Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fun find: Organized Home

This could just be me, but I have a horrible time getting and staying organized. I WANT to have it all together, have systems for everything, but I don't.

I DO have general routines, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Especially in the area of meal planning.

So yesterday I stumbled onto this website. TONS of free printables--shopping lists, weekly to-do's, daily to-do's, menu plan...just lots of stuff. Plus articles and tips about organization.

I love me some free resources. I'll definitely be using some of these! (Click on Household Notebook for most of the printable pages, or scroll down for other choices.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To be a mom

This is me and my kids on Mother's Day.
I am so blessed.
I've given birth to three beautiful daughters.
And adopted two handsome sons.

Mothering is amazing, and so incredibly rewarding.

Don't get me wrong. Not all of parenthood is happy or easy. The last few days for example I've felt especially frustrated by various things. I'm tired. Kevin didn't get home from work until after 7 pm, and sweet man that he is he made the kids dinner. Truth be told I always feel a bit defeated at the end of a day like today. Not much was accomplished. Assorted kid issues. Including a pair of broken eye-glasses. Bad attitudes all the way around. (Yes including, or especially, mine.) ADHD stuff...potentially a series of blogposts all its own.

Somehow I know it's all part of the deal. God isn't content to leave me the way I am. He wants to build my character and that involves sacrifice. It HAS to. But, it's not always fun. And I don't mean crazy hard "my life is so tough" sacrifice, because I have it really, really good. I just mean the sacrifice found in the daily grind of meal prep, sweeping, discipline, nighttime feedings. Parenting a child with ADHD.

At heart I'm basically an optimist. Even when I want to crawl into a hole and take a long nap and not wake up until everyone can tie their own shoes and get their own lunch, I know I am blessed beyond measure. I love being a mama to these five little ones.

And I have to tell you that my not-so-great day ended with a pretty great night. After the kids finished dinner I got them all bathed, had some great, positive interaction with each of them, and they tidied up their rooms. I was able to get a bunch of dishes done, Kevin cleaned up dinner...then we capped off the night with Seinfeld and ice cream. I love that God can redeem a stressful day with just a few hours of joy and love. My kids went to bed with happy hearts, and now I will, too.

To be a mom is to live with this tension that is the mess of every day life. So I'll choose to look forward to tomorrow and whatever redemptive miracles God may bring amidst sibling squabbles, lost toys, and spilled milk.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A day at the farm

A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit a nearby horsefarm that was holding an open house--a BBQ, hayrides, animals to feed, and horserides! We all had such a great time. Kevin's aunt (shown above with Anna and Yosef) leases a horse at the farm and invited us. We had a great afternoon and the kids LOVED it! It was their first horseride ever, and when I asked Anna if she was scared at all she looked up at me and said "Nope, not one bit. I just loved it!"

Kaitlyn did NOT want to ride alone. She wanted to ride with Kevin. The entire morning though she had been saying she was too scared to ride at all, that she would just watch. So I'm really glad she got on the horse, because she had such a great time!

Biniam of course had a blast. (He has a ton of fun in life, no doubt about it.) Note Kaitlyn's helmet in this picture...she can't even see! Ha!

Yosef was awesome! He was so handsome and confident!

Sweet Anna was just so delighted to be riding her first horse. Nonstop smiling. She would have ridden all day, if she could have!

Feeding the goats.

Here's me and Mary making friends with a horse. I've always loved, loved, loved horses. They are so incredibly beautiful. I don't know if you know this about me, but I grew up in a (very) rural community where there were a lot of ranchers and a lot of horses. I always thought it would be so neat to own a horse, although I never did. I was able to ride at a friend's house though and I loved it.

Having been raised around animals and such, I love visiting farms and fairs and it always makes me feel a bit nostalgic for my childhood. It's been 11 years since I left my small hometown and it's such a treat to get out of the city and do something like this--especially because my kids love it so much too.

So a huge thanks to Sharon and Tom for a fabulous outing!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sienna the house

Saturday afternoon I took my children out for 99-cent rootbeer floats at A&W.

Kevin had been out of town at a church men's retreat up in the mountains. Which left me here to face single-parenthood for the weekend. I do not like being a single mom. I DO like being married, I love spending time with my husband, and it's hard when he goes away because I'm on my own with five children 24/7. Waaaahhhhhh! (So glad he got to go away though. I'm also proud because he led the music for the retreat.)

So, I try to incorporate a fun outing or two into our time-without-Daddy together. To keep us all sane and break up the day.

Hence the rootbeer floats, for which I'd just seen a commercial declaring they were a mere 99 cents. Who can pass that up? (We also attempted visiting the thrift store--half-off on Saturdays!--but there were no open parking spaces and I was too lazy to find somewhere else to park. Darn.)

We'd gone for a drive and dropped into an A&W in a suburb called Centennial. As we were sitting at our booth devouring our treats, a man walked in wearing a cowboy hat, boots and jeans, and he had three girls with him, probably around 10 or 11 years old. They also appeared to have been doing outdoorsy things.

The "restaurant" (does anyone else feel weird calling a fast food establishment a restaurant?) was nearly empty--too late for lunch, too early for dinner. (Just right for root beer floats though.) Yet for some reason these people decided to sit RIGHT next to us. In an otherwise empty room full of tables and booths. Maybe this doesn't seem bothersome to you but it is JUST the sort of thing that makes me nervous and uncomfortable.

I was in the midst of feeding Mary when the group came and sat down. And let's just get this out of the way: I breastfeed in public, and am quite comfortable doing so. I have one of these nursing cover thingies that I use sometimes (and sometimes I don't), and I was using it today. Anyway, the man says hello to my kids, they say hello back. He asks if they're having root beer floats, they say yes. THEN he says something about how Mary was eating too, and having her lunch.

I have to tell you that as nonplussed as I am about nursing my seven-month-old in a public place, I didn't really want to TALK about it with the middle-aged cowboy at the nearby table. But that's okay, he was nice enough.

It was at this point when he said I had my hands full.
Then he asked if I had five carseats. an awestruck voice...
"What kind of CAR do you have?"
Just a minivan, I told him. (While desperately wishing I had not LEFT my minivan. Because I would not have had this trouble if we'd utilized the drive-thru. Sticky, spilled rootbeer and ice cream all over my car, yes. But awkward comments from strangers, no. I'll take the mess.)

But there's more. Because he immediately says,
"More like a mini BUS."

What??!! I honestly had no clue what to say. So I just said, no, it's really just a regular minivan. I SHOULD have told him all about how it's actually my Swagger Wagon. But whatever. (Where my kids at?)

I'm honestly thinking about taking my family and joining the circus. That, or buying a t-shirt that reads,
"I'm a socially anxious introvert who prefers to avoid awkward conversation at all costs."

(Please know that I'm actually a pretty nice person, I just get uncomfortable when strangers are scrutinizing me and my kids. If you were to run into me in a public place and strike up a nice, positive conversation, I'd enjoy it.)

Ironically, when the man and the girls first came inside, he was frustrated with one of them for how they were acting. He gave her a lecture on "etiquette."

Hmmmm. I think I hear crickets.

I roll hard through the streets and the cul-de-sacs...(but not in a bus. It's a Sienna!)


Friday, May 21, 2010

When you have four older siblings

Mary Lucille is one of five.
She is the baby, the youngest in our crazy family.

Some might assume that the fifth child would get lost in the shuffle, or that she might have a hard time getting her needs met amidst four bigger siblings.

Um, no. Not really.

Quite the opposite actually. If I'm not wearing her in my Ergo or holding her or having her play near me, she's in a sibling's arms. Or being mobbed by multiple siblings doing their best to make her laugh.

At any given moment, at least two of my kids are vying for her attention. "Let me hold Mary!" they exclaim. "Look Mama, I made her smile! She's laughing!"

And today, one of my children may or may not have taken Mary to sit with them inside a tunnel at a playplace. Without asking first. Mary was not amused. Neither was Mommy. (Okay...maybe Mommy, and her friends, were a LITTLE amused.)

Mary Lu-Lu is incredibly loved.
She is touched, kissed, hugged, rocked, soothed, and held more than any other baby in the universe. I'm convinced.

I think about her growing up, having so many acts to follow. One thing I'm sure of is that she'll never know a day where at least four other people aren't at the ready with encouraging words, big hugs and a smile.

Speaking as a mom, I can tell you that day to day life with five small children can be exhausting. The dishes, laundry, tear-filled eyes, crumb-covered floors, and diapers keep me busy. Occasionally I am tempted to feel like I am drowning in chores I don't want to do. But those moments are, thankfully, fleeting. Fleeting. Because I'm jolted back to reality when I see Mary sitting happily in my son's lap (he's soooo incredibly patient and gentle with her), or hear her laughing hysterically as my kids sing, "Let's pull on Mary's ARM!" (Don't ask, because I don't know. :) They're not actually pulling on her arm when they sing it, and I don't know how they came up with it. But it's just about the best way to get Mary Lu laughing these days. She loves it.)

Those are the moments by which I want to define motherhood. I believe God uses those times to fill up my heart and encourage my soul. They keep me going as I make oatmeal for the three-hundredth-day-in-a-row, or clean bright-blue toothpaste off the wall (how on EARTH do they get it on the WALL?). They give me hope on days when my four oldest aren't getting along. Or when I wonder how in the world God thought I was capable of being mom to these kids.

Mary Lucille brings so much to our family at just seven months old. She is full of joy and
I know, I KNOW, so much of it has to do with the love and affection she receives from her brothers and her sisters. (Even if they DO take her over to the play equipment when she doesn't want to go.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Random goings-on

Thanks to all of you for the kind comments and emails on the previous post. I pray for these children each day and am hopeful that God will make beauty from ashes in their lives. That's what He does, afterall. He may not need me to participate as a mom in this work, but He can use my prayers. Having the ability to pray, we should never feel helpless...yet I know that so often I do. I want to change that.

Now on to more mundane things: I am seriously at a loss with blogging these days. I can rarely think about subjects for my posts, but I do like having a blog, and I don't like when it sits "dormant" for days on end. Hmmm.

At any rate, I'll just give you a quick update on our lives right now. We're wrapping up our first year of homeschooling, and Anna "graduates" from Kindergarten on Monday! Wow! We have had a wonderful, laid-back year. Yosef and Biniam are both so excited about starting Kindergarten in the fall...I'll have THREE kids to homeschool! This year has been really wonderful in that I've learned a lot about myself and our family, what works for us and what doesn't. Homeschooling can be a bit like parenting in that so much of it is trial-and-error. Some things work, some things don't, and you figure it out as you go.

May has been, and continues to be, unbelievably busy--but with fun things. Meanwhile of course we're still working on our homestudy and now need to start compiling things for our dossier. I hate having things hanging over my head and I hope that this next week we can dig and GET IT DONE. (I feel like I keep saying that, but then inevitably kids get sick, or our week fills up, and we don't have the chance to visit a notary public.)

Today's plans include errands (Costco + Target), coffee with friends this afternoon, and a meeting tonight. First though I need a shower.

Happy Thursday!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hope deferred

I know I haven't blogged in forever. And how's that for a blogpost title? :) I like to think of myself as an advocate of adoption, but I would also like to believe that I am an honest person, and if I'm being honest, then yes. Adoption is hard.

I've mentioned before that we're in the process to adopt. I hadn't given many details yet because nothing was "official" and I don't like to put the proverbial cart-before-the-horse. No paperwork was signed, nothing had gone to court, we hadn't signed a referral. But we were working towards all of that.

Well, last week all of our plans fell apart. Big time. You see, what I hadn't told you is that there were two waiting children that God had burdened our hearts for, that we prayed for, that we felt led to adopt. Oh how we wanted these children in our family. But last Tuesday some things came to light about one of the children and we found out that we will no longer be able to bring them home. The situation is out of our control and the bottom line is that our family is just not right for these kids. We know it, and even if we didn't, our agency knows it and wouldn't allow us to proceed anyway.

My heart hurts so incredibly badly, and I am praying that they will still find a family, and soon. They've waited so long. It's a horrible situation all the way around. (I feel the need to give the disclaimer that this is NOT something where a previously undetected medical issue with one of the children arose. We are very open to most medical needs. I'm sorry I can't give any more information, but out of respect for their privacy, I just can't.)

Ultimately for us that means that we will continue working on our homestudy and will eventually end up adopting other waiting children. Small issues compared to what these kids are facing.

The past week has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. We're doing fine, but it's sad. Orphaned children are vulnerable children. To lose your parents, to grow up in an impoverished society, to spend years in an institution, to have very little hope of ever having family again...that is beyond devastating. Yet it's the reality for millions of children around the world. That's not me making an emotional appeal, that's the TRUTH. Hunger and abuse of every possible kind and fear rule the day. IT'S UGLY. And real. Too real.

When I was in Minneapolis I had the opportunity to see John Piper give a message about adoption. It was timely, and real, and painful, and beautiful, all at once. You can go here to listen to/read/watch it: What Does It Mean to Live by Faith in the Service to the Fatherless?

I loved what he had to say at the time, but it is relevant to me in a different way now. We walk by faith in our service to the fatherless, no matter what. No matter what.

Obviously there are different ways we can look at our situation. Some might say we must have mis-heard God...or just plain shouldn't have embarked on this journey in the first place...and truthfully I DON'T know why things have taken this turn. We stepped out in faith. I told God that if He wanted, I'd follow Him into the beauty and brokenness that this adoption would be. I was terrified. But clinging to God's promises, and to the fact that I belived with all that was in me that this was what we were supposed to do.

As I'm still trying to process and make sense of it all, and figure out what portion of my heart these children should now occupy, I find myself coming back to the idea that...still I will follow. God is leading us somewhere, is doing something. We've been sure of that for months now. The outcome will obviously be different than what we'd imagined...but it is the path God has us on.

I'm honestly not sure why God compelled us to pursue their adoption when it wouldn't end in adoption...why our story mingled with their story for a couple of months. Honestly, I have I do know that as sad as I am that I won't be their mother, I am infinitely more sad for them...because they need a family...need healing...need to know that they are treasures and valuable in God's sight. They are victims in a cruel, unjust world. Their story is horribly tragic. And it's probably not that uncommon of a story.

I received an encouraging email from a sweet friend this week. (I have some amazing friends, both in real life and in the blogosphere.) This woman had graciously and candidly shared her wisdom with me while we were making our decision to bring these children home. I emailed this past week to let her know that it wouldn't be happening, and her reply ended with this:

They are victims, but they are not without a Father.

What more is there to say? These words pierced my heart as I read them through teary eyes. God is there watching out for those kids. He loves them. He knows their fears and their wounds. He's been with them from the beginning. Yet why must they suffer? Why is their life so hard when mine's been so easy? Why has God broken my heart for them to the point of my wanting them to become my own children...when they wouldn't? What bothers me in all of it is NOT that my adoption plans didn't pan's NOT about US in that sense.

I'm bothered for these children, for what they've been through, for what their future may hold.

They are victims.

But not without a Father.

And I'm holding tight to that tonight.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

And I'm back!

I got back from Minneapolis Saturday afternoon. It was a great trip and a great conference. I'd love to do a more in-depth post about my time at CAFO's Summit VI, but for now I'll quickly share some highlights:

Karyn Purvis. She's amazing. My second year in a row seeing her speak and she is just incredible. Read The Connected Child if you haven't already. I think it would be great for parents whether they've adopted or not.

John Piper. Yes, John Piper. Everybody loves him but I was admittedly not a huge fan (there are some things he's said/written that I don't agree with. Which is fine. But some of it really bothered me, and people are just SO into him, and I was not.) But his message at the conference was aMAZing. Acknowledging that the outcome of our adoptions is not the point...that we walk by faith no matter what the road holds...he even acknowledged disruption. Wow. I think about his church and about the culture of adoption that they have created there. Support for adoptive families, INCLUDING families in crisis. If only we could replicate that everywhere! So yes, I gained a LOT of respect for him this past Friday. (I still think women ought to be able to be busdrivers, though.)

The Chapmans. Mary Beth shared, and Stephen Curtis Chapman played some songs and led worship. They were wonderful.

Seeing a little girl who I'd met in an orphanage over FOUR YEARS ago. When I first met this precious girl in Ethiopia, she had no family and it was uncertain whether children from this particular orphanage would find homes. BUT all that has changed. And she's amazing and sweet and spent a lot of time holding Mary Lu. Who'd have thought our paths would cross again, that she'd be holding my 6-month-old baby years later at a conference that she came to with her mom?

Finally meeting my friends Lisa and Abbey in real life! They are also on staff with From HIV to Home and are amazing women with amazing hearts. So fun to meet Abbey's mom too--who became Mary's surrogate grandma for a few days.

Lots of time with girlfriends. Jennifer and I shared a room and stayed up way too late discussing very important topics and eating Kit Kats. She put up with me and all my dumb baby gear that I was lugging through the airport, and was still nice to me when I kept dropping my wallet. (And all its contents.)

Running into wonderful friends Dori and Larry from California! What a fun surprise! Seriously, so great. What an inspiration they are.

So yes, a great trip and a great time. I'm reminded that orphan care is complex and messy but God is bigger than all of that. And He wants us to show up and do something.

To be fair there were a few lowlights too--some crackpots claiming they could cure HIV, my allergies acting up and therefore causing my right eye to be comPLETEly bloodshot, and sitting on a hot runway waiting for takeoff, only to endure yucky turbulence. Not fun. Not fun at all. Less fun for some than others.

I'll post some pictures soon!


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