Thursday, January 28, 2010

"52 Weeks" (Week 23) i am reminded

Forever In Blue Jeans

Carin over at "Forever in Blue Jeans" has been hosting "52 Weeks" for the past year. She has started a new theme called "Shoot Me" with the same premise which is for us moms to be in the picture(s) on a weekly basis and post about it. I'm still working on the former theme and encourage you to come along and give it a try.

After all of the sadness we've been going through this week, I had to post a really happy photo. That doggy had us wrapped around his little finger... or something like that. The love shared was mutual and plenty.

It's definitely "Remember Fletch" week on my blog. It's therapeutic.

Everything, just about everything, reminds us of Fletch. He was a part of almost all aspects of our lives. When we look out the window, we see passersby with their dogs and we're reminded.

When I get out of my van, I'm thinking, "I've gotta open the door and let Fletch out. I hope he doesn't chase another cat." Once again, I am reminded.

When I put my coat on, I'm wondering if Fletch will come running to me fully assuming that I'm taking him for a walk. Again, I am reminded.

And when it's bedtime and one or more kids are crying over their beloved dog,
I am reminded.

And... I am reminded, very thankfully, that God will see us through all of this. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

his last days

Fletcher James
March 14, 2007 - January 24, 2010

Some of his last photos

He was a part of our everyday lives. Where we were, he could always be found.

As my Aunt Judy was dancing, he was getting ready to bolt out the door to join us when we were heading out to dinner. Good try, Fletch.

I'm not sure what was happening in this picture exactly. It looks like Shawn was petting him and Pocahontas was posing.

Fletch surely loved Aunt Judy.

The snow outside was something he loved.

What a pretty boy

Thank you so much for your encouraging comments and prayers yesterday. Blogging, in general, is such a great way for me to put my thoughts down, share our story, and get to know so many wonderful people.

The children are doing well today. We've all cried at varying times and the pain is still fresh and deep. The worst times seem to be at bedtime and first thing in the morning. Fletcher always went into each child's bedroom to say goodnight. He would go over to them as they lay their head down on the pillow to say his own version of "Good night".

Sweet dreams, Fletch.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

grief unbearable

We got on a plane on Friday to look for a new home in Michigan. So much to look forward to.

We had no idea what would be transpiring back home in England. Pain beyond my words.

Our dog, Fletcher, had been sick and we didn't know it because he showed little to no signs. The morning after we left, our friends, who love and care for him when we travel, decided to take him to the vet because he was limping and sick. They did the right thing. The cared for him exactly the way we would.

It looked like he had an infection of some sort that antibiotics and pain killers could fix. Things only worsened the next day. His breathing was labored, he couldn't lift his head. All this was happening while we were sorting our lives out for our big move in March.

Our friends called us with dread in their voices. They texted us, too, to keep us aware. We called the vet and got all of the details. They recommended that we put him to sleep because he was suffering.

There are no words.

Please pray for our family. We had to tell the children after we returned from house hunting only to hear 5 piercing cries of disbelief and agony.

There are no words.

We are clinging on to Psalm 62:8 ~
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

I'll share more as I am able.

Friday, January 22, 2010

YGMT ~ don't let the bed bugs bite!

I think the boys were about 3 years old ish, when I said "Don't let the bed bugs bite" to them as I walked out of their bedroom at bedtime . And in complete synchronization I heard them say, "Bugs?" They took it quite literally that the bed bugs just might bite them. It was cute AND funny to me at the time. I actually walked back in and explained that this one not a literal thing that I was saying to them; it was just a saying.

And most recently our bedtime routine has resulted in these back and forth exchanges.

(The boys' responses are in blue. They are 8 years old now.)

"Goodnight boys. I love you."

"Good night, Mom. I love you. I love you."

"Don't let the bed bugs bite."

"Don't let the bed bugs bite."

"Bugs??" (we all say this in unison and with a tremendous amount of question in our voices.)

"Sleep well."

"Sleep well."

"See you in the morning."

"See you in the morning."

"Sweet dreams."

"Sweet dreams."

And once more for good measure...

"I love you."

"I love you, too, boys."



All is right with the world when we say these things to each other, and I love it. Someday I will definitely miss this. But until such time, we'll continue our lengthy goodnights.

Visit my friend, Pam, over at "You're Gonna Miss This" for more YGMT posts.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"52 Weeks" (Week 22) Curb Appeal

Forever In Blue Jeans

Carin over at "Forever in Blue Jeans" has been hosting "52 Weeks" for the past year. She has started a new theme called "Shoot Me" with the same premise which is for us moms to be in the picture(s) on a weekly basis and post about it. I'm still working on the former theme and encourage you to come along and give it a try.

This is the cheek-to-cheek of my girl, Braaten, and I on her 12th Birthday.

Melanie and I were sitting at the computer and took the opportunity to get our picture taken together.


Are you wondering about that title and these 2 photos? They're totally unrelated.

You know how I've recently mentioned that we will be moving back home~ to Michigan, that is. For at least a couple of months we have known our return date to be some time in March. At this writing, I still don't have an exact date, but it will be in March for sure. There was some amount of question as to whether it would be later than that.

We have recently, or daily for the past 90 days, been looking at properties on-line and have only found a handful that meet our criteria. It's not that we are so picky, there's just not a lot out there to choose from. At the beginning of this week one more was put on the market that really piqued our interest. We felt that we needed to move forward quickly to see it along with the other homes to make a choice.

And after my husband made all of the phone calls to the relo team and others, we are able to get on a plane... TOMORROW!!

Yikes! I'm not even packed! Our children are coming with us and are staying with their grandparents. Boy are they excited! In fact, my in-laws don't even know we are coming yet. That's how crazy, last minute all of this is.

Did I mention that we will be on a return flight on Monday? Can anyone say jet lag to the enth degree. Is there possibly a small chance that jet lag will not set in since it's such a short trip?Maybe that's just wishful thinking.

I would truly appreciate, and be very thankful for, your prayers for safe travel. Until we meet again...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

WW ~ sorry, wrong number!

Austin, Cooper, & Grant were messing about in an English phone booth.

For more Wordless Wednesday posts, visit "5 Minutes for Mom".

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday & Eat From the Pantry ~ Week 3


I've been planning my menu for the past few weeks and it is going extremely well. Here's the deal though. When you are really trying to eat strictly what you have on hand already, as the weeks go by, the job gets a little more difficult. You start putting garbanzo beans with peanut butter, or taco shells with tuna fish. Ewww. I haven't actually done either of those, but I imagine that recipes will start to get a little more interesting. And I've noticed that the condiments in the back of the pantry are now surfacing.

Did I tell you how much fun I'm having with this? The kids are wondering if we have much money at this point. That's totally not the point of this challenge for me, nor is it the reality. And both the dinners and lunches have been delicious. They're just used to me ordering food from the grocery store on line or going to the store when they are in the mood for something.

One of the other reasons I am doing this is because before long, we will be moving back home from the U.K.

So here is our Menu Plan for Week 3:

Monday, 1/18 ~ Roasted pork chops with gravy, mashed potatoes, buttered carrots

Tuesday, 1/19 ~ Chicken fajitas & a side of fruit

Wednesday, 1/20 ~ Rice, beans, ham, and cheese casserole (this is where the funny recipes come in)

Thursday, 1/21 ~ Beef tacos with rice & beans

Friday, 1/22 ~ Homemade tortilla pizzas & fruit


Probably the biggest challenge I have put before me was a budget of £250. By the way, that converts to just over $408 for the month. When I threw that number out there at the beginning of this month, I did so without truly knowing the dollar amount we spend per month on average. Apparently I am a little off with my number.

Here is what I spent during this past week:

£21.35 at the Co-operative (fruit, bread, milk, honey, chicken)
£16.87 Morrisons grocery store (similar items to above)
£6.30 Farmer's market
Total: £44.82

It's only January 18th, and I'm really close to £250. The grand total is: £189.94 + £44.82 =

I'm not a half full kind of gal, but I'm thinking that £15.24 is just not going to cut it. I will continue to stay close, though.

Thanks for following me through this & Happy Monday! Oh, and Happy MLK Day!

To see more menu plans, go to Orgjunkie. com. Also, visit and to see more pantry challenges.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You're Gonna Miss This Moment ~ Little Kisses

Pam over at "You're Gonna Miss This" hosts this great meme every week. There is so much we will miss with our children as they grow up and the point is to take a moment and reflect on one thing and cherish it.

Look at those cute little hands gripping my face and kissing me. I have to admit, I asked Grant to do this because I love those kind of kisses and I want photos to always remember and cherish them. My mission now is to get each of the other children to do the same thing and get it photographed.

When I was growing up, my mom always wanted a kiss before I went out and also when I returned. I loved that she wanted that. And I always did. Something just didn't feel right if I didn't kiss her goodbye when I left or hello when I came in. It was beautiful. What I would do to kiss her again!

What are you going to miss? Write about it and link up over at Pam's.

"52 Weeks" (Week 21 of 52) The Loves of My Life

Forever In Blue Jeans

Carin over at "Forever in Blue Jeans" has been hosting "52 Weeks" for the past year. She has started a new theme called "Shoot Me" with the same premise which is for us moms to be in the picture(s) on a weekly basis and post about it. I'm still working on the former theme and encourage you to come along and give it a try.

We were all sitting and waiting for lunch at a cafe in Mondsee, Austria. They are known for excellent apple strudel and we just had to try some.

And now for a completely different atmosphere... we were on our cruise ship on the Mediterranean. A man came up to us and suggested we get a "kissing" picture with the sunset behind us. He caught us mid-kiss. Ahh, a sunny cruise sounds great about now, doesn't it?

Join Carin for "Shoot Me" and get in on the fun, yet memorable time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane
Come for a walk with me down Memory Lane!
And if you have a "Memory Lane" post, head on over to
Scottsville to join in on the fun!

When I was looking for all of Braaten's photos for her birthday post, I stumbled upon this photo of baby Fletch and I. Was he not the cutest fur ball on the planet? And what was with my hair color? Was I perhaps trying to match my dog? Not sure, but it was really light.

And here is my big pooch, different country, different hair.

Update on Fletcher from yesterday: About an hour ago I took him on his usual walk. I took him off the lead for consistency and to try and get back to the great progress we were making. He did well, but about 3/4 of the way around the dam, he started to ignore calls to him. He just wants to hunt. I was able to get his attention, put his lead back on, and continue our walk. I'm not sure if that's progress, but at least I wasn't mad. I'm hoping that he gets the message about when he obeys, he is rewarded with more freedom and a treat for good measure.

Thank you for your encouraging comments yesterday. By the way, yes, I love, love, love my dog. I just want him to listen so we can both enjoy our daily walks. :-)

Join Erica over at Scottsville to join in the fun.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

dog days of winter

I thought I'd share a little of this and that today.

No pictures...

Ah bummer! I know you like the photos, but this way I can share without taking a ton of time loading photos onto blogger.

Fletcher, our dog, has been such a good dog for the past several weeks. He just seems to get it now about obedience. He listens and we reward him. He's a good boy and everybody's happy. He was especially having issues when I would take him for a walk around the Lymm dam. It's about a two mile walk, maybe a little less. I would take him off the lead, as many dog owners do there, and let him run. The more he exercises, the better it is for his health. He's a big dog and needs it. Besides, the vet said he could use a little weight loss action and we agreed. So anyway, the problem was that he would not "come" when called. He just got sidetracked with those squirrels and rabbits that it didn't matter if I said, "treat", he would just continue his running, digging, sticking his head in rabbit holes, etc. He came when he was good and ready. Probably the bigger problem was that we didn't know how to train him properly to do what we asked of him. Him being separated from us for 6 months during the initial part of our international move which was a crucial training time because he was so young, didn't allow us to train him the way we could have. (sorry about the run-on sentence)

Because he wasn't listening well for a time, we kept him on the lead as we walked around the dam. He would see all manner of dogs in all their glorious freedom and pull us to be able to play with said dogs, and we would just keep on walking or visit for a moment. I felt badly for him. He just wanted to be a dog and be able to run and play and dig and hunt. So I gave in about 3 or 4 weeks ago. I was ready to work with him to see how he would do. I had treats in my pocket, a dog whistle that I had been using to get him to come to me for a treat, and the patience and fortitude to work this out.

Wouldn't you know he did great! He pretty much stayed near me as I let him run and play and he'd come to me throughout our journey as I called him. It was fantastic! I texted my hubby and let him know the good news. I was a happy mama. Mama wants her "children" to obey. He is my 6th child you know. My husband had yet to see Fletch in action until about two weeks ago during Christmastime. We went on some walks and he got to see the boy in action. He was astonished and pleased all at once. I was so proud because I felt responsible for all this good training that was happening before his very eyes.

That is until today. (Insert record being scratched as the music comes to a screeching halt) We went on our merry way to the dam, where it is a snow/slush/mud laden mess, for our daily walk. He started off well, then I put his leash on for a spell, gave in and took it off again, and then that was it! We got around to the bunny hill~ the one where everyone-that-lives-here-and-then-some went sledding when we got the first snow in 30 years hill. Since it's melting and the temperature is a little higher, the boy wants to find rabbits. This area is fairly large and he is hard to see even against the snow. So as I am coming around down some slippery steps, I could no longer see him. I began to call him, and call, and call, and call. I think 10 minutes had passed as I called the children and told them to look for Fletch coming home. He has done that on several occasions. As I continue my search, I see a man and a dog come around and I ask if he has seen a golden retriever. He says, "Yes, he was just up there." He was pointing to where my voice could easily be heard, "Fletcher... Fletcher... Fletcher." Do you know that he was there all along? He just never bothered to show himself to me. And when he finally started to come toward me and I said, "Come Fletch", he ran the other way and kept on hunting.

I was so mad! I started to walk away thinking he would soon follow. He eventually did come to me and as I gazed out toward the lake and not at him, he laid down in submission expecting me to be happy-go-lucky. We walked the rest of the way home and I decided that his consequence would be to keep him in the yard for a few hours.

Boy am I glad that God doesn't react to me that way when I'm disobedient. He continues to woo me, stay alongside me, to love me unconditionally, and He is with me everywhere I go. I am not worthy and yet He thinks I am.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu Plan Monday & Eat From the Pantry Challenge

Last week was a huge success with my menu plan. Can I encourage you emphatically to do this if you currently don't? Having a plan will give you some measure of peace knowing that all you have to do is cook to pull it off. :-)

Meatloaf (rolled up with broccoli & cheese)
Risotto with peas
Mixed veggies

Baked ham (leftover from Sunday)
Cheesy pasta

Ranch Style Chicken (recipe from Pioneer Woman)
Green Beans

Pasta with homemade marinara sauce
Garlic Bread

Tuna Sandwiches


This has been a great challenge for me to only use what I already have with the exception of buying milk, bread, eggs, & fruit & vegetables as we need them. Last week I also baked 4 loaves of zucchini bread and my dear hubby baked 2 loaves of wheat bread. We had had a snowstorm, and with frugality in mind, we both got in a baking mood.

When you really look at what you already have, that might have been pushed back in your pantry or has simply been ignored, there is a lot to work with. At least in my case there is. We want to be good stewards of what God has already provided and I've always liked a good challenge.

Purchases we made this week within our £250 budget for January were:
£29.12 at Costco
£23 for Dominos pizza (oops that wasn't on the menu plan!)
£49.28 at Morrisons for Braaten's birthday
£8.75 at the bakery
£20 Lunch at the bakery on Friday (It was Braaten's birthday after all)
£4.95 milk
Total: £106.94
+83.00 from last week's grocery order

Hmm... no more eating out this month! It's only January 11th and we only have £60.06 left in our proposed budget. The burning question is: Can we do it??? We'll have to just wait and see.

Thanks for stopping by. You are a blessing.

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Birthday Journey

Braaten Noelle is 12 today! I thought I'd share the journey with you from 1998 when she was born until this year. Here's the thing though. My SD card will not unload onto my iPhoto in order to give you the latest birthday shots from today. And I just don't know why. I will make it my duty to update this post when it decides to behave.

Braaten is such a blessing to Shawn and I and our family. She is sweet, kind, ever loving, gentle, caring & compassionate, beautiful on the inside and out, she is smart as a whip and doesn't miss a beat, and she loves Jesus. She is our firstborn daughter and she fills our home with amazing love.

Happy Birthday, Honey. We love you from here to the moon and back & a bazillion times more than that.


Bray was just 4 months old in this picture. Remember when a child's special blankey was put on their heads like this and it was the cool thing to do for a photo? That's exactly why I did that. ;-)

She was chillin' poolside.


Braaten had just turned one, but I'm not sure why she was sporting crepe paper on her forehead. Or is that toilet paper?


Daddy helping his little girl with her cake at her 2nd birthday.

Somehow she looks younger in this picture, but I might have gotten them confused. My hubby went through the boxes of photos today to choose photos for me. Two summers ago he lovingly, albeit painstakingly, went through all of our photos and chronologically organized them. He did this when the kids and I took our first trip from the U.K. back to the U.S. without him. He kept busy not only doing that, but also refinished our kitchen table and restored its original beauty. Thanks again, Honey.


I love the way she's looking up into the camera, dimples showing, headband on, and necessary fanny pack in tow. Adorable!

She is her mama's daughter with liking to bake a nice cake and all. I was enjoying watching my little mini-me.


Every little girl wants to have long nails.

Sister love is beautiful.

Braaten loved her new Easter dress and Melanie had one that matched.


Braaten turned 5 and we made a huge deal of it. She and her little buddies
went to a pottery painting place and had a blast.

This was our family only celebration.

Here's the pottery place again.

Christmas time just before her 5th birthday.


We had moved from NJ to Michigan while she was 5. She turned 6 soon after, and here are the little sillies in matching t-shirts. Apparently I was satisfied with dressing our identical twins alike, I had to do the same with the girls.


Toes up on the front porch in Marshall.

We were extremely proud of her when she donated her long, thick hair to Locks of Love. How darling is that hairdo?


We were at the Statue of Liberty here. It's a must-see.

If you can fit in a tree, you must go there and have your picture taken.


Braaten was all dressed up for her cousin, Chyenne's wedding. She often talks about how it was the best wedding she has ever been to. This coming summer Chyenne's sister, Brittany is getting married. I know Braaten can't wait for that event to happen. Every little girl loves weddings, right?

We were all at Side Track Ice Cream. What a beautiful photo of a little girl growing up before our very eyes.


Ah yes, to be 10 again! What a wonderful party she had for turning double digits. She invited both her cousins and friends. They did karaoke, went sledding, played a game that involved whipped cream and m & m's, watched movies, overloaded on snacks, and had a blessed time because God is so good to us... All the time.

Birthday presents time.

We went to visit friends from NJ while they were visiting their family in Indiana. It's great to reconnect with friends you don't see for a long time and it feels just like yesterday that you were together. I love friendship like that. Braaten and Brooks have been friends since they were babies.


Lymm, England in our back garden. It was the one day we had a 1/4 inch of snow. This winter has been completely different. As I wrote just a couple of days ago, we got a foot of snow and it shocked everyone here.

This was Braaten's mommy/daughter picture from her 11th birthday. She is precious.


The latest photos from today will be uploaded soon.

Thanks for sharing in Braaten's Journey.