Friday, November 26, 2010

Festive festivities

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Ours was oh so good.

And really, how could it not be, when you have these two cuties for kids?!!!

We spent the afternoon and evening with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their sweet girls, and some friends and their sweet girls.  Six adults and nine kids...and lots and lots of food.  I have not been that full in a long, long time.

  Sweet cousins.  Anna, Aubrey, Ainsley and Kaitlyn.

All the cousins on the couch.  Looking in the general direction of the camera.  :)

Cousins MOstly looking in the general direction of the camera :)

All the older kids

So yes, a wonderful day that culminated in Kevin watching football, me reading Scott Hahn's The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, and both of us falling asleep on the couch at 10 pm during Seinfeld.

And the seasonal fun only continues.

Because today was:

Donuts for with breakfast,

Hauling in all of the Christmas ornaments and decor,

Setting up our fake, pre-lit (LOVE!) Christmas tree,

Decorating the Christmas tree,

Hanging the stockings by the chimney with masking tape care,

Putting up the Nativity Set (Anna set up all the pieces!),

And watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Sorry, no photos.  Just imagine four kids lounging around the living room, and me chasing Mary away from the Christmas ornaments.)

No Black Friday shopping for me, except that I just bought a really fun Christmas banner here!!!  SO, so cute.  My friend's mom makes them and they are WONDERFUL. 

Here is my Give Thanks one that I LOVE:

In fact, I love it so much (and think the message is so universally applicable) that not only has it resided in THREE different places in my house already, I am now going to search for a permanent spot where it can hang.  We should give thanks all year round, no?

Now for some other random Holiday thoughts:

--While I'm not sure what's for dinner tonight, I DO know that we have a bunch of leftover pie that we will be consuming for dessert. 

--I'm hoping to get my Advent candles tomorrow and be ready to go when the season starts on Sunday.

--And I have gathered up a big pile of all our Christmas books, which I think I will wrap individually so we can open one per day starting December 1st, and read it together as a family.

We're really enjoying getting into the Holiday spirit, if you couldn't tell.

Probably in part because it has been SUCH a blessing and joy to have a wonderful long weekend with Kevin.  I'm soaking up the time.  Just knowing he's around is so nice.

I hope you are finding small, simple things to enjoy this week, as well!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I just wanted to drop in while I'm sipping my coffee and wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

My pumpkin pie is baked and my potatoes are mashed.  Hooray!

So far we've had a really fabulous day...

Being awakened to loud whispering outside our bedroom door of "Happy Thanksgiving Mom and Dad!"

Attending Mass (and eating donuts) with dear friends

And soon we'll be heading down to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law's home for an amazing feast with family and more friends!

I am thankful for so many things.  Cliche, but true.  The one that stands out for me right now though is that my amazing, brave, wonderful aunt is being released from the hospital today, after surgery to remove a brain tumor.  I so wish I could be there with my extended family this Thanksgiving Day, but we'll see them next month, and they are all together today, which is so good.

I'm also incredibly thankful for my children, and my husband, and my friends.

And for the two precious little girls in Ethiopia who will be joining our family.

Thankful too for God and for His grace in my life. 

The list goes on. 

And I meant to blog yesterday--but I was busy homeschooling and organizing closets and working on picking up the unfinished part of our basement.  So I'm thankful I got some stuff done!

It WAS supposed to be "What I Wore Wednesday."  Nothing exciting to share, as always, but I did remember to take awkward pictures of myself a couple of times.  So:

Wednesday.  Me in my comfies.  From the thrift store and Walmart clearance.  I would live in this stuff if I could.  I was home all day.  My favorite place to be!

Thursday.  School drop-off/pick-up, time with girlfriends.  All from the thrift store.  Posy pin from The Pleated Poppy.

This was Sunday, so we went to church.  Sweater: thrift store.  Dress: Nordstrom clearance rack 8 years ago.  Scarf: KMart four years ago.  Leggings: WalMart clearance.  Fake leather boots: Kohls.  Necklace: Lisa Leonard Designs.

Monday.  Went to my church moms group and then out to coffee that night with a sweet friend I hadn't seen in awhile.  White long-sleeved shirt: Abercrombie and Fitch 8 years ago.  Jeans: Target clearance.  Everything else: thrift store.

I hope you have a truly wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with lots of food and love.

Thank you so much for being a part of my life here in the blogosphere.  I love blogging, and I love the relationships that have grown out of it.  I am constantly challenged and inspired by the words of you all.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Curriculum course change

Homeschooling, I am finding, is really just a lot like parenting.  You pick and choose and figure out what works.  Everything is a bit of trial and error, no matter how much you plan.  Things sometimes go awry, and sometimes things go better than you'd hoped.

So even though the year is already partially over, we are making some changes to our days in the areas of Literature, History, and Religion.

Basically, I have been feeling overwhelmed, burdened by the nagging thought in the back of my mind that I need to be doing this or that, and it's been hard to stay on track.  We have, for example, been using Story of the World Volume I for our History curriculum.  And, I LOVE Story of the World.  Truly.  BUT, I feel like maybe we need something a little more scheduled...that incorporates some other things.  I'm finding that I just don't have the mental or emotional energy to come up with stuff on my own to supplement what we're doing.

Now I do own the Story of the World activity book, which has lots of hands-on suggestions.  But I never do them, because I despise hands-on activities.  I mean I like my kids to do them, but I don't enjoy them.  So I avoid them like the plague.  (Yes, I am that mom.  My kids have never taken a dance class, either.  So sue me.)  The activity book IS great for additional reading suggestions, supplemental encyclopedia work and comprehension questions (not to mention there are fun coloring pages and such, which I DO enjoy utilizing).  BUT, I feel like a bit of it is over the kids' heads...sigh.

SO, I began looking more into...Sonlight Curriculum for our History and Literature.  Which I'd previously ruled out for four main reasons.

1.)  The cost. 

2.)  The schedules.  I thought it would be incredibly stressful feeling like was scheduled out for me.  And what if I don't WANT to read one of the stories?  And do I NEED someone to tell me when to read Charlotte's Web?

3.)  The fact that really Sonlight boils down to scheduled reading of other peoples' books.  Which is great, but everyone calls them "Sonlight books", which bothers me...because other people wrote them.  I know, I'm weird.  I actually LOVE the idea of using actual literature for school, but it drives me nuts that Sonlight seems to get the credit for the good books.

4.)  There is somewhat of a missions emphasis reflected in some of the book choices.  I know, I know--first I tell you that I refuse to lead my kids in fun-for-them hands-on activities, and NOW I say I don't want my kids learning about missionaries?!  Well, the reality is that I find many missions materials to be racially insensitive and approaching salvation in a way not keeping with my own personal views.  There have been many amazing men and women of God who have served as missionaries, don't get me wrong, yet there is also a lot I disagree with when it comes to the overall movement. 


--A dear friend happened to have an additional Sonlight Core 1 instructor's guide (!) sitting around, and she has generously loaned it to me for the year!  Wow!  Another dear friend had two of the books I'd need, and offered to ship them to me (all the way from Washington)!  Yay!  I'm finding that I can obtain the other books from the library, and from, and I already own several of them.  SO, God has given us a way to do Sonlight this year on the cheap.

--I'm discovering that I'm WANTING and NEEDING more structure.  I think at this point I'd feel LESS overwhelmed if I had a daily schedule layed out for me of what to read.  And, if it's really just good books that we're reading, it wouldn't necessarily feel contrived.

--And I won't call them "Sonlight books", I will say I'm using Sonlight Curriculum.  I still feel a little silly needing someone to tell me what day to read this or that, but I also kind of love it.  Okay, I MOSTLY love it.

--Don't tell, but I've decided to throw out most of the missions books altogether.  Unfortunately however, NOT before I'd ordered one of them from was appalled by the language and the way things were portrayed.  Referring to a particular culture as "stubborn and ignorant", insinuating that Africa was a dark and spiritually lacking place.  Ugh.  (Crazily enough, this book was written in 1993!  Sheesh!) 

SO, we're going to go through this book instead, The Children's Book of Saints.  Because I LOVE the idea of my kids learning about various heroes of the faith.  I want them to know about believers who dedicated their lives to the poor and the helpless, motivated by their love for Jesus and their love for man.  I'm really excited about it. 

Religious Instruction.  We will continue plugging along in the Jesus Storybook Bible.  Love it.  We have also begun attending Mass at our neighborhood parish with some friends on Friday mornings.  It's super kid-directed, because the students from the parish school are involved in the service.  My kids really enjoyed it last week, and so did I.  What better way to start the day than going to worship the Lord?

Math.  Anna will continue in her Singapore Math book, and I'm working with the boys on Saxon Math (lots of manipulatives, so super simple.) 

Reading.  Yosef and Biniam are still learning to blend words together, and to be honest, we're taking it slow.  While I enjoyed the book The Well-Trained Mind, I think their whole "reading is easy so get kids reading early" philosophy is short-sighted in that it doesn't take into account that kids develop at varying rates.  It doesn't work for all kids.  Even Anna, my crazy early taught-herself-to-read reader, was not interested in systematic phonics instruction and would not have benefitted from this either.  So I'm chucking that idea out the window and going more with the Better Late Than Early thing.  Before I lose (the rest of) my mind.

Handwriting.  This is something I'd really like to start up sometime soon.  Again, I think something developmentally sort of "clicks" with kids at some point.  Yosef, while often writing a letter or two backwards (Anna does it too), is somewhat strong in this area.  Biniam struggles a bit.  It's the whole fine motor skills thing, and I'm not in a hurry.

If you couldn't tell, I love me some laid-back unschooling with a bit of structure too.   Ultimately I'm wanting to raise Jesus-loving children who know how to learn and who are passionate about living a life of service for God.  I want my kids to appreciate good books and good relationships.  I want to build up their self-confidence and help them to explore their interests. 

Those are big goals, and I hardly feel up to the task, but the one thing on our side is that God designed families, in part, to fulfill these very things. 

How blessed are we??!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

An unexpected journey

I know I've mentioned on here before about my ongoing interest in the Catholic faith.  How I began researching the Church in earnest a couple of years ago.  And how it all began with questions about contraception and sexuality.

Well, that's not entirely true.  It involved other things too, questions I had about church and faith and the Eucharist and Martin Luther and what Jesus' intention was in establishing His church on Earth.  Lots of light reading, obviously.  :)  But my interest was definitely piqued by historical Church teaching on family and marriage.  Which, I must tell you, I have fallen in love with.  Both with my heart and with my (limited) intellect.  (Kevin fell first, though, so I must give credit where credit is due.)

And I'm compelled.  Still reading, still grappling, still attempting to make sense of it all.  I am not really ready to share my conclusions here, because I'm still processing a lot of things and it just would not make for very enjoyable reading.  :) 

BUT, my dear friend Jennifer has been on a similar-but-accelerated journey.  And wrote such a beautiful blogpost that I wanted to share it with you today.  It's so good in fact that I might just pretend I wrote it.

Please be advised that I have no desire to start any sort of debate over Catholicism and Protestantism here at Just Showing Up.  While I've never had an issue with Catholicism, I remember the days when I was a little skeptical of the Roman Catholic Church, and while there are things I still have questions about (and understand some of the objections), I will be honest and say that most of my skepticisim was unfounded and based on things I THOUGHT I knew...but if I had simply looked into the matter, would have discovered that I misunderstood.  Things like Martin Luther's 95 Theses, for example.  I finally read them a couple of years ago.  For myself.  And the basic gist was different from what I'd assumed.  His life was very different from what I'd assumed, for that matter.

And much of the liturgy my own (Reformed Protestant) church uses is the very same liturgy found in the Mass.  Which incidentally was first recorded in 215 AD but supposedly had been in use much earlier than that.  We recite it every week before receiving the sacrament of Communion.

Funny thing is, I have encountered many, many Protestant believers who have either joined the Catholic Church, have seriously considered joining (but chose not to for various reasons), or who are on the cusp.  More people than I would have expected.  I feel like Kevin and I have been "in the closet" for the past few years with our reading of church history and Catholic authors.  Now I'm finding we're not alone.  The closet is more crowded than we thought.

Anyway, I know you'll really enjoy Jennifer's post.  It's honest and insightful and just really beautiful.  It resonates with me.

AND, just for fun, if you want to read an excellent, thoughtful, humorous blog by a wonderful Catholic woman (also named Jennifer), do check out Conversion Diary if you haven't already.  One of my favorite blogs for sure! 

Friday, November 19, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday {#14}

1.)  I've done the whole "What I Wore Wednesday" thing two weeks in a row now, but I'm thinking I should really be doing "What I Made for Dinner Wednesday" instead.  Talk about needing accountability!  I am so inept when it comes to meal planning.  You'd THINK this would be something I'd have figured out by now, but it's not.  Remember, I said I'm not creative.  And that's part of my problem.  I get tired of making the same old stuff , or I just plain can't come up with anything.  BUT we need to eat.  All seven of us.  So I really need to make some improvements in this area.

2.)  Lately, speaking of dinner, I've been making roasted vegetables as a side-dish.  I just toss them with extra virgin olive oil and fresh minced garlic, then bake or roast them...YUM.  I could live on that.  Love it.  So do my kids and husband though, so I have to share, and pretend that I LIKE sharing because I want my kids eating veggies.  But deep down, I'm really wishing that all of the asparagus and cauliflower were mine.

3.)  How is Thanskgiving next week already?  My goodness!  November has BLOWN by.  We've been busy and I've been sick so I guess that's what happens, but still, it's nuts.  We're having dinner at my sister-in-law and brother-in-law's house, and I'm bringing mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.  Oh how I love a Thanksgiving feast!  (And aside from the delightful company, the side dishes are what I'm there for.  The turkey gets all the attention, and I do like turkey, but I'm all about the stuffing and the potatoes and the yams and the rolls.  And lots of gravy.)

4.)  I really, REALLY need to get to Costco.  We are seriously out of our staples--bread, peanut butter, brown rice, beans, garlic, soap, the list goes on.  Anna hasn't been feeling well (she even missed school yesterday, bummer!) though so I'm not sure about how well we'd all wether the outing.  We probably don't have a choice though, ha!

5.)  Starbucks.  2-5 pm.  Yesterday through Sunday.  Holiday drinks.  Buy one, get one free.  Enough said.

6.)  Last night Kevin misplaced his keys after he got home from work.  We had to go to a meeting after dinner so we just used mine instead, but he was perplexed and stressed out about it the entire time we were out.  I told him he needs to be more like me and lose things on a regular basis, so he can learn to just roll with it and not care so much.  Heehee.  (He did find them when he got home, on our bookshelves.)

7.)  My house is a disaster (for me.  Objectively speaking it is not really that bad).  I feel like we are having a hard time maintaining a routine lately.  Also, homeschooling has really taken a hit in recent weeks, partly because I've been sick, and partly because I'm just not thrilled with what we've been doing.  So I'm changing it up.  I'd envisioned what our year would look like, but it's looking a bit different, and I need to be okay with that.  I'll share about our change in curriculum sometime soon.


If you're interested in doing your own 7 Quick Takes Friday, link on up to Conversion Diary!  One of my favorite blogs!    

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How do you do it?

I get asked this question a lot.

People really are genuinely curious when they see our family at the store, or when I mention that we have five children and are in the process of adding two more. 

They want to know how we manage.

How we survive.

Being the socially awkward introvert that I am, I generally try to sidestep the questions and get out of there as quickly as possible.  :)  I know some of you genuinely love meeting new people and making new friends at Costco or Target, but that just does not come naturally to me.  And NOT because I'm a mean or closed-off person.  It's just uncomfortable.

But I'm trying.

I'm trying to be a bit more open and honest about motherhood when people talk to me about it.  Recently our small group was discussing ways we can be better at living in community with one another.  Something that came up was spurring one another on to love and good deeds.  In thinking about encouraging others, I thought about how all too often, motherhood is looked at as something to endure or as a drudgery.  I remembered a conversation at my moms' group where a friend spoke about how sad it is that so many times, moms just complain, complain, complain about their role as a mother.

I have found this to be true as well.  I too have noticed that it has become the hip, cool thing to not be TOO into this whole motherhood gig.  To lament our lack of adult conversation during the day, to decry the fact that our brains have turned to mush, to live for date nights and "uninterrupted time" with our spouse.

Now don't get me wrong.  Being a mom is hard.  It just is.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you're the mom.  There's no getting around it.

And it hardly matters how many children you have.  Whether it's two or five, you're still responsible for a smattering of small, needy people who embarrass you on a regular basis.

So I've decided I want to do a better job of encouraging other moms.  When people take notice of  us or engage me in conversation, I want to talk about what a joy it is to mother my little ones.  What an honor it is to be a mommy.  How we rejoice at the addition of each new child and how we wouldn't trade this life for anything in the world.  (In the name of being balanced, I'm also happy to share about various things my kids have done to make me mad.  But those things pale in comparison.)

I must tell you that sometimes, when people ask me how I do it, the conversation evolves into something where they tell me THEY could never do this, THEY could never raise five children, and I must have the right personality for it.


That's funny.  Completely and utterly LAUGHABLE. 

I do NOT, I repeat, do NOT, have the type of personality that just naturally goes with having a gaggle of kids.  Really.  Because my personality could be described, in part, as follows:

extremely introverted
enjoy being by myself
low energy

Granted I'm laid back and optimistic and flexible too, and those come in mighty handy, but I'm also super uptight about certain things.  And horribly impatient.

All of this to say that I do what I do because God gives me the grace to do it.  He equips.  I don't think some couples are automatically "lots of kids" couples and some are "only a few kids" couples.  I really don't.  I think many of us "moms to many" would say that we are so not cut out for this, but that God shows up and gives us the strength for the task.  If I can do it, TRUST ME, you could do it.

In the interest of full disclosure I must say that my views are a direct result of what we believe about families, marriage, and children--as taught by the Catholic Church.  This is really a whole other blogpost, but yes, we do follow the Church's teachings on this stuff.  Even though we are not currently Catholic.  Yes, another can of worms blogpost indeed.

But anyway.

I really do love my life, and all of the blessings God has given me.  I love having a large-ish family, I love all the chattering and hugs and giggling that happen around here  I want people to know that I do it the same way THEY do: day by day, or more like moment by moment.  And, really, I've come to grips with the fact that we are a walking, talking, sometimes crying circus act anytime we go somewhere...we're GOING to get asked why not capitalize on that?  Why not talk about what a blessing it is to be generally open to life, to welcome new children when they come, to adopt little ones needing a home?  Why not mention that some things are EASIER--yes, easier--when there are several children in the family? 

Sure I have specific things I do to make life somewhat manageable around here.  Maybe I'll share some another time.  (You know, right after I tell you all about how we came to be influenced by Theology of the Body and Pope John Paul II.)  But mostly, when people ask us "how do you do it?", I think they're really asking the general question "how are you surviving with that many children?"  And some days I survive better than others.  Some days I just want to give up.  But it's good.  Really, really good.

Because when something is part of God's plan, when something is designed to draw you closer to Jesus and closer together as a family...well...God makes a way.  And while it's certainly not always easy, it's sure to be blessed. 

So that I guess is how we do it. 

And I am learning how to share that with the people I meet at Target.  :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I wore Wednesday and lack of creativity

Well friends here we are again.  It's Wednesday, and I'm posting cheesy photos of what I wore.  It's all pretty hilarious because I apparently loved gray and black this week.  That and I also apparently wore a cardigan everyday.  Ha!  If you don't know already, I am not a particularly creative person.  Not artistic in the least.  And DON'T try to say that everyone is creative in their own way.  I'm not.  So, if I like something, I wear it to death.  And I'm not great at home decorating because I just don't have that creative mind for it.  There's your random Brianna-factoid for the day.  :)  (And no, I'm not fishing for compliments either.  I really am just not a think-outside-the-box-er.)

You'll notice that I included my head and even my face this time.
Also, please take note of the horribly-lighted photo of me in my comfy robe (which is not actually as hideous in normal lighting.  I don't know what happened there.)  I only posted one photo, but you can bet I wore that, AND my leopard-print slippers, multiple days.  SOooo cozy. 

And I am FINALLY almost over this ridiculous cold.  I know I keep talking about it, but this was probably the worst cold I've had in years!  I HAVE to get to Costco soon, because we are dangerously low on various groceries.  Including soap.  Awesome.

School drop-off, lunch date with Kevin and our two youngest girlies, some time with girlfriends in the afternoon, school pick-up.

cardigan sweater: Target clearance
hand-stamped necklace: lisa leonard designs
everything else: thrift store

Friday (and Wednesday too...): at home resting.
robe: thrift store
comfy black pants: Old Navy five years ago
slippers: Target three years ago

Saturday: had our small group over for dinner.

cardigan sweater: Target clearance
yellow shirt: Target clearance (it's actually a maternity shirt, but it was only $4, so I bought it anyway, ha!)
jeans: Target clearance
ballet flats: Target three years ago

Sunday.  Church, thrifting with Anna.

scarf: thrift store
dress: Gap three years ago
tights: Express nine years ago
knee socks: Target
cardigan sweater: Gottschalks clearance five years ago (does anyone else remember Gottschalks???)
boots: Kohls four years ago

Dinner out with girlfriends.
Everything from thrift store.

Homeschool meeting.
cardigan sweater: Target clearance.
black camisole: Target three years ago
everything else: thrift store

Again, bad lighting.  I'm pale, but not THIS pale!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gender roles and Alice Walker

Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with some wonderful girlfriends.

The conversation, chicken curry and Thai iced tea were all fabulous. 

One of the things that came up in conversation was submission, gender and the Bible. 

I have such mixed feelings on this topic.

On the one hand, sometimes I think emotional intimacy and authentic relationship are sacrificed on the altar of complementarianism.  Women concede to whatever their husbands decide, all in the name of being obedient to God, instead of committing to the difficult but ultimately worthwhile task of working through conflict, striving for unity, and agreeing not to give up until a mutually beneficial solution is found.  How can iron sharpen iron when it's nothing but a one-way street?

On the other hand, I do think God gave women and men somewhat distinct roles within marriage--this seems to be evident from a biological/natural law standpoint alone.  So I get that.  I'm an at-home mom and we wouldn't have it any other way.  It's not oppressive, it's amazing.  I'm participating in God's calling for my life and it's nothing short of a miracle.  In short, motherhood rocks.  :)  Does this make me un-egalitarian?  I don't know. 

Anyway, I'm rambling on sharing all of this because last week I read this horribly sad essay by Rebecca Walker, daughter of famous African American feminist (and author of The Color Purple) Alice Walker.  Obviously she is very upset with her mother, and one could argue that this is the root of the issue and that it colors everything else, but I do think hers is a voice seldom heard in this conversation.

Interesting food for thought, if nothing else!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anna's family portrait

My oldest daughter Anna came to me several weeks ago.  It was a few days after we'd announced to our children that T. and M. would be joining our family.  She had the above piece of paper in her hand, and said that she'd drawn everyone in our family and that she loves us all so very much.  And I about burst into tears when I saw that both T. and M. were included in Anna's family portrait.

I know that sometimes children are less than thrilled to add another child to the family.  I know that people shake their heads and wonder about kids in larger-than-average families.  Will they still receive enough attention?  Do they even WANT more siblings?  And, what about siblings with medical needs?  Isn't that too much of a burden to place on kids who didn't get to choose? 

We are so blessed to be able to say that (so far) this has never, ever, EVER been an issue for us. time we have added to our family--either through birth OR child has been THRILLED.  Over-the-moon excited.  If you ask any of them how many siblings they want, you'll generally get an answer between 100-500.  No joke.  I always tell them that we won't have THAT many children, but it makes my heart so glad that they are so welcoming and excited about new life in our family.  Yes our children will eventually grow up and have all sorts of therapy bills opinions about their family of origin, but I pray that, at the very least, God preserves their openness to life and that they continue to embrace love and relationships and God's values which, if you are a Christian, are markedly different from the world's.  (And if your values and life don't look different from the world's, well, something is probably wrong.)

So.  Once our adoption training and homestudy were complete, and therefore we could move forward with these sweet girls, we sat our kids down and said we had a fun announcement.  We told them about T. and M., and made a big deal about it, as the kids jumped up and down.  We showed them a picture of each of our new daughters, and then later that evening showed them some video of one of our girls. 

I don't remember who it was, but one of our kids had the idea to go kiss their soon-to-be-sister on the TV screen.  Then they all did it. 

We also talked to them, just a little bit, about Down syndrome (which Anna later pronounced "Jerusalem"--SO funny!).  We explained about the extra chromosome and that our new girls will do everything the other kids do, it may just take them a little longer to reach that point.  Or not.  We don't know.

Suffice it to say that the dinner table that night was abuzz with...NOISE.  :)  Talking and laughing and squealing and questions...lots and lots of where would the girls sleep, and when will they come home, and I can't wait to teach them how to ride a bike so can I do that, Mom?  Anna asked if they'd be home by her (February) birthday, because, "That would be the best birthday present EVER."

I'm not sharing any of this because I think my kids are unique, or because I think we've done anything in particular to instill these values in them.  It's just come naturally.  By God's grace.  They LOVE babies.  They LOVE kids.  They know how to rejoice and delight in relationships.  And so we may try to nurture that, but it's not contrived or forced upon them.  It can't be.

So I feel incredibly blessed that my children already adore their future sisters.  That even though my kids aren't perfect, their default is to love and to welcome children into our home.  Ultimately I believe it is a combination of the work of God, the miracle of life, and God's very design for family. 

And lest you be fooled and think otherwise (aka people who don't know us, because if you do, then you are under no illusions), we are so not the Cleaver family.  Probably closer to the Adams family, actually.  (You should have heard what one of my kids said to one of my other kids in the car last week.  And my kids are still young...they don't understand yet about what having a large-ish family vs. a small-ish family means, or what it's like to have a sibling with developmental and/or cognitive delays. 

But I have big faith in an even bigger God who has begun a good work in each of my children. 

And I know, I know,  that He will carry that on to completion. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

These two...

...are going to get into a lot of trouble together.  A lot.

"Who, us?  Maybe if we look away, Mom won't know."

Yes.  A whole heap of trouble.

And the innocent, unsuspecting man in the picture may just be oblivious to it all, because they have him tightly wrapped around their sticky, chubby fingers.

I don't think he stands a chance.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

If people with Down syndrome ruled the world

I love this article.

So, so sweet.

We have some friends right now who are in Ethiopia for their court date. 

We instant-messaged yesterday morning.

They met our girls.

And had such incredibly wonderful things to say about them.

We have close friends living in Ethiopia right now, who have also gone and spent time with our girls.

In fact, I have a photo of their daughter with one of MY daughters.

SO precious.  And surreal.  Really, really surreal.

As parents waiting to meet our children, these updates mean

Because while we have not, people dear to us have met our daughters. 

It goes without saying that waiting on a court date is a time of much anticipation. 

I've been really good so far and have not pestered our agency about a timeline.  Not even ONCE.

I know our girlies are in good hands, and our time will come. 

In the meantime, I live for updates from friends...try to enjoy the relative-calm before the certain-to-be chaos...and feel giddy when I read articles with titles like "If People with Down Syndrome Ruled the World".

Friday, November 12, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday {#13}

1.)  It's COLD!  Brrrrrr!  Winter is on its way, finally.  I love the seasons and yes that includes snowy, wintry weather, but this will take some getting used to.  So, so crazy to drop off the kids at their homeschool program yesterday in jackets and hats.  But I do love it, and I love scarves and coats and all those fun things I rarely wore in my California days.  So, bring it on!

2.)  I'm FINALLY, finally, almost finished with Karl Keating's book.  Remember how I had a falling out with him because of the chapter on salvation?  Well, I'm so glad I ditched the grudge and picked the book back up because it really is interesting, even if he's a little caustic here and there.  (Kevin actually liked the chapter.  Go figure.)  Right now I'm reading the chapter about the Inquisition, which I literally know NOTHING about.  Part of why I'm anxious to finish is so I can dig deeper into Better Late Than Early.

3.)  A couple of days ago I had such a fun chat on the phone with a sweet, dear friend.  It was great.  I should do that more, but I NEVER call people.  I made myself a cup of tea and relaxed and it was wonderful. 

4.)  This latest cold I have is AWFUL!  I always get sick this time of year.  Always.  But once I'm better I hope to be well for a good long while, because it's been one thing after another here lately!  I'm tired of coughing and blowing my nose and feeling crummy.  Yes, I'm whining.  Sorry.

5.)  I keep meaning to do a post about duvet covers.  Yes, duvet covers.  These things make me CRAZY.  And I have officially sworn them off.  For good.  I've tried and I've tried for the past eight years to make them work, but I am DONE.  Tell me I'm not the only one who is literally unable to get the down comforter inside, and who becomes insane when it isn't straight in there, which inevitably happens after about one night of sleeping under it.  Who invented these things???  And WHY?!

6.)  Kevin is the official dishwasher-emptier in our home, and I am the dishwasher-loader.  He HATES to load, and I HATE to empty, so it works perfectly.  I know that emptying the dishwasher, logically, isn't the WORST thing in the world, but I really do detest that job!  It is such a blessing that my husband does it, and it's something I really don't take for granted.

7.)  My kids occasionally fight--yes, fight--over who gets to hold or play with Mary.  And she's been around for over a year.  The novelty has apparently not worn off.  I love that.  The whole drive home from picking up the big kids yesterday, Kaitlyn was making Mary laugh.  SO cute.  I love that siblings bring each other such joy!!!


Those really WERE "quick" takes.  Apparently I was so long-winded in earlier posts this week that I had nothing left to say.  :)  If you want to do your OWN 7 Quick Takes, link up over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I missed Orphan Sunday, but I have a wonderful video to show you today

Last Sunday was "Orphan Sunday".

And I mostly forgot.

I didn't do anything special at church, I didn't blog about it, I didn't say a word.

And I feel a little guilty and sad about it.

I guess I have to tell you that sometimes lately I find myself avoiding thinking about the orphan crisis altogether.

Is that weird?

Considering the fact that I'm mom to two adopted children, and currently in the process of adopting two more?

Maybe it is.  But I think my avoidance (which, if you know anything about Psychology, was one of Freud's Defense Mechanisms) is because I care so very much about these children, and yet it HURTS to care so very much about these children.

Does that make sense?

I know first-hand the joys of adoption.  I know some of the sacrifices and some of the difficulties too.  Even though overall, our experience has been smooth and easy.

I know adoption is terribly close to God's heart and I desperately wish more would throw conventional wisdom and savings accounts and confidence-in-the-future to the wind and do something crazy.

Like adopt a waiting child.

I want to encourage people that YES, they too can grow their family through adoption.  Whether they have biological children or not.  Whether they have lots of bedrooms or not.  Whether they've previously thought about adopting or not.

If you haven't gotten this impression yet, Kevin and I are super boring people.  Pretty middle-of-the-road.  Not the sorts to jump on a bandwagon.  Not too hot, not too cold.  We never imagined we'd adopt.  Ever.

But we did.  So now there are two less orphans in the world.

A seriously microscopically-small drop in a seriously infinitely-huge bucket.

It's hard knowing that for the two children who joined your family, millions remain orphans.

Sometimes it feels like you're the only one who cares that:

--There are STILL HIV+ children waiting for families in Ethiopia who were already waiting when we traveled there in 2006.

--There are children waiting in China, ready to be adopted...while families prefer to wait YEARS for a healthy baby from that country.

--There are children waiting in Ukraine and Russia at risk of being put into insane asylums.

So, I guess this is why I sometimes "check out."

It's overwhelming and painful.

But at the same time...

This is where miracles happen.

This is where healing happens.

I think the fight for the hearts and souls of children is where it's at.

I think it's a major battlefield.

And God is drawing us into His story of redemption.

He's inviting us to play a role and embrace LIFE.

Because life is precious.

And it follows then that more life is MORE precious.

Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly.

He wants to give that to the fatherless child, and He wants to give that to you.

And to me.

Somehow adoption is a two-way street in this sense.

Please don't be fooled.  The global orphan crisis is complicated.  We have to not only be open to adoption, but simultaneously working to help people in sustainable ways so that adoption is not necessary.  Children ought to be able to remain with birth parents who love them.  Extreme poverty, hunger and disease ought not separate otherwise intact families.  In order for adoption to happen, relinquishment must also happen.  And there is nothing happy or exciting about relinquishment.  It's tragic.

BUT, today, right this moment, it is too late for many children.  Their birth parents have long since passed away, or are unable to care for them, and they need a family.  Now.  Right now.

You could, conceivably, start your adoption process and have your child(ren) home within the year.

I really have no desire to use guilt or emotional manipulation to convince people to adopt.  Honestly.  Is adoption for everyone?  Probably not.  I don't think we can actually EVER discern, without question, what other people are supposed to do in this type of scenario. 

So then is adoption a "calling"?  Well, yes...and no.

The Bible says the church is supposed to care for the widow and the orphan.  Adoption is certainly part of that.  So we better take it seriously.  That's the call.  If we're part of the church, we need to figure out how to respond.  The Bible also talks a lot about how children are blessings, and a reward, and that we should fill the Earth and multiply and all that stuff.  So we also know there is precedence for raising multiple children, and that there are inherent blessings in not automatically limiting our family size, and that we are to see children as good gifts from God.

So don't assume you "escaped" the call to adopt because you're not wealthy, or because you have the wrong personality, or because you never considered adoption, or because you don't "feel called" to do it.  Sometimes God "calls" us to things that make little sense to our humanly-finite brains, or to things that don't automatically feel comfortable to us.  Maybe God will "call" you, you'll sail through your paperwork, a bunch of grant money will roll in, and your entire adoption will be paid for.  OR maybe God will "call" you and  you'll have to make major financial sacrifices to do it and your child will struggle greatly with attachment.  Both are equally called, even though one person's process may look effortless and the other person might actually question why it is so difficult and wonder if they'd been "called" in the first place.  And YES, I know people in real life who fit into each of those categories.  And both were "called" to adopt.

I now want to tell you about some AMAZING, wonderful, dear friends of ours in California, Todd and Jill.  This is one of those families that I desperately wish I could transport to Denver because they are so precious to us.  Lots of fun, so kind, and a total inspiration to me.  They have three children, including a son from Ethiopia.  I can't wait to see them on our trip out to California in December!

Ethiopia- Adoption Advocates Int'l from Halle Project on Vimeo.

They produced the above video for our adoption agency to use, and I love it.

WATCH IT.  Please.  So.worth.your.time.  Promise.  This is the orphanage/transition home Yosef and Biniam are from.  It's where our girls are currently.  This is the agency we used before and are using again. of my new daughters is on the video!!!! 

I can't watch it without crying for some reason.

That reason might have something to do with a certain sweet girl. 

So while I did nothing for Orphan Sunday, I DO want to share this video with you today.  I want to be an advocate for orphans and for adoption and for waiting children.  I can't help it.  It's a story that needs to be told, and it's an honor to be able to tell it.  I pray the Lord will open up more opportunities for me to share my heart about adoption and about these children.  I want to encourage families and to spread the word that yes indeed, this is a call worth listening to. 

And if little ol' me can be of ANY help to you, please don't hesitate to contact me.  I am MORE than happy to point you to some resources or help you process through some of these decisions.  I love talking about adoption, and I'd love to "meet" you as we work on behalf of the fatherless.  Together.


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