Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So Long, 2013!

Holy smokes, what a roller coaster of a year! The highs were really high and the lows were massively low. But who likes to end a year focusing on the lows? Without further ado--and in no particular order--here are my Top 10 high points of 2013.

1. Finalizing the adoption of our three girls in January. The court date didn't really change anything, but it sure was nice to have the paperwork in hand and to no longer have to report to DCF every month.

2. A long road trip over the summer to spend time with family and a few close friends, and to introduce the girls to everyone. TONS of memories made.

3. Snapper's 5th grade graduation and a more than successful transition into middle school.

4. The birth of my nephew Lucas (April) and niece Hazel (June)!

5. Seeing God miraculously provide for our family on many occasions.

6. Getting to go to the Daytona 500, meet my favorite NASCAR driver, Jimmie Johnson, and watch him win the race!

7. Two of my three girls released from therapy because they no longer needed it!

8. Snapper's regional swimming championship in August--1st place overall 10 & Under girl (out of approximately 125 girls...not too shabby)!

9. Watching my husband relax and have an easier time with life as he participates in two cool activities--karate and community theater

10. Hands-down, the best moment was 2013 was finding out about the impending arrival of another daughter, this time a homegrown kiddo! After many years of infertility, this surprise is also a tremendous blessing.

Farewell, 2013. I am not sad to see you go. I wonder what 2014 will hold.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Props and Punks

Props to Snapper for making Superintendent's Honor Roll for the 2nd quarter. This means all A's, with her only "low" grade being in Computer (a 92 average). Does anyone else think it's weird that 25% of the grade was based on typing speed? Snapper has never really done any typing. In elementary, all her work had to be hand-written. The kids who have been at this school all the way through have done keyboarding since the lower grades. Tough challenge for Snapper to overcome. She was much happier to get A+ in History, Honors English, and Bible. She just barely missed an A+ in Honors Math, too.

Punk is Sunny, who decided it would  be a good idea to steal Piper's new Wedding Ken doll out of Piper's room and style his hair...WITH SPIT.

Props to Pepper for mastering two challenging bracelet patterns on his new Rainb0w L0om.

Punk is Sunny, who broke the head off Snapper's new Barbie this morning.

Props to Piper for keeping her bedroom in apple pie order since Christmas!

Punk is Sunny, who decided to use her new Rainb0w L0om as a step stool to get into Bubbles' Barbies. Fortunately, the l0om broke in half before she could get into the Barbie box. Epic fail.

Props to Snapper for learning one of the songs from Frozen, and singing it beautifully.

Punk is Sunny, who decided day before yesterday that it would be a good idea to get into Pepper's toolbox and use his power drill to drill holes in our nice book case.

I think we'll rename Sunny...CAPTAIN DESTRUCTO. That's what I should have titled this post...CAPTAIN DESTRUCTO STRIKES AGAIN...AND AGAIN...AND AGAIN.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thoughts About Meat

Bubbles is 9 years old. Before she came into foster care at age 6 1/2, the only meat she had ever been exposed to was pink goo burgers and "chicken" nuggets from McD0nalds. She was exposed to all kinds of different foods in her foster home, but she always had a difficult time with meat. We are pretty relaxed about food here in our home, mainly because we don't want to create food issues for these kids who already struggle with food on so many levels. We ask that they try three bites of everything on their plates. That is all we require.

Can I just take a second to say what huge issues food deprivation creates? It has taken us 18 months to overcome the gorging problems the girls had. They have finally learned to listen to their bodies, and have learned when they feel full. They have learned that they can stop eating when they feel full, knowing that there will always be food at the next meal. And they've learned that when they feel worried about food, all they have to do is tell me and I'll give them a snack.

Anyhoo, learning about different kinds of food has been a big deal for all three of the girls. They didn't have a clue that veggies and fruits grew on plants. Even going strawberry picking didn't make it sink in that a strawberry grew on a plant. They think that milk is made in a factory. I have been asked how they put the shell on the egg without breaking the yolk. And meat? That's where it gets really funny.

Even though Bubbles is 9, she hasn't made the connection that:

  • Turkey comes from a turkey
  • Chicken comes from a chicken
  • Fish comes from a fish
We can understand why she might not know that:
  • Beef comes from a cow
  • Pork comes from a pig
  • Bacon and sausage are usually pork
  • Steak is usually beef
But really...chicken? And turkey?

Today she declined potatoes at dinner because "I'm not in the mood to eat meat today."

Because a potato once had legs and a beating heart, apparently. Oooh...I know! I'll write a new smash hit pop song and call it "What Does The Potato Say?"

And last night we were out at a Christmas festival where smoked turkey legs were on the menu. Bubbles declined, saying, "Are turkey legs made out of steak? Because if they are, I don't want one!"

I think that possibly a trip to a farm is in order. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Christmas morning started off very rough, with my two youngest girls breaking family rules, getting up at 5:30, and emptying all the stockings. Then they went and woke up their siblings and told them what was in their stockings. I was awakened by three tearful older kids who had the surprise of their stockings ruined by their two disobedient little sisters. I cried with them...made me so mad! Especially since the last thing I told them before they went to bed last night was to stay in bed until Daddy came in to get them, and absolutely not to touch the stockings and presents. Sigh.

After birthday breakfast for Jesus, things turned around. We didn't start right into gifts. We took time to do some reading and reflecting on what Christmas is really about. We also talked with the kids about thankfulness, and not taking Christmas gifts for granted. We opened gifts slowly, savoring each one. We took time to talk about the giver of each gift, too. It ended up being very sweet, even if the start of the day was marred.

We have friends coming over for Christmas dinner. The turkey is done. The mashed potatoes are in the crock pot keeping warm. The green bean casserole is in the oven keeping warm. The cranberries and cider are back in the fridge. Our friends are an hour late. If they don't arrive soon, I think we'll just go ahead and eat.

I plan to spend the rest of the day just relaxing and enjoying the Christmas glow. I hope your Christmas was beautiful and peaceful, and a time of joy with your family. I'll leave you with a new photo of me. I'm 24 weeks pregnant today, and this little one continues to be incredibly active. I'm enjoying feeling her dancing inside of me. Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Snapper's Speech

Snapper gave her "Adoption Christmas" speech in class yesterday. The first thing she said to me when she got in the car at pick-up time was, "I just love public speaking!"

HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!! She definitely got that from her Daddy and not from me. Because of my years of public speaking in 4-H, I'm a decent public speaker. But man...do I loathe it. My hubby not only is great at it, but he loves it, too. Snapper gets that from him.

She blew her speech out of the water. She tells me that her English teacher was completely in tears, to the point of having to get a tissue to wipe off her running mascara and blow her nose. Several of the kids in the class were moved to tears, too. One of the tougher boys was crying and Snapper teased him about it. His joking reply was, "I can't help it if you made my eyes sweat!"

The general buzz is that Snapper will be one of the three in her class who will advance to the next level of competition. She is delighted and very excited, and is already planning ways she can tighten up her speech and add more expression and emotion to it.

This little project of hers has birthed a new prayer in my heart. She is such a passionate child, so full of love, conviction, and wisdom. Take this unique personality and mix it with a cause, and she will be dynamite. Her heart for adoption is incredible. As an adoptive big sister to older, special needs kids, she has strong ground to stand on an experiences to share. My prayer is that God would give her a platform so she can use her passion to help others. This is a good start!

She'll find out tomorrow if she advances to the next level.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kid Funnies

Because who doesn't love the funny things that kids say?

Sweetie obviously can't say anything yet. But I already know she is a cute little girl, full of spice and energy. She's going to have to be a character to keep up with five, much older siblings! She's a tiny dancer, spinning and kicking away inside of me. At 23 weeks, she's finally big enough to make my belly move. Yesterday, my kitty, Pixie, was all stretched out on my belly. Pixie is our playful cat. She loves to pounce on anything that is moving along the ground. When I sit in bed and move my feet under the blankets, she goes crazy. She is such a fun cat! Yesterday, Sweetie started kicking like crazy, making my belly twitch and jump. Pixie's eyes got all dilated, and she reached out and swatted my belly. I got a good laugh out of that!

The other day I was driving in the car with Bubbles (9). When we stopped at the fourth red light in a row, she cried out in exasperation, "What is wrong with the people who are controlling the stop lights? They must all recognize our car and totally hate us. How mean can you get?" She genuinely thought there was a person sitting somewhere, controlling each light. LOL!!!!!

Sunny (5) is a piece of work. She is completely bent on opposing me. She will often do the direct opposite of what I want her to do, even if it means doing something she hates, just to get a reaction from me. It is very challenging to parent this child, and she keeps me on my toes and wears me out every day. Unfortunately for her, all the monkey business results in unpleasant consequences. She frequently finds herself sitting on her bed, doing extra chores, losing privileges, or going to bed early. She is still learning that the consequences are entirely the result of her own choices. The other night she had the bad fortune of earning early bedtime, and loss of getting to enjoy a favorite meal with us (due to early bedtime), and having to clean the bathroom sink during playtime (that's what you get when you decorate with toothpaste!). She was so mad that she blurted out, "Mommy, you punish me so much that you're making my hands fall off! Can't you see what a poor kid I am?" HA!

That same child, in a fit of rage, had the balls to call me "Poo-faced meanie." For the first several hours following the incident, I was equal parts p'd off and amused. Now I'm just amused. Oh, the expression on her face when she said it! And the instant scrambling to try to retrieve her words. And the frantic, lame attempt to explain that she meant to call me "pretty-faced mommy," but those words just accidentally came out. BWA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

Feel free to just call me PFM from now on. You can pick what the letters stand for.

Piper (almost 8) had an interesting conversation with Pepper (7 1/2) and Sunny (5) the other day. She insisted that Sunny would soon be older than Piper and Pepper. She figured that in just three years, Sunny would be 8, which is older than Piper and Pepper. She also figured that in eight years, Sunny would pass Snapper (11), and be the oldest kid in our family! Pepper rolled his eyes, smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand, and reminded Piper that Sunny will not be getting older all by herself. The rest of the kids will be getting older, too. It took Piper a few minutes to figure this out. I had to leave the room to keep from laughing.

Last weekend, all five kids played a rousing game of "Wilderness Survival" in our front yard. In order to survive, they had to hunt, kill, and eat water buffalo, llama deer (whatever the heck those are), and they had to find and harvest "the apples of serenity." I was thoroughly entertained, watching them slink around the yard, stalking and shooting imaginary beasts. They conversed in a variety of accents. Snapper has mastered the Bristish accent. Piper easily slips back into her Southern drawl. Sunny talks baby talk and thinks she sounds like Snapper. The best part of the game, though, was watching them dive onto the ground screaming, "VELOCIRAPTOR!" every time a car drove by. We live on a fairly busy street, so this happened often.

Piper, looking at a snowman ornament on our Christmas tree, made up and sang this little song, not knowing that I was listening: Five little snowmans hanging on the tree. Snowmans are dumb cuz they don't got knees. And snowmans are weird cuz they can't go pee. Why is that snowman staring at me? And now I'm all creeped out. And all that rhymed except the last line.

A present arrived in the mail for baby Sweetie. Bubbles (9) looked at the present and asked, "Will Sweetie have to wait until after she's born before she knows what her present is?"
I'm still trying to figure out the reasoning behind that question.

The same child asked me if people could ride on any animal, like cats, back in the days when Baby Jesus was born. Because apparently she thinks that cats were the same size as donkeys back then...

Oh yes, and this same child announced at Awana last Wednesday that the wisemen brought gifts of "gold, Frankie's pants, and molasses" to Baby Jesus. Wow...

Perhaps my favorite of all, though, was Pepper's latest Bible verse. When he was in kindergarten he memorized Proverbs 20:11--"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right." A few weeks ago, another child recited that verse and Pepper was very excited that he remembered it, too. He wanted to recite it to me, so he did. Like this:
"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his condom is pure and right!"
Me: "Don't you mean conduct, Buddy?"
Pepper: "Of course! That's what I said!"
Oh, the innocence of childhood!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Going Home

I'm sitting on pins and needles. Every time my phone buzzes, I jump. I'm waiting for The Call, the horrible, wonderful call that will tell me my precious Granny has finally stepped over the threshold of eternity, a place where she has been hovering for the last week. On one hand I hate it, because she will exist only in our memories here in this world. On the other hand, I want to jump up and down and rejoice. Why? Because 96 is OLD, and she has been trapped in a useless body and worn-out mind for the last few years.

Meet my beautiful Granny, Flora. She was born in 1917 in Amoy, China, where her father was a German customs officer. She spent her early years there in China, in a beautiful home by the bay. When her father passed away, she moved to Germany with her mother and sister for a short time, before settling in the United States. She and my Grandpa met on the campus of Stanford University many many years ago. It didn't take long before they fell in love and were married.

She worked hard, lived frugally, and cared meticulously for her husband while he went through Stanford Medical School. After he graduated, they bought a tiny house in a tiny town on the edge of the country, and Grandpa set up his medical practice. They welcomed their first child--my Uncle Jack--in 1944. My Auntie Maggie was born in 1947, followed by my mom, Lotte, in 1949. Grandpa was beloved by all, and was well known throughout the town and surrounding area. Behind the scenes, enabling him to be successful, was a quiet, gentle, faithful woman: my Granny. He called her Schatzi--a German term of endearment meaning "sweetheart." I don't believe I have ever seen a woman more devoted to her husband. To say she adored Grandpa is an understatement! He was equally devoted to her. They loved to do just about anything together. Their favorite pastimes, though, were ballroom dancing (they danced beautifully), political activism, and world travel. They especially loved to take cruises.

They also loved their grandchildren, of which I am the 5th of 6. My memories of them are rich and plentiful, due to their active involvement in my life. I could go on all day about the memories, but because no one wants to read a whole book, I'll just share a few of the most important.

This photo was taken on my adoption day in 1980.

My parents struggled with infertility for years, and were finally told they would never have biological children. Granny knew how badly my parents wanted children, so she took matters into her own hands. Because of Grandpa's medical practice, he and Granny knew many doctors. Granny contacted an OBGYN whom she greatly respected, and asked him if he ever had babies become available for adoption in his practice. She told the doctor about my parents, and he agreed to keep his ears open. Nine months later I went home with my forever mom and dad. All because of Granny. I don't know where I would be without her. I've always been extra special to her because of the role she played in bringing me into our family. Grandpa called me Eminy. Granny called me Emmy-Angel.

When I was very little, I used to love it when Granny came over because she would play tea party with me. She made real tea for my tiny tea set, and she knew the names of my dolls. She would help me divide up Cheerios and raisins among my dolls and stuffed animals so they could party with us. Then, she'd help me eat up all the treats, using special voices for each doll or animal.

She was a brilliant seamstress, crafting lovely clothing. She made many beautiful dresses for me. My favorite things that she sewed, though, were the soft flannel nightgowns she made for me every Christmas. When I got a little older, she made matching nightgowns for me American Girl doll and me. My daughters still wear and play with those nightgowns!

One day when I was around 5 or 6 years old, I got in trouble for eating one cookie more than I was supposed to at a family party. I went out to my playhouse in the backyard and cried. I felt like my mom was being totally unfair to me, and I was unwilling to admit my wrong. Granny went into my bedroom and found a specific book that she knew I had. It was the story of a little girl who stole her sister's brownie, ate it, and then blamed it in the dog. The mom knew what had really happened, and the little girl got in trouble. The story walked through the little girl's emotions as she faced the reality of what she had done. It finished with explaining 1 John 1:9--"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Granny squeezed into my little playhouse with me. She held me close and read me that book. She talked about the freedom that comes from confessing our wrongdoings to God, asking for forgiveness, and making things right. She prayed with me and for me. She helped me memorize that verse. And she went with me and held my hand while I apologized to my mom for disobeying and for having a hard heart. I will never forget that. Not ever!

Another fond memory is going dancing at the American Legion Hall with Granny and Grandpa. Once a month the hall served a delicious roast beef dinner and hosted a band to come play wonderful old dance music. All of us cousins were often invited to go dancing with Granny and Grandpa. Safe and secure in Grandpa's strong arms, I learned ballroom dancing. Not the stuff you see on the TV shows, but classic old ballroom. Granny instructed me on how to hold myself, and how to let the man do the leading. She also danced with me when we did line dances. How I loved those evenings!

Granny and Grandpa came to everything we did. They were at all my piano recitals, orchestra concerts, vaulting competitions, graduations, and goat shows. They were at every birthday party, school function, and holiday. They always came over on Christmas Day. Grandpa always wore the plaid wool pants that Granny had made for him. She usually wore a coordinating scarf. Grandpa played with my sister and her new toys. Granny snuggled with me on the couch, read my new Christmas books to me, and helped me eat the chocolate out of my stocking. She loved chocolate. She always brought us persimmon cookies, which were pretty much the most disgusting things ever! Ha ha!

She wasn't a great cook...at all. However, there were a few things she made really well, things I still cook in my own home and remember her by. Bread pudding. Split pea soup. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Ham with raisin sauce and scalloped potatoes. Milkshakes. When I'd sleep over at her house, she always made Malt-0-Meal for breakfast, and she let me put in as much brown sugar as I wanted.

She taught me how to sew, starting when I was 7 years old. By the time I was 13, I was a proficient seamstress. I still love to sew, and I attribute that to Granny. For my 12th birthday, she made me the most beautiful dress with huge puffed sleeves (I was in an Anne of Green Gables phase). In this photo, I'm wearing the dress. You can't really see it because I'm behind my cousins, but you get the idea.

In 1997, Grandpa had heart surgery, followed by a stroke. His personality changed (for the worse). His balance became poor. He could no longer take food by mouth. He required round-the-clock care. Granny would not allow nursing help to come into the home. For two long years she tenderly cared for Grandpa, forgiving his crabbiness and meeting his every need. When my grandpa died in 1999, Granny just shrunk into herself. All her confidence and zest for life melted away. It didn't help that at the same time, my mom--Granny's youngest child--was battling ovarian cancer. Granny really began to age that year. She requested a copy of the eulogy I wrote for Grandpa and carried it everywhere with her. She gave away copies of it. She read and reread her copy until it fell apart. I don't think it was anything that special, but it meant a lot to her.

Granny loves her great-grandchildren. We went to California this summer and spent some good, quality time with her. Here's a photo of her with my kids.

Now Granny's time has come. All of her family has gotten to either visit her or Facetime with her to say goodbye. She has peace with God and the blessing of her two living children, six grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. Great-grands #17 and #18 (mine and my cousin John's) are both due on April 17th. Her life has been rich and full, and no one could ask for more than that. She is fading fast. Last night hospice informed our family that Granny will slip away within the next 24 hours. It is time for her to go. Oh, how I wish I could see her entry into Heaven! My heart hopes that my mom and Grandpa will be waiting at Heaven's gates for her. My cousin wrote in her blog that she thinks Grandpa will come running out, and will waltz Granny into Heaven. There are 14 great-grandchildren waiting there, too--babies that my cousins and I have lost through miscarriage and stillbirth. Will they be there with my mom and Grandpa, too? What joy!

I cry because Granny's passing ends a season that has been constant in my life since I was born. I cry because I will miss her sweet, gentle presence. But I rejoice in a life lived well. I love you, Granny. As I said on Facebook the other day, thank you for loving me so well.

All my love,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Adoption Christmas

Our Adoption Christmas
a speech for 6th grade Honors English
by Snapper B, age 11

Every Christmas morning I wake with a yawn and a good, long stretch. And then I realize it's Christmas morning! I walk down the hall.
  • Presents packed under the tree
  • Stockings bulging with treats
  • Lights glowing with Christmas spirit
  • A tree sparkling with family memories
  • Cinnamon rolls in the oven, baking away
  • Joyous laughter and loving conversation
  • Celebrating the birth of Jesus
Christmas morning is a time of love, celebration, and remembering Jesus. This is my Christmas!

Now, imagine waking up on the cold, hard floor. Your back aches and you stiffly stretch. You realize it is Christmas morning. You walk down the hall.
  • No stockings hanging anywhere
  • No gifts under the tree, only broken promises
  • Wait...there isn't even a tree
  • No lights
  • No comforting smells
  • Possibly no breakfast at all
  • No laughter or love
  • No Jesus
Christmas is like any other day, full of fear, defensiveness, and despair. Christmas morning is a time of broken hearts. This was Christmas for my little sisters for the first several years of their lives.

And then God rescued them. He sent them to live with a loving foster family. The judge saw that their parents would never become safe parents. The girls became legal orphans. And then God introduced our family to those little girls. He said, "You are a match made in Heaven!" Our family adopted those girls in January, and now they are my sisters. Our family is a miracle.

On Christmas morning my sisters and I will wake up in our warm, comfy beds. We will yawn and have a good stretch. We might break a rule and sprint down the hall together. My Christmas is now their Christmas. The love of my family is now theirs. Jesus, my Savior, has saved them, too! This Christmas will be more full of love and joy than any other Christmas any of us have ever experienced! This is our adoption Christmas!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gift Baby

It has been four months since I announced to the whole world that God had chosen to overturn the doctor's diagnosis of sterility and infertility. There's a little gift baby growing in me. A little girl baby, who already has a beautiful name. I don't share my kids' real names here, but I'm working on coming up with a blog name for this little one, who is due April 17th.

I wanted to take a few moments today and post about this pregnancy, this miracle pregnancy. I'm too busy with my other five kids to keep a detailed pregnancy journal like I did with Snapper and Pepper's pregnancies. But I don't want to forget.

Part of the reason I even thought to take a pregnancy test was because I was feeling really queasy all the time. By the end of Week 5, the queasy had accelerated to plain ol' SICK. I developed the strongest sense of smell known to humankind. I could have joined TSA's team of drug sniffing dogs, because if there was something to smell, I could smell it. And if I could smell it, it made me puke. Our bathroom began working overtime and I think our water bill doubled in September because of the amount of morning sick that found its way into our septic system. In mid-September I ended up spending 4 days in the hospital, with an official diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum. In plain English, HG means "vomit your guts and bowels and brains out every 20 seconds or so around the clock." Dehydration. Extreme weight loss...as in 17 pounds lost in three weeks. I was in bad shape. I could hardly even sleep in the same room as Matt because the smell of his skin, his breath, his very existence, made me want to vomit. Poor man! We had to switch to unscented deodorant and body wash because the scents were overpowering. We tried three anti-nausea meds--all of which didn't work and gave me migraines--before we finally found a cocktail of three that worked together to stop the puking and decrease some of the nausea. I still struggled to eat, though. My weight loss didn't stop until I was 17 weeks along, and I didn't start to gain weight back until 20 weeks.

Here's what I survived on for the first 20 weeks of this pregnancy:

  • El M0nterey beef & bean burritos
  • Bagels with loads of whipped cream cheese
  • Steamed rice with nothing on it
  • Fuji apple slices
  • Ice chips
  • Cherry 7-Up
Health food, I know. But when everything that goes in your mouth comes up within 15 minutes, you settle for whatever will stay down.

I experienced a host of other miserable symptoms, too. Headache, severe back pain, bloating, extreme fatigue (3 hours of naps per day, plus 12 hours of sleep at night), dizziness, CRANKY, stuffy nose, itchy, dry skin.

Every single day, though, I thanked God for the symptoms, because I've experienced five pregnancies with few symptoms. Five pregnancies that ended by 12 weeks. When I was at my sickest, I thanked God for the baby who was growing securely in me. I tried not to complain, and I think I did really well.

At 11 weeks I had a huge scare--a large gush of bloody fluid. I called my doctor in a total panic. When she learned that I had no cramping or fresh bleeding, she wasn't too worried. She took a peek at my ultrasound from 8 weeks and reminded me that there had been a pocket of blood in my uterus then. She said the gush was likely my uterus releasing that pocket of blood, which was unrelated to my pregnancy. I went in the next morning to listen for baby's heartbeat and wept tears of relief when I heard a strong, steady heartbeat. At 12 weeks I had another ultrasound, and the doctor was able to confirm that baby was just fine and growing normally. The pocket of blood was gone.

At Week 13 I felt the first little flutters in my belly, a wonderful reminder of the miracle.

At 16 weeks my bio momma gave me the wonderful birthday gift of an early gender determination ultrasound at a 3D ultrasound boutique. We all wore the color representing our individual guesses at the baby's gender. Matt and Snapper wore blue. The rest of us wore pink. On that wonderful day, we discovered that our extremely active baby is Girl #5 for our family! While a boy would have balanced out our family a bit more, we're all thrilled to be welcoming another precious girl.

From Week 12-17 I developed a strong desire for salty foods. I just wanted to suck the salt off potato chips and to drink pickle juice. Not because I wanted pickles, but because the pickle juice satisfied my need for salt. 

I'm carrying very differently this time. With Snapper my pants got tight around 12 weeks. With Pepper I was in maternity pants at 9 weeks. This time I'm very small, and didn't need maternity pants until 18 weeks. Other places expanded pretty quickly, though...

I had the anatomy ultrasound at 20 weeks. The tech was able to confirm right away that our little one is, without a doubt, a little girl. And she looks perfect! She is a very active baby, making the ultrasound very difficult for the tech, who spent 30 minutes trying to pin her down for measurements. In the end, she was not able to get a good look at baby's heart or hands...which means I get another ultrasound at my 24-week appointment! I'll never complain about getting sneak peaks at my little sweetie. Sweetie! That's what her blog name will be!

Here's a "photo" of Sweetie at 20 weeks.

Three days before Thanksgiving I woke up, prepared to limp into the kitchen and try to stuff a bagel down my throat with my morning meds, in hopes of avoiding a day of puking awesomeness. I stood up slowly, waiting for the gag to start. It didn't. All morning I moved cautiously around the house, waiting for the inevitable sick to slam me. It never did. And poof, just like that, it was gone! Just in time for Thanksgiving! YAY!

Matt and all the kids have gotten to feel Sweetie's kicks in the last week. My little Sunny's eyes got huge and she said, "Hey! There really is a baby in there!" The kids ask me all the time if they can feel Sweetie kicking.

I am 21 weeks pregnant today. I'm sitting in my big chair, enjoying my morning coffee and having a silent conversation with my little Sweetie. She apparently has a very full schedule today, because she is hustling and bustling all over the place. With every kick and roll, I marvel again at this miracle. This wasn't supposed to ever happen again for me. I just can't get over it. My belly has "blossomed" in the last week, and I am starting to get comments and congratulations and when-are-you-due from random strangers. I can hardly believe it. If this pregnancy ends like my other two pregnancies, it will not be 19 weeks until we meet Sweetie...it will be more like 17 weeks. That's just over four months, y'all!

This morning on the way to school, Snapper and I got to talking about Sweetie. We both have the same emotions, but at differing levels, of course. She is really enjoying this pregnancy. It is so much fun having a middle schooler, can I just say that? She is a delightful kid. She understands so much about pregnancy this time around, and she marvels in it right along with me. She came with us to the anatomy ultrasound and she was full of awesome questions for the tech. I believe Snapper will one day have some sort of career in the medical field. She loves to talk to Sweetie. I'm considering letting her be in the room for the birth. She's excited to see what Sweetie looks like, what her personality is going to be, who she is. We got a little bit giddy talking about it together.

My belly hurt from the stretching ligaments. I have to get up two or three times a night to use the bathroom. My skin is a mess. I get tired really easily. My gag reflex is hypersensitive, even though I don't feel sick. I still smell EVERYTHING. But it's okay. It's all worth it. This pregnancy--while it has been very challenging--is so very good. I can't wait until April!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Power of Smell

The sweet fragrance of pink jasmine. It carries me back to my vaulting years. My coach had pink jasmine growing all over the front of the barn. When I smell pink jasmine, I can close my eyes and I'm instantly transported back to that time and place.

Mothballs in wool. I'm hugging my grandpa again. Most people hate the smell of mothballs. Not me!

Constant Comment tea. It's Saturday morning and my dad is making breakfast. He and I both love Constant Comment tea. If I close my eyes and inhale the sweetness of the tea, my Daddy might just appear beside me with our two special tea mugs.

Wood smoke in warm air. It's a winter morning and I am stretched out in from of the wood burning stove in the living room of my childhood home, doing my schoolwork.

Hospital. They all smell the same. It doesn't make me feel panicky, but it does flood me with a sense of caution. I spent many, many months in hospital rooms. First with my grandpa after his heart surgery and stroke. Then with my mom as she battled cancer. I still get a check in my spirit when I smell hospital.

There are many fragrances that have the power to turn my emotions upside-down and inside-out. Lots of them are associated with wonderful memories. Many are associated with pain. I have found this to be especially true with my adopted girls.

Cigarette smoke lingering on a person is a smell trigger for Piper. Her walls instantly go up and her body language gets defensive. It reminds her of bio mom, and for Piper, it is not a good thing.

Damp concrete with a touch of mildew is a smell trigger for Bubbles. "Is there a prison around here? It smells like when we had to go visit my first dad in prison. Nasty smell." Again, not a good thing.

Brewing Luzianne tea on the stove for sweet tea is a smell trigger for Bubbles. Her bio grandma used to make sweet tea. Grandma's house was a safe haven of love for Bubbles. It's a good memory.

A whiff of marijuana smoke is a smell trigger for Sunny. "I smell happy juice!" Not because it makes her happy, but because that's what her bio parents called it. I don't know what kind of memory it brings up for Sunny, because she had just turned 3 when she was removed from her bio parents. But it brings up enough of a memory for her to comment on. She doesn't have any reaction, negative or otherwise.

When we first got our girls, we noticed that they had a lot of negative smell triggers. We wanted to make sure to create positive smell associations for them, so we have been very intentional over the last 18 months in our use of smells. We're seeing results.

Last year was the girls' first Christmas with us, and their second Christmas away from their bio family. We knew that their bio family didn't do much in the way of holiday celebrations, so we tried to create positive smell associations for them. We left our artificial tree in the attic and bought the most fragrant tree we could find. When we went to the tree lot again this weekend, Bubbles threw back her head, inhaled deeply and proclaimed, "Now THAT smells just like last year! I love the smell of Christmas!"

When we first started corresponding with the girls while they were still in foster care, I would spray every letter I sent them with my body spray--L0ve $pell from Victor*a's $ecret. Whenever I use that spray now, Sunny and Piper will sniff me all over like a curious puppy saying, "It's the Mommy Smell!"

I burn cinnamon candles in my house year-round because it is my favorite scent, and always has been. I've burned cinnamon candles in my house year-round for the last 8 years. Whenever any of my kids smells cinnamon, they'll comment that it "smells like home."

Piper has no sleep problems at night as long as she has one of Daddy's shirts to sleep with...a shirt that has been sprayed with Daddy's cologne.

I make hashbrown casserole for every holiday, and as requested by Snapper and Bubbles for their birthdays. I also make it every year to eat for dinner after we decorate our Christmas tree. Last night Bubbles came in from outside and smelled the casserole cooking. She shouted, "YUM YUM! It smells like a special occasion in here!!!"

Good smells create security for a child. I was reminded of the importance of this over the weekend. I need to continue to be intentional about creating positive smell associations for my kiddos, especially the ones who come from hard places. One more powerful, positive smell=a safer, more secure kiddo.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

There is so much in my life to be thankful for. I feel like every year I have more to be thankful for. Maybe it's because I'm maturing. Maybe it's because I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to be thankful. Maybe it's because there truly is more to be thankful for. Whatever the case, I'm overflowing. Not just today, but every day.

On this Thanksgiving, I'm especially thankful for:

  • The baby girl growing in me. 
  • Our 20-week ultrasound on Tuesday that showed that she is developing normally and is perfectly formed. 
  • The wisdom and goodness and power of God in choosing to give us the gift of this baby, after we had spent years thinking our childbearing was over.
  • The adoption of our three daughters
  • The unbelievable growth, healing, and change in them over the last 18 months
  • Our amazing team of doctors, therapists, specialists, and teachers who have poured themselves into our girls
  • My dad and step-mom's purchase of a new home in which to enjoy their retirement years
  • My gorgeous, perfect, amazing niece, Hazel, who was born when we were visiting in California this summer
  • Our summer trip and the memories we made with our family and close friends
  • The connections all five of my kids have with our family because of the time we spent with them this summer
  • My bio mom four years in remission from her breast cancer this month!
  • An amazing circle of friends who have loved us well through the roller coaster we've been on since bringing the girls home
  • John and Lori, dear friends from church who have drawn us into their family and fill the grandparent roles in our kids' lives
  • The perfect fit that Snapper's new school is for her this year
  • Outstanding grades that show us she's in a place that is helping maximize her potential
  • Wonderful managers who love us and are super supportive of our family
  • Our team of ministry partners. We've lost quite a few due to the economy this year and need to rebuild our team. But many of those who are still with us have been with us for many, many years. How thankful we are for their faithfulness!
  • My very best friend, Noel. She blesses me like no one else. Oh how I love her!
  • My other "inner circle" friends, Carol and Karon. Like Noel, they've seen me at my worst and still love me.
  • How many girls are so blessed to have not one, but three best friends? Gosh darn it, though, they all live far away!
  • A church where the Word of God is fearlessly and boldly proclaimed. Where the people love each other and our community well. Where we are loved, accepted, and supported. Our family.
  • Music. 
  • Two sweet cats who adore me and brighten every day of my life
  • Modern technology that allows me to be in close communication with my friends and family across the country
  • Lovely neighbors
  • The freedoms I enjoy as an American
  • The loss of 70 pounds that have stubbornly clung since I had Snapper 11 years ago. Even being 20 weeks pregnant, I am wearing a smaller size pants than I have worn since I found out I was pregnant with Snapper!
  • Perhaps this should have come first...my incredible husband. We've been married almost 13 years now, and I love him more than ever. Watching him step up and be a strong, loving daddy to our five kids...wow! Our three new girls are sweet girls, but their issues have been so intensely overwhelming that sometimes it is hard to love them well. Matt has risen to the challenge and has been exactly the daddy they need. Throughout the dreadful sickness this pregnancy has thrown on me, Matt has been my rock. Cooking. Cleaning, Caring for the kids. Doing laundry. Loving me. Serving me. Without question or complaint. And he does his normal job with excellence. You're a good man, Matthew. I love you so much.
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How A Kid Can Help

My husband is constantly looking for ways to help other people. It's one of the things I most admire about him. Whether it's helping push a broken-down car out of an intersection, or slipping a McDonald's gift card to the homeless man on the corner, or buying the coffee of the person behind him in the drive-thru line, Matt loves to help other people. He's the commander of our church's AWANA this year, and he has already organized a food drive for the homeless and a clothing drive for foster care. He's our ministry's point person for foster care and adoption recruitment and support. He looks for needs, meets needs, loves people, and makes a difference. It's one of the things I love most about the incredible man I married.

This weekend he sat down to talk with the kids. He wanted to learn a bit more about their hearts and the people they would like to serve. At this time of year, especially, we like to get our kids outside of themselves and thinking about others. On Friday night he posed this question:

If you could help one kid, what kind of kid would you help, and what would you do to help them?

The kids were silent for a few minutes as they thought about it. Their responses were as unique as the kids themselves.

Sunny misunderstood. At first she said, "I would teach my friend Emma some manners at school so she wouldn't get on red so much." Well hello Pot, meet Kettle! HA HA HA! Wow, did I laugh! Then Matt clarified. He didn't mean a specific kid. He meant a type of kid. Like a homeless kid, or a poor kid, or a kid with a parent in jail. She thought some more and tried again.

Sunny (age 5 1/2): I would help a missionary kid in another country. I would help by sending some of my birthday money to her family so they would be able to have the things they need.

Piper (age 7 1/2): I would help a kid who doesn't know Jesus. Maybe her parents don't take her to church or talk about God. I would invite her to church with me and tell her how Jesus loves her so much that He died on the cross for her.

Bubbles (age 9): I would help teenagers in foster care. I would tell everybody I could about how every kid in foster care needs a family, especially the older kids, because if no one adopts them, they will age out of foster care and never have a family.
*Side note: Her bio mom told her that no one would want to adopt her and she would age out of foster care when she was 18. Nice, right?*

Snapper (age 11): I would help orph@ns and kids coming into foster care. The kids who feel so alone. I would give them a stuffed animal, kind of like a Build-A*-Bear where you can put a recorded message in the stuffed animal. The message would say, "Because God is everywhere, He is with you and you are not alone. And a girl in Florida is praying for you."

I just love this glimpse into their hearts. I love it! I love seeing the unique passions that are emerging in them, and the desire they all have to meet the needs of hurting people. I don't want my kids growing up feeling entitled. I also don't want them growing up totally sheltered. I want them to appreciate life and the good things they have. I want them to understand how privileged they are. I want them to be grateful human beings. And I want their eyes to be open to the people around them. I think we're well on our way!

For Christmas this year, we are doing a family project. Instead of having the kids give gifts to each other, we take the money we would have spent on those gifts and spend it on someone else. Last year each child purchased a gift for a child whose parents were incarcerated. This year we're adopting the chi!dren's home in Indi@ where my sister-in-law and brother-in-law are the house parents to 22 orph@ns. We're going to purchase a small gift for each of the kids in the chi!dren's home. The kids are so excited, and so am I! It will be good perspective for them, I think, to know that a coloring book and colored pencils are the only Christmas gift the child will likely receive, but they will be thrilled and thankful. Very good perspective!

You may be wondering why I didn't list Pepper's response to Daddy's question. It's because Pepper, in true Pepper form, thought way outside the box. If I had shared it earlier, I wouldn't have been able to make my point about giving kids opportunities to help others. Pepper's response is not what Daddy had in mind, but it made us laugh, and it will make you laugh, too. I love my son and his quirky way of thinking. I love the way he processes things. I love his academic use of vocabulary when he is saying something he thinks is very important. I love how funny he is without even meaning to be.

Pepper (age 7): I would go back in time and issue a formal apology to all the Native American Children. I would apologize that my ancestors took their land and ended the Native American way of life. I think that would help them because maybe it would heal some of the gaping wounds in their hearts.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sweet Gift

This morning I had plans for our homeschooling day. Plans that included reading out of Bubbles' 2nd grade reader. A math page. Working on multiplication facts. Practicing spelling words. Pre-writing activities for a journal piece about family. But then plans changed. While Bubbles was waiting for me to get myself ready this morning, she went to the closet and pulled out a scrapbook. It was one my sister and I had made for our mom when she was battling cancer. Bubbles came into my room with the scrapbook and a whole bunch of questions about my mom. Right then and there, I scrapped my plans for the day and decided to turn it into a "learn about my family" day.

Ever since we finalized our adoption, Bubbles has been starved to make connections with our extended family. Her extended birth family was more important to her than her birth parents. A grandmother, especially, was a VIP in her life. Over the summer we traveled all over the U.S. visiting family and helping our girls make connections to our extended family. It was huge in their adjustment process and attachment to our family. Bubbles, especially, hungers for belonging in the family. Her questions today inspired me to break out the old 8 mm camera and tapes, so I could show her video of my mom. My mom passed away 10 years ago, so none of my kids have memories of her.

Bubbles and I spent three hours today watching video together. She heard my mom sing, laugh, talk, tease, and watched her interact with Matt, Snapper, and me. The most precious moment for me was discovering forgotten video of my mom singing You Are My Lucky Star to 6-month-old Snapper, and seeing Snapper sit there, completely enraptured, smiling and cooing at my mom. I miss that woman so much!

Bubbles was also captivated by my mom--her Grammy--and continued to ask question after question about her. I was more than happy to share. Bubbles also loved watching toddler Snapper's antics. Snapper was a clown of a toddler, and the videos of her are hilarious! We laughed and laughed together. Snapper also got to see videos of the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that she met this summer. She loved seeing cousin Claire as a baby and toddler. She rolled with laughter at video of cousin Brenna (as a baby) picking her nose. She got very excited to see Poppa, Grampy, and Uncle Jack making jokes over dinner, and Snapper delightedly screaming "POPPA!" at the sight of my dad.

Today in our home school we studied family connections. Bubbles commented on how lucky she is to be part of such a fun, wonderful family. She felt important because she was able to identify most of the family members in the videos. Today we nurtured her heart and she feels even more connected to us. Tomorrow we will start working on a family tree...the family tree she is grafted into. It will be her next writing assignment. She is itching to start, and so am I.

Can I just say how much I love adoption?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Color Is...

Baby # 6 will be Baby GIRL #5!

We are all tremendously excited. Yes, even Pepper is excited. He secretly admitted to me later that he wasn't really excited about giving up his spot as the only boy in the family. He's thrilled to welcome another sister, and has vowed to protect her with his life. So precious!

So now, off I go to start stocking up on cute little pink and lavender clothes for my coming daughter!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Today's THE DAY!

At 2:30 we have an ultrasound to find out the gender of our baby.
I am so excited!!!

Hubby and Snapper are wearing blue because they think Baby is a boy.
The rest of us are wearing pink.

We could sure use some more blue in this house, though!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

That Friend

I just have to take a moment to shout to the whole world (yeah, the 50 or so people who read this blog) about how blessed I am to have a very best friend. Her name is Noel and we've been best friends from the first time we met, 14 years ago now. We were both in college. Matt and her brand new boyfriend, Stan, were roommates. It was instant connection. I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. I ended up marrying Matt, and Noel ended up marrying Stan. Over the last 14 years we have been through a lot together. For the last eight years we've lived in different states. But the distance hasn't changed our friendship. We continue to be as close and as strong as ever. We spent almost two hours on the phone with each other tonight, sharing laughter and some tears. There are very few people in my life that I love as much as Noel, and I just needed to overflow a bit. I am so tremendously blessed.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Crisis of Motherhood

A second post in one day? I know, right? I'm having a major crisis right now. Tonight is Homecoming at Snapper's school. Because it's a private school, the entire school--from Pre-K on up--gets involved in Spirit Week and Homecoming. Most of the school will turn out for the Homecoming game tonight. She has wanted to go so badly, but Daddy has karate belt testing tonight and no way am I tackling Homecoming alone with all five kids, especially when I can't trust two of them to mind me. Snapper was dreadfully disappointed, but handled her disappointment with such grace and understanding. She's such a blessing, so mature and thoughtful for her age. I don't know what I'd do without her. Then today, when her BFF found out that Snapper wasn't going, she called her mom and they invited Snapper to go with them. Of course, I didn't hesitate! I'm so delighted that she has the opportunity to go, especially since she was so gracious in how she handled herself when she thought she couldn't go. I'm about to go help her get herself all glamorous for the game. Curled hair, cute outfit in school colors, big hairbow, she's going to look adorable. And she's going to have so much fun!

Here's the crisis of motherhood:

How did my baby girl get so doggone old??? 

It seems like yesterday she was toddling around singing "inkle inkle itta tar."

And now she's going to Homecoming.


I'll update this post with photos shortly.

Overheard in My House This Morning

If you had been in my house this morning you might have heard...

  • If you can't speak kindly, go back to bed.
  • It's time to get up now.
  • Please put on your clothes and come to breakfast.
  • No whining allowed outside of your room. Go back in your room and finish whining there.
  • It's time to get up now.
  • Please wash your hands before breakfast.
  • Mommy's throwing up...stop pounding on the door and yelling at me!
  • Don't eat that! It belongs in a tissue, not your mouth!
  • If you're going to shout at Mommy, you may go back to bed.
  • It's time to get up now.
  • No pajamas at the breakfast table...go put on your clothes!
  • Don't eat that! It belongs in a tissue, not your mouth! If you eat that again, I will clean your mouth with soap!
  • There's no room for name calling in our family. Go back to bed and stay there until you're ready to be a kind family member.
  • Eat what's on your plate with a thankful heart. Biscuits are usually your favorite.
  • No school until you eat your breakfast.
  • If you don't finish before the bus comes, you will be walking to school.
  • Your teacher has been told not to give you snacks unless it is snack time.
  • Go to the bathroom so I can wash your mouth. BOOGERS ARE NOT FOOD!
  • It's time to get up now!!!
  • Screaming is not allowed anywhere but your room. If you want to scream, go scream in your room.
  • At prayer time, we are quiet and respectful to God.
  • This means stop goofing off and giggling.
  • If you can't control your mouth, we'll put tape on your lips to remind you.
  • Close your lips so I can put tape on them.
  • You may not answer questions with tape on your mouth...time to practice quiet listening and respectful taking turns.
  • Just getting your toothbrush wet doesn't count as brushing your teeth.
  • Go brush again.
  • Do you need a short haircut, or will you stop hitting me while I'm brushing your hair?
  • Go brush again and use toothpaste this time!
  • Please turn out your bedroom lights.
  • Don't leave your pajamas on the hallway floor, please!
  • Tennis shoes to school, not flip flops! Two months into school, you know this!
  • Have a great day at school today!
  • See you this afternoon.
  • I love you!
Laundry is cycling. Homeschool child is doing an art project. Dishwasher is running. Anti-nausea meds are digesting and making me so sleepy. 8:56 a.m. and I'm going back to bed. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our Ever Changing Family

It's another Saturday morning. It is silent in my house, except for the ticking of the cuckoo clock and the gentle whirrrr of the fans that are sucking the glorious fall morning air into the house. Matt has all the kids at their karate class, and I get a few hours to myself. I've been doing a lot of thinking recently. 15 months ago I had two children. My life was neat, orderly, and relatively simple. Then we took the huge step of adopting three children. Three children with some pretty significant special needs. We didn't know at the time how complex their needs were. Just like that, the rug was pulled out from under me. Here are some of the ways life changed.

We went from...to...

  • One insurance company to three
  • One kid in one sport, to five kids in two sports
  • One school to three schools
  • No therapy to 6 hours of therapy per week
  • One kid with ADHD to three kids with ADHD, one with OCD, five kids with SPD, three kids with learning disabilities, one kids with developmental delays, two kids with PTSD...yikes!
  • Two gifted, low maintenance with school work kids to two gifted kids and three kids with learning disabilities who are obviously high maintenance in school
  • Six loads of laundry per week to fifteen loads per week
  • Many hours of quiet during the day to one hour of quiet in the evening
  • Monthly dates with Matt to "what's dating?"
  • Regular cooking to doubling every recipe
  • $300/month on groceries to $750/month
  • Our water bill has almost doubled
  • Low conflict to almost continual conflict
  • Lots of room in the car to every seat full
I'm sure there are a ton of others, too. The changes have challenged me tremendously. Not all of the changes have been difficult, though. Much good has come out of this. Snapper and Pepper have become much stronger, more flexible, more patient, and less focused on themselves. Matt and I have learned how to be intentional with our time, and we've fine-tuned our communication. Matt has become a more affectionate, more involved dad. I've learned how to manage my time and resources so much better. We have all developed empathy for others, and a greater understanding of families who have special needs kids. We've become advocates for foster kids. Our faith has been challenged and deepened, and I feel like we're more authentic about living it out. We've had to learn to trust God, sometimes in the moment, or even in the second, because without Him, we just can't take another breath. Yes, sometimes it has been that hard. 

Would I go back to our easier lifestyle? Not for anything! We've seen the lives of three little girls be completely transformed. All three have come to know Jesus. He has given them peace and security that not even the love of our family could provide. They've gained physical health, emotional health, and mental health. All three are making huge gains academically. They are all participating in sports and church activities. They're no longer shy or skittish or afraid. They're learning more every day how to be a contributing member of a healthy family. Our pediatrician saw all three of them on Thursday, and he said he is blown away and continually amazed at the transformation in our girls. We've come as far in 15 months as he expected we'd come in four years!!! God is so, so good! 

My heart has changed. Mothering has become a different kind of thing for me. If there's one thing I've learned from all of this that I feel the need to share with you, it's this: it's okay to parent each child differently. You hear that? You don't have to treat everybody equally! The consequences don't have to be the same for every child. It's okay if two children get to watch a movie that the others aren't ready for. It's just fine if Daddy only buys ice cream for the two kids he took to the store with him. It's okay to allow one child to sleep on your bedroom floor after a nightmare, even if the others aren't allowed to do so. It's okay to spank three of the children, but not to spank the other two. What is comes down to is this: a mother has to be a student of her child. A mother has to fine-tune her parenting to meet the unique needs of each child. Without even meaning to, I realize I've gotten very good at this, because the new girls demanded it of me. Just as no two snowflakes are the same, no two children are the same. I regularly emphasize to my kids that fair does not mean equal. They're learning that, and I believe they're beginning to appreciate it. Snapper appreciates having free access to my bedroom anytime she needs to be by herself. She knows that I see her and am committed to meeting her needs. Bubbles appreciates being my only homeschooled child this year. She's aware that she needed a year of extra support. She knows that I see her and am committed to meeting her needs. Pepper appreciates that I regularly set up times for him to play video games alone with Daddy, times when the girls aren't allowed to go out into the garage/game room. He knows that I see him and am committed to meeting his needs. Piper appreciates that I let her sleep on my bedroom floor after she has a nightmare. She needs the security of having us near her. She knows that I see her and am committed to meeting her needs. Sunny appreciates that I do the green/yellow/red system with her at home to help her monitor her behavior. She needs more structure and help with regulating herself than the others. She knows that I see her and am committed to meeting her needs. 

Now life is about to change again. Our surprise baby is growing healthy and beautiful inside me right now. When he/she arrives on the scene in April, everything is going to change again. Doctors, laundry load, schedule, etc. Even our house and car are going to have to change to make room for another family member. I'm curious to see how God is going to change me yet again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Yesterday when Matt and I were driving home from work, we spotted the location of the new Hobby Lobby that is going in close to us. I am so excited because 1. Hobby Lobby is my favorite store in the whole, entire world and 2. Now I'll only have to drive 10 minutes as opposed to the 40 minutes I had to drive before. Just seeing that orange sign perked me up and got me excited!

Today my sewing machine is whispering to me from my craft table. I haven't done any sewing in months. There are several pairs of cut off old jeans waiting to be sewn into purses for my daughters and nieces for Christmas. My box of yarn and crochet hooks is calling my name. Oh, to know the gender of this baby growing in me!!! Because neutral colors just aren't as fun.

As I've been so dreadfully sick this pregnancy, I've had plenty of time to browse and dream on Pinterest. My boards are bursting with fun new ideas. So much to do!

One of my dear friends from church is a gifted jewelry maker. She's going to help me make special gifts for the dear families that support our ministry. I am so excited to get working on that project!

The crafting bug that usually bites me in the fall has infected me yet again. Get ready, Hobby Lobby! Be prepared, sewing machine, Mod Podge, crochet hooks, and other craft supplies! Craft Woman is on the rise, and she's more powerful than ever before!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

6th Grade Angel

Snapper had a swim meet this morning. She had a persistent side cramp (since yesterday afternoon) and swam very poorly. She came home feeling down and discouraged. And then she remembered that the best way to snap yourself out of a funk is to do something for another person. She came to me and said:

Mom, you do so much for me every day and you deserve a rest. Please rest and relax today and leave the house to me.

In the last 2 hours, Snapper has...

  • Cleaned her bedroom
  • Cycled 2 loads of laundry
  • Sorted 6 loads of laundry
  • Folded and put away 2 loads of towels
  • Thoroughly cleaned the kitchen (unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, wiped counters, swept the floor, wiped down appliances and fridge0
  • Vacuumed the living room
  • Wiped down the front bathroom
  • Is helping me with more laundry
Bless you, sweet child. You are such a gift, and your thoughtfulness and servant's heart is greatly appreciated today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Birthday Party Thoughts

When I was little, my mom used to throw elaborate theme parties for my sister and me. They weren't expensive...just very creatively done. I loved my parties. My friends loved my parties, too. Even when I was a kid, I vowed that I would do the same thing for my kids. For the most part, I have.

Snapper's Parties:
1- Luau
2- Pooh Bear Picnic
3- Balloons
4- No theme...party at an indoor playground
5- Gardening
6- No party...she opted to go on a shopping spree and date day with me instead
7- Cooking
8- No party...we had just moved to Orlando and she had no friends. We spent a day at Downtown Disney, and a day at the beach.
9- Around the World (coolest party EVER)
10- Day at SeaWorld, eating meals and treats at the park (which we don't usually do)
11- Theme TBD. Because I've been so horribly sick with this pregnancy, I've promised Snapper a party once I feel better. She's thinking of having a Bunco party this year. That would be a fun way to get to know her new friends at her new school.

Bubbles, Sunny, and Piper have only been with us for one birthday each. Prior to coming to live with us, they'd never had a real birthday party. I decided to remedy that by going all out on the parties. I let them know I won't usually do parties that big and fancy, but I wanted their first with us to be really special.
Bubbles' 8th- Under the Sea
Piper's 7th- Formal Tea Party
Sunny's 5th- Teddy Bear Picnic

Pepper has always been more difficult. His birthday is in July, and because we're missionaries, we almost always travel in the summer. And we're not talking being gone a week...this summer we were gone for 7 weeks. No time to do a party at home. His birthday celebrations have always been special, just not themed birthday parties. He has always been fine with that.

1- Cake smash party with a few close friends and Matt's mom, who was in town
2- Baseball party
3- Pool pizza party
4- Lucky kid got three parties while we were on the road with different branches of our family! Transformers theme, Fireman theme, and a family get-together.
5- We spent the day at Frontier Days in Cheyenne, WY. He got a new cowboy hat and lots of treats.
6- Pool pizza party in Little Rock
7- Limo ride to the park with friends in Wyoming

I'm hoping we'll be home for his 8th birthday so I can do a pirate party for him. I can think of so many fun things to do!

Bubbles' 9th birthday is next month. She wants a mustache party. Hmm....
Piper is already talking party themes. She wants a spa party with makeovers and glamour photos. FUN!
Sunny can't decide if she wants a party, or if she wants Daddy to take her to Disney for a day. I vote Disney...easier for me because I'll be only 2 months away from Baby's arrival then.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Can't Stop Crying!

A few months ago, Pepper got very frustrated with something. In desperation he yelled out, "This is L-A-I-M. LAME!" We laughed and laughed. He didn't know why we were laughing, but he had to laugh with us. L-A-I-M has become a catch phrase around our house.

Today I am feeling L-A-I-M. I can't stop crying. Today is my little Snapper's 11th birthday. Of course, I had to have her on 9/11. So my emotions are a garbled mix of pure joy at the incredible young lady Snapper is becoming, anxiety at how fast the years are slipping away (live her life over and she's older than I was when I got married), grief at the memory of 9/11 twelve years ago, and deep sadness at the fact that my mom didn't get to watch her granddaughter grow up. Throw in a healthy dose of pregnancy hormones and I am a hot mess. I have been bawling off and on since I woke up this morning. I just can't get myself together!

I hung the usual birthday signs this morning and Matt made cheese souffle for breakfast--Snapper's favorite. Last night Matt went up to the school and filled Snapper's locker with streamers, balloons, and candy. He went with her this morning to take photos of her when she opened her locker. I am making caramel corn to take up to the school for Snapper to share with her small group this afternoon. Tonight we are having pizza before Awana at church. Tomorrow night I'll make the dinner of her choice. When my sickness has passed, I'll have a birthday party for her. Special girl deserves special treatment!

I suppose now would be a good time to sing my daughter's praises. She is a remarkable kid. In the craziness of the last 15 months and adding three high needs kids to our family, Snapper hasn't gotten as much attention as she should have. I will gladly remedy that now.

Today Snapper is 11 years old.

  • 4'9" tall (52%)
  • 76 pounds (34%)
  • She wears a size 10 shorts and bathing suit, size 12 slim pants, size 10/12 shirt
  • Size 8.5 shoe
  • Favorite colors are turquoise and purple
  • Favorite animal is a cat
  • Still a competitive swimmer, going strong! She just qualified for the state championships in backstroke and IM!!! 
  • An EXCELLENT 6th grade student
  • Attends a college prep school and takes all honors classes
  • We just got her first progress report and were delighted that she has ALL A+ grades! Seriously? Not just straight A's, y'all! She's one smart cookie and a very hard worker
  • Poorly organized, but determined to change that. She's succeeding with this in her schoolwork.
  • Best friends are Myah, Victoria, and Ryan
  • Favorite activities: reading, computer/DS games, playing with her dolls, playing with her little sister Bubbles, painting, karate
  • Terrified of severe storms
  • Not a morning person. At all.
  • Favorite foods: Hashbrown casserole, cheese souffle, ice cream
  • LOVES school
  • Favorite classes: P.E. and Math
  • Personality strengths: compassion, generosity, sensitivity to others, friendly, loyal, outgoing, faithful, responsible, trustworthy
  • Personality quirks: easily irritated, can be snappish, disorganized and messy at home, passive
  • Loves God passionately

Snapper is a complete delight. She is so much fun to be with. I thoroughly enjoy the alone times we get to have. I'm coaching her school swim team in order to do something that just about her. I rarely have to discipline Snapper. All the hard work we did when she was little is paying off now! I am so thankful to get the privilege of being mom to this amazing young lady. Each year with her has gotten better and better. I don't dread the teen years. Not at all! I welcome them and am looking forward to enjoying those years with her! Thank you, dear God, for giving me the gift of this amazing daughter!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Doctor Knows Best?

Several years ago--after a series of miscarriages that just about broke my heart--Matt developed a severe infection. The infection resulted in scar tissue. The scar tissue left us infertile. Though we were saddened by the doctor's difficult words, we didn't give up hope of having another child. After several years of trying for another baby, we called it quits. My heart couldn't handle anymore negative pregnancy tests. I begged God to give us another child, or to take away my desire for another baby. To my surprise, He took away the desire. I no longer wanted another baby. I was surprised, though, to find a growing desire in my heart to adopt an older child or two. You know where that story goes! In January, Matt and I adopted our precious Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny. With five children in our family, we were pretty sure we were done having kids for a while. We talked extensively about adopting teens in the future...the distant future. We also toyed with the idea of reopening out foster home. We seriously talked about fostering new babies. Matt and I figured having babies in our home would be valuable for our adopted daughters, whose own babyhood was completely distorted by their neglectful, abusive birth parents. All the kids were in favor of fostering babies. We were looking at renewing our foster care license in the spring.

And then, three weeks ago, I had a very bad cranky spell. I was mean, and I couldn't stop it. I also had some pretty hefty back pain. The next morning I was nauseous. I figured I was dealing with a bad PMS month, so I went to check my calendar. To my surprise, I realized I was 10 days late for my period. In all the craziness of getting home from our trip, VBS, and getting the kids started in school, I lost track of the timing of my cycle. This has happened many times before, but I sent Matt to the store for a pregnancy test, just to confirm that I wasn't pregnant. Imagine my surprise when that little test was positive in about 15 seconds!!!

Y'all, after years of heartache and infertility, God has seen fit to give us another baby! A precious little one that will belong to us, a baby we won't ever have to give back. Our little girls will get to watch Matt and me take care of our baby the way God intended parents to care for a baby. They'll get to love and nurture this little brother or sister who will belong to us forever.

I believe Bubbles best captured the emotions in my heart with her perceptive observation.
Mommy, this baby will be my real brother or sister. Snapper and Pepper are my real brother and sister too, but this baby will be even more real. This baby will never remember a time when we weren't all a family. To him, I'll just be one of his big sisters. I can't wait for the baby to come! It's going to be the most loved baby in the world!

I'm blown away. I never planned on having six kids. I never in a thousand years thought I would get the privilege of carrying another baby! But God, in His goodness, has given us this precious gift. I am SO EXCITED! Baby is due mid-April.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Homeschooling Again

After my one disastrous year of homeschooling Snapper, I was pretty sure I wouldn't ever do it again. But this year, I knew that putting Bubbles back in public school would be like feeding her to the wolves. She just isn't a strong enough reader to tackle the high pressure of 3rd grade in public school. So I am homeschooling my little Bubbles, and it is a much smoother road than it was with Snapper.

Bubbles has a much different personality that Snapper. Snapper is intense, high energy, absent minded, and unable to hold her focus for long. Bubbles is also intense, but her intensity comes in her desire to get her work finished. She's focused, engaged, and wants to learn. She isn't perfect by any means. She struggles with working neatly and with giving her best effort in reading. But she doesn't balk at everything I ask her to do, and she follows directions nicely.

I spent the better part of the first week of school thoroughly assessing Bubbles so I would know exactly how to tailor her education to meet her needs. She's on target in some areas, and dreadfully behind in others. Here's what we're doing.

  • 3rd grade math, which she gets with almost no effort
  • 3rd grade history, her favorite subject
  • 3rd grade science
  • 3rd grade grammar
  • 3rd grade writing
  • 3rd grade literature
  • Kindergarten phonics/spelling (The Spalding Method)
  • 1st grade reading
  • High focus on art
In addition, we're also doing a lot of drill and practice with high frequency words (Dolch list) in both reading and spelling. We're also drilling math facts like crazy, which she loves. I'm incorporating a ton of reading aloud to her. She is excellent reading comprehension, and hearing higher level texts is improving her understanding of language, as well as enriching her vocabulary. She loves to listen when I read, and I know it is good for her.

We start our school day at 8:30 and she's usually finished around 1:00. That's with a 30-minute break for lunch. Today she's still working and it's 1:00. But she's working on her art/history project. She's painting a world map on which she's going to plot out Columbus' voyages. She's building three tiny ships out of egg cartons to put on the map to place in the middle of the "Ocean Sea." Tomorrow she's putting together a timeline of Christopher Columbus' life, and she's drawing a portrait of him on Thursday. On Friday we're baking hard tack so we can try what the food was like on Columbus' ships. As she gets creative, her brain seems to absorb information more readily. I picked up several books on Columbus at the library, which I'm reading to her as she works. It's her favorite part of every school day, and she works hard at all her other studies so we can get to the history. 

We're loving it!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Update: It Has Been a While

Wow...has it really been almost three weeks since I posted? I guess life has been so crazy recently that the time has gotten away from me.

The kiddos have had a great first 7 days of school. Snapper is going to a college prep school this year, and she's loving middle school. She likes all of her teachers, has made some nice friends, and is doing a great job with her schoolwork. It has been a significant financial stretch to make this happen for her, but we're confident this school is exactly where she needs to be. The joy in her after this first couple of weeks has made all the penny pinching worth it. She gets added bonus of swimming on the varsity team, a pretty big accomplishment for a 6th grader!

Pepper loves his teacher. All his favorite friends are in his class. It's a match made in Heaven! His teacher is feeding his smarts by encouraging lots of reading for him. He is assigned an hour of reading every night, and he is faithfully doing it.

Piper has a very sweet teacher who is a nice mix of nurture and structure. I'm still disappointed that Bubbles' teacher moved to 1st grade this year. I was hoping Piper would get her. Piper is struggling with her ADHD. We're working with her doctor to find the right medication balance for her, which will make all the difference in the world. And yes, all you holistic folks, we are very careful about what we feed her, too. No artificial colors. No high fructose corn syrup. Lots of good, nutritious, natural stuff.

Sunny is adjusting to kindergarten very nicely. Her teacher is an adoptive mom and has extensive experience working with kids who have developmental delays. Another perfect fit! Sunny loves school, has made good friends, and is doing quite well with the new high structure that the school year brings to our home.

Bubbles and I are enjoying finding our homeschooling rhythm. I love that I'm able to let her just fly ahead in math, while taking her back to the basics in reading and phonics. I'm using the Spalding program, which I think is the best thing out there for teaching kids the fundamentals of written language. Bubbles is enjoying it because it follows clear rules and makes perfect sense to her. She's done with schoolwork by 12:30 or 1:00. She's loving the extra time to relax, play, and be creative. She works extremely diligently to get her work done in a timely manner. I'm quite proud of her, and think that this decision to homeschool just this one child is the best decision I could have made for her!

Matt is crazy busy with work. He has more projects on his plate than he can handle. He's also the AWANA commander at our church this year, which keeps him extra busy, too. I'm doing all the admin stuff for him because I'm a ton better at that part and I enjoy it. He hates the admin stuff but is fabulous in front of kids, and fabulous in his interactions with parents.

And what about me? This is one busy momma! I'm taking care of all the physical needs of each child. I do most of the taxi work, taking kids to sports, doctor appointments, therapy, AWANA, and school. I'm homeschooling Bubbles. I'm coaching the high school swim team at Snapper's school. I'm assisting Matt with AWANA. Yikes! How do I do it all? There are a few key tricks.
1. I have developed a very intimate relationship with my crock pot. As part of her schoolwork, Bubbles and I prepare 8 crockpot meals to put in the freezer once every two weeks. It only takes about an hour and a half from start to clean kitchen, and it saves me having to cook 8/14 nights. Yes please! Bubbles LOVES helping with the meal prep. I LOVE not having to cook on the busy nights of our week. The whole family LOVES coming home to a fragrant house after school, and eating the delicious dinners.
2. I deep cleaned, purged, and organized the entire house before school started. The two little girls have no toys in their room except for stuffed animals. All their toys are in labeled, clear plastic tubs on a shelf in the living room where I can see and help manage them. The three big kids have a clean, organized, clutter-free room. All of the kids clean their rooms every evening before bed. It makes for an organized, peaceful morning.
3. We're getting up earlier this year, which gives us more time to get through the morning routine and make sure the house is clean before the kids go to school. It helps that Snapper has to be at school at 7:20 every morning. I am thankful for a wonderful husband who handles all the breakfast prep every morning so I am free to make lunches, do girl hair, and pack backpacks. We're a good team.
4. Pre-bag the kids' laundry. When I do laundry on Wednesdays and Saturday, I match outfits and put them in ziploc bags for the kids. It makes putting laundry away very easy for the kids, since all they have to do is put the bags in the drawer. In the mornings, they open their drawer and pull out the bagged outfit of their choice. No fussing about clothes! They get to choose the outfit, but I have the ultimate say since I bagged the outfits. I only keep season-appropriate outfits in their drawers, so there's no fighting about long pants on hot days. It takes a few minutes longer when I'm doing laundry, but it is totally worth it.
5. Do household maintenance chores every single day. I don't go to bed with a dirty kitchen or untidy living room. Every morning I check bathrooms, sweep the kitchen, and empty trash. I leave the big cleaning chores for the kids on the weekends. That's the big perk of having five kids...lots of chore helpers!
6. Every Saturday morning, I give each child a kitchen chore, a room to vacuum, a bathroom chore, thorough bedroom cleaning, and putting away their laundry. In doing so, they do the big cleaning tasks. Every so often, I give them an extra chore, like baseboards, windows, or dusting. They do a great job, and all five of them are able to most of the house cleaning tasks! The best part: the whole house is done in about an hour!
7. Every night I review my plans for the next day. I go over the schedule with Matt, decide who is driving which kids where, and talk about dinner. I go over my lesson plans for the next morning and make sure everything in the living room is in order.

It works for me! I sure do sleep well at night!

That's pretty much it. Not a whole lot of new or exciting to report. I will have a rather exciting piece of news to share in a few weeks, but I'm still waiting for a few things to fall into place before it can be public knowledge. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

One Week Left

School starts one week from tomorrow. This summer flew by on swift wings. I can't believe it is drawing to a close!

This year I will have:

  • One 6th grader in private school (Hello middle school!)
  • One 3rd grader in home school
  • Two 2nd graders in public school
  • One kindergartner in public school
This year I will have:
  • My 6th grader swimming on her school's Varsity swim team. She goes to a smallish private school that allows middle schoolers on the swim team if they have qualifying times. She was very surprised to find out that her times qualify her for varsity!!!
  • My 6th grader swimming USA club swimming on the days she doesn't have practice with the school swim team, which will be T, Th, Sat until the end of October
  • My 6th grader swimming a regular club swim schedule--M,T, Th, F, Sat--once high school swimming ends, and my 3rd grader swimming club swim on M, T, Th starting August 12
  • The 3rd grader and a 2nd grader taking karate on Wednesdays
  • All five kids in AWANA on Wednesday nights
  • Occupational therapy for the four younger kids every weekday except Wednesday
  • I'm the assistant coach for the varsity swim team
This last week before school, there's so much on my plate! It's going to be a fun week, though, so I don't mind.
  • Tomorrow: Snapper's sports physical and submitting sports paperwork to her school; my friend Allie coming over to help me/hang out with me; friends over for dinner; Snapper's first school swim team workout
  • Tuesday: IEP pre-planning meeting for Piper and Sunny at their school; getting my fingerprints done for the school coaching job; submitting the last of my homeschool paperwork to the district; neighborhood block party
  • Wednesday: Bubbles' doctor's appointment; finish school supplies shopping; Snapper's school swim team workout; AWANA directors' meeting
  • Thursday: Snapper's middle school orientation, Sunny's kindergarten orientation
  • Friday: Meet the Teacher for the three younger kiddos; water park with the kids; Snapper's school swim team workout

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Safely Home!

After 7 weeks of travel, we are safely home.
I am happy to see my kitties and to sleep in my own bed tonight.
I am also happy that I did all the laundry at my cousin's house before we came home, which means no laundry to do!
It's good to be HOME!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Snapshots of Summer

For this family, summer usually means road trip. Because we're missionaries, and because our extended family lives in California, Oregon, and Washington, our summers are spent visiting family and supporters, and often raising more support. This summer is a big one for us because last summer our road trip was to pick up our new daughters. It has been three years since we visited our family. We've been in four states, seen every member of our extended family (minus a very few), done a lot of swimming, hiking, and boating with family, and spent time with some friends. Here are some favorite photos. I won't add captions because I don't have time. But enjoy!