Monday, October 31, 2011

So behind - lots of updates and an invitation!

I feel so behind in blogging lately. I have a review to complete, a post about Gabriel's new pen pal and pics of the kids from this weekend that I want to share and other news. But honestly I just don't have the time lately to post like I would like I am going to throw a mis-mash together here.

I apologize in advance for the randomness of it all!

1) My sister Beth is pregnant again and I am SOOOO excited for them! She is due on the same date she was due with Isabel (May 8th) - only 3 years later! Can you believe that? So very cool. Please help me in praying for a healthy baby and pregnancy as the months progress. The only sad thing is that we don't live as close anymore so I won't be able to love on this sweet one as much as I would like. :( We will just have to make a few extra trips to SD this summer I think!

2) Yesterday I tried a lasagna recipe in the crock-pot. It was delicious and SO very easy.I found the recipe here at the Kraft website. I doctored it up a little, used 2 different kinds of cheese, some zesty tomato sauce and a sausage/hamburger combo. But I put it together before church and it was done when we got home. YUM!

Slow-Cooker Lasagna recipe

3) Gabriel has a new pen-pal! One of the blogs I follow was having a pen-pal exchange. He was paired with Reagan from TX! The idea is to send a little something each month. Gabriel LOVES getting mail so we thought this was a fun way to give and get something in return.

Here is Gabriel filling out his pen pal sheet and the things we sent off to Reagan...

And here is what he got in return! He was really excited about everything he got - thanks so much Reagan!! :)

4) I went on Friday to Gabriel's school to help with his Halloween party. I volunteered to make cupcakes to bring and decided on these...

They turned out pretty cute and the kids seemed to like them!

5) Then on Saturday after haircuts in the morning and a lazy afternoon, there was this trick-or-treating deal over at SMSU in the residence halls. Dominic took the boys over and Karlena and I stayed at home and then did some shopping at Wal-mart!

Here are Elijah and Gabriel in their costumes. Elijah has a different costume that he will probably wear tonight that is much warmer. Gabriel wasn't loving the mask - he said he couldn't breathe so we will know better to get a costume without a mask next year!

6) Karlena (who I don't have any recent pics of - after tonight I promise!) finally got her 2nd top tooth. She also took 3 steps before falling down a few days ago. She can stand alone without holding anything for a pretty long time any day she will be walking everywhere!

7) Wow - have you stuck with me to the end here?! If you have THANK YOU - you are appreciated! I want to end this post by throwing out an invitation. We have decided to have Thanksgiving at our house this year. We are traveling home to SD the weekend before and decided it might be nice to cook a meal here and just relax and enjoy the long weekend.

But we want to open our home to you! So if you are in the area and don't have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with - please let me know. We would love to have you over and be a part of our family. Seriously!

Have a wonderful week friends!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wacky Hair Night!

Tonight was "Wacky Hair Night" at Awana.

Gabriel was a little uncertain about all of it.

He wasn't sure that it should be so spiky.

But once I convinced him that he looked AWESOME then he was pretty excited to go tonight!

Too bad I completely forgot what time it started and got him there almost 25 minutes late. Big time parenting fail! Thank goodness Gabriel is so forgiving!!

How are you spending your Wednesday evening?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

WOF, Bloggy Friends and Michael Jackson!

We just got home from our weekend at Women of Faith!! And what a weekend it was!

This was both a difficult and yet blessing-filled weekend for me. Over the past several years Karlena and I attended WOF in Denver together. Last year when she was too sick to travel we bought the DVD's and had a conference in her home together. That weekend together was the last time I saw her alive.

And while her absence was felt strongly for me this weekend - God is so good to me that he took a time of what could have been felt as great loss and filled it with new friends! I have made several friendships through blogging and this weekend I got to meet and spend time with a few of those beautiful women and my mom! Mom, Kami, Trish, Jess, Tonya, Sharon and helped make this weekend extra special for me and I am SO grateful! (Proof that good relationships can be formed through the www.)

Oh and to top off the fun - Kami got a call from WOF about a week before the conference and they said that they were moving us from our really high up seats to some AWESOME seats on the floor! God is SO good!

After being led in worship by the talented worship team and singing "You Are God Alone" of my favorites..and then to sing with 10,000 other women - AWESOME!!.....

Dr Henry Cloud and Shiela Walsh started the weekend off for us.

Sheila reminded us that there are over 3000 promises in the Bible and one of my favorite things that Sheila said was "One place where peace is always available is at the feet of Jesus."  Then Dr Henry talked about "pruining" and that "to get to the Promised Land there is ALWAYS a death before the resurrection."

Lisa Harper talked about having a "colander heart" when any good that came in always leaked out.  But that we can fill that hole with Jesus and that "God Sees You".

One of the things that Luci talked about was when she took a trip with World Vision. She shared that she had already decided she was NOT going to sponsor a child....but now after her first WV trip so many years ago she is sponsoring 14 children!

 Pretty inspiring to find a way to go out and give back or as she said "Live Every Moment Fully"!!

Angie Smith was the highlight of the conference for me. I have been reading Angie's blog and praying for her since she started blogging 4 yrs ago. Her books are God-breathed and she has such an amazing testimony.

She was talking about her Audrey and when she said that after 2 1/2 hrs she went to be with Jesus I heard this audible gasp throughout the audience. And I was shocked. I guess I assumed that everyone "knew" about Angie's story.

And then what I realized was that there in that moment Angie, in your brokenness and transparency, fear-filled or not - an arena full of women were brought to the feet of "Kyrios"...Divine Son of God, Lord Jesus the One to whom I belong.

I didn't take any pictures of her because I was bawling the "ugly cry" during pretty much the entire time she was speaking.

I had one of her books with me and planned on staying afer the conference to have her sign it. When I raced up to get in line when it was done I was told that her line was closed and I was out of luck. I felt like I had been punched in the gut - I was SO hoping to hug her in person and just tell her thank you for all she has meant to my walk over the past few years. Let's just say some tears were shed at the end :( Next time I know better to skip the end and get in line early!

And finally one of the coolest things I have ever seen at WOF in the past 12 years.  Oh but if you are reading this and will be attending another conference you MUST stop reading now because we all promised we wouldn't tell....right Mary?! :)

Little Elliott...I mean Michael Jackson did a performance for us to the song "I'm Bad". I have never seen a 5 yr old dance like that. I am not even sure how he got his legs and hips moving that fast...but I am telling you it was so great and he had the crowd on their feet! I got a picture but it is a lot blurry and pretty dark...those quick moving legs were amazing!

He has a future in music for sure! :)

Except for the book signing disappointment, this weekend was so wonderful. I left filled and refreshed and focused. God is SO good and He does so many amazing things in my life. Truly more than I can imagine.

Thank you WOF for all the work you do in putting these weekends together. It is something that I look forward to every year!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Brand New Look!!

So I am so excited to share my new blog design with you!! I was looking into changing things up a bit and asked around at who I should use. And I was told to check out Jenn at Munchkin Land Designs.

Jenn gave me some great direction and helped me figure out what look I should go with. She was patient and is still working to get a few more changes made (Thanks Jenn!!) - but overall the "look" is complete and I am really excited about it!
We had been "brown and tan" since I started the blog almost 4 years ago and when we got our new family pictures and we were all wearing black, white and pink it was the motivation I needed to make a change!

There are some new links at the top where you can read a little bit more about me and our family. And soon there will be a tab where I am going to post some of my favorite books. I have been on a reading frenzy and want to share some of them with you!

I also have a fancy new blog button - yay! I would be more than honored if you wanted to add my button to your site!

Other than that the "content" will stay the same. I will still be blogging about my family and my faith and everything in between. I am so grateful for everyone who chooses to stop here and be a part of our family.

And if you are new here Welcome! Please introduce yourself and tell me a little about yourself! I love meeting new people and finding ways to encourage others as we navigate our way through life.

If you are in the market for a new look to your blog - hop on over and check out all that Jenn has to offer!

Have a wonderful evening!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Sweet Girl - almost 10 months!

I don't know that I have posted any pictures of my sweet girl recently. Karlena will be 10 months in a few days but the end of this week is really busy for us so I thought I would try and get this out there now.

Tonight for the first time I heard her say "mama" more than 1 time. She has been saying "dada" and "baba" and "mmm" for a long time but just wouldn't say "mama". It made my heart smile!

Karlena is the best tempered girl. Maybe there is a difference between boys and girls...or maybe God just finally said it was my turn to have a child who was easily content, slept in her crib, and only cried for very specific reasons. Whatever it is I am loving this phase!

Karlena has her 2 bottom teeth and one tooth on top and another close on its way. I think maybe a small portion popped through today. She won't let me in there to see for sure!

I LOVE this expression. She was trying to get my camera and just had the funniest face!

She is starting to eat a few more things that we eat. She really likes rice and gravy. She likes to be able to feed herself and sometimes gets tired of us giving her baby food. She watches how we do it and wants to follow suit!

Karlena wants to walk so bad and in the past couple of days has taken an "almost" step. She can stand unassisted for several seconds and then instead of stepping forward will just fall forward. She always trusts that someone will catch her! I will be surprised if she isn't walking before she is one!

Karlena you are so joyful to be around. You are sweet and happy and love to watch your brothers. You also love to chase me around when I am using the Swiffer! It is hillarious!

We are so very blessed to have you as a part of our family! Happy 10 months!

I also have a fun surprise coming up in the next week or stay tuned!! I am so very excited about it and can't wait to share it with you! Happy Monday friends!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gabriel is 8!!

I can't believe that Gabriel is 8. How can it possibly be that he is that grown up already?!

Gabriel got 3 birthday celebrations this year! On Friday I surprised him at school and took him to Perkins for lunch. He had no idea I was coming and the look on his face when I showed up was priceless!

Then on Saturday we drove out to Parker to see Dominic's parents. Gabriel was pretty excited about his new Angry Birds stocking hat!

Then he started opening up his presents from his grandparents and ended up with a bunch of cash!

I just love the expression on his face here...he was just laughing at the fact that he was getting cash!

So excited! He LOVES birthdays!

Gabriel holding his new Angry Bird "pet".

Gabriel collects Pokemon cards and I bought this huge used set of cards from someone on Craigslist. he probably has 500+ cards for MUCH cheaper than I would have paid in the stores.

Then we spent Saturday night and Sunday in Sioux Falls with my parents and my sister and her family.  Gabriel was getting tired of me taking his picture here...but he was so happy to get some more cash!

All his cash and his Target gift card from my brother and his wife made Gabriel pretty pumped! He can't wait to buy himself a Nintendo DS! :)

My parents got Gabriel some more magic tricks to add to his collection! Gabriel loves learning magic tricks!

This magic set even came with a DVD so he can watch how the trick is done and learn it that way! He is pretty excited to show the neighbor girls!

Gabriel we are so blessed by you and can't believe that we have had the privilege to be your parents for the past 8 years. We are so proud of you!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Potty Training by a Non Expert

I want to start this post by letting you all know that I am NO expert in the area of potty training. I am just going to share our experience - the good, the bad and the ugly :)

Potty training is one of the areas of parenting that I dread. My experience hasn't been the best and when it didn't happen as fast or as easy as I saw it did for other parents I felt inadequate.

Because Isaac is a teenager I am going to spare him the embarrassment of sharing how it was with him. I don't really remember the specifics but I know he was over 3 before he was interested or willing to try.

I had read that girls were easier than boys so I used that as my comfort when it took a long time. Then we had Gabriel. From the start he hated the toilet. Would scream if we even thought about putting him on it. It was rough. Then we had this huge snowstorm and were stuck indoors for several days so I decided it was happening that weekend and wouldn't let him wear anything but underwear. The first few days were bad and with lots of accidents - but after the weekend he had it figured out and we were good to go!

With both Isaac and Gabriel we used pull-ups to help "train"....and it seemed like we were in that phase for a long time before we made the switch to underwear which isn't terribly cost effective because they are pretty expensive too!

When we moved and changed daycare providers Markel told us that she was somewhat of an "expert" at working with kids who are potty training.  I was skeptical but thought we would see when the time came.  Markel told me a few weeks ago that she thought Elijah might be ready to start, he was asking to go when some of the other kids did. She told us that when we were ready to go forward she only asked that we spend the weekend before with him in only underwear while he is awake.

So we decided that this weekend was "it" and after showers on Saturday made a big deal about wearing his "big-boy" underwear.

Saturday was a pretty big fail! He went through several pairs of underwear that day and even peed while sitting on Dominic's lap. It seemed like he just wasn't getting it.

On Monday I brought him to Markel's with his spare pants and underwear but wearing a diaper. I told her that the weekend was a flop and if she wanted to try with him she could - but I wasn't expecting miracles.

Boy was I wrong!!

The first day Markel took him to the bathroom every 15-20 minutes (a saint I know!!) But she said that he needed to start getting used to how it felt to need to go. He was given a "reward" of 1 skittle each time he went. Elijah was liking the treats and was motivated. He had 1 accident in the morning but was dry until bedtime that night.

Day two was even better and he stayed dry from 6am to 7pm!! And by day 3 (today) he was starting to tell us all that "I need go potty now". He is starting to get it and I am so very proud of him. Of course none of this would be possible if Markel hadn't been willing to work with him.

So what have I learned from these 3 very different experiences?

Well for starters no child is the same. You have to train them when they are interested. If you try and force it on your time you will get major resistence like we did with Gabriel.

I am a believer now that pull-ups may not be the best way to go. It really is a glorified diaper and the underwear give them that wet, uncomfortable feeling if they do have an accident. This is working with Elijah but it means that you have to really watch them esp. if they are on furniture! :)

During the first few days you will need to devote your time to taking them to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. (Thanks Markel!) They start to understand how they are feeling when they have to go and this is the first step in recognizing the urge to go on their own.

There is no "right" or "wrong" time. I really believe that it is different for each child. And don't compare your child to other children of a similar age. My dad used to say that they wouldn't likely go to kindergarten in a stressing about it now wasn't worth it!

And finally - relax and don't let this be a stressful process for you or your child. Before you know it they will be teenagers and potty training will be a distant memory...unless you keep having kids like we did and then you will be repeating this time and time again! :)

Wouldn't have it any other way!! Happy Wednesday!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recordable Storybook and a Giveaway!

I LOVE books. Recently I have been reading every day while I am waiting for Gabriel to come out of school. I have read some great books - but none quite as interesting and unique as this.
 There is something extra special about a book that reads TO you don't you think?

This is one of four recordable storybooks from Dayspring. I had the opportunity to review one of my choosing and decided on the Christmas Story book. 

This is a hardcover book with beautiful pictures. And even better it has this recorder/speaker in it so that you can record the reading of the book and give it to a special someone!!

The book comes with a sample recording and detailed instructions - even I could figure it out!! :) Dominic and I read every other page and it will be something that our children will enjoy reading and hearing every year at Christmas-time!

This would be a perfect gift for a grandparent to give a grandchild, or for a military family to record and have for the kids to hear mom or dad's voice while they are away. I can think of many people that might love to have this in their book collection.

What is even better is that the folks over at Dayspring want to give one of my readers a certificate for their very own recordable storybook! Isn't that awesome?

The winner will get a certificate to use to and can choose the book of their liking - just pay S&H. So how about it - are you interested?! The winner will be chosen on Friday October 14th!

There are several ways you can qualify for the drawing. Please leave a comment for each entry.

1) Visit the Dayspring site and come back here and tell me which of the 4 books you would choose. (Mandatory)

For additional chances to win do any/or all of the following - leave a comment for each additional entry:

2) Become a follower of The Smith Family Journey - or comment if you already are.

3) Share this post on Facebook.

4) Share this giveaway on Twitter.

Disclosure: Dayspring sent me this book for free in exchange for a review of the product. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Home Improvement Projects

Dominic and I must just have a thing for home improvement projects. That or there is something seriously wrong with us. We don't have the best luck when we start these. Things don't go as planned and they usually require several trips back and forth to Menards....but we had to tackle another this weekend.

Our bathroom vent fan has been busted pretty much since day one. It ran for the first few weeks, very loudly and then the fan just quit working all together.  Of course it must have been the original fan to the house because it appeared to have been installed and then sheet rocked around.

So we first tried to look into a replacement motor and it was clear that wasn't the best option for us. So Dominic ripped the old one out and was left with this big hole.

We went and found a new model - the only one that would be big enough to cover the old hole - and said a prayer it would go in ok. Dominic and Isaac worked for quite awhile getting the new one in - but it works and we shouldn't have to do this again for a long time!

Yay for new vent fans...with heat and light! :)

I also noticed a crack in our front door and mentioned it to Dominic so that we could get some caulk and seal it up. While we were buying that he said we should paint the door red. We had a whole gallon of paint left from the accent walls from Isaac's room and decided to try it.

Here is the door before. This project was my baby.

Here is how it looked after one coat of the Valspar premium one coat paint/primer. Not quite the desired look I was going for. (We had the same problem with Isaac's walls...not sure I will ever paint with this dark of a color again as one coat is clearly NOT enough!!)

But after about 4 coats it finally looked like I wanted it to. It is more of a burgundy than a red but we love it. My only regret is that Dominic thought of the idea before I did! :) HaHa!

And Isaac spent some time with our new power tool - a leaf blower/vacuum. That seems to be the "it" power tool in these parts - seriously everyone has one!! And with the volume of leaves that have already fallen and the many, many more that are left to come down we thought it would be a wise investment.

This thing is a beast and hopefully will make our taking-care-of-the-leaves job much easier and maybe even a little fun!

What kind of home improvement projects have you tackled lately?!

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Few Fall Pictures

I found a dealy-thing (yes that is a word..well at least for today) for my camera so that I could download my pics and post them here.  The laptop is back but it still needs some systems restore stuff put on so using the old PC until then!

This is our front porch. I love that we have a front porch and even love more that we have pillars to decorate during certain season. I am telling you Christmas is going to be so much fun here this year!!

The wind has been super strong here the past few days and so at any moment our yard can be either full of leaves or completely bare.

Usually we go and get a bunch of pumpkins but they are so expensive this year that we opted for just 1 in front of each pillar.

This squirrel comes to play on the corn stalk every morning. It is pretty funny to watch actually! Yesterday it broke on of the stalks with all it running and jumping. It REALLY wants that corn!! :)

It is supposed to be rainy here this weekend so we will probably spend most of the days indoors and relaxing. What is on your agenda for the weekend?!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

With the fall comes changes....

The leaves are falling here (and blowing into our neighbors yard - sorry guys!!!)  The pumpkins are out on the porches and thanks to some clients of Dominic's we have corn stalks gracing our porch pillars!

I almost can't believe that it is already October. What a year it has many changes.

Dominic just reached his 1 yr mark with his current employer. And while the job isn't always perfect (what job is right?!) he works hard and has learned so much. It is hard when you come from a job where you have been an "expert" in a sense and you start something completly foreign. There will be a learning curve and at times I try and remind Dominic of that. After 1 year at Advocacy he did not know what he knew after 9 years.  This is no different and so although it can be discouraging to start at ground zero, I have confidence that he will continue to grow and achieve his goals in this job as well. 

What I have seen most in Dominic this past year is that regardless of his circumstances he chooses to find the positive in all things. He teaches our children that we can't focus on the "where" we are to make us happy - but we need to be grateful for all of the things that God has given to us - even the struggles and find joy in Him.

We have been in Marshall for almost 4 months now and at times it feels like we have always been here. This house, our neighborhood has felt like home from the moment we got here. The kids are adjusting even more to school and doing well. I have the review of my 90 days coming up in the next week or so....there is still uncertainty. But what I do know is that God knows the end result and I am confident that whatever that is - we will be ok.

And in less than a month will mark the anniversary of losing Karlena. I still just sometimes can't believe she is gone.  Grief has a funny way of sneaking up on me and I find at the strangest times she will come to mind and I feel that loss all over again.  I think the hardest is that today I don't have a friend like I had in her. Not that she could be replaced....but a part of me longs to have that spiritual connection with another Christian woman again.  I grew more in my walk as Karlena and I walked life together and I miss that so much. :(

But as the leaves fall and winter looms I am reminded that after the "cold" season new life develops once again. It always does. Things today look different than they did a year ago and will likely look different next fall as well.  I am grateful that there is a constant and consistent presence of God with me in each new season. He continues to remain faithful and once again I am so very grateful.

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