Thursday, March 31, 2011

10 facts about he and I

Hallie is doing something super fun and I just had to jump on-board!  So, without further ado, ten random things about me and Mr. Heldt (feel free to leave your own in the comments section, OR on your blog and let me know you did!):

1.)  The first few times we ran into each other at church, he couldn't seem to remember my name. (Either I wasn't particularly memorable, OR I took his breath away and his brain went dead.  I love to tease him and tell him that it must have been the former, when secretly I actually believe it was the latter.)

2.)  We love us some Playstation video games from time to time.  Our all-time fave is probably that fighting game, Tekken.  We play and play until I get so furious that I have to just give up.  (But it's oh-so-worth it for the times when I keep winning, and HE gets furious.  Don't let him tell you I never win, because I do.  Sometimes.  I'm awesome with Baek.)

3.)  Every single night around here is pretty much date-night.  And what I mean by that is that we're both home most nights, the kids are in bed by 8 pm, and we spend the rest of the evening playing games, reading, watching Frasier, or talking together.  We have lots of time together and I love that.

4.)  We have pretty traditional gender roles (he goes to work while I'm home either barefoot and pregnant or barefoot and adopting, he mows the dying lawn while I keep up the home), but we also have a very mutual, give-and-take sort of relationship.  No unilateral decisions being made, no expectations or suppressing of opinions.  Which is good.  'Cause I have me some opinions.  That being said, by the time he gets home I rarely want to make decisions (I have five kids, people!), so I make him decide.  Apparently I am a woman of contradictions.

5.)  The very first time he visited my parents' home, he tripped and fell and banged his head on the door while he was playing with my family dog.

6.)  We argue most every night over who cuddles up to who before we go to sleep.  Weird, I know, but apparently I prefer sleeping on my right-hand-side and he prefers his left.

7.)  We are regularly reading books and articles, thus always debating/discussing various topics related to theology and current events.  Love that.

8.)  There is a lot of laughter in our relationship.  Kevin cracks me up.  He always  has.  We have a myriad of inside-jokes, silly memories, and one-liners guaranteed to make the other laugh.

9.)  The first time Kevin told me he loved me was when he got down on one knee on a beautiful beach in California, ring in hand, and asked me to marry him.  I will never, ever, EVER forget that moment.  Ever.  And I'll never forget how it felt to know that love truly meant something to him, that it meant action and commitment.

10.)  Kevin and I hung out for the first time when we ran into each other at a Weird Al--yes, Weird Al--concert.  It was meant to be.  I was there with friends, he was there alone, and we invited him to sit with us.  If rocking out to "Amish Paradise" isn't the backdrop for love in the making, I don't know what is!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Won't you join me?

ETC Conference in Denver, Colorado (April 8-9, 2011) from Tapestry on Vimeo.

If you are an adoptive parent, adoption professional, or run an adoption ministry, and live in the Denver area, I am SO excited to tell you about the upcoming Empowered to Connect conference!  April 8-9, with Karyn Purvis and Show Hope.  In Denver.

I've met Karyn and seen her speak various times, and she is WONDERFUL.  Truly wonderful.  Have you read her The Connected Child?  If not, you should.

ANYway, I think this conference is something that every adoptive parent (and anyone else involved with or curious about adoption) should experience.  I know it will be an inspiring, challenging and refreshing two days. 

And it's so extremely affordable!  SO beyond worth it.  Plus, "for a limited time, 1/2 off registrations discounts are available due to a generous grant from Focus on the Family. Simply use the code FOCUS when registering online to receive this discount."  Woohoo!  (And you thought you didn't like Focus on the Family...)

I'll be there, along with the rest of the staff at From HIV to Home.  And in spite of my oft-mentioned introversion (and, let's face it, occasional social awkwardness), I do like meeting new friends too, so if you see me please introduce yourself!  I'll be the person staring off into space as I mentally make--and re-make--my packing list, daydream about all the gelatto I'm going to consume, imagine what it's gonna be like to give those first hugs to our precious girlies, and attempt to scheme up a way to get to both Ethiopia and Italy without flying on an airplane.  Did I mention we're leaving for Africa on April 18th??!!

So...who's coming?  (To the conference, not Ethiopia.  Though of course you're more than welcome to come along--especially if you can come up with an alternative to air travel!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Of blogs and randomness

Oh my goodness, how has so much time passed since I last blogged?  I feel like this happens on a regular basis, and I think it's because I don't have a time of day where I commit to sitting down and writing.  And so it doesn't get done.  Hmmm, I should probably change that.

But even when I'm not writing, I'm reading.

Do you read many blogs?

I do.  Truth be told, it's one of the highlights of my day.  Staying in touch with dear friends in far-away-places, being inspired and challenged by amazing, creative, passionate people, learning new things.  All of it.  Amazing.

Some of my favorite posts are the ones that articulate or illuminate something that I've been thinking about lately.  That bring a new insight or dimension or clarity that I didn't have before.

And I love watching a journey unfold.  Be it an adoption, a move, a story, a challenge, a birth.

Blogging gives us a window into others' lives that we wouldn't otherwise have and of course allows us to do the same.  At its core, it is story-telling, and I am more than convinced that we all have a story.

And because I want to blog my story, yet really don't have any sort of blogpost to offer you today, and no fancy pictures or witty tales of life with five children, I'll just share some random randomness. 

Embrace the random, people.  You'll be much happier if you do.

--As some of you may or may not know (or care, ha!), my (Protestant) husband and (Protestant) I have been exploring Roman Catholic theology for the past few years.  Maybe that seems strange, but I've found that when you've believed certain things about God your entire life, eventually you become curious about the historicity of your faith.  (Or maybe that's just us.  And some of our friends.)  Where do these ideas come from?  Why did the church I grew up in teach these things, but my current church teaches these other things?  Why the great chasm between Protestants and Catholics?  Blah, blah, blah.  :)  Anyway, I don't know if you read Elizabeth Esther's blog (you should!), but this post she wrote about the crucifix is AMAZING.  It spoke to me this week and I think you'll like it too. 

--A dear friend of mine who is living in Ethiopia right now went and spent time with our girls yesterday.  (You can read more about our adoption here and here.)  And they are doing SO WELL.  As in, amazingly well.  As in, sweet M., who has struggled so very hard to walk, is now able to RUN.  And precious little T. is able to sit up now, nice and strong by herself, no Bumbo seat needed anymore thank-you-very-much.  M. is talking lots and laughing and singing, mainstreamed with the other kiddos.  T. is cuddly and smily and sounds oh so happy.  I cannot WAIT to meet these precious girls.  And I remain in awe of God's goodness, that some of our dearest friends are there during this excruciating wait to love on and visit our sweeties.  It has made all the difference.

--Mary is spending lots of time standing these days and is doing more walking here and there.  I think her unexplained delays may actually be explained by the fact that she just refuses to do anything she won't 100% excel at.  That, and she probably likes being babied by her four older siblings.  Who spoil her rotten.  Smart girl.

--I just finished up Henri J.M. Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership.  Oh my goodness, have you read Nouwen before?  He is FABULOUS.  Fab.u.lous.  This book (which is super short) offered so much insight into church issues and pastoral issues and really made me think about the model of ministry I've experienced lo these many years in Protestantism.  He makes some great points.  Many of which are applicable even if you're not in church leadership (which I am not.  Thank goodness.)  One thing that really struck me was his discussion of the temptation to be relevant.  I have a few other books by him that I am now so anxious to read.

Okay, I've broken my blogging fast.  Recorded more of my story.  With some random randomness.  Happy Tuesday!   

Friday, March 25, 2011

And the winner is...


Who said,

I have been looking at daysprings awesome decor for some time now! I would love a beautiful pitcher to put on my dining room table and remind me of spring and all things good! Thanks!

Congratulations!  Denise please email me within the next 48 hours so I can get you the coupon code!  Yay!!!

Thanks so much to everyone for playing.  It was so fun reading your comments!  And, I love a good giveaway.

May you all experience "life to the full" today, wherever God has you, whatever joys or challenges or even setbacks you may be facing.  (I'm thinking life to the full isn't always easy, is it?  March 25th is the feast day of the Annunciation--what an amazing thing to meditate on as we think about living life to the full!)  Today I'm busy cleaning and hopefully doing some organizing too.  Hooray for Fridays! 

***The winner was chosen using a random number generator on  It was so exciting clicking that button!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dayspring review + GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

I don't know about you, but I love buying things for my home.

And I'm no decorator, but how fun is it to find a sweet wall hanging or picture frame?

Lately I've been eyeing the inspirational home decor products over at Dayspring.

How fabulous is this gallery-wrapped canvas that includes John 3:16 on it?

Or this framed canvas print?

So, so sweet.

Yours truly got the opportunity to review this lovely platter from Dayspring, which arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago.

Which reads, "I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full."

One of my favorite Jesus quotes!


And when the platter arrived, it did NOT disappoint.  This thing is SERIOUSLY good quality (with a good weight to it), shipped extremely quickly, and was well wrapped and packaged (thus it arrived in perfect condition).  I currently have it on display on a wall shelf by our dining room table.  Not only is the platter super cute, I love the reminder I get throughout the day that Jesus loves life, wants us to love life, and that He came to give us full life.  Fitting for a mama to five, no?

So, so fun.

But you wanna know something else fun?

{The fabulous people at Dayspring have generously given me a $20 store credit that one of YOU lucky readers can win!}

See, I told you it was fun!

So here's the deal: you can earn up to three entries for this giveaway.  Leave one comment per entry.

1.)  Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite decorating item is,

2.)  Follow my blog (SO super easy!  Just click "Follow" on the right-hand sidebar), and

3.)  Follow me on Twitter.  (Have you tried Twitter?  I recently took the plunge and ohmygoodness, it is FUN!)

Simple, right?

Giveaway ends at 11 pm GMT on Thursday, March 25th.  I will announce the winner on Friday! 

And make sure you go check out the fun stuff over at Dayspring!  The "Life to the Full" line of products is 30% OFF for the month of March!  Wow! 

***Please note that I was given this platter free of charge by Dayspring in exchange for my review.  The FTC, which sounds really scary and intimidating, says I have to tell you this.  Also, shipping charges will of course be applied to your Dayspring order.  There.  Now you're in the know.  :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A love that is generous

Who doesn't love starting their day off with a few tears?  :)

Watched some videos this morning of a family currently in Ukraine, adopting two waiting children with some medical needs.  I of course first heard about this family from Adeye.  It is a remarkable story, one of redemption and hope.  My favorite kind.

And now watching these videos through tear-filled eyes, I'm thinking to myself, how beautiful the love that compels someone to step out in faith on behalf of the waiting orphaned child, and ultimately on behalf of life.  And how deep the truth coursing through this story's veins, even as it is being written.  This story that brings together a family who loves, and a little girl and little boy who need to both give and receive that precious love.  Truth and grace and mercy are present.

I see this mama and child and I am stunned by how quickly things can change when people say yes to God.  Some change is slow, yes, even painfully slow, but some is incredibly sudden.  Not too long ago there was little hope for sweet Julia's future.  And now she is being treasured and cherished and cuddled by her mom.  She is experiencing a loving human relationship for possibly the first time in her life.  This is deep stuff, not just schmaltzy Hallmark-ian sentiment.

Some will look at parents raising children from the hard places, and/or children with medical needs or developmental delays, and wonder how they do it...that is not something I could's just too hard and that is for other people, NOT me.  Well, perhaps not.  But what if each of these children, in addition to being an incredible blessing from God, also represents an opportunity to enter into the mess with Jesus and love generously?  Being a mother is surely filled with hard times and sacrifice and the giving away of oneself.  It involves frustration and sadness and self-doubt.  It requires you to think hard and problem-solve and give up on your own ideas of how life should go.  It's not easy and it isn't meant to be easy.  Life here on earth is SO incredibly short, and aren't we all looking for meaning?  What if some of that meaning is right in front of us?

Please hear me when I say that adoption should NEVER be about doing "ministry", and these children should NOT be seen as charity cases in that sense.  It should not be pursued just because you want to do something good or because you are religious.  When you adopt a child, that is your child.  You are their parent.  As surely as when you birth a child. 

And yet at its core, love is patient, kind, full of sacrifice, and generous.  It is a generous love that is open to the addition of a child to the family--biological or adopted.  It is a generous love that pursues the adoption of a child with known (and unknown) medical issues.

It is a generous love that bears, believes, hopes and endures--yes, endures--all things.

This sort of virtuous love is incredibly beautiful to watch.  I am in awe this morning.  Completely inspired by this family.  Completely inspired by the many families I know in real life (how blessed I am to know so very many!) who are in the trenches fighting for the lives of their children from the hard places.  It is love in action, it is real, and while it may not always feel good/look tidy/go the way we thought it would, it is a self-giving sort of love.  Complete with true depth and fulfillment, and where you just know that, well, Jesus is there.


Monday, March 21, 2011

World Down Syndrome Day and the legacy of Jerome Lejeune

Today has been designated World Down Syndrome Day. Pictured above is the man who discovered the cause of Down syndrome. More about him in a minute. Because he rocks.

And I figure anything that rasies awareness about the individuals born with Down syndrome--and their accomplishments, struggles, and lives--is a good thing.

I have always passionately believed that there is a dignity to life, one that cannot be minimized or trivialized, regardless of one's standing in society and regardless of the way in which they are born. I participated in my first pro-life walk (to raise money for a crisis pregnancy center) when I was but 9 years old. I remember, at age 11, spending a day at a ranch hanging out with middle school students who were developmentally delayed. Then I volunteered with Special Olympics in junior high school. While I was far from being a saint (do you cringe when you think about the stupid things you used to do/think/say, or is that just me?), these things were on my radar screen and embedded in the very depths of my heart from a young age. Instilled in my by my parents--so, so grateful to them for that. (And who says kids don't listen to their moms and dads?)

As you all know, I am about to adopt two little girls who were both born with Down syndrome. NOT because I have any desire to be an activist. (We can all agree that is a horrible motive for adopting a child. So that is definitely not what I'm trying to say here.) But because we are open to life. Feel called to adopt. And there were two little girls who needed a home. We didn't think Down syndrome should matter in that sense. It is something our family will embrace and address.

My beliefs about dignity and life feel so much more personal now.

All of a sudden, it's not simply me being frustrated-from-afar by the way people treat those who are different from them--it's my future daughters we're talking about. Who are children that happen to have Down syndrome.

All of a sudden I'm thinking, really thinking, about the type of world these little girls have been born into. They are leaving their birth country which, sadly, cannot offer much in the way of resources for developmental delays. And coming to a country rich in resources for kids who need a little extra practice with walking and talking. Yet still I grieve because our society is, whether we want to admit it or not, incredibly hostile towards individuals with Down syndrome (and various other medical needs, for that matter). We assume they must not have a good quality of life. We assume they won't achieve what our non-developmentally-delayed children will achieve--and believe all of that actually really matters. And we currently eliminate 92% of the precious, lovingly-created souls with Down syndrome from our country. Before they can even be born.

It is my view that we simply struggle to see people as being created by God, period. This of course isn't limited to babies with Down syndrome. It extends to people sitting on death row. And people struggling through addictions. And, for goodness' sake, people who speak a different language from us. Why, oh why is it so very difficult? Why do we struggle to acknowledge that ALL life is valuable, every single one, every sweet, individual soul? Why do we jump at the chance to draw lines between "them" and "us" as if somehow WE are more capable of eeking out a meaningful existence (and attempt to rob them of the same in the process)?

So today, for World Down Syndrome Day, I wanted to introduce you to an incredible man. This article is an interview with the daughter of Jerome Lejeune (the French geneticist who first discovered the cause of Down syndrome. Pictured at the top of this post with one of his patients.) Have you heard of him? Quite possibly not. Because this man was not only a brilliant, famed geneticist, he ended up spending the majority of his career fighting for the lives of those born with Trisomy 21. He faced opposition, discrimination, and all-out hatred, but still he continued on: a true hero of the faith. I am so anxious to read more about this amazing man and about his work, as I know I can learn so much from his Godly, selfless example.

What a legacy Jerome has left. Just Google his name, and you can find dozens of articles about him, and books he has written, all in the name of life. (I feel a little proud too that my husband's middle name is Jerome, as well as one of my sons' middle names. Not a bad guy to share your name with!)

This man exemplifies so much of what World Down Syndrome Day ought to mean. May we all have the courage and conviction of Jerome Lejeune!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beauty in the blurry

First I just want to thank you all for your sweet and encouraging comments on my prior post.  It's all sinking in a bit more and I'm also feeling slightly more hopeful that we COULD actually get these girls home before too terribly long.  Your encouragement has been such a blessing to me!

Now though it's time for some super blurry photos.

Because one recent Sunday afternoon, the kids and Kevin were playing a random game with a ball.  In the house.  Everyone was involved--including little Mary.  Especially Mary.  She LOVED it.  Lots of racing around and shouting excitedly.

I generally stay out of these sorts of crazy activities.  I avoid the fray.  But I'm not above grabbing for the camera.

The picture quality is awful, but really?

I love these shots. 

Because they capture happy, joy-filled moments of togetherness that, while happening on some level each day, aren't typically dwelt on.  I don't always take the time to think about how great it is that my kids are enjoying childhood, together, and that they want to include their baby sister in their games.

Yes there is regularly some level of bickering in my home.  Yes I occasionally want to send my children off to boarding school.  Or myself for that matter.

But most of the time, we're just together.  Happily doing random things--like chasing after a ball and then rolling it over to the baby, who squeals in delight as she chases after it.

I think I NEED to look at photos like these, to remind myself of the joys and silliness and innocence.  Because for some reason it's easier to focus on the to-do lists that aren't getting accomplished because my sinuses are killing me, or the closet that isn't getting cleaned out because it's just so overwhelming.  Or, well, the bickering. 

And so the photos make me laugh, and remind me of my purpose in all of this. 

Blurriness, imperfections and all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm going to Africa :)



We are going to Ethiopia!!!

Next month.

Oh my goodness.

{You can read more of our adoption story here and here.  The less verbose version is: we are adopting two little girls who were born with Down syndrome.  There have been many delays in this process and as a result it has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.  But they are so beyond worth it.}

Leaving Denver on April 18th.

Attending court in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on April 21st.

Spending two days in Rome (!!!!) on our way back.

This is a miracle.  Truly.

Because with all the talk of delays and problems and just general adoption drama, I am so incredibly grateful to at least have this court date.  Our case, for now, is moving forward.

Yes it's highly possible (likely, really) that we will still face delays based on MOWA's reduction in the number of adoptions being processed.  Deep breath.

And this has cast a bit of a pall over our process and court date news.

It's more like tempered excitement than all-out jubilation (which you naturally want to feel about this sort of thing.  Sigh.)


We get to meet our girls.


And, while I still have no clue when we can actually bring them home, I get to stand before a judge in a month's time.

And tell him or her that, yes, I have met these two sweet little ones.

And YES, I want them to become my daughters.

It is at that point when we may very well have to hear the judge tell us that the case is incomplete, and that we'll have to wait who-knows-how-long for them to actually become our daughters.

That will be unbelievably hard to hear, and it will be unbelievably hard to leave our girls behind on those terms.  Not being able to tell them "you are our daughters now, and we'll be back in several weeks."  Not being able to share happy-tear-inducing photos of them on Facebook or here on my blog, like so many other families have gotten to do.

Because if that happens, they WON'T be ours yet. 

But here's the thing.  We're still gonna show up next month.  And the whole showing up thing seems to have become a theme in my life.  I titled my blog four years ago because the previous title was boring I was inspired by a Sara Groves song that resonated so much with me at the time.  And it has only seemed to increase as the years have passed, this awareness that I want and need to be present, to offer up what I have, to give myself away with reckless abandon to babies and mopping and Jesus and to just, well, show up.

Regardless of the outcome, Kevin and I are taking another step in this process next month, and that is something I can be excited about!  We'll get to spend time with two of the cutest girlies on the planet.  We'll give them kisses and cuddles and hear their sweet little voices.  Perfection.

My mind has been literally SPINNING ever since we got the news.  We've made flight reservations, lined up our fearless out-of-state babysitter, and done a bit of brainstorming about the uh-MAZ-ing things we'll get to eat do and see in Rome. 

I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm a teeny bit nervous.  Oh, okay--a LOT nervous.  I'm a bundle of nerves, really, because our family size is about to increase by two.  We are adding two precious, made-in-God's-image girls to our family, who will be coming from a place of trauma and loss.  They have some developmental delays and potential health issues.  I don't know how the eventual transition will go.  I want these girls to feel so safe and cherished.  Nerve-inducing for sure.

I'm also nervous about leaving my other five children behind for ten days, though of course they'll be in great and more-than-capable hands with my mom.  And they're positively thrilled at the prospect.  (Hanging out with Grandma for ten days?  Without Mom and Dad around?  Yes please!  As for my mother, I can only hope she survives.) 

Then there are--shiver--the flights we'll have to endure.  Yes, I said endure.  Right after I shivered.  I HATE to fly, people.  I am quite possibly, in fact, the world's most fearful flyer, and I white-knuckle it the entire time, alternating between terrified silence as I grip the armrest to "WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?  Did you HEAR the engine make that sound?!" as I grip Kevin's arm, certain that this is it and we're going down.  That's not a very fun way to spend 20 hours.  I have flown a few times in recent years with friends (all on short domestic flights) and for some reason they do a better job of distracting me and keeping me under control.  But they won't be here this time, and this will also be my first time flying since watching the series LOST.  Um, did you SEE the first episode?  Oh my.  You can bet I will be chugging me some wine at the airport as I contemplate the possibility of having to decide whether to follow Jack or John Locke.  I should probably get this decided BEFORE I start in on the wine.

So yes, excitement and nervousness and anticipation and, did I mention excitement?  :)

We are going to Ethiopia!!!

Getting closer to bringing our girls home.

Meeting our girls.

So incredibly surreal, and the journey of a lifetime.  Can't WAIT to go back.

Thank you so much dear friends for your prayers and support.  I am so blessed by each one of you.  God is incredibly faithful and while we can't know for sure how this story will end, we are trusting the One who does.  I have found such consolation in all of your prayers and love over the past several months.  The relationships and connections formed through this blog have been the biggest joy of blogging, without a doubt, hands-down.

Over the next several weeks this here corner of the blogosphere will surely be filled with much frenzied chaos preparation, so enjoy your front row seat to the crazy.  :)

I'm seriously still wrapping my head around the whole thing.  We're going to Ethiopia to meet our little girls!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mom fail

"I'm writing this blogpost just in case anyone thinks that I somehow have it all together."

I know, right? 

That's how you're supposed to start a self-deprecating story. 

Every mommy blogger intuitively knows this.

But I'm not going to open with that. 

Because I don't think anyone actually thinks this mama has it all together.  (Thank goodness!) 

We're just so beyond that here at Just Showing Up. 

For example, yesterday I spilled my entire (beloved, large-sized) Diet Coke at the rec center pool...shortly after being lectured by multiple lifeguards for not being IN the zero-foot-entry baby pool with my four oldest kids. 

{Is it okay if I think that crouching awkwardly in a half-foot of shallow water, while wearing an ill-fitting, stretched out bathing suit, while my children play and splash around me, is completely embarrassing?  And let's be honest, I was there to chat with my girlfriends, one of whom suggested to the lifeguard that they should provide chairs in the pool for moms to sit on--as well as martinis.  I have brilliant friends.  AND, just to be clear, I was sitting RIGHT at the edge of the water, waded in several times, and was watching my children the entire time.  Water safety, people!} 

So I can't start with those words.  Because I have five young children.  I'm a klutz.  I do goofy things.  I'm extremely introverted and as a result have awkward encounters on a regular basis.

You do the math.


I'm going to start, instead, by saying the following:

Anna recently participated in the science fair at her homeschool program, and I have rarely been filled with such anxiety.

See, this type of thing stresses me out beyond words.  (Even more than all the fingerprints(!) on our stainless steel fridge.  Which has been cleaned since then.  But, eek!)

Because I never really did a science project.

I never had to do a display board or figure out an experiment.

And because I didn't want to look like an idiot love my daughter, I wanted her to have a good project and a good display and to receive a ribbon.

But the problem is, a first grader can't really type it all up or do much of it on their own, so we parents were supposed to get involved.

Enter my feelings of dread, incompetence, and just all around terror.

Thankfully Kevin helped Anna do the actual experiment on a Saturday.  I was SO grateful.

But the deal was that I was supposed to be in charge of helping with the write-up and display. 


So I showed up to Hobby Lobby with five unruly obnoxious charming kids and a mission: to get the display board.

And I discovered that they sell multiple sizes.


I'd never done this before.  Ever.  So I bought the size I figured was adequate for a first grader.

And it looked like THIS next to all the other first grade displays. 

Oh dear.

When we got there and I discovered that I was the ONLY mom in the ENTIRE school too stupid to know the proper size, I told Anna that hers was different, because SHE, uh, had the cute baby display (?!)

A few minutes later I heard her repeating those words, gleefully and through giggles, to one of her friends.

Major mom-points for the good spin.

Which partially makes up for my major mom-fail.  Sort of.  Okay not really.  I just looked at that photo again.

Anyway, backing up in the story, the evening we were supposed to put the display together, I had a major meltdown.

As in, I cried.  And I never, ever cry.  (And this was BEFORE I found out I bought the wrong-sized board.  Sheesh!  But, it was AFTER I had an embarrassing encounter with a deacon at an Ash Wednesday service.  Rough night for sure.)

I had no clue how to write it up, or display it on the board.  I'm not crafty OR creative.  I just started cutting up a bunch of construction paper with my broken scissors, and I can't cut straight, and Anna was super hyper and running around and all of a sudden I realized she had to have a GRAPH as part of the display, and how do you graph the results of melting ice cubes?

Thankfully my dear, sweet husband came to my rescue.  Again.

I have never really considered myself a damsel in any sort of distress, but that night, yeah.  I needed help.

So Kevin worked with Anna on the board and graph.

While I sat there wringing my hands and emailing a friend about how stressful this science fair was.

But not to worry.

My husband little girl won a second-place ribbon and could not have been more thrilled when they called her name.  Apparently they thought the project was good, even if the mom's knowledge of science fair project materials was NOT so good.



Can I just say that I am so, so glad this is over?  My daughter may have learned something about the scientific method, but it came at the cost of taking a good five years off my life.

I knew I hated science.

And I knew I didn't have it all together.

So did you, and now you have further proof.

Yet this is the stuff that life is made of, friends. 

Spilled Diet Cokes and science fair extravaganzas.

So the next time you have a mom-fail moment, you can think of me.

Just picture my daughter's itty-bitty display board and my cry-fest on Ash Wednesday.

You'll feel lots better.

And my self-deprecating tale will have been well worth it!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why we school at home

I adore this photo from a few months ago.  Taken in our schoolroom.

Because it encapsulates pretty much everything I hope to accomplish through homeschooling.

Yes my children are learning and honing various academic skills, but more importantly, they are living in relationship together.  Learning what it means to be a family and to run a home.  Discovering the joys of sibling relationships, while practicing the virtues of grace and of being charitable. 

Even with baby sisters who come and perch atop your mathbook while you're trying to work, and rest their chubby hand on your knee.  Because they're so very interested in what their big brother is doing.

These two are BFF's.  Two peas in a pod.  And didn't you know that counting bears and linking cubes are a team effort for a six year old and a three year old?  They so are.  Segregating children by age?  Um, not so much!

All of my children.  Working together.  Learning together.  Living life together.

Yes we have our curriculums we use, subjects we study, and times of individual instruction.  (There may or may not also be times when I want to rip my hair out.  But that doesn't really go with this post.  So I'll leave that stuff out.)  But the BEST things happening in our homeschool?  The incidentals, the stuff that happens in the midst of the messiness and PB&Js for lunch and babies ripping pages out of books crawling all around.

People often ask me how I "manage" to homeschool with two little ones underfoot.

This is how I manage.

This is why we homeschool.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The view from here

Some days of mothering are really, really hard.

But others are like this. 

Where you can't get enough of your baby girl's black leggings and teeny tiny Robeez peeking out from the rear-facing car seat behind you.

That say "Mom" on them. With a rose. 

Be still my heart, I LOVE this girl. 

Even when she makes really goofy faces...

when I'm doing my very best...

to get a picture of her smiling.

But I post them anyway...

because she was working really hard to pose for the camera.  And she thought she was being pretty.

We'll work on her modeling skills later.  :)

But in the meantime, I'm soaking up the days with this little munchkin.  My little Mary Lu Lu.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The kids table

We do this on a regular basis when we go out to eat.

"Kids, guess what?  You get to sit at your VERY OWN table!"

They think it's AWEsome.

And so do we.  :)

Of course this little sweetie pie gets to sit with Mommy and Daddy.  Because, really, she's just too CUTE to send to the other table!

Friday, March 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday {#24}

1).  Yesterday my kids' school was only a half-day long, so we met up with Kevin for lunch, and then I got the hare-brained idea to go browse around ROSS.  You know, with the five kids.  (Yes, I take them with me to the store.  Regularly.  Good for them, good for society, slightly stressful for me but I do it anyway.)  And they were SO obnoxious.  Hyper.  Noisy.  Not listening.  Sweeping the floors with the brooms for sale.  Earlier in the afternoon I'd told them they could have Otterpops when we got home, but when we made it out to the car after our shopping was done, I told them they would NOT be getting them afterall.  And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.  By two of my older children.  However ONE of my older children was singing along to the radio within five minutes!  Because this particular child lives in the moment.  Easy come, easy go.  This can be frustrating as a parent, but it will serve him well in the future (or so I tell myself!)

2.)  Dr. Phil gets on my nerves.  And I have NO clue what made me think of him, but, there you have it.  Pop psychology and quick-fix behaviorism masquerading as help drives me batty.  So, boo to Dr. Phil, and to his show that has become increasingly sensationalistic over the years. 

3.)  Remember how I've mentioned that entertaining (aka preparing a simple meal and having people over to consume it) stresses me out?  Well, lately I've noticed it's not quite as anxiety-inducing anymore.  I'm even maybe starting to ENJOY it.  (I always enjoy the company, it's the act of having people in and figuring out a meal plan--and executing said meal plan-- that freak me out.)  Maybe because I'm just doing it more and therefore becoming more comfortable with it.  Thank goodness!

4.)  I seriously wonder what people did before the blogosphere existed as a platform for arguments and controversies.  Oh my GOODness, just this week I happened upon various blog discussions tearing apart an author and her book.  Over something extremely silly.  Sheesh!

5.)  On Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I got up at 7 am.  Per the plan.  On Thursday, I got up at 5:45 am (to get my kids to their once-a-week school program.)  And it was WAY easier getting up on Thursday.  Why?

6.)  A certain seven-year-old in my home has reached a developmental stage where she ques.tions.  Everything.  And I'm trying to be patient, because I know it's a phase, and so far it's not outright defiant per se, but I'm also attempting to teach her that it's disrespectful to always be challenging things or trying to negotiate with Mommy.  I'm bracing myself for the teen years!  (Sort of.  Because she is an incredibly sweet girl who I love to pieces and we have a great time together.  But the questions HAVE to STOP!)

7.)  You know that show "America's Next Great Restaurant" or whatever it's called?  We watched the first episode online, and were beaming with pride when they showed the very first Chipotle, because it's in our 'hood--literally about two minutes from my house.  That's where we go to get our burritos, peeps.  And, yes, there must really be something wrong with me to, um, feel so proud of our neighborhood fast-casual food chain.  Maybe I should have a talk with Dr. Phil...


Do your QuickTakes and link to Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Ethiopian elephant

Isn't this ornament so, so sweet?  A local woman was selling these in December to help raise funds for her Ethiopian adoption.  I love it.  And therefore had to buy it.  It's actually currently hanging in my bathroom, because I couldn't bear to pack it away with all the other Christmas stuff!

As we prepare to bring two new daughters into our family, I think about Ethiopia often.  The country, the culture, the process...all are on my mind  I can't escape it, and quite frankly, I've stopped trying.

But there's an elephant in the room now.  Because, in case you have been living under a rock hadn't noticed, there are a lot of articles...and blog posts...and tweets floating around concerning Ethiopian adoption.  There are some rules and laws that may be changing.  There may be a drastic reduction in the number of adoptions permitted from Ethiopia.  (As in, a 90% reduction.)  And people are arguing online over whether this is a good thing or not and, not surprisingly, has an opinion.  Everyone.

It's honestly a lot for this mama to take in.

Don't get me wrong, I've actually given a TON of thought over the years to the concept of adoption, and international adoption.  And to ethics in adoption.  Choosing an agency back in 2005 was a pain-staking process.  I wanted to get as far away as possible from poor practices and from people who were more interested in finding children for parents, than finding parents for children.  Thus we went with an agency that primarily places older children, and children with medical needs.  Kids who need homes today.  An agency clearly not seeking to supply an ever-growing demand.  I've never regretted our decision.  And we're using the same agency this time around too.

Ethiopia is a beautiful, complex, real place.  Where, just like any country (including our own), many children are legitimately in need of help.  Yet my heart hurts because both greed and misplaced compassion on the part of adoption agencies and adoptive parents have hurt the integrity of this adoption program.  There is simply no excuse for agencies being anything less than forthright, and there is no excuse for families continuing to use those agencies, some of which are well-known for their problems.

So I'm thoughtfully considering this situation and watching the discussions from afar.  I'm not leaving any comments or stepping too far into the fray.  I'm hoping people know that many of us care passionately about ethical adoptions, and also about finding help for children legitimately relinquished for adoption.  There are so many of them.  So.very.many.  And if adoptive parents would adopt these children, the ones who have been sitting in orphanages for years, there would be no place for greed to rear its ugly head and take over.  It is my humble opinion that the consumer-driven United States of America should NOT, under any circumstance, be creating a major demand for children.  Anywhere.  But this is what regularly happens, country by country.  This is why programs shut down and why money talks and why new programs open up.  A few bad apples, or agencies, ruin the bunch.  These agencies couldn't do this if families didn't use them, or primarily pursued children already waiting.  This is the only leverage we have, the only accountability we can offer.

It should come as no surprise that this is, um, an emotionally charged issue for me.  It hurts to think about our girlies being without a family a moment longer than necessary.  (And no, this is NOT about me and my entitlement, it's about the fact that they need resources unavailable to them in their birth country.  Because they were born with Down syndrome.  And, they truly need a family.  They have been waiting plenty long.)  It also hurts to think about the unethical issues that have led to this place.  The pain and damage that have been left in their wake.  It is heart-breaking.

I'll also admit that I think the motives involved here are less than clear.  Another reason I'm holding back on sharing my opinion on the actual law change.  I've read and heard things indicating this has less to do with ensuring ethical adoptions and more to do with power and bureaucracy.  Sigh.

I always, always hope to advocate for the placement of legitimately orphaned children in families, while at the same time advocating for the preservation and resourcing of biological families. 

We can do both. 

We must do both.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Of Lent and waking up

With Lent just around the corner, I wanted to talk a little bit about how we plan to observe it and what that will look like for us.  (The above is Botticelli's rendition of the Temptation of Christ.)

Let me be clear by saying that I am 29 years old, and have been a Christian my entire life.  But for 27 of those years, I was ignorant of 99% of the Church Calendar.  My church growing up, and the church I attended up until a few years ago, lit the Advent candles each December, and observed Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Advent, Good Friday, and Easter are all part of a much bigger series of observances.

Our current church (which is part of the RCA denomination) recognizes the various components of the Liturgical Year, including Ash Wednesday and Lent.  I still remember the first Ash Wednesday service I attended there, where I received the ash on my forehead.  Which always reminds me of a particular Wednesday back in my freshman year of college when I could NOT figure out why I kept seeing people around campus with dirty faces.



Yes, I was that ignorant.

Anyway, I've fallen in love with the various special services that we attend and with the Church Calendar.  Historical Christianity is so FULL and RICH.  There is incredible depth, beauty, and complexity to be found there, and some amazing tools for us on our journey with God.  I'm just beginning to explore it but am loving what I'm finding.

I read something recently that talked about how whatever we do for Lent should be making us into a better person, that it shouldn't just be some arbitrary sacrifice of our favorite type of candy where we get right back to it once Lent is over.  SO, after giving it a bit of thought I decided that for Lent this year, I am going to--gulp--get up by 7 am each weekday morning.

Do you hear crickets too?

I am NOT a morning person.  I have NEVER been a morning person.  (You are more than welcome to contact my parents, past roommates, and husband for verification of this.)  I typically roll out of bed around 8 am.  And even then, I don't like getting up.  It's a very slow process for me.  AND, I typically only drink decaffeinated coffee, so I don't even have that to fall back on!

But I HATE how I always get started on my day so late.  I don't like always feeling behind, and feeling like lunchtime sneaks right up on me, and I always end up showering in the afternoon and by that time, really, what is the point of getting dressed?  Yet I have horrible self control and it's just really hard for me to get out of bed when I don't HAVE to (aka before Mary's screaming for me from her room.)

So I'm going to try this experiment.  Up by 7.  Hoping it will help my day and transform what I do around here.  Hoping it'll be better for me and better for my family.  It will be challenging but I'm going to give it a go.  Maybe then we can actually make it back to weekday Mass from time to time, and be more prepared for spontaneous outings in general.  Maybe then I can get errands run AND housework done.  More time for Bible reading and prayer.  The possibilities are endless.

This will also require more self-discipline on the other end of my day.  When I'm late getting dinner on the table, and the kids go to bed later, I end up staying up later to get time with Kevin and hang out in a kid-free environment.  So I'm hoping that having them all tucked in no later than 8 pm will remedy that problem.  We'll see. 

 To me, the Church Calendar is all about the rhythms of life.  And it's far from being empty and devoid of meaning.  Our every-day-lives revolve around routine and remembrance and observance, and it seems such a shame to ignore the very things that Christians have observed, worldwide, through the ages.  We are participating in something so much bigger than ourselves, and what an amazing gift God has given us in His Church.  Again, I've only just reached the tip of the iceberg but even that has offered such amazing perspective.

Maybe Lent seems to you, because it used to for me, like a completely unnecessary and un-beneficial thing to do.  Well, we recently we had a conversation with some wonderful new friends over dinner about the historical rootedness (or lack thereof) of the various faith systems.  (Don't you have these types of conversations with your dinner guests?  Okay maybe that's just us.  And our friends.  Who are awesome by the way.  And who hopefully enjoy theology enough that they didn't think we were weird for asking so many questions.)  This is something I had not given any thought to prior to about four years ago.  And I've been thinking of it more and more as time goes on.  The Bible itself, afterall, is a collection of very-old-documents that are historical in nature (along with being inspired by God, of course!)  And to this day Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Reformed, and Methodist believers observe Lent.  (It was actually first rejected in the 16th century by Anabaptists who, in good faith, claimed it was a Roman invention.  But now it is believed, from various ancient documents, that it actually did NOT originate in Rome, and that it goes back quite a ways.  To apostolic times.  Which of course no one can PROVE, but no one can disprove it either, and there is evidence to that end.)

Thus I have come to believe that there can be great, inestimable value in something precisely because it has been handed down.  That there is a great, mysterious, beautiful connectedness between my faith and your faith and the faith of the apostles.  That when I am participating in something that ancient Christians did, and Christians worldwide are currently doing, and that Christians in the future will continue to do, all in the name of Jesus, that there is amazing joy and grace and even power in that.  So, so beautiful.  And potentially life-changing too.

So.  Lent.  Up by 7 am.  Possibly really grumpy.  Definitely really tired.  Stay tuned, as I'm sure I'll have some updates.  Maybe even a photo or two of me in my exhausted, angry stupor.  Just kidding about the anger.  Sort of.  :)

And jitters be darned, maybe it's time to pick up some of that regular, caffeinated coffee.

Monday, March 07, 2011

4 years ago today...

I looked like this,

Showed up to the hospital like this,

Spent the evening doing this,

Was so grateful for this,

And in the end I got to hold this...

Right before I got to witness this.  Such a sacred, crazy beautiful sort of day.

Happy Birthday dear, sweet Kaitlyn!

I love your sweet spirit,

Passion for all things Barbie and Princess,

Crazy sweet tooth--

No really, a seriously crazy sweet tooth--

Your typically furrowed brow and the way you take things SO seriously,

Including meeting Santa Claus, because really, it doesn't get much more serious than that,

And your stunningly beautiful smile that matches your stunningly beautiful heart.

I love you, Kaitlyn, "so, so, so, so much."

{Our family needs this girl.  Big time.}

Happy 4th Birthday Katie Jane! 


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