A Season of Compassion

Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. Founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, Compassion helps more than 1 million children in 26 countries. 

    Dale and I are big advocates of Compassion International.  We believe in their ministry and what they are accomplishing.  And, over the years, in faith, we have adopted 2 Compassion children from Uganda: 

Bampata John, comes from a single parent home and was 7 when we sponsored him 7 years ago.  Here are the photos we’ve been sent over the years of our little boy, turned young adult: 

He is so sweetly asking us to come visit him “when we get the time”. Oh, if only he knew how badly we want to go see him!  Lots of saving and planning to be done, if that is going to occur.  I’d like to believe the Lord will one day provide for our family to go meet both our sponsored children, who apparently live about 10km apart from each other.

  Nahwabe Deborah was added to our family 2 years ago. She is 14 now. 

For their Christmas and birthdays, Compassion has used our meager $20 birthday donation, to buy things like goats, a bull, a bed, blankets or nice clothing.

    We receive letters from our children every few months.  Writing your sponsored child back is easy. Unfortunately, I just don’t take the time to hand write and mail a letter, so instead, I use the easy online form to write and send a letter that way.  If you do mail your letter, you can also send color papers, stickers, bookmarks, or even just sending photos of your home and family are a big hit too. 

When you write to a child…(taken from Compassions blog:)

“Your words are not just printed ink on paper. When I think of the {letters}, I see a weapon that will be used by God. I see hundreds of hammers, in the shape of letters, shattering the lies of poverty. I see the grip of discouragement falling away from the children Jesus watches over.

  • “I am not worth anything” will be replaced with “I am deeply loved by the Creator of the universe.”
  • “I have no purpose” will be replaced with “My God has a plan for me.”
  • “No one cares about me” will be replaced with “My Savior knows my name.”

I cannot stop dreaming about what God will do with your words. I cannot stop believing Him to bring hope where there is darkness.”

  What a powerful tool!  And how wonderful, that my children’s eyes are opened to the need in another child’s life.  Can you imagine the looks on my children’s faces when they realized Bampata John’s birthday money had gone towards A BED?  A bed? Who doesn’t have a bed?  It opened their eyes to see the needs of others.  Afterwards, Destiny sweetly asked if we could box up our toys from the play closet to send them. 

  There are SO many children praying for a family to adopt them. It is our hope to eventually have 4 sponsored children, one for every child in our family to write and pray for.  You can Sponsor a Child for $38 a month.  A small sacrifice on your part, provides so much more than you could ever imagine for a child in need!  

And, as you exchange letters, send photos, and offer encouragement in Jesus’ name, your love will bring hope to a child that will last a lifetime.

  Your Sponsorship connects your child with a loving, church-based child sponsorship program that provides:

  • Food and clean water
  • Medical care 
  • Educational opportunities 
  • Important life-skills training 
  • Most important of all, your sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God. 

 When you sponsor a child, you’ll receive your child’s photo, personal story and a child sponsorship packet by mail in approximately 15 days.  This decision of sponsorship will profoundly change the future for the children you adopt — and will change your own life, as well as the lives of YOUR children, as they see the world in a different way.

  Consider a sponsoring a child in need through Compassion, as part of, or in lue of your Christmas gifts to each other.  A small sacrifice on the part of your family, will result in a life changing moment for a child somewhere across the world!  And talk about the gift that keeps on giving!  What a blessing to all parties involved, and a powerful lesson to your children about what Christmas should be about…..the gift of giving! I know God will reward you beyond measure for your openness, as well as take care of the financial end for you, as you believe in faith for His provision. 

  Sponsoring, and corresponding with a child across the world is life changing!  You may think your words are simple, but with every letter, we bring light to a dark corner of the world, because we carry these words for Jesus Christ.

Matthew 25:45 (NLT) “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

~T

Almost Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

  I am slow getting around this morning.  I am still recovering from a bout of the ol’ Flu bug going around my house.  Everyone but Destiny and Paxton took their turn with it.  Yuck!

Nothing sounded good but comfort food, like Mom’s Chicken and Rice soup, which I will share later, and this:

Almost Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

This soup uses homemade shortcuts……..the end result?  Chicken Noodle Soup like Grandma’s, but made in a third of the time! Which is super important when you can barely stand to make it.   

(Click the title below to be taken to a website where you can print it.)

ALMOST HOMEMADE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

chicken noodle soup

  • 1 jar Joyce’s Homestyle Canned Chicken
  • 1 bag Homemade Skinny Noodles From Your Local Bulk Food Store
  • 3 cartons Chicken Broth, Or Less Per Your Preference
  • 2 Tablespoons Celery Flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Minced Onion
  • 6 whole Baby Carrots, Finely Chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves pressed (Use fresh! Its so good for the immune system)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • Pinch Of Parsley
  • Dash Of Basil
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste

  Melt butter in large stock pot. Add chopped baby carrots, onion and minced garlic. Sautee until soft.    Add 2-3 cartons of chicken broth based on your personal preferences. Dump in can of chicken with juices. Next, add dried parsley, salt, pepper, and basil if desired. Bring to a boil. Add in your noodles. (Again, the amount depends on how brothy or noodley you like your chicken noodle soup to be.)

Simmer until noodles are soft.

This soup tastes so good! You won’t believe what a difference homemade noodles make!!!!! 

 The non-sickies in our family ate their Chicken Noodle soup with crackers, meat and cheese and Bread & Butter Pickles.  YUM, comfort food at it’s finest!

~T

Smoke alarms, screaming babies & shiitake mushrooms….

  I am so tired today. 

 So so so tired. 

I was up all night with a puker and saw the clock every hour.  Nap time didn’t pan out, as each kid alternated being awake, so when I set out to prep supper, much later than I intended to start…..I still had visions in my sleep deprived brain, of peaceful and easy supper preparation.

  You know, getting each item done ahead of time to allow for a leisurely baking time, setting the table as we listened to Christmas music.  The children, playing quietly in the other room, are waiting patiently for their meal.  Daddy comes home just as the food comes out of the oven, and we all greet him with a kiss and sit down to a delightful meal, all as a family!

  Welcome to Tonya-land, where the sun is always shining, and lemons always come in the form of lemonade, where children drape their little arms around each others shoulders, and sing Kumbaya all the day long. 

{SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!} 

Oh no! What is that I hear?  Is it…. could it be???

Why yes, it’s REALITY!!!!!!

  Or the fire alarm. 

Which I set off twice during supper prep, while pan searing Pork Chops in olive oil.  There were no flames, just smoke. Apparently, more smoke than I knew, since I was shocked when it set off the smoke detector in the laundry room.

 Twice. 

  Yeah, it was one of those nights, and not my finest mommy hour for sure.  I lost my cool, yelled at my kids, made my baby cry it out in his bouncy seat for over 20 minutes, all while frantically baking the whole wheat rolls I had made in one oven, and throwing together the Potato & Shiitake Mushroom Gratin for the other oven. I knew I couldn’t stop to nurse my now-purple, screaming child, because this lovely dish takes 1 hour and 40 minutes in the oven, AFTER 28 minutes of mushroom sautéing. (don’t let this scare you, it was DELISH and is a must-make, just learn from my mistake and start earlier in the day….)   

  At this point, stopping to nurse for a half hour, would set supper back so close to bedtime, it wasn’t even funny. 

  So on we went, all set to the backdrop of the phone ringing, the baby screaming, the smoke alarm detecting – LOUDLY.  And inside, mommy was doing a slow boil. 

Enter Avery.

“Put my jammies on momma?” 

“Fine, this will save me time later,” I am thinking to myself, as I hurriedly dress her.

   Mad baby- still crying, smoke alarm- alarming again, phone ringing-  it’s Daddy, on his way home, dog barking- at what? No one knows!  And boy, is the clock ticking!  

Uh oh, time to get the pork chops in, but both ovens are full!!!! 

 Enter Avery again.

Butt.   Naked.

“WHY ARE YOU NAKED?” I half roar to her.

Shoulders shrug, ” I dunno.”

“WHERE ARE YOUR JAMMIES?” I shriek, as I frantically work.

Again with the shrugging shoulders.

“GO GET THEM!”

“I tant find ’em.”

  Stop everything to dress Avery in pj’s.  Again.  But this time, new ones. Who has time to find the discarded ones? Not me.  Oh, and where is Ty? No time to look, surely he is fine, or I’d hear him.  Lord knows we all can hear Paxton bawling!

  Back to the kitchen, to quickly pull out the now-done rolls, (which by the way, turned out the softest and fluffiest YET!) and slide in pork chops.  Pull potatoes from the top oven after reading recipe again and realizing they need to be covered in foil the first hour and 15 minutes.  And as I look for the roll of foil, I am throwing dishes in the sink rather than my normal “clean up as I go so I have less to do later” method.  What a mess! 

Enter Tylan.

Wearing undies. 

He is wearing ONLY undies.

“TY! WHERE ARE YOUR JAMMIES?”

Hands on half-naked hips: “But Avery got to be naked……”

” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? GO GET DRESSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

<HUGE sigh> Ty exits.

  After a quick peach slicing session, and letting Destiny (who is just arriving home from a fun after school date at Nana’s) make the crumb topping for the Peach Crisp with maple cream sauce, I finally am at a stopping point, and will just have to deal with the sink full of dishes later.

    I sit to nurse the now-sniveling 4 month old baby, who latches desperately to my breast, gulping as if his life depended on it…..

Oh wait.  It does. 

Never mind.

 As I finally relax, I start to glance around the living room and play room. 

You have GOT to be kidding me….. 

  There in the play closet are Avery’s original jammies and socks…..and underneath that? About 100 puzzle pieces to about 7 different puzzles that she had dumped out. And on the floor below those?  Blue highlighter scribbles on the carpet. 

Oh Avery, you better run for your life.

  I will stop my story here, but needless to say, Avery got in BIG trouble.  I never did figure out where Tylan was all that time.  The house was trashed from living room to play room, and Dale just walked in the door, gave me a kiss, shook his head and laughed at the chaos around him.  God knew I needed someone layed back like him.  He can always make me smile. 

And on we went…..

  Dinner was fantastic, (even though I forgot to steam some veggies to go with it), the conversation light- hearted and fun, the dessert delicious, and all was well once again in the Ferguson household. 

(Huge sigh of relief)  I am much happier when life goes according to my little agenda and schedule that I set for myself, but I am learning more and more, that God is asking me (requiring me?) to learn to roll with it.  Whatever “it” is at the moment. 

   So, you will have to try the Potato & Shiitake Mushroom Gratin.  Its my new favorite side!  Bumped to second place is PW’s Sesame noodles and 3rd place on my “Favorite Sides” list, is her Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce . 

   Someday I’ll type out this side dish for you~ it’s DIVINE!  Very unique, looks creamy and is so pretty (despite how it looks in the photo, sorry!) and would be a FANTASTIC Holiday side dish!!!!!! 

A word to the wise, don’t start making this dish at 5. 

 Here’s to a bright and sushiney day, with happy, non-vomiting children and no chaotic moments in the kitchen or messes in the play room.

Please, God?!

 <fingers crossed>

~T

Go Big & Go Home!

  After a successful trip to Walmart Monday night, I decided to write a bit about the method to our madness.  Dale and I are firm believers of once a month shopping.  Our motto is this:

 “Walmart: Go big & Go home.” 

 (And do NOT return for a whole month.)

((Unless you forgot the eggs, then by all means, send Dale on the way home from work.))

   We budget $450 a month, for our family of 6, and that has to include diapers, light bulbs, shampoo etc.  This total does not include meat purchases, since we get a side of grass-fed beef once a year instead.  It has worked out great! 

  We just, in the past year, increased our monthly budget from $400 to $450 because of 2 in diapers and our kids eating more.  On average, the government figures $100 per person in your home, per month, so that lets me know, we are still doing good.  I think the $400 range is a good one, and hopefully, I’ll never need to go over that by too far, as our kids grow up. Just think, before I know it, my two littles will be potty trained!  Right, AVERY the STUBBORN, who is almost 2 1/2???????????  That will give us $60-$80 extra, that used to be spent on diapers! Hurray! 🙂

  Monthly Shopping:

 Step 1)  Get out all your favorite cookbooks to pick out recipes. Man, do I LOVE this part!  I tend to plan for 12-14 meals per month.  Often, 10 of those are brand new recipes to try, how exciting!

  I plan for 2 fun breakfasts per month, for quiet Saturdays at home, like Eggs Benedict Casserole with Hollandaise sauce, French toast casserole, Dale makes a mean Denver Omelet, and whole wheat buttermilk pancakes are always a hit! We plan for  2 new appetizers to try on Sunday Night Snack Supper, like Cocktail Reubens, Buffalo Wing Dip, Philly BBQ Ranch Dip, Corn dip, or Stuffed Mushrooms.  Add a dessert or two, maybe some bread recipes, and viola, you are done! 

  I always have a whole drawer full of new recipe print outs to try, in addition to my plethora of cooking magazines.  Plus there are page numbers and titles of “To Try” recipes listed inside each of my recipe books for easy reference during this planning time.  (When I get a new cookbook, I write inside the front cover, the list with page numbers, of all the recipes I want to try.  Then, once we’ve tried them, they either get a star of approval, or an X meaning never again!)  I leave all the pages bookmarked or open and move on to step 2.

  Step two is to type out the menu you have chosen, adding sides and a fruit or dessert if you wish.  I try to pick a variety of recipes: chicken, beef, occasionally pork, several Mexican dishes, casseroles, 1 or maybe 2, meat and potato suppers, and occasionally an Italian meal. (Not Dale’s favorite to my kids dismay!)

  I also try to watch things like, if I am buying a bunch of cilantro and the recipe calls for only half a bunch, I’ll find another recipe to uses the second half of it.  Then, as I type out the menu, I include in parenthesis the fresh items called for in the recipe, like (uses cilantro), so I have a quick reference when the other half needs to be used up.  This also helps me to prioritize which recipes I should make early on in the month. 

  This month may not have been the smartest one to show you for multiple reasons: it’s Christmas, so I will be home less to cook.  Also, instead of Bkfst, Appetizer and Dessert listings as I usually do, I had to list out the get-togethers we are attending and what I am assigned to bring.  And, poor Dale, I am hungry for Italian (and its so easy!) that I put 2 Italian things on the menu.  There is also more Pork than usual because we just bought a half a hog from someone for the ground sausage, so I am using up some of the other cuts this month.   

 Disclaimer done, moving on.  🙂

Step 3) Take all day to go through said recipes, and type missing ingredients out, one by one, on the computer spreadsheet you made for a grocery list.  Ok, ok, it only takes me all day, because I get interrupted no less than 1000 x’s, and can’t do much when I sit to nurse every 3 hours.  But you?  You can totally get it done much faster than that.  Like I used to back in the day.  For some reason, there were fewer interruptions before 3 kids in 3 years occurred!  Oh, and in all fairness, that was also before I lost the last of my organization brain cells, and could form a complete thought.  I sure miss that part of me! 

Now, what was it that we were we talking about? 

Oh yes!  Grocery lists. 

  Again with a disclaimer, don’t judge, it’s not pretty, I only own Microsoft Works, and this, is as good as it gets.  Its ugly, its crooked, I have to write in short hand cause the blanks are small, but I gotta tell you, it beats the heck out of hand writing it!  I usually organize it by sections as I go, and then drag and drop all the canned goods together within the Shelf category etc.  * means I have a coupon for it.  This gives Dale the hint to check which brand is on the coupons clipped to the list, rather than just whatever he feels like buying.  

Once I print this out, we cut it in half, and head to the store to divide and conquer Walmart. 

Here it is.  Don’t judge me.  Funny, I am feeling vulnerable just now, like you are peeking into my underwear drawer or something.  

Step 4)  2 hours, 2 full & overflowing carts later, we are headed home.  And, after 1 hour of putting away, we are done for the whole month! Is that the Hallelujah chorus I am hearing?!  Why yes, yes it is!  🙂

  Now, this part takes some dedication…..the budget is spent.  Finished.  As in, NO MORE!  So, unless someone calls and needs me to make something I have NONE of the ingredients for, or unless I forget something reallyreallyreally important, we don’t go back.  At all.  Must.  Stay.  Away.   Besides, you’d be surprised how much you can do with just the things you have in your cupboard and freezer in a pinch!

  The questions I am most often asked at this point is, how do you get your stuff to last 4 weeks?  And where the heck do you put it all?  

  Well, first of all, it’s not a perfect method, but we make it work the best we are able.

1) I have 2 fridges, the second one keeps things much longer, since it is rarely opened.  I also have 2 deep freezes, 1 for meat and bread, 1 for cheese, ice cream, butter etc.  Plus, I now have  a pantry, which is a welcomed change to storing things in the garage, kitchen, laundry room and my bedroom closet.

2) We eat the stuff like mushrooms (I just learned they freeze beautifully, so that’ll change), bagged salad and spinach, bananas, broccoli, and sometimes peppers, in the first 2 weeks before we start to lose ’em.  Things we buy that last the whole month, or very close to that, are: celery, heads of leaf lettuce, carrot sticks, potatoes, onions, apples, oranges & sometimes grapes. 

3) Towards the very end of the month, we tend to do more frozen veggies, which I steam on the stove, to maintain the most nutrients possible.  (we all buy such sprayed, altered, nutrient-poor food, that I don’t know that there are much nutrients left to save, but I feel the need to make an effort at least!)  

  We get raw milk from a farm, so when that runs out, we either go get more, or I use Vanilla Rice Dream milk.  The kids eat it just fine on their cereal, and it has a long shelf life, so I always have a little stash of it to help us make it through the last week or so.  Breads, I buy at the Sara Lee Bakery once every other month, and freeze them.  They thaw great!

  Grocery day is exciting and awful all at the same time.  I dread the process, but the end result is soo worth it!  We only have to get a babysitter once, we only have to make ourselves go brave the crowds once (and germs, ew!), and when we are done, I have a super-full pantry of yummy ingredients, to last me the next 30 days.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE making new recipes, so I am always geared up and ready to cook the next day.  

   My poor hunny, does not get excited about any part of this excursion!  He used to be a really great sport about going grocery shopping with me, but after I was put on 6 1/2 months of bed rest with Paxton, and he went alone all those months, he is not quite so willing now. Imagine that?! 

   I am seriously considering going to the store every 2 weeks for a one cart shopping trip, so I can give the poor guy a break. I am nervous though, I mean, we’ve done once a month shopping nearly all of our 8 years of marriage.  It’ll take a bit of adjusting on my part, to figure out how to do things 2 weeks at a time.  I had gotten good at looking at the list and knowing if I had gone over my budget or not.  I also will have to figure on average, how many meals we consume per week, since it changes all the time based on the social calendar!  Shopping every 2 weeks will be an adjustment, but if it means that much to him, I guess I can give it a whirl. 

In the meantime, I love Once-A- Month-Go-Big-&-Go-Home Grocery shopping, and you just might also! 

Happy Shopping! 

~T

Countdown to Christmas Advent-ure

The Meaning of “Advent”

“The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent celebrates the first coming of Christ and anticipates his second coming. An Advent Calendar is a way to keep children involved in the entire season.” 

  The Count Down to Christ has begun!  Bringing the meaning of the season into your home, can be a real adventure, as we battle outside influences, including media, that try to make this time of year about Santa.  And what about those commercials, designed to set off the “Greedy-gimmies” in your children? No thanks! 

  This is our second year to have an Advent Calendar.  It was given to us by the kids‘ Great Aunt Esther last year, and we loved it! What a special tradition to start, and what a great way to remember what the season is about: Christ’s birth. This calendar will  help us keep our thoughts on Him this month, as we put up the next character of the nativity. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle the holiday tends to bring, and whether we mean to or not, Christ’s birth can take a back seat to holiday shopping and “To Do” lists a mile long!  

  The children will take turns putting up a character, and then pushing the music button, to hear a beautiful little rendition of “Silent Night” each night before bed.  This calendar is great, re-usable and very kid friendly! We love it!  It can be found here.

 Also, this year, Aunt Gena sent the kids a Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar that you download on your computer.  There are animations for each night.  I did a sneak peek at her site this morning. (Shh! Don’t tell the kids!) It was darling!  

  To enter the site, we just click on the snow globe present on our computer screen:

 

  Here is a picture of the Christmas Village:

  The kids can hardly wait for tonight to come, so we can start these two fun Calendars!  It is our goal to keep our children focused on the true meaning of Christmas, rather than what’s in it for them, and these Advent Calendars are a great start!

~T

 There’s no Christmas without Jesus,
It’s to Him our eyes should see.
Not to jolly old Saint Nicholas
Nor a glitt’ring Christmas tree!

Shops in town are decorated
Decked in colors bright and gay
Tinsel lights and shapes created
Merge into one grand display.
 
“There’s no Christmas without buying
Gifts and toys to give,” they say.
Oh, that they should be realizing
All these things will fade away!
 
Santa Claus is just a story
Reindeer never pulled his sleigh.
Why then, does he get the glory
On this sacred, holy day?
 
But a baby in a manger
Really lived in Israel:
He was born to be our Savior
It’s His story we must tell!
 
I will think of Christ this Christmas,
How He left His throne above,
Gave up all His heav’nly riches
For to manifest His love!
 
Take the tinsel and the glitter
And the ‘Santas’ all away
For God’s love is far, far greater
Than this man-made grand display!
~ author unknown ~