Saturday, February 5, 2011

This Blog Has Moved

We've MOVED!

Just letting you know that if you want to continue following this blog that you will have to follow the new link:

Have Faith : Will Dream

I have had a comment from someone that isn't sure about following or hooking up, so let me explain. On the new blog there is a subscription box for getting an email from my blog when I write a new post. Or you can sign in as a 'Follower' on the bottom of the page, or you can join the Feed burner if that is what you know how to do. If you have questions about how to sign up, please just drop me a comment on the Interesting Thoughts at the bottom of each blog entry.

I won't be blogging on this blog anymore. The other blog is a family blog still; I just felt the need for something new and fresh, and this blog is SO heavy and big that it didn't seem a good idea to import it. I was afraid of losing stuff.

See you there! Please do come!

Blessings, Justine

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Deliciousness of Books!

There is nothing more delectable than a good book!! Some of my best Christmas gifts when I was a child were books. Just knowing that I had an exciting read to curl up with gave me the most wonderful feeling. My children are no exception. I do my very best to find books that enthrall each and every one.

This year I was most fortunate at Costco. I managed to find a trilogy for Cassidy of an exciting series I read years ago, plus, Curious George anthology for Cooper, a set of Geronimo Stilton books for Raine, a boxed set of Guardians of Ga'Hoole. Then I hit the jackpot. Dane is a hard boy to buy for. He doesn't read much. Well, I was thrilled to find these fat books full of 1940s comics about World War II. They are the original series bound with 12 comics in each volume. I was able to get three of them; one for Colt and two for Dane.


 The boys haven't put their books down since they got them. I love to have children that adore books!


Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Friend From Switzerland

I don't think I posted on this yet, but in October of this year, we had the pleasure of a house guest for three weeks. Many years ago we immigrated from England. My mum's best friend also immigrated with her family. Her son is now married to a Swiss girl. It was his wife's second cousin that was traveling around the world and needing somewhere to work in Canada for the summer that came to visit us.

We found her a job at a ranch for six weeks and then after that she came to us for three weeks. I really didn't need a helper as my home is very organized and I didn't want someone else doing the kids chores.  But I knew that we would have the opportunity to have someone from another culture visiting us and that was a great idea. So we did it.

Brigitte arrived and the children welcomed her with open arms. They loved her right away. She was very easy to get along with and most helpful. I honestly think she had a pretty easy job with us, because I only called on her a couple times a day to help with dinner dishes with my son, since his big brother was working on the house, or to play with the children.

 A Visit to Canada Through the Lens of Brigitte's Camera


Walks to See the Horses
 Tightening Extensions

Then after a few days I realized there was something she could do that was very valuable! She could make cookie dough! That is one job that I do myself as I like them just so. But it is 20 minutes out of my week that I would gladly pass on to someone else. So make cookie dough she did!


Each day I had her do three batches and I kept storing them in the freezer. Brigitte made enough dough to make 180 DOZEN cookies! 2060 cookies!! We now have enough dough to keep us going for over six months!

As well as Brigitte making cookie dough, she assisted me in stirring the huge amount of granola I mixed up. I had granola drying in the oven daily for about two weeks!

Then one night Brigitte offered to make a meal that she is accustomed to. When she began she had no clue how big a recipe it would entail. It was like feeding an army!! It was very good!

The visit continued and these are some of the things the children and Brigitte encountered:

 Cooper Mimicking His Big Brother

 The kids were collecting pine cones to have a pine cone war. Poor little Briton was given this suitcase and told to fill it! You can see by the pulling action that he did a pretty good job!

 A New Game - Bouncy Tummies

 Home Hair Cut

 Brigitte had a real laugh when I got out the vacuum to clean up the hair all over Dane.


 Brigitte Taught Them How to Make a Xylophone

 She Was Very Brave Handling the Gerbil!

 Teenagers - You Never Know What They Will Wear Next!

Brigitte Had Never Seen Shopping Like This

Our Family

The Boys and Brigitte - What Fun She Gave Them All!!

While she was here they learned German, played cards, and games, and went on many walks to meet horses and play at the playground.

We really enjoyed her stay and it taught me I could have a Mother's Helper here to stay. I really don't need 'help', but having someone stay to be a big sister would be a wonderful thing. We hope to send Cassidy to Switzerland next year and if he does, he will look up Brigitte and her family.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And the Laundry and Frugality Continue

As the winter came on the laundry continued, and so did the need to keep saving money. For the first time in twelve years there is no winter work in the construction field. It has been nearly two months of steady unemployment, but we keep tweaking things to keep ends met.

We have a laugh when we bring the laundry in on the cold winter days! It is hard to show exactly how stiff it looks, but when we send the children out to get the laundry it is formed to the shape of the chair it is drying on. Savannah tries to get the laundry in the basket, but she can't quite make it fit! lol

I have to say it must be making a difference in my hydro bill because when I got my bill this month I was expecting it to be much more than it was, because I had a girl stay here for three weeks this winter and she stayed in our travel trailer. (Not because she had to, but so she had a little room of her own). For heat she had to use an electric plug in heater. I am sure those things eat up the pennies.

We have taken to using as little lights as possible. It would be good if we were that conscientiousness all the time. I understand from doing research on the internet regarding lighting for our new home that 20-50% of our electric bills goes to lighting! And if our dryer uses up another huge chunk, well, we know what we can do to cut costs!

I remember growing up and my mother telling us to turn off lights. It didn't make sense to me. Whatever. We did it when we were told, but didn't carry it in our memories for long. She tried fining us 10 cents a light, but that didn't work. And we grew up without money, so I know how important that was.

Ray is like my mum. He gets on the kids and reminds them. I don't. I just turn them off when I walk by. Probably related to my childhood. So, it is interesting that I am the one that is really cracking down on the light usage right now. I think it is because I want to see how much I can bring the bill down. If it is really related to lights and dryer then I have a lot of control over my monthly bills.

So as the evening creeps in and the shadows start to come down we gather in the main room. The children are wonderful about cooperating because I have explained to them that this is a way to help Daddy with the bills. I found Austin peeling potatoes in the near dark the other day. lol I told him to use the lights!

But as I told Dane, "This is what memories are made of!" I said this because I walked in the TV room one evening and said, "What are all these lights on?" Then I bust out laughing. Dane joined me when he found out what I was cracking up about.

All these lights -  all 2 of them. We have two light fixtures in our TV room and they both hold six Christmas light size bulbs. I had no control over all the lights being on in the house, so I had taken the liberty to unscrew some bulbs. In this room I had unscrewed all but one in one of the fixtures. This night it seemed really bright. Dane had turned on another one in the second fixture. *laugh* The room really did seem light in comparison to what it has been. And it is a TV room, after all. It is supposed to be more like a movie theatre.

But it was funny.

The nice thing is we are doing more clustering. We are gathering in the main room more and I find I am cooking, a child has pulled up a comfy chair to read, another is doing a puzzle, and others are doing chores. I don't really see the downside in saving money by using less lights! And each day the sun stays up an extra two minutes! *grin*

Another thing we have done is cut out our cable. We did this way back in May. That has saved us about $60 a month. Not much? Well, that adds up to $720 a year. Plus the tax you pay to take home that $720. You end up saving about $900 a year from that one thing! For starters, I began watching old TV series like The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, Seventh Heaven, so I was already taming down my TV. 

Then we discovered that you can watch any tv shows you want on the internet. Now, the children and I don't watch TV shows at all, so this doesn't affect us, but it does mean that Ray can watch the couple shows he likes to watch - for Free! So here you see Dane and I huddled around the computer screen watching a show! (laugh) Not exactly the most comfortable seats. I understand you can hook it up to your TV screen. Maybe one day.

One thing that Ray misses the most are the hockey games. Not that he is a complainer; he's not! But we couldn't justify the $60 a month it cost for him to watch hockey - not at this time. So now it is like the old days. The family huddles around the radio (computer) to listen to the play by play. *grin*

 Casually Listening

 The Crowds Move In As the Game Picks Up

 And.... OVERTIME!

Well, the situation was recently remedied for Ray. We still don't watch TV, but Ray takes nothing for himself, spends nothing, and expects nothing, so coming up with the money for his hockey is quite a reasonable thing even in the light of unemployment.

I still didn't really want the tv due to the horrible brain control it seems to hold over certain members of our household. So I was quite happy to have it gone. The short version of the story is that I called the company to disconnect with them when our six month sabbatical was over. They didn't want me to. They said I would have to pay another months fees as notice. I said I couldn't. They put me through to another department. That day I discovered there is such a thing as the Save Department. There job is to keep the customer at all costs!

It was so funny. I was trying to convince that food was more important than TV, lol, and he was trying to convince me to stay. Finally, when it was abundantly clear that he was not going to keep this customer he offered to drop my fees. Suddenly, my resolve dropped, my ears perked up.

What? Huh? How much? My suspicious nature came out. I asked all kinds of questions. Yep, I could take it to the new house. It would be my new fee for good. He keeps trying to convince me, I'm not convinced. Finally. Okay, so then I'm listening, my face is looking thoughtful and then when I realized it was really a good deal I said, "I'll take the deal." You had to be there, but seriously, I felt like it was Deal or No Deal. Lol

Here he was offering me this deal. If I didn't take it and wanted TV in the future I would pay $55 a month. Here he was offering it to me for $31 a month. Shucks. What to do!! I knew my hubby deserved to have his hockey. What to do. What to do!! lol

So when I said, "I'll take the deal," it felt just like when you got the $50,000 or you can go for the next question. But no, I took the deal.

It was very cute when I called my son in to turn on the TV that had sat inactive for nine months, only to discover it had been active the whole time. He was pleased for his dad. And his dad was pleased. So now I know, there is a Save Department and that is where you get fantastic deals!

I still wish it were gone, but I figure if we are allowed a 6 month sabbatical, then we can use it for six months for hockey and a few shows and take six months off, and that will cut the yearly fee in half - down to $15 a month!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Blog

I just wanted to be sure you all know the new blog is up and running. The funny thing is that I am still having huge hits over here, but that blog is not catching the viewers, so I am wondering if there is a problem. I did have one reader mention having problems figuring out the new blog, so is there a problem finding it?

The link is:

The family type posts will begin on that side soon. Right now I am finishing publishing the posts that were written in 2010. But I am working on the other blog. Right now, my heart has been drawn in another direction on that blog, but it will still be my family blog. Just with a different slant.

So I hope to see you over there. And don't forget, down at the bottom of the blog there are the links where you can sign up to follow: Blog follower; feedburner; email etc.

Update on My Mum

I have had people ask how my mum is doing. Thank you so much for caring and praying! She came out of ICU two days ago. She was on a regular ward. It is amazing how draining something like a burst appendix can be. Nothing keeps my mum down! In my whole life she probably took 'aspirin' a handful of times. So this has really been a whammy on her.

My mum and Dad live in a small community and have done so for about fifteen years. She is the backbone behind so many public activities. She gives her whole heart to anything she can. She is a self-less volunteer! One of her many responsibilities is writing the weekly column for the local newspaper for the area that they live in. I am sure they are missing her writing skills right about now! She is also usually treasurer for one event or another. I can only imagine they are all scrambling to fill the many shoes or hats she wore!

My dad called me tonight to tell me that last night they transferred her to our local hospital. What he didn't tell me before was that when they operated they found an abscess on her bowel. This was a second hit to her system. Then he told me that she was on oxygen because she has fluid on her lungs and is on oxygen. He thought it was related to her lying down, but then he said it was due to what she had been through, so I am not really sure.

Please, please keep praying for her!! Her whole life she was so healthy, until about four years ago, and at that time she was hit with so many scares: diverticulitis, nodules on her lungs (which were not dangerous, but for a while there were very frightening), breast cancer, and now this. She needs to regain her strength and her punch.

My dad said she is not out of the woods, yet. Honestly, that kind of unnerved me because I was kind of taking it for granted that she was on the mend, and then I found out about the second two medical issues. I have no clue how serious the fluid on her lungs is. She is not a spring chicken anymore, and it seems during winter and after people hit sixty that their bodies take longer to recover.

I am thankful she is local now, so I can take the children to see her and boost her spirits!

Thanks again.

Blessings, Justine

Birthdays For Our Girls

In International Adoption one of the things people need to know going in is that birthdays are not always what they seem. When we got our girls we thought they were 3 years 10 months and 4 years 11 months. Why wouldn't we believe this. It was, after all, what was on their birth certificate.

But we have learned over the last three to four years that that is quite typical. Why?

For one, in a country such as Ethiopia many, many births take place in little grass huts where going to register a birth might not be feasible.

 A Home Like Our Girls Were Born In

Or perhaps losing the birth certificates, as our girls' mum stated she did. So then they are in a situation where they have to come up with birth certificates. Since these are not done the day the baby is born there is always the chance the information is not accurate.

In our case, we asked our birth mum numerous times if we had the girls' true birthdates. She stated that they were indeed the ages we had been told. We suspected that this was not so, as our girls had already told us that they were five and seven years old, upon pickup from the Transition House. At that time, Solomon Tsegay who worked for Imagine, told us that the girls were mixed up. We believed him.

When we came home one of our girls told us that her mother had told her that to be adopted they needed to be three or four years old...

But we still had no proof. Then one day we were fortunate enough to reconnect with our birth mum, and at this time she felt safe enough telling us the ages of the girls. It was as we suspected: she feared they would be rejected by the adopting family if she told their real ages. Thankfully, she believed that the girls were loved enough that their real ages didn't matter to us, and never had!

So now our girls will no longer have birthdays in September and November, but instead, in June and July! They are also 2.5 years older than we thought.

This does complicate things slightly because on paper they are legally 6 and 7, but in real life we call them 7 and 8, and actually they are 8.5 and 9.5. How crazy is that!

Many people have chosen to keep their childrens' paper ages but we didn't because it didn't make sense. Raine was clearly older than 7 years old, and Savannah was about 8" taller than Briton and growing in leaps and bounds. So we gave them each one extra year.

This way when it is time to get their driver's licenses they will be held up by one year, rather than two, and that could pose a real problem for them when they have to wait til their paperwork says they are 16, when in actuality they are already 18.5!!! So one year up works for us.

There is a factor that you might not expect and that is what the other kids think. In Ontario they are very strict about birth order adoptions. I believe it is that you have to adopt under your youngest child. I never understood that until now. But at the same time, I think, "But what about the children you are adopting. They are losing their birth order!" That is significant.

When we first told the kids that we were adopting the girls, we told them how old they were. Raine would be 9 months younger than Cooper, and Savannah would be 2 months older than Briton. When the girls arrived we realized we were probably wrong. I knew from Cooper's personality that it would be an adjustment. I didn't tell him right away. When I did finally tell him tears welled up in his eyes. He liked the idea of being the big brother. We sat on it for a while, and then finally moved her forward a year, putting her 3 months older than him. He was okay with that; she was his twin.

With Briton, Savannah was always his twin. She was two months older than him. But for the longest time this didn't seem right. We knew she was older than him. Finally when we got proof that she was not just one year older than him, but 2.5 years, we knew we needed to advance her a little bit. We had been preparing her for this for a while, talking about ages. She knew that Raine had had her 5th birthday when she arrived in Canada, and then a year later, she had celebrated her 7th birthday. So it wasn't a big surprise to Savannah when I told her one day that she was seven.

The unfortunate thing was that Briton was walking by at that particular moment. This is the child that is the *end* of the birthday train. Well, it depends on how you look at it. His birthday is in January. BUT the kids that he hangs with have birthdays from end of the September, to November, to two in December, and then it is finally his birthday in January. That was always hard enough - watching four birthdays go by and waiting forever for his.

But then that day when he walked by and overheard me talking to Savannah I heard a little squeaky, "Huh?" of complete surprise and disbelief.

He couldn't use enough words to explain what he was saying, but the gist of it was, "Savannah's five. Her didn't have six. Now her's seven. That's not fair!"

No kidding. It probably didn't seem fair! We sure didn't tell him that she was really eight! (grin) He would have really thought that wasn't fair. How on earth does someone go from five to seven overnight?! Especially when *he* knows how long it takes for him to wait to turn one year older! (laugh)

He did eventually settle into the fact that she was indeed older than him. And then it was time for Cooper. We hadn't told him at the time we discovered the girls' ages about Raine. Somehow it slipped my mind. I guess because I had always known she was older. Well, one day I accidentally mentioned Raine as being 9.5 (which she is well aware of) and Cooper was shocked. Okay, here we go again. (laugh)

We let him chew it over for a little while. I left it alone. After all, we did already call her eight, and he had just turned eight, so it was fine. But we had always written the kids names in age order as Cooper, Raine, Savannah, and Briton. I had yet to change this, as it wasn't really fair to Raine. Soon...

Then tonight, while Briton was doing his prayers, he was listing off the people in the family one by one. He would say a name and then pray for one in particular. Then the next. After he did Austin he paused. Then from the top bunk I heard, "Cooper or Raine is next." (I wonder why it was "or"? lol) He immediately followed this with, "Do Raine first. She's older than me."

I was so proud of him. The transition has been made. My kids are not whiners, so I can really see why 'birth order' really does carry some importance with it! My suggestion is to be sensitive to the children you already have if you find your adopted children are not the ages you thought they were, thus upsetting the age order you thought you had! Take your time and let them adjust naturally.

And now, without further ado. Here is Raine's "8th" and Savannah's "6th" birthday party.

Cooper and His Now Officially Big Sister, Raine.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Electricals, Heating, Stairs, Basement Framing

This should have been posted a long time ago. Actually, right before Christmas, but somehow I think I forgot. I suppose it was the stress of hitting that huge road block with the engineer! So here is an update on the house. A new one will be posted soon.

December 20, 2010

The house is moving along slowly. The heating pipes have been completed. That was a big job!

 Stringing Heating Pipes

While my son might not like construction, I have told him how valuable the knowledge is. People in our school system have to have a C+ average to be allowed to go to college working on an apprenticeship, while in grades 11 and 12. They don't get paid; they simply get a couple of years of learning under their belt before they graduate.

Not only that, because they are learning about work ethic it helps them in their future. Work ethic is something that I teach from the moment they are able to help out around the house. And because of it our kids know the meaning of doing a good job. Doesn't mean they always choose to do it, but they do know how to produce. 

An example is Colt. He is at school on the coast and he heard of a roofing guy that needed helpers. He offered Colt $15 an hour to take old roofing off and help put on new roofing. At the end of the first day Colt was given $20 an hour for an 8 hour day. He was that impressed with Colt's work ethics.
 Drilling Holes For Heating Pipes

 Putting in the Electrical Panel

 One of Our Electricians

 This is the view from the media room towards the playroom on the left and the stairs up on the right.

 Ray Drawing Out the Stair Cuts

Making Stairs

 These stairs are unique. I love them. When we first began designing our house I said I wanted stairs like in the tv show Seventh Heaven. They had a staircase coming into the kitchen and also into the foyer. I began drawing and soon we had a plan. Then we changed our mind about using our drawn plans (we have drawn the designs for the previous two houses we built), and began looking through plans. I only found about two plans that had the double staircase, and as faith would have it, God provided it in the plans that I loved!

So this house goes up stairs when you enter the house, but you can also go upstairs from the area off the kitchen. 

Ray is building at the foyer entrance. The staircase that goes up to the right goes up to the upper bedrooms. The landing above Ray then also has a smaller set of stairs that go down into the area between the dining room and the kitchen. And under the upper stairs you can see the staircase leading to the basement.


This is the view of the staircase from the bottom down by the kitchen (to the left) and dining room (to the right). You can see a landing just up about seven stairs.

This is the view of the stairs from the foyer. You can see right through the foyer wall, through the hallway, into the livingroom that looks out over our valley and to the distant lake.

This is the window ledge (not seat) in the diningroom. This is the view from the front deck. Ray figured I could put Christmas decorations on it and I think that sounds wonderful!

 This is the window seat in the schoolroom. It will one day be the master bedroom, but for some years it will be the schoolroom and Austin will also share it as a bedroom of his own. We are planning to customize it as a 'daybed' room that he owns. So when it is done it will look very nice. I am thinking a geography theme.

Austin and I have already begun planning colours and ideas. Given his bed/ daybed will be in the right hand side of the window I have had the electrician put a lamp above his headboard on the wall complete with a switch at his fingertips for when he is done reading at night. The room is large enough that he will feel he has a room of his own, while sharing it with some school looking materials.

 The Upstairs Landing Complete With the Abominable Snowman! Or is it Sasquatch?

 These two small rooms are at the end of the media room. The room was quite long, as well as having a carousel in one side (that breakfast nook upstairs continues to the basement), so I had a plan. This house is wonderful but it doesn't have lots of storage. There are rooms, but I have given the storage room to Ray as his plans room, so I needed to come up with some storage ideas.

So I had him carve off a 6' width off this room right across the width of the room. So it is about 6'x15' and then divided in the middle into two rooms of about 6'x7.5'. Just perfect for two small organized storage rooms!

Then it was time for me to decide what kind of cabinets I wanted. We are trying our very best to be as frugal as possible. Just because the frame of the house is large is no excuse for being extravagant and wasteful and we are certainly not being that.

So we found a company that had cabinets we liked that we could put in ourselves. They have very good pricing. I spent three days over the computer designing the kitchen and organizing what I needed. When I took it into the store the woman told me what I had done was her job. lol I showed her my plan - cabinets that were different heights and some different depths. She looked at me oddly.

I looked at her oddly. lol. I asked her if she had ever been to  - Not yet, she said. By the time we had finished talking I had educated her on what I had learned. Everything I did in my kitchen I learned from this wonderful website.

The next thing we had to do was decide on a floor and tile pattern and colour. It was funny how we did it. We brought home some laminate (cheaper than hardwood and better for many children running through!) and put it on the computer and then went to some websites: is the best. The prices are remarkable and they have a headoffice in Canada, so when they ship you are dealing with Canadians. The neat thing is that they can ship all of the decking to our house and even with $1400 shipping cost and the US exchange rate, it still comes out cheaper than buying it at a store!!!

In other news,  we have met with a small? crisis. It seems we keep hitting road blocks and this is no exception. When we chose this plan it needed to be okayed by an engineer because it was an American plan. Then the trusses could not be designed, so they got Ray to figure it out. He was able. They agreed it worked. Then there was a problem with the trusses, which they worked out. Then the inspection failed.

In over 20 years of framing, Ray has probably failed two or three times. He is that good at what he does. A level and a square are his friends on a job site. People know this about him, and so he does not have to advertise. Word of mouth does his work for him.

He has been told he needs an engineer to come and look at the roof. It needs to be fixed and stamped by the engineer as approved. I asked Ray about it. He said, It needs to be repairable.  Meaning, There is nothing I can do about it if it is not repairable. Uggh!

In the meantime, we are ready to insulate, but cannot move forward on this until we have the framing inspection cleaned up. The blessing in this happening when it did is that it happened on the 23rd of December (bad for Christmas cheer), and so Ray moved into Christmas holidays at that time. Then after Christmas he was able to go out to work on a small job that needed to be done for a customer. That is good news. A little bit of money. By the time he is done that job the engineer will be back at work after the holidays, so then we can try to book him to come out and see the job. So we are praying that he is available asap!

So please pray if you are so led. So I am going to trust God on this. He has overcome so many obstacles on this job, so far, but this one is just another huge one.

Our house has still not sold, but again, I am trusting God. If it had sold when we first put it on the market we would have been homeless! Right now, we need about four months to finish the house if we work hard and together. So really, selling the house now would be inconvenient.

If it has not sold by the time we are able to move in, then we will be renting it out. But I am sure God has a plan to sell it in the nick of time. Because He is the God of miracles and He *always* comes through - in HIS time, not OURS!