Monday, December 14, 2015

The Fun of Making

Many of my friends know that I make many of my Christmas gifts. They ask me how in the world I have time to do it. After all, I have six kids and a very busy life. My reply: I don't have time not to do it. Last year, I was really struggling. Caring for six children--three of whom have significant special needs as a result of the abuse and neglect they received at the hands of their birth parents--is a full-time job, plus some. One of my children acts out on the big feelings she doesn't have the framework to process. 98% of her aggression is directed at me. Not a huge surprise, as her mother was her primary abuser. Even though I know this, it doesn't take all the sting out of the venom she spits (and punches and kicks) at me. Years of being the target wears a mommy down. Last year at this time, I had expended all the energy and emotion I had, and I was sinking fast. Frayed, frazzled, battered were the best words to describe me. Then I talked about it with my friend Erin, who also has a child like mine, but is a few years ahead of me in the process. She encouraged me to do some things to take care of myself, even if it means putting some other things on the back burner.

I heeded her advice and sat down with Matt to discuss how I could better care for myself. I stepped back from most of my church responsibilities. I stopped volunteering at the kids' school. I started taking a twice-per-week karate class (which I am madly in love with). I also moved crafting to high on my priority list. That was the biggest factor in caring for myself. Why?
1. I love to make things. Since I was very little, I've loved to make things. When I was two, my mom and another mom with a daughter my age got together weekly for Annette and Emily Day. They cooked with us and did crafts. I can remember sitting in Auntie Leslie's lap sewing a tiny apron for my doll. We made felt Christmas banners. When I was 6, my Granny started sewing lessons with me. I learned to cross stitch at age 8. Throughout the years, I learned many other crafty things, such as making my own stencils, flower arranging, crocheting, and decoupage. As an adult, my love of crafting has grown. I can sew or crochet just about anything. I taught myself quilting. I draw and paint. I make cards and scrapbook. This Christmas I decided to learn wood burning and metal stamping.
2. Crafting is my therapy. When I sit down and make pretty things, it calms and quiets me. The creative process is so important to me.
3. I am a giver. Nothing makes me happier than making something to give away. I love to give, and when I give something handmade, it satisfies and fulfills me. It's my way of expressing love and appreciation for the person to whom I'm giving.

So I make time to craft. It's honestly what keeps me sane some days. Today I have a lot to do. I need to ship boxes of Christmas gifts to my family in California and Washington, and Wednesday is my deadline to do so. The dishes in my kitchen sink will have to wait. I'm going to throw some chicken in the crock pot, put on Mickey Mouse for Sweet Pea, and get working. I'm very excited, and it promises to be a very fun day for me. And when the kids get home from school, they will be greeted by a mommy whose emotional tank is fully loaded and ready to go.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Balanced Christmas

Christmas has become such a commercialized holiday. There's so much focus on what we're going to get for Christmas. Of course, every kid anticipates receiving gifts. But there's so much more to Christmas than that! In our home, Matt and I work hard on helping our kids keep a balanced mindset. I thought it would be fun to share how we do that.

1. We observe advent. On December 1st, we start a special family devotional in the evenings. We try for every night, but usually manage to get in about five nights per week. This year we're doing Ann Voskamp's book "The Greatest Gift." I spent a few hours making a Jesse Tree from an old pallet, and ornaments from a sliced tree branch. I used this blog post as a jumping-off point for ornament design, and then did a bunch of my own design. The pallet tree is my own original design. The kids love this time together, and I love the glimpses I get of their hearts.

2. I keep decorations simple. Each decoration in our home has a special story behind it. There are beautiful wood camels that my grandparents brought home from Israel when I was little. I inherited them, and they have a place of honor on my piano. I have four nativity sets: my Willow Tree nativity, the little set my grandparents brought me from Portugal when I was 9, my mom's childhood set, and the Little People set that my kids adore. We have our stockings. I put lighted garland everywhere. The kids have a tree with all our special family ornaments. Our new house is big enough to accommodate a second tree, so last year my Christmas gift was decorations for a beautiful "grown up" tree. White lights, crystals, and silver. It's beautiful. I also have the decorations the kids have made for me throughout the years. I love each precious item.

3. I hand craft ornaments for each of my 20 nieces and nephews and my cousins' kids (there are 11 of them). The kids love to watch my progress, and they see the love that goes into the ornaments.

4. We bake and give all throughout the month. Cookies for neighbors. Caramel popcorn for the disabled lady who lived next door to us at our last house (because she LOVES my caramel corn). Fudge for the school office staff. Gingerbread for Nana. Banana bread for the neighbor who loves banana bread. The kids are closely involved in the baking.

5. We look for events that foster family togetherness and memory making. We love to attend local festivals, concerts, and plays. 

6. We have established strong traditions. Pajama ride to look at Christmas lights. Baking. Building gingerbread houses with our friends Demetri and Calista. Making teacher gifts. Mailing packages of love to our family in California and Washington. Drinking hot chocolate. Eating certain meals on certain days. Having a birthday party for my mom who died of cancer 12 years ago. Reading all our Christmas books together.

7. Keeping gifts for the kids simple. Because we have six kids and a limited income, we have to keep it simple. We do something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. I limit stockings to $10 per child (which still adds up fast). They know what to expect--not specific gifts, but categories--and it removes anxiety from Christmas.

8. The Big One, however, is keeping our focus more on the giving than the getting. On the last Saturday in November as we get ready to decorate, we deep clean the house. I assign the kids all sorts of chores. The deal is that if they work hard with cheerful hearts, I will take each of them on a shopping trip. We go to the dollar store and they can pick a gift for Daddy and a gift for each sibling. Then we go out to lunch at the food court restaurant of their choice. We get the bonus of one-on-one time, which is a hot commodity in a big family! Daddy takes them all out together to shop for dollar store gifts for me. I absolutely love seeing what they come up with. I took Snapper for her shopping trip on Saturday, and she agonized over her decisions. She ended up picking gifts that are absolutely perfect for each sibling. She is so excited to give her gifts! Shopping this way takes the focus off of stuff and money, and focuses on the heart. Christmas morning is pure delight, because the kids really are more excited to give their gifts than they are to receive.

9. On Christmas morning, we set the table for 9 instead of 8. The ninth seat is for the birthday boy, Jesus. We put out the You are Special plate, give Jesus the first cinnamon roll with a candle on it, and sing Happy Birthday. We read the Christmas story before we eat. 

That's how our family celebrates. I think this is all of our favorite month of the year!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thankful, Days 22-30

I didn't forget, people! I promise! Last week was so full and intense that I had zero time to sit down and do anything for me...except for Saturday (22nd), when I put life on hold and did some crafting.

Day 22: I'm thankful for the fun of trying new things. Look what I made for Sweet Pea for Christmas! It was my first woodworking project, and apart from hubby showing my how to drill pocket holes, I did the entire thing all by myself! Yes, I used two different kinds of saw, two different kinds of sanders, and other tools, too! I'm quite proud. I'm waiting for a cooler, un-humid day to paint it pink. Then I'll bring it inside and hand paint it all pretty. Sweet Pea loves her baby dolls more than anything else, and I know she's going to love this little bed for them.

Day 23: I'm thankful for my relationship with my sister. We had high conflict when we were little. But then once I hit 8th grade, the conflict melted away to almost nothing. When I got my driver's license, she became my navigator and we were joined at the hip. The best of friends. Inseparable. I got married when I was 21, and our mom passed away 2 years later. The stress of Mom's illness and me being taken away by Matt really strained Jenny's and my relationship. Then she started dating, Our dad remarried. More adjustment. More stress. I moved cross-country. She ended up getting married. We just didn't hold up well. Fast-forward 9 years, and this summer, everything changed. I have six kids. She had her second baby in June. I went out to California to visit, and Jenny wanted to spend every waking moment with me She rescued me on a really hard day with my kids. We talked and talked and processed a lot of the junk that got between us. We shared memories. We cried over missing our mom and what could have been if she was still alive. We laughed and laughed over the naughty things we did and got away with when we were kids. We completely reconnected, and my heart overflows with joy. Even though we live 2800 miles apart, My sister is in my thoughts every day.

Day 24: Since I'm on the topic of family, I'm thankful for my two nieces, my sister's girls. My brother--biological half-brother who I didn't grow up with--has a son and a daughter, too, whom I love but almost never get to see. My hubby has six sisters and a brother, and we have 10 nieces and nephews and 4 step-nieces and nephews on his side. But my sister's girls are first in my heart because she's my sister and we dreamed about our kids growing up together. I got married five year ahead of Jenny. My oldest is 11 years older than her oldest. I had five kids when my niece H was born, and Sunny was 5 at the time. We didn't think that we'd have kids growing up together. But then our little Sweet Pea came along and surprised us! And then my sister had C. H is 10 months older than Sweet Pea, and Sweet Pea is 13 months older than C. So now the three little girls will have each other to grow up with. Jenny and I will have to nurture the relationship carefully, because they live in California and we live in Florida. But we can do it. I love my precious nieces.

Day 25: I'm thankful for my newest life hack that has made my life so much simpler. Freezer meals. Once every two weeks I set aside a day for food. I do a big grocery run. Then I come home and cook. I pre-bag the ingredients for four crockpot meals and I assemble eight casseroles. I put it all in the freezer. It means doing big dishes once. It means the only cooking I have to do for the next 14 days is if I want a side with the crockpot meals. It's genius, because when my kids are all home from school in the afternoons, life is crazy. Three girls have learning disabilities and need intensive help with homework. All five kids have sports in the early evening. If I'm going to geed my family a healthy dinner, it has to have all the big work done before 3:00. This method of meal prep works great for me!

Day 26: I'm thankful for two vehicles that are in excellent running order. So thankful!

Day 27: I'm thankful for our boxes of Christmas ornaments and all the priceless memories they represent. I'm also thankful for each Christmas treasure that belonged to my mom. When I spread her beautiful red snowflake runner on my breakfast table, I cherish the memories of spreading that cloth on the exact same table in my childhood home. When I set up my mom's nativity set, I'm reminded of unwrapping each piece with her and telling her the Christmas story. Based on the house that memory took place in, I was either 5, 6, or 7 in that memory. 

Day 28: I'm thankful for our pets. Two fluffy, loving kitties and one busy-tongue doggy.

Day 29: I'm thankful for adoption. Adoption into God's family. My own adoption when I was a baby. The adoption of our girls. Adoption is the redemption of something tragic. A new family is born out of ashes. Because no matter how you look at it, adoption always starts with loss. I'm so glad there's a way to bring good out of pain.

Day 30: I'm thankful that tomorrow is December! We started advent yesterday. I built a Jesse tree out of an old pallet. I'll try to remember to post a photo when it's done and the ornaments are made. That's on my agenda for this week.

I'm thankful for the month of November and the good that always comes from counting my blessings. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thankful, Day 21

Day 21

I am thankful for a healthy body. I'm overweight but working on healthy weight loss. Other than that, I have nothing to complain about. I am able to do what a mom needs to do. I can exercise. I can get around. I can enjoy life.

I used my healthy body to earn my purple belt in karate last night! This mean I'm now an intermediate rank. I am very proud of myself!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thankful, Day 20

Today I am thankful for a few little luxuries that make life more pleasant and comfortable.

Italian Sweet Cream creamer for my coffee.
Really good coffee bought at the farmer's market each month.
My zebra print satin pillowcase.
My thick fleece robe.
Bath & Body Works hand soap. The mandarin is my favorite.
Cinnamon candles.
My Sonicare toothbrush.
Young Living lavender face wash
My weekly lunch date with Matt. We try a new restaurant each week.
Arm & Hammer laundry detergent. We love how it smells and how it cleans.

For each of these small blessings, I am thankful.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful, Day 19

Day 19

I am thankful for the many wonderful friends God has blessed me with. 

Noel. My very best friend for the last 15 years. She knows me as well as I know myself and she still loves me. Unfortunately, she lives 2800 miles away. Boo.

Karon. My best friend in Little Rock. We met 8 years ago, and it was pretty much love at first meeting. Karon gets me like Noel gets me, and she's always there for me.

Carol. Carol and I met when she brought me dinner after Pepper was born. She was a member of our church, and blessed us with a meal, even though she didn't know us. That forged a friendship that has endured across 9 years and three states. We live in different states now and don't see each other often, but when we're together, it's like we were never apart.

My current circle in my current state. My BFF here is Betty, a fellow missionary who understands what it is like to live with a mentally child. We're very different people, but that doesn't stop us from being very close. My other besties are Tracie and Traci, as different as two Tracies can be, but both are important in my life. There are several other dear, wonderful friends who I would consider part of my inner circle. Holly, Molly, Christina, Sara, Michelle, Brandee, Karen. Such dear, amazing friends.

There are my adoption mommy friends, too, two of whom I've only met twice, and a one I've never met in person. We met in the blogosphere, and they have become my great support system when I am dealing with the fallout that comes from parenting children who have been neglected, abused, and traumatized. Angie, Felicia, Kathy, and Erin. I love you! 

And then there's Lori, my other mom. I may have already posted a thankful post about her, but I can't remember. It won't hurt to be extra thankful for her! Lori and her husband, John, are our chosen family. When Lori was in the hospital a few months back, the doctor came in and asked me to step out while he talked to Lori. She told me to stay and introduced me as her daughter. She is like a mom to me, and I felt so honored and special that day. She is always available for me, lets me vent when I need to vent, loves me without condition, and supports me. I love her.

There are a host of other wonderful people in my life, too, too many to list. I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thankful, Day 18

I am thankful for the really good people who invest in my kids.

Coach Brittany, Coach Kylie, and Coach Angie at gymnastics. Bubbles is 11 now, and she has had a major, unexplained weight gain the last few months. All blood work came back normal, so it's not a hormonal problem. We're praying that the start of puberty will stretch her back out, because this girl LOVES gymnastics, and the extra weight is really messing her up at the gym. Coach Brittany and Coach Kylie are working through it with her and helping her regain her confidence and the courage to try new skills. Coach Brittany and Coach Angie have been working hard with Sunny, who is excelling unbelievably well. They see her talent, encourage her, and push her a bit harder than the others, and she is blossoming. Pepper has hyperlaxity of the joints (his shoulders and hips are very loose). This has resulted in his hamstrings and quads overcompensating and becoming very tight. He likes gymnastics, but it is hard to do gymnastics when you're not flexible even a little bit. Coach Brittany has been a huge cheerleader for him as he has worked through some painful stretching to gain more flexibility. Bubbles and Sweet Pea take classes too, and the coaches have impacted them as well. All my kids are more confident, stronger, and have greater self control--both physical and emotional--because of these wonderful coaches.

Betty, Domingo, Don, Sara, Linda, Wendy, Anissa, Michelle, Vijay, and Christina at Awana. These are my kids' Awana handbook leaders. Every week they love my kids, listen to their verses, pray with/for them, and encourage them. They are VIPs in the kids' spiritual development.

Sensei Marco, Sensei Elijah, Sensei Karen, Mr. David, and Ms. Nancy at karate. Each of these instructors has personally invested in my kids. Marco is Snapper's and Bubbles' favorite instructor. He's gentle and soft-spoken, but don't let it fool you. He's a third degree black belt, and could kill you in a second with his skills. Elijah is Pepper's favorite. He's really fun and exciting to work with. Karen is Piper's favorite. She is also very fierce, but is very patient with the young kids who haven't figured out their bodies yet. David and Nancy aren't black belts yet, but they come in and help, and are amazing with the kids. These people also love my kids and are winsomely teaching them about respect for God, for self, and for others.

Coaches at cross-country. The three coaches (plus Daddy, who is an assistant coach) are just more amazing people who give their time to help the kids. Cross-country has been instrumental in Pepper's life. When he started in kindergarten, his muscles were so hypotonic that he couldn't run. The coaches took his hands and helped him along until by the end of the season, he was no longer finishing last in all the races. Now, in 4th grade, I can't wait to see how he does. The first race is December 12th. Last year he was a middle-of-the-pack finisher, running an entire mile without stopping. This year he's stronger and faster. He has more weight on him. He has better endurance. Sunny, too, is ready to excel this year. The coaches build their self-esteem and confidence, praise effort, and push them to be better.

Mrs. M, Ms. E, and Mr. G are Snapper's theater directors and vocal coach. They see the potential in her and bend over backward to help her reach her potential.

Officer D, the resource officer at the elementary school. She has invested considerable time and energy into Sunny, and she is Sunny's hero.

I can do all these things for my kids if I really expend a lot of effort. But having outside sources is so important. The way I see it, a kid can't have too many people to love him/her. The more people who love and invest in the kid, the more people the kid has to lean on and go to when times are hard. To say I am thankful is an understatement!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thankful, Days 15-17

Day 15: I am thankful for my photography skills. I'm in my Christmas photo rush right now, and I'm doing several portrait sessions in the next few weeks. The money I make off my photography helps cover the cost of Christmas gifts for the kids.

Day 16: I'm thankful for my son's creativity and enthusiasm for learning. Last night I helped him with his geometry project for school. He was so much fun to work with and so full of great ideas!

Day 17: I'm thankful for quiet days at home with nothing on the agenda. Today is a day like that. I can work on a project for work and hopefully I can get to some Christmas crafting!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thankful, Days 12-14

Day 12: I'm thankful for my car. I drive a 2009 Honda Odyssey. It's my dream car, and I thank God for it every time I get into it.

Day 13: I'm thankful for modern conveniences that make my housework so much easier than it is for most folks around the world. My huge washer and dryer that will wash eight towels at a time. A chest freezer in the garage that makes it possible for me to cook and store a bunch of meals at a time. A really great vacuum cleaner. My crock pot.

Day 14: I'm thankful for the opportunity Snapper has to participate in musical theater at her school. She's in a big production with the high school theater department this weekend, and she's pretty much in heaven. She loves to perform. I'm thankful for the high schoolers who are investing in her.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thankful: Day 11

Since today is Veteran's Day, it seems obvious that I would be thankful for the sacrifice of those who serve our country in the military. There are specific few in my life that I would thank today.

1. Matt's Grandpa Dean. He served in World War II in the Marines on the Pacific front. He was wounded in combat twice, yet survived because his buddies ignored orders and pulled him out of the water. He raised three daughters, has 17 grandkids, and 20 great-grandkids. He has left behind a godly legacy, and we are so thankful for him. Pepper's middle name---his real middle name--is Dean, named for Grandpa because of his life of integrity. We love you, Grandpa! He lives in Washington, so we can't be with him today.

2. Matt's dad, Bart. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Thanks, Daddy, for your service.

3. My sister's husband, Daniel. He served in the Army in Iraq just a few years ago. He was injured in a truck wreck during his time in Iraq, and still suffers the effects of his time there. Thanks, Daniel, for your sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thankful, Day 10

Can we already be ten days into November?

Day 10: Today I am so thankful for technology. I have a bunch of nieces and nephews. Seven nieces and seven nephews, to be exact. Four of them live in California, three live in India, and seven live in Washington. I live in Florida. I'm thankful for Facebook, for Instagram, for Facetime, and for consistent phone coverage that allows me to call and text. Even though we're thousands of miles apart, I'm still able to be actively involved in my nieces' and nephews' lives. I can talk to my dad and my sister pretty much whenever I want.

Now...if someone would just invent some technology that would let me hug them across the miles...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Thankful, Days 7, 8, 9

Day 7: I'm thankful for all things crafty. I love to make things. Whether it's sewing, quilting, embroidery, decoupage, woodworking, painting, scrapbooking, papercrafting, crocheting, or other random crafts, I love it all. I do not like papier mache and I do not like anything with chalk. But other than that, I love it all. Crafting gives me a a creative outlet for expressing my love of beautiful things. I never keep what I make...I make everything to give to someone I love. I have three projects in process right now. I'm making burnt wood ornaments for my nieces and nephews for Christmas. I'm crocheting a doll blanket for Sweet Pea for Christmas. I'm working on a year-end piece for our ministry partners. I love to be creative.

Day 8: I'm thankful for the graduate class I'm taking. It's a seminary course on the history of Christianity. We're not studying key figures, events, or dates like I thought we would when I signed up for the class. We're studying original source documents written by the great theologians who helped shape Christianity from the time of Christ until the Reformation. It has rocked the way I think about a number of things about my faith, particularly the way I view God's "bigness" (for lack of a better term) and the weight of my own sin. It has also has grown my mind as I've had to learn how to read an understand documents that are absolutely NOT the style I like to read. I've come to love them...something I didn't think was possible. I greatly appreciate the freedom I have to worship God by engaging in study about Him.

Day 9: I'm thankful for the beautiful pottery mug my step-mom gave me for my birthday, and the good coffee that fills it every morning. For many years I admired a set of mugs that Nancy had--made by a potter friend of hers--and I had told her that if she ever needed a gift idea for me, that she should have the potter make me a mug like hers. That friend has retired, so Nancy sent me one of her mugs for my birthday. I just love it because it is a sweet reminder of my dear step-mom who loves me so much. Once a month Matt buys two pounds of really good coffee from a local coffee roaster who sells at the farmer's market. That really good coffee always helps me start my day on a good note.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Day 6: Thankful

This afternoon Bubbles has a doctor's appointment. It's her 11-year-old well visit. In the last 3 1/2 years since we adopted our three girls, we've had more doctor's appointments than I can count. I am SO THANKFUL for the incredible group of doctors who have cared for the many needs of these girls.

Bubbles has been in the care of an endocrinologist. Her little body responded to the safety, love, and proper nutrition and care of being in our family by growing rapidly. By rapidly, I mean that she grew 11 inches and gained 30 pounds in 20 months. It tricked her body into thinking she was in puberty at 8 years old. Dr. S has worked with us through this and we got Bubbles slowed down to a healthier growth pattern. Now, at 11, her body can do what it is supposed to do. Bubbles has also had sleep studies done for sleep and breathing issues, has been cared for by and ENT, and had to have her tonsils and adenoids removed. Each doctor, nurse, and office staff person has been gentle, careful, and kind.

Piper's medical issues are the most complex. She has had two oral surgeries, due to never seeing a toothbrush for the first five years of her life. She has had her tonsil and adenoids removed, but continues to have issues with sinus swelling and unresolved congestion. No allergies, fortunately. She also has mini seizures. We've been working closely with a fabulous neurologist, but as of yet have not been able to capture the seizure activity on EEG.

Sunny is overall the most complex. We see a child psychiatrist for Sunny's mental health needs. His thoughtful, thorough care has had a huge impact not just on Sunny, but on all of us who live with Sunny and her illness. A lifetime of daily bouts of rage--with full blast screaming, sometimes for hours--has damaged Sunny's voice. On Monday she's seeing an ENT to scope her vocal chords.

Bubbles and Piper have a therapist that they seen as needed, which is rare anymore. They adore MJ and are very comfortable talking with her. Snapper and Pepper have seen her a few times, too.

All six kids have a pair of amazing pediatricians. They have been willing to squeeze us into a full schedule so my more timid kids don't have to experience the upset of seeing a doctor they don't know and trust. They have advocated for my kids, both medically and educationally. They have given me their personal call phone numbers in case I had an emergency. They care for us so well.

I write all of this to make it crystal clear why I am so thankful for this team. They have--time and again--gone far above what I would expect of them to make sure that my children's needs are being met. They've hugged me and let me cry when I've been going through tough stuff. Because there's been a lot of tough stuff the last 3 1/2 years. They've called me to check on me and to encourage me.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thankful, Day 5

Day 5: I am thankful for our dear friends John and Lori. "Poppa John and G-Lo" adopted our family three years ago, in the absence of our parents, who live in California and Washington. John and Lori have fully taken the role of grandparents for our kids and are trusted advisors and the truest friends for Matt and me. They've been at every concert, play, swim meet, birthday party, hospital stay, and other special event. They join us for holidays. They just come and hang out. They babysit. They give wonderful gifts. They support, encourage, and love us. Their influence is profound, and words can't adequately express how grateful I am for them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Days 3 & 4

Day 3: I am thankful for the opportunity to be enrolled in a graduate program. Because of my stage of life (mom to five kids with special needs and one toddler), I am being allowed to complete the program one class per semester. Taking one class has reawakened my brain and is helping me feel alive and engaged again. I'm thankful for this opportunity.

Day 4: I am thankful for the opportunity to take karate two evenings per week. Matt picks up the kids after their karate class, takes them home, and feeds them dinner (which I have ready in the crock pot), so I can exercise my body doing something that is both fun and useful. I'm thankful for the senseis who are willing to teach me, even though I'm totally out of shape. I love this outlet, and am thankful for the increased flexibility, strength, energy, and confidence I'm gaining. I'm hoping to test for my purple belt in a few weeks! That moves me out of the beginner ranks and into intermediate.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thirty Days of Thankful

My cousin inspires me. She has two little ones, ages 2 and 5. Both of them are on the autism spectrum. My cousin amazes me with how she handles life, which is anything but ordinary, and definitely not easy. Every year, she does 30 Days of Thankfulness on Facebook, and her perspective is so refreshing. I don't really want to do that on Facebook, but I think it will be good for my own perspective on life--which is anything but ordinary and definitely not easy (childhood mental illness sucks). So here is 30 Days of Thankful.

Day One: I am thankful for my husband. We've been together for 18 years and married for 14 year. He's my best friend. I marvel at his skill in parenting our children. He's considerate, of others and of me. He's goofy and silly and so much fun! No one else makes me laugh the way he does. He's handy around the house and does amazing stuff with our home and yard. He's a loyal and faithful friend. He's gentle and compassionate. He's my rock, and I am crazy about him.

Day Two: I am thankful for my littlest daughter. Sweet Pea is 18 months old. She is my solace in the midst of chaos. Sunny, age 7, struggles with a serious mental illness that takes a heavy toll on our whole family, but especially on me, as I am almost always her target. Sweet Pea's boundless supply of snuggles and kisses, and her sweet tendency to be completely attached to only me soothes my soul. She is the sunshine in our home, a warm, joyful breeze that blows through our family. She loves Sunny passionately, and Sunny loves her passionately in return. Sweet Pea has taught all of more about what it means to love. She is a precious treasure, and incredible gift. A ray of light in a dark time in our family.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

So Stinking Cute!!!

Sweet Pea is 16 months old. She has been a breath of life and fresh air into our family. She is a bringer of healing for our three adopted girls, who have gotten to watch me mother Sweet Pea the way a mother should care for her baby. She has been a source of pure love, and the girls have been able to fully connect with her. This has driven their attachment to us even deeper. She has been the unifying force in our family. She belongs to all of us equally and will never remember a time when Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny weren't members of our family.

The sweetest, most delightful blessing. And oh, adorable!

This week, Sweet Pea can officially say all of her siblings' names. Bub (what she almost always calls Pepper) was her second word, back when she was seven months old. Sis (for all the girls) came right around her first birthday. But the actual names have been slower in coming.

Snapper: "Wibwee"
Bubbles: "KayKay"
Piper: "Memmy"
Pepper: "Dacky"
Sunny: "Assy"

Of course, I know the real names and can easy decipher Sweet Pea's version of the names. They are all so cute. Except for Assy, which I think is about the funniest thing ever! Sunny tends to be somewhat of a stinker, so the fact that Sweet Pea calls her "Assy" makes me chuckle a lot more than it probably should.

In fact, I chuckle over it every time I hear it! Snapper and Bubbles chuckle over it too, because they are both old enough (almost 13 and almost 11) that they make the connection to that other word. They'll sneak sheepish glances at me, as though they know they shouldn't laugh, but then we all bubble over with mirth because we just can't help it!

It reminds me a little bit of what my brother used to say every time a fire truck drove by...

Kids! Gotta love 'em!

Here's a photo of my beautiful little Sweet Pea. She's my delight.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Things I Love...

Last night I took my beautiful firstborn out on a date. An 8th-Grade-Eve date. When I started this blog, Snapper was in the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade. Now she's this tall, gorgeous thing, all grown up and oh so smart and sweet. She was experiencing some back-to-school jitters, so I took her out for a confidence booster. We enjoyed milkshakes, bought a pair of very needed tennis shoes (for her size 11 feet), got her eyebrows threaded (because she inherited the bushes that sprout out of my forehead), and....drum roll...bought a little bit of makeup. We enjoyed sweet conversation and laughed a lot together. This morning I straightened her hair and applied the very basic, mild makeup, and sent her out the door. Her confidence was much increased over yesterday because of the time and attention. She doesn't need makeup to be beautiful, but 8th grade is such a fragile age, and I wanted to make sure I was sending her out as solid as possible. Light pink blush, a touch of neutral eye shadow, and some lip balm made her feel like a rock star. Just look at this beautiful girl! I'm so proud of her.

That said, as we were out together last night, I felt this perfect sense of contentment. I was inspired to write down a list of things I'm totally loving right now, things that add sweetness to my life.

  • Southern summer evenings. I love the velvety warmth of the summer air, when it's 82 degrees at 10:00 p.m. You can almost grab the air, and it is so soft on my skin.
  • Coconut cream pie milkshakes from Sonic. Uh...yum!
  • Having a pool in our backyard.
  • My 15-month-old Sweet Pea running around the house, getting into everything, taking "selfies" with my Pampered Chef food scraper, and charming the socks off of everyone.
  • The freshly purged, reorganized, and decorated kiddo bedrooms. I've had the decor for almost a year, but haven't had the energy or motivation to put it up. I only have Sunny's room to do now, and I should be able to finish it this afternoon.
  • Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta. So much healthier than regular pasta!
  • The satisfaction of having fought--and won--a battle with the school district concerning a (bad) decision made for one of my children.
  • Jersey knit sheets on my bed
  • Audio books with my kids. Namely the Narnia series.
  • Gentle thunder rumbling throughout the day
  • Good reads
  • Good music. Lauren Daigle's new album. My current fave!
  • Our new Keurig, which replaced the coffee pot we've had for the last nine years. It finally gave up the ghost. The new machine is such a treat!
School starts for the elementary kids on Monday. One 5th grader, two 4th graders, and one 1st grader. Happy!

Friday, July 17, 2015


My sweet Pepper boy is nine years old.

Halfway to adulthood. I have trouble wrapping my mind around this.

Weight: 52 pounds (9th percentile)
Height: 56.5 inches (97 percentile)
Shoe size: 5
Pants size: 8 slim
Shirt size: 10
Favorite food: Chicken and rice, enchiladas, chocolate trinity ice cream
Favorite color: Purple and red
Favorite animal: Cheetah
Favorite sport: Karate
Favorite school subject: Science and math
Best friend: Julian and Henry
Favorite activities: Playing Clash of Clans and My Singing Monsters, reading, gymnastics and karate, playing make-believe games with sisters
Favorite TV show: So You Think You Can Dance
Favorite book: Harry Potter series

Pepper is a joy and a delight. He has a great sense of humor, loves to spend time with his family, and adores his baby sister, Sweet Pea, who adores him right back. Pepper is very intelligent, and makes all A's when he applies himself. He struggles to apply himself due to his prevalent ADD. He is growing in his physical strength, courage, and his ability to control his temper. He especially excels at memorization, and memorized 397 Bible verses this year! He also excels in his karate classes, and recently earned his purple belt. 

Happy 9th Birthday, Pepper! I love you beyond measure.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Last Day of School

When I was pregnant with Snapper, my auntie told me to make sure to savor the lasts with my kids, and not to get too focused on the firsts and the milestones. That wise counsel has stuck with me, and I've been careful to heed it. This morning when the kids were leaving for the bus stop, I demanded a "last kiss of -- grade" from each of them. That delighted them, and I got four excellent kisses. Then they scooted out to the bus, anxious to have the day behind them so they can officially belong to the next grade. Slow down, kiddos! You're growing up too fast!

Last day of 1st grade for Sunny. She definitely struggled in school this year. There's still a possibility she will repeat 1st grade next year. It's what I want...what I'm pushing for. It would most definitely be in her best interest. I plan to work with her quite a bit this summer, in case my appeal is rejected and she has to go on to 2nd grade before she's ready.

Last day of 3rd grade for Piper and Pepper. Piper made A/B Honor Roll which is a big accomplishment, considering she really struggles with Language Arts! Pepper made Principal's Honor Roll (all A's). Great job, Pepper! Both of them have big plans for summer reading, and I intend to support those plans to the best of my ability.

Last day of 4th grade for Bubbles. She had an outstanding year, thanks to the incredible support of her teachers, the reading specialist, and the ESE support staff. She made great progress on her learning goals, and for the first time in her life made A/B Honor Roll! She worked HARD for this, and I am ridiculously proud of her. This summer, the library is going to be a magical place for Bubbles. Last year her reading level was so low that even though she was 9 years old, she was stuck reading the most basic readers. This year the whole children's section will be open to her, and we won't have to work so hard to find something interesting for her to read. I'm thrilled!

This afternoon I'll have ice cream sundaes waiting for my new 5th grader, 4th graders, and (maybe) 2nd grader when they get off the bus. Tomorrow we'll make our first trip of the library! Happy Summer, kiddos!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

One Year Away...

I started this blog in the summer of 2008, the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade for my little Snapper. This photo was taken on her last day of kindergarten. Look how little and cute she is!

And then I went to sleep that night, and woke up yesterday afternoon. Seven whole years passed in the blink of an eye, and I headed up to her school to help her clean out her locker on her last day of 7th grade. She rocked her finals, kissed the 2014/2015 school year goodbye, and just like that, I have an 8th grader. Look how tall and lovely she is!

At my baby shower when I was pregnant with Snapper, my auntie told me to make sure to savor every first, but also to savor every last. While I haven't always remembered to do this, I definitely remembered yesterday! As Snapper and I walked hand-in-hand to the car, I whispered in her ear that in one short year, we would be ushering in high school. I thanked God for her 7th grade year. And I thanked Him that it is over, because 7th grade is rough! She handled it pretty well, but I'm not sad to put it behind us.

I'm so proud of my beautiful daughter. I'm proud of her spunk, her effervescence, her passion, her smarts, and her compassionate, generous spirit. I'm proud of the young woman she is becoming. I'm so thankful to be her mom.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Can Taste It!!!

I can't bear to close this blog forever, so when I do have something sweet or fun to post, I think I still will. It'll be good for me, as my other blog can be really hard sometimes. Therapeutic, but hard.

Summer is so close that I can almost taste it. 

Snapper has two days left of 7th grade. Tomorrow consists of two study halls and one last math review. Friday she has finals, and then she's out for the year. Another year behind her. She's a rising 8th grader, and I can't believe it! It seems like yesterday I was blogging about the difficult decision to homeschool her for 1st grade. Oh, how the time flies! Snapper is 12 1/2 years old, is in the midst of her big growth spurt (she's grown 5 inches this school year), and wears a women's size 11 shoe. She's on track to top out at 5'9" which is taller than Mommy! I asked Snapper what she's most looking forward to this summer. She's looking forward to sleeping in every single day, swimming in our pool, staying up later than usual at night, and having unrestricted time to read, read, read. She's also looking forward to time with her cousins in California.

The elementary school crew has four days left: a full day Thursday, and minimum days on Friday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Tomorrow is the only day that will hold any sort of instruction. The last three days are reserved for doing fun things, such as playing board games, doing centers, and extra recess time. 

Bubbles had a tremendous year in 4th grade! She has severe learning difficulties, and every C is a victory for her. Well, she worked HARD all year long, asked questions like crazy, faithfully attended reading tutoring before school two mornings per week, and tried her very best. The payoff was grand! She has made A/B Honor Roll for the first time in her life, and gained three whole grade levels in reading! We are SO proud of her. Bubbles is looking forward to going to Oregon with me in June for a cousin's wedding. Sweet Pea will be coming with us, too. It will be fun to have some time with just the two of them. Bubbles is also looking forward to lots of play time with her neighborhood friends, swimming, and going to the Boardwalk in California with cousins.

Piper had a tough school year. While her test results show she's on grade level, she continues to have a hard time with non-fiction reading comprehension, and a harder time with spelling and writing. She's moving on to 4th grade, but I already know it is going to be very difficult for her. Piper is looking forward to being able to dress up and put on makeup every day during the summer. She also is excited to have friends over to swim, and she is hoping to be able to watch some movies. We have a new baby cousin in California that she's especially excited to meet, and she is looking forward to a sleepover at Grammy and Grampy's house.

Pepper had an amazing 3rd grade year. He loved his teacher, had great friends in the class, and ate up every minute of his gifted and talented class on Tuesdays. He made Principal's Honor Roll (all A's) for 4th quarter, an earned honors in the G&T class. He is very smart, but he also works hard and really thinks things through. Pepper has big plans for the summer. The most important, though is being able to sleep in as late as he wants every morning. He's our biggest sleeper, and I anticipate he'll sleep in until at least 9:00 every morning. He wants to finish reading the Harry Potter series this summer. He also has plans to spend as much time as possible with his buddies Julian, Henry, and Carson. Their moms are in on that plan, so I'm sure it will happen. Pepper is excited to go to California because we're having a double birthday party for him and his cousin Lily, who is just five days younger than Pepper. Most of all, though, he can't wait to be in Oregon in July because he gets to snuggle with Auntie Joan, my 79-year-old aunt whom Pepper loves with all his heart.

Sunny is a hot mess, and I am SO GLAD the school year is over for her. Her life just continues to be hard for her, and not having to do schoolwork or homework over the summer is like releasing her from her shackles. It has not yet been determined whether Sunny will move on to 2nd grade in the fall or if she will repeat 1st grade. I'm in the midst of a big fight with our school to try to have her retained. I feel strongly that she needs another year to mature and to get her foundation solid beneath her. The school does not want to retain her because she is making academic progress. Not a good enough reason in my book! Progress or not, she's still on the very low end of her grade. I want to see her successful and less stressed next year, and moving her to 2nd grade will not help things. Sunny is all about swimming this summer. She wants to swim every day. She also wants to play with playdough, do some cooking with me, and build with Legos. She can't wait to go to California to spend time with all her cousins doing fun stuff and having sleepovers every night! 

Sweet Pea is one year old and is totally thriving. She just started walking yesterday! She adores all of her big sisters, but especially loves her big brother. She likes to climb, so we bought her a little indoor playset to climb on. She pretty much lives on the thing! She loves music and dancing, playing with her nesting cups and her baby dolls, and snuggling with Mommy and Daddy. She can't tell me what she's looking forward to, so I will tell what I'm looking forward to for her. I can't wait for her to meet my nieces! Hazel is almost 2, and Candice is 2 weeks old. Sweet Pea falls almost exactly between them. I am excited to introduce her to the rest of my extended family. I am excited to take her for a walk in the Redwoods, and to show her the tall trees. She loves trees, flowers, and birds. I know she's going to marvel at the tall, tall trees. I'm not so excited about taking her on four cross-country flights. It is 8 hours of travel to Oregon in June, and then 9 hours of travel to California in July, plus the equally long return trips. Three of those four long journeys will be made without my hubby with me. Ugh! Not looking forward to that.

As for me and my summer bucket list, there are quite a few things I'm anticipating. I also plan to sleep in just about every morning. The kids are all big enough to get their cereal and play quietly without waking me up. Sweet Pea typically sleeps until 8:30 or 9:00, so as long as she sleeps, I'll get to sleep, too! I am hoping to be able to do some reading. I'll continue my karate classes each Monday and Thursday, with the goal of testing for my purple belt in September. I hope to take the kids on some fun day trips. I hope to get my craft room organized.

Did I mention that we finally bought a house? It has a huge bonus room upstairs, and I have claimed half of it for my crafting area. I really need it organized. LOL!

While we're in California, I'm planning on taking the kids to Yosemite, which is my favorite place on earth. We took Snapper and Pepper there in 2010, but the other kids have never been! Most of all, though, I'm looking forward to family time. The cousin whose wedding I'm attending was the flower girl in Matt's and my wedding 14 years ago. My dad's entire family will be at the wedding, and I'm crazy about all of them! My cousins Karen, Missy, Katie, and Lotte are as close to me as sisters, and I'm going to get quality time with all of them. My dear Auntie Maggie is the closest thing I have to my mom, as she's my mom's sister. We've already planned some coffee dates. I'm also really looking forward to a getaway with my sister, just the two of us and our babies. How wonderful it will be!

What's on your summer bucket list?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Goodbye for Now

It has been 6 months since my last post. I love blogging, and I blog several times per week on my other blog. But my other blog is a private blog, due to the fact that it covers the intricate details of our adoption, and the personal lives of my children. It is raw and difficult. It exposes all the damage done to my three adopted girls by the people who were supposed to love, care for, and protect them. I absolutely can not make that information public. I also have to write about it, other wise I am unable to process everything myself. My other blog is my journal. It is my safety valve. It consumes all my writing energy for now. I hope that in time I'll get to a place where I have less emotionally demanding stuff to write about, and can write about daily life again, just for the fun of it. So for now, I am tenderly closing the cover of this blog and setting on the shelf with my other scrapbooks, photo albums, and notepads of cute things the kids have said.

Thanks for the years, dear blog. I'm so glad I wrote it all down. Looking forward to the day when I'll reopen this book, and find the joy in writing once again.