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giving thanks #1551 – 1560

celebrating Katie’s birthday today

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This post was originally published last year, but it bears repeating. Reading it this morning, I was reminded of some helpful preparation I can do with my kids in the next few days.

Christmas is coming and gifts will be exchanged. Even the healthiest, happiest kids have difficulty navigating how to receive and give thanks appropriately, and it can be a huge challenge for our kids who came to us from “hard places”.

How do we teach children to receive a gift with grace and gratitude? It may take years, but we want them to grow in their ability to do this well.  These five hints will help them along the way, and make holiday celebrations more pleasant for everyone.

1. Let your child know what to expect.

One of our daughters lived in an orphanage where she watched many Disney movies – her dreams of a mountain of shiny, wrapped gifts heaped under the Christmas tree came from Hollywood, not reality. We’ve become much more structured in gift giving in order to help our children have realistic expectations of what will happen Christmas morning. We explain that they will each receive a book and two other gifts. Whatever your plan is, be sure to repeat it many times, especially the first few years.

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One of my goals during this homeschool sabbatical, is to declutter our home. Fifteen years in the same house, 11 kids, 30 years of marriage, have added up to too much stuff. Emptying our garage in preparation for remodeling was just the impetus we needed.

We are a book-loving family. We also have 23 years of homeschooling experience, which means packed bookcases in many rooms and boxes overflowing with curricula for each grade. I’m working my way through them, acknowledging that some of theses books are no longer needed.

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Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. AIDS has personally impacted our family because some of my children were orphaned due to AIDS. HIV (which is not the same as AIDS) affects our family every day because some of our children live with HIV – and live well, I might add. With proper medical care and truly life-saving medications. we expect our  children with HIV to have long and healthy lives. 

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Our weekend has been filled with so many good things. We’ve had lots of time with our kids, great food, laughter, singing around the piano, and a few Christmas movies. Annarose’s Share Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success; shopping, cooking, and serving the dinner were all great fun. My two favorite parts of the day were being in the kitchen Wednesday morning cooking with a crew of volunteers and serving pie later that evening. Who wouldn’t want to be the person giving away pie?

The weekend has been a long stretch of fairly unstructured time, which often presents challenges for some of my kids. Dimples and Sunshine had a friend over most of Friday and on Saturday, Dimples spent the afternoon and evening with Aunt Michele. It was enough of a diversion to keep us in balance.


Today I bring part three of a  four part series from my guest, Sarah. When I published my post, Have We Made Attachment an Idol, she wrote a comment so insightful and beautiful that I asked her to develop it into a guest post. That post was so rich that I asked her to expand it, and before we knew it, we had a four part series. I am very honored that she is entrusting her story to me – it is tender, raw, and hopeful.

[Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2]

Within days of arriving on the west coast I met Kevin. He was unlike any boy I had ever met. He was impossibly silly and sagely wise. He was over-the-top ridiculous, a bookish introvert, a natural leader with an enormously kind heart and even bigger dimples. I had always been attracted to clean-cut volleyball-playing types but there was something about this guitar-playing, scruffy-faced, plaid-shirted, ripped jeaned and pony-tailed guy. I was smitten.

That he had also been through his fair share of ‘stuff’ made it all that much sweeter. By Halloween we were officially dating and we spent our first year talking until sunrise, sharing the stories of our childhoods, and the dreams for our futures. He made me feel safe, heard, respected, comfortable, adored and loved.


We’re kicking off Advent this Sunday, and in celebration I have a very special giveaway.

You all know how much I love Advent and Christmas. Our house sits on top of a hill with our driveway coming off the highway, so lots of people see it as they come and go from town. Each winter we wrap our porch in white lights; I love driving up my driveway and seeing our house glowing with warm light.

I’ve often thought that we should put a large star on our barn to represent the birth of Jesus in this special season, but constructing something  has not made it to the top of our priority list. Then a wonderful thing happened. I was given the opportunity to review a large outdoor nativity set from The Outdoor Nativity Store.


How was your Saturday, friends? I wasn’t feeling great, so the long list of tasks I intended to accomplish remained untouched. I felt guilty, like I was squandering the day, but Russ assured me it was okay to rest, so I did. The day turned out to be a gift.

This Wednesday Annarose is once again putting on a community Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of people. Last year, Share Thanksgiving was a huge success, and this year we expect it to be even bigger. Word got around that that there was turkey and all the yummy foods that go with it. And homemade pies — lots of pies.


It’s 7:00 am and I already need to turn my day around. I’m a little frazzled with kids stuff – normal kid stuff, and that right there is something to be thankful for.

giving thanks #1521 – 1530

a comfortable bed to sleep in, even if my kids wake me up multiple times in a night


In the nearly 28 years that I’ve been a mom, I’ve seen my share of toys come and go. I’m not a fan of toys that break easily or only hold a child’s interest for two days. I want toys and games that will last for years.

I hope you enjoy our family favorites and find new toys and games your children will love.