Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year

9:25 p.m., December 31, 2011.
I just arrived home after 5 days in North Carolina visiting my friend Bev. My bed is wonderful, and I am thankful for my laptop that allows me to blog from amongst my pillows and flannel sheets. Fireworks are exploding outside as the greater Orlando area gears up for ringing in a new year. For the first time in a long time, I plan to be asleep when the ball falls in NYC.  I'm too wiped out from the trip to stay up.

2011 was a year of high highs and low lows. I posted on Facebook tonight how glad I am that God is always faithful. As I look ahead to a year of unknowns, I can rest in the knowledge that God sees what I can't see, and He is faithful. 2012 seems less scary when I look at it from that perspective. Now is a good time for me to reflect on the last year. Tomorrow, maybe I'll post on what I'm looking forward to in the coming year, because there's already a lot to anticipate!

High: Ringing in the year with new friends who have become some of our dearest friends this year. We love you, Ron, Christina, and kiddos!
Low: Difficulties with the kids' old school, including an uncooperative principal, a class switch for Snapper, and a run-in with a bully that ended up going all the way through the district's bullying discipline process. While it was stressful for Snapper in the process and hard for her to be a bully's target, justice was done and Snapper learned valuable lessons on courage, forgiveness, loving your enemies, and standing up for what is right.
High: Getting connected with Tracie, Laura, and Brandee through church small group and ladies' Bible study. These three amazing women have become my best friends here in Orlando, and I adore them.
High: Getting to go to a NASCAR race at the Daytona Speedway. Sure, it wasn't the Daytona 500, but it was the Budweiser Shootout, which was AWESOME!
Low: Experiencing problem after problem after problem with our house, only to have the landlord refuse to fix the problems. It was made even worse when he blamed the problems on us, and tried to make us pay for them.
Low: Having both of our cars die in the same week, and being without a vehicle for a month. Ugh!
High: Receiving the gift of our Cadillac from a ministry partner. Really? Someone gave us a beautiful car!
High: Finally getting to start working with Bright Media/DG4Kids after 10 months of raising support. We love it, love it, love it!
High: Having a week with our friends Brian, Carol, and their 3 girls. They came down from Tennessee for Easter and spent 8 days with us.
Low: Experiencing more problems with our house, being told we would be let out of our lease early, and then having our landlord change his mind.
High: Finding the perfect house in the town we wanted to live in, near swim team, in a great school district, at the right price...and the new landlord being willing to hold it 3 months for us until we could get out of our other lease!
High: Celebrating our 10th anniversary! Oh, how I love my man. He is the best!
High: Road trip across 12 states, including 10 days at Cru's U.S. Staff Conference in Colorado.
Low: Unforeseen road trip issues that ended up costing us $2000 more than budgeted.
Low: A sudden drop in our support that landed us in short paycheck land from August 1-December 15.
Low: A miscarriage.
Low: Discovering that Snapper and I are gluten intolerant.
Low: Our van breaking down. The repairs will be extensive. We're saving up, and hope to have the money to fix it this month.
High: This year's school is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Snapper's two teachers and Pepper's teachers all share our faith, which gives us great common ground with them. They are wonderful teachers, and the kids are doing so well in school. It makes up for our awful year last year.
High: Watching Snapper excel in swimming. She is fast, strong, and has won the hearts of her coaches. She has also made the sweetest friends at swim team.
High: Graduating from foster/adoption training, having our case moved to top priority, and preparing to adopt one or two children in 2012!
High: Giving the kids Sea World passes for Christmas.
High: Having our church decide to start supporting us...and we never asked them for support! What an amazing encouragement!
High: Loaded tangelo, lime, and grapefruit trees in our own back yard! YUM!
High: Losing 30 POUNDS since August as a result of going gluten free! Oh, and I feel better than I have since I was a kid.
High: Knowing God better because of all He has done in our lives this year. Seeing what He brought us through, remembering how He provided for us, experiencing His protection and care, and knowing without a doubt how much He loves us--all those things make me eager to move forward into a new year. Happy New Year to you, and may God make Himself known in your life as He has in mine. He loves you so!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

From My Home to Yours...

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas Eve night, we celebrated Jesus at our church's Christmas Eve service. Then we came home and enjoyed a delightful dinner of ham, scalloped potatoes, and collard greens. The kids opened the customary new pajamas and put out a plate of gluten free caramels for Santa and a plate of carrots for the reindeer. Matt tucked them into their beds, where they are peacefully dreaming right now.

Tomorrow morning we'll kick off our day with birthday breakfast for Jesus--complete with the reading of Luke 2 and singing some favorite carols--followed by opening stockings and the gifts from our family in California and Washington. Because we went to church this evening, we've decided not to try to rush out to church again in the morning. We open gifts one at a time, savoring each one and remembering the loved one who sent it to us. Around 12:30, we're heading out to spend the day with our dear friends Curt & Tracie and John & Laura. None of us have family in Florida, so we spend holidays together as adopted family. Our time tomorrow promises to be full of good food, lots of fun, and rich fellowship.

What I anticipate to be the highlight of tomorrow, however, is Matt's and my gift to our family. Because we are hoping to welcome two new children into our family this year, we decided to forego any new "stuff" for Snapper and Pepper. They're going to have to get rid of stuff as it is, so why add new stuff to the mix? We pooled our resources and purchased.....drum roll please.....Sea World season passes for our family!!! The Florida resident rate made this extremely affordable for us, and it cost about the same as what we'd normally spend on gifts for the four of us. I've put together a scavenger hunt for the kids. There are eight clues that will ultimately take them to their passes...which are currently taped underneath their chairs at the breakfast table. I am SO EXCITED to see their sweet faces when they discover their gifts!!! Video and photos forthcoming.

Again, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas! May the Lord bless your family as we celebrate His gift to us.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Missing Mom

Today would have been my mom's 62nd birthday. It's the 9th birthday of hers we've celebrated without her. Oh, how I miss her.

Every year when I was little, we used to go to the Tyrolean Inn, a wonderful, little German restaurant in a mountain town near where we lived. My mom was German, and she loved German food. Tonight we're making German food for dinner as a way of remembering and celebrating her life. Later this afternoon the kids and I are going to make lemon bars, which were her favorite dessert. After dinner tonight we're going to watch videos of my mom. She has been gone for 8 1/2 years and I haven't watched any video of her since she passed. I anticipate I will experience every emotion in the book. I think I'm ready for it, but whether I am or not, it's time for the kids to hear her voice and see her move. They know her through stories and photos, but it's time for more.

Happy Birthday, Mommy. I love you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adoption Update

Big update!
Our first home study visit is scheduled for January 9!
This is big news because we didn't expect to even hear from our adoption caseworker to schedule the home study until mid-January!
Each day we get a little bit closer to finding out what precious child/children God has for our family. This step is a big step!
I'm just a little bit excited...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Enjoying Christmas

Because I love Christmas so much, I really want to savor the month leading up to it. See, I'm the kind of girl who doesn't generally like surprises because for me, half the fun of an event is the anticipation. I love to plan, and I love to do fun things with my family. Before we moved in June, I got rid of a bunch of my Christmas decorations. I am tired of having every corner of my house full of clutter--albeit cute clutter--during the month of December. So I ended up keeping what is really meaningful to our family, and I sold/donated the rest. The freedom from clutter has given me much more time and energy, and a general sense of peace. I put some of that time and energy into our advent calendar. The focus of the calendar is to spend time with the family during what can be a very crazy month. During our morning devotions and dinnertime readings, we are focusing on Jesus, the true reason for the season.

Day 1: Make a paper chain to help us count down to Christmas! 

We ended up not doing this activity on December 1st because we were getting ready for our trip to Snapper's meet. So the kids made their chain on Tuesday with the babysitter while Matt and I were at our last foster/adoption class. I don't have a photo of it, so I'll post a picture of the advent calendar itself. I made it myself and thoroughly enjoyed the process. Before you get too amazed by my creativity, remember that this is not an original idea. I found it on, and though the colors and some of the design on mine are uniquely mine, by no means did I come up with this on my own. I am very good at being a copycat! I plan to store it very carefully so we can use it for many years.

Monday, December 5, 2011

UF Swimmer

That meet ended up having a few surprises.
1. It wasn't a mid-size regional was a large international meet! There were swimmers there not only from all over Florida, but also from South Carolina, Georgia, and Cuba!
2. There were probably 1,000+ spectators there each day. A normal meet might have 100 parents who are only interested in their own child's swim. These spectators cheered for every event, rang cowbells, and were generally happy and loud.
3. Snapper's coach was not there at all. Her coach on deck the was coach of the next level up, and he was quite impressed with her. And he thinks she's a cutie pie (which she is).
4. Snapper made only slight improvement on the events I thought she would kill, but made huge improvement on the events that are typically her slowest.
5. The intense noise, chaos, and crowded nature of the event would have completely turned Snapper's world upside-down just 6 months ago. She amazed me with her poise, confidence, and relaxed demeanor throughout the meet. None of the craziness bothered her in the least. She swam her heart out and did great!
6. Did I mention that she got her BB time cuts in 100 IM and 50 Backstroke? That's a big deal for a just-turned-9-year-old!

Way to go, Snapper!

We have arrived at UF! Time to go swim in the O-Dome.

This is one of two competition pools. It was totally packed during warm-up. The other pool was packed too, as was the outdoor pool. That's a lot of 12&Under swimmers!

Snapper and teammate R during the National Anthem

Big meets like this can drag on, especially when there are 30 heats of 200 Freestyle. The Nintendo DS and iPhone games help make the time pass faster. 

In the absence of Coach Gaby, Coach Joe took good care of Snapper. He will be her coach when she moves up to the next level.

Back at the hotel, we splurged on some Ben & Jerry's ice cream!

We spent a relaxing evening as a family playing the Wii in our hotel room.

National Anthem, Day 2

Snapper's starting block ritual: chew the fingers and adjust the goggles until the very last second.

She has gotten much more aggressive on her starts recently.

It was fun having an overhead view of the meet. I got some new angles on her swimming.

Her Butterfly is absolutely beautiful, no matter which angle you're watching it from.

Time to head home. The weekend was a great success!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Big Swim

Tomorrow our family is making the trek to Gainesville, Florida, where my sweet 9-year-old will be swimming in a big meet at University of Florida. There will be teams there from all over the state, with 170 female swimmers in her 10&Under age group alone! The big deal for Snapper is that in order to swim in this meet, she had to make a set of rigorous time cuts to qualify. I am proud to say that she got the cuts in every stroke and distance, with the exception of 100 Fly, 200 Free, and 500 Free, which she has not yet done in competition.  She is seeded middle of the pack in everything, which is great considering she just aged up into this group and is one of the youngest swimmers. She is very excited to get to swim at UF, and she is thrilled that her hard work at practice has paid off. This will be a neat experience for her.

Snapper will be swimming: 100 IM, 200 IM, 50 Back, 50 Breast, 50 Fly, and 50 Free. She is not swimming 100-yard events because they fall on Sunday. We figure 2 days is enough swimming for a first big meet. Good luck, Snapper! This is going to be an awesome weekend!

P.S. If you want to watch her swim, Florida Swim Network will be providing streaming coverage of the meet. Go to the website and look for the link to the Gator Swim Club Holiday Classic. Coverage begins at 1:00 p.m Eastern time on Friday, December 2 and Saturday, December 3. 

Friday: Events 13, 23, & 33
Saturday: Events 53, 63, & 73

I don't know which heat/lane she'll be in. If you want to tune in an watch, please leave me a comment with your email address. Then I'll email you Snapper's name so you can find her. Oh, and if you do watch, please send her a shout-out. They broadcast it live, and she'll get it later in the day. It makes her day!