Monday, December 29, 2008


are a beautiful thing...

Thursday, December 25, 2008


two days. four states.  destination -family!  
ari is holding his print out of the oklahoma, missouri, illinois, michigan highway maps with our route highlighted so he can follow along.  i hope there are no detours...that yellow highlighted trail is THE WAY and to him, there is no other.

Monday, December 22, 2008

jesse tree

during advent (arrival that has been awaited -especially of something momentous) season we anticipate with a symbol called the jesse tree.  in isaiah 11 God promises "there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots..." this branch is the Messiah.  Jesus.  the one we have longed for, for so long.  each day in december (until the big day) we hang a representation of that waiting starting with the very first contact God had with us-creation.  and each day has another story of his love for his people, their rebellion and separation from him, and always, always, his plan for a way back.  a return to Eden.  a sacrifice that will stand in our place.  a relief from this place of pain, and dying, goodbyes, and heartache.  
that is something worth waiting for.  as our tree fills, our hearts fill with anticipation for his coming.  we celebrate the coming in bethlehem and await his return to take us home.  
may you delight in him this year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

need to get out more

me: "noah, you are gonna wear such a handsome outfit today!"
noah (3):  "is it church?"
me:  "no....we're going to a party at starla's today!"
noah:  "is it a costume party?"

guess we don't dress up enough in our house.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

nativity sets

the day after sinterklaas festivities we get out our nativity set collection.  our goal is to get as many sets from other cultures as possible.  so far we have two from israel, and one african-american scene.  it is fascinating to see how other people interpret that special night. 
p.s. if you or someone you know is traveling abroad and might be willing to get us a nativity set PLEASE let me know.  i will pay for the set and whatever shipping or handling charges.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

no use crying over spilled milk

i have a new parenting philosophy.  whenever your anger starts boiling up....shut your mouth, and grab your camera.  i'm gonna make millions.

Friday, December 12, 2008

my gift from sinterklaas

look what sinterklaas wrapped up for me!?!?  isn't is pretty?  if you can imagine....the inside is even prettier than the outside!  my amazing, incredible, hard-working, thoughtful husband researched the crafting world (not his cup of tea, let's just say:) and found what every woman who's ever made a card, scrapbooked a page, or tried her hand at something creative has wanted, pined for, deeply desired a....cricut.  and he took his precious dollars from his tip jar and brought one home to ME!  this baby will cut you ANYTHING you can imagine in ANY size from .25 inches to 24 inches on almost ANY material (paper, cardstock, chipboard, fabric).  the things you can create with this machine are limitless.  and i mean it.  if you live anywhere near me or ever are in my neck of the woods you MUST come use it.  i cannot hoard something this amazing all to myself.  be prepared for many future posts of my "cricut creations".  you know these wall letters and phrases that are all the rage?  yup.  i can do them.  you know you want to come over:)  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

sinterklaas, kris kringle, st. nicholas, santa...

he's got lots of names, but did you ever wonder how he came to be?  nicholas of myra was a real person.  he was raised as a believer in Christ near the mediterranean sea in the 4th century.  he was orphaned and left his parents' fortune.  he grew up to become a priest and eventually the bishop of modern day turkey.  he was a "man of the cloth" by day and an anonymous gift giver by night.  nicholas helped poor children and dropped dowries down chimney's of penniless maidens which often landed in their shoes or "stockings" drying by the fire.  

during the ninth century - five hundred years after the events that gave birth to the legend of Nicholas of Myra - Saint Methodius of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) writes a life story of Nicholas, based on the many tales that had been passed down for centuries throughout Christendom. Nicholas' popularity grows immensely during this time and is soon canonized an official saint by The Christian Church.

as western europeans begin to immigrate to america, dutch settlers breath new life into the age-old legend, bringing their tales of Sinterklaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas) to the New World. In the settlement of New Amsterdam, the Dutch lore attains such influence that even after the English gain control of the settlement, renaming it New York, Saint Nicholas continues to be referred to by many New Yorkers as Sinterklaas and the eventual English pronunciation, Santa Claus.

as the years went on writers, poets, and store owners began to evolve sinterklaas into less of an "old world" character and gave him more "new world" whimsy, making him jolly, fat, and once the night before christmas was written  he became known to reside at the north pole with his wife and elves.  

that may have seemed long, but i actually left a lot out.  the point is we want to celebrate the undercover generosity that st. nicholas practiced so long ago.  his feast day is december 6th so on that day we travel to the homes of family and friends and as stealthily as possible we leave gifts and favors on the doorsteps of friends and family.  we return home for an evening of exchanging presents, opening small gifts in our wooden shoes, and of course, eating lots of treats.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

sinterklaas day

at our house we celebrate st. nicholas day (sinterklaas in dutch) and open our gifts that night.  more to come on the history of sinterklaas and the incredible surprise there was for me this year:)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

good, wholesome fun

yes.  i turned my eyes for a second.  
five pounds of flour, one living room, three pieces of clothing shed and you can have a really good time!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

teachers need a raise

no-this post is not a political one.  i don't know how to "fix" the public school system (well, actually i think i do, but that's not a topic for today:) but i do know that there are many unsung heros that walk the halls each day.  the tall ones.  the teachers.  one of them is my bff heather.  she teaches 2nd grade at cape horn-skye elementary in washougal, washington. she's still keeping her blog on "private" so you all can't pop over there unless she INVITES you, but this post made my heart happy and i asked her if i could copy and paste it here for you.  here goes..

Glimpses of My Day

Or maybe I should say a look at every day...

 "Can I go to the bathroom? I need to go really bad it's an emergency!" (about 876 times)

 "She cutted!" (about 78 times)

 "When can I _______" (Fill in the blank--about 349 times).

 me: "Please come back and show me walking feet" (about 453 times)

 me: "I will be happy to take a quiet line in the hallway" (about 190 times)

 From a former student : "You know that door over by the fourth and fifth grades where music is now? Well, I was the line leader and we were walking and we discovered a locked door. Wouldn't it be funny if the GPS said BEEEEEP. LOCKED DOOR. MUST DO U-TURN AND MANDATORY RE-ROUTE." (Just once during the walk to the busses)

 A, umm, struggling student trying to read something to herself I was pretty sure was WAY to hard for her:

Me, attempting to confirm my suspicions: "Sooo, can you tell me about that story?" Her: "Frog was texting" (while putting thumbs up in a texting motion). Not. So. Much.

 me: "Nice job!" "Very good!" "Fabulous!" (those usually turn out to be my words of choice) (about 1346 times)

 "Ummmm, Teacher?????" (about 452 times)

 "Ummmm, Mrs. Robertson????" (about 1452 times)

 me: "Eyes on the page" (about 398 times)

 P.S. I have a really large Costco sized bag of M&M's in my filing cabinet drawer and I don't share. Have also discovered how oddly therapeutic it is to sharpen pencils in the electric sharpener.

 Phonetic Spelling 101

 One of the many hats I wear as a teacher is an interpreter of second grade hieroglyphics. I learned and perfected most of my advanced skills when I taught Kindy and First grade. Now at second grade, the kids usually do quite a good job of spelling those words they don't know phonetically, making them easy to figure out. I collected just a few of my favorites over the past few weeks. Enjoy!



 Cristle=Chrystal, Kristal



Tuesday, December 2, 2008

comments from the peanut gallery

i wanted to take a minute to let you all know how incredibly much i appreciate your comments.  they make me laugh, they touch my heart, they remind me of who you are and why i love you.  i rarely respond to comments in the comment section because i don't think you check back there once you comment.  please know that this does NOT mean i have not read every single one and love them all.  it astounds me that this many people take time to read what i throw out there and it blesses me every time.  
so-if you have ever read this blog, ever taken the time to comment, i thank you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

i heart pumpkin...part 2

pumpkin season is officially over:( not to worry, though....i baked, skinned, chopped, and pureed six large pumpkins to last me til next fall! my latest pumpkin obsession (besides those cookies....make them with caution! i am not responsible for inevitable weight gain) is pumpkin pancakes. oh. yum. if you still have some pumpkin or see some in your neighbors' front yard....get it and whip up a batch! today!!

2 cups flour

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 and 1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup cooked pumpkin (or canned)

1 large egg

2 tbsp vegetable oil

in large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In small bowl, combine milk, pumpkin, egg and oil. Stir liquid mixture into flour mixture until dry ingredients are moistened. Batter will be thick. For each pancake, pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle; using a spatula, spread the batter into a 4 inch circle before mixture sets. Cook until surface appears dry. Turn; cook another 2-3 minutes. Serve with syrup.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

thankful update

many people ask us how we are doing after several months in our new state.  i thought thanksgiving could be no better time to answer that question as thanksgiving summarizes every aspect of the last season.

sonny-working as the assistant chaplain at casady school has been such a wonderful fit for sonny's gifts and he is really enjoying his position.  what we have gained as a family from this change in vocation is priceless.  time.  sonny has a set schedule and more days off than i can mention here.  whenever ari is home from school, so is sonny (right now they're eating monkey bread and watching dora together).  there is peace in his work, there is peace in our schedule, there is peace in our home.  this is a priceless gift and we are so very thankful.
kristal-in addition to enjoying the benefits of sonny's new job, i am delighting in our home.  this house was an incredible gift to begin with, but it has truly become the first "nest" i have ever had and i love it.  i cherish the ability to stay in my home, care for my family, and make our house a place of rest, a sanctuary.  
ari-this is ari's very first school experience and it is wonderful.  i was very nervous about this transition, but because of the montessori environment and the gifted teachers at casady it has been such a positive experience.  he is learning and growing academically and even more socially.  he is reading like crazy and looks forward everyday to the exploration he knows awaits him.  we live just a few blocks from the school and noah and i love dropping off and picking him up each day.
noah-some may have worried that noah would be distraught without his buddy, ari, all day, but quite the opposite has proven true.  noah is thriving with the one-on-one attention and is loving all the outings we get to do because of the friends God has blessed us with.  noah has not one, but three boys his age we see regularly and he is very excited about baby hannah coming out of miss bonnie's tummy in january.  (i hope hannah is ready for the "love" she will be receiving:)

i have left out so many things in the interest of not making this longer than it needs to be, but God's hand has chosen to orchestrate blessing after blessing, good thing after good thing in our life during this time.  i pray we will have thankful hearts in feast times such as these, but especially in the famine.  he is so good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

another year closer...

each year on their birthdays i take a picture of the boys in one of sonny's shirts.  each boy gets the same shirt each year so that we can watch them slowly grow into it.  here is year 3 and year 6...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

national adoption day

national adoption day is traditionally the saturday before thanksgiving, but this year was moved a week earlier in honor of the assassination of JFK.  since i didn't know about this change i am still celebrating this special event today.

i love adoption.  ever since i studied ephesians in college i knew i would adopt.  the picture of taking on a new family, a new name, a new inheritance and becoming a chip off a new "block" is so parallel to my adoption into God's family that i couldn't help but want to experience it myself.

if you already know our story then you can stop reading and please remember the orphans today.  you may never become an adoptive parent, but you are called to love and care for orphans.  i am too.  it is not a box to be checked (otherwise i'd be done).  it is a lifestyle.  if you have any ideas on how to care for orphans in your everyday life, i would l
ove to hear them.

if you haven't heard our story, here is the brief summary in honor of national adoption day..

may 2005-sonny and i begin the process of becoming certified foster parents in bakersfield, ca.   we are pursuing this with the intent to adopt.  
fall 2005-we are certified and ready for placement.  we receive three placement in that season that we prepare for, but never come to our home.  we start getting a taste of the "system".  little did we know in our frustration, on october 13th, our son noah was born at memorial hospital that we drive by on a regular basis.
december 13th 2005-i get a call around noon.  i sit at our dining room table as our social worker says there is a baby boy who needs a temporary home.  we don't want to be temporary, but she says the current foster mother has been in a 4-wheeling accident and can't care for the baby and we can continue to wait for a permanent placement if we take this one.  we don't know his name, his age, his situation, but we accept.  i ask her what the arrangements are for transferring him.  she asks me to call the current foster dad and set things up in the next few days.  i call him and ask when a good time might be to pick up the baby.  he says.... ""  he has three other boys, an injured wife in the hospital and a job.  a newborn only adds to his stress.  
sonny, ari (3 yrs old) and i pile in our car, dig out a carseat that we hope will work, and drive to the house.  we walk in, the man hands me the baby and two bottles.  no schedule, no instructions, no diapers, wow.  we walk away from that house signing no papers...just taking a baby and it feels weird.  we go home and sonny returns to work.  he had an event that night so i load up this baby and my 3-year-old and we're off to target for a stroller, carseat, diapers, formula, clothes, one of those nasal suction bulbs and anything else i throw into the cart thinking a baby might need that.  i struggle to load all the things and children into the car and drive home.  what have we done?   
february 2006-the months go on and of course we fall in love with this precious boy.  his bio mom starts to not show up for visits and we learn she has not done any of the court's requirements for the reunification.  on her court date she is not present and the judge rules that the county will no longer fund her rehab, but she has another 6 months to complete it on her own.
september 2006-still no word about noah's 
bio mom, but there is a court date at the end of this month to continue or terminate parental rights.  bio mom is not present but her lawyer points out that no one recorded their
 presentation of the letter of notification to her for this date.  the judge gives another 2 months.
december 6th 2006-another court date.  we have had noah for a year now...the first year of his life.  we have had his first birthday party and watched him smash cake everywhere.  we sit before a judge that holds our future in his hands.  he terminates parental rights for both mother and father and rules for a 60 day appeal period.  that's 60 business days.  man that's a long time.

february 2007-it's mid february and i'm cleaning the house.  noah is playing, ari is napping and sonny's at work.  the phone rings and just like that a social worker tells me noah is ours.  the elation i feel is indescribable.  it is done.  i run to noah and swing him around, dancing and singing.  he looks at me a bit confused but goes along with my joy.  i call sonny.  i call my mom.  i call my best friend.  all voicemails.  this moment is just noah and i.  
eventually the calls are returned and i share this amazing moment with all those who love noah and have been praying for his bio family, for us, and for him.  
february 28th 2007-we sign papers in the presence of social workers and a notary.  we now wait for a judge to be available
march 16th 2007-we stand with dozens of friends before a judge as he pronounces our son will be called noah sonny varela from this day forward and has all
 the rights and privileges of a son.  we raise our right hands and swear to care for and protect this precious gift.  oh what a day.  

Friday, November 21, 2008

frequent visitors make for a clean house

i was cleaning the bathroom this morning and my husband walked in and oh-so-innocently asked..."who's coming over?"


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

do the "write" thing

wow.  i got to write a verse in a soon to be published copy of the NIV.  my original handwritten rendition of deuteronomy 33:16 will be displayed in the smithsonian.  it was really an honor to join with so many others in the bible across america experience and make history.

here is the podium with the paper and lines underneath to help guide where you write.
this is bonnie, your friendly, local, write the bible assistant
here i am copying my verse
and here it is!   
16 with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,on the brow of the prince among [a] his brothers   
do you see it?
this certifies that sonny and i participated and specifies which verse is "ours".  the copies should be for sale by christmas of '09.  this was a super cool way to insure that at least 31,173 people will purchase this "new" NIV...they want to see their handwriting!
the most thrilling part of today was watching from behind the podium as person after person (mostly casady students) came up to copy a verse.  it was so profound to see people get their hands on scripture.  to really think about the history of the bible, its translation, and how we see it today.  what bible across america gets to do is experience God's word as it has been for most of its life.  written painstakingly by the human hand, carefully packed away, and then brought to the next community of people.  it was a beautiful vision.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

don't mess with texas part two

the pics from  yesterday were from papa's (erin's dad) camera so here are the ones i was able to capture from our trip down south...

five kids, three leapsters, two dvd players, and lots of snacks...we're ready to go!
oh bliss. 
oh bliss, part two. 
(see all my cases of organic roasted red pepper and tomato soup?  it's gonna be a yummy winter)
each child got a gift bag from mamma d. to fill with "treasures"...most of which they threw into the lake to watch the splash, but boy was the hunting fun.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

don't mess with texas

ari didn't want to leave texas!  he had all fun, no work, limitless sweets and papa even let him and anna kate reel in the fish he hooked...why would you ever leave this place?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

road trip!

tomorrow i will experience what i have heard so much about....the country of its own, the lone star state, the place where everything is bigger and better.  we're going to texas!  erin and i are embarking on a major road trip alone, with 5 children.  yes.  we're crazy.  we've gone mad being deprived of costco and ikea for months and we're willing to do anything to get there.  along the way we'll be stopping by erin's good friend holly's house as well as her parents infamous home/property called "sunfish".   today i'll be cookin, laundering, and packing for this adventure.   i'll be sure to update you upon our return.  unless, of course, i change my citizenship to texas since it's obviously the best state in the union:)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

want to be a scribe? part 2

remember this post where i told you about zondervaan's campaign to get the entire niv written in the hands of everyday people (and the presidential candidates, billy graham, and w. to name a few:)?  well, when i heard about it i knew i had to copy a verse.  i would stand in line, appease my 3-year-old with candy and juice, withstand torrential rain, WHATEVER i had to do to get a chance like this.  
when my husband heard about it, he thought, hmmm....i don't just wanna participate, i want to HOST this event!  he blows my mind with creativity and seeing things as bigger than what they are now.  he sees things not as how they are, but by their potential.  (maybe that's why he married me:)  
i am proud to announce that the Bible Across America event in Oklahoma City on Novmeber 18th will take place at casady school with my love at the helm.  we are so excited!  we find housing for the staff traveling in the RV, provide them with meals, organize publicity and logistics of the day, refreshments for all participants and general oversight for the day.  i will update you with pics and a report of how things went and HOPEFULLY tell you which verse i had the privilege of copying and when you can look for it on the shelves.

Monday, November 10, 2008

children and spirituality

this is ari, yesterday, getting ready to lead all the children of the church in processional and for a special blessing.  this position is called a crucifer.  it may look odd to many of you who have not been in "high church" (episcopal, catholic, lutheran, presbyterian, etc) but if you can get over the initial wall this  puts up, it is actually quite cool.  
ari was the first to volunteer for this position last week and was looking forward to it every day.  when he got his reminder postcard and it said to be there by 9:05 to put on his robe he shrieked..."i get to wear a JEDI robe!?!?" i felt like it would be a disappointment that is was in fact, NOT, a jedi robe, but he actually took it quite well.  to him, it was a special "costume" to perform special duties.  it set him apart from the others for a specific task.  just like a jedi.  
he wore and carried a cross to signify following Christ and ari was the leader of the body that day.  they all walked behind the cross and into the place of worship.  after they received a prayer they went downstairs to a chapel that is a miniature of the sanctuary.  the children go through an entire anglican service, with all the pieces, just shorter and designed more for kids.  i really enjoy this.  i am accustomed to children's programs being filled with games, loud music, segregated ages and few adults.  here there were adults for every 2-3 children and the kids were guided through the service in a way that was appropriate for them, but still slowly preparing them for one day participating in the full service.  i'm not saying one is better or worse, i just appreciated many of the aspects of this style.  i know when i left "children's programs" (high school youth group) and was expected to attend "big church" i didn't know what to do.  i had never seen worship modeled in this way.   i had only attended services that catered to me.
one of my favorite topics to wrestle with is children and spirituality.  i just wonder what is the best way to expose them, teach them, give them a love for God and his word without leaving them feeling manipulated and bitter at the end.  a way to inspire and instill instead of indoctrinate and create mindless habits.  yesterday was one more piece to this very large puzzle i've been working on for years.  
it was a good piece though.

Friday, November 7, 2008

in case i was thinking too highly of myself....

i have been wearing my hair with a bunch pulled back from the front middle, scrunched forward a bit and pinned in place.(as pictured below)  way more than you even wanted to know about my hairstyling, but necessary to understanding this post if you haven't seen me in a few months.
thursday morning

ari (6): mom, you're hair is so pretty.
me:  thank you, sweetie!
ari:  is that like a rainbow growing out of the top of your head?  how does it stay like that?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

no....thank YOU!

i don't know if you can read this receipt, but it says i filled out tank completely for eighteen dollars and sixty five cents.  i don't know how, why, or for how long this will happen, but i just want to say, i'm so happy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

lion cubs...

thankfully we took advantage of the most magnificent fall day on monday and truly enjoyed our zoo.  noah and finn seemed to like playing with the baby lions...these ones didn't growl back, though.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

to flip a cabinet

while the rest of the country is debating over who will be our next president and who his new cabinet will be, i've been into a little cabinet work myself. ugly entertainment cabinet.
i have despised her light, blondish color and ridged doors.  her splotches and stains.  she is just not pretty.  she was given to me at the great price of free and so she has remained.  but oh how i longed for her to be on extreme makeover, cabinet edition.
with lots of inspiration, encouragement, and coaching from my friend jeana (you HAVE to check out her furniture flips) i gathered the supplies she said i needed, i got out the drill, sandpaper, and hardware.  noah came running with the bob the builder hat and goggles.  he's so safety conscious.  and i was off!
i first spent hours trying to drill holes for the hardware.  jeana said to do that before painting.  i tried.  i drilled, i pounded, i screwed....those holes were just not being made.  after hours and several emails to jeana i finally tried this switch on the drill and "wa-lah" it started drilling forwards, not backward as it had been the past two hours.  it then took 3.5 seconds to drill both holes.  
then came the painting.  after shaking the can (as per the directions) i proceeded with a confident push on the trigger only to be welcomed with a spray of black krylon paint right in the face.  it evenly peppered over my lip and chin and looked just like a goatee for several days.
this is cabinet after one coat.  already a vast improvement.  i tried to follow jeana's instructions and use a steady flow, and always keeping the can moving.  since she recommended the krylon for plastic paint i didn't even have to prime it!
this is her as she stands now.  imperfect, but oh so much more beautiful than before.  and you better believe i feel a connection to this piece of furniture now.  she is much more a part of my life than obama or mccain will ever be:)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

i heart pumpkin

growing up my favorite moment at thanksgiving was when aunt arla would unveil the pies. the apple one could fall on the floor for all i cared. my eyes (and salivary glands) were intent on the pumpkin. it was the one time a year i got to taste its sweet deliciousness and i savored it.
when i grew up, i started to become exposed to other pumpkiny goodness. a whole new world has been opened up and i intend to make good use of it. who knew there was more than pumpkin pie?! and who knew you didn't have to have just one slice a year?!
here's a few of the ways i've used pumpkin this fall. i have found MANY more recipes i want to try, but i thought i'd only bore you with the ones i've actually made...
pumpkin puree. this is what i use when a recipe calls for canned pumpkin. i just put oil on the outside of a whole pumpkin and stuck it in a 350 degree oven until it was soft. the skin peels right off and the goop in the middle scoops out with ease.
speaking of the goop...if you want to save those seeds, rinse them, salt them, and bake them they are an oh so yummy, crunchy treat.
pumpkin bread. mmmmm.....a classic. this recipe was great, even when i halved the sugar.
how did that picture get in there? my love for pumpkin is not just limited to their taste. they are SO CUTE!

this is a pumpkin cream cheese my friend nicolette was kind enough to share with me (she understands my pumpkin obsession). with fruit or on a bagel...delish!

and my personal favorite.
chocolate chip.
seriously. what could be better?

Cream: 1 1/2 C shortening, 4 C sugar, 4 eggs, 1 Large can libbys pumpkin, 3 tsp vanilla. Add to this: 6 - 6 1/2 cups flour (she said it's usually about 6 cups if she's using gold medal flour, and 6 1/2 cups for other brands...), 3 tsp soda, 3 tsp baking powder, 3 tsp cinnamon, 3 tsp nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 bag chocolate chips (or you could substitute raisins). Bake at 375 for 15 minutes