) This is a song when George's brother, Harry, comes home a war hero. Briana and Bob (the same guy that plays Sam Wainwright), decided and got the director's permission for him to pick her up and swing her around. You can see them in the back. The thing is, this is a calm swing in this picture. When I saw the show a couple of weeks ago, she was like parallel to the ground. She was FLYING! : )

Mr. Potter and George~

"Teacher says every time a bell rings, another angel gets his wings."

"Atta boy, Clarence."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November Already????!!!!!!

This has to have been the fastest, slowest year of my life!!!! I cannot BELIEVE it is already the middle of November, and I feel a little like I've missed most of this year. At the same time, when I think back to March, May, even July, it seems like an eternity ago! Is that my stress level or old age?! LOL. I am SO not ready for the holidays to be here. I love them, but I'm not ready. On 2nd thought, in a way, I can't wait. ( I told you I was mixed up this year!) Briana will get to come home for 4 nights at Thanksgiving, two or three nights the first week of Dec., and, hopefully, at least a week at Christmas!!
Last entry I posted about Briana's cat, Snickers, having FIP, which was causing brain swelling, and seizures. The steroids got it under control, and we did not have to have him put to sleep like we expected. Less than 2 weeks later (last Thurs.), I did have to go with her to the vet for her to have him put to sleep. We knew the disease would progress at some point, but even the dr. expected it to be over years. In one week, it progressed to shutting down other systems, and though, she could have done things to stall for more time, they both would have been miserable, and it would have been just a short time anyway. I've had pets die several times before, but this is the first time we've ever had to have one put to sleep. It was a heartbreaking day. We were over in the town she lives in camping, so we left one of our dogs with her to keep her company for a while. She wants a dog of her own~this is the 3rd cat she's lost at early ages since her early teen years, and she refuses to get another one.

Homeschooling is plugging away here, although, not exactly where I want it. Right now, we're getting the basics and some occasional other things done. I'd like to get back to our lapbooking. But, both girls are progressing nicely in math, and Daniella's reading has crossed a stumbling block finally, and it's starting to click.
Our annual fall camping trip was fun....weird, but fun. The last 2 years, we've camped at a state park right in the middle of the town where Briana is living, so that she could come with us. We kept having to postpone this year's trip because of really cold weather, and by the time we were able to come, she had started rehearsals for It's a Wonderful Life. And, of course, we also had to put Snickers to sleep during the week. We still enjoyed some good family time, playing games, taking some walks, riding bikes. No pictures, because I am at Briana's now, and don't have my computer.
It's a Wonderful Life opens tonight! I LOVE opening nights~ getting to see a new show for the first time. She has some lines in this one, and gets to talk in an exaggerated NY accent. : ) Coming from a southern girl that should be fun! However, James and Ashley were at dress rehearsal last night taking pictures, and the executive producer at the Playhouse LAUGHED (appropriately) at Briana's lines! He recognized Ashley, and told her that Briana was really funny in that scene. Yay! Empress the executive director girl! : ) She also has a few dances in the show and lots of group songs. Her boyfriend, Troy, is also in this show, though they never have any scenes together. He is Mr. Potter.
Please pray for Ashley's shoulder. I think I mentioned in the post about her Africa trip that her group was chased by a Cape Buffalo on safari (!), and she stumbled and fell. She hurt her shoulder badly, but it improved a great deal over the next few weeks. Well, the last 2 or 3 weeks, she has been back in a lot of pain. The chiropractor is not helping it. Several people have laid hands on her to pray, and we have been praying constantly for it for this whole time. We have to make a decision where to take her next~ an orthopedic dr. for therapy (not surgery!) or to a regular physician to try a steroid injection. I cringe at the thought of steroids, but if it is imflamation, that would probably be what helped it best. The therapy will be long and painful, and not sure if that is what she needs. We were set to make an appt with the ortho dr., but I ran into someone in the store the other night who told me about her injured shoulder and the shots. We're praying for wisdom.
And, finally (I think), the Lord brought Ashley a great opportunity in Oct. He has been clarifying in her life this year that camp ministry is where she wants to work. She has been taking online courses for a couple of years, and has been absolutely miserable every single second. She has prayed and persevered, and has never been at peace or felt like she was where she was supposed to be. A couple of weeks after coming home from Africa, she decided she was not going to continue courses, at least for now. It was a difficult decision for her for a couple of different reasons, but she knew she could always start again, if she discovered she had made a mistake. Within just a couple of weeks of making her decision to stop school, she was offered a part time job apprenticing at the Christian camp that she is a summer counselor for every year! She LOVES it. In just a month and a half of working 2 or 3 days a week, she has led activities at 3 day camps, helped cook a meal for a zillion kids, scrubbed the lodge, helped with the planning of a mid-winter retreat, done computer work, helped design their new brochure, taken photos of the different areas of camp for the brochure, been to a meeting of the board of directors, made changes to their website.......... They want to give her the opportunity to experience every area of running a camp. They are asking her input on changes they are making. She works directly for the camp director and his assistant (his wife). The wife is the main person she works with on a "daily" basis. She is loving it, and it was so neat to see God open up the door for her and fulfill a longing she has had for a while. She has spent countless hours on the computer this year looking for such an opportunity. They were all going to have to wait until at least next summer, and were all in other states. This one is 45 min. away. AND, the Lord blessed her with a wonderful, nice like-new Kia Sportage at the same time she was finding out about this job. She bought the car herself, but the Lord had blessed her with the money, and led her to a gently used, wonderful condition, less than 30,000 miles vehicle., at a GREAT price. Her old car was.......OLD and falling apart. It would have never made it up and down that mountain 2 or 3 times a week for very long.
The Lord is working MAJORLY in a couple of other areas of our lives, as well, and it has been an amazing experience this year. Not easy, not comfortable a lot of the time, but definitely GOOD. I've sat here this morning and typed myself into excitement for what God is working on in our lives! : ) He IS GOOD!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

So Much Life!

As usual, things are hopping around here. I"m not sure if anyone is still reading my blog,so if you are please leave me a comment and say hi. So many of my friends have stopped blogging, and I'm trying to get back to my diligence of reading blogs again. I love hearing about your families.

First of all, if you haven't been by lately, you can hop over to see pictures of Ashley's 4 weeks in Kenya HERE and HERE. And, Briana is in the midst of the production of Camelot, and you can see those pictures HERE.

The younger girls are plugging away at learning and loving life.....except when I make them clean up their messes. We have been working on a lapbook on the Fruit of the Spirit, but have taken the last few weeks off.
In early October, the 4 of us went to North KY to the Creation Museum. They liked it pretty well, although, we didn't find it to be extremely kid friendly. They are adding a hands-on kids area soon, though. They did enjoy parts of it, though.

We also got to meet a blog friend while we were there!

Jennifer and I had a great time visiting, the kids had a great time together, and the time just flew by. We talked for almost 3 hours.
We also visited an old high school friend the day before while we were there. We had not seen her since graduation, but we have become much more acquainted as friends on Facebook.
After our visit with Jennifer, we went into Cincinnati, and had a great time walking over the big purple pedestrian bridge in the rain. We crossed the Ohio River, and walked from OH to KY and back again. : )

Let's see, also in this past month, we've celebrated 2 birthdays. Ashley, our oldest~which most seems to surprise most people....that she's the oldest~ turned 23. Seven days later, Briana turned 20. The day after Ashley's birthday, we went over to Briana's to celebrate their birthdays together. We had a fun night of bowling.
(Briana is on the bottom; Ashley on top!)
We were supposed to be going camping this past week, but unseasonably cold temps made us have to postpone it. We're hoping to go next week, but are watching the weather. God worked out the timing anyway, because as it turns out Briana had an emergency, and I was back over to her house for 3 nights. Her 6 month old kitten, who is her baby to the core, started having seizures. He was already anemic, which turns out is probably related to this. He was in the hospital for 4 nights, and they thought he was better, but the day after he came home, they started again, and were often and very violent. He was diagnosed with something called FIP, which is basically encephalitis ~ swelling around his brain. Friday, the vet told her she needed to consider putting him to sleep. She was so heartbroken. I went over to help her through the weekend. In the meantime, the vet called and told her to put him back on the steroids. Long story short, it helped, and 11:15 pm Sat. night was his last seizure. The iron is getting into his system, and he is getting his energy and life back. Two problems, still. One, he is not drinking water, and we don't know why. She is having to mix as much water as possible into canned food, and she's giving him some a couple of times a day in a syringe. It is keeping him hydrated. They're still working on what is causing that. Second, the FIP is incurable. He will always have to take steroids, at hopefully a much lower dose eventually, and needs to avoid as much stress as possible. When she comes for a visit, they will have to increase his steroids for the time to try to prevent the seizures. Due to all of this, he may not live a full life expectancy, but he might. God has blessed us with answers to heartfelt prayers so far.
Briana and I spent a painful, but sweet time earlier in the evening Sat. night (when things looked grim), sitting in the floor while she held Snickers. We cried together, and she began to think and talk about the funny things he did all the time. Before long, she was laughing so hard. I just thank you Lord for answering those prayers!!!
While I was gone, the rest of my family surprised me, and chipped in on the work of buying apples, making applesauce, and canning it. All 3 of the girls helped, and James did the actual canning. Those times of asking him to, "please do this while I run and do this, " paid off! : ) He was paying attention to what he was doing! They did a great job, and got it all finished. Such a HUGE relief to me!
So, here I am, back at home, as of last night. I took the day off today, and took a nap, too! I am incredibly thankful to see the sun these last 3 days, after day after day after day of dreary skies and rain. Hope the Lord is blessing your families and days!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


On Sept. 10th, Briana opened in Camelot. Since a large portion of the musical is focused on Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, and Pelenore, the rest of the cast doesn't get a lot of stage time, but she's enjoying it anyway. Camelot will be a 2 month run, and closing on Nov. 8. So far, I've seen it twice, and will see it again at closing. (Unless, I manage to sneak in anymore shows between now and then!)

Ladies' processional~ Briana is in the kind of coral colored dress, 5th from the left

Stopping her little brother from going after the knights~

May Day

Watching the jousts

Knighting of Sir Lancelot

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ashley in Kenya Part 2

I seemed to have taken an unintentional blogging hiatus. Life is still really hectic for us at this time, and I just don't seem to think about it, or if I do, don't have enough energy! I still hope to get back to it regularly. I miss check in on you all and sharing our life.

Ashley had a very tremendous trip to Kenya! She was so blessed, and it has taken her weeks to emotionally settle back in. Physically, she did great (except for one exception I'll share at the end!) Everyone on the team got sick, but her (love God's herbs and vitamins!),, and she did great with jet lag. I don't know exactly what helped, but I had read in a magazine earlier this summer to take Pine Bark extract to help reduce the severity and length of jet lag. She took that 3 days prior to flying and 5 days afterward both ways. Plus, she was taking Vitamin C, garlic, and Silver almost daily. Even after such a long flight, 4 weeks there, including a campout and a 3 day safari, a 28 hour trip home (18 hours of flight and 11 hours of layovers, and about 40 hours of being awake, except for a couple of hour long naps on the plane), she came in completely exhausted, slept about 10 hours, and felt good and pretty rested. She would tire out by the end of the day for a few days, but we were all in amazement at how rested and good she felt.

I thought that instead of me trying to explain her experience, I'd copy and excerpt of her words here. Part way through there is a video of the kids practicing one of the praise dances she taught them. It always brings tears to my eyes listening to these children, who are all orphans, sing Shout to the Lord.

"To put it simply, the 4 weeks I spent in Kenya were, overall, amazing!! I was challenged and blessed, and I learned so much. Definitely left a chunk of my heart over there. :-)
I shared before that one of our goals was to have a camp for the orphans to teach them praise and worship dance. That went very well -- we had about 4 days of camp, in which the orphans (ages 3 through 22) learned several songs and dances, plus a skit for the boys. After the camp, they got to take what they learned and use it to lead worship at an evangelistic crusade at a big slum in Nairobi. What a great experience for them!

Being put in the position of leading the camp was a big, challenging experience for me. It definitely worked on my boldness and leadership skills!

Another aspect of the trip that was at some times challenging and at other times a great blessing was living with the mission team for 4 weeks. There were six of us there the whole time, with four others who were each there for parts of the 4 weeks. We all had very different personalities, different tastes, different backgrounds. It was a great group to be a part of, and definitely a group that God put together. It was a good experience living together, learning from and loving one another.

In reality, I met so many wonderful people in Kenya. Just the people in the village we worked in were great people, especially the kids! I'll get to that in a minute. But in addition to them... We met a beautiful, sweet lady who had been suffering with cancer for 3 months -- she has since passed away, but it was an honor to have the opportunity to meet her and pray with her before she died. We also met the members of a new Kenyan Christian band called "Broken Acoustic." They are a brother-sister team. We got to meet their family, as well, and let me tell you, they all are some of the sweetest people I've met, and love the Lord like crazy! :-) Check out Broken Acoustic here.

I have to say probably one of the best parts of the trip, for me -- although it was all GREAT -- was hanging out with the kids in the orphanage, especially the girls. What a great group of kids! Like I said, they range from 3 to 22 years old. We (the other girl on the trip and myself) spent quite a bit of time just hanging out with them at their dorm, talking, playing games, having Bible study, taking pictures (they loved to use our cameras), and letting them fix our hair. They just need some attention and love... and they were very curious about our lives in America. :-) I was very blessed and changed by the time I spent with the girls. I really fell in love with one particular little one -- the youngest in the orphanage at 3 years old. Wish I could bring her home with me! :-)

We got to go on a 3-day safari while we were in Kenya. We went to Ol Pejeta Conservancy -- what an experience!! We saw too many animals to list, including all of the "Big Five" except the lion. It was so neat to be out in the midst of God's creation in wild Africa, seeing all the animals in their natural habitat.

God is good -- He really took care of us throughout our trip. There were times we were in dangerous or potentially-dangerous situations, but He kept us safe. I didn't even get sick the whole time, even after coming home, which is a big deal for me, because I always get sick coming home from international trips. Jet lag wasn't even too bad. God gave me an amazing opportunity, and I'm SO thankful for it.
I do hope to go back someday. Many people have asked me that, and I say, "Yep - I'd go tomorrow!" "

The Great Rift Valley


A church here in our county donated ice cream for 600 kids and teachers! Many of them had never tasted it before. I love the looks on these faces as the patiently wait.

The girls braided and fixed her hair all month! : )

Toward the end of the month they got to go on a 3 day safari. This is the tent they stayed in.

Inside the tent~

Ashley with Mt. Kenya in the background

mama and baby elephant


YES! This is my daughter petting a wild rhino! There is a guard that stands there with them.

Cape Buffalo~ the group was out of the car at another spot where a guard was supposed to be (but wasn't). As they were looking at something else, one of these precious things started charging the group, and chased them back to the van. In the process Ashley fell and hurt her shoulder pretty badly. She's still dealing with pain from it. I'm just very thankful he didn't get to her!!

This watering hole could be seen from their tent~

For lots more pictures of Ashley with the kids, see Kenya 1.

Doing the praise dances she taught them with them one last time.

At a giraffe center with our 3 sponsor children~a real treat for all of them.

At the equator!

Some views from the plane~

The Mediterranean Sea

The Sahara Desert

The Swiss Alps