Friday, December 6

Our first (owned) home.

  We have waited 8.5 years into our marriage for when we felt was the right time & right place to purchase our first home. We felt that time has come and a few weeks ago we purchased this little gem. We couldn't be more excited and anticipate moving in January. (we'll see who our real friends are, right?!) Kindly, people have already began offering to help, we'll pray it's not too frigid!
This house was custom built by a couple who have been the only previous owners. You can tell that everything they put in the house was extremely well thought out and even a neighbor told us they kept it in impeccable shape. It's also a good sign when your inspector tells us how amazing it is and extremely well built.
While we looked at quite a few houses (and I believe Andrew looked at least a thousand on Zillow!), this was the only house that really had everything we were hoping for. One of the aspects we are most excited about is that it is across the street from a patch of woods and we are only 3 houses away from the dead end. My kids may finally be able to ride bikes, bless their patient hearts. :)
And an attached, heated garage. Blessing upon blessing. Andrew has worked on our cars in far from stellar conditions in the streets & cold, so thankful for a safe & warm place for this to happen now. And after walking kids across the street for the last 2.5 years and hoping no one dies, I can't even comprehend the joy of loading/unloading with no one's life in danger. :)
 We looked for a home that would be comfortable in hosting large groups & would allow us to serve others in whatever ways we could. Something that would allow us to accommodate our family, foster kids & overnight guests comfortably. God met these needs completely.
 A large living room.
 A large finished basement. Fireplace. Brick.
Gameroom/tv room, kids space during small group, extra guest space....so many possibilities!
While a lot of things need an updated look, so exciting to be able to do whatever we want!
Great outdoor space. A custom built grill? Love.
It's not a huge kitchen, but so much more functional that what we have now. Can't wait!
What? What? A dedicated play room. Ahhhh.....!
We were looking for 4 BR and this one has 3 + this mini office, so a first project will be to take down the wall dividing these 2 spaces and create an office for Andrew/guest room.  
 
A couple basic rooms.
3 bathrooms, including one off the master? Yes please!
 
So thankful for the blessing it is to be able to purchase a house.
Can't wait to make this our home sweet home!

 

Sunday, December 1

Happy Birthday Hijacking Post


This is the first time that I, Andrew, have ever written on our family blog after 7 years and over close to 500 posts from Kelly. So, I’m basically hijacking the page. But I wanted to hijack it to honor Kelly, who, today, is celebrating her _____rd  birthday (I’ll let you guess the blank ;) and list out some things I’m thankful for and love about her.

____________________

I’m thankful for a wife who thinks outside of herself and her needs, always eager to serve another person even at the cost of her own convenience and ease.

I’m thankful for a wife that is generous. She has taught me to not be so stingy in many areas of life.

I’m thankful for a wife that is like a rock emotionally, not emotionless, but strong and confident in God.

I love the fact that she rarely cries and laughs at me when I tear up at the end of Undercover Boss.

I’m thankful for a wife that is willing to care for 4 very young children full time, 24/7 when she could easily be out doing many other things.

I’m thankful that she’s always planning ahead, thinking of important details.

I’m thankful for a wife who is one of the hardest-working people I have ever met, working up to 3 jobs at once during our seminary days at the beginning of our marriage so I could work part-time, go to school full-time, and finish school debt-free....and she still runs non-stop today, mothering full-time, teaching piano, running a mom's group, and a gazillion other things.

I love that she started the Pittsburgh Momtourage which represents both her industrious nature and care for others.

I’m thankful for a wife who is an extremely gifted pianist but serves in a self-effacing manner in our local church.

I’m thankful for a wife that is different than me and for the way she has taught me that my ideas aren’t always the best.

I thankful for her hospitable spirit, caring more that her home serves others well than it serves her well.

I love her creativity in the kitchen…even when the result is kale chips. :\

I’m thankful for a wife who is realistic about life, parenting, and marriage, not expecting things to always be perfect and full of warm fuzzies.

I’m thankful for a wife that respects me but isn't necessarily impressed with me, being willing to tell me when I'm wrong or being stupid.

I’m thankful for her incredible patience with me, putting up with my inconsistencies and extending grace over my sin.


I love that it's hard to articulate all the things I love. I love you, Kelly. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, October 1

Today I ache & pray for 4 small children.

2 little ones joined us a little over 3 months ago. During that time 2 separate family members were taking the steps they needed to become certified to take them.  (They are in another state so the process takes a while.) We recently learned that one family member is very close to completion and so 2YO boy could soon be on his way. Unfortunately, the home for the 1YO girl has now closed and so, while we have no idea of her future at the moment, she will continue to stay with us for now. We are very thankful that little guy can go to be with his family, but we are grieved that now these 2 siblings will be split up, even more so that they have 2 other siblings who are already with other family members.
 *
The last 3+ months have been challenging, really challenging. Not only the physical exhaustion of caring for 4 (4 & under), but the emotional exhaustion of guiding forward the 2 that were learning to live life in a new environment.  There have been many days where I didn't think I could possibly handle one.more.day.  But God's grace has, as always, carried us each day. And we are especially mindful of the prayers of those around us and so thankful for the grace extended through them. As I have often waited for the words with great anticipation, "leaving day", it's hard to believe that through the struggles, love has also been born in a way I didn't think possible.  
And so today I ache & I pray:
For 2 small children that were born into a home that could not provide the love, safety, & structure that each child desperately needs.
For 2 small children who didn't even recognize their blood sibling (we don't really know why), but who now greet each other with joy. We don't know if/when they will see each other again.
For a young boy, who for quite a while called both our kids "Graham" (haha!), but might not see them again.
For a little boy who greets me with "mommy!" and does a little dance in the morning and will now be facing yet a 3rd mommy in his life. We desperately pray this one will be final.
For a little boy whose only experience with a loving, hands-on daddy might only be this brief 3 months in his life.
For a little girl who's favorite word is "knock-knock" accompanied by giggles and she doesn't even know why.
For a little girl who came to us with the scariest blank stare and whose angry eyes have been replaced with learning how to laugh & giggle.
For a little girl whose future is so unknown. For whom I fear she may be one of those who flourish and grow in a long-term foster home only to be taken away by a court system who demands family re-unification even if it's been 2 years.
For 4 small children who have grown accustomed to life with 4 crazy siblings and will soon be saying goodbye to one.
For a little boy who will be leaving everything he has grown familiar with and grown to love and will be starting over with all things new.
For our own boy who asks, "why can't we just adopt them?" and has begun introducing them as his brother and sister, even though we talk frequently about their temporary stay.
For our own little girl who really doesn't understand the process and will be saying goodbye to her "twin" who we have seen her grow to nurture and love.
*
I ache & I pray for a world where sin has left small children without their families.
But most of all, I hope and I trust in the grace of a Sovereign God who holds all things in His hands. Without that assurance, we have no hope!
Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Titus 2:13-14

Friday, September 20

Coupons for Corn Mazes, Pumpkin Patches and Fall Family Activities in 24 States!

This is a promo I'm doing for the Pgh Momtourage (yay for free admittance to all of these!), but since many of my friends are scattered around the U.S., I thought I'd post it here all well.
Fall Festivals at many of our local farms is one of my favorite things! And now I have this to pass along to you........

Ready for some Fall Festival Deals?  Here's a great list of Corn Maze Coupons and Fall Festival savings nationwide.  Download valuable coupons for Corn Mazes, Pumpkin Patches and Fall Family Activities!


 
Arizona
Schnepf Farms - Queen City
Tolmachoff Farms- Glendale

California
Forneris Farms - Mission Hills

Colorado
Anderson Farms - Erie

Flat Acres Farm - Parker
Fritzler Maze - La Salle
Sunflower Farm - Longmont
Mile High Farms - Bennett
Wishing Star Farm - Calhan
Harvest Farm - Wellington

Texas
Devine Acres Farm - Devine
Fiesta Farm - San Antonio
Yesterland Farm - Canton
South Texas Maize - Hondo
Dewberry Farm - Brookshire
Brazos Valley Maize- Brenham

Louisiana
CM Farms - Dry Creek

Georgia
Lane Southern Orchards - Fort Valley
Poppell Farms - Odum

Michigan
Farmer Charley's Corn Maze Adventure - Monroe

Indiana
Amazing Fall Fun - Waterloo
Harvest Tyme Pumpkin Patch - Lowell
Hobson's Fun Farm - Rockville

Guffey Acres- Kokomo

Illinois
All Seasons Orchard - Woodstock
Kuipers Family Farm - Maple Park
Odyssey Fun Farm - Tinley Park
Siegel's Cottonwood Farm - Lockport

Maryland/DC
Summers Farm - Fredrick County

Massachusetts
Sauchuk Farm - Plympton

Missouri/Kansas

KC Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze - Gardner
Shuck's Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch - Pleasant Hill

Mississippi
Seward Farms Maze - Lucedale

Minnesota
Afton Apple Orchard - Hastings

Montana
The Maize at Grandpa's Farm - Billings

Nebraska
Camp Fontanelle - Nickerson

NewJersey
VonThun Farms - Monmouth Junction
Sahl's Father Son Farm - Egg Harbor City

New York
Wright Family Farm - Warwick
Harbes Family Farm - Mattituck

North Carolina
Patterson Farm Market and Tours - Mount Ulla

Ohio
The Corn Maze at the Sharp Run Market - Millersburg
Meadow View Growers - New Carlisle


Oregon
The Maize at The Pumpkin Patch- Portland

Pennsylvania
Hurricane Hill Farm - Coatsville
Triple B Farms - Pittsburgh
Reillys Summer Seat Farm
 - Pittsburgh


Rhode Island
Confreda Greenhouses & Farms - Hope (Western Cranston)

Virginia
Cows-N-Corn - Midland
Wayside Farm Fun - Berryville
Belvedere Plantation - Fredericksburg

Utah
Cornbelly's Corn Maze & Pumpkin Fest - Spanish Fork



For Daily Updates on these coupons and coupons for other family attractions please visit and bookmark: http://www.usfamilycoupons.com

Monday, August 26

The Big First {for mommy & daddy too!}

We've entered.
The school calendar will now rule our lives for the next 20+ years. :) 
We had one very excited little guy!
 Many moms talk about the emotional torture as they prepare to send their child off for the first time. Maybe there's something wrong with me, :) but I truly felt only excitement for him! We were very much on the fence about preschool. Not sure if we would send him or if it's necessary for everyone, but this boy loves to learn. And we felt he would thrive in a new learning environment. Especially with having various foster kids in & out of our home which can create seasons of chaos, not to mention having a lot of little ones competing for attention, I knew I could not count on having devoted time to lessons. We were so happy to find a school that did 3 day / half-day. So he will go from noon-3, M/W/F. This school also has half day kindergarten which is a big bonus for us. I love the slow transition before going full day in 1st grade. I guess I'm not totally ready to send him off. :)
It's hard to wait until after lunch when you're so excited. 

{ Just so mommy can join the party, I was heading to my first parent orientation.} 
His teacher comes so highly recommended and she is fantastic!  She also has a full-time aid which will help with the energy that is 11 boys & 3 girls in his class. :)
I love that he gets to do music, art & gym classes each week as well. 
Because school will do that to ya.
{And sometimes only your sister's sunglasses are in the car.}
 
We love you, Graham, and we love to see your excitement as you learn & grow! But most of all we pray that you....
...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. 2 Peter 3:18

Thursday, August 15

Pgh Momtourage turns 4!

It's hard to believe that the little group I started, Pgh Momtourage, turned 4 this August!
My initial thought.....hey, let's throw a party!
Then........
And let's invite local small businesses to be a part of our event.
And let's see if we can get an amazing location.
And let's see if a Food Truck wants to come.
And let's get some cool family entertainers.
And let's have a great night!
And so we did.
*
Thanks to Andrew's involvement in our church's neighborhood community group, I received the city's approval to hold our event in the beautiful West End Overlook. Normally a $250 fee, I was so thankful for this great venue!  Local businesses set up tables & wares and it was fun to see so many people, old friends & new, come and join us. All our entertainers, businesses, & food vendors donated their time & resources, it was amazing to see everyone jump on board and want to make this happen.
My friend James, who also happens to be a fun entertainer, was up for the opening show. Happy Harry the Clown started out our evening with a show with lots of laughs.
 
Next on our list of great entertainers was the always hilarious Pittsburgh Magician Al Mazing!
Very funny, the kids (& adults) love him!
A great crowd!
  So happy to have the BRGR Food Truck come with yummy burgers & shakes! They told me it was one of their favorite events they had been a part of, but I'm sure it was partly because of their view for the evening. :)
The West End Overlook is a hidden gem! It was fun to have so many people come through that had never been to this little spot. I know it was exactly the exposure the Community Group was hoping would happen.
 Since our church, Three Rivers Grace Church, was only a few blocks from this location, it was a great opportunity to be there with candy, water, & books to give away!
Our local library branch was so kind to come out as well.  They had the genius idea to bring a sand pool, complete with dinosaurs. It was a big hit! 
Children's librarian, Ms. Jamie, (my kids love her!) ended our evening with her ukulele, tambourines, + a goodnight story time.  
 Faces by Christina was on hand doing some great face art!
Some great local businesses joined us! They all generously gave away prize packages at the end of the evening!
********************
We were so excited to hear that Klavon's is re-opening in the Strip District! They brought some of their amazing ice cream & homemade fudge - delish!
Klavon's is an authentic antique 1920's Ice Cream Parlor located in the Strip District of Pittsburgh- 2801 Penn Avenue. Re-opening under new ownership, but the same awesome historic feel.
Anne Lee is a talented local artist & author. She has written an excellent children's book When You Are Camping (great summer resource for kids!) She also does beautifully hand painted cards & pictures. Check her out here to see more of her creative work!
The talented gals from Simple Celebrations!
Simple Celebrations is an event planning service that takes all of the work out of organizing your happy occasion. Whether you need an all-inclusive event or just custom designed favors, our goal is to create a unique celebration tailored to your needs. You choose your theme, set your budget, and leave the rest to us! From delivered d├ęcor that you set up on your own, to having us there to put it all together, Simple Celebrations will help you to host an event to remember.
Bumble n Bug has fun, unique gifts for babies & moms!
They specialize in hand crafted baby products that are fun, whimsical and downright adorable.
E2 Toys to Try is a fantastic local indoor play space + toy store. They came with glitter tattoos, games, crafts & prizes! The Momtourage is a big fan of holding playdates there!
PartyLite brought quality candles & beautiful accessories!
Monkey Kisses BOWtique brought adorable girly accessories!
Check out her Big Bows for cute babies!
Jenny Jones from Silpada Jewelry (with a cute little sidekick!)
 
Our friend Laura has newly opened Chateau in Pittsburgh's North Side. Must.stop.in.
Offering breakfast, lunch and unique sweet-treats in a relaxed environment with natural wood decor, retro Pittsburgh photos on the walls and humorous/witty blurbs to tickle your funny bone. Grab a cup of locally roasted coffee, or one of our signature Chateau herbal tea blends, while chatting up one of our friendly Chateauristas.  Try a Apple Pecan Salad...Ham, Bacon and Maple Mayo Panini...Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Slaw Wrap...or one of their many delicious sweet treats! Pittsburgh Born and Fed!
Created To Play has a complete Etsy store with everything for your party needs! With favors, party supplies, photo props, cards & much, much more. Custom creations also available. Check her shop for your next wedding or baby shower, or party of any kind!
Grace in Abundance brought the most beautiful & colorful assortment of wares!
Sweet items for little ones out of beautiful fabrics that I love:
skirts, dresses, headbands, quilts,
receiving blankets, bibs, burp cloths,
onesies, applique gifts and more.
Pamper Parties Pittsburgha unique mobile spa party business, offered free nail art for the evening and gave us a great overview of their Indulgence line of Bath, Body, and Skin Care Products made from all natural edible ingredients!
 
 Face-Painting Designs by Dana braved rush hour traffic and was able to arrive half way through our event! She offered free face art and had some very happy customers!  This is Caleb & Emma from our church. Let's just say Emma holds a very special place in Graham's heart right now. :)
Yeah, that guy in the background did lots of behind the scenes stuff. He's the best. :)
Our local councilwoman stopped by. As did Batman.

 This girl snatched as many as {above pictured} cupcakes as possible. :) She's quick, let me tell ya. Thankful for the small army of church friends who helped keep watch over the 4 wee ones. We totally could not have survived with the help!
Have loved the opportunity this avenue has given me to meet people all around Pittsburgh. Having recently passed the 1,000 "likes" mark on facebook, it has grown to much more than I had imagined. I am currently turning down more opportunities than I am accepting, but such is this season of life!
Thankful to the over 200 guests that came out to join us, thankful to everyone who came together to make this happen, and thankful for God blessing us with perfect weather for a fantastic night!
Happy 4 to the Pgh Momtourage!