Monday, December 19, 2011

The View From Here

I took the above picture while lying on the couch, recovering from a horrible stomach bug. In the foreground, a cup of broth (thanks Julie) and a cup of water. Broth really is the breakfast of champions. 

Last Wednesday night, I loaded up our kiddos to go to AWANA while Justin stayed home to put our little baby boo to bed. I had a fabulous mommy date planned for while the kids were at AWANA and I couldn't wait for some grown up convo with one of my dearest friends. Before I'd even arrived at the church building, I knew I was sick. Chills, nausea, the whole bit....I took the kiddos to their classes and got home as quickly as I could, cancelling my Mommy date on the way. :(

As soon as I got home, the fun started. I was ill. Before long, Justin brought the kids home from AWANA and got them in bed. Then he starts feeling bad and begins to get sick. We both get in bed, knowing we are in for a long night with our new pal, the stomach bug. At about 10:30, we hear the twins crying. I knew it was the throw-up cry. Trust me, they have a certain cry. It's awful. Both girls were sick...simultaneously. We bathed them, got them ready to go back to bed on clean sheets and within minutes they were both getting sick again. It was midnight by this time, Justin and I were both still very sick and we didn't know what to do. In a desperate moment, I called Justin's mom. She had to work the next day, but came anyway. We all thought the girls would feel better and go to sleep within a couple hours. From about midnight until four a.m., the twins were sick every thirty minutes. They were lying on our (well protected) couch and Brooklyn told me later that my mother-in-law slept on the floor next to them. Everytime Vivi would get sick, I would hear her crying for me and saying, "Mama. I want Mama. Where's my Mommy?" And, Justin's mom would calm her down, clean her up and try to get her back to sleep. I remember lying in bed thinking I could go sit on the couch with her, but I felt like I was too weak to even walk to the living room. At some point during all this, Gramm woke up and began throwing up too. The little guy is a trooper. He is no stranger to stomach issues, so the stomach bug did not phase him one bit. Bless his heart!

Around 4 in the morning, I finally drifted off to sleep and realized that the worst of it was over for me. My mother-in-law left at 5 to go get ready for work and to stop by Kroger to get us popsicles and coconut water. She had stayed up all night taking care of our very sick kiddos. I was amazed by her sacrifice. Not only did she miss a full night's sleep before going to teach preschool all day the next day, she exposed herself to the horrible, nasty, no good stomach bug while lovingly caring for my babies. I have always been thankful for her and I am even more thankful now. And, I am so very thankful for good health and the ability to care for my children.

We are all on the mend now and our little baby boo has yet to get the bug.  Never before have I seen our entire crew (minus the babe) come down with the same sickness so quickly. I don't know what we would have done without my mother-in-law. She inspires me to lay down my life for my children and to give joyfully. And, please join me in praying that she doesn't get sick. ;) Seriously.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Processing life as a Foster Mom

This scripture has been on my mind today:

"She extends her hands to the poor. Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy." Proverbs 31:20

Many times a day, our sweet foster son walks toward me, arms outstretched, needing to be held. I pick him up, hold him and usually let him decide when he is ready to be put down. There are times when I need to put him down before he is ready, so I'll say, "I'm going to put you down now, but I'll be right here." Sometimes he toddles off and plays and sometimes he'll just sit down and cry. If he cries, I usually pick him up or Gramm will pick him up and bring him to me. This little guy needs lots of love and he needs me to be his Mommy....but not forever.

Nothing could have prepared me for bonding with a child and knowing all the while that he is not mine, he will not ever be mine and that someday, he will leave our home. J and I both thought we were aware of all that we signed up for in becoming foster parents. In theory, it's so noble and yadayadayada, but in reality, it's just a little crazy. Foster care does not make sense, but it's what we feel lead to do and we'll keep doing it. God has given us the grace for each second and I know His grace will not run out with me and my needy self.

Please pray for our family as we venture down this new road. We rely on and rest in the sovereignty of God each step of the way. Love to all.

Friday, December 9, 2011

And (foster) baby makes 6

About two years ago, we began the process to become foster parents and adoptive parents through the state of Arkansas. Our plans were put on hold for several months. You can read about that here. About three months ago, we began updating our paperwork, CPR and First Aid certifications, physicals, etc. We finally got everything together and were officially open in November.

We received a call about a little boy that needed a temporary home. Could we care for him? Did we have space? Yes. Yes. He is here. We love him already. We expected to foster an infant. This little one is not exactly an infant, but he is still younger than our three big kids. So far, life with four kids is busy, loud and wonderful. God has held my nerves together and my patience mostly intact. ;) We have been blessed with a kind and caring caseworker.

We do not know exactly how long we will have this child. We do not know what his life was like before he came to us. We do not even know his middle name. But, we do know that his life is precious. He was created in the image of God and he is remarkable. We know that he needs us. We know that this boy's mark will forever be on our hearts. He reaches for me, his face lights up when he sees Gramm, he lets Vivi and Brook hug and kiss him often, and he lurves my man.

Please pray for us as we all adjust to this change in our lives. Please pray for me to take this process a day at a time and not obsess and worry about the day that he will leave us. We signed up for this. We are the middle family for this little one in transition. God is sustaining us and He will continue to lavish His grace upon us.

Thanks to so many of you who encouraged us to not lose hope and to keep praying for the foster child(ren) we would someday have. We did not lose hope and God has answered our prayers so sweetly. Love to you all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I like to cook

So, I cook a lot. I love it. It makes me happy. It makes my kids happy, too. Left to right, Vivi, Gramm and Brook chowing down on some homemade granola bars. I recently discovered a totally delish granola bar recipe here. My adaptation:

Chewy Granola Bars
Combine in a large bowl:
1/2 cup muscavado sugar, or other brown sugar (sucanat, etc.)
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup melted coconut oil or butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Then add:
3 cups whole rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup wheat flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Stir well and then press into a greased sheet pan. I use a large stainless steel bar pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cut the bars while they are warm, but wait about 10 minutes before removing them from the pan. If you let the bars cool completely, they will not come out of the pan well and it will be a big mess. I store them individually wrapped or in a 9x13 pan with wax paper between the layers of bars.

My family absolutely loves the granola bars. My hubby and son have really missed store-bought granola bars. This recipe has been wonderful because it's filling, fairly cheap and I can actually pronounce every single ingredient. Holla!

I occasionally feel a baking frenzy coming on and just cannot stop myself. So, I baked two pies. One for my hubby and one for a brotha who has iphone fixing skillz. My hubby got the coconut cream pie and our friend received the creamy lemon meringue pie. The kiddos saw me photographing the pies and each child had to have their pic taken with me and the pies. It was so classic. Look:

Brooklyn cheesin' it up:
Vivian just trying to get to that pie! See her little hand poised and ready to stick her finger in the meringue?
Inquiring minds may want to know: pie filling recipes: from Justin's Nana. She's a madwoman in the kitchen and puts me to shame even on my best Julia-Child-channeling days. The meringue: extra egg whites, baby, from farm fresh eggs. The crust: 1/2 butter and 1/2 lard rendered from a locally raised (and locally killt), grass-stomping, happy, healthy piggle.

Let me know if any of you precious few try the granola bar recipe. Over and out. :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Good Portion

Sometimes we have really bad days.

Sometimes I'm not proud of myself. Moms, don't we all know when we are not on our A game?

The bad days are not often. Truth be told, they tend to come around once a month if you catch my drift. A couple days ago, I had to apologize to my kids and tell them that I really need Jesus in order to be a good Mommy. They hugged me and listened quietly while I prayed.

After our not-so-good stretch this week, I told my hot hubster through my tears that I don't want to be like Martha and miss the best part of our kid's lives because I'm focused on things.

Quick Martha recap: in Luke chapter 10 (in the Bible, just FYI) Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha. Apparently, Martha was working her hiney off and Mary was sitting on hers' listening to Jesus teach. Martha goes to tattle on Mary and Jesus says this:

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10: 41, 42

I want to sit at Jesus' feet, like Mary, and let Him teach me. It's hard to let him teach me when I let (dumb, stupid, insignificant) things upset me and set the tone for our family. I want to enjoy my children. I want to have more tea parties, more walks around our 'hood, more time reading books on the couch. I want to be less stressed about the state of my house, the laundry, the dad-blamed dinner, and the 10,000 other things in my life. I want to enjoy my people. I want to choose the good portion!

Some practical steps I've taken in order to choose the good portion:
  • daily God time. Right now, this is in the morning on weekdays.
  • pray for God to show me warning signs when I'm nearing the end of my rope.
  • limit phone time. I love my peops, but my kids need me to be totally present and I can't do that and be on the phone. Maybe someday I will figure that out.
  • I try to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. I love cooking nourishing food for my family, so I do a lot of our dinners in batches with my bestie, Julie. Read about those adventures here. This helps me immensely. I even bought bread this week instead of making it. 80/20 y'all.
  • stop with the dang guilt already! I let guilt drive me all too often.
  • steer clear of Facebook (i.e. the great time waster).
  • get kids to help me with housework. Try to do a little housework daily instead of hours on big projects, etc.
  • chill out for pete's sake and quit being a grump-butt all the time.
  • gratitude journaling. Quick, simple, one-liners listing what I'm thankful for at that moment. One Thousand Gifts has changed my life. Read it, y'all.

I am not an expert and have virtually nothing figured out. All I know is that I cannot be a good parent on my own. I just can't do it. I need God every single step of the way. I mostly post sweet memories and flattering pics on this blog, but I think it's important to post on the not-so-great days and dispel any pretense that there is constantly a rainbow over my house with the pot of gold at the back door. Here's to choosing the good portion. Look at that sweet face!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Look What We've Been Doing

We've had some fun gathering a few fruits from our garden. Gramm is cutting up a tiny, but tasty canteloupe.

Sweet VivianBrooklyn
And we sliced our watermelon open with high wasn't ready, but the girls were! They ate almost the whole thing. :)
We've experimented with sponge rollers. My hubby says the rollers in my hair "aged me significantly". Anyone remember Mama's Family? I was channeling my inner Mama. (Brook on left)
Beautiful ViviI love Brooklyn's smile here. She has the most precious little chicklet teeth. And, my hair was very 80's pageant queen reminiscent. I wore it in a ponytail all day. We've had some great tea parties and one very memorable one with Nana in her backyard. Vivi on left. Nana made the girls hibiscus tea and brought out this tray with cheese and triscuits, yogurt and even a tea towel. The girls LOVED it. Nana and I had a really good time, too. :) Some of our best memories have been made at my Nana and Grandpa's house.
Brooklyn chillin' after a little tea. Please note that both girls have yogurt dried on their little faces. :)
Nana and the girls at the park.
Me and my sweet gals. Love them. Brooklyn on left.
I mentioned in my post on New Year's Resolutions that we are trying to pay off our house. Slowly, but surely, we've been paying on the principal for the past 10 months. It's going to be at the very least a couple more years, but we are enjoying the challenge. I made a mortgage loan thermometer and Gramm gets to fill it in at the end of every month. My sweet man suggested that we may have started coloring at the wrong end of the thermometer! Oh well! Here's to loving things that aren't perfect. :)

That's all peops. What have you and your crew been up to?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Making it work, part 3--When your Babydad is out of Town

I started a "Making It Work" series months ago. Part 1, Breakfast with the Bertmans, which is mostly about quick devotionals with my babes, is here. Part 2, Giving Your Man the Night Off, is here.

My husband travels for work a few times a year. I am a big baby and hate to stay by myself. In the past, when he's traveled I've had friends sleep over with me or I've spent a few days with my wonderful Nana and Grandpa who love on us and help me with the kiddos.

During Justin's last trip, I tried something different. He was gone about six days and I only spent one or two of those days with my grandparents. The rest of the time, I braved it at home, with or without a bible under my pillow to ward off anything skeery. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by every single task that needed to be done, I just did them. I tried my best to stay calm and be nice to the kids no matter how I felt. When Justin came home, he was pleasantly surprised by a happy wife, orderly home and non-traumatized children. ;)

A few things that helped me while J was away:
  • I tried to get all my work done before the kids went to bed. As soon as the kids were in bed, I either relaxed with a book or a movie or I had a friend over for coffee. I am a HUGE extrovert, so some adult time was really great for me. If you are an introvert, I would recommend planning down time.
  • I ran a very tight ship where discipline was concerned. I knew that if I started letting things slide, the kids would go nuts and misbehave a lot.
  • I did not cook dinner. I made a big batch of tomato basil soup (read: chick food) before J left. We ate that, pb&j, sushi from Kroger, etc. The kids still had nutritious meals, but they were very simple.
  • I made sure that I was recharging spiritually by praying and reading the Word when I could. Praying for Justin while we are apart really brings me peace and protection from fear.
  • I went to bed early so that I would be well rested and ready for the day ahead.
  • I did not try to get any projects done. My "project" was taking care of the kids and keeping the house from falling down around us. :)
  • I dressed to shoes and wore make up most days. This helps me immensely on any given day.
If any of you have traveling husbands, I hope that these tips help you while your man is away.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

First Days of School

Gramm started Comm. Central on August 1. Gramm is in Kindergarten and Comm. Central is like a one day a week homeschooling co-op. It's wonderful. Handsome boy below:

I love this kid:

Vivian and Brooklyn wasted no time in getting ready to par-tay once brother left for school! We spent the morning with my mom (aka Shermee) and had a ball.

The girls started preschool on August 25. They will go two mornings a week and they are absolutely LOVING it. My mother-in-law is their teacher. She has taught at this same preschool for over 20 years. Gramm attended preschool there as well. One huge bonus of preschool is that Gramm and I have an absolute BLAST getting his school done when it's just the two of us. Brooklyn on left, Vivian on right. Those girls give the best hugs!

Vivian on left, Brooklyn on right. I actually got a little teary when I dropped them off at school. The time with these two has just flown.

Of course, brother had to get in on the action. He's kissing Brooklyn. :)

The girls with their teacher, also known as Mimi. We'll see if they call her Mrs.Janet by the end of the year like the rest of the kids.

When I picked the girls up, they came running to me wearing HUGE smiles and the adorable sticker you see below. It says, "I had a great first day!" Again, tears. Bless it! So thankful for these three sweethearts! (vivi below)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gramm is Six!

Our sweet son is growing up! Not only did he turn six, he lost his two front teeth! Bless his sweet little big boy heart!

We had a family get together the weekend before his birthday and I let Gramm chooose the menu. He asked for spaghetti, corn on the cob and chocolate cake with vanilla icing. I so LOVE making my kiddos' faves. He got to eat out of the Bertram birthday bowl and eat lots of yummy birthday cake. (Gramm and mimi below. love her!)

On the evening of his actual birthday, we surprised him with a family trip to my step-dad's lake house. Gramm was thrilled because he thinks the lake house is one of the coolest places ever.

We enjoyed our boy (and girls) and are so blessed to have had six years with this wonderful child. I wrote him a birthday letter that is too long and sappy to share here. Suffice it to say, I am ever thankful to God for blessing Justin and I with our precious son. The first time I held Gramm, all I could say as I rubbed Gramm's soft cheeks and kissed his tiny little lips was "Thank You, God. Thank You, God." What a joy it is to be a mother!
(Spiked hair per G's request)

Daddy and Gramm with the much longed for Space Police Lego set.
Our fam:
Gramm and I the day after he was born. We've come a looooong way, baby!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fourth of July...a smidge late

We spent some time with family over the holiday weekend. It's been a few weeks, but I just had to share these pics of Gramm. That boy LOVES the fourth of July and was totally in his element shooting fireworks with his daddy, uncle, great-uncle and cousins.

Below: Gramm is all suited up in camo head to toe with safety goggles on and bag of fireworks nearby. This pic was taken in the morning. He was ready to go!

Below: the little guy in action.

Vivian and Brooklyn were not crazy about all the noise. They ended up sitting in my lap together by the end of the night.

Our fam. I'm holding Vivian and Justin is holding Brooklyn.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


It's time for a menu baby! Here goes:

Monday: pizza at Everett's birthday partay. No cooking for me!

Tuesday: broccoli cheddar quiche (basic quiche lorraine recipe with broccoli thrown in in place of the ham), salad or fruit

Wednesday: beef stir fry with brown rice (freezer meal)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: roasted chicken, taters, veggies

Saturday: chicken salad (leftover from roasted chicken, made with homemade mayo, sour cream, grapes, celery, pecans, dill relish and tiny bit of mustard), fruit, banana bread

Sunday: leftovers/clean out the fridge day

Anyone else got a menu plan they'd like to share? I'd love to see it!

I have pared down my time in the kitchen considerably. I have done this by batch cooking and freezing our meals and by cooking very simple, basic recipes. I can see a huge difference in my energy level and patience with my kids. I absolutely love to be in the kitchen and prepare yummy, large meals for my fam and friends. But, I've seen that time spent in the kitchen unnecessarily is not fruitful emotionally, spiritually or physically for our family during this stage of life. If you see anything above that you would like a recipe for, comment and I'll get it together. Love to all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Three C's

For those of you who may not know, I have three year old twin girls. I also have a precious almost six year old son. Our life is often loud, chaotic and stressful. Overall, we have a wonderful and fun life, but sometimes I let parenting become an annoying burden and not a faith-stretching, patience-bringing, joy-filling opportunity.

In these not-so-fun moments when I'm trying to get something done whether it be fix dinner, fold clothes, have a phone conversation and one or all of my children misbehave, my tendency is towards anger and impatience. Instead of getting mad at my precious babes, I have started to preach to myself these three words, "Calm, contact, cease." Okay, so this is what that means:

Cease: stop what I'm doing. My job is to parent these children and train them in the way they should go. My primary goal is not to get dinner on the table or fold laundry. I have to stop the secondary things to focus on the primary. This is so hard for me because I just love to get 'er done! Discipline takes time. But, it's worth it.

Contact: Go to the offending child or children, get on their level and make physical contact with them in a kind, gentle way while instructing them. This often is just me squatting in front of one of the kids, placing my hand on her/his shoulder and asking them why they are upset or helping resolve conflict. With a fit throwing miss or mister, this often means that I must physically remove the child from the room. Each one of my kids weighs over 30 pounds now. I'm as strong as an ox these days.

Calm: I just gotta keep it together! I cannot get mad or the kids will learn from my bad example and they will be stressed out by my lack of self-control. Sometimes I have to whisper to keep from raising my voice. Sometimes I close my eyes and pray. You get the picture.

I hope these three C's help you as they have helped me. I truly feel that the Spirit comes to our aid when we need Him and that He is "near to those who have young". Oh, and look at these cute kids. Seriously. They kill me with their cuteness.

Below: The Viv-ster with a sour cream stache. Hilariously serious face here.

Brooklyn baby:

My big boy is about to lose both of his top front teeth. I made him pose for these pics so I could capture his sweet smile before we transition to a snaggle tooth grin. :) Love this big boy!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


For those of you who may not know, I have three sisters. I am #3 in the line up. I lurve my sisters. In April I was invited my by my sister, Andrea, to ride along on a work trip to Destin. Oh, did I mention my hubby let me go sans kiddos? That's right, 5 heavenly days of sister time. It was a great trip to say the least and we laughed and laughed and laughed. See pics of our adventures below:

My younger sister, Sharla, moved to Boston shortly after she got married to my precious bro-in-law about 9 years ago give or take. For the last few months, Sharla and her sweet little fam of five have relocated to Arkansas and will be here till October. Holla!!! I have enjoyed more time with Shar in the past few months than I have since we were in college. To have her here is one of the greatest gifts God could hand to me at any time. I just love that girl!

Sisters really are built in BFFs. Each one of my sisters is precious to me and can make me laugh till I cry. I love that we can all four be together on occasion during this brief season. We even had a little girl night last Thursday and it was won.der.ful. See below. Love them. (left to right, Rachel #1, me #3, Andrea #2, Sharla, #4)