Thursday, December 31, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Important January Dates For Poland

photo credit: Boneco de neve via photopin (license)
January isn't a huge month for holidays in Poland, but there are a couple worth noting. January is also a VERY cold month for Poland with an average of 26 degrees (burrrrrr!). If you are traveling during January or planning to be in Poland during January, wear plenty of warm clothes. Snowboots anyone?

Here's all the important Polish dates for January:

Click here for December's dates.

Click here for February's dates.

For a complete list of important dates by month for Poland, click here.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

photo credit: Fixing the Lights via photopin (license)
(yea, we're nerds!)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Looking for a Healthier Christmas Meal?

Poland has one of the healthiest Christmas Eve meals in all of Europe. Check this article out!

2015 Update on our Family

photo credit: Christmas Mantle via photopin (license)
To Our Family and Friends,

What a fun year 2015 has brought to our household! We celebrated our second year with Smalls this November. Wow! Two years she has been home. The time feels like it has flown by, and has gone slow at the same time, if that makes sense? We are constantly learning how to be a family. Each week is a new week for our family. In July, we made the decision to join a church closer to our home. It was a hard decision because we had been at our other church for over 7 years! It was bittersweet. We hope this update gives you a recap of what life has been life for our family this year.

Update on Wes and Sarai
Wes is in his fourth year of graduate school at Tulane University. We can see the finish line! Wes is currently working on publishing his research and continuing his research endeavors. His favorite past times this year include watching Mississippi State football, coding, and running. That's right-running. Wes has been running 3-4 times a week. His goal is to run 9 miles each week.

Sarai continues her part time work at a local pediatric office here in New Orleans. She is still learning how to homeschool Smalls during the weekdays. Sarai also started a special needs homeschooling group among our homeschooling community. Sarai's favorite past times have been blogging, putting together puzzles, and getting together with friends over coffee.

Update on Smalls
This has been another challenging year for Smalls. She got to experience a lot of "firsts". Smalls learned how to swim this summer. It was a difficult task but she overcame a lot of her fears. More recently, she has learned how to skate, which is her new favorite hobby. She is in the 2nd grade and her favorite subject is Science. Smalls still continues to struggle with school, but she is learning that it can be fun.

Update on Merlin
Merlin is doing really well for a house cat. He is getting so lazy. He is still very cautious about Smalls. He doesn't like the way she plays with him. Merlin's new favorite hobby is watching Mojo, our gerbil. He can't wait for the day when Mojo escapes his cage. If Merlin isn't lounging in front of the door watching for birds, he is guarding Mojo's cage.

Merry Christmas from us to you!

Friday, December 18, 2015

January 2016 Meal Plan

photo credit: Garden Quad Trees with Benches via photopin (license)
Happy New Year!


1. Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins (I love these!)
2. Slow Cooker Blueberry French Toast
3. Pancakes with fruit
4. Sausage breakfast muffins
5. Bacon and Green Onion Quiche
6. Breakfast Casserole
7. Oatmeal or Cereal
8. Eggs, bacon and toast
9. Baked Oatmeal Muffins
10. Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes


1. Leftovers
2. Sandwiches (pb&j, pb&honey, pb&nutella, grilled cheese, lunch meat & cheese)
3. Tabbouleh
4. Tuna Salad Sandwiches/Salad
5. PB and Banana Roll Up
6. Pita Pizza
7. La Madeleine's Tomato Basil Soup and Pasta Salad
8. Copy Cat Chick-fil-a nuggets with Chick-fil-a sauce  and store bought waffle fries

(please take note of all the salads!)

1. Cranberry Spinach Salad (add grilled chicken)
2. Mexican Bean Salad with yellow rice
3. Hamburgers with roasted veggies
4. Holiday Chicken Salad over Kale/Spinach
5. Cobb Salad
6. Shepherd's Pie with veggies
7. Winter Solstice Soup with baguette
8. Butternut and Apple Harvest Soup with salad and roll
9. Almost Chick-fil-A Chicken Noodle Soup
10. Pizza Casserole with salad
11. Slow Cooker Roasted Chicken with veggies and roll
12. King Ranch Chicken Casserole with salad
13. Spinach Quiche w/ crust
14. Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings
15. Slow Cooker Cajun Chicken Spaghetti with salad
16. Slow Cooker Dirty Rice with salad
17. Zaxby's Chicken Fingers with sauce and fries (let's take a break from salads!)
18. Slow Cooker Chicken Lo Mein (Kung Fu Panda Movie Night!)
19. Slow Cooker Lasagna with salad
20. Black Bean Chili with baked potatoes
21-31. Eat leftovers, at church, and date night.

(once a week)

1. Snowman Soup
2. Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Pie Dip
3. Snowman Pudding Cups
4. Snowman Fruit
5. King Cake (for December 6th-Epiphany)
6. For mom: Gingerbread Latte

Here's a grocery list printable that you could use to write down what you need to buy from the store!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Encouragement for Christian Adoptive Parents who need Strength in a Time of Despair

Yesterday I shared some struggles that we have been having with Smalls. It has been a very hard road to adopt an older child with special needs, harder than I ever could imagine. I have seen more negative behaviors from one tiny human than I have seen from 10 big humans. It is saddening to me to see the hurt and pain that Smalls is going through. Her behavior affects the whole family. I am slowly learning to not let my daughter's behavior affect me spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I need to be stable for my family and I am slowly learning how to do that. I think this is a lesson that I will continue to learn throughout my life.

This morning I was listening to a great sermon by our former pastor. Click here for link. It was exactly what I needed to hear this week. Pastor Chip has a couple of main points that I wrote down. They were a huge encouragement for me in this difficult time and might be encouraging for you too.

Text: Joshua 1
Background: Joshua takes over after Moses died. This was a hard time for the Israelites. This was a time of despair (sounds like me right now and maybe you too). They had just lost their leader, who brought them out of slavery. God tells Joshua to go over the Jordan and into the land that He has for Israel. God does not tell Joshua about the river being flooded during this time of year or any other trial/tribulation that he will face by obeying Him. He just tells him to go.

God tells Joshua 3 very important truths that he can know during this difficult time:
  1. Joshua can know that God is the Author of his life. Joshua had seen God's work and power all throughout Exodus because he was Moses' assistant (Joshua 1:1). God told Moses to commission Joshua as the next Israelite leader (Num. 27:18). 
  2. Joshua can know that God will be with him. He can have the assurance of God's presence (Joshua 1:5).
  3. Joshua can know the Word of God. God's Word will make us prosperous (Joshua 1:8). Prosperous does not mean money or a nice house, but a life that is well spent for God's glory.
At the end of the sermon, Pastor Chip gives 7 Biblical passages on how you can know God is your strength:
  1. Psalm 139. God is the Author of my life. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
  2. Matthew 1:23. God is with me. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel (which means, God with us).
  3. Ephesians 1:13-14. We have the Holy Spirit. He gives us the assurance of God's presence with us. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
  4. Philippians 2:13. God is working in me. For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
  5. Psalm 1. God is life and I will prosper in Him. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
  6. 1 Peter 4:10-11. God supplies my abilities. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorifies through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
  7. Joshua 2 and 3. We should obey God and His commands to us. Joshua was commanded in chapter 1 to go into the land that God has promised (Joshua 1:2-4). In chapter 2, Joshua obeys and sends two spies into Jericho. In chapter 3, Joshua crosses the Jordan.
God told us to go and adopt a little girl named Smalls. He did not tell us all of the details about her neglect or her behavioral problems. We got some information before we said yes to the referral, but we did not get any specific details on what our life would be like after we had adopted her. We did see happy pictures of adoptive families. We did hear the "happy endings" from adoptive families. Subconsciously, I thought that would be us-one big happy family. We listened to God and our lives are suppose to be easier, right? No, that could be further from the truth and is a lie. We must obey God no matter the costs. God will give us the strength to get through the hard times. He will be our happy ending and we will have that one big happy family when He comes back.

I don't know where you are in your adoption. You might just be starting out or have been home with your child(ren) for years. No matter the ups or the downs, God will always be with you. You can have assurance in His presence and in His Word.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Loving a child who doesn't like you is very hard

We have had one of the worst weeks with Smalls last week. My brain is fried! I really don't know how we are still going. Last week was awful. It's hard to love someone when they are far from being thankful or even wants a relationship with you.

Smalls was in our church's Christmas play. She had one line. We have been practicing with her on that one line since September. This past Sunday, December 13, was the Christmas play, so naturally she tried to sabotage the whole thing. It started on the Sunday before the play, December 6th. She sabotaged that day with her behavior. I should have known at that point that the coming week was going to be a dark week for us. Monday and Tuesday were not too bad. We still had some behavioral issues, but it was manageable. Then comes, Wednesday. Honest moment here...I cried the entire day. Smalls has been doing terrible in school, not progressing like she should. She has an attachment disorder, not diagnosed, but the mother-child relationship is really hard for her. I homeschool her so that adds another relationship that she has to connect with me on. I think she is doing poorly in school, on purpose because I'm her teacher. On Wednesday, Smalls acted out in the worst way. She fought everything I did with her. She was not helpful, distant, and completely hateful towards me. Since we couldn't do school together, we had an 8 hour time in. She did nothing but sit beside me the whole day. She was not regulated and couldn't even process the words that I was saying to her. When she would calm down enough for me to talk to her, I would ask her to tell me how she is feeling, what she is thinking about, etc... And then she would get back into her rage. It was a constant back and forth. She was using her behavior to get out of going to her last rehearsal for the Christmas play. I'm not falling for that trick. I couldn't wait to drop her off at the rehearsal to get a break from her! As mean or ugly that sounds, it was how I felt on Wednesday afternoon.

Wes and I attended the prayer meeting, which consisted of us being the "prayer time hoggers"-you know those people! The ones that dominate the prayer time with all of their personal problems. After the meeting we went to pick up Smalls.

The worst is yet to come...

The teacher tells all the children in her group to come at 4:30 on the following Sunday for the very last rehearsal before the play. I asked Smalls what time she need to be there and Smalls told me 39 (umm...that's not a real time?). I informed Smalls that 39 is not a time and she needed to go ask the teacher what time she needed to be there. The teacher told us to come at 5:30 (30 minutes before the play) unless she could behave herself and not be disruptive, then she could come at 4:30 like the other kids in her group. I felt like I just got punched in the stomach again! I had no idea Smalls had been disruptive. I left church balling in tears. How could this be? I have done everything in my power to teach her respect and obedience and it still isn't enough.

I can't take any more abuse from Smalls. I need to figure out a way to be Smalls' mom and not lose my sanity in the process. If anyone has gone down this road before me, please give me some advice. I can't cry everyday, that's not healthy or normal parenting!

We continue on the week with ups and downs. Thursday and Friday went ok. Saturday went extremely well. Smalls was a happy 10 year old.

And then Sunday...The day of the play has finally arrived.

Smalls refused to get out of bed and get ready for Sunday morning church. Her behavior was extreme again. We couldn't reason with her. All we could do is make sure she didn't hurt herself, others or property. It's hard trying to get ready for church when a child is raging! We want to be connecting to her during her behavioral issues but it was very hard to maintain self control, for me at least. I just wanted to lock her in her room and go to church without her. Wes is very good at showing patience. He can look so calm and cool but on the inside he is loosing it. I can't do that. I show my emotions immediately. We were a little late for church, but we, all three of us, made it! We attended the morning service, ate, and then went home.

I decided that we were not going to the early rehearsal at 4:30 because you can not be logical with an illogical person. We showed up at 5:30 and Smalls refused to get on stage. I sat her in my arms rocking her like a baby. We had regressed that far. The teacher wondered why Smalls wasn't up on the stage like the rest of the children. I don't think she knew about where Smalls has come from or where she started in life. I made sure that the children's minister and her Sunday school teacher knew about Smalls' beginnings with a letter about some of the details. Next time I'm just going to print this letter out for every adult who is teaching Smalls. After 20 minutes of talking to Smalls about getting up on the stage with the other kids, she took the plunge and did it. She said her line the best she could and she did great. After it was over, she said she had so much fun and she can't wait to do it next year. Secretly, I was thinking "over my dead body, we are never doing this again".

Sunday night came and we put Smalls into bed and I crashed on my bed. I was completely exhausted from all of the torture. A kid who has gone through trauma does not just "have an temper tantrum or a meltdown". Kids from the hard places have extreme rages that can not be dealt with logically. You can't just give them some candy to calm them down. And this is why I have so much gray hair now!

This week has been a little better. We are still having some issues, but they are manageable. I am praying that I learn how to be a parent to Smalls without losing or letting it take a toll on my physical and emotional well being. Smalls needs me to be there for her but she also needs me to not let her behavior affect my well being.

So loving a child who doesn't like you or wants to love you is very hard....and it makes me cry (a lot).

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Feast of the Three Kings in Poland

photo credit: El Roscon Project 365 Day 339 via photopin (license)
Here are some helpful links about the Feast of the Three Kings in Poland or Trzech Kroli. It happens on January 6th every year, which is 12 days after Christmas. If you are going to be in Poland during this time, remember all shops will be closed on this day in observance, so buy your groceries beforehand!

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

And don't forget about my favorite King cake recipe to make for this day!

Letter to Smalls' Teachers

Here's a letter that we wrote to all of Smalls' teachers back in August. I forgot to share it back then...

Dear Teachers,

Thank you so much for investing in the lives of our children. Having a great teacher, like you, is a treasure to parents like myself. We really appreciate all the wonderful things you teach our little ones. You know not all children are the same. Each child has a unique history, some great and some unfortunately not so great. My daughter’s history is on the unfortunately not so great side. She has been with us for 2 years now. She has grown tremendously, both physically and emotionally. We still have lots of challenges that we face with her. I do want to let you be aware of some of the difficulties she may have in your class. 

Trauma- She was in an abusive foster house for almost 8 years of her life. She might be defensive when someone touches her when she doesn’t want them to. She is learning to use words instead of behavior. You may need to remind her to use words and not her behavior. 

Fear of Abandonment- This is a scary thing for her that most kids, fortunately, don’t need to worry about. She is constantly thinking that mom and dad might not come and pick her up after Sunday school is over. Please reassure her that her mommy and daddy love her very much and will not leave her. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder- She doesn’t know appropriate boundaries for proper hugging and kissing. You might think it’s cute that she wants to sit in your lap or hug all over you, but she is trying to “win” your love. She doesn’t know that is not the way to get attention. We are constantly teaching her physical boundaries and each person has a space bubble and you have to ask permission to get inside their invisible space bubble. 

Anxiety- Her brain can’t relax like others. She has trouble letting loose and having fun. She may need lots of encouragement or a buddy to help her. 

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)- Because of the neglect earlier in her life, her brain cannot process language the way it’s supposed to. She may be disruptive in class because she can not follow along like other children. You may have to give her individual instruction in a big classroom setting while making eye contact and asking her to repeat back what you just asked her to do. Also speaking slowly with fewer words will help her to process what you need from her faster. 

Speech delay- Because of APD, she cannot pronounce words correctly because she can’t hear them correctly. Ask her to speak slowly with confidence and no mumbling. When she gets frustrated because she can't articulate what she wants to say, you can tell her that "you want to hear what she has to say and to take a deep breath and relax". 

Sensory Processing Disorder- Again, from the earlier neglect in her life, her body cannot process touch the way you and I can. When she was a baby, no one gave her healthy touch. She may squeeze you extra hard when she gives you a hug. Let her know that is too hard and to be gentle. Your touch, as light as a feather it may be, will feel like a punch to her. If you touch her on her back and she flinches, it’s because she can’t handle touch at the moment. Another issue she may have is noise. The sound of the flickering of the lights may drive her bonkers. Her brain will focus on that one sound and will tune out all the rest, more important information (like when the teacher is giving instructions). 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)- Now this is the big one. Her birth mom chose to drink alcohol while being pregnant with her. This is something my daughter is learning to live and cope with.  It is a form of brain damage that Smalls will have for the rest of her life. Please see the attachment on the ABC’s of FASD.

At home, we are also doing everything that we can to teach Smalls about what is acceptable and what is not. Some of her behaviors may seem like she is not being disciplined at home or that her parents are not involved in her behaviors. I want to assure you we are constantly teaching and redirecting our daughter's behaviors.

If you have any questions about any of this information, please contact me. I will be happy to go over it with you. If you have any issues with my daughter in your class, or if she can’t handle being with other kids, please come get me. During Bible teaching, I have my phone out where I can see if someone needs to contact me about Smalls.

I want to thank you for helping to teach Smalls. You are a big part of helping to take care of “the orphan”, although Smalls is no longer an orphan because she has a mom and dad that loves and takes care of her now. You are helping us in reaching her with the Gospel, which is a task that we do not take lightly.

In addition to helping to take care of an orphan, you are taking part in international missions. My daughter came from Poland, one of the most unreached nations in the world. Although Poland is predominantly Catholic, less than .3% is evangelical. There are more missionaries in Saudi Arabia than in Poland. That’s crazy! You are bringing the Gospel to an unreached nation by teaching my daughter. I pray that my daughter will one day become a missionary to her home country.

I realize that this is a lot of information, but I want you to know that you play a special role in sharing the Gospel to my daughter. Thank you so much for your service to our little ones.

Wes and Sarai Barnett
email address
phone number

4th Grade Worksheets

Friday, December 4, 2015

3 Kings Cake: My Favorite King Cake Recipe

The day of the Epiphany is coming up in January. January 6th to be exact. It is 12 days after Christmas. In Poland it is known as Trzech Króli, or 3 Kings Day. Living in New Orleans, everyone around here talks about Mardi Gras. You can't go anywhere for 5 minutes without seeing something about Mardi Gras. We also have a mini-celebration on January 6th, although it is not as big as Poland's. During this time, everyone is bringing King Cakes to work, parties, and get togethers. You can't go a whole week without seeing or taking a bite out of King Cake until Mardi Gras is over. If you've never tried King Cake, then you need to make this recipe that I'm about to show you.

I want to share with you all my absolutely favorite recipe! I got this recipe from one of the pediatric doctors that I work for. It isn't a "traditional" king cake recipe because of the almond extract, but this ingredient makes it taste so much better!

photo credit: King Cake via photopin (license)

King Cake Recipe

Dough:                                                                Icing:
1/4 cup milk                                                        2 cups powder sugar
3 eggs, beaten                                                     3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla                                                        1 tsp almond extract
splash of almond extract
2 2/3 cup bread flour
5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
10 tbsp butter, melted
Cinnamon Sugar

In a bread maker put milk, eggs, vanilla, almond, flour, sugar, salt and yeast (in that order). Put on dough setting. When finished, roll dough out and spread melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll into a twist and place on pan with parchment paper. You can add water to the ends to get the dough to stick in an oval shape. Let rise for 30 minutes. (I usually put the dough in the oven on warm to rise.) Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let cool. Hide the baby underneath the cake.

Icing: Mix icing ingredients together and pour over cooled cake.

Optional: Sprinkle green, yellow and purple sprinkles over icing for that classic king cake look.

This picture was take 2 years ago! Can you believe it? It felt like it has gone by so fast and slow at the same time. It was so cold and rainy that day but we persevered for our beads and toys! Thank you Krewe of Rex!

10 FREE Things to do in Krakow

Wednesday, December 2, 2015