Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

Archive for January, 2009

A little Saturday Link Love

31st January 2009

It’s cold here.   Well, cold in a Southern sense… like 30 degrees.  Brian’s off for a long bike ride this Saturday morning, and I’m in the mood to bake and be crafty.  Sounds like we’ll all benefit from this day!   Here’s some fun links that we might be trying today…

  • A Better Banana Muffin – a lighter, healthier banana blueberry muffin that is on the agenda for this morning.  Gotta get rid of the frozen black bananas in my freezer!  If they’re good, I might even make a second batch to freeze for breakfasts.
  • Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins – If I decide to balance out the healthy with a little not-so-healthy, these are what I might make as the second batch.
  • Oh No!  The Snowman Melted – a fun little melted snowman craft project we might attempt today.
  • Playdough Cookies – These would be fun to make in white, red and pink for Valentine’s day.
  • A Valentine’s Collage – If I get brave and decide to break out the paints today, this is what we’ll do.
  • Valentine’s Candy Pots – If I were really on the ball (which I’m not), these would be fun to make for Analise’s school friends.
  • Marshmallow Lollipops – Hm, marshmallows, dipping and sprinkles… my kids favorite things to do!
  • I Love You Garland – A fun way to showcase photos of those we love.
  • Sugar Shack – Oh my goodness… lots of sugar involved in this one, but man, would this be fun to let the kids build and decorate!
  • Valentine Garland – One super easy heart garland, if only I had pink and red pipe cleaners (and why does everyone call them “chenille stems”?  They’ve always been “pipe cleaners” for me!)

Can you tell I’ve created a folder called “TO DO with kids IF BORED”?  I’ll post pictures if we get anything done!

Posted in Links, Parenting | No Comments »

4-year old Fashion

27th January 2009

(*I found this in my drafts folder from mid-October… it was funny to read, and I’ll add a little commentary to the end…)

It was a lovely, rainy, cool fall day here.  Though it’s mid-October, our past couple weeks have been HOT, like mid 80’s.  Analise has had “fashion” problems every morning, and I’m not sure how we’re going to make it through the winter.  She doesn’t want to wear anything but dresses.  She had plenty of summer dresses, and most of the twirled.  But I’ve put away most of the summer clothes, because it’s supposed to be fall, along with the fact that she’s had a growth spurt and most of them are too short.  So we quickly wear out our short supply of appropriate warm-weather dresses before they’re clean again, and then we have problems.

She picks out the winter dresses, like corduroy, denim and long sleeves.  And though it’s fine in the coolish-mornings, by the time she goes out to the playground at noon and it’s 85, she’ll be overheated.  When I pick her up at 1:30, she’s always red-faced and sweaty anyway.  Not going to work.  So I point her towards her drawer of skirts and tops, or I pick out a cute shirt and pants.  No way.  She’s been so upset these past few mornings at her lack of options, it’s hard to believe clothing is causing such a fuss.  Ug.  Maybe fall will come soon so she can start wearing the other dresses hanging in her closet.  And maybe I shouldn’t bother getting her anything that ISN’T a dress for the spring and size 5T.  Unless, of course, she determines she doesn’t want to wear dresses any more.  Then we’d be in trouble!

**update from mid-January:  We’re still having the same dilemma.  It’s the dead of winter, which, in Alabama, means it can be in the 20’s in the morning when Analise goes to school and still in the 40-50’s by afternoon.  And they still go outside to play some days.  So we’ve been wearing the same dresses and tights all winter, and they’re wearing thing.  And short.  She’s sprouted a bit in the last couple months so that nearly all her 4T dresses (which is nearly everything!) are too short.  So Brian’s mom scoured the secondhand store clearance racks and found a few dresses to get us through to spring.  But, like I said in October, looks like I should ONLY be buying her dresses, and specifically ones that TWIRL, in 5T when the consignment sales start next month!  The fashion dilemmas of a 4 year-old girl… I can only imagine the issues we’ll have down the road!

Posted in Parenting | 2 Comments »

This is very good…

26th January 2009

So I just read this amazing post by one of my favorite bloggers ever (her personal blog is Rocks in my Dryer).   She just gets it… this joyful, exhausting, overwhelming, huge responsibility of being a Mom.  She gets it, and she knows how to communicate it.

I’m not sure I was fully aware, back then, how incredibly taxing those days were. I operated much of the time in survival mode, buzzing between a pediatrician visit to a botched bedtime to a temper tantrum to an explosive diaper (or three). And I loved it – make no mistake. For all the exhaustion, there were many times that were so precious they did (and still do) take my breath away. But the intensity of the demands had me bouncing back and forth constantly between joy and discouragement, wonder and fear. I remember feeling guilty, sometimes, knowing there would never be a sweeter season in my life, so why was it that I sometimes just wanted everyone to go to sleep already?  (Quoted from

I read this just this evening, and it moved me to tears.  Seriously… this is where I’m at most days.  And she continues at the end of her post (which you really must read!), to say that after all is said and done we will think, “this is very good”.    And today of all days, I had a glimpse of that.

We were busy all day, out and about doing things, enjoying each other, having fun.  Analise was in rare good form today… very sweet, obedient, not whiney or teary, full of grace… the girl I know she can be.  Josiah was bouncy and playful, sweet and charming.  And I enjoyed my kids today.  It was balm to my sometimes beat-up Mommy ego that is constantly fighting  with tantrums, colds, diapers, cracker crumbs, rundown trains and tears.   I know this calling as a Mom is awesome and holy and full of great rewards (another fantastic post),  but today was a much needed glimpse of those rewards.   And at the end of the day, this post (quoted above) wrapped it up for me.

Posted in Links, Parenting | 1 Comment »

Buns in the oven… no really! Hamburger buns!

25th January 2009

Ok, I chuckled about this title all afternoon.   Forgive me if it lead you to believe anything else!

I know it might sound crazy, but I made my own hamburger buns on Friday.  A couple friends had tried this amazing recipe, and promised it was easy and worth the effort.  So decided nervously to try it out, and let me tell you… I may NEVER buy buns from the store again!  These are so good.  And SO EASY!  I’ll post the recipe fromKing Arthur Flour (the only flour I use – it’s awesome!), and the post a few of my notes.  Again I say… these are so worth the small effort!!


* 3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1 large egg
* 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 1 tablespoon instant yeast


1) Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer, or bread machine—to make a soft, smooth dough.

2) Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s doubled in bulk.

3) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round 1″ thick (more or less); flatten to about 3″ across. Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until very puffy.

4) If desired, brush buns with melted butter. Or brush lightly with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

5) Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, till golden. Cool on a rack.

Notes from Kristine

  • I mixed my dough in the KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook.
  • Because it’s dry here right now, I used the full 1 cup of water.  I had to add about a half-tablespoon of extra flour to get the dough soft and smooth (it was grainy and sticky).
  • I let it rise for about 1hr 15 minutes, and it still didn’t seem to have quite doubled.
  • I floured my surface, dumped it out and formed it into a log (more notes on this on the actual recipe page from King Arthur Flour). I used a piece of dental floss to cut the dough, and my pieces came out a little misformed, but that isn’t a big deal to me 🙂
  • I used the “proofing oven” idea from the recipe reviews (heat a glass measuring cup of water for a couple minutes in the microwave, and put it in the cold oven with the dough to rise).  My buns didn’t seem to rise very much, but we were in a hurry to get dinner done, so we baked them anyway.
  • They still turned out delicious, beautifully golden, and I honestly had 2 for dinner, one for breakfast and another for lunch yesterday!
  • The recipe reviews also say you can sub 2 c King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour (which I use often!) for 2 c. of the all-purpose, you can use EggBeaters, or you can even sub honey for the sugar.

Ok, leave me a note if you try them!  I promise… I’m not an accomplished baker.  Anyone can do these!

Posted in What's Cookin' | No Comments »

Creative Mommy Moments!

25th January 2009

Ok, I know most of you think I’m creative, but I get my creative ideas from all kinds of great blogs.  I spend too much time on the internet (gasp!  the first step to recovery is admitting it…), but I’m trying to redeem that by putting into action the cool things I find (which at the moment, are collected into a HUGE list of bookmarks in FireFox).   So here are a few good moments from this past week…

It’s January, so of course, it’s a good time to be celebrating (or dreaming about!) snowmen.  So I made Analise and Josiah these cute and yummy snowmen milkshakes.  I just realized mine weren’t quite the same as the blog, but here’s where I claim creative liberty.   And yes, Analise is dressed as Cinderella 🙂


Lauren and Anna came over to play on Thursday.  I made snacktime and mealtime more interesting with a muffin tin.  They LOVED it!  I might serve more meals in muffin tins.  I even gave the kids fun little fruit picks for spearing their food and dipping.

Snacktime with strawberries, grapes, graham snacks, yogurt and whipped cream for dipping.

Snacktime with strawberries, grapes, graham snacks, yogurt and whipped cream for dipping.


Lunchtime with hotdogs, grilled cheese, chips, ketchup, carrots and ranch dip.

Posted in Links, Parenting | No Comments »


25th January 2009

From my last post… Jane and I (mostly Jane!) made these beautiful silhouettes from a tutorial here.  Not a great picture, but I think they turned out lovely.  They are missing the “E” (on the left) and the “A” (on the right), because she’s waiting for me to send gold paint…  I’ve got everything to do a set of my two kiddos, as well, and now I’m motivated to get at it!

Silhouettes of Jane's little girls

Silhouettes of Jane's little girls

Posted in Links, Nicaragua | 2 Comments »

Nicaragua Reflections

22nd January 2009

**Ok, I started this blog nearly a week ago, and it’s getting longer and longer, so I’m thinking I should post now and add more as I get more thoughts together.  So for those of you who are still checking our blog… enjoy!**

I’ve had more than a week now to get caught up (not that I’ll ever be!) and process my thoughts (still thinking!).  Because my amazing hubby did such a fantastic job posting pictures during our trip, it’s the least I can do to chime in with my thoughts about all things related to Nicaragua.  Warning… they are a jumbled lot!  I’ll try to bring some order, though, through my editing.

“How was your trip?” I love hearing this question.  It brings a huge smile to my face to have people remember what we were doing and want to know how it was.   And my first answer is, “Amazing.”  It was an amazing trip.  It was overwhelming and scary to have God lay it on our heart to make this trip happen at a time when finances were very tight for our family.  It was humbling to see Him provide through our friends and family in the middle of the Christmas season and financial uncertainty.  It was awesome to take my family and Abigail back to the country and people who are so dear to my heart.  It was awesome to see how God has continued His amazing work that I had the privilege of being a part of nearly 6 years ago.    It was an adventure to see Nicaragua through the eyes of Analise, Josiah and Abigail.

“Glad to be home?” It’s wonderful to be seeing everyone back here in Alabama, and quite often, this is one of the first things people say.  Yes, I am glad to be back in my home, in my own space, letting the kids entertain themselves and make as much noise as they want (both things we struggled with in our small hotel room with two very busybody kids!).  But in all honesty, I’m not 100% happy to be home.  I love Nicaragua… I love the culture and the language.  I love the people.  I’ve become very accustomed to the way of life there, so the weak tepid showers don’t bother me.  The heat wears me out, but it’s part of life.  I do like my air conditioning, but I can manage without it.  I love the work I’ve been involved in there, and if God were to call us back there to call it “home”, we’d follow Him without question.  But for now, our place is here in Alabama, and we’re challenged to keep His work there at the forefront of our hearts and minds from a distance.

Mom Fellowship One of my favorite parts of our time in Nicaragua was visiting with my friend, Jane.  We keep in close touch over email, and with 2 little ones at similar ages, we joke about our “parallel mom worlds”.  She has a different setting, but we face similar issues with potty-training, tantrums, and picky eaters.  We both enjoyed seeing our little ones together, and we had lots of time to talk about all kinds of mom things.  We even had 2 fun evenings after the kids were in bed for crafting.  One evening we made hairbows… I think we made 14 of them!  Another evening, we made beautiful silhouettes of Jane’s girls (pictures to come!).   It was fun sharing daily life in Nicaragua and getting a glimpse of what her side of the “parallel mom world” looks like.  I have new prayers for her… from 7:50 to 8:15am as the three of them navigate the 4 blocks of crazy streets, dangerous sidewalks, and crowded corners on their way to preschool; again at lunchtime as they go home; nightly bathtime (we can slide by every couple days here, but you get dusty and dirty EVERY day in Nicaragua); early morning wakeups from random fireworks and churchbells.  And on top of raising two beautiful girls in a different culture and language (which they are learning SUPER fast!), she plays a huge part in supporting Andrew’s direction of the work of Nuevas Esperanzas and managing the accounting.  Whew!  She – and my other mom friends on the frontlines of missions work – are SuperMoms, in my eyes!

Las Discipulas Bellas When I first arrived in Nicaragua in September 2001, one of the first things I was asked to help with was a Bible Study for teenage girls.  I was very hesitant.  I felt like I didn’t really know how to connect with that age, let alone in my second language!  But I started meeting with these girls every Saturday morning.  Our group grew larger and larger, and our topics got deeper and more practical for their lives.  And my Spanish got better and better 🙂  I called them my “Discipulas Bellas”, my beautiful disciples.  They grew in grace and stature with God, and week after week I was blessed to be a part of their lives.

Saying goodbye in March of 2003 was one of the hardest parts of leaving.  I wasn’t sure who would continue to meet with them.  What would happen to them?  But my dear friend Claudia took over for a long time, continuing pouring into their lives.  And then a young woman I met in California after Brian and I were married, Michelle, decided to go to Nicaragua for several months.  She stepped in as Claudia left, and she grew to love the girls as I had.  I gave her photos of our wedding and our new little baby girl to share with the girls.  When she came back to the US, I again wondered what would happen to them.  But God continued His good work… Through Michele, I heard of another young woman from another ministry who had stepped in to continue the discipleship.  Though she has since gone, someone else has continued the weekly Bible study, though at this point, it’s with almost a completely different group of girls..

It’s been nearly 6 years since I said goodbye to my Beautiful Disciples, and one thing I looked forward to most was reuniting with them.  I went back to their village wondering if I would find any of them.  After lots of knocking and asking, we came to the right house, and the reunion was tearful and sweet.  Marjorie is nearly 22, and she will be finishing her university degree in psychology this year.  What an accomplishment from a family who’s lives were devastated in the mudslides of Hurricane Mitch 10 years ago!   She has even gone on a mission trip to Honduras with her church!  Her sister, Kenia, is starting at the university next month.  Yubelka is in her last year of secondary school.  They have grown into beautiful young women.  It’s amazing and humbling… such a testimony to God’s faithfulness.  And a poignant much-needed reminder that it is not US who works, but God who works through us.  Our efforts, no matter how large or small, are in His all-powerful hands.  Seeing these grown-up girls was like a glimpse of heaven for me.

(to be continued as I continue processing…)

Posted in Nicaragua | No Comments »

The best of the rest

13th January 2009

Here is a gallery of pictures that I missed in going through the photos in earlier postings … we took 935 photos and videos on the trip so you can see how easy it is to miss a few good ones!!!

Posted in Nicaragua | 2 Comments »

Pictures from the trip home

13th January 2009

We are home and settling in – I am already busy with a number of work projects – the kids are already busy playing with as many different toys that they can find – I’ve resized and edited a number of pictures from our trip home and posted them in a gallery below with captions. Later today or tomorrow, I will make one last picture post with some of the best pictures from our trip that I somehow missed in earlier posts!

Posted in Nicaragua | 2 Comments »

¡Hasta Luego, Nicaragua!

10th January 2009

Two weeks come and gone in what seems like only a day or two. I am writing from El Camino Real, a nice hotel near the airport in Managua, Nicaragua. Our flight out tomorrow is at 8:25AM, but the lines can be long getting to the ticket counter to check bags and then even longer to make it through security. We don’t want to chance missing the flight so we have come down the night before and said our good-byes to everyone today.

Andrew, Jane, and I had a great, productive conference call with Luke and Stephanie about the Nuevas Esperanzas website – I believe we have a good plan to make the site easier to update and yet still be configurable to the desired look/feel. My role over the next couple weeks will be to migrate the existing site to the new WordPress format and help customize the layout/design to incorporate the header images designed by Stephanie.

Kristine met her friend Xiomara to say goodbye and she gave Kristine a very cool parting gift. I tried to work on a computer for our friends Mike and Marie with Food for the Hungry, but I ran out of time to finish everything. I was able to give them the bike I had bought here, and I believe Mike had mentioned giving it to somebody they knew who needed transportation to/from work. Hopefully that will work out!

We met our taxi driver, Enrique, and I had an awesome opportunity to talk with him about everything from church, to politics, to how everyone in America is too busy (including us) – all of this was in Spanish, too. It was the most meaningful conversation I have had in Spanish ever I believe.

OK – that’s it from Nicaragua – next time we write it will probably be from the Miami airport at some point during our 6 hour layover there if we can find wireless internet.

Here is a glimpse of our day today in pictures.

Posted in Nicaragua | 1 Comment »