Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas with the Foote Family

For Christmas 2009 we traveled to east TX to spend time with Billy's side of the family. BC, Winky, Wendy, Robbie and Brooke were all there. This Christmas is special in that it is Gracie's first Christmas. We are so happy she is in our lives! Such a blessing! During our stay in Gilmer we ate a lot of great food, drove the golf cart in the woods, had some awesome play times for Libby and Brooke (including playing in the dirt, on the swing set, running circles in the living room, dancing, singing... you name it!), opened gifts, visited Santa's Wonderland of lights, played cards and enjoyed great conversation. It was a fabulous trip! The pictures tell the story of fun and good times....
Papa and Gracie hang out while we wait to enter Santa's Wonderland of Lights. The flash always surprises Gracie, which makes her eyes get even bigger!

Gracie: "Yep, Papa is one silly man!"

Grammy and Gracie enjoying the lights.

Libby and Brooke played so well together and enjoyed being glued hip to hip for every adventure.

The girls with their cousin, Brooke - all in their Christmas red.

The girls were given matching pajamas by Grammy. They looked so cute in their pink animal print.

Here, Grammy is showing off her new wind chimes that have the Lord's Prayer written all over them.

Billy and Brooke

Grammy and Gracie (who loves to suck on Grammy's necklaces, especially this one!)

Brooke and Libby decided to go on a walk together hand in hand. It was soooooooooo cute!

Grammy bought Libby and Brooke flashing Rudolph noses!!!! Libby would put it on and then try to look at the red nose while it was on her face. She would go so cross-eyed doing it that she was making everyone in the store laugh.

The big girls and me.

Grammy and Papa Boots hang out with Gracie. Libby was the photographer!

Grammy and the girls. They love their Grammy!

Wendy and Robbie are building a new (and BEAUTIFUL) house. So we brought them a special house warming gift. Can't wait to travel back to east TX to see them all moved in and happy in their new home!
Papa Boots and his 3 granddaughters.

Gracie and Papa Boots had lots of fun together.

Aunt Wendy and Gracie. I love this picture! And Gracie looks so grown up in it. Her hair is really growing fast! Gracie is teething again BIG TIME! We had a few sleepless nights because the poor girl was in so much pain. I felt so bad for her. Gracie loves being held by Aunt Wendy. And Wendy watched Gracie one morning when I had to take Libby to the eye doctor. Thank you Wendy!

Below: After we returned home, the girls immediately got acquainted with their new toys given to them by Grammy, Papa Boots, Wendy, Robbie and Brooke. Here, Libby is working on her mosaic sticker art and below that picture is Gracie chewing on her new pull toy puppy. It was love at first sight!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Christmas Gift For You

This year I have had fun finding new recipes to feed my family and our house church. Over time we have collected a few favorites from various magazines and friends. I decided to type up a few of our favorites for some family and then thought I would just post them here to share with you. Below is a little gift for moms out there needing something new to cook this winter season. Merry Christmas! And enjoy!

Rosemary Chicken with White Beans (a crockpot recipe, serves 5-6)

2 tbs. oil

4-6 chicken breasts

1 cup carrots, sliced

½ cup celery, sliced

2 15 oz. cans white Kidney beans, drained and rinsed

½ tsp salt

½ tsp. pepper

1 tsp. rosemary

1/3 cup Italian dressing (I use Ken’s Steakhouse, Lite Northern Italian)

In a large skillet, healt the oil and brown the chicken breast. Remove and drain. Place the carrots, celery and beans in the bottom of the Crock-Pot Slow Cooker and add the chicken breats. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, pepper, rosemary and Italian dressing and pour over the food in the Crockpot. Cover; cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours.


Sausage and Tortellini Soup with Spinach (serves 4-6, easy 30 minute meal. Can be doubled for large gathering. Great with cornbread!)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound sweet Italian sausage (lean/low fat if you can find it)

1 onion, chopped fine

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 cups low-sodium chicken both (Swanson’s Certified Organic Free Range chicken broth)

1 bay leaf

1 (9 oz) package fresh cheese tortellini (usually found in dairy or deli refrigerated areas of grocery store)

3 cups baby spinach

Salt and pepper

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook sausages, rolling occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

Cook onion in sausage fat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth and bay leaf, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil.

Cut browned sausages into ½-inch rounds and add to pot. Stir in tortellini and simmer over medium heat until tender, 6-8 minutes. Stir in spinach until just wilted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and papper. Discard bay leaf. Serve.


Quick Beef Empanadas (can serve as 4 large main course or 8 fingerfood, easy 30 minute meal)

1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef (or – you can use ground turkey if you want to be really healthy about it!)

1 onion, chopped fine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (low fat, if you prefer)

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (I only use 1/8 cup)

Salt and pepper

1 (15 oz) box Pillsbury Just Unroll! Pie Crust (One box contains two rounds of dough that you will cut in half. The assembled empanadas can be refrigerated for 12 hours prior to baking.)

Adjust over rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (I just used non-stick cookie sheet and sprayed it with Pam)

Cook beef and onion in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, garlic, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir in cheese and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut each dough round in half. Arrange one quarter of filling on one side of each dough half, leaving ½-inch border around edges. Brush edges of dough with water, fold over filling, and crimp edges to seal. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Using fork, pierce dough at 2-inch intervals so steam can escape. Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Serve.


The Best Artichoke Dip!

(I triple this recipe for a large gathering and always run out early!)

1 6oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts (on canned veggie row)

2 tbs. green chilies, diced (this makes it sooooo tastey!)

¼ cup mayonnaise (low fat, if preferred)

1 cub cheddar cheese, shredded (low fat, if preferred)

Drain the artichokes, reserve the marinade. Chop the artichokes. Combine artichokes, chilies, mayonnaise and cheese in a microwavable bowl. Heat in microwave until cheese ie melted. Stir to mix ingredients, then blend in 1 tbs. of reserved marinade. Serve with corn chips.


Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (from Cassie Graham - THANK YOU!)

(not a low fat nor a 30 minute meal, but still easy AND seriously delicious!)

6 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

2 cups half and half

3 cups chicken broth (free range, organic)

2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded

1 small onion, chopped

1 box wild rice with seasoning, prepared as directed

Lemon pepper (as much as you want!)

Melt butter in large pot, blend in flour, cook on low 2 minutes whisking constantly. Slowly add half and half and 1 cup of broth, whisking constantly. Add remaining ingredients.

Can also add mushrooms, carrots, and/or celery if desired… mushrooms are great!)

Simmer at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Enjoy!


Black Beans and Yellow Rice (our entire house church LOVES this one! Healthy and SOOOOOOO easy!) (I double and even triple this recipe for guests) serves 3 as is:

1 5 oz package yellow rice mix

1 15 oz. can black beans

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Light sour cream to garnish

Cook rice according to package directions; keep warm.

Meanwhile, drain beans, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Combine beans, reserved liquid, lime juice, chili powder, and cumin in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated. Serve beans over rice and garnish with sour cream. Serve. Once mixed together this is a very tastey vegetarian main dish!

(This meal also tastes great served with tortilla chips and salsa and pineapples or bananas!)


Carrot and Raisin Muffins (yummy and great for breakfast too! Not too sweet and EASY to make, kids can help out!)

2 cups SELF-RISING flour

1/3 cup sugar

½ cup shredded carrots

½ cup raisins

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup milk

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

some brown or regular sugar to sprinkle on top of each muffin, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Stir together flour, sugar, carrots, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. Make a “well” in the center of mixture using a WOODEN SPOON (no metal!). Whisk milk oil and egg in a small bowl until smooth. Pour milk mixture into “well” and stir just until moistened. Spoon batter unto lightly greased muffin pans, filling three-fourths full (makes 12 muffins). If desired, sprinkle brown or regular sugar over top of each muffing BEFORE baking. This adds a little sweetness to the muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden. Serve warm and with butter if desired.


Better-Than-The-Box Mac and Cheese (great mac and cheese dish for the kids or for a side dish, makes 6 good size servings!)

12 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni

¼ cup butter or margarine

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups milk

1 (8oz) loaf pasteurized prepared cheese product (like Velveeta), cubed

dash of garlic powder

dash of pepper

2 ½ cups (10oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni in boiling water according to package directions; drain macaroni in a colander, and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pot over low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 6 minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in cubed cheese, garlic powder, and pepper. Reduce heat, and stir just until cheese melts. Stir in cooked macaroni.

Spoon half of macaroni mixture in a lightly greased 11x7 inch baking dish; sprinkle with half of cheddar cheese. Do the same thing all over again with remaining macaroni mixture and cheddar cheese. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

An Article To Raise Awareness

The details in this article are not easy reading, but we must all be aware of what goes on in China so that we can pray and take action. I found this article on Tom Davis's blog - the president of Hope Chest and author of "Fields of the Fatherless", "Red Letters" and "Scared" (all must-reads in my opinion). Your support of Hope Chest or of other organizations like "Sisters in Service", who are making an impact in this world through their efforts to expel such activity as what you read below, is needed. This season, give to such organizations so they can make a difference... so YOU can make a difference!

From the Baltimore Sun:

We Can't Avert Our Eyes From China's Forced Abortions

November 12, 2009|By Kathleen Parker

One of the few incontrovertible assertions one can reasonably make is that no one supports forced abortion.

Yet, coerced abortions, as well as involuntary sterilizations, are commonplace in China, Beijing's protestations notwithstanding. While the Chinese Communist Party insists that abortions are voluntary under the nation's one-child policy, electronic documentation recently smuggled out of the country tells a different story.

Congressional members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission heard some of that story Tuesday, two days before President Barack Obama was slated to leave for Asia, including China, to discuss economic issues. Among evidence provided by two human rights organizations, ChinaAid and Women's Rights Without Frontiers, were tales of pregnant women essentially being hunted down and forced to submit to surgery or induced labor.

Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of the Frontiers group, told the commission that China's one-child policy "causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth."

I met Ms. Littlejohn the day before the hearing. She is a petite wife and mother - as well as a Yale-educated lawyer - who gave up her intellectual property practice in San Francisco following a life-altering illness to become a full-time activist for Chinese women. She is remarkably buoyant considering what she has absorbed. Action, she says, is her way of coping.

Here's the question Ms. Littlejohn insists we consider: What really happens to a woman who doesn't have a "birth permit" and has an "out of plan" pregnancy?

The answer is simple and brutal: A woman pregnant without permission has to surrender her unborn child to government enforcers, no matter what the stage of fetal development.

Late-term abortions are problematic, but the Chinese are nothing if not efficient. On one Web site for Chinese obstetricians and gynecologists, docs recently traded tips in a discussion titled: "What if the infant is still alive after induced labor?" ChinaAid translated a thread regarding an 8-month-old fetus that survived the procedure.

"Xuexia" wrote: "Actually, you should have punctured the fetus' skull." Another poster, "Damohuyang," wrote that most late-term infants died during induced labor, some lived and "would be left in trash cans. Some of them could still live for one to two days."

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homeschooling Question

Because it seems homeschooling moms are thorough, organized and generally over-achievers (okay - that's a huge generalization, I know) I am expecting to get bombarded with answers - so don't let me down! haha!

I am starting my research on homeschooling. Libby is 4, but wouldn't start Kindergarten until fall 2011. However, she is in need of more challenge and she is so eager to learn that I don't want to put it off. I've ordered the Sonlight preK4/5 curriculum because it is mostly reading and Libby enjoys our reading times together. However, while I've chosen that curriculum for now until her "real" kindergarten year begins I am not closed to other ideas. I am very interested in The Classics.

So... on to my question... What books can successful homeschool moms out there suggest for MY reading. I want suggestions for....
1. books that will prepare me for what is ahead if we choose to homeschool
2. books that will help me understand how it works
3. books that will NOT overwhelm me
4. and curriculum suggestions for pre-K through 1st. grade. - especially the Christian curriculum that uses the Classical education method.

Okay! Thanks!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Xuwen Research Project!

In October 2009, we became aware of a research
project taking place for families who adopted their
child(ren) from the Xuwen SWI in the Guangdong
Province of China. It began with a woman on our
Xuwen/Adoption Yahoo group who had done
quite a bit of her own research. She traveled to
Xuwen because her daughter was adopted from
there and during her visit a relationship began to
form that would open up special doors. This
woman then came in contact with a Chinese
woman who was doing research for families
with adopted children. The research includes
mapping out the town, translations of important
paperwork in files, locating finding spots and
many other special things. We were invited to
participate in a group research project in which
anyone on the yahoo group could pay a fee to
both send information to the orphanage through
this Chinese woman AND receive information in
return. It sounded like a great idea so we joined
in on the project. I gathered many photos to
update Libby's orphanage on the last three years
of her life and then Libby and I made a special
video for them. First, I'll let you view the video
and then you can read below some of the amazing
things that have come from this project!

So, dry your eyes now and read some more!

We were updated almost daily, by the American
woman putting this project together, while the
Chinese woman was in Xuwen doing her
research. Before the research began we were
asked to write down any questions we would like
the researcher to ask Libby's orphanage staff,
nannies, etc. I submitted several questions and
am still waiting to receive the answers to those
questions. Very excited to read those precious
answers! But one of the families submitted a
question I had never even considered. They
asked if their child's finding clothes were kept
and could they obtain those. Little did I know
how that family's brilliant question would become
a blessing to us. The researcher went a step further
and asked the orphanage staff for ALL the families'
children's finding clothes. And better than that -
the orphanage was completely open and shared
that they indeed kept these items and even some
blankets/toys for each child!!! Today, Libby's finding
clothes arrived. The tiny, sweet pink outfit is our one
link to Libby's biological family! It has two
bears on the front, each holding two heart-shaped
balloons. Now, I have no idea if people in China
think of the heart shape as a symbol of love like we
do, but I just LOVE that hearts are decorating Libby's
top in which she was lovingly placed and later found.
And the little pants... well, they are split-bottom
pants - all the way up to the elastic waist! That just
made my day. Hand-cut, tiny split bottom pants! Here
is a picture of the outfit. It's hard to get an idea of the
dimension, but it's a tiny outfit. I put a pacifier in the
picture to give you an idea.

A view of the split bottom pants (above)

We also received some other precious gifts, blessing notes, information about the town's history, the orphanages history, lots of pictures of the town... the list goes on! It's amazing to have all this information in our possession. Libby will be so blessed in the years to come to know more about her beginnings and her birth-land. To the two women who pulled all this research off - THANK YOU! To the Xuwen SWI staff - THANK YOU! We will never be able to put a value on these precious items - they are simply PRICELESS!!!

I have left a lot of details out for the sake of security, out of respect for the orphanage and for Libby and for other reasons as well. But, just know - if you have a child adopted from China and an opportunity like this comes your way - TAKE IT! It's so worth it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Is it really December already? Time is flying! A few weeks back - in November - we left San Antonio a few days before Libby's birthday and DROVE all the way to SC to visit with my family. The girls were great the entire way and I am so happy I can say that! Billy drove and I sat in the back between the two car seats so I could entertain. The drive was 12 hours on day one, 12 hours on day two and 4 hours on day 3... That is a whole lot of confined traveling for a 4 year old and a 10 month old who just learned to crawl. I don't know how we would have survived without technology. Billy found a way for Libby to use wireless headphones to hear the movies so he could still listen to XM radio in the front. I was on the internet via Billy's iphone when I needed to feel less caged and Gracie had some great toys and music to keep her going.

We arrived in Charleston on Libby's 4th. birthday. Here is a photo of her on that day. Isn't she so grown up?! The following photo is of her and Gracie, same day.

We stayed at Papa and Gigi's house. Dad spent a lot of time reorganizing their house before we arrived so that the girls could have their own room. That was such a blessing. Thanks for all the hard work, Dad!

We celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a tremendous meal. My dad cooked the turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, gravy... you name it! Becky and Carissa pitched in with some other special dishes. Great Mimi, Uncle Tony and his boys, Aunt Jenny and the rest of our immediate family joined us for the special day. We enjoyed everyone's company very much. Each one is so special to us.

My sister and her family, my brother and his family and our own family gathered together at the James Island Christmas Light Festival, which has become a family tradition. The girls and their cousins love it because there is a merry-go-round, marshmallow roast, and fun paths for walking through the lights. Had a blast!

My sister and I had a special day of shopping the day after Thanksgiving. We braved the crazy mall with our total of 4 children in tow. We kept reminding ourselves that one day they will be walking off to go shopping on their own and we'll then be able to concentrate on one story without interruption. Gotta keep our eyes on the future goal for sanity's sake sometimes!
I enjoyed my time with Becky very much that day.

And we ended our trip in Charleston with an early Christmas party at Kelly and Carissa's house. We ate wings, chips, dip and other goodies and opened our presents to one another. Watching all the kids open their gifts at once is a joy that can not be described. Such excitement in the room!

After our trip to Charleston we headed to north GA where we rented a cabin for three days. There are two quaint antique shopping areas near the cabin so we checked those out the first full day. Mainly we were there for the warm fireplace, the stillness and Billy's love for fly-fishing. But also, we used the time to celebrate Billy's 43rd. birthday. His birthday was on Thanksgiving day, but it was such a busy day we really didn't have a chance to celebrate. The girls and I decorated the cabin, bought a cookie cake and presented his gifts to him after his long day of fishing (in which he also caught the biggest fish of his life - 26.5 inch rainbow trout! But he didn't have his camera - so no proof to share... We all know he's honest anyway!). Libby colored every letter on a birthday sign. She is quite good at staying in the lines these days. I colored the first letter to show her what to do and within 15 minutes she had colored all the other letters. Impressive!

And then it was time for the L.O.N.G. drive home. The girls were great until the last few hours and by then we all wanted to lose our minds. But we made it and we are back home adjusting back to normal routines.

Overall, our trip was a great blessing as we were able to spend so much time together just resting in the beauty of nature, family, the holidays and the rest of the many blessings that God has granted us. Enjoy the photos....
Gracie with her cousin, Hunter. They are only about 2 weeks apart in age. Very cute together!

Gracie with her Great Mimi.

Taylor and Libby. Taylor has grown up so much. It was fun listening to Taylor and Libby use their imaginations and make up games. Everyday now Libby wants to fix her hair like Taylor in a big pony tail. Cute!

Gracie with her bearded and really cute Papa.

My brother, Kelly, with his son, Hunter. Hunter - you are such a doll!

Hunter always has a really serious face, so Billy and Kelly mimicked him in this photo.

Billy and Libby on the merry-go-round on James Island.

The cute Graham family picture! Kelly, Hunter and Carissa.
Love all the beanies... which, btw - my sister has taught herself to crochet and she made the beanie that Hunter is wearing.

The only Foote family photo taken the whole trip in which everyone was looking at the camera.

The adorable Bowick family.

My sister, Becky, with her sweetheart, Jason.

Papa decided to take Libby and Gracie to Magnolia Gardens one afternoon. I always forget how fun it is to be out there. The girls enjoyed every minute of it... and so did I.

Libby and Papa watching the animals.

Becky and me.

Billy and Libby

My sister and brother - both ever so cute!

My sweet sister, me and my precious sister-in-law.
Love these girls!

Taylor with her first guitar and her favorite guitar player.

Libby destroying wrapping paper and boxes in record time.

The Hunter Man.

The sassy, fun, adorable Camryn who LOVES Tinkerbell.

Gracie with a bow on top. Definitely my cutest gift this year. This will be Gracie's first Christmas! Funny side note - the girl is already in 18 month clothes. I was going to buy her a "my first Christmas" onesie/outfit but most babies are not that large for their first Christmas so that effort was fruitless.

Gracie and Libby in their pjs, in front of the fire at the cabin in GA.

Libby caught some fish with her daddy on the first day. She and Billy decided to keep a few (they were from a little pond where kids can go fish) and grill them. We had fish with bones for dinner - LOL!

Gracie was all over that cabin. She is an adventurous, curious little thing. I caught her here under the table in the kitchen.

The sign Libby made for her daddy's birthday.