Monday, January 30, 2017

All new, limited edition scrabble home decor tiles. These tiles are 3.5" square each and are custom made to order. Choose LOVE as shown or order your own word (each tile is $3). Tile sales benefit our Ethiopia mission trip fund.

Looking for the larger (7") tiles? Find them here! Email me to order:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

2016 in Review

“Chaos.” This is the word my 15 year old used to describe our family to the counselor. I’d really love to believe that chaos doesn’t describe our family, but it kind of…sometimes…does. We’re a family of 8; going many different directions and always up to something. So chaos it is. I do believe that it’s the good kind of chaos (most of the time).

2016 has been another year of big changes for our family; many of which we hadn’t forseen at the end of last year. It makes me begin to wonder if big changes are in store for us every year.

2016 started off with half of our family having birthdays! It’s a crazy time, but at least the birthday train is downhill from there. The spring flew by, with Mark and I getting to go on a 7 day Caribbean cruise in February. As the weather got hotter, we began to enjoy our backyard oasis, spending lots of time in the pool. But the craziest thing about 2016 was by far—the MOVE. Long story short, we didn’t need to move, but we found a one of a kind, meant for us dream home in June. It had all the space we needed, didn’t need major renovations to make it suited for us, had a pool and was set on a lovely, oak tree filled 1.5 acres. Selling and buying was a crazy whirlwind process, which included seeing the house for the first time one day after I returned from Ethiopia, making an offer on July 4 and staging our house to have it listed in 24 hours. We had to stay with mom and dad for 2 weeks in August, right when school started. Needless to say, we are thankful to have all of that behind us.

We got to swim with dolphins in Cozumel!
Dad, Mark
Mark still works at Austin Regional Clinic, doing computer programming. He is a supervisor and has 3 programmers working for his team. This year was challenging with many transitions, but he still loves his job. We are thankful for how hard he works for our family and how dedicated he is to his job. He leads the boys group, Royal Ambassadors at church and is a handbook leader for our AWANA club. He also serves as a deacon at church. He was amazing at packing our pods so skillfully to be able to move. He and my dad also did most of the unpacking. He’s a great dad, taking kids on bike rides, playing special music with them and doing all the “Honey-Do’s” around the house for me.
Mark and I enjoyed going on the TBRI cruise in February. We learned lots of things about how to better relate with and parent our kids. It was also an amazing time of R&R for us, and we got to connect with other parents with families like ours.

Mom, Shelley
I love dolphins!
I continue to work as the Preschool Coordinator at my church, but in the spring I left the office job. It freed me up to spend extra time with the kids, and it was so nice not to have to do summer around a work schedule. Xavier and I got to return to Ethiopia in June—it was a very different experience for us the second time (I’ll have to share details sometime). This fall, I began subbing in the school district and have really enjoyed being back in classrooms but also having lots of flexibility to have days off for appointments. It also provides lots of variety, and I’ve worked in classrooms I would not have thought I would enjoy. First grade is still my favorite, though!!
He always has an entourage in Ethiopia.
This is Nati, a boy we sponsor. He is super smart!

Xavier is 15 and is a freshman in high school. He is still full of energy and lots of fun to be around. It was so great that he got to return to Alade Genet this summer, because those kids remembered him and were so excited to see him again. Seeing him arm wrestling, trying to have conversations with a language barrier and taking selfies with the other boys are my most cherished memories of our trip. He attends Hays High School and has started theater classes. He has aspirations of becoming a movie star. He also is taking an AP class—Human Geography. So far, it’s kicking his tail, but he continues to give it his best. Plus, I think he really enjoys the content, since he’s a world traveler.

Riley is 14 and also a freshman at Hays High School. This summer and fall, he joined the Varsity marching band. He was reluctant at first, giving up his free time, but now he is sold. He was an alternate, which meant he didn’t march with the whole band. At competitions, he was on the prop crew and really enjoyed that role. He still loves youth group and goes every week. He enjoys helping with kids and was a coach with spring break basketball camp and was a teen helper at Heroes Camp. He and Xavier and Pierce also participate in Breakaway at our church, which is an acting group that performs to music with a black light show. But he’s a typical teenager these days: when at home, he is either sleeping, eating, watching YouTube or playing Battlefront. He is now 5’10” and wearing Adult Medium clothes. We wonder when he will stop growing!!

Pierce is 13 and in 7th grade. He is an avid reader, fixer of things and a puzzlemaster. He continues to do well at school; he even took the ACT test last weekend. He likes playing his trombone, riding his bike and jumping on the trampoline. He was a huge help when we had to disassemble and reassemble our furniture to pack and move. Plus, he is good at cleaning out the pool, a very important job! Pierce joined the youth group this fall, and we can tell he likes it because he is always very animated and loud after Wednesday night church.

Elizabeth is 11 and in 5th grade. This year was a huge year of growth for her as she is becoming a young lady. She and Kendall moved from Elm Grove to Carpenter Hill Elementary after we moved. The girls like to ride the bus (Elizabeth even rides when I sub at her school!). She is mastering math very well this year and continues to work on reading. At home, she loves to be outside exploring and taking care of our property. It’s so nice to have the space for her to do that. She also loves swimming and worked hard on her diving skills this summer. She continues to be creative and loves art projects.

Tyler is 11 and in the 6th grade. He’s a happy boy with a sweet attitude. He also joined the band and plays the saxophone, which a perfect instrument for this soulful boy. The only problem is that our kitty Jewel does not like saxophone practice. She is always running off, looking for the furthest place to hide. He was probably the biggest dissenter of our move because he has so many buddies near our old house. Luckily, they are together at school; he has made some new friends and sees them on Mondays when they stay for Pokemon club. He also enjoys video gaming and jumping on the trampoline.

Kendall is 6 and in first grade this year (my favorite age!!). She loves school so much and is reading, writing and drawing as much as she can. She transitioned easily to the new school, although she still tells me occasionally that she misses those friends and her kinder teacher. We are having such fun reading her stories and phonetic spelling. Her lively attitude comes out even there. She has made some sweet friends in her class; they play with stuffed animals at recess and trade and share toys. I love subbing at her school because she likes to go into the classrooms with me and write my name and a message to the kids in my class before she heads off to class.

Wow!! 2016 was an amazing year, and we have so much to be thankful for!! We have a lovely home that seems so perfect for our family, we have great friends at church and at work and our extended families are so supportive and doing well.
I am really excited to see what 2017 has in store for us. It’ll be our first year with 5 out of 6 in middle or high school, we will have a 16 year old and goodness knows where else it will take us!!
We hope you have had a blessed 2016 and pray for you and yours in 2017.

We love our new house!!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Photo Blocks $10 each

 All pictured blocks are currently available. Perfect for displaying photos of your sponsored child! Each block measures 7 1/4" x 8" and are 1 1/2" thick (they are perfect for a shelf or tabletop). Proceeds benefit Xavier and Shelley's trip to Ethiopia. Email to purchase.

 Teal Jesus Loves Me photo block $10.
 Orange/pink Jesus Loves Me photo block. $10
Yellow/taupe I Love You photo block $10
Chocolate/pink I Love You photo block $10

Monday, March 14, 2016

Large Scrabble Tiles $5 each

Large Scrabble tiles for your home! Made out of solid wood measuring approximately 7 1/4" x 7 1/4" and stained to finish. Spell any word you wish! Each block is $5.00. Shipping is available at the buyer's expense.

Here are some ideas:
initials or a name spelled out.
Email your order to All profits benefit our trip to Ethiopia.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Ethiopia 2016!

Guess what? We're going back to Ethiopia in June! Xavier and I will be traveling with the team June 23rd-July 3rd. I am getting so excited about seeing those precious children again, especially the 5 we sponsor.
This summer, we will go back with VBS and fun activities. We will also get a chance to work with some of the mothers and young ladies, teaching them jewelry crafting for their small businesses that many of you helped fund during the holidays. It's very exciting.
Once again, we are trusting God to fund us. We need your support!
*You can help by giving donations to the link below.
*We are stocking the vending machines at Hays Hills, with all profits going toward our trip. (These are upstairs in Building D, and everything is $.75.)
*We also will be selling unique, one of a kind photo blocks, ideal for posting current pictures of your sponsored child or precious pictures of your own kids. The choices will be posted on the blog and on Facebook for you to choose and purchase.
*We also will be taking orders for Scrabble wall tiles (7.25" x 7.25") that will be custom made to your order.
*There may also be a yard sale or FB auction coming soon!
Stay tuned for pictures of the items for sale!

Give online here:

Thank you!

Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Family Highlights

I love this time of year! It is time to reflect on the past year and share the highlights for our family and friends. The words that come to mind when I think about this last year are security and stability. I hadn’t really counted the cost of the uncertainty and instability on our family during our foster care/adoption journey that began in December of 2011. I think 2015 was the year of the most stability that we’ve had in many years. We have our family of 8, and although it is busy and active, it is stable and secure.

I’m going to hit the highlights of our year, but before I start, I want to preface that these are the highlights! It is not all sunshine and roses here; we have definitely had many challenges as we live this life and integrate this family. But God has been with us all the way. He has clearly shown us the path, and we’ve tried to follow it. In the dark places, He sends friends to encourage, songs to lift our spirits or a verse or sermon that seems like it is His words to us. In the good times, we have been able to give our praise back and to serve others.

As a family, we have had a fun year! In early spring, we were finally able to make the interior renovations on our home that we had been needing to accommodate everyone well. We also decided to have a pool installed in the backyard, so we can be the “fun house” for our kids and their friends. What we thought would be a quick process turned into a very long one because of some unusual rain in our area in the spring and the summer. Our pool was finally completed in September, just in time for summer to end. It’ll be great fun next year! We consoled ourselves while our yard was trashed with season passes to Schlitterbahn. Oh, the memories of my childhood it brought back being there! It was lots of fun being able to pack up and go at any time and stay just as long as we felt like it. Bonus, our kids are old enough now that we can send them off to enjoy themselves while we relaxed some.

Dad, Mark
Mark works at Austin Regional Clinic, doing computer programming. He is a supervisor and has 3 programmers working for his team. This year was challenging with many transitions, but he still loves his job. We are thankful for how hard he works and how dedicated he is to his job. He leads the boys group, Royal Ambassadors at church and is a handbook leader for our AWANA club. He is an involved dad, doing projects around the house with Pierce, playing in the church’s Symphonic Band with Riley and Xavier and doing fun one on one time with Kendall, Elizabeth and Tyler.

Mark and I are learning about connected parenting and Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) as a way to parent our kids with trauma backgrounds. We got to go to a conference in April, which was a lot of great training and some time for self care in San Antonio (hello, Riverwalk and Mi Tierra!). And we are so excited to keep learning and do better at this approach as we go on a training cruise in February 2016.

Mom, Shelley
In February, I started working part time as a Ministry Assistant to the Children’s and Youth pastors at our church. It has been nice to be able to go back to work but still have time on the weekdays for all of the appointments and errands that go along with having 6 kids. I also got to spend time with Kendall, since she started kindergarten last fall. In the summer, I directed my final year of Heroes Camp and also began a 2nd position at the church—Preschool Childcare Coordinator. The highlight of my year, though, was going to Ethiopia with Xavier in October. We had to work hard to save money, earn money and fundraise for our trip, then plan and prepare what we would do there. It was hands down one of the best life experiences I’ve had, and I hope to go again many more times.


Xavier is 14 and in the 8th grade. Xavier is an amazing kid, and we often remind ourselves that we cannot take credit for who he is. We got him this way. What started as a wish to see hippos in the wild in 2014 took him on an amazing journey this year. Not only did he take his first ever international trip halfway around the world, but he worked his tail off to get there and while he was there. He is a natural motivator and fundraiser and drummed up lots of support for us. And, in Ethiopia, he always jumped right in to do what needed to be done and did it with a great attitude. The best thing was that he made friends with many of the boys who live there. He hopes to go back every year to visit them.


Riley is 13 and in the 8th grade this year. He is a busy boy, participating in band at school and at church. He is also in youth group at church and makes it a priority to attend as much as he can. He enjoys helping with kids and was a coach with spring break basketball camp and was a teen helper at Heroes Camp. He and Xavier and Pierce also participate in Breakaway at our church, which is an acting group that performs to music with a black light show. It’s really awesome. It’s hard to believe that he and Xavier will be in high school next year!

Pierce is 12 and in the 6th grade. He is an avid reader, fixer of things and a puzzlemaster. He joined band this year and followed in dad and Riley’s footsteps playing the trombone. He loved going to Schlitterbahn this summer and always was willing to do the daring rides. Hoefully, this summer, he can conquer the Boogie Bahn. Pierce has been waiting for us to get a trampoline in the backyard, and it finally happened in the fall. He and the others spend a lot of time outside jumping. We got to celebrate his first birthday with our family by having an indoor swimming party at the YMCA in January.

Elizabeth is 10 and in 4th grade. She likes to do crafts and had lots of fun doing card making classes at the local scrapbook store this summer. She loves to die cut and emboss things. She loves to draw or write in her journal. She also enjoys being outside swimming or jumping or exploring. This year, she joined Safety Patrol at school and does 2 shifts a week in the mornings being a crossing guard. She also advanced in her class spelling bee. She is becoming quite a good reader and we often find her laughing out loud at her Hank the Cowdog books. We also got to celebrate her first birthday with us in January. She got her ears pierced to commemorate her first “double digit” birthday.

Tyler is 10 and in the 5th grade. He’s a happy boy with a sweet attitude. I appreciate his help with his little sister and also his counseling sessions with me when I deal with teenage angst. He has gotten into the Warriors book series like his brothers before him and is very bonded with our black kitty, Milo (who, by the way, got stuck in a neighbor’s attic for nearly a week before he was found—we thought he was a goner). He is loving 5th grade with his best buddies at school, Jack and Connor and his buddies at church, Ryan and Jeremiah. He led his siblings in pooling their money to buy the LEGO Dimensions game, and they are all enjoying playing it when they can.

Kendall is 5 and started kindergarten this year. She loves school, as we knew she would, and is learning quickly. She is starting to read on her own and has learned a lot already. Of course she is friends with everyone in her class and knows all the details about each one of them. I love walking with her to and from school each day; she always has something funny to say. She is doing AWANA at church and is already working on her second book. She also loved Schlitterbahn this summer, her favorite ride was The Falls. She wore her wristbands as long as she could before we cut them off. She can also swim the length of the pool on her own.

It’s been a fun year, full of God’s blessing and goodness to us. We are surrounded by great family and friends, who are so supportive. We are thankful for our church family; there are so many that relate with us in this life we live, which is so helpful. We look forward to all that 2016 has in store. We’ve learned that the Christian life is never boring and never predictable. So we hold on and enjoy the ride! And hopefully, when people see us living our lives, they see Jesus in us. That’s the best we can hope for.

 Philippians 3:13-14
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.