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.