Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

All day long my thoughts are on the story--the true story--of God, born in human flesh, in a stable, so many years ago. He didn't choose to come in pomp and glory. He didn't enamor the world with his good looks, charm, or wealth. In His infinite wisdom, He chose to come in a way that everyone could relate to. He came as a baby, and was born in the humblest of settings. The world was changed that night, as God gave us a direct line to Him. Through His birth, perfect life, death, and resurrection, all people can experience forgiveness of sin, a personal relationship with The God of the universe, and the promise of eternity spent with Him.

There is no greater gift!

Tonight our family will put out cookies for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer. We'll listen together for bells in the sky and hooves on our roof. The kids know it's a rather elaborate game of make-believe, but it is still fun to play.

But before we do any of that, we'll carol our neighbors and deliver treats we have made with love. We'll celebrate Christ's birth with our family at church. We'll have a Bradley the Bear puppet show at home (another tradition) to talk more with the kids about the true meaning of Christmas. We'll read a few more Christmas stories. I love today!

This Christmas I have one thing for which I am so thankful that it deserves a post all its own...

321. Getting to hear a precious, little heartbeat. The promise of a new niece or nephew, arriving in 2013!!!!!

Merry Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mommy!

301. A new gluten free flour mix that perfectly duplicated my aunt's sugar cookies and my Oma's gingerbread. It tastes exactly the same as the regular cookies!
302. Colored sprinkles and drips of icing on my kitchen floor...because they are evidence of a sweet time with my kids
303. 8 dozen delicious cookies ready for Christmas and for our neighbors
304. Instant messaging
305. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I really, really love our Christmas tree this year!
306. A pediatrician who loves our family and gives our kids excellent care
307. Steroids and nebulizers and inhalers


308. A pajama ride to look at Christmas lights after bedtime
309. The sweetness of sleeping children
310. Beautiful Christmas dresses for the girls
311. A lovely time of worship at church this morning
312. The GINORMOUS box that came from my dad and holds my Christmas gift from him. When I say ginormous, I mean that I could probably fit all five kids in it. It must have cost a fortune to ship. I can't wait to see what is in there!
313. Jim Carrey as The Grinch
314. Our friends Ron and Christina and their kiddos D and C
315. The joy in keeping traditions
316. Seven small gingerbread houses built. This is Snapper and D's third year in a row to make gingerbread houses together.


317. The beautiful ornament from Christina that says, "Family is a Circle of Love," and has 7 joined hearts on it with our names in them. I LOVE IT!
318. My precious mom, who even though she is in Heaven, continues to impact my life every day
319. Words of love and encouragement from several friends on Facebook who knew and loved my mom. They told me I am so much like my mom. No better compliment could be given.
320. 23 years with the best, most wonderful mom that ever lived. She has been gone for almost 10 years now, and the pain if missing her is still as horrible as if she had died yesterday. It isn't a constant anymore, but when it comes it washes over me like a flood and overpowers me. Oh, how I miss her! Today would have been her 63rd birthday. In this photo, I was 8 months pregnant with Snapper. and she was in the middle of a particularly brutal round of chemo. But look at the joy on her precious face! She's my hero. I love you, dear Mommy. Happy Birthday.




Friday, December 21, 2012

300!!!

281. Feeling well enough to go shopping
282. Having Target and the mall less than 10 minutes away from my house
283. Gift wrap at Dollar Tree
284. Impromptu dance party in the living room with all five kids
285. Only four school days for the kids in the next month (winter break + adoption trip)
286. Daily signs that my littlest chick's attachment to Matt and me is growing
287. Being totally finished with Christmas shopping and wrapping
288. The pair of muscovy ducks that has taken up residence in our front yard. They are so cute!
289. Five willing house cleaning helpers
290. The week's accumulated grime has been vanquished. It's amazing how filthy a house can get in one week! I have my regular housecleaning routine that involves vacuuming, wiping down bathrooms, and sweeping almost every day. One week of being too sick to clean made a mess of the house. The kids worked very hard to help me clean it!
291. New socks and underwear
292. A generous gift card in the mail from a friend!!!
293. Another choice by Bubbles to let go of part of her past in order to move forward
294. A sweet note from Pepper's teacher telling me how much she loves getting to be his teacher. (He came home today glowing with pride because she told him what a smart, special kid he is)
295. Our DVR
296. Oregon Chai Tea
297. A very sweet email from Bubbles' teacher
298. The family of raccoons that is chattering outside my window
299. Clean sheets
300. Stepping on the scale this morning and realizing that I have lost 35 pounds since July, I am more than halfway to my goal weight, and I weigh less than I have in the last 8 years! And jeans are as comfortable as sweats, which has not been the case for many years!!! Yay me!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December Morning

261. Bleach. It gives me confidence that all the bacteria are killed...the bacteria growing in Sunny's carseat from the whole cup of chocolate milk she dumped in it
262. 5-point harnesses in carseats...to contain children who otherwise won't follow seatbelt rules
263. Our first adoptive family therapy appointment (the jury is still out on how well it went)
264. Our across the street neighbor who is giving us her notary services for free
265. Our adoption petition, the document that needs notary services!
266. Winter Break afternoon R&R...the hour (or more, depending) all the kids spend in bed reading or writing every afternoon
267. A delightful evening spent with Snapper last night
268. A sweet high school friend of ours who is a wonderful babysitter
269. The Foster Parent Association in our area's provision of a pile of gifts for our kids
270. A lunch date with my hubby. It was so nice to get out of the house for a couple of hours this morning
271. Afternoon nap time (coming up for me)
272. The gift of a s'mores kit from Bubbles' teacher
273. New photos of Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny to hang on our wall
274. Lysol wipes
275. The beautiful, dark wood of our dining room table
276. Creativity to make costumes...Joseph, an angel, two wisemen, and one donkey
277. Indoor plumbing
278. Glittery snowflake art on my wall, made at school by Sunny
279. December evening neighborhood gathering
280. Flavored creamers for my coffee

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Overflowing

This thankfulness thing has been really good for me. Now that my eyes are more in the habit of looking for blessings, I am seeing so much more! I have to post for a second time today so I don't forget.

241. A lovely, long chat with my step-mom when she called me this morning
242. Knowing that she prays for me every day
243. The Christmas cards and letters that are filling my mailbox every afternoon. I LOVE THEM ALL!
244. A sacrificial gift to our ministry. Sweet giver, I know you read this blog. We know the heart behind your gift, and we are grateful!
245. A Starbucks gift card in the mail from a friend who just wanted to encourage Matt and me
246. The laughter of the four of my kids who are roller skating in the driveway. They are laughing because they are making up their own version of Rudolph, in which Rudolph has a shiny red bellybutton full of lint that looks like pieces of Santa's beard...okay...???
247. That Snapper's grounding and my pneumonia are giving us an evening alone together
248. The depth and quality of our network of friends in Florida. I realized again today just how blessed we are by the people who are part of our everyday life.
249. A cup of Emergen-C, made for me (without being asked) by a concerned daughter
250. Pepper losing track of time in his afternoon book rest and reading for an hour-and-a-half
251. The amazing creativity of my 8-year-old daughter, Bubbles. She built a nativity scene out of construction paper, staples, and tape.
252. 6-year-old Piper offering to prepare snack for her brother and sisters
253. Concerned love pats and run-by kisses from Sunny all morning
254. Spending a whole morning watching Christmas movies, just Sunny and me
255. A newsy letter carrying my love to my 95-year-old Granny in California
256. My January project for work completed
257. A series of delightful emails between my sister and me
258. Packages in the mail from family and friends all across the country
259. Afternoon sunshine brightening my living room
260. Dinner prepared for our family tonight by a good friend

See? My heart is just overflowing. I am so very blessed!

Dictionary

Last night two of my younger girls got themselves all tangled up in a lie. It was over a stupid thing. But they broke a rule and tried to cover it up. What they didn't know was that Daddy was standing right outside the door, listening to their conversation as they planned the cover-up. He put them straight to bed for the night. This happened at 7:15. Early bedtime is pretty much the cone of shame in our house, especially for Bubbles, who likes to feel bigger than the younger kids. When I came in to say goodnight, the girls tried to tell me they had forgotten the rule that they broke. Again, Daddy was listening just outside the door. He came in and set things straight. I expressed my disappointment in the girls, especially in Bubbles, who has not ever lied to me before. She burst into tears. She was horrified that she had broken trust, and devastated that I was disappointed. While I was getting Bubbles and Piper tucked into bed, I told Sunny to get her pajamas on. Several minutes later when I came out of the bedroom, Sunny made a mad dash for the bathroom to put her pajamas on. As soon as she had her jammies on, I put her to bed. Snapper spent her evening in Daddy's office completing a homework assignment that she turned in late and incomplete. Not only is she losing out on two fun events this week, she also had to complete the work and turn it back in. That left Pepper as the only child awake and with free time. We let him pick what he wanted to do with his time before bed. To our surprise, he didn't choose to play on the Wii...he chose to read! He stretched out on the living room floor and read the dictionary for a solid 30 minutes! When I questioned his choice of reading material, this is what he said:

 I love reading the dictionary because learning new words makes me a smarter, more capable child!

After I assured myself I had heard him right, I worked hard to hold in the laughter. That kid is so, so cute!

231. Good Earth Tea
232. The awakening of Pepper's mind
233. His 1st grade teacher, who has been so instrumental in this awakening
234. 12 hours of sleep for three little girls who clearly needed it
235. A comfortable couch for nights when I just can't get comfortable in my bed
236. The warmth of the kitty sleeping on my feet
237. That the obnoxious, noisy, dirty neighbors across the street moved out
238. A kind, attentive landlord
239. "Prep and Landing"   Have you seen it?
240. That the stuff in my chest is starting to loosen up. Painful, yes, but a good sign.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pneumonia

I went to a conference with Piper's teacher and the school psychologist yesterday afternoon. In January we will have a 504 committee meeting to put an IEP in place for Piper. Her learning needs and ADHD require that she be allowed unlimited time for test taking. This IEP will travel with her through her years of school. It will be especially valuable once she starts taking the state's standardized tests. At the end of the meeting, I was walking out to my car when I broke into a cold sweat. I started coughing and couldn't stop. Once I was in the car and the coughing had subsided, I got chills. I've had plugged ears for a few weeks now, and my ears have been hurting for the last several days. I always cough a lot when I have an ear infection. I figured I had let it go long enough, so I pulled out of the school and headed to urgent care to get my ears checked.

An hour later I walked out of urgent care with a clean bill of health for my ears and a wad of prescriptions in hand to treat acute sinusitis and pneumonia. What??? I was shocked at the diagnosis. The sinus infection wasn't shocking, but pneumonia? I didn't feel that bad! My cough was dry and not painful. But the doctor knew what he was talking about. He warned me that it would start to hurt, and that I could expect even to cough until I vomit. What??? I filled the prescriptions and went home.

This morning I realize that the doctor was indeed right. My chest hurts. I feel like there are bricks on it. My upper back hurts. A strong, non-narcotic cough medicine is easing the intensity of the coughing. But every tiny thing I do takes a massive amount of effort. Walking down the hall to the bathroom leaves me winded. Even eating breakfast required concerted effort. This is not fun, people. I have had some pretty intense sicknesses in my lifetime, so I try never to take my health for granted. But being bad sick is a good reminder of how wonderful it is to be healthy.

221. My Christmas shopping is completely done, so I can relax and get well without worrying about gifts.
222. An excellent urgent care clinic close to our house where I was able to walk in without an appointment
223. Medications to help me heal
224. That I got sick this week and not next week
225. Medications that will increase my comfort as I recover
226. Medications that will chase the pneumonia away. How many people throughout the span of time have died from this illness?
227. The other room moms for Bubbles' class who were willing to step in an take leadership of the class party at a moment's notice
228. A husband who can keep the household running while Mom is down for the count
229. The comfort of talking to my daddy on the phone last night. Sometimes a girl just wants her mom, and when Mom is gone, Daddy is the next best thing.
230. My general good health. I thank the Lord for a healthy body.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Processing It

In my adulthood, I have gotten really good at putting in filters to help protect me from emotional overload. Over the last few months, those filters have been put to the test as I have had to learn how to display absolutely no emotion when dealing with a raging child. The filters are good quality filters. They are very strong. And unfortunately, they have begun to get stuck at times when they shouldn't be there. As I sat and talked with Matt today, I realized this for the first time. The events at Sandy Hook Elementary should have awakened every emotion in me, but they did not. And I didn't really notice. Sure, I thought it was a horrible tragedy. I shed some tears. Those families have not been far from my thoughts, and I have prayed for them several times throughout each day since. But it didn't grip the depths of my heart.

Watching my husband cry again today while reading a poem about the little ones who were killed on Friday, I realized that I should be crying, too. After all, I have two 1st graders. My Pepper and my Piper are both 6 years old. I broached it with Matt. He lovingly made me talk about the situation. He pushed the envelope. He ripped out the filter that should not have been there. And out it all came. I found myself sitting on a park bench outside of the grocery store sobbing and gagging, so overcome with stored up emotions that I couldn't even catch my breath.

Can anyone else relate?

After the flood had subsided, we talked some more. It is unbelievable the relief that comes from being honest with one's emotions, and from allowing release to happen. It is 1:45 p.m. I am sitting in MY chair in the living room. I am utterly exhausted. All the crying stopped up my already congested ears, so I feel like I'm living underwater. But I'm at peace. I don't have to avoid the photo collages and gut-wrenching posts on Facebook. I can listen to the radio again. I can have honest conversations with my older kids about what happened on Friday. All because I finally dealt with my own heart.

211. A loving husband who knows me as well as I know myself...and sometimes knows me even better
212. The healing power of tears
213. The comforting presence of God's Holy Spirit
214. Knowing that my kids' teachers would die protecting their students. I know this because I would have died to protect my students when I was a teacher. These teachers are no different.
215. The knowledge that God loves my kids more than I do
216. That God's plans are higher than my plans, even when--like in this situation--I don't understand
217. Pepper's words to Matt when the two of them discussed Friday: "I'm not afraid to go to school. If someone came in and shot me, I know where I would go. I would be with Jesus, and I'm not afraid of dying."
218. A very precious bonding moment with Sunny this morning as she snuggled in my lap while I had my coffee and read my Bible. We found "her" verse, the one we have decided to claim for her.
219. Sunny's real middle name is Brielle, which means "God is my strength." We chose that name for her knowing that she has a very strong personality. We wanted to channel it and use it for good, and what better way to help channel it than to claim truth in the meaning of her new name! As an adopted child of God, this biblical promise is for her. It could not suit her better.  Isaiah 41:9b-10  You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
220: A cup of hot tea

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Post Makes Me Hungry!

191. A wonderful evening out with our dear friends Brad and Kathy
192. Artichoke crusted steak medallions with a mushroom marsala sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and a wedge salad with bacon, tomatoes, and gorgonzola cheese and dressing. OH MY YUM!
192. Pumpkin creme brulee for dessert
193. The Hobbit
194. Two delightful, competent high school babysitters who took fabulous care of the kids...for free!
195. The priceless blessing of dear friends
196. Phenylephrine nasal spray
197. The softness of Kleenex...the kind with lotion in it
198. My heating pad
199. Bacon for breakfast
200. A wonderful church in which God's Word is proclaimed honestly, deeply, and without shame or apology
201. Reclining seats in my van
202. A 6-year-old daughter who is so comforted by being close to me that she was able to fall asleep on me in our van in the church parking lot this morning
203. The effectiveness of children's Motrin for relieving bad headaches
204. A delightful day spent doing Christmas activities with my family
204. Two solid hours of my kids running, playing, and climbing a cargo net play structure
205. All five kids asleep within two minutes of being put to bed, thanks to the cargo nets!
206. The satisfying home feeling I get when I drive into our neighborhood
207. Hot chocolate
208. The big chair in my living room from which I post 90% of my blogs. This chair is MY chair and I luff it.
209. Cold, fresh water to drink whenever I am thirsty
210. My kitty's obvious adoration of me. There's nothing like her sweet meows, purrs, and weaving in and out of my legs whenever I come near her. It is fun to be adored!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 14th

171. Our Sam's Club membership
172. All the Christmas gifts for my extended family members all packaged up and waiting to picked up by the postman
173. A generous gift from a dear friend in California
174. The anticipation of Christmas
175. Really nice Christmas cards at a really great price (thanks, Sam's Club!)
176. Each friend who will be receiving those cards
177. The courage of one of my former students as she reminded people to extend forgiveness to the school shooter yesterday
178. Her strength as she stood up for God's truth when she was blasted, mocked, and cursed at
179. God's joy that filled her in the midst...and spilled over, putting my perspective in check
180. I am thankful that my kids were waiting for me safe and sound at the car line yesterday.
181. Polar Express
182. That Bubbles got to go to a birthday sleepover for a good friend
183. 100% on a difficult vocabulary test for Bubbles...a major accomplishment!
184. That Sunny had nine good days in a row before she broke the streak
185. The knowledge that we get to start family adoption therapy this week!
186. A delightful staff meeting yesterday
187. Getting to use my creativity at work to make an eternal difference in the lives of families
188. White lights on my Christmas tree
189. Cold pizza for breakfast
190. Free babysitting tonight!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Very Good Weekend

161. Living close enough to SeaWorld that we can spend a day there every now and then without an ordeal of a drive
162. Spending Saturday at SeaWorld with out-of-town friends
163. A wonderful babysitter who can handle Sunny whether she is stormy or sunny.
164. A fresh bucket of disclosure from Piper. She couldn't hold the hurt anymore and told me a bunch more pain from her past. More room for healing!
165. Approval for adoption therapy services for our family
166. Scholastic's warehouse sale. I got $180 of books for the kids for Christmas for $50!
167. An opportunity to show the love of Jesus to a lady in Target who was down on her luck. Who knew that buying a $5.84 bottle of shampoo for someone could make such a big impact?
168. Living in a town that has tornado sirens for days like today when you actually need tornado sirens
169. Safety in the storm
170. The autosave feature on Matt's computer that saved Snapper's big project before the computer froze

Friday, December 7, 2012

Feeling Blessed Today

151. Watching Snapper being herself with a group of swim team friends who completely love and accept her.
152. 104% on Snapper's Science quiz (This is awesome because Science was rough on her for the first trimester of this school year)
153. Lunch with Snapper's teacher from last year, who has become a cherished friend
154. The wonderful smell of fresh laundry
155. Two hours of sewing this afternoon
156. The other room moms from Bubbles' class who are such a great help to me as I lead the team of room moms
157. Christmas cards from friends in Florida, Washington, Missouri and Louisiana
158. The huge bathtub in the master bathroom
159. Seeing wonderful progress in school for Bubbles, the hardest working kids ever!
160. A good day with Sunny. I do not take good days for granted, because bad days are really bad. Those bad days make the good days all the more precious to me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Today's Blessings

141. My childhood Christmas books being enjoyed all over again by my children
142. Windows full of homemade paper snowflakes


143. Two American Girl dolls high up in my closet, ready to give Piper and Bubbles the Christmas surprise of their lives!
144. Lunch date with my hubby
145. Reminders of how far we've come with Piper, Bubbles and Sunny since we got them in July
146. Buffalo wings
147. Auntie Maggie's potato salad recipe
148. A long phone conversation with my cousin Daisy
149. 35 mastered vocabulary words for Bubbles this week
150. A lifelong friend joining our ministry support team. THANKS STEF!!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Accomplishments

131. The first, stuck cartwheel on the low beam at gymnastics for Bubbles!
132. 100% on last weeks reading and spelling tests for Piper (this is a big accomplishment for her)!
133. Winning the Golden Kick Board award at swim for Snapper, the award for being the hardest-working swimmer on the team in the last week!


134. The times Sunny looks at me and decides to make a good choice instead of throwing a fit
135. Pepper being the only kid in his class to as the spelling pre-test
136. A drizzly, foggy morning that makes my coffee seem that much better
137. My fleece robe
138. Beautiful Christmas artwork on the fridge, made my three of my budding artists
139. Friends who cook dinner for our family every Wednesday night before Awana, just to take the pressure off me
140. A wonderful relationship with my adopted girls' former foster mom

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Daily Details

121. My high capacity washing machine
122. A dryer that dries a high capacity load in 35 minutes
123. My dishwasher
124. Three kids who do about 75% of the household dishes load
125. My vacuum cleaner
126. A little bit of daily kid mess left out that results in kids doing chores on Saturday to earn their things back. (This is a blessing because they do the obscure chores--like washing windows and baseboard--every week. My house has never been cleaner or more organized!)
127. A home with lots of big windows, resulting in lovely light in my house all day
128. The cute squirrel that runs along my back fence about 500 times each day, flirting and teasing Pixie
129. A comfortable desk chair that allows me to work on my computer for hours without back pain
130. Parenting wisdom that comes from God when I am completely at a loss for what to do.

Two bickering girls. Both spread the Sunday paper all over the living room. Both pointing fingers, blaming the other
"It was Sunny's idea!"
"But Piper said I could!"
"But Sunny started it!"
"But Piper made the bigger mess!"
Two bickering, blame-casting girls, both 100% responsible for the big mess, must clean it up together.
"Mommy, Sunny won't help me!" (As Piper picks up the first piece of paper)
"But Mommy, I didn't even get a chance to help!" (As Sunny wads up a piece and throws it at Piper)
Piper screams in total drama, "OW OW OW OW OW!!!! You hurt me, Sunny!" (The paper bounced harmlessly off her back).
Both girls erupt into tears.
So Mommy gets creative, with the help of God. The two girls wore my shirt together and picked up all the papers. They were required to hold hands with their hands that were inside the shirt. They continued to bicker and fight each other, making their job difficult. When they finished the job, they were still grumping. I had them sit together in the shirt on the living room floor for 10 minutes. They still had to hold hands. After about 5 minutes, they were giggling and loving each other. Before I let them out of the shirt, I had them say five nice things to each other. That solved the issue. To make sure they had learned, I asked them to work together to clean up the Lego mess they had made in the Florida room. They did!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chest Cold

111. Tylenol Multi-Symptom Severe Cold liquid
112. The big, cozy chair in my living room
113. Chamomile mint tea
114. A husband who takes care of me when I feel lousy
115. Three kids who ran an awesome first race of the cross country season
116. Dr. Pepper
117. That God stopped the preterm labor and brought down the blood pressure and protein level of my friend's sister, who is 21 weeks pregnant
118. Another miraculous provision from God...truly miraculous...that I can't detail here and now
119. Sweet Piper's willingness to do more chores that I asked of her
120. The fun of having a 10-year-old who also happens to be a very, very cool kid

Friday, November 30, 2012

In The Hundreds Now

101. The funny things my kids say
102. Cheeseburger soup leftovers that made awesome lunches for three days
103. This wonderful baby girl kitty, Pixie, who brings so much joy to my life


104. A fun afternoon making 30 Christmas ornaments for my nieces, nephews, and the other special kiddos in my life
105. The AMAZING NEWS that my mother-in-law is going to fly out from Washington to go to court with us when we finalize our adoption!!!
106. Photo calendars by Shutterfly
107. My pillow. It makes every night better.
108. That Sunny's injuries were very minor after she decided to put my razor in her mouth like a lollipop...(why in the world would anybody do that?)
109. Hearing from a long-time ministry partner of our, with her request to get together with us when they come to Florida in January!
110. The first genuine apology and tears of remorse that we've ever had from Sunny!!! (This one is so huge it should count for three things I'm thankful for!!!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

God Provides

91. A check in the mail from a foundation in Washington. They specifically asked that we use the generous sum to buy Christmas gift for the kids.
92. A second check from the same foundation, designated for adoption expenses. How appropriate, with our finalization trip coming up!
93. An email from our old landlord in California, asking if our girls would like handmade sweaters for American Girl dolls as a Christmas gift. How perfect, since Piper and Bubbles are getting American Girl dolls for Christmas!
94. Three large boxes of high quality, gently used clothing for the kids--from three different people
95. A $1500 check for our ministry from a couple we met once a long time ago and haven't heard from in three years!
96. An email from our adoption specialist in Arkansas informing us that she thinks she can get the state to pay our airfare so we don't have to drive up for the finalization!
97. The possibility of a quick trip to Washington DC to visit Matt's grandpa who is going there for 3 weeks at Christmastime
98. Pepper's teacher who knows exactly how to meet his need for intellectual challenge
99. $50 worth of Nintendo DS games on sale for $22
100. Peppermint ice cream!!!

And for good measure, A REALLY AWESOME RECIPE for Cheeseburger Soup. I found the recipe on Pinterest. It sounded awesome so I gave it a try. It was awesome! All five of my kids devoured it. Three had seconds; two had thirds! Do you know how rare it is to find a meal that our whole family really likes?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Decorating Thankful

71. My dad's godmother, Jeanette, who gave me a beautiful ornament for Christmas every year of my childhood.
72. The nativity my grandparents brought to me from Portugal when I was 6
73. My Willow Tree nativity, given to me by my whole extended family 4 years ago
74. My Jimmie Johnson Christmas tree. I've been collecting #48 ornaments for 6 years and the little tree is looking better.
75. For Hashbrown casserole, a family tradition for decorating dinner for the last 12 years
76. The pine trees by our lake, which furnished the pinecones for my front door decorations


77. A fresh Christmas tree this year instead of artificial
78. A 6-hour playlist of Christmas music favorites--old favorites (Evie and Steve Green) and new favorites (Jennifer Paige)
79. Seven stockings to hang instead of four
80. New LED lights for our roof (I think they are hideous, but as Matt says, we're not the ones looking at the outside of our house, and they'll save us $300 over the months of November and December)
81. My Christmas dishes, a gift from Matt three years ago
82. My mom's Christmas runner that graced my childhood table for many years
83. Ornaments with Bubbles', Piper's and Sunny's real names on them. The store even had the correct spellings, which I wasn't expecting.
84. The wonder and delight as the three girls hung their own ornaments on the Christmas tree
85. Cinnamon candles
86. The olive wood camels that my grandparents purchased in Bethlehem. The camels were in Granny's living room for all my childhood Christmases. Now they are marching proudly across my bookcase in the living room.
87. Silver ball ornaments, on sale at JoAnn's, adding the sparkle my tree has been lacking for the last several years
88. 24 Christmas books, wrapped and waiting under the tree. We'll open and read one each night, starting December 1.
89. The advent calendar I made last year. Each day contains a fun, family activity. Some are simple (drink hot chocolate before bed); some are elaborate (make Christmas treats to deliver to the neighbors). 
90. The peace and joy that well up within me during this season. My heart is well-basted in thanks to the Lord for who He is and what He has done for me. I'm prepared to go all out in our celebration of His birth for this next month.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cute Kids

This morning Sunny came to my bedroom door and shouted that Pepper is copying her.
Pepper's reply: "Of course I am! I'm pretending to be a copycat!"

One of Piper's chores today is cleaning the toilets. When I told her, she started clapping her hands and jumping up and down, saying, "Oh goodie! Cleaning toilets is my favorite chore because it is so much fun!"

Piper is still getting used to the wildlife here in Florida. The other day we were driving along and she saw a Sandhill Crane. Those beautiful birds stand about 4 feet tall. They are gray with long, sharp bills and red throats. Piper saw one and said, "WOW!!! That's the biggest woodpecker I've ever seen!!!"

61. Our friends Curt and Tracie, faithful and wonderful. We got to spend Thanksgiving with them.
62. A turkey soaked for 12 hours in brine. YUM!
63. Eggnog cream pie with gluten free crust
64. Black Friday bargains! I got Snapper's big gift--black leather boots--for $9. The regular price was $54.99!
65. Jennifer Paige's new Christmas album, Holiday. Sweet and beautiful, and the perfect way to kick off the season.
66. Children who do a good job on chores
67. My new velour pants, another Black Friday bargain
68. A whole month of celebrating the birth of Jesus
69. A beautiful family Christmas photo
70. Two of my three new daughters telling me yesterday that they are more thankful for Daddy and me than they have ever been for anything else in their lives.

Life is definitely sweet right now.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! It promises to be a beautiful day here in Florida. Our previous Thanksgivings here have been on the warm side, making it difficult to feel like Thanksgiving. Not this year! It is 52 degrees and sunny. We're spending the day with our dearest friends here, Curt and Tracie. The food and company will be fabulous! I am so blessed, and I have so much for which to be thankful!

41. Hot coffee
42. My warm, gray robe
43. Fuzzy socks
44. Miss Bubbles scratching Daddy's back on the couch this morning
45. Sunny going peacefully to bed last night without a fight. We've been in nap time and bedtime battle mode for the last week, so this is a really big deal.
46. Snuggles in bed with Sunny this morning
47. Hearing these words from her for the first time, also a really big deal: "I'm thankful for you, Momma, and I am ready to become part of this family."
48. Our wonderful friends Curt and Tracie, who are such a special part of our lives.
49. Friends--Curt and Tracie and several more--who are our family here
50. Our church family
51. Christmas music coming on in our house in 12 hours!
52. Indoor plumbing (especially in the middle of the night)
53. Facebook, which helps keep me connected with my friends and family all across the country
54. Pre-made gluten free pie crust, which is saving me quite a bit of time and effort
55. Our annual passes to SeaWorld
56. The anticipation of decorating for Christmas, starting tomorrow
57. My new nephew, Roman. I wish he didn't live 3000 miles away because I'm dying to hold him!
58. My computer
59. The love of my extended family which reaches me all the way from California, Oregon and Washington
60. The rich memories of Thanksgivings past. They are punctuated with love and tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve

21. The financial ability to go to the grocery store today and fill my refrigerator, pantry, and freezer with enough healthy food to last my family for 2 weeks
22. Spectacular fall weather for Thanksgiving
23. Beautiful haircuts for my beautiful girls
24. Two sisters (joined by adoption) snuggling in the armchair, watching a movie together
25. Buttered popcorn and cold milk
26. My crock pot
27. Buy 1 get 2 free coupons
28. My wonderful, delightful step-mom who has been a blessing in my life for the past 9 years
29. Technology that helps me connect with my family, even though they all live at least 3000 miles away
30. A comfortable bed with a memory foam mattress topper
31. The gluten-free bakery that sells delicious bread to a store in our town
32. Snapper's 3/4 inch of growth and 4 pounds of weight gain in the last 6 weeks: a tremendous victory for a child that has extreme difficulty keeping on weight
33. A pediatrician who specializes in ADHD (for 2 of my kids), is an adoptive father, and was willing to take Medicaid just so our adopted girls could be his patients
34. My best friend in all the world, Noel. She sees the ugliest parts of my heart but still loves me
35. The wonderful sport of swimming, that has had such a big impact on Snapper
36. New living room furniture, a gift from our manager's mother
37. My velour lounge pants
38. NASCAR.
39. Jimmie Johnson (#48) specifically
40. My camera, the captor of memories

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful

For the last three weeks I have participated in my friend Chance's thankfulness challenge. I have posted on Facebook each day three things I'm thankful for. It has been a really good thing for me because so often I take the blessings in my life for granted. Starting each day by listing three things for which I'm thankful has put my life back into perspective. I have so very much to thankful for.

For the last 9 months about 98% of my blogging effort has gone into my adoption blog. Due to the high risk involved in our adoption, I have not felt free to post much here. My other blog is password protected, and is only frequented by about 50 friends and family members. I have poured my heart out there. Because of the intensity of that blog, this poor blog has been sorely neglected. After the substance of the other blog, everything here feels empty and fluffy. Because this blog is in its 5th year and so many people read it, I don't want to abandon it. But it is time for it serve a new purpose.

I follow another adoption blog in which the blogger posted 1000 things for which she was thankful in one year. Because I love the perspective I've gained during this month of thankfulness, I am going to take the 1000 Gifts challenge on this blog. I will continue my in-depth posts on my other blog.

Without further ado, 1000 Gifts. 1000 things for which I am thankful.

1. Jesus, my Lord and Savior. He saved me from me and transformed my life.
2. My husband, Matt
3. 11 1/2 years of happy, satisfying marriage
4. Snapper, my firstborn child, grown in my body. 10 years of Snapper, filling my life with laughter, sweetness, and excitement.
5. Bubbles, my second-born daughter, grown in my heart. I have gotten only 5 months out of her 8 years, and we are making up for lost time. She inspires me, delights me, and brings me joy.
6. Piper, my third-born daughter, grown in my heart. Her willingness to serve lightens my load, and her sweet kisses melt me. While she is so young in some ways, in other ways she greatly surpasses her 6 years.
7. Pepper, my only son, grown in my body. 6 years of Pepper, bringing humor and laughter to our home, and turning me into a puddle of mush on the floor with his sweet tenderness and concern for others.
8. Sunny, my fourth-born girl and my littlest baby, grown in my heart. This little one is swiftly closing in on 5 years old, and daily I regret not getting to be her mommy from her first day. This child is the refining child who is building a great deal of character in my life, and teaching me to trust God in new ways. I adore her generous hugs, her husky voice, and the way she brightens up the room.
9. My lovely home
10. The beauty of the neighborhood we live in
11. Giant oaks trees, covered in Spanish moss
12. Our amazing neighborhood school where our four big kids go
13. The Christian preschool that Sunny attends
14. Seven teachers who genuinely love my kids (Snapper and Sunny each have two teachers)
15. My wonderful, reliable Honda Odyssey
16. My dear daddy, Jim. He worked hard to provide for our family so my sister and I could enjoy the most charmed childhood ever.
17. My beloved mommy, Lotte, a resident of Heaven. She devoted her life to my sister and me, and I thank her for each day and the knowledge of her unconditional love.
18. The privilege of being in full-time ministry
19. The 30 pounds I have lost since July!
20. Adoption

Friday, November 16, 2012

Exciting Day!

Our friend Hernan has spent the last several months in the Middle East serving with the Air Force. His wife and three kids are in our life group at church, which makes them an extension of our family. Hernan is coming home today! And we get the incredible privilege of accompanying his wife and oldest daughter to the airport to meet him. (He's surprising his two younger kids at school this afternoon). Most of the people in our life group are coming to the airport. We're taking banners and flags and balloons to surprise him and give him a true hero's welcome. I'm taking Snapper out of school for this special occasion because she has prayed faithfully for Hernan and his family while he has been gone.

I am so overwhelmed with emotion right now. I'm tracking his flight on www.flytecomm.com. The tears keep spilling over. We leave for the airport in 20 minutes and I CAN NOT WAIT!!!!!

Welcome home, dear Hernan. We are so thankful for the sacrifice you and your family have made on our behalf. We love you! Thank you, Lord, for bringing him home safe and sound.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fellowship of Frazzled Moms

Yesterday I picked up Sunny from her Pre-K. The lobby of the church was filled with other mom who were there to pick up their kids. Many of them carried babies or pushed toddlers in strollers. Some--obviously home schoolers, due to the ages of the kids and the time of day--had their older kids with them. As I stood and waited for class to get out, I looked at the other moms. I began to notice some funny things. I quickly determined that being a mom to young kids earns you membership in the Fellowship of Frazzled Moms.

  • The mom with the baby on her hip and toddler in hand....she was wearing one pink shoe and one orange shoe. The shades of pink and orange were close enough that it was not a difficult mistake for her to make. But she was obviously wearing unmatched shoes.
  • The mom who came in with her baby in a jogging stroller...she was sweaty. Really sweaty. She was obviously wearing thong underwear. It was obvious because of the sweat outline against her light gray bike shorts.
  • The mom who was talking a mile a minute on her phone...she had a pair of sunglasses on her eyes and a pair of sunglasses on her head.
  • The grandma who emerged from the restroom pushing a toddler in a stroller...she must not be used to having a toddler in the restroom with her. She must have hurried in the restroom because her skirt was tucked into the back of her pantyhose. Yes, I told her. Yes, the thanked me. Profusely.
  • The mom with the three school-aged kids...her homeschooling was interrupted at Pre-K pick-up time and she rushed her kids out the door to get the Pre-K child. I know this because she was wearing leopard print pumps with her gray sweatpants and red t-shirt. And she had a pencil stuck in her ponytail. And all three of her big kids were reading books as they walked in.
  • The mom with the crying toddler...I think she was going somewhere important because she was dressed up in dress slacks and a fancy, sheer blouse. Either she has no sense of propriety, or she was having a forgetful day, because she was not wearing a cami under the blouse. It was completely see-through in the back and on the sides. I could read the tattoo on her shoulder, and clearly see how her bra fit. No, I did not tell her.
  • The dad with the two toddlers...he noticed that the lady forgot her cami, too. I *almost* went over to stomp on his foot
  • The mom with the baby in the infant carrier...she was definitely having a frazzled day. She was frantically digging through her purse, looking for her keys. After watching her for a few seconds, I realized that her keys were in her hand that was holding the purse. Yes, I told her. Yes, she thanked me...but she was really embarrassed. I told her not to be embarrassed, that all of us have days like that. We all know how it feels to be frazzled.
As if to prove my point, when Sunny and I walked back out to the car, I realized that I had left my car door wide open...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween

This is a Halloween I'll always remember! Our family dressed up as the old poem There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly.

Sunny was the fly.
Pepper was the spider...a black widow.
Piper was the bird...a pink cockatoo.
Bubbles was the cat.
Snapper was the dog...a pink poodle.
I was the horse...except that I ran out of time to get my fall clothes down from the attic, and the clothes I needed for the horse costume were in the tote. So I wore a ponytail.
Matt was the old lady.

It could not have been any cuter or more fun! I wish I could post photos of all the kids here, but I can't. I can post Matt, Snapper and Pepper, though!










Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Flying!

Tomorrow I get the privilege of taking my little Piper on her first airplane trip! We're going to California to spend some time with my family--specifically with my Granny, who is turning 95 in December. I have a million little details to take care of today for our early morning flight tomorrow. I can hardly wait!!!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Purpose

Last night Matt found a frog in our garage. He brought it into the back patio for Pepper to see. Pepper loves frogs. He loves to hold them, loves to talk to them, just loves them. Here's a photo of Pepper holding a frog when he was two years old.


Pepper is now 6 and he was delighted with the frog Daddy found for him the other night. He carefully held it for about two minutes. Then he came into the house--frogless--and yelling, "THAT FROG HAD A PURPOSE ON ME!!!" I said, "A purpose?" Without missing a beat he replied, "Yes, he peed in my hands and it wasn't a accident!"

He's right...and the frog's "purpose" accomplished his purpose: it made Pepper drop the frog!

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Is Coming!!!


I live in Florida. It gets hot here, and the hot tends to last through what is fall in almost all of the rest of the United States. My Facebook feed is liberally sprinkled with posts from my friends who have broken out their  boots and sweaters, and are turning on their heaters and fireplaces. Not here, my friends! It is still so warm and humid here that the fall leaves wreath I hung on my front door a few weeks ago has started to grow mildew. Ugh!

However, Fall is in the air! It is 7:00 p.m. right now, and we just got back from a walk around the lake in our neighborhood. It is a pleasant 76 degrees outside, and I came back from the walk without a drop of perspiration on me! For a Floridian, this is a sure sign that fall is coming!!!

That said, here's a nice fall recipe for you. I made it for dinner tonight, and my crew joyfully devoured it and declared it their new favorite meal!

Angel Chicken

Melt one stick of butter.
Add:
1 package of Italian dressing mix
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 can golden mushroom soup
4 ounces cream cheese
Mix until melted and smooth

Place 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 8 tenderloins) in the bottom of the crock pot. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Serve over mashed potatoes (our favorite) or pasta.


I forgot to put the chicken in the crock pot, so I had to improvise. I boiled the chicken until no pink was showing. Then I added it to the sauce that I had prepared in a skillet. I covered the skillet and let the chicken cook on low for about 30 minutes. It was fabulous, and we can't wait to have it again!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cleaning House

We are a family of seven. Two adults. Five kids ages 10 and under. When we signed a 2-year lease on our house, we weren't planning on adopting three kids. Heck, we weren't even planning on adopting, period! We signed a 2-year lease on this 1800 square foot house in June of 2011. We love our house...adore it, really. It is a cute house with a great floor plan. It is in the best neighborhood, on a beautiful, huge lot. It fits us like a glove...in more than one sense. It fits our style and the personality of our family. It also is a tight glove fit as far as space goes. Because of our lease, we're here for the long haul, at least another 10 months. I anticipate we'll be here longer than that, until we're in the place to buy a house again, possibly 2 years. Because things are so tight, we have to make sure we stay organized and are on top of our cleaning.

Every evening before dinner, all the kids are responsible for cleaning their bedrooms. We have a 16 cube storage unit in the girls' room. Each girl has four baskets for her toys. I don't ask the toys to be organized within the basket. My only requirements for cleaning are that every girl puts all her toys away in her baskets, and that dirty laundry gets put in the hamper. There are two tubs of dress-ups in the closet, and all the dress-up clothes must be put away daily, too. Pretty simple, right?

The girls are learning, but it is a slow curve. Somehow, they think they are saving time by stuffing their dirty clothes behind the dress-up tubs instead of dropping them in the hamper. They think I won't notice if they shove their dolls into the farthest corner under the bed instead of putting them in the doll bed by the window. And hiding books between the mattresses is easier than setting them on the book shelf, maybe...right?

Every night before bed, the kids go through the house with a basket, collect anything of theirs, and put it away. As soon as they finish, I go through the house with a large tote and collect anything they have neglected to pick up. I also pull books out from between mattresses, rescue dolls from the corner under the bed, and remove clothes from behind the dress-up tubs. Anything that goes into my tote stays there until a pre-appointed date. If a child needs something out of the tote, they must do the chore of my choice to earn the item back.

On the pre-appointed date (usually two Saturdays per month), I sort the confiscated items into piles. Each child is given the option to give away anything in his/her pile, and they will not be penalized for that item. My 6&under kids must do a chore for every 5 toys in the pile. The 7&over kids must do a chore for every 3 toys in the pile. For every 5 (or 3) pieces of clothing in the pile, the child must choose a piece of clothing to donate to Goodwill.

I have an envelope filled with slips of paper. Each paper holds a task. Most are chores. Some are other tasks. There are even some "get out of jail free" slips. The kids enough slips to cover the chores they have earned. Today Bubbles only had to take two tasks. She's the best at cleaning up after herself and caring for her things. Snapper and Pepper each had 4 tasks. Snapper had a ton of clothes in her pile, so she also ended up having to choose several pieces of clothing to give away. Piper had a whopping 9 tasks, and Sunny had 11. Both of those girls will occasionally refuse to clean up their things. That's fine with me...less housework for me later!

We spent our morning doing the tasks that they kids had earned. I have sparkling clean windows, a swept front porch, spotless door frames and baseboards, fresh bathrooms, clean sheets on beds, etc. Most of my time was spent overseeing tasks, instructing on how to properly perform the tasks, and keeping everyone on track. Lest you think I'm a total work horse, there are many silly slips of paper in the envelope, too. Piper had to wipe down the front of the refrigerator, but when she was finished, she got to eat the snack of her choice. Sunny had to do 25 jumping jacks while singing "I'm a cleaning machine!" Pepper had to hug me and apologize for not taking care of his things. Snapper got lucky and drew two "get out of jail free" slips.

The kids had great attitudes the whole time they were working. Piper and Sunny plowed right on through their long lists of jobs without complaint, and they did a great job. Sunny encountered a time-out detour, though, after she locked Snapper out on the back porch. Her time-out got longer and longer as she refused to sit on the time-out towel. 35 minutes later, her 5-minute time-out finished and she was able to return to her chores. Snapper dawdled through her first task, which ended up taking her about 10 times longer than it needed to. She earned an extra task as a consequence. Pepper not only did a thorough, swift job on his chores, but decided he wanted to do more chores to earn some extra money. Bubbles was not very helpful at all, but then again, she didn't have to be. She earned the right to relax this morning by maintaining her things carefully throughout the week!

The kids finished their tasks by noon, and enjoyed a few hours of playtime. I spent my day cycling laundry and doing other odd jobs as I waited for each load to finish. People, I did 9 loads of laundry today. I normally do about 10 loads per week, but today I washed bedding, which doubled my laundry pile.

By bedtime the house was messy again. The kids went through and picked up their trails and cleaned their rooms. When they finished, I went through with my tote as usual. Snapper, Pepper and Sunny had done a great job of putting their things away. Bubbles surprised me, though, by not being careful in her clean-up. I picked up at least a dozen of her things, which is more than she typically leaves out in a whole week.

Piper has a hard lesson to learn. When she got back the bag full of the things she had earned back, she was told to put her things away in her toy storage boxes. For whatever reason, she took great pains to stuff all her things in her baby doll bed, and then covered it all with a blanket. I went to put the blanket on her bed, and uncovered her stash. Sadly for Piper, everything she spent the whole morning working to earn back has been returned to the tote in my closet. She will face another Saturday of chores as a consequence. She was very upset when I confronted her on it. She does not want the chores, and thinks I should give her another chance. Sadly, I do not agree. I gave specific directions about putting the toys away, and she chose to be deceitful and to disregard my directions. I'll bet she thinks twice before doing that in the future.

I'm really interested to see how the next two weeks go, and whether or not the kids take better care of their things.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Advocate

Dear Mrs. Snapper's Mom,

You are right. Snapper's work is excellent, and she did carry the majority of this project. After reviewing my notes again, I have decided that it is only fair and right to award Snapper a grade of 100% for her social studies project. She previously received the same grade as her group members, and she deserved better. The scores have been adjusted accordingly. Thank you for being an advocate for your child.

Snapper's Teacher

This came in response to a kind email I sent to the teacher after receiving Snapper's very low group project grade. I could have let it go, but I decided to pursue it. My sweet child worked way too hard to have her grades brought down due to another child's irresponsibility. I was an advocate for Snapper, and it paid off this time. I am very relieved.

Monday, September 24, 2012

That Frustrating Moment...

Snapper is a great student with an amazing work ethic. She does her homework thoroughly and with excellence. She had a rough transition into 5th grade this year, and it took her a month to figure out how to properly budget her time so she could complete her homework and turn it in on time. Unfortunately, her teachers this year extend zero grace. If the homework is even one day late, they receive a 0 for it. And they sit out recess the next day. I agree. 5th graders must learn to be responsible for their work. And I disagree. A 5th grader is still a child. Not even my college professors were that harsh with grading. Late work typically lost a letter grade per day late. Snapper had worked out the kinks in the homework now, and she has figured out her schedule. However, she did not receive full credit for her first month of homework, which hurt her grades a little bit.

Determined to overcome her rocky start, she put a tremendous amount of effort into her social studies group project, an artifacts box about the Mayan civilization. She spent many hours online reading and researching. She did a beautiful job recreating artifacts to represent the culture. Matt and I worked with her to find accurate information sources. She did everything in her power to do an excellent job on her project. This was a group project. She called her group members and coordinated who was supposed to bring what. On a day when she and her group were not able to finish what they were working on in class, the teacher arranged for the group to come to school early to finish. Snapper was the only one who showed up. When she was concerned that her group members were not going to follow through with their parts of the project, she did extra work to make sure they had enough content for their artifacts box. She was right--the other two girls did not bring in what they were supposed to bring in, even though Snapper called to remind them. She received her score today. B-. 80/100 points.

Of course, I emailed the teacher to find out why. Snapper has always done nothing but excellent work on projects in the past. I could not for the life of me understand why she received a poor grade on a project she put so much effort into. It turns out they were graded as a whole group, not as individuals. This means that "Rachel" received 80/100 points for a project to which she contributed nothing. "Gloria" received 80/100 points for the sloppy, incomplete work she brought to the project. Snapper received 80/100 points for carefully crafted artifacts, a well-written report, neat penmanship, for completing the lion's share of the project as a whole, and for responsible leadership.

This is the first time in Snapper's school career in which I am upset over a grade. This is not right at all. Snapper has no control over the rest of her group. She did everything she could, and she did her portion with excellence.

Now how to handle it...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A WHAT?

Pepper, age 6, is doing a fundraiser at school. He is going to be running laps, and he needs sponsors. He is very motivated to get pledges so that he can get prizes. Here's what he just said to me.

Mommy, I need to get two pledges by tomorrow so I can get a boobering. I have ALWAYS wanted a boobering! 

I looked at his earnest little face and busted out laughing. I couldn't hold it.

Boomerang, Pepper. The word is boomerang.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Big 1-0!

Snapper is 10. I simply can't believe it! It seems like just yesterday that I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my 20" baby girl. And here she is 10 years later, 4'8" tall, and a truly amazing young lady. I love her so very much! This morning she got a new bike for her birthday. Here are a few photos for you, one of my girl in each year of her life.












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Friday, August 24, 2012

Thank You, Corrie!

One of my all-time favorite books is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. My mom read it to me when I was in 7th grade, and was studying the Holocaust in school. It is a favorite because not only does it make history real, but it paints a portrait of one of my heroes. Corrie Ten Boom is one of my heroes because she experienced some of the worst things life can throw at a person, but she remained true to God through it all. She used her horrific experiences to proclaim Him and make Him known, and He was glorified in those dark, ugly, evil concentration camps. I often wonder what I would do if I were put in Corrie's situation. Would I respond in the same way? Would my faith be as unwavering? Would I be as bold in sharing Christ? I have read The Hiding Place  and In My Father's House (one of her other books) numerous times, and have been encouraged and strengthened each time.

Last night one of Corrie's stories returned to my mind as I was in a difficult situation with my little Piper. I was able to adapt it to meet Piper's needs in that moment, and it made a big impact.

As I was helping Piper finish her bath last night, she asked me, "Mommy, why didn't my first mommy and daddy love me enough to get me back?"

How does an adoptive mother answer that question? As I have done so many times in the weeks since Piper and her sisters came to live with me I inwardly prayed, "More of You, God, and less of me." Here is what God gave me to tell Piper. Thank you, Corrie Ten Boom, for sharing your amazing father's story!

Piper, it had nothing to do with love, and everything to do with big problems in your first mommy and daddy's lives. Imagine that you and I are going on an airplane trip. We are going to be gone for a while, so we have packed a big, heavy suitcase. It is as tall as you and weighs over 100 pounds. Should I give it to you and make you carry that big, heavy suitcase? (Of course, she answered no!) It would be Mommy's job to handle that suitcase, wouldn't it? Mommy is big enough and strong enough to carry that weight. You are not big enough or strong enough. 
I know the details of why your first parents didn't get you back. But like our pretend suitcase, the details I know are very big, and very heavy. They are much too big and too heavy for a little girl to carry in her heart and mind. It would be unkind, even cruel, for me to ask you to carry those things now. Will you trust me to carry that suitcase until you are old enough, and your heart and mind are strong enough to handle the weight? 

Piper gave me permission to carry that load for her. I assured her again that love had nothing to do with it. I hope it helps her rest a little easier for a while. In the meantime, I carry the load for her. And it's a heavy one. And I'm glad to carry it, because I'm her Mommy.

Once again, thank you, Corrie Ten Boom.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chicken in a Pot: Crock Pot Recipe

I have no idea where I got this recipe, but I found it in my folder and decided to give it a try. Matt and I loved it...couldn't get enough of it. The flavors reminded us of my grandmother's chicken & dumplings, but without the actual dumplings. Mashed potatoes took the place of the dumplings, in a gluten free form. Snapper, Pepper & Sunny devoured it. Bubbles didn't like it at all, but she's not fond of chicken, period. Piper ended up eating her three bites of it for breakfast the next day because she refused at dinner. But that had nothing to do with the chicken. She was testing our mealtime boundaries to make sure they are firmly in place. She is driven to do this out of a need to feel safe and secure. She learned that the mealtime "fence" is most definitely intact, and she is safe.

Chicken in a Pot

Slice and place in the bottom of your crock pot:

  • 2 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 2 stalks celery
Sprinkle liberally with salt, fresh ground pepper, and 2 Tbsp. dried oregano.
Pour 1 cup chicken broth over the veggies.

Place a whole roasting chicken on the veggies, breast down.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8 hours. Serve with mashed potatoes and the veggies from the crock pot. 

I made gravy from the juices left in the crock pot.

Remove the juices from the crock pot to a saucepan. Over medium heat, whisk in 1/4 cup flour. (Because I am gluten intolerant, I use rice flour). As the gravy begins to thicken, add milk a few tablespoons at a time until the gravy reaches your desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Serve over the chicken and potatoes. 

YUMMY!!!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Five School Kids: Reducing the Stress

Last year I had two kids in school, and keeping their stuff in order and getting out the door on time every day was a huge challenge. We didn't get any tardies, but we definitely cut it close on several occasions. I knew that with five kids in school this year, things had to be different in order to make it work. Here are the tricks we've put into place to help

Afternoon

1. When the kids come home from school at 3:15, Daddy stops working and joins us at the table for snack and debrief about the school day. It is a real gift to be able to have him working from home. He suspends his work day from 3:15 until after the kids are in bed. Then he works a couple of hours at night. He also gets up early to work if he needs to.

2. Homework comes before playtime. Snapper and Pepper are independent with their homework. That frees me up to help Piper and Bubbles with theirs.

3. I do crock pot meals as often as possible so I don't have to give up a chunk of my afternoon to cooking.

4. Snapper has swim team every evening and the rest of the crew are starting gymnastics in two weeks. Fortunately, that's only one evening per week, and it is at the same time as Snapper's swim practice. We keep sports bags on hooks by the front door.

Evening

1. Take individual lunch orders in the evening. I made a lunch order form template. They choose one item from each of four categories: Main course (pb&j, turkey sandwich, cold quesadilla, salad, cheese and crackers, tuna sandwich), Side (Pringles, Cheez-its, Goldfish, Carrots with Ranch dressing), Protein (hard boiled egg, yogurt, cheese cubes, string cheese), and Fruit (applesauce, apple, banana, grapes).

2. While the kids do their after dinner chores (load/unload dishwasher, wipe counter and table, sweep kitchen, tidy bedrooms and bathrooms, pick up their trails, etc.), I pack lunches and run the vacuum. We always go to bed with a tidy house and an empty sink.

3. On the back of the lunch order form, they mark what color uniform shirt and what uniform bottom they want for the next day.

4. While they're getting their pajamas on and brushing teeth, I lay out their clothes on the table in their room.

5. Each child is responsible for having their backpack loaded and by the door before they go to bed. If it is not ready in the morning, they pay a fine or do an extra chore.

6. The girls pre-select their hairstyle and lay out hair accessories with their clothes before bed.

Morning

1. Matt gets up early to cook breakfast. Snapper takes ADHD medication that affects her appetite during the day, so she needs a substantial breakfast to carry her through the day when she doesn't feel hungry. Also, there are 5 hours between breakfast and lunch for Snapper and Bubbles, so they both need to eat more than cereal.

2. I get up 15 minutes ahead of the kids, put ice packs in lunch boxes, and put lunch boxes in backpacks by the front door. I also set the table.

3. When the kids' alarm goes off, they get up, use the bathroom, and come straight to the breakfast table in their pajamas. While they eat, Daddy does devotions with them. They are quiet and calm in the morning, having just rolled out of bed. They enjoy the peaceful breakfast and Bible time--it puts them in a good frame of mind for the day. Another perk--if they spill on their jammies, I can just throw them in the laundry. One less opportunity to get food on the uniforms is good!

4. After they clear their places, everyone goes back to get dressed and brush teeth. I cycle through the girls, doing their hair. Bubbles chews her hair, so she needs a hairstyle that keeps her long bangs well out of her face. That almost always involves French braiding. Piper needs her hair back too, because it is so thick and heavy and it makes her hot.

5. Everyone does a once-over of their bedroom before Sunny goes to bed at 7:30.

6. 30 minutes prior to each child's bedtime, the child goes and takes a shower. Then they can relax and snuggle with us before they go to bed.

I've found that having a set routine, and being orderly about how we do everything makes a big difference in the kids' stress level. They know what to expect. The routine is clear and consistent. There are no surprises, and Bubbles, Piper & Sunny don't have any food stress. All these efforts--though they cut into my "personal" time (what's personal time when you have 5 kids?)--are like oil to an engine. Absolutely necessary, and well worth the effort.

I hope this will help someone!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A New School Year

Yesterday was Meet the Teacher at our school. We are delighted that all four of our elementary school kids got teachers who have excellent reputations!

Snapper is in 5th grade. *CHOKE* How did she get so old? And so grown up? There was a teacher she really, really wanted. This teacher was her student council advisor last year. You can imagine the shrieks of joy when she found her name on Mrs. M's class list!


She has a second teacher, Ms. R, for math and science. She'll spend 2 hours in Ms. R's classroom each day.

And then there's Dr. E. She's the teacher of the Gifted and Talented program. Snapper loved being in her class for a day each week last year, and she's looking forward to it again this year. 

Pepper is a very tall 1st grader, and he didn't have a preference for which teacher he wanted. He got Mrs. B, one of the teachers I wanted for him! I have heard great things about her.

Bubbles is skipping 1st grade. Due to having an October birthday and having been retained in kindergarten because of poor attendance when she lived with her first family, she was very behind. We decided, with full support from our principal and guidance counselor, that we would bump Bubbles up to her proper grade. She is super smart and very determined. We'll give her the support she needs to conquer this challenge. She is in Ms. E's class. Ms. E is looking forward to working with her and getting her caught up.

Piper is in 1st grade along with Pepper. She will be in Mrs. T's class, just two doors down the hall from Pepper's class. She's smart too and will definitely do great. I wish I could post photos of Piper and Bubbles with their teachers.

Sunny doesn't start school for another week. She'll be in Pre-K. Her two teachers made a visit to our house on Thursday. Sunny will be in very good hands with them!

It's going to be a great year, and I can hardly wait for it to start!



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Three Weeks

It has been three weeks since we were first given the amazing gift of our three daughters. So much has happened in three weeks! I have posted far more detail on my adoption blog, which is private and password protected. If you would like an invite to that blog, let me know.

Let me just say how tremendously blessed we are! While our girls had a very rocky start to their lives, they come to us with few of the problems experienced by so many kids who have been bounced from home to home in the broken foster care system. We have not been without our bumps, but overall it is going very well. I took portraits of the girls yesterday and they are so beautiful! I wish I could share them here. But no, they come from a background that makes it far too risky. Honestly, I doubt I'll ever be able to post their photos on this blog. Just can't take the risk. Sigh.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grieving

In the midst of so many wonderful things that are happening in our family right now, there is a generous portion of grief as well.

Remember my friend Bev? The precious woman who battled leukemia for 5 years? Many of you faithfully prayed for her, and even sent cards and gifts. Bev was ushered into the presence of Jesus last week. I received the call as I was playing in the pool with my three new girls.

Grief and Joy in the same moment. How does a heart process them together? My eyes were the floodgate that released the flow.

Right now, someone who is very dear to me is waiting in the hospital to deliver a tiny baby girl. A very tiny baby girl, who died 20 weeks into the pregnancy. The induction was scheduled to begin at 9:00. It is 9:50 right now, and they have to sit and wait for nurses to become available for the induction. All the nurses are occupied assisting in other deliveries. Deliveries of healthy, full-term babies. Babies that my dear one is hearing as they cry their first cries. She will have to go through labor and delivery too, but the outcome will be silent.

Grief. My heart constricts and my eyes overflow again.

Just outside the window, my two littlest girls are joyfully playing on this warm, summer morning. I am so thankful for them.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Smarty Pants Dance!

Those who live in Florida understand what a huge deal the FCAT is. For those who live outside of Florida, FCAT is the big standardized test that all students--from 3rd to 10th grade--take every year. Schools receive a grade based on how the students as a whole score on the FCAT. Teachers quake in their boots at the thought that their students might not do well. A teacher's job security can be threatened by a low scoring class. In 3rd, 8th, and 10th grades, students can be automatically retained by earning a low score on the FCAT reading test. Low performing schools teach to the test. Some schools even sacrifice spending time on non-tested subject areas in order to spend more time preparing for the FCAT. Even schools that typically score well pay special attention to prepping for the FCAT. Many kids are terrified by it. In my opinion, the whole thing is ridiculous! I fully understand why standardized testing is important. But Florida as a whole makes way too big of a deal of the FCAT.

All the same, all of my friends and I have been very curious to hear how our kids did on this test. High scores ensure placement in a higher performing block of students at school. High scores mean our kids are more likely to received extra academic challenge at school, which will help them meet their potential. The test was in April and I got Snapper's official scores today.

If you don't like a good mommy brag fest, stop reading now. However, I'll preface it with this. Snapper's intelligence is a gift from God, and that she works very hard and very faithfully for the grades she earns. I'm a proud mommy in the sense that I love to see my daughter accomplish her goals and make use of the smarts that God has given her. In no way is my identity based on her performance, and in no way does her performance increase or decrease my love for her. My pride is not the puffed up sort of pride. It is simply rejoicing in my child's big accomplishment. I can't wait to see what God has in store for her, because a mind like hers is not a common thing. I pray that she will use her intellect to bring Him glory!

That said...

Snapper earned a perfect score on this year's FCAT reading test! Can I emphasize what a HUGE DEAL this is?
And on the FCAT math test, she only missed one problem!!! Four days of testing and only one missed problem? YIKES!

WAY TO GO SNAPPER!!!
Smarty Pants Dance for you!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Adjusting

We are home from our trip and I am now the proud mother of four daughters and one son! Bubbles (7), Piper (6), and Sunny (4) joined our family last week! Snapper and Pepper are so excited!

Oh my goodness, how I wish I could post photos of my beautiful new girls! I want the whole world to see what a blessed mother I am!

We pulled into town last night at 11:30. The kids woke up enough to meet the kitties, get a quick tour of our home, and then they were sent back to dreamland. Today was chaos! All throughout our training, we heard stories of foster kids moving to a new home with nothing in the world but a trash bag of their few belongings. While that is the sad normal, we are so glad it isn't the case for our girls. Their only foster family was a particularly wonderful family who loved them and provided for them as if they were their own children. The girls came to us loaded down with clothing, toys, and keepsakes. Today I undertook the job of sorting and organizing it all, and trying to fit it into the room the four girls are sharing. When our lease is up next year, a larger house is going to be absolutely mandatory!

Because I'm running on fumes, I only got about halfway into the job today. I ran out of steam at around 1:15 and ordered naps for everyone. To my relief, they all fell asleep right away, except for 7-year-old Bubbles. Her feelings today were just too big for her body when she slowed down enough to be quiet and think, and some tears escaped. I pulled her out of bed and took her into the living room for some snuggle time with me in my big chair. She just kind of melted into me. I held her and let her cry for a while as I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. After the tears subsided, she wrapped her arms around my neck and held on tight. It only took about 3 minutes for her hold to loosen and her breathing to deepen and even out. I closed my eyes and felt the rhythm of her heart, smelled her hair, and memorized the way she felt all snuggled in with me. I wished I'd had the opportunity to hold her like this when she was baby. And then I opened my eyes. It was two hours later, and Sunny was fussing in my room where she had been napping. The spell was broken. I never did get myself together enough to finish unpacking and setting up the bedroom. I need a good sleep first.

If you are a praying person, I would greatly appreciate your prayers for our family over the next few months. Pray that Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny would figure out how they fit in our family, and that they would quickly feel at home with us. It is going really well already, and we would pray that it would continue this way. Pray for Snapper and Pepper as they get used to sharing their home, parents, and lives with three more sisters. And pray for Matt and me. The greatest challenge we face right now is finding the very fine balance between setting boundaries and extending grace to these kids who have been through so much in their short lives. They are precious and beautiful, and we already love them deeply. What a priceless gift they are! I want to do the very best for them. They deserve it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sweet Girls

We finally got the green light! We're heading to Arkansas on Wednesday to bring our new sweetie pie girls HOME!

I can hardly wait!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Eleven years ago yesterday, I married my best friend. We've been through a lot together.


  • Starting our new life living in a mountain cabin in Scotts Valley, CA
  • College diplomas for us both
  • Elementary school teaching careers
  • His parent's divorce
  • The birth of Snapper
  • The death of my mom
  • Having his youngest sister (age 13) live with us for a year
  • A move to a two-bedroom duplex in Campbell, CA
  • A miscarriage at 13 weeks
  • A move to a two-bedroom fourplex in San Jose, CA
  • Joining the staff of Campus Crusade and FamilyLife
  • Raising all the monthly support our family needs to live on
  • A move to a five-bedroom house in San Jose, CA
  • A miscarriage at 7 weeks
  • A move to a one-bedroom cottage in Aptos, CA
  • Buying our first house in Little Rock, AR
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family and moving to Little Rock
  • Starting a new job with FamilyLife
  • The birth of Pepper
  • 4 1/2 wonderful years in Little Rock
  • A miscarriage at 8 weeks
  • My birthmom's breast cancer diagnosis
  • A miscarriage at 7 weeks
  • Having Matt's youngest sister (age 18 and 19) live with us for two years
  • Reuniting with our friend Bev, and being involved with her as she fights leukemia
  • Accepting a job with Bright Media/Campus Crusade in Orlando, FL
  • Selling our house
  • A six-week, cross country road trip during the lapse between selling our house and the start of our new lease
  • A move to Orlando, FL
  • One very miserable year of adjustment to Florida
  • Starting our new job with Bright Media, which is not miserable!
  • A move to Oviedo, FL
  • Making the choice to adopt a child or two children from foster care
  • A big surprise pregnancy and miscarriage at six weeks
  • Being matched with three sisters
  • Preparing to adopt those three sisters
  • Countless miles of work-related travel
  • Many fun visits with friends and family 
  • Laughter by the ton
  • A few gallons of tears
  • Swim meets and track meets
  • Choir concerts and pre-k parties
  • ER visits
  • Diamond mining and wildlife photography
  • Disc golf and scrapbooking
  • Puppets and children's ministry
  • Three NASCAR races at the track and hundreds on the television
  • An amazing circle of friends all over the country
  • A loving family who we manage to stay pretty close to across the miles
  • A God who is completely faithful
It has been an amazing 11 years, and I am excited for the many more that are yet to come!

P.S. We celebrated our anniversary last night by going to Sea World with our besties (our adopted family in Florida), who also have season passes. Their kids are 2 and 4. We had so much fun! We went to our favorite shows, ate barbecue, ate ice cream, and watched their Reflections fireworks show. It was so much fun! Because Matt and I work from home, we have a lot of one-on-one time, so we didn't feel the need to go out alone. The weather was perfect as the sun started to set, the kids were all happy, and the conversation was wonderful. The highlight of my evening was holding my 2-year-old nephew while he watched fireworks for the first time ever! He was delighted and amazed, and his expressions were priceless.