Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011

Enjoying a pizza dinner and Cold Stone Creamery with my family tonight.

BTW, you know your family is growing when you have to start ordering three pizzas instead of two.

Here is an old song that I think sums up the year for me

He's Been Faithful, by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Click on the link, then minimize the screen, close your eyes and listen to the words.

See ya next year!!

After Christmas Clearance Finds!

I haven't seen too many good after-Christmas deals; I was hoping to find more holiday foods marked down and I didn't find anything at all at Target. Maybe I'm too frugal...

BUT, I did find 5 rolls of wrapping paper for 50 cents each at Fry's. Score!

THEN, today at Sam's Club, I noticed that the Stouffer's stuffing mix box was priced at $2.01!! It holds 6 packages, so it comes out to just under 34 cents a package, which is the best deal on stuffing I've seen this year. I bought three boxes! It's good until September.

I'm excited because we love to make this recipe, but I'm too cheap to spend $1 or more for a box of stuffing. I've been thinking about making my own stuffing, but I need to buy the spices for it. I don't have sage or poultry seasoning yet.

So, I'll continue to keep my eyes peeled for some good holiday clearance when I got to the stores. I did see some good deals on baking stuff, too at Sams, but couldn't fit it into my budget. Besides, I need to lose some weight for our possible 15th anniversary trip this summer, so the baking stuff should probably stay at the store. :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Welcome, Gina!

We had a wonderful time with my mom, my brother, Jordan, and my new sister-in-law, Gina. This was the first time we've been able to spend any significant time with her and it was wonderful! The kids really bonded with her.

I just tried to upload some other pictures and blogger is being a booger, so we'll do it later. But, we were really honored that Jordan and Gina made the trip to spend Christmas with us.

Love you guys!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Day

Jason and Tyler just before we opened presents

Christmas Day started for us at about 6:30. Katelyn was actually the first one up, she was so excited. I awoke to see her dark silhouette by my bed. Scary.

We all made it out of bed and settled down in front of the fireplace. The kids were surprisingly pretty calm. They decided to open their stockings first. Tyler and Kate had socks, book lights and candy, while Jason and Justin had playdough, bubbles and candy. Tyler was so excited when he pulled out his socks that it surprised me. I expected him to be mad.

Justin wasn't sure what was going on and just kinda stared at everyone as they tried to get him to open his stocking. Finally Katelyn just upended it. When Justin saw the candy spill out, he started grabbing it and eating it. I don't think he's stopped yet.

Then we all took turns opening presents. We opened our presents from each other and the presents from Jim's parents. Everyone was very happy with their gifts. Of note was Katelyn's American Girl nightgown with a matching one for her American Girl doll and Tyler's plush Toad (from Super Mario Bros.).
Tyler with his Christmas presents

I was especially impressed when I opened my present from Katelyn. We weren't able to give the kids money to go Christmas shopping as originally promised, so I tried to encourage them to be creative and make gifts or write letters. My gift from Katelyn was a coupon book for things like making dinner one night. That gift meant more to me than something that cost money. :) She also made Jason and Justin a bean bag game by sewing scraps into square bags and filling then with lentils and making a board with holes in it for them to throw the bags into.

One of my goals for this next year is to be on the look-out for more homemade, from the heart gifts. More on that later.

Justin was still busy with candy, but we did finally get him to come and open his gift. He and Jason got some toys to share, like a doctor's kit:
After we opened presents, we lounged around. I made cinnamon rolls and a breakfast casserole so those were available for when we were hungry but we didn't push a specific meal time. It was so nice to just "be" for a while. Our Christmas morning was just about perfect :)

Soon enough it was time to get ready for our 1 pm Christmas day service at church. I got the clothes ready and lunch ready. We eat our agreed upon menu of grilled cheese sandwiches, little smokies and onion rings. Justin was still eating candy.

Church was a neat experience. Instead of preaching, Pastor first read an essay he had prepared about things that he was thankful for. The choral sang a medley of Christmas choruses. Then, Pastor pushed back the pulpit and sat down on the edge of the platform. He asked all of the young people to gather around him and he read them the Christmas story. It was so special! I don't think I'll ever forget that.

There was a little aside there as my good friend experienced some dizziness and complications with her pregnancy towards the end of the service and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but thanks be to God they could find nothing wrong and she went home fine. That will be a story for years to come ("Hey, remember that Christmas day service when Tammy had to go in an ambulance?")

After church we headed to my dad's for our Christmas time with him. We exchanged presents with them and had a yummy Ham dinner. Justin was still eating candy.

Finally at about 6:30 we headed home and put the kids to bed. They were so tired and wired that they cried for awhile, but finally all was quiet and we basked in the after-Christmas glow, knowing that the next day we could relax and ...

WAIT, relax???? No way! My mom, brother and sister-in-law were on the way! Hurry, we gotta clean....!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...

Working on my Christmas post but had to share these two pictures

Captain Diaper!

Even superheros have bad days.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

We just spent a nice Christmas Eve.

Our day was spent cleaning! As I told my family, too bad they weren't coming today, cuz the house is clean. I make no guarantees about what it will look like come Monday!!

Then, while we were waiting to leave for our dinner at Red Robin I let the kids unpack the boxes from Jim's parents and bring out our gifts. That was fun. It looks so festive and ready for us tomorrow!

We had a yummy dinner at Red Robin with my dad and step mom. Then we went to their house for a couple of hours and tried to play some games. But, either the game was boring or Justin got an owie or something, so it wasn't all that idyllic. But we tried :)

Headed home and made up a breakfast casserole for tomorrow. I also pulled some Cinnamon Rolls out of the freezer that I had put in awhile back when I made a double batch. They will thaw and rise overnight and tomorrow we will have a nice Christmas breakfast after we open our presents.

Put the kids to bed; they're having a little trouble getting settled, but I think it's just about time for me to go pray and head to bed.

I enjoyed Sis Payan's Christmas post on her blog Bella Rissah. Go check it out and remember to let Christ be the center of everything you do, because He came to save us.

Merry Christmas from the Caldwell Family.

That cold song again

So we were listening to 99.9 again and that song about it being cold outside came on again. (Remember this post?)

This time Tyler had to add his perspective:

"Dude, if it's that cold outside, get a sweater!"

After all, that's what we do here in Arizona.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dust Pan Cookies

This is an adorable idea

Dust Pan Cookies

Christmas Baking Made Easy (with recipe links!)

If you've got little ones running around you know that trying to get fancy baking done is impossible.

Here's what I'm doing this year: lots of easy recipes that are freezer friendly. I've been working little by little the past three days and am done with most everything. I'll parcel it out from the freezer over the next week for our various celebrations.

First off, get your little one busy doing something fun, like playing in the sink. Ya, he'll make a mess, but doesn't he do that anyway? Better to have it contained.
Yeah, it's a mess. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Here's what I've made this year:

Pumpkin Layer Cheesecake Good and easy. Freezes well

Brutzel Bars (made with saltines) Tastes like toffee

Caramel Chex (with chocolate chips instead of candy) Tyler is the one who makes this

No Fail Peanut Butter Cocoa Fudge This actually failed for me the first time and I had to scale down the powdered sugar a little

Dark Chocolate Fudge couldn't believe it was that easy

Peanut Butter Graham Bars These are wonderful. Cut them small because a little goes a long way. You'll get the sugar shakes fast.

Oh, and we made Chocolate covered almonds. Just melted almond bark and mixed it with almonds. Easy.

Oh, and sugar cookies, but I don't like the recipe that much, so I'm not going to post it.

I'm also going to make Deep Dish Apple Pie With Its Own Crust on the day. I love that I don't have to roll out a crust for this. I already have apples sliced, waiting in the freezer.

I've also already made my Buttery Bread Machine Rolls and have them in the freezer. I do this after I plop them on the baking sheet, before baking. Instead, I put them in the freezer. Once frozen, I transfer to a bag and freeze. The day of, I set them back on the baking sheet and let them rise as they thaw.

So, what's cooking at your house?

The Long Trip: Science Center and Church

Jason and Justin looking at a waterfall

Saturday morning we pulled out of Fresno about 8 a.m. I had read about the California Science Center (free admission, just $10 for parking) and knew that Tyler especially would enjoy it, so we decided that we would head straight there since it was only open until 5 p.m., then we would go to our hotel room.

The drive was uneventful until we reached Los Angeles, then it was just crazy. Have you EVER driven through LA and not had traffic be crazy? Of course, at least one occupant of the van needed to use the restroom, so that made it all the more interesting.

Finally we arrived. The place was beautiful. Besides the California Science Center there were a few other museums there and lots of grassy park areas. I wished we had had more time, but we barely had 2 hours before it closed.

Which turned out to be just the right amount for the Science Center. There was a lot to see, but not a lot that really caught the interest for too long.

It was an interesting combination of the Arizona Science Center with some of the same exhibits, the Children's Museum and an Aquarium. With lots of "Love the Earth" mixed in.

The kids spent the longest amount of time playing in a shallow water basin making rived beds.

I can't get my pictures to move, so they are all out of sequence.

Tyler and Jason playing in the water

Katelyn and Justin looking at the fish
Katelyn, Jason and Tyler playing in the riverbed

Tyler and Jason trying to make an arch. It never did work right.

Katelyn making gak
Tyler showing off his little baggie of gak

Katelyn and Tyler make gak while Jason looks on

The Science Center closed promptly at 5, so we loaded back in the car for the 30 mile drive to our hotel. Which took 1.5 hours due to a small fender bender on the side of the road. When we finally got to our hotel we were tired and hungry.

We loved our hotel room, though. It was at Travelodge Anaheim at Disney Drive. It was an over sized room with two queen beds, plus a sofa bed separated by a half wall. Tyler immediately claimed that part.

The coolest part was that when you turned off all the lights and turned on a black light, the ceiling looked like a starry sky.

This would be our home for five nights.

We had decided that Sunday would be spent in church and I am so glad we did because it was cold and raining! Terrible Disneyland weather. Good weather to go to church :)

We picked Bro Noe Trevino's church.

The Mapquest directions were complicated so we got there just in time. There was a man standing at the entrance to the full parking lot. We stopped and rolled down our window.

"Are you the Hams?", he asked.

"No, we're not. Oh, are the Hams going to be here??"

"Yes, they are preaching today."


Then, when we walked in the usher though we were the Hams, too. So funny.

Church was awesome. Bro Ham is one of my favorite preachers and he was right on target. Such an amazing move of God in both services. I love going to other churches and seeing how God is moving there. Sometimes its so easy to feel like we are the only church, so it's so encouraging to see that the true church is all around.

We also enjoyed seeing the Lonbergers Sunday morning :)

We also discovered that Sizzler is not like Hometown Buffet.

Finally, we headed to bed. The next day was Disneyland!

I got to be a Christmas Angel

Monday night I got a phone call

"Can you keep a secret?"

Jim and I both start laughing. See I'm terrible about secrets that are of a goofy nature. However, when the rubber meets the road, yes, I can keep a secret.

So, Jim and I are laughing and the person on the other end gets a little worried. So, we explain and ask "What's up?"

Well, it turns out that someone wanted me to play Christmas Angel and deliver a card with unknown contents to a struggling friend!

So, I called my friend and said "I'm coming over" I think I scared her a little

Thursday morning I picked up the card and drove over to my friend's house.

When she answered I said "I was asked to deliver this to you. I don't know who's it's from or what it is, so don't ask me any questions."

She says "That's what this is all about?"

Yup. I was just a little disappointed that they didn't open it right away, but maybe they wanted to wait for privacy or Christmas. :)

But I left with the best feeling and I bet the people/persons who dreamed up this little surprise feel it triple.

I'm mean to Justin

Justin has discovered the joys of junk food. And, with all the Christmas baking going on around here, he doesn't quite understand why Mommy won't let him eat all the candy (which includes cookies, etc.)

He's got it down,

"I wan canny!"

This morning he was crying for toffee. I decided that toffee was not a good breakfast for a 1 year old (although it is excellent for a 34 year old!) and was offering him some other options. He has also learned how to say "Bluck" (thank you, Tyler) and he makes a face and pushes the item away.

"Oh well, then," I said.

Jason looked at me "You're mean to Justin, huh, Mom."


On a side note, one of the only thing that has been calming down Justin's little tantrums lately is to hold him up to the fridge and let him look at the picture cards. He'll stand there and point to Esther Garrett "Baby!", and Josiah Lee "Siah!" and he knows Rachel Lee, too, although he doesn't call her anything. He knows who Sis Sara is, too (his Sunday School teacher). He'll look at the other pictures, too, but those seem to be his favorite.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

God healed my ear

Monday and Tuesday I had this weird static sound in the ear. It didn't really hurt, but was very annoying and got worse on Tuesday.

On Tuesday I put my hand on my ear and prayed that God would heal me.

Into the evening, the static went away and was replaced by a dull pain and my ear was bright red.

I was a little worried.

Then, as I was going to sleep I said "Hey, my ear doesn't hurt!"

I had forgotten all about it. God took the pain away.

Now it only bothers me a little, IF I think about it. Like that old liar is trying to take away my victory.

But, I'm claiming a healing.

Thank you, Jesus!

The Long Trip: West Coast Conference

Early Wednesday morning, 4:30 to be exact, we were on our way to Fresno.

I have to brag on my kids because they are terrific on long car rides (maybe we should do this more often). We always split them up, with Tyler in the front next to the driver, Justin and me in the middle, Jason and Katelyn in the back.

The kids always have lots of books and activities, but the little ones are often content just to ride and look out the window. We don't even have to stop all that many times.

I've learned through the years to pack breakfast so that we don't have to stop right away. Getting all the way to Blythe or Indio before we have to stop is a huge boost and is key to surviving the trip. I usually bake pop-a-can biscuits and fry up sausage patties really fast while Jim's loading up the van so we can eat fresh sausage biscuits.

We also pack snacks and drinks so that the only thing we have to buy is lunch. We've learned where all of the playland fast food places are, so we always stop there. The kids get to run around while Jim and I eat, then they can eat in the car as we head down the road again.

It takes us about 10 hours to get to Fresno.

This year, same as last, we stayed at the Days Inn on Blackstone. It's a good deal, easy access to the freeway, free breakfast and adequate accomadations. We are definitely getting closer to needing a bigger room, or two rooms, though.

Or, as someone reminded me, having to stay at the Radison. Because someone is going to be "that age" in just a few years, sigh.

But, anyway, this year we were at the Days Inn. When I checked in I was told our room was on the second floor. Not a good idea with four kids. However, the front desk man told me that they had a lot of highway construction workers staying on the first floor and he thought that we would be better off on the second floor.

Oh, uh, yes, I see the wisdom in that, thanks.

So we wound up being right above the workers, who liked to congregate outside their rooms, right under our windows. All in all, they seemed tame, but I did see beer bottles. The kids were totally freaked out by this and convinced that these guys were escapees from prisoner or something. They kept peeking from behind the curtain and then squealing and diving back. Whatever entertains them, I guess.

The workers must finish on Thursday, because they were gone by Thursday night. So, all in all, no big deal there.

If I could describe my experience during West Coast Conference, I would sum it up in one word: Ironing. It seems like I spent the whole time outside of church ironing. I had five people to get ready every service. And I hate those little half boards that cheap motels give you.

One thing that I did to try to make things easier was to pack bags of the clothes needed for Fresno separate from the clothes needed for the rest of our trip. This is where my clothing grid really came in handy. As I sorted clothes, I noted what each person was going to wear at what occasion. The items for Fresno went into specific bags, which I noted. Same with things needed at Disney and things needed in Modesto. Then, when Jim loaded up the van, he put in the things for Modesto first, then Disney, then Fresno. When we got to Fresno, he only had to unpack the Fresno bags rather than the whole entire van (which gets very scary on our trips!)

Then, when I was ready to pull out everyone's clothes for service, I just had to look at my grid to see who was wearing what suit with what shirt and tie. It was so nice because I didn't have to hunt around, wondering if it was okay to wear this shirt or was I going to need it again. I had already mapped everything out and folded everything together so it was right at my fingertips. (Side note: I can tell as I type this post that I've been reading Taste of Home magazines lately. "In a snap" "at my fingertips" "made it a breeze" Ugh)

Church itself was awesome and the kids did great! I was really concerned about my little ones, but they were exceptionally good (to the surprise of everyone who has every sat anywhere close to us at church, I'm sure). Jason was able to go to nursery during the night services, and did fine during the day services. Justin was good, too, surprisingly, except for the last night, when, of course, Jim was ushering. I think he was just tired, because I took him out and issued the rod of correction and when I brought him back in, he feel asleep quickly.

Last year we discovered the joys of Hometown Buffet, so we went there for lunch both Thursday and Friday. We love it because it's very affordable, the food is pretty good (compared to, say, McDonald's) and everyone can get whatever they want, which is key when you have a picky child. It's just set in stone now, we got to Hometown.

We also packed Cup Noodles and snacks, so anyone who was hungry could eat before church. Then we went through the drive-thru after church. Yup, we're loads of fun ;)

One of the highlights of West Coast every year is seeing Bro Bryan and Sis Dorethea Jones, who were our youth pastors in Modesto. We were also thrilled to see some of our old church family at West Coast.

All in all, it seemed to fly by. Before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we were packing up the van and heading south to Anaheim.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank God For Kids

I just heard this song on my Pandora Christmas station.

Such a neat song, especially when you're feeling a little overwhelmed

Click here for the lyrics to Thank God For Kids

While I'm thinking about it, here's the lyrics to one of Jim and my favorite songs from before we came to Phoenix. When things get really hairy we sing it really loud

Click here for the lyrics to Just Another Day in Paradise



I need to send in Tyler's application for DDD services.

I don't want to.

Dealing with a condition like Autism (Asperger's in the Autism Spectrum) is so complicated to me because it is so not cut and dry.

Especially in the church world.

When Tyler was first diagnosed, with the consent of Pastor, we jumped onto the treatment bandwagon. At one point we were taking Tyler to four different things a week.

In my opinion, most of it was pointless. Well, okay, maybe it was good in that it was a social outlet for him, and I guess that is a large part of the point.

But we didn't see him get "better".

So I prayed and asked God what to do, that I hated running around like this. All at once, it seemed, the classes either ended or there was an insurance problem and we couldn't go anymore. Except for one therapy session per week that we do still go to.

And still I feel adrift. Should I try to do more and enroll him in all these classes, sessions, etc that frankly are a lot of man's wisdom, or do I just continue to keep him home with me and do my best? Am I doing my best? Or is that just a selfish desire and I should be out there advocating for him and trying to kick down every single door that I can?

I have no idea.

This past Sunday night Pastor preached "When God Stands Up" and one of the things he said was, to paraphrase

You didn't ask for this situation. You're not sure how you got into it or how you'll get out. You don't know what to do or which way to turn. You need God to stand up and speak peace right now.

Yeah, that's me.

So, this post really has no conclusion. Don't know if it ever will. Just me and my jumbled thoughts as I stare at this application and pray for God to stand up.

Jason sings me on a guilty trip

Jason slept in our bed for two years.

One month ago we moved him to his own room, along with Justin.

He doesn't like it one bit.

This morning he sang me this little song,

"Mommy, I love you
You have a nice bed
That is why I like to
Sleep with you"

(stop singing)

"Was that a nice song?'

Yes, honey, very nice.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Family Portrait 2011

Here are our pictures! Thank you to Bro Roman for helping make them just right.

(Forgive the poor quality. I took a picture of the picture with my phone.)

Christmas Lunch Menu

This morning Pastor announced that the service time for Christmas day is changed from 4pm to 1 pm.

This means that instead of having Christmas lunch with my dad and step-mom, we will be having Christmas dinner.

So I asked Jim and the kids what would be a fun meal to have for Christmas lunch before church.

The menu is now grilled cheese sandwiches, little smokies and onion rings.

Uh Oh!

Bro Burbank came up to Tyler at church this morning.

"Hey, Tyler, I saw a picture of you. Know what it was?"

He whispers in Tyler's ear and Tyler giggles.

Yeah, the one with skivvies on his head.

Turns out he came over by following a link from Amy's blog.

I was telling this story to my husband at lunch and he started freaking out. "No! That picture is on the internet! For the whole wide world to see???"

He apparently doesn't think it's nearly as funny as I do.

God blesses me and her!

Last Sunday we got to church a little early so I had a few minutes to talk to a good friend of mine. She shared with me that things are very grim financially right now. They were not going to be able to buy their children any Christmas presents; they were struggling just to pay the rent.

I shared with her about my recent Target trips and suggested do the same, using her food stamps. Nope, food stamp money is already gone for the month.

I walked away feeling very burdened and grieved. I prayed for them and I told the Lord that if he would provide an opportunity for me to have extra money, I would bless them with some money or some presents for the kids.

Before church was over that night, Hannah asked me to watch the kids on Monday.

Then, Hannah asked me to watch them all week.

Thursday, she paid me.

I had extra money!!! I was able to make some special purchases for my family, and I saved some money for my friend.

Saturday night I tried to give the money to my friend. She stopped me as I knew she would because she's stubborn that way :) I said "But, I prayed specifically and God blessed me with this money."

She said, "No, you don't understand. God blessed us, too." She went on to tell me that a relative had sent a Christmas card and had included a large amount of money with the card. So much that they called the relative to make sure that it was correct!

She said, "The Lord blessed both of us. So, keep your money for your family!"

I just love how God provided above and beyond! I feel like he saw my heart and my desire to bless my friend, so he took that and blessed me, then blessed the socks off of her. God is so good! And, I do tend to have a bit of a "fix-it" personality, so He also reminded me that he takes care of things way better than I can ;)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Eleven-Year-Old Knows Better Than That!

So, like I said, we've been listening to 99.9

I've heard this song "Baby It's Cold Outside", but never really paid attention to it, just knew I didn't really care for it.

Katelyn mentioned a few times that she didn't like it, so I started listening closer. Yikes! She's saying NO and he's begging her to stay.

Then, we were in the car and the song came on. About midway Katelyn says "Dude, that's why you need chaperones!"

See, even an 11-year-old is smart enough to know better.

Cheesy Bean Enchiladas

Tried this recipe from last night and it was yummy! The filling makes a good bean dip, too.

Here's the link: Cheesy Bean Enchiladas

We eat lots of meatless meals around here, and just as many less-meat meals. Food is so expensive, sigh.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jammie Drill

Inspired in part by Raising Olives' Jammie Drills and Burger King's Free Fries Day, we just surprised our kids by ushering them into the car without warning and driving to Burger King for free fries.

Fries in hand (mouth) we then drove around our neighborhood and looked at the lights. Justin loved the lights. Katelyn, Tyler and I loved looking at blow-up decorations that had fallen over.

It was a nice family time, something out of the ordinary, free.

Memory making.

Broken Rainbow

Jason and Justin were wrestling and Jason took a tumble.

He came running, "Ouch, I broke my rainbow!"

Do you know what he meant?

Kate singing in the play

Not a very good picture, sorry. Second from the right

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Missionary; A Mother's Prayer

As we were driving to the Christmas play tonight, we listened to "99.9 The Holiday Station". I have a love-hate relationship with that station.

The "Feed the World" song came on. I sighed and started looking for better options. Finding none, I went back to 99.9.

Katelyn said "Is that the song about Africa?"

"Yes", I sighed.

"I want to be a missionary to Africa some day."

"WHAT! You do??? Are you being serious?"

"Well, I want to be a missionary. Maybe not to Africa, but somewhere. We're reading about missionaries at school right now and it sounds so cool." She starts naming missionaries.

"Oh, Katelyn.."

I'm not sure if I said anything else coherent or not. My eyes were welled up with tears and I have a pain in my heart.

I was so proud, so scared, so touched and all I could think was "Please Lord"

As parents we pray for our children that they will follow God's plan for their lives, that God will lead them and guide them, that they will let God use them whatever way he plans.

I know that Katelyn has talents and I pray that God will use them for his glory. I do not specifically pray that she will be a preacher's wife, because I know that some people are called to be good saints, but just that God will use her in whatever way he wants to.

The thought of her being a missionary doesn't scary me or repel me, I just know that it's not all fun. But she could do it with God's help.

I did tell her that I was going to get a book for her called Kisses From Katie. I haven't read it, only heard about it on blogs, but it immediately came to mind.

I don't know if this will be something that will stick with her forever, or if it's just a passing notion like all the other career choices, but, oh, my heart does rejoice.

Because if she's a missionary, she's living for God! She's saved! She's following God's plan for her life. And that is the core of every mother's prayer for her baby:

Oh, Lord, have your way. Save my babies!

The Long Trip: Preparation

We go to West Coast Conference every year. Held in November in Fresno, CA, it's a wonderful time to gather with believers of like precious faith to be encouraged, challenged and strengthened. It so helps to gather with saints and see that we are not the only ones that are holding fast to the doctrines of separation and Jesus Name baptism.

We plan for the conference every year, setting aside some of our tax check to pay for the trip. We also try to do a side trip to a vacation hot-spot.

This year, my brother announced in January that he would be getting married the week after West Coast. Modesto and Fresno are only 90 minutes away, so we didn't want to drive to Fresno, drive home, then drive back to Modesto (though at times we did question ourselves and wonder why we didn't just do that!) Staying in Modesto for the week was not a good option as everyone would be busy getting ready for the wedding and there wouldn't be anything for the kids to do.

So we decided to go to Disneyland in between! And, once again God provided the finances so that we were able to put the money into savings and pay cash for the trip.

The plan was for us to leave on Wednesday, November 2 and drive straight to Fresno and attend the conference through Friday. Saturday we would drive down to Anaheim, go to the California Science Center and check into our hotel. Sunday we would visit Bro Noe Trevino's church in Bell Gardens. Monday through Wednesday would be spent at Disneyland. Thursday we would drive north again to Modesto for the wedding rehearsal. Friday was the wedding. Saturday would be spent with family. Sunday we would drive back home to Phoenix.

Tired yet?

For some reason, this trip freaked me out. I'm a planner, so planning for the clothes, the luggage, the food, the things we would need at Disneyland, etc, all made me a nervous wreck. I checked out two books from the library about going to Disneyland with kids and read them cover to cover, highlighting several pages. In fact, one of the books I keep renewing because I need to go through and remove all of my tabs! We purchased new luggage upon discovering that our family had outgrown the four that we had. I spent hours researching hotel deals to make sure that I picked the best deal (I did!)

I was very nervous about our Disneyland trip. Having two different age groups, I wasn't sure if everyone would be able to be accommodated or if we would have lots of unhappy wait time. I wasn't sure if Justin would be able to ride any rides at all. Always in my mind was the worry that Tyler would melt down in the middle of Disneyland.

I made a clothing grid, mapping out every day and every possible need for a clothing change. If an item was going to need to be washed and reused, I made note of it. Hey, I wasn't sure when exactly we would have access to a washer and dryer, so I needed to be prepared.

I bought backpack harnesses (so glad that I did!) and made sure that we had backpacks to pack our stuff into at Disneyland for the times we would need to fold up the stroller.

I purchased toys and books for the car ride, making individual boredom buster bags for each leg of our trip.

We went to Sam's Club and purchased a cart full of food for snacks and quick meals. Glad we did, too, cuz it saved us a fortune.

It felt like we spent a third of our vacation money just getting ready for the trip! And that's not even talking about all the wedding finery we had to finagle (thank you, Mom!)

I started packing 10 days before we left. I'm so glad that I did, too, because I wound up babysitting two days before we left. It was okay, though, because I had already done so much I could afford to take the time off.

Still, Tuesday was a crazy day with finalizing the packing, cleaning the house and packing up the car.

Early to bed, early to rise, and we were on our way!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

ALWAYS Faithful

Just like any parent living on a smaller-than-I-would-like income, I am constantly thinking about the clothes and food that my family needs and how I'm going to obtain it all. Tyler needs shoes and socks, Katelyn needs a coat, Jason needs socks and t-shirts, Justin needs more outfits...we're out of milk, eggs, cheese, etc...on and on it goes...

And while I never suddenly have a few thousand dollars to go and buy everything that I want and need at one time, God always provides a little here and a little there and we are always taken care of.

Case in point: my mom sent me an email yesterday. "
Hi, I don't shop at the Kohls store, but you may, so here's $20 if you can use it!"

It seems that my mom purchased an item (a Christmas present for me??) on the Kohls website on Black Friday. A few days later they emailed her and said they had an unexpected rush on the item and that they were all out (could it be that item that all the blogs were talking about???). They gave here a $20 gift card to apologize for the trouble. Mom sent the $20 to me!

Hey, I can buy Tyler some new socks!

And this is always what happens. A little here, a little there and our needs are always met.

Thank you, Jesus!

Luke 12:22
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 23The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 24Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? 25And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? 26If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? 27Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 30For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. 31But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jason's Baptismal Tank

This is Jason's pulpit. He has his Lincoln log microphone and his hankie.

Behind the pulpit is the baptismal tank. I was so amazed when I saw this and Jason told me what it was. He put the sofa cushions at angles just like our baptismal tank at church when it is opened (our tank is under the platform, so when it is opened, the platform unfolds at angles and looks just like the cushions).

Jason was trying to convince Tyler to get into the tank and be baptized.

I was encouraged to send this story to Pastor, so I did. I got back the neatest response:

That's neat. God bless the children who trust in the simplicity of what they hear.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Match Made In Heaven?

I am babysitting Rachel and Josiah Lee today.

Rachel and Jason get along very well...most of the time. They have a very similar temperament, so things can get a little hairy sometimes. I've often joked that it would be funny if they got married; hopefully they'd mellow each other out! (Bro Lee's probably going "No Way!")

We have a little piano toy that plays music while you pound on the keys. Rachel was so cute. She got a book, opened it up and set it on the piano like it was her music book and she was playing a song. Then Jason played the piano while Rachel sang into her Lincoln Log microphone.

It gave me pause to think that this could be a sign of things to come. What a dynamic duo they would make on the evangelistic field! Especially after Jason preaches and invites people to be baptized. (I need to post the story about Jason's baptismal tank.) (It posted!).

In all seriousness, I love watching God work in my children's lives and wondering what all He has in store for them.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Decor, Part 2

This is part two of our Christmas Decor. Again, using what we have to make some holiday cheer.

We have a pop-out in our hall, front room, dining room combo. It's been empty since we got rid of our fish tank.

I asked Jim to pull out an old chest that was given to us that has been sitting in our garage. When Katelyn got home from school, I had her wrap a bunch of empty boxes. She used wrapping paper that I got for free last year (thank you Walgreens!) and some squished bows and old curly ribbon. It was a wonderful project for her and I was thrilled to have her participation and thrilled to let someone else do the work! ;) She wrapped while I made dinner.

Finally, Jim hung the wreath (this one and the one over the mantle were left by the previous tenants!) and I added the stockings (bought at the dollar store last year). All in all, I think it looks great. Now I just hope no thief looks in the window and thinks we have some great stuff to steal. He'll be in for a big surprise!

I couldn't get Justin to stand still for a picture, but I did get a picture of him admiring the music box. Inside the glass are ice skaters that rotate around the snowman. It's fun! My step-mom bought this for us several years ago and the kids love getting it out every year and playing the music.

Well, I've been very talkative today. I did get more stuff done, really!

I'm Gonna Wrap Up Myself For Christmas...

Christmas Decor, Part 1

If you've been around me long, you know that I am not a crafty person. I have zero talent. Some people can pick up a stick and make it into a masterpiece. I can't.

If you've been to my house, you know that my house is not decorated much. First of all, see above. Second, we moved and downsized so often that we've gotten rid of most of our unnecessary items. Third, now that we have more space, I just don't have the extra money right now to purchase any supplies. So, it's a little sparse looking around here. Oh, add in the baby-fog I've been in the past four years.

But I do love to decorate for Christmas. And the kids love it. Especially when family come to spend Christmas with us. This year my mom is coming, and possibly my brother and sister-in-law. So, I've been a little more motivated this year.

Last year, Sis Tarpley (very kindly) yelled at me for having an empty mantle. So, I went to the dollar store and purchased a few things and was able to put together a nice looking mantle.

Today I started decorating for Christmas. I started off by doing some non-Christmas stuff like changing around some pictures that I have, cleaning off the mantle (no, it's not decorated, it just accumulates lots of junk), picking up the toys. Then I pulled out our box of Christmas decorations and got to work. Yup, one box. And there wasn't much in it, let me tell you.

After I placed everything on the mantle, it looked a little bare. I cast about for something to add and I finally found it!!
I added two sets of Christmas salt and pepper shakers, my Christmas gravy boat, and a white carafe. It looks great! The Christmas dishes were purchased back in the day and we enjoy pulling them out every year. The carafe was purchased long ago at Last Chance. We won't use them, except maybe on Christmas, so I love that I was able to incorporate them into my decor.

Some of you seasoned, talented people are probably looking at the picture and cringing, but like I said, I have zero talent. This is quite an accomplishment for me!

I have some other fun plans, too, that I hope to get to this weekend. I want Katelyn to help me with them. I'll take a picture and post about it later.

Get creative!! I'm trying!

Getting Big

Jason: When I'm a baby again, what am I going to look like?

Me: You're not going to be a baby again. You only get bigger. Someday you're going to be big like Daddy.

Jason: Oh.

So, is he disappointed that he won't be a baby again or that he'll be big like Daddy???

What's in a name?

The name of this blog is "The Caldwells; For All To See".

What does that mean?

Well, it's a play on words, really, because it means a few different things.

First, I'm blogging about our life, putting it all out there for anyone and everyone to see.

More than that, however, it's because our life is a testimony and we want to tell the world about it.

I want to tell you about how God has changed us, saved us and brought us to the place that we are today.

I want to share about God's blessings that come everyday, both great and small.

I want to invite you to come along as we experience the great miracle of healing, firsthand.

I've quoted the end of Chris Tomlin's popular song up there in the name box because that song has truly become an anthem for our family in the past year.

We started the journey of seeking a medical diagnosis for Tyler in October 2010. Around that same time, Sis Pastor Garrett started singing "How Great Is Our God" during song service. The song seemed to resonant with our church, us included.

However, it wasn't until I was reading my Bible one day that the words of that chorus became real to me. I was reading in Exodus about the Israelites and all the things that were happening to them (sorry, I'm terrible with references and I don't want to get up right now). And God said that people would look back and hear the stories of deliverance and miracles and they would know by those stories just how great God really was.

It hit me. The trials and tests that we go through are a testimony to those around us of just how great God really is. I started thinking about my backslid father and said "Lord, this thing with Tyler, you can use that as a testimony to show Dad just how great you are."

No, God didn't heal Tyler the first time that we asked. At least not in an instantaneous way that we could physically see. However, I've realized that sometimes the greater miracle is not the healing, but in the way that God carries through to the healing.

So, that's why I've named the blog what I have and the song reference underneath. We are living so that "all will see, how great, HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!"

We like to wear skivvies on our head

A few weeks ago Tyler and Jason started putting their unmentionables on their heads and running around the house singing "Skivvies, skivvies, skivvies". I think Tyler got it out of a book.

Then, a few days ago, Tyler asked Jason if he wanted to wear skivvies on his head. They went off to do that and I noticed that Justin walked off, too. A few minutes later I noticed him in his room, over by the dresser, but I didn't think anything of it. Next thing I know, Justin walks out with skivvies on his head! It was hilarious that he knew what to do.

So the same thing happened yesterday and I just had to capture a picture of it. For future engagement parties

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thanks, Target!

I am so amazed at how God bless us over and over again.

Currently I am glowing when I think about Christmas and how God has provided gifts for our children.

Because of our trip to California, Jim has prepped the kids for a smaller Christmas this year.

Thanks in large part to Target, the kids will be having a good Christmas!

Last week, Target came out with a coupon where you would receive a $10 gift card when you spent $50 or more. I was able to print two of them.

Last week was also pay week, which means grocery shopping week. I needed some basics, but didn't need to make a big trip, so I decided to do my shopping at Target so that I could get the $10 gift cards. I needed to buy a wedding present, too, so all in all, it made good sense.

On my first trip I bought the wedding present and groceries, bringing my total to just over $50. I gave the cashier my coupon and I received a $10 gift card back. While there, I noticed that the gift Tyler wanted was on sale for $10!

Later that evening, I went back to Target, sans Tyler, and picked up the $10 gift, plus another $40 worth of groceries. I paid with the $10 gift card that I had received in the first transaction and $40 cash. I gave the cashier my second "receive a $10 gift card" coupon, and got another $10 gift card. So, one free gift!

Then, yesterday Target released the same coupon again! I still had the $10 gift card, plus I had two coupons for free Huggies diapers that I had received from Huggies after writing to comment about their diapers, plus $20 in leftover grocery money. That totaled $50, so I was able to do the transaction again!

I purchased a gift for Jason which I was thrilled to find on sale for $7, two packs on Huggies, and then $20 worth of groceries that we needed. I paid as mentioned above and, again, gave the cashier my coupon and received a $10 gift card back.

I used that gift card to purchase a gift for Justin, which was also on sale for $7.

So, if you were following me, I was able to pick up 3 Christmas presents for free just by doing my grocery shopping at Target and using a coupon that they had made available "receive a $10 gift card when you spend $50 or more".

I believe the gift card is still available. You can check here for more information.

I'll tell you how we're getting the rest of our Christmas gifts for free/cheap soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

About the family

This is not my first blog. So, be aware. I'm terrible about keeping up with the blog. I'm a busy mom, what can I say?

I do have so many funny stories that I don't want to be lost forever, emotions and feelings that I need an outlet for, recipes and ideas that I want to share. So, this will be the place and I will do my best to stay with it.

A little about the Caldwell family:

My husband and I have been married for 15 years in June. Hard to believe. It seems like we've been together forever, yet has it really been 15 years already? Jim is my best friend and my lover. He is a wonderful father. God has brought us so far. Someday I'll tell you a little about it.

Katelyn is my oldest and my only daughter. She's 11. God has amazing things in store for her.

Tyler is my second born and my first son. He's 9. In December 2010 Tyler was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and Tourette's Syndrome. This blog will not be all about Tyler and his special needs, but because we live with this 24/7, it will come up often.

Jason is my third, my miracle child. Not because of any health reasons, but because he is a symbol of the Lord restoring what the locust ate. He's currently 3.

Justin is my baby. He's 1. He completed us.

I'm a stay-at-home mom. What a miracle. Someday I'll tell you all about that, too. Wow, God has been so good to us.

Well, here we gooooo.......