Monday, May 31, 2010

Weekend fun...

Can you believe the weather this weekend?!  It was by far the best Memorial Day weekend weather I can remember!  We the kids went swimming!  We took the boats over to the dunes and sat in the sun, the kids played and swam, it was an amazing weekend!

And of course there was fishing, but this time, even I got to go!!
Fun times!  I just love it when my family comes camping at our house!  I love to sit by the campfire, relax, eat tons of food, go to the beach, and then the best part...sleep in my own bed, shower in my own shower, and use my own bathroom!  Camping here is great!  My Dad taught the boys how to burn images into wood using only a magnifying glass!{He must not have taught me that as I didn't know it was possible!
  This is Dylan's creation.
The boys also started a fire with that magnifying glass{in the fire pit of course!}
Thanks for a great weekend family!!(minus Eric, Jen, and Olivia, we missed you!)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Guatemala flashback...

Remember this?  The boys were climbing Volcano Pacaya in Guatemala..
Just over 2 years ago (May 20, 2008) almost to the day!
This was Pacaya then...
This is Pacaya Now!!

It is erupting!  Here is a news article on the situation in Guatemala:

1 dead, 3 missing in Guatemala volcano eruption
GUATEMALA CITY — Rocks spewing from a volcano overlooking the Guatemalan capital killed a television reporter, authorities said Friday. Three children are missing.
The Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks on Thursday afternoon, blanketing Guatemala City with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. President Alvaro Colom declared a "state of calamity."
Television reporter Anibal Archila was hit by a shower of rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Guatemala City, said David de Leon, a spokesman for the national disaster committee.
He said three children between the ages of seven and 12 were missing.
At least 1,600 people from villages closest to the volcano have been evacuated to shelters.
Two to three inches (Five to 7.5 centimeters) of ash accumulated on streets in some southern parts of the city, and officials imposed limits on trucks and motorcycles to help speed up traffic slowed by the ash.
The government urged residents not to leave their homes unless there was an urgent need.
The most active of Guatemala's 32 volcanos, Pacaya has been intermittently erupting since 1966, and tourists frequently visit areas near three lava flows formed in eruptions between 1989 and 1991.
In 1998, the 8,373-foot (2,552-meter) volcano twice spewed plumes of ash, forcing evacuations and shutting down the airport in Guatemala City.

WOW!!  I remember being surrounded by all of the beautiful volcanoes and at the same time praying that they would not erupt while I was there!  I especially remember the day Ryan took the boys up there to climb it, I didn't really like the idea, however, * All Mothers of boys...HEAR ME PLEASE!!*
I needed to trust my husband to make this decision, and let them go!  I was raised in a home with all girls, we did not do this sort of stuff, and I tend to get a tad nervous when they do "boy" things.  BUT, I have a husband who is a man, who knows boys and what they should be doing, so I let him lead, I let them do these things!!!  I, as the mom, stayed back and prayed the thing would not erupt!!  I usually do that, if there is something they want to do and I am against it, but Ryan is for it, they do it, and I pray that the things that could happen to them while doing strange boy things...won't!!  I think it is vital while   bringing up boys to allow them to have adventure, and to let your husband lead!!  Ok, I will get off my soap box now.  Just wanted to share...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Hole in Our Gospel...

I just finished another very challenging and excellent book, The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns, U.S. President of World Vision.  I am having a hard time posting a review on this book, there is so much to share and it was so good I just really want everyone to read it for themselves!!

But here is one thing {of many..} that stood out to me.

After coming back from Uganda as the brand-new president of World Vision U.S., and after seeing firsthand the horrors of the AIDS pandemic in Africa, he begins discussions with his team about how to help the orphans and widows abandoned by AIDS. 

Before launching a national program to raise support for an AIDS ministry, they conducted a research study with the Barna Group.  Here is what shocked me:

"When evangelical Christians were asked whether they would be willing to donate money to help CHILDREN orphaned by AIDS, assuming they were asked by a reputable Christian organization that was doing this work ...

...only 3 percent answered that they definitely would help;
...52 percent said that they probably or definitely would NOT help."  

(The Hole in Our Gospel, 196)

This breaks my heart.  This literally made me well up with tears.  I read it over and over.  Are we so calloused, so cynical, so uncompassionate, that HALF of us say we will not help children, innocent, precious, helpless, dependent VICTIMS of a cruel disease? Oh how we must make the Lord feel, these are HIS innocent, precious, helpless children!  Ouch!

I have been reading some of the most amazing books {see book shelf to the left} and I can tell you that God is doing a work.  He is challenging me, I am being gloriously wrecked!  I am praying He will make me into something useful for His glory!!

Monday, May 24, 2010


When I bought this dress in Guatemala, I felt like it would be ~forever~ before it fit her! 
Why do they have to grow up so fast?  
Love this little girl!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuinstra family fun...

We played charades...
My sister Jen made up this board with envelopes with names on them, and each person was to write something{nice} about someone throughout the few days we were there.  The kids really loved this and got busy writing notes, so much so that we had to go buy more note cards!  They even decorated the envelopes themselves!  We all got sweet notes from everyone! 
We walked to the beach...
We looked like a small parade coming through town...
We played spoons, lots and lots of spoons, a somewhat dangerous game by the way...!

My Dad shielding himself from the fire with his hat and makeshift cardboard shield, apparently the hot dog sticks were too short!!
We were each assigned a child to take out on a "date!"  I had Olivia!!!  We went to the park and played and I got to kiss and hold her and she didn't even cry!  She only cries when her mommy is in sight, so it was a fun time!  While on my date with Livi, I saw Steph on her date with Spencer playing catch!

Uncle Matt took Anaya to the Dollar Store and spent a fortune on princess stuff for her!!  She has Uncle Matt wrapped around her little finger!  I didn't get pictures of everyone on their dates, but they all had a great time together!

We spent time with my entire family at a rental house down in South Haven.  We had TONS of fun being together{as usual!} Thanks Jen and Eric for setting us up in such a great house with lots of fun activities!
What a blessing it was to be together!
Oh, and of course there was a little fishing!
Next Tuinstra Family adventure...
Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Successful turkey hunters...

This is Dylan with the jake he shot early Wednesday morning.  Spencer and Ryan were with him.

And this is the turkey Ryan shot last Friday morning.  Spencer and Easton were in the blind with him.  Dylan and Jayden were sittting nearby.

Ryan's traditional turkey picture with all the kids.  He woke Anaya up to get the picture before he headed off to work.  Now that all the tags are filled the boys can finally get a full nights sleep.  They were getting up at
5:00 AM and would be home by 7:30 so Ryan could get to work by 8:00.
CRAZY kids!!   But they loved it!
So thankful for a patient daddy who takes them with him!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Something beautiful...

This is one of my favorite songs {right now} just thought I'd share...!

Monday, May 10, 2010

party hearty....

We celebrated Anaya's birthday on Wednesday, with our family.
This is her new Bible with her name on it.

And of course we had to get her a few princess things!
Then on Saturday, the VanderZwaag Family came up and watched a few soccer games in the cold rain, then we partied!  We have a quadruple party {4 birthday girls almost in a row} and we celebrate Mothers Day all in one shot!
Crazy bunch of kids{okay, so it's only mine that are crazy, but uncle Robb put them up to it!}
Princess Anaya with Princess Barbie!

Then on Sunday we partied with the Tuinstra family.

Ryan upheld his tradition of making a wonderful Mothers day lunch for me, my mom and this time my whole entire family!!!  The brothers and my dad pitched in too.  It was so very good!  He is a way better cook than I am!  I tell him he can have that job anytime, I HATE to cook!!
At one point he told me "it takes a long time to cook a meal like this...!"  Um... no. Really? 

The boys making lunch and all of "the girls."

Thanks for joining us family!  We love to spend time with you!

Friday, May 7, 2010

World AIDS Orphans Day...

6,000 children will be orphaned by AIDS today.
Could you love one?

This is (in part) from Erica's blog, re-posted with permission. 
Today, May 7,  is World AIDS Orphans Day. World AIDS Orphans Day is a grassroots campaign to draw attention to and advocate on behalf of the millions of children orphaned by AIDS. It is a day to remember, and hopefully a day to do something to help out the children in the world who truly are "the least of these". (See below for lots of things you can do to help).
Here are some of the staggering facts. Please read them... please really stop and think a minute about these statistics.
  • There are over 15 million children orphaned by AIDS living around the world RIGHT NOW. 15 million is the equivalent to the number of all of the people living in New York, Paris, and Bangkok combined. That is an awful lot of children.
  • Well over 12 million AIDS orphans live in Sub-Saharan Africa, alone.
  • Experts believe that millions more orphans remain unaccounted for in India, China and Russia.
  • This year the number of children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS is expected to reach 25 million.
Today, another 6,000 children will be added to the already 15 million children world wide who have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis.
The result of being orphaned by AIDS is heart-breaking for these children. From the World AIDS Orphans Day website:
  • In addition to the trauma of losing a parent, orphans are often subject to discrimination and are less likely to receive health care, education and other needed services.
  • In HIV affected households lacking community support, food consumption can drop by 40% putting children at risk to hunger, malnutrition and stunting.
  • Impoverished and often without support to educate and protect them, orphans and vulnerable children face increased risk of HIV infection. (And there are already an estimated 2 million children currently living with HIV).
  • Orphans are often easy prey to many forms of exploitation: forced labor, prostitution and child soldiering.
In the United States, if a child loses a parent to accident or illness, it is considered a terrible tragedy. Such stories are covered by the media, communities mourn and show their support, etc. In Sub-Saharan Africa, parents dieing is a normal part of life. It is still a terrible tragedy for those children, but it happens so often that no one else really pays any attention.
And do you know what makes this really, truly horrible? Do you know what makes my gut twist and my heart ache? HIV IS COMPLETELY TREATABLE.
If a person contracts HIV in the United States or another country where there is treatment readily available, they have an excellent long term prognosis. Most HIV+ people receiving treatment now have close to normal life expectancies and can live in good overall health.  With treatment, HIV+ children can be healthy and happy. They can go to school, grow up, go to college, have (healthy!) children, and live long enough to raise them and beyond. Without treatment, an estimated 50% of HIV+ children will die before the hit their second birthday. 
HIV does not have to be a death sentence, and yet for thousands of people every day, it is, because the world doesn't care enough to really do something about it.
Can you imagine for one minute if some terrible disease struck the United States (or whatever country you live in) and was killing thousands and orphaning thousands every day? Can you imagine if another country had treatment that could lead to good health and a long life, but it just was too expensive or too difficult or too much trouble to get that medicine to us? We wouldn't stand for it.
So why do we stand for it now?
The numbers are staggering, and so is the need for action. Children are the future of our world, and I shudder to think about what this world will be like with so many millions of children growing up without the love and security of a family... and way too often growing up without adequate food, education and medical care.  Where does that leave all of us?
 Rich Stearns, President of World Vision, US said,{From his AMAZING book The Hole in Our Gospel}
"I believe that this could very well be looked back on as the sin of our generation. I look at my parents and ask, where were they during the civil rights movement? I look at my grandparents and ask, what were they doing when the holocaust in Europe was occurring with regard to the Jews, and why didn't they speak up? And when we think of our great, great, great-grandparents, we think how could they have sat by and allowed slavery to exist? And I believe that our children and their children, 40 or 50 years from now, are going to ask me, what did you do while 40 million children became orphans in Africa?"
I know that it feels like the problem is way too big for us to really do anything to make a difference, but I know with all my heart that touching the life of just one, just ONE, child can truly make a difference. And if everyone touched the life of just one child, we could reach them all.
Here are some ways that you can help touch the life of an AIDS orphan this World AIDS Orphans Day.
- Get educated. One of the biggest roadblocks in getting people to care and take action is the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. This is not a disease that only strikes those who "deserve it" (yes, that is really how some people think!). This is a disease that strikes men, women and children... it strikes heterosexuals and homosexuals, it strikes people of all races and social classes and it strikes people in all countries. HIV/AIDS is a HUMAN problem. 
Fear is another big roadblock. HIV can not be transmitted in any casual way, and people that are HIV+ are not a threat to those around them. HIV can only be transmitted through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles).
There is a ton of information online, click here for a condensed version.  Then tell two!
Two excellent books to read about the HIV/AIDS crisis and the orphan crisis are There is No Me Without You and  28 Stories of AIDS in Africa.
- Sponsor an AIDS orphan. There are many wonderful organizations out there that allow you to sponsor a child for a very low cost per month. Doing so makes a great difference in the life of that child, and getting to know the child you sponsor through pictures, updates, letters, etc. will have a great impact on your life as well. I promise.  AHOPE for Children (which supports AHOPE Ethiopia, a home and community support program for HIV+ children in Ethiopia) has child sponsorships for $30 a month. And you can send a text to AHOPE  to 85944 to make a $10 donation.  I know that financially times are hard for many right now, but we  live better than most people in the world and would have to sacrifice very very little to sponsor (and truly help) an orphaned child.
- Another great organization to support is Because Every Mother Matters. Today is $10 Friday and they are trying to raise money in honor of Mother's Day to build a maternity clinic in Ethiopia. If we care for the mothers, we we have less orphans.
- Consider adopting. Adoption is only an option for a tiny percentage of the 15 million AIDS orphans around the world and it is certainly not the solution to the AIDS crisis or the orphan crisis, but for the tiny percentage of children who do get adopted, it changes their world and their future dramatically (and for the adoptive parents, it is equally amazing).  There are agencies and programs placing healthy and special needs orphans from all over the world with new families. If your heart may be open to adopting an HIV+ child, I have about 100 amazing children of all ages waiting for a second chance at love, family and life. I am proud to work for Adoption Advocates International who has a thriving program placing HIV+ children from Ethiopia, and is also finding families for HIV+ children in Ghana and Thailand.  I currently have almost 90 HIV+ children waiting for new families in Ethiopia. 
- Support From HIV to Home, an organization that helps provide care for HIV+ orphans and supports and helps parents adopting HIV+ children.
- Support Project HOPEFUL, whose mission is to "encourage, educate and enable parents adopting children with HIV/AIDS".
- Visit the World AIDS Orphans website for other ways to touch your heart, get educated and get involved.
Please feel free to share this post anywhere you see fit. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Please sign this...

 We received this email from AGCI and I would like to ask you to help.  Please take a minute{it really only takes a minute!} and sign this petition, it is the least we can do to help get these children home!  

Some of you may be aware that there are still approximately 500 adoptions, which were grandfathered under the new law, which have been obstructed by the Guatemalan authorities for various reasons. Hundreds of U.S. families are still hoping to be united with the children they started adopting - in most cases, more than 3 years ago.  Some don't know where their children are. Some are supporting their child and hoping that child will come home. This is a travesty of justice on the part of both the Guatemalan and U.S. governments.

The Guatemala900 organization, , has scheduled a Congressional Briefing on Thursday, May 6, between 10-12 A.M. They will be marching from the Holiday Inn Capital Hill to the Hart building for the briefing. The adoptive families and their advocates will be attending the briefing, the details are on the Guatemala900 website. BE AN ADVOCATE to encourage Congressional intercession with our Department of State,  so that this becomes a matter of the highest priority for them to resolve.  Please contact your congressional reps and ask them to attend this briefing. Please contact any families in the DC area to see if they can join the march and briefing. 


WOW!!  I can't believe you are 3 already!
You are such a fun little treasure, and we are so blessed to have you in our family!
We love you Anaya!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

An amazing whirlwind...

Ryan and I had talked about going to the Orphan Summit for months he felt God had a reason for us to be there.  But, in the 'end' we decided not to go because of lack of 'extra funds.'  However, Wednesday morning Ryan called me at around 10A.M. and said, pack your bags we are going to Minnesota!  He opened up the website to the Christian Alliance for Orphans and prayed about it and God just said, you need to be there!   So I quickly packed the kids up and we were on the road just before noon!!!  Thankfully we had my parents on stand-by, so they were able to take the kids, and we were off on the 10 hour drive!  I can't wait to share all of the amazing events that unfolded, and all of the things we learned while we were there, but for now just know...God is amazing, and Ryan was right, God DID indeed have a message just for us!!!

~On a side note, we left the conference early so we could get back in time to coach soccer, so we drove all the way back to my parents house { arriving at 4 am and got up again at 7 to leave for home with the kids for soccer!!}  BUT, when we were just coming in to Holland, we noticed the car ahead of us a bit slammed on his brakes and backed up, so we got over and slowed down, figuring he hit a deer.  As we drove  past we noticed to our HORROR it was a PERSON!!!!  YIKES!  That was an awful sight to behold.  We pulled over and Ryan got out and helped until the cops/ambulance arrived.  It turns out the guy who was hit,( by the car going 55 mph) was standing in the middle of the road, drunk and "looking for his girl!"  He survived, and we are so thankful we were not the ones to hit him!!  

Thank you Lord for an amazing turn of events this week and your faithfulness in confirming to us what we needed to hear!