Monday, December 24, 2012

Your Virtual Christmas Card From Our Fam

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Dangers of YOLO

I feel so out of touch when this kind of thing happens. A few months back, some younger people I know are talking and mentioned something like, "Well, YOLO."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I inquire.

"You've never heard of 'YOLO'?!?" The young group stared back at me in shock.

I refrain from pathetically shooting something back at them along the lines of, "Oh, yeah, well do you know what a caboodle is?!"

And they explain their modern lingo to this 30-something year old, "It means 'You Only Live Once'."

Since that conversation, I've started to notice it on Facebook postings, t-shirts, and such. And I've been musing on that. I've been musing on the idea of YOLO.

In some ways, I feel like I've become more acquainted with the realities of this world more than any other year of my life. It's been a year of walking through some tough stuff with friends: watching multiple girlfriends go through life-altering, thoroughly messy trials. Relationships broken, once stable marriages falling apart, walking through dark places, and other things I couldn't have dreamed up when we first rang in 2012. On top of that, my eyes have been more opened than ever to the world outside the U.S. I'm becoming more educated on children in conditions that make me want to sit and sob or go and throw-up. I feel this stirring, that I just can't sit still; feeling this further hatred of sin's curse.

And that's what has me thinking about this idea of YOLO - this idea that is presented to us over and over in different formats. Do it: you only live once. Make it count: you only live once. You deserve it: you only live once.

But actually the Bible has something quite different to tell me. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed for a man to die once, and after that comes judgement."

So, actually, you only die once. While I don't think they'll be marketing YODO t-shirts, the truth is that I live twice because after death comes judgement. I'll be judged for how I lived my first life; and then, I'll live my second life for eternity. Whether that second life will be lived paying the penalty for rebellion toward God or receiving unmerited and joy of fellowship with the Savior in a perfect new world, we will be living a second time.

This world is broken. You don't have an iota of sense if you don't know that after what happened in Connecticut last week. If this was all there was, then I wouldn't want to endure it for one more second.

But what if you're living twice? What if you really do believe Jesus when He says to "lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."?

What I really, truly believed this? What if I really lived my life like this?

Living once tells me to get as comfortable as I possibly can, to make emotional and rash decisions, to get as much pleasure as I can at the expense of others, and to live in a world that revolves around me. Then as we grow older, the happiness we've tried to achieve feels empty and we grow tired of a world that doesn't deliver on our hopes and dreams. The idea of only living once leads to self-centered, indulgent young people and disillusioned older people. 

Living twice tells to me to shed my comfort, to live for something outside myself, and to start seeing my the way I live my life in an eternal light. And, as I told my 10-year-old son recently, it's funny how it works. You would think that living for yourself would make you happy. Logic tells you this is true. But it's empty. Living for God's glory and for eternity; that what makes this for true joy. It defies logic.

Author Paul Tripp says, "As we begin to place our hope in God, we get connected to the promise of eternity, where all that is broken will be fixed and made new again. And as we do this, we look at life in a radically new way. We no longer ask the broken people, places, and things to be the source of our hope. We know they can't be, because they are broken and in need of renewal just like we are."

Sometimes I keep a list in my mind of people that I really can't wait to watch receive their rewards in heaven. I'm going through this list in my head right now, and realizing that none of these people are living the American dream; none of them are living for themselves. Many of these people's lives look pretty lame here. And yet these people have undeniable joy. And a distinct way of living....

They're living twice; and they know it.


"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." -2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Caffeine, Baby!

This is the reason my room smells so divine right now....

And it's merely a fraction of the coffee I have sitting here. 

My husband is a natural born salesman. And since opposites attract, I hate trying to sell anything. As in ANYTHING. I hate it with every bone in body. So having to do fundraisers for our adoption is not exactly my idea of a good time. Trust me, I'd rather just give updates and never say a word about money. But I hear that adopting is a wonderful way to strap on some humility; so fundraising must be the trial run. 

If I have to sell something, at least this fair-trade, organic coffee takes some of the sting out of the pain of sales. Our family will be selling this delicious stuff before and after our church service Sunday with other families that are on the road to adoption. Next to us you'll find the Echegoyens selling some homemade salsa, and the Kobayashi's selling handmade crafts so that you can get some last minute Christmas shopping done! 

If you're local, and won't be there, feel free to contact me about buying coffee since purchasing it directly from us takes away the shipping and handling fee and the hassle of ordering it yourself. And if you're not local you, can simply go HERE to buy some.

Okay. Sales hat off now. Whew, that feels better.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Christmas Decorations of a Semi-Scrooge

My mother is a version of Mrs. Clause at Christmas, decorating every nook and cranny of her home while baking platters of intricate cookies and candies that could dazzle any Food Network star. My father, on the other hand, has been lovingly referred to as the Grinch. He enjoys the family time that the holidays bring, but would probably skip the Christmas tree if my mother would let him. And his passionate love for my mom is the only reason the Helms home has ever seen outdoor Christmas lights which he begrudgingly is in charge of every year. His only reward is when Mrs. Clause claps her hands together with joy at the first sight of them.

I happen to have lots of empathy for my father's point of view. I see outdoor lights as an electric bill sucker and am not a fan upheaving the order of my home to decorate for Christmas (which the U.S. now celebrates for one-quarter of the year...which drives me up a wall!) Such sentiments have earned me the nickname of Scrooge in my family. 

But I protest that I am merely a Semi-Scrooge. I actually do enjoy the Christmas decorations while they are up (I have a soft spot for mantel decorations), but I'll enjoy it even more when I get to put them away. Sorry; sad truth.

So I'll share the decorations of this Semi-Scrooge. Not because they're so special, but because I actually enjoy it when bloggers post their decoration photos and wish I could see insides of each of your homes decorated for the season.







My mother-in-law gives the kids each their own ornament every year having to do with their interest at that age. It's like a Hallmark moment and the kids really get a thrill out of hanging their ornaments and talking about each of them. But this year, as I decorated the tree for the first time in our new home, I told Steven, "I really, really can't bring myself to hang Spiderman on my lovely tree."

So we decided it was time for a kids tree. (How could be accused of being a Scrooge when I've actually allowed two trees in my home?!?) They were enthralled with the chance to have their own tree; and we put it in right outside the schoolroom so that they could find more ways to be distracted from doing their Math.

Christmas book nook:


An attempt to hide our unsightly doorbell chime with Christmas cheer:


And if you work the photography just right you can make it look like your home is perfectly clean with no Christmas baking messes. Because here's what it looked like right outside that last shot:

And no, I won't be serving pickle cookies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Latest Craving {energy}

In early 2003, I put away all my coaching items; and exited the gym one last time. I'd spent 16 years in the world of gymnastics- 10 as a gymnast and 6 as a coach. And one of the things I remember thinking was, "I'm actually going to have to intentionally exercise now."

For all those years, exercising was my playtime and then my job. From that last gymnastics class on, my love-hate relationship with exercise began. Aerobic videos, strength training, Pilates, running, or pretending that chasing my kids was all the exercise I needed- I felt like I was on a hunt for the workout that didn't feel like drudgery.

In April of this year, my search came to an end. Enter Bikram Yoga. Ninety minutes of an exercise practice that combines strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular workout done in a room with a heat of 105° and a 40% humidity (the heat helps you sweat off toxins and helps your body do the practice)- yeah, baby! After the first class, I was in love. I was thrilled to find that lost feeling of actually looking forward to my workouts. And won't even bore you with my ravings about how it's taken away all the pain from old gymnastics injuries, how it makes my body feel younger, or how I no longer have to be on my daily asthma can ask me in person if you really want to hear about all of that.

Because the point of this post isn't about what exercise you or I personally enjoy, it's about my new little energy craving. Like any other exercise, I'm not supposed to have a full stomach when entering the yoga room. I've learned that the hard way, having to excuse myself from class to go make face-to-face friends with the studio's toilet. Okay, TMI. But the dilemma for me personally was how to have enough energy to get through class if I haven't eaten beforehand. So I started thinking about what I could take that was natural, wouldn't fill me up, and would do the job. I thought about how my midwives had me keep honey on hand during labor in case I needed an energy boost. I thought about how chia seeds have long been called "runner's food" for their ability to help provide stamina and endurance. So I knew I wanted those:

And I thought about nuts and seeds which have protein that gives you a more lasting pick-up. So I thought I'd add some nut butter:

I tested my theory a few different times and was thrilled with the results. I hardly had to put anything on my stomach and I could tell the difference in the energy level that I was able to maintain through class. But it doesn't just have to be for yoga. Do you get up early to run or exercise in some other way? I'm not a nutritionist, but I know how these little bad boys have helped me.

Energy Boosters

2 Tbsp. local raw honey
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
2 Tbsp. your favorite nut/seed butter (I love using sunbutter)

Mix all the ingredients together. Spoon four mounds onto a small plate covered with wax or parchment paper. Eat one or two of them shortly before your next workout.

Now, this isn't recipe you'll be making for your Christmas party, it's definitely got all the potent sweetness of the honey. But give them a shot before your next workout, and tell me if you don't notice an energy difference.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Braids & Such

Ava Lou now talks and acts like she's one of the big kids. She insists on dressing herself and doing everything else herself. Our social worker commented on how much everyone in the family raved about Ava. We all just can't get enough of her. She regularly has us in stitches, and seems to know that the her ability to make us all laugh gives her some sort of celebrity status in our home. The other day she passed gas and casually commented, "Excuse my bum." 

And with the braids, oh Lord help us; it's hard not let her get away with anything when she's sporting those braids.



On a more serious note, the author of one of the blogs I follow is over in Ethiopia right now meeting her daughter and going to court to make her officially part of their family. She also had the chance to visit one of the government orphanages there. You may have already followed this link that I posted on my Facebook page: but if not, take the time to read THIS. Take the time to open you eyes and your heart to a world outside of our "American dream". I know doing this in my own life is a journey I've only just begun. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Making Traditions

My mother was asked to speak to a group of young moms at our church on the topic of Christmas traditions. Whoever had the job of picking someone to talk about this, hit the jackpot when they asked her. My mom is the queen of traditions. Intentional traditions. I could go on and on about the wonderful things she set into motion that have become part of the culture of our family. But I don't think it's about the specifics, I think it's about taking the time to choose your own meaningful traditions and keep them. It builds such solid memories, gives a sense of belonging, and bonds the family in a way that few other things do. And think about it, God was the author of traditions. Many times in His Word, He gave His people traditions to keep to remind them of who they were and who they belonged to.

The tricky part for our family was having traditions translate to the next generation. My family's and Steven's family traditions remain and have become part of my own children's history, and I love that. But I didn't want to fall into having my kids find their family identity only in our extended family's strong traditions. So we've tried to build our own traditions. Even the simple stuff seems to become so meaningful and important our little family.

One of those is our "fireplace meal." We decorate our house for Christmas on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and that night we sit down to have a meal cooked exclusively in the fireplace. When Steven and I were looking for a house this past year, one of the things we wanted was a fireplace; and that specific meal was a huge reason for that. After the meal is finished, we pull the nativity out (the only decoration we've left in the box); and we give each of the kids a few of the pieces from the nativity. Then Steven reads the Christmas story. And when the kid's hear the characters that they have in their hands mentioned in the story, they go up to put it in the nativity. See, I told you it was simple. And yet, my kids seem to think it's the best thing.

Getting the fireplace up and roaring in the new house for the first time. (Ava was hidden on Daddy's lap)...

Fireplace meal...

The obvious dessert for such a meal...

Dad reading the Christmas story (note the iPhone Bible...we're raising 21st century kids here!)...


And our new tradition this year was Mom and Dad saving the cheese portion of the meal for after small people were in bed. Enjoying some toasted cheese, a bottle of vino, and some snuggling- yep, I think we'll definitely keep that tradition.

So, how about you? What's your favorite family tradition?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Baby Sister Beauty

I posted over on my photography blog my baby sister's (not so baby anymore) senior photos. You can head over there by clicking HERE if you're in need of some eye candy or simply want to see the result of us carting suitcases of books out into a field...


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Support Us With Coffee

Our home visits are done. *head thrown back shouting "hallelujah"* And honestly, they were so much less intimidating than I expected. The social worker checked our closets and didn't find any skeletons. (We hid them in the attic.... kidding. Kidding.)

When she was doing our family interview, she asked us why we wanted to adopt from Ethiopia. Before Steven or I had the chance to answer, Adriana piped up confidently, "Because we like their food." 

The sick humor side of me wonders what would have happened if I had just looked up at the social worker with a straight face, and said, "Yep, that pretty much sums it up."

And now that the home study is about complete, we're facing the dossier and the holidays. As Steven and I spent time praying over where the $9,000 that needs to accompany the completion of the dossier is coming from, I wondered if I couldn't combine the Christmas shopping season with raising money for the dossier. 

So, as usual, I turned to coffee. 

No really, I did. There's a company called "Just Love Coffee Roasters" that comes along adopters like us to help raise money. They sell sustainable, fair trade coffee in every roast you could want. And you can even join their coffee club to have your coffee sent to your doorstep regularly. They sell also grinders, mugs, and even the popular Chemex coffee maker. Because what do you get the person on your Christmas shopping list who has everything? COFFEE!!

You can go HERE to our profile on the website and simply click the "Shop & Support" button on the left. A portion of anything you purchase after that goes to our adoption fund. It's that easy.

Shopping for Christmas gifts, getting coffee, and supporting an orphan finding her way to a family aching to love her? I don't see a downside here. 

And if you're ever looking for to purchase coffee again, I'll be keeping the link under the "Our Adoption" tab of this blog. Now go get yourself some java!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

We Interrupted The Regularly Scheduled Healthy Food...

...for a Sieb family November tradition.

We start with candy corn, homemade Rice Krispie Treats that have been made into a small ball shape, chocolate icing, and Oreos that have had the stuffing removed (yep, nothing remotely healthy here)...

Add in some assembly fun...

And end up with a cute little gobbler.

Or a whole flock of turkeys.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Grandparents and Great Falls

This past weekend we had a visit from Grandpa and Grandma Sieb, who are nothing short of celebrities at our house.

And while they were here, we took a little trip over to Great Falls National Park which has been called the "Niagara of the South". There we spent part of the time oohing-and-aahing over the wonders of God's creation and the rest of the time keeping our kids out of the more shallow water which they seemed bound and determined to fall into.







Friday, November 9, 2012

Home Visits

This next week we'll be embarking on a big step for our adoption. Our home visits will take place; and to be honest, this is the part I'm most nervous about. It's not that I have things to hide, but the idea of someone, coming into my home and evaluating me and my family is a bit nerve-racking. Not a bad thing, just humbling. So I'll give a little update here after all of that; because as long as everything goes well, the social worker's report will complete the home study portion of our adoption process. This is HUGE since it is the most work-intensive part of the adoption paper-chase process. After this is complete, we move on to putting our dossier together for Ethiopia. For those of you who don't know what that word even means, a dossier (pronounced dah-see-ay) is a packet with many notarized papers that gives the country we're adopting from a detailed description and record of Steven and me and our family.

Also, our first adoption fund-raiser, the photo mini-sessions went SO well. I had prayed many times for God's blessing on this; and He blew me away (it's His specialty). It was a perfect day, two days before we were slammed with Hurricane Sandy. Everyone that participate was an absolute delight. I went to bed that night unbelievably exhausted and unbelievably grateful! You can check out a taste of the photos over at my photography blog HERE.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Dressed Up & Sugared Up

I'll lay aside my why-do-we-sugar-our-kids-up-as-soon-as-cold-and-flu-season-hits rant to simply show off some snapshots of my cuties on Halloween.

While Steven took the three oldest out, Ava and I had just as good of a time passing out candy to the "truck or treat-ers". You should have heard her squeal every time the doorbell rang. Then there was the squeal of any middle-school aged girl when Ava answered the door clad in footie pj's and a tutu: "Oh, my gosh, she's so cuuuute."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shooting {my life right now}

Hopefully in a week or two, life will have slowed down just a touch so that I can wrap up the current series and do some real blogging. But until then, "My Life Right Now" continues...

Sitting in my home looking out at the "slightly damp" (as my husband sarcastically refers to it) ground outside. And feeling uber grateful for Miss Hurricane Sandy not arriving until after I'd finished 9 photo sessions over the weekend. Because fall= family photos.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking & Smiling {my life right now}

For our dossier we're required to submit two family photos, no more than a year old, with all six of us "looking at the camera and smiling." Or so the directions say.

Problem one:
Total number of photos I've taken this past year of our life= 900+
Total number of photos I've taken this past year of all six of us= 0

Problem two:
Well isn't it obvious?..."looking at the camera and smiling." *snort*

So Sunday we pulled out the camera...

Someone can take it up with my two-year-old if they're really feeling like being stickler's about that looking/smiling bit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Surprise Visit {my life right}



Saturday, October 20, 2012

My REAL Fur Baby {my life right now}

Don't be fooled!