Friday, December 31, 2010

Eyes Up, Insert Thumb

One of the red flags for kiddos with attachment issues is their inability to maintain eye contact.  Interestingly enough, in our American culture, not looking someone in the eyes is also seen as indicative of someone lying.  And continuing with the interesting thread, crazy mad lying is also another red flag for attachment issues.  (But I digress...)

Thankfully, neither of my kids seem to struggle with things that put them on the hard side of the attachment spectrum.  But I do have one who has struggled with eye contact.  The eye contact issue most generally arises if the child is mad at someone, is made to do something the child does not like, has been disciplined, or is being disciplined.   This child also uses thumb sucking as an avoidant behavior and likes to combine the lack of eye contact with the thumb sucking for an all out freeze out. 

It's not one of those things that is such a big behavior that we find ourselves pulling our hair out but it is a behavior we like to nip in the bud.  That means if you want some candy that is laying on the counter and Mama says no and if you react with a pout and angry eyes that won't engage, then you may have to spend some extra cuddle time with Mama.  That means if you were asked to sit on the stairs because you were fighting with someone over a toy, when a parent comes over to talk about the problem and work towards resolution, you must maintain eye contact.  Refusal to look at the grown up in the eye means the grown up will just stop talking and come back in a few minutes when you are ready to talk.  And it means if you are disciplined and must seek forgiveness from someone via an apology, you must look at that person in the eyes when you say "I'm sorry." 

The thumb sucking bit actually escaped me for a while.  For my little one, it is such a comfort behavior.  For every kid, regardles of history, thumb sucking is a self soothing/self comforting behavior.  And generally speaking, I'm of the frame of mind that it's not that big of a deal.  Most kids who struggle with breaking the thumb sucking habit will do so around first or second grade because the peer pressure to stop is pretty great.  (And I'm pretty sure most kids don't go to college sucking their thumbs, although I did see a snippet of something on A & E that featured a 20 something woman who sucked her thumb constantly...) 

For my kiddo, thumb sucking also represents control.  When this child feels unsure or unsafe, there is thumb sucking.  When the situation that surrounds the child develops into something the child doesn't like, there is thumb sucking  And the lack of eye contact almost always goes hand in hand with the thumb sucking.  I realized about 4 months ago how connected to two were and shared that with D so that we could parent from the same position.  This child needs to let go of the desire for control and that means letting go of the thumb when being disciplined or spoken to about serious things.  Sometimes all it takes is just a reminder.  Other times it requires a grown up physically removing the thumb from the mouth and instead ask the child to hold the adult's hand.  And often if that is the case, there is defiance and a reluctance to do so.

I suppose we all have our ways to maintain our perceived need for control.  For some kids, shifting the eyes down or just over the gaze of the other party or doing the fancy, darting eye dance is just one way.  For some, thumb sucking seems to work.  And the spiritual parallels are huge.  Thumb sucking and eye contact seem like such silly ways for someone to seek to control a situation.   But how often must I do my own version of those things with the Lord when I try to keep things safe and calm and manageable?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Circular Christmas

One 1 large circle from our house to D's dad's and step mom's to D's grandma's to my family's to home
We spent 6 days away from home and covered about 500 miles in those 6 days.  (We are so thankful we decided to board the dog.)

The short circle of gift giving and eating that occurred daily for about 4 days in a row
Leapster Explorers and stockings stuffed with candy and Cheetos.  Buzz Lightyear and Tinkerbell gifts combined with a new Italian resturant.  A day at D's grandma's with turkey, potatoes, and pie.  Doctor's kits, pots and pans, new games, rodeo figures, and pajamas while pies and ham and turkey and Bavarian mints spill out of my aunt's dining room.  Stick horses and cowboy hats, zoo/museum memberships, and new books paired with cookies.  So basically toys and sugar, toys and sugar.

And now, a very large laundry circle
You know-the one where it just keeps procreating in some strange asexual way.  Ahh it's so good to be home, even if the laundry is big and scary.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Visions of Sugarplums (well maybe just sugar)

I had this wonderful vision of doing drink mix themed goodie bags for holiday gifts.  Drink mix goodie bags complete with homemade marshmallows.  (Think hot chocolate and marshmallows.)  Around 4 p.m. tonight, I was questioning my sanity as my first batch of marshmallows tasted great but look a little like curdled cottage cheese.  Despite my previous failure, I decided to give it one more go with a different recipe and was delighted.  It actually worked and didn't require fourteen hundred steps or 2 hours of mixing.  And the mint version was amazing!  We may be finding little bits of marshmallow fluff all over the kitchen for days to come due to the extreme stickiness factor but I'm thinking it was worth it, if for nothing else, just being able to say I made homemade marshmallows.  (See attached photos for evidence of said stickiness.  If you look closely, you can literally see the sugar spinning itself into a spider web of goo.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Excising Haiti

I knew it would happen sooner or later.

I knew that at some point, my kids would not like the story God has written for their lives.

Truthfully, it happens to probably every kid. You know, when your teenager decides your family vehicle is outdated and completely embarassing. Or when your 8th grader makes some comment about how all the other moms let their daughters wear shirts that show off their tummies. Or bra straps.  Or underwear.  Or when your boy is completely beside himself because you are making him attend youth group every week.

With kids who have come from hard places, coming to terms with the story God is writing is one of those "have to do" things. It has more layers than the basic teenage angst or peer pressure. It's about the questions of "who am I?" and "how does my story match up with everyone else's?"   It's about coming face to face with  why God allows bad stuff to happen and why He doen't always intervene in those situations.

And for kids who have racial differences between themselves and their peers or themselves and their family members, they have to come to terms with who they are and who their parents and peer groups are not.  For my kids, it means recognizing that they are chocolate and the rest of the family is peach.  That they are not the same as the bulk of the kids they see every day.  For my son, it will mean navigating the dating world where he might not be seen as an acceptable date for a white girl.  It will mean coming to terms with the fact that there might be people who will see him on the street at night and view him as an imposing black man.  For my daughter, it means having black hair in a white hair world.  It means knowing that there are some who have stereotypes of young black women as irresponsible, mouthy, and likely to become pregnant out of wedlock.  

This week, my heart sunk in my chest as my son took the first steps towards sorting out all of those big, grown up feelings. For some reason, he asked about a boy from school going to Haiti. I assumed he was coming to this question from the perspective that everyone's life is like his. (My friend, Lisa, calls this the mac and cheese moments in honor of a time in fifth grade when one of her friends reheated mac and cheese in the microwave by adding milk to it instead of water. Lisa couldn't believe her eyes because doesn't everyone on the face of the planet use water to reheat mac and cheese?)   I assumed Kenson was thinking that every kid has had the same experience and came to join a family via Haiti. As I explained that Kenson's story had Haiti in it but the other boy's did not, Kenson started shaking his head. The words "I don't want my story to have Haiti" rolled out of his mouth. And my heart started on a downward trajectory.

Oh how it is hard to hear him say that. Haiti is a precious story. One God gave just to Kenson. But once you start realizing that your story make you different, it can be very easy to wish that story would just go away. From before my kids were home, Psalms 139 has been a powerful prayer that I prayed for them. It contains such vivid imagery of a God who sees our children in our absence, of a God who created each person for a specific purpose, of a God who wants each person to believe that his story can be used by God.  And that continues to be my prayer for situations like these, that my kids would know that God saw them in utero, sees them now, and has His sights fixed on their futures.  That nothing that happened in their lives escaped His view.  That His love for them is visible in every moment of their lives.

From Psalms 139
"For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Need a quick Christmas or winter based project?

Christmas is a time for gift giving, for showing others we appreciate them by thoughtfully bringing them a gift, for remembering the gift of Jesus by sharing a gift with others.  And trying to keep your kids anchored to that message is a challenge.

I hope that my kids will always have a personal connection to the gifts they give so I am purposeful in including them in the gift giving process.  This year, we made our gift bags.  A little white tempera paint, some paper scraps, some fabric scraps, and some buttons.  The general process is simple enough.

1.  Paint the bottom of your child's sockless foot. 
2.  Use the foot like a stamp to make a snowman shape.  The heel is the head and the toes small snowballs at the base of the snowman.
3.  Dip your child's finger in paint and randomly make fingerprint snowflakes aroung the snowman.
4.  Once dry, use markers to add coal eyes, a coal mouth, a carrot nose, and stick arms.
5.  Last, use hot glue to affix a paper hat, buttons, and a fabric scarf.

I did ours on a medium sized brown craft paper bag but I'm sure you could use other colors.  I also had my kids do one each on regular paper with the intent of framing them to hang up next winter.  I used navy paper for that and that was a great color for the background.  I can see these snowman making appearances on thank you cards for the gifts received over the holidays or even as a great grandma gift by having all the grandkids use fabric paint on a sweatshirt, tree skirt, or pillow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thanks, Uncle Daniel!

We recieved our Christmas gifts from D's brother this week. The kids were so excited when the boxes came and I told them it was something from Daniel. They of course wanted to open it right at that very moment but I made them wait until after supper.

Conleigh's gifts were on top. Dan blessed her with a new baby to love and a kitty that walks, purrs, and meows. The baby has been named Conleigh and spent a good portion of today in a pretend bathtub for, well, let's just say, according to Conleigh, bathroom related messes. The kitty is an interesting story. Conleigh was captivated by it. Until she realized it moved. And then it freaked her out. It kind of just moves occasionally, without any reason, so I think she wasn't sure what to make of it. She would get comfortable with it, go to pick it up, then it would start moving and she'd shrink back and let it hit the ground. Or she would pick it up by the tail, kind of like someone might handle a mouse by its tail, and act like "I'll carry it but don't expect me to cuddle with it!"  By the end of the night, she'd had enough of it's crazy motions and she put it back in the box Dan packed it in with the instructions, "Go to sleep, Cat!"

I tried to get a good picture of her reacting to the cat but this is as close as I got.  You can sort of see her eyeballing poor kitty as if to see "I'm watching you, Cat!"

Kenson got his first ever, remote controlled race car. It's a Mustang, like Uncle Daniel's, but black not red. Our house is a bit cluttered so there's not a real good spot to drive it right now but he did get to see it in action. And he has repeatedly pulled the remote down off the buffet, trying to get someone to let him have at it. Our plan is to move the coffee tables out tomorrow and let him use it in a bigger space. And I think we're going to take it on our holiday visits with grandparents as several of them have nice open spaces in their homes for race care driving.

Thanks so much, Daniel!  We all enjoyed our gifts!  Hopefully we'll get yours sent out sometime soon.  (D's waiting for it to arrive.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Christmas thoughts...

In case you've found it hard to capture the real meaning of Christmas...

I'd also encourage you to read this post, written by the same family. 

From that post, "How did our celebration of this day become so clean and crisp? Where are the smells and sweat and tears that were most certainly a part of Mary and Joseph's journey? It begs the question: Do 'Better Homes and Gardens' scenes with sparkling lights and gorgeous decorations reflect the Christmas story best? Are the experiences of a frightened and embarrassed teenage mother-to-be anything like that? Do the suffering in our world experience Christmas more like Mary and Joseph did - or do we?"

I love the juxtaposition of those who are blessed with overabundance and those who are blessed despite their poverty.  It's not a contest where one experiences Christmas in a better way.  It's about knowing that there is such a thing as a raw ,stripped down Christmas.  That it is our hearts that set the tone for Christmas.  No matter if you live in a world with stockings stuffed full or don't own a pair of socks.  No matter if you live in a world of trimmed trees or tree leaf roofs. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Our Version of Punk Rock-Locs Faux Hawk

I'm guessing this is as close as we will get to a punk rock look anytime in the near future.  (Who knows what the teen years will hold, though?) 

Conleigh told me a few weeks back that she wanted her hair with the sides all up so a fauxhawk is what we tried.  A fauxhawk with microbraids and cornrows to be more exact.  I divided the sides into three sections and then cornrowed each of those sections up the sides.  Then I sectioned off the hair in the middle into 5 separate ponytails and included the hair that I cornrowed in those ponytails.  Then I cut hot pink and black tulle into strip and tied it around the base of the ponytails.  After fluffing out the ponytails a bit, the last step was finding some really cool punk clothes.  (I'm pretty sure we will not win any awards in that department.)  The black tights with silver hearts did seem to sort of fit the bill so we built our outfit around that.   I wasn't sure how much I liked it but we've gotten lots of compliments.  (Maybe just because it's different?)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

3 and 4 year old Brains

3 and 4 year olds are a hoot, I tell you!  The things they do and what must run through their little brains that is actually never said or acted upon...

A few weeks ago it was playing school.  Apparently their preschool teacher has been working on the Pledge of Allegience with them.  They decided to use a pillow my mom made that has an embroidered flag on it and use it as the flag.  One person played teacher and the other was a student.  But it was not a one student school.  They took puzzle pieces and laid them out on the floor to be the nametags of the other students.  The teacher would stand behind the desk and hold the flag pillow.  Then he or she would pull a nametag for a helper to come and hold the flag while they said the pledge.  It sounded something like this.  "S-P-A-E?  Who name is dat?"  Then they would say the name of someone from school and the student would pretend to be that person.  My all time favorite moment was watching Conleigh act a the teacher and head out to the classroom to correct one of the imaginary students who was not saying the pledge correctly.  She took his little imaginary hand and quickly said in a perfect teacher voice, "Frank, hand on your heart.  Like this."

This week, my kids played going to Haiti.  The flight included Baby Julie (our black Cabbage Patch dolly) and a monkey.  Not sure how he managed to get onboard without being stuck inside someone's shirt as they went through customs but he was apparently well behaved on the flight.

They also came downstairs  one night this week while I was making supper in nothing but their underwear.  They were quite pleased with themselves.  Since our house is old and drafty (read-cold enough to make snot icicles), I told them to put their clothes back on.  When I went upstairs five minutes later to check on them, they were still in their underwear but when I heard their rationale, I resigned my previous position.  They were swimming.

I'll leave you with a few one liners...

D has started soccer conditioning so on the days where I work, I've been picking up the kids and heading to the high school to wait for the hour or so of conditioning.  The kids run in the gym, watch girl's basketball practice, and draw on the assistant coach's white board.  As we were leaving, the soccer boys just finished meeting and were dismissing for the night when one of them said something to D like "See ya later, Dawg!"  To which I replied, "Go home and get your homework done, Dawg!"  To which Conleigh loudly protested, "Dem people, not dogs!"

And overheard at Wal-mart today, an almost a joke but not quite via Kenson..."What you call a car with no lid?"  (The answer in case you're curious...a convertible.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Question

Is this adoption related or is this normal? 

I think that is the question every adoptive parent finds living at the edge of their brain.  (Or it might just be me.  I have a tendancy to get thing in my head and hang onto it.  Some people call it stubborn or not flexible...)   

This week has been one of those weeks where I've wondered that a lot.  We've been battling sickness for a month or so now.  Nothing major.  Just runny noses and some coughs.  But they don't seem to want to leave.  I just had the kids at the doctor in the middle of October for the same thing so I was reluctant to go back so quickly since last time it was chalked up to allergies.  The doctor advised using an allergy medicine from April to November so I did that and things seemed to clear up.  Once November arrived, I stopped with the medicine and I'm thinking that was a mistake.  We've got the same stuff now but it seems a bit worse.  Anyway, I digress...

My kids have been tired and crabby.  One of them has been especially that way.  There have been two pretty major melt downs that each lasted for 30 minutes or so.  Defiance.  Refusing to sit in a time out spot or with a grown up for extra cuddle time.  Lots of overreacting to very small things.  Today, after seeing a melt down coming, I asked this kiddo to sit with me.  I was met with refusal.  Child is forced to sit with me.  Child screams, kicks, fights me, etc..  Child then is placed in bedroom.  I sat down on the floor of this room, next to the child, waiting for calm. 

Finally some calm and a time for conversation. 

"It seems like you don't feel very good and that you are really tired?" 

"It seems like when you get tired and sick, that little things like Play-Dough start turning into big things.  And that big things that have been hidden in your heart start making you feel sad and mad." 

"Everyone has times where little things make us crabby or sad or mad." 

"I think you've got some pretty big things in your heart that might make you feel that way too.  Like that your Mama in Haiti left you and didn't come back for you." 

"It makes my heart sad that your heart hurts like that.  But you know what?  God saw all of that.  He saw a baby who needed a mama and a mama who needed a baby and He figured out a way to put them together.  He saw something that was a sad thing and He will turn it into something good."

Lots of tears from a kiddo who really has not verbalized too much about the losses in life. 

Who knows if it's adoption stuff or just preschooler angst or just a tired and worn down kid.  But it never hurts to cover all your bases and it surely helps to build a foundation of feeling like one can share anything with their parents.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dream Act

As many of you know, D and I are teachers in a school district that has seen extensive growth in the last ten years.  Much of this growth is due to the town's economy being linked to a packing plant.  This packing plant employs hundreds of workers, many of whom are immigrants from other countries.  This means that the classrooms we teach in are full of kids from a variety of backgrounds.  I've taught a student whose parents were a part of the original Vietnemese boat people who fled Vietnam after the War.  I've taught the children of white doctors, white farmers, and white factory workers.  I've taught kids who have literally told me how they walked across the desert to come to America.  I've taught kids who came to the US straight out of a Bosnian refugee camp.  I've taught kids who came to school not speaking a  word of English.  I've taught students who came to school with better English vocabularies than a lot of adults.  I've taught kids from Cambodia, El Savador, Mexico, and Guatamala.  And I love that part of where we work.  Maybe because it speaks volumes to me about how American is the land of opportunity and how our free public school system can be a great equalizer.

My husband also has a unique position as the boys varsity head soccer coach.  His team is the most diverse team in the school.  His team is often one of the most diverse in the state.  He does not just coach soccer; he coaches life.  Other coaches do too but it seems like he is always dealing with some unique situation that challenge him to love his kids in unique ways.  It's about ending a culture of mediocracy where if you're from a certain ethnic group, you shouldn't be getting good grades.  It's about getting kids to believe they can go to college and get a degree.  It's about getting kid to realize that there is more to life than themselves and making money.  And some days, it feels like a long uphill battle where he is pushing a 500 pound weight that keeps sliding backwards.

And now the political the suprise of probably a lot of people, I am actually a registered Independent.  I am not a fan of the two party system and find myself wishing for a party that actually embraced common sense.  I am morally conservative and believe that a nation must have some standards of what is moral.  And I am a big fan of personal responsibility and dependence on community rather than government intervention.  But I also believe that in some ways, we need to be a country that reflects situational compassion and not just a rigid adherence to laws or a "too bad, so sad" mentality.  (If that makes any sense?)

Currently before Congress is a bill called the Dream Act.  (Actually I think the House passed their verson of the bill yesterday so it might just be before the Senate now.)  It is one way to aid kids who are making positive choices despite their immigration status not being legal.  I know people hear it and think it rewards people for illegal behavior or that it takes away money from American citizens.  If you're somebody who believes that, I would encourage you to look a bit deeper.  The rationale behind the bill is that there are many kids who did not have a choice to enter this country illegally and who are working hard to be productive members of our country.  The actual number of people whom it might affect is unknown but the actual number of people who would realistically be able to take advantage of it is comparatively small.  (I say that after personally working with many kids who are facing many struggles, who realistically are just not going to go to a 4 year college.)  The current situation is actually cyclic. Someone who came illegally as a child (without a path to citizenship that makes sense) may very well end up using false documents to gain employment.  They are probably not going to return to whatever country they came from.  Illegal parents/undocumented workers=illegal children/undocumented workers.

I'm not out to start an immigration debate only to encourage people to consider how this legislation might make a difference for some kids who really didn't have much choice in breaking the law and how it might impact some kids who really are facing a lot of issues in gaining a college education.  It's hard for me to think about some of the kids our family has invested in and not think of how this law might be the hand up that would help them be not just the first person in their family to graduate from high school but the first person in their family who has graduated from college.

Read what the the proposed law would do for kids.  Read the actual bill.  Do some research that involves more than a coffeeshop or family dinner table.  And if your heart comes to believe that it is beneficial for the legislation to pass, use this form to quickly email your elected representatives.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crazy Love

Paradigm shifts=disequillibrium=times of growth

In the last 15 years, I think the biggest shift in my views on God has come in terms of grace and sin.  Blame my parents, blame my church, blame my rules centered personality, but for me it has always been very easy to equate goodness and worthiness with one's ability to control their own behavior.  Oh how God has worked on my heart to redefine how His grace really works in the lives of people every day.

My latest conversation with Him is no different.  Getting caught up in what I'm supposed to be doing.  Believing that God is loves me best when I choose to follow the rules rather than when I simply love Him and fail.  I've just started Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan.  It's been on my list for awhile.  As I read the introductory pages today, I could help but take note of how what he writes describes my fascination with rules and the supposed tos and have tos of life.

Chan explains how God worked in his life to orchestrate a paradigm shift in this area as well.  He explains how he spent many years following a spiritual growth model that was essentially "Fight your desires in order to please God."  How I know that place.  Chan then goes on to write that his purpose in writing Crazy Love was to move people out of that viewpoint and into one that embraces the belief that "by surrending yourself totally to God's purposes , He will bring you the most pleasure in this life and the next."  In other words, obey God not because you love rules.  Obey God because you believe God's purposes are higher than yours and reflect a genuine concern for what is best for your life.

Smiling because I do believe God knows what's best for me.  Smiling because my teacher heart knows how much fun it is to watch a 'light bulb' moment as someone learns something new.  Smiling because God delights in those moments in our lives.

Monday, December 6, 2010

God and Me-But I'm Supposed To...

Weighed down by a burden.  That probably explains a lot about my week last week.  Actually a better description would be "weighed down by a burden of love."  Love?  As a burden?  The truth is-sometimes it is.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a person in my life whom I was having trouble loving.  Last week was kind of a culmination of that, a where the rubber meets the road moment.  Without going into the details, this person completely stressed me out.  She was illogical and emotional.  She was stubborn and demanding.  And I found myself needing to read 1 Corinthians 13 almost every day, just to remind myself of how I was supposed to be acting.

And actually I think that's one of the reasons it felt like a burden.  Those words "supposed to."  I'm supposed to love this person.  Last week, I felt like I was constantly having to beat my heart into submission.   It did not feel good.  Or happy.  Or peaceful.

Then I happened to catch a blurb on the radio.  It was part of a sermon on sexual purity.  But something the speaker said resonated with me.  He talked about that feeling of doing something because we have to.  In his case, he meant choosing sexual purity because we have to.  He wasn't saying that people should choose to live in sexual sin but what he did say was that we really need to let God out of the box a bit.  That He desires sexual purity for us because it is what is best for us.  And that when we come to see those boundaries as the result of the loving actions of a Father, it begins to shape our choices in diferent ways than if we see those boundaries as the result of some holy arm twisting.  Or because we see those boundarie as opportunities to measure up to a righteous standard and that by living up to high standards might somehow make us seem more pleasing to God. 

Sometimes loving someone feels the same way.  Like holy arm twisting.  Or like a chance to win brownie points with the Almighty.  But to think of loving someone who is hard to love in terms of this is what is best for me is an entirely different thing.  God doen't want to force me to love someone.  And He will not think any less of me (or more of me) based on how well I love someone else. 

I think maybe that last part was important for me to hear this week.  That I do not have to love this person perfectly for God to think highly of me.  God loves me because He made me.  He is united with me because I chose to accept His gift of grace, delivered in the form of His Son.  God does not look at me and see my ugly heart that is struggling to love.  He looks at me and sees the righteousness of Christ meshed with an opportunity to live the best life He has for me.  And what He desires for me is that I continue to live in Christ and that I continue to seek out God's best for all areas of my life.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Next?

Conleigh has continued to make great strides in adjusting.  The jury is still out on if I like how sassy and spunky she's turning out to be but I suppose she's just a smidge like her mother and it's all part of the giant circle of parenting kharma where you must have a child who repays you for all of the behaviors you had as a child.  She's sleeping soooo much better.  We did end up seeing a child psychologist who specialized in sleep problems.  She basically gave us two suggestions to try and either those little change worked or Conleigh's body/heart worked it out on her own.  She's actually started sucking her thumb less and less too.  That thumb is such an indicator of her anxiety level and while it's definitely her nighttime comfort, her daytime usage has decreased.

So now that Conleigh's adjustment has slid towards the "life is back to normal" end of the spectrum, what's next?   When Conleigh first came home, it was a weird feeling to not be waiting for someone.  Between her and Kenson, we had been paper pregnant for 3 years and 4 months.  (Wow!  As I write that, it seems incredible to believe that I have spent that much of my life continually waiting for children.  Crazy!)  We've now been wait free for almost ten months.  And I'm left wondering, "what's next?"  We came to adoption over five years ago because we believed it was what God desired for us, not really feeling a push from God to have biological kids.  During the past five plus years, we've explored a variety of things including domestic adoption, fos adoption, foster care, international adoption, and biological kids.  Obviously, at this moment in time, only one of those options has actually grown our family.  But neither D or I feel as if our family is complete.  So now what? 

D always teases me that maybe we should just get another pet.  And for a brief moment, we considered getting the kids goldfish for Christmas.  But he knows it's more than that. 

I think for me the real indecision is that I have never had a real desire to adopt from anywhere other than Haiti.  I don't want Haiti to simply be a "supplier country" who brought me my children.  I want to be connected to Haiti and her people.  I want my kids to be able to go back.  I want our family to be able to go back.  And I worry that if we pursue another country, that it will be difficult to maintain the ties to two countries, that it will be difficult for our family to be connected in meaningful ways to two places.  As of right now, Haiti is out for us.  Previously, the laws were adjusted by whomever was in office to allow for a greater number of adoptions.  However, due to the chaos that exists in Haiti right now, most agencies/orphanages have decided to only work with families who meet the strict 1974 requirements which include the age requirement of being 35 (which we are not).  And even if we did find someone who would work with us, I don't know that we would jump on it simply because the government has a lot of instability right now.  (Earthquake, cholera, elections which were just held but supposedly corrupt.)  But that doesn't mean we shouldn't consider another country.

Doing a domestic adoption would eliminate the worries about another culture/country but there are several things abou domestic adoption that I haven't quite worked out my feelings on.  (It doesn't mean I wouldn't consider it, just that D and I have a lot of thinking to do if we go that route.)  Most people don't realize that a domestic adoption can cost as much or more than an international one; I have a hard time with that.   In a domestic adoption, you also have to face a birth family choosing you to parent, a birth parenting choosing you to parent but then deciding to parent the child, and negotiating a relationship with the birth family.  Not things that are impossible just things that are unknowns.

As I mentioned before, we have looked in foster parenting, specifically with the goal of adoption, and what we learned was that the children whom we felt like we could successfully parent (based on age and needs) were often not available in the foster care system.  We also learned that straight up foster care was not a good fit for us.  That said, we only worked with our local HHS department rather than private agencies and if we did decide to explore that option again, we'd probaby do so through the private agencies that work in our state.

 And then someone shared this with me...

I was amazed and started researching HIV positive children a bit more.  Even if we never pursue anything down that road, the information I've learned from what I've found is amazing.  Did you know that many specialists consider HIV to be easier to manage than diabetes?  It's amazing, I tell you.

I think one of the big issues for us in the "what next" question is money.  We paid cash for both of our previous adoptions.  Money that other people might have used to invest or pay down a mortgage or to put into savings, we used to bring home two wonderful blessings.  That money was a available because we were two childless professionals who were working two full time jobs.  We are now a one income family, a family living on one teacher's salary.  We do our best to live within our means and tried to plan our lives so I would have the option of staying home.  But as I've said before, it's still tight.  (Especially since we've had a bunch of large bills in the last year.)  Regardless of what path we take to build a family, it will require money.  Money that we just don't have.

In all of the situations, I've mentioned, it's a lot about faith and believing that God can do immeasurably more than we can imagine.  But it's hard to reconcile God's faithfulness and provision with the realities of life.  And I think that's where I'm stuck right now-trying to see what God has for us next, what choice best fits are family, and what steps of faith we'll be asked to take.  It's being on the edge of somehing good, but knowing there are fears and obstacles that will have to be dealt with.  Would you pray for us, believing that God has great things in store?

Monday, November 29, 2010



the arrival of something important or awaited


a coming


the season preceeding Christmas

Christmas is a rush, a blowing by of red and green, the up and down of trees and tinsel.  It's the heat of the oven as you bake Christmas goodies, interupted by the coolness of new fallen snow.  It is braving the crowds and racing for a parking space.  It is lists of gifts and lists of tasks.  It's pausing occasionally to consider a baby in a manger but mostly remaining caught up in the actions of preparing for a holiday.

For me, I think the weeks preceding Christmas are simply reminders of what my spiritual life looks like throughout the years:  the busyness of life interspersed with time of quiet and reflection.  It shouldn't really surprise me that I have trouble preparing my heart for the season of Christmas and daily remembering the birth of a baby who changed the world.

I'm hoping this year will be different.  I want my kids to not get lost in the sea of gifts and travel and food.  I want Christmas to be a time of reflection for our family, a time to remember how Christmas isn't just about the manger but that the manger rests in the shadow of the cross. 

A few months ago, I found a great little book in a thrift store, Countdown to Christmas Devotions for Families   It has over 30 days of readings and covers the days before Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the days following Christmas.  The readings are short, Scripture based, and are supposed to be connected to an ornament that the kids hang on an Advent Tree.  Each ornament is an object that represents a spiritual truth.  For example, today we read about newspapers and how God's important events are recorded not in a newspaper but in the Bible.  I don't have the ornaments but it was really easy to find pictures of each item.  We might make a garland or something similar with those pictures; I haven't decided yet.  And some of them are very common things that will be easy to use the actual objects and do a little object lesson with.  One of the days uses a pine cone and evergreen trees as a reminder of how God's love is ever present.  I'm pretty sure the kids will like holding and describing pine cones when we get to that day.  Another day is a balloon to represent how the Holy Spirit is like a mighty wind.  My kids are balloon fanatics so using their "windyness" to inflate a balloon and then play with it will make their evening, I'm sure.

It's a great little book.  And a thrift store find no less.  Here's to hoping it plants spiritual seeds in the hearts of all of  our family members.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shutterfly Christmas Cards...Good for You/Good for Them

We interupt this blog for a bit of shameless self (and Shutterfly) promotion.

I'm borrowing a bit from my friend, Cari, who made me aware of this special deal. This year, Shutterfly is making my (and possibly your) life easier & better! They are offering 50 free Christmas cards to bloggers who post about this deal in their blog-o-sphere. I'm game so here's my post.

I'm kind of a hit or miss Christmas card girl but if I'm getting something for free I'm pretty sure I can make this year a "hit" year.  And I have to say that since our family has grown since last Christmas, sending out some type of holiday greeting seems to be a necessity.  (Especially since I didn't send out any "adoption announcement".) 

So now the real question:  what to include in the cards/letter?   Ours will include our newest family portrait in some way.  Here are my ideas; tell me your favorites.  Or give me some new ideas based on cards you've received in the past.

1.  Card and letter with an acrostic with our last name, with sentences about the past year for each letter
2.  Card or letter featuring a collection of quotes said by our kids over the course of the year or featuring a collection of quotes from our kids about Christmas
3.  Card and letter with word search, made with clues that connect to our family
4.  Just a simple card, with no letter
5.  A card/letter formatted to look like a shape ie word organized to be a tree

If you need to view some options to get inspired, check out the regular Christmas cards, the photo Christmas cards, or the more generic holiday cards

And if you're a blogger and want to get in on the special:

Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly… learn more: .

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Thanksgiving Fare

Since I shared with you my pie selection for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd also share my side dish:  Three Fruit Relish.  Raspberries and apples are unexpected partners with the usual holiday flavor duo of orange and cranberry.  It's a tart version of cranberry relish so if you're wanting sweet, it's probably not for you.  But I'm guessing my aunt Sheree will make her cranberry jello salad whose sweetness will compliment this perfectly.

How to Make a Pie

Well, sort of.

I'm not a pie making guru by any stretch.  So really you probably shouldn't be taking advice from me.  But I told my mom I would do a pie for Thanksgiving and I really would like to get better at pie baking, so this seemed like a good opportunity to practice. 

The pie crust recipe I used was really tasty as dough.  I've never had dough that I actually wanted to eat prior to cooking and this was so good, I enjoyed eating the raw dough.  Now, let's hope that it tastes that good in a cooked pie...  The pie I'm making is one I've actually made before, but I'm guessing I used a frozen pie crust.   It's a combination of apple pie, cheesecake, and crumb topping.  (Recipe from Taste of Home.)  As to looks, well, my pie crust shrunk more than I would have liked and my fluting didn't come out well.  (High butter content, I'm guessing that is what made it not as clean and neat.  Maybe having the dough in the fridge for longer next time?)

Here's the main inspiration for my post though:  my spray bottle from Taliah Wajiid. 

I'm sure that's what most people have on their counters when baking a pie.  It's really just one I've refilled with water but my crust was a little crumbly and I wanted to add just a spritz of water.  At any rate, isn't that what you use your hair products for?  (And yes, my rolling pin has one handle.  It was my granny's, a gift from my grandma which if you know my grandma and her gift giving, it all makes perfect sense.  It need repaired but I've managed to make it work for the last ten years so you know...)

Cholera Update

This article does a great job of explaining the current situation.  Cholera has indeed crept into every corner of Haiti and will now be a problem for decades.  The article specifically illustrates how hard it is to control a disease in a country where there are not enough health professionals/hospitals and where so many people are uneducated and do not understand the basics of how diseases like cholera are spread.  It also shows how often people prolong treatment which is just not doable with a disease that can kill in hours.  It's a bit graphic but worth the read.  The same blogger also provides an article with many links to reputable organizations if you are interested in donating time or money to fight cholera in Haiti.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Microbraid/braidlocs in!

They've actually been in for about a week now.  I won't even venture a guess as to how many there are or how long it took.   But now they're in and I can relax for a bit.  I'm taking the no washing and no soaking route for a few weeks to try to help keep down the fuzzies.   So our routine is coconut oil mixed with olive oil twice a day and a little spray of water if they are looking too funky from sleeping.  They're not quite long enough to do two pigtails.  Almost though...I'm guessing that in a month, they will be.  I was a bit worried about the diameter, that they would be too small and prone to breaking, but they seem to be okay.  Conleigh does have some "trouble spots" where her hair was damaged and too short to braid so I just left that section alone since it's too fragile to really braid yet.  Her hairline is still growing in too so I kind of have left it a little frizzier so that I didn't have to braid in those fragile spots too.  It's in on cornrow in the middle and two braids on the sides right now.  Love it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

More on the idols of ideals

A few weeks ago,  I wrote about how easy it is to turn our ideals into idols.   We find something good and noble and lovely and cling to it with all we have, as if our devotion to that thing makes us righteous or holy or more godly.  (Or maybe our devotion to that idea just makes us comfortable.)

This week I got another reminder about turning our ideals into idols, from My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for Everyday:

"Beware of making a fetish of consistency to your convictions instead of being devoted to God.  The one consistency of the saint is not to a principle but to the Divine life.  It is the Divine life which continually make more and more discoveries about the Divine mind.  It is easier to be a fanatic than a faithful soul..."

It's a great reminder of how quickly we align ourselves with certain principles and ideas and how this can easily detour us towards devotion to a viewpoint and away from devotion to God.  It's also a great reminder of how our ideas and principle should be a bit fluid, allowing for us to grow in our understanding of what God desires for us.  It doesn't mean that we are like a man believes in nothing or who blows in the breeze of whatever thoughts we find appealing.  It does mean that we should not become dogmatic in our beliefs, especially in areas where there are a wide variety of interpretations.  Faith is a journey not a destination and if we think we've arrived, I'm guessing we're probably not in the place where we think we are.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God and Me-Small Things with Love

The past few weeks, D and I have just been out of sync.  We are usually very "in sync" with each other so it's very frustrating for me when we get out of the rhythm that is naturally who we are as a couple.   I've spent a lot of time pointing out to him all the things he was doing that I didn't like.  I've considered a bit that it might be partially my fault but haven't spent too much time really hanging out with those thoughts.  (I mean, really, who wants to accept partial or full responsibility when they can blame someone else?) 

It's all kind of come full circle in the last few days.  On Friday, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for Everyday was apparently written just for me.  Oswald Chambers writes about the new heart that must exist in us if we are in Christ.  "What difference has my salvation and sanctifucation made?  For instance, can I stand in light of 1 Corinthians 13, or do I have to shuffle?"

Ugh.  1 Corinthans 13 has become a bit of a family code.  I constantly remind my kids about what love looks like by using verses from that chapter.  And the image of one loitering in the shadows of that verse was one that resonated in my heart.  It's watching myself shift around in order to avoid the light which might remind me of how unloving I can be.  It's thinking about what might be seen if my love were thrust into a spotlight that illuminates those powerful words, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

The truth is I don't think I really realized how stressed my husband is feeling and how that stress was affecting his actions.  He's sick. (Stayed home from work two days last week.)  That's also making him very tired.  And he's got a lot on his plate the next few weeks as he has mid term grades due sometime soon, an art show, bulletin boards that need changed, and starting soccer weighlifting/conditioning.  In addition to that, he is feeling a lot of pressure with his grandmother.  There are a lot concerns about her living at home alone and her health.  D and his brother are essentially her own living relatives and D's brother is in Boise so the reality is, D and I are on the front lines so to speak.   Dealing with all of that is stressful and make him miss his mom. 

As to me and the kids, the kids have been struggling with some minor behaviors that I'd like to nip in the bud.  One's experimenting with lying.  Another with disrespectful attitudes and body langugage. 

I've been working a fair amount which is good but also means feeling a bit like I'm flying by the seat of my pants.  Healthwise, my kids and myself are kind of going back and forth between "I've got a nose full of snot and feel like crap" and "I'm fine".

It's just been kind of a long last few weeks.  And what I realized was that I have spent a lot of time being upset that others have not made my life easier.  I have not been a very good helpmate to D.  I've focused a lot on how wrong he is or how great his needs are.  This week I'm working hard to love him better.  To love him with little messages like "I heart u" written in the palm of his hand, like we did when we were dating and first married.  To love him by catching him before he leaves for work and asking him what I can pray for today.  To love him by doing small things for him like stopping by with ice cream before the art show he had on Tuesday. 

What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do.  The needs are great and none of us, including me, ever do great things.  But we can do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful."  Mother Theresa

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Few Line from the Peanut Gallery

Conleigh really likes to say, "Yummy in my throat!"  To get the full affect you must hear it when said it a raspy three year old voice, with similar inflections to "Yummy in my tummy!"

Did you know that Tinkerbell and Woody from Toy Store have a thing?  Apparently they kiss a lot because "dem love each other."  For the record, it's Kenson who dreamed up and acted out this romantic liason.

Conleigh has started calling Kenson "buddy".  As in "Buddy, I got your coat!" or "There you are, Buddy!"  Again, it's better with the raspy voice.

We went to Pizza Hut with my folks last weekend and tried to get Kenson to count for them.  He counted to five which isn't as far as he can go so our exact words were "No, count as high as you can."  His little hand shot up in the air and he continued to count to five.  Again, we said, "No, as high as you can."  When he tried to stretch that hand up higher and higher, we finally realized he was reaching as high as he could and counting.  Which is almost what we meant.

We've been on a bit of a David and Goliath kick lately.  Kenson really liked to sing "Only a Boy Named David" at bedtime and then I showed him the VeggieTales version, Dave and the Giant Pickle.   So today I was priveleged to watch both of them act all of this out.  Kenson started by using a set of headphones as a sling (which promptly got taken away).  Then Conleigh slammed the bathroom door and told me to be careful because there was a giant pickle in there.  At some point, the kid sized chairs were taken into the bathroom to play the part of the giant pickle.  And then they started shoving papers under the door for the giant pickle.  The best part though was the giant fighting ensemble Conleigh picked out...I'm sure Goliath would have run far and fast if he had seen this coming.

(Aqua frilly skirt used as a capelet, pink pants with pink frilly skirt actually used as a skirt, cowboy boots, and a vacuum cleaner attachment horse...A pair of pink high heel princess shoes alternated with the cowyboy boots; you just got the cowboy boot version.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I know this is trivial.  I know it's minute.  I know it's actually just plain silly.

But I can't help myself.

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts?  Really?  I'm pretty sure pumpkin pie is quite offended.  I'm guessing that maybe even the Cool Whip is irritated.  Why on earth would you take a perfectly good dessert and create some type of hybrid breakfast food?  Do not understand...maybe it tastes great but it just seems a bit off to me.

photo from

Friday, November 12, 2010

Haiti and Cholera

My heart is slowly sinking as I think it is probably pretty certain that cholera has now made it's way into every village/town in Haiti.  I don't know if it's possible to adequately explain how great the potential is for a disease based disaster.  It's a bit like the earthquake.  Minutes after the first newscast and the death toll started coming in, I just looked at D and said that there was no way it would be so minimal, that the death toll would be immense.  Cholera leaves me with that same feeling.
Please pray for Haiti tonight.  For people who already been greatly impacted by death and who may be impacted yet again.  For kids who have already lost one parent and may lose another.  For kids who have no parents to speak of and are sick and afraid.  For moms who fear losing their babies.  For dads who fear losing their wives.  For health care workers who are too few, too far between, too tired, and too strapped for resources. 

Conleigh's orphanage started the day with two sick children who were transported to the hospital. One was confirmed as cholera and was sent home with IV's.  However, Evan is not doing well and has returned to the hospital.  And another child has started presenting with symptoms.  The "skeleton crew" that is running the orphanage is kind of a make do group as the directors are Stateside due to visa issues following the earthquake.  I'm sure they are feeling very overwhelmed.  They are also in need of a nurse who can do iv's as well as medication for cholera.

Real Hope for Haiti has just started seeing cases and has a posted a bit on what they are seeing.  Lori, their nurse, did not sleep last night.  Please pray for her strength.  Licia, her sister, has 4 children and will be leaving the area in order to try to keep the kid healthy.  She is torn as she wants to stay. 

These stories are playing out every day, every hour, in Haiti.  For me, it's what comes with loving my kids.  Loving my kids means loving these people.  It means being reminded of how easily my kids could have stayed in Haiti and how vulnerable they would have been.  It means sorting all of that out while they are snug in their beds, under layers of covers, cudding a favorite toy.  So for me and for my kids, love Haiti too.  Love her with a gift of money, given to Real Hope for Haiti.  Love her with your prayers.  Love her with your time, spent passing the word about the needs.  Just love her.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My New Favorite Hair Tool

Got any guesses as to what it actually is?  It is...drumroll, please...a latch hook.  As in what you use to do handicrafts.  As in what some little old lady used to do a massive picture of the Last Supper that hangs in the back of my parent's church.

I just used it for the first time on Kenson's locs.  His locs were in sad shape.  (Not really sad, just neglected.)  I had been tightening the new growth by twisting and palm rolling but his locs are so long, I felt like I wasn't having much success in keeping them tight.  And then I got behind in retightening.  So he had like 2 inches of unlocked hair in some spots.  It took me FOREVER to get through.  But I wish I had done the latch hook business earlier.  Basically you insert the hook end through the loc, wrap the loc around the loop end of the tool, then pull it back through the loc.  You repeat this process multiple times on each loc until the roots of the loc are tight against the scalp.  The roots of his locs look great.  The actual locs could use a little freshening up, either palm rolling or trimming the ends where you get little ballies of hair or the occasional stray hairs that managed to escape getting locked.  But all in all, they look great.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Summary of my day...

Okay I didn't spend my whole day doing this but a good chunk of it. 

These microbraids are the start of Conleigh's dreadlocks.  They look complicated but really they are just basic box braids, done with very small boxes.  Keeping in mind that I would want to put in barrettes and pigtails, I made sure to put in parts that go down the middle and parts that go from ear to ear, then I just started dividing those sections out into the smaller boxes.  Most of the boxes have a base that is a bit smaller than the eraser of a pencil.  I tried go as small as a could without risking breakage.

I've been contemplating it since she came home and have finally decided to take the plunge.  Yes, I'll be sad to see free hair go but I will be very thankful to let go of maintaining her hair in some type of style.  I also will be very thankful to have hair that can easily be pulled up, put in barrettes, etc..  

I'm probably not quite 1/2 done.  I don't know how many braids, probably over a hundred.  And when I say micro, I mean micro.  They are teeny tiny.  Even though it's a lot of work to put them in, I'm actually excited to finish and hope I can get it all done on Saturday.  Then onto ponytails, pigtails, French braids, and cornrows...all while her hair is in these itty bitty braids!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Easy Peasy Layered Satin Flowers

Sooo...we had scheduled family pictures for Saturday and I ordered a cute flower barrette off of just for the purpose of the pictures.  I ordered two weeks ahead of time and didn't think much of it until the Wednesday before pictures when I realized it hadn't arrived yet.  I contacted the seller who was easy to work with but the real issue was that I didn't have anything for Conleigh's hair for the pictures.  I was wanting something special, something that was unique.  The closest store is Walmart which has a pretty decent hair accessory selection but they didn't have exactly what I had in mind.  Next choice would be to drive 45 minutes to a larger town with more selection but I was just there on Tuesday and was going back on Saturday.  Really don't want to waste my gas just for a hair dealie.  So I decided that it might be time to try making my own satin flowers using a couple of different tutorials I had seen online. 

The first one came out a bit to large for Conleigh's head, but it was still pretty cute.  (See here for a great tutorial for a similar flower.)  The other ones are just layered circles which I've seen in a variety of spots.  These are the ones I ended up using.  I actually got two compliments on them at the photo place.  Anyway, I'm hoping to add some to my etsy shop so be checking there.  And I'm always happy to do custom orders if you'd like some for stocking stuffers.  Pretty cute, I have to say...

New Family Pics

We just got our first family portraits done in November of '09.  Who knew that a short three months later Conleigh would be joining us?  (If I had, I probably wouldn't have done the pictures in November.)  Regardless, say hello to our first formal portraits as a family of 4...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Fellowship of Motherhood and Idols

Homeschooling, a great private school education, being a very involved mom at public school...

Our children's behavior, our ability to control our children's behavior...

Appearing cute or pretty or put together, having our children appear cute or pretty or put together, having our homes appear cute or pretty or put together...

These are all things I've written about under the topic of Motherhood, things which I have found to be devisive issues among women.  They are things which tend to make people scramble to find a group of friends who shares similar beliefs, with whom to share life with.  They are things which tend to make people feel good about themselves and the choice they've made.

I've got another list going too.

Organic food
Being able to eat at nicer resturants than McDonald's
Cloth diapers
Cheap diapers
Providing our kids with the latest toys
Restricting our kids tv time and encouraging imagination
A frugal existance
New cars and new clothes
Church every Sunday
Family Bible time
A clean house
Just owning a house
A women's right to birth control
A desire to let God choose family size

In and of themselves, none of these things are necessarily evil.  They are all things that are matters of personal choice and conviction.  Paul describes these types of things when he writes,

"So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.  I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up."  (Romans 14)

But as I've said before, so many times these things start to creep in and become a part of our identities.  They are such good things.  They make us feel good.  They make others feel good.  The goal behind many of these things is something good.  But, somehow, they become idols.  They become so important that at times we're willing to sacrifice the feelings of others to show how right or good our choices are.  They become so important that at times we're willing to put aside our need to constantly be in communion with God and stop seeking out His will on these issues.  They become so important that at times, they cause us to fight for a belief rather than to fight for the Gospel. 

Courtney at Storing Up Treasures recently wrote a very heartfelt confession regarding such an idol.  Through a very painful process of losing an adopted child, she came to see how she had propped up adoption and her ability to successfully parent as an idol.  I loved her words.  Probably because I think it's something we all do, especially about things we feel passionately about. 

May we as women daily die, putting aside our personal preferences and matters of individual conviction, instead aligning ourselves with what God wants us to accomplish for each day.  May we not get so caught up in the big issues of life that we forget to make time for the small issue of intimacy with a jealous God.  May we choose to offer ourselves up as living sacrifices who should be consumed by the will of our Savior rather than us consuming Him with what we desire.  And may we remember that we're all in this together, that every other woman struggles with idols of the heart and idols of our passions, and to offer grace and mercy as required.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rockstar Challenge

Inspired to Action had a great post a few days ago.  Just plain and simple truths.  It reminded me of something I heard Maya Angelou say about kids.  That when your kids walk in the room, your face should light up and they should recognize how genuinely glad you are to be in their presence.  That those first moments of togetherness in a room teach your kids volumes about their value.  (It's something that has been an anchor belief for me both as a teacher and as a mom.) 

Anyway, read on and challenge yourself to slow down and be a rockstar...I had a rockstar moment yesterday as the conductor of a train made out of dining room chairs...

I’m A Rockstar on Tuesdays

I’m a rockstar every Tuesday at 11:30am. And again at 12:00pm.

That’s when I have lunch at school with each of my daughters. When I walk in, their eyes light up, they jump out of their seat and greet me with a hug that seems to require every last ounce of their strength. They pull their chair as close as possible and we proceed to hugeat for the next 30 minutes.

Hugeating is the process of putting food in your mouth while snuggling as close to your mama as you possibly can. My kids are professionals.

The funny thing is, it’s not just MY kids that get excited. Their friends do too. They rush to sit at our table. We play thumb wars, foot wars and we talk with funny accents.

This week as I was grabbing food for their lunches, I saw a leftover plastic pink table cloth in the pantry. I brought it to school and put it on the table before they arrived.

My oldest daughter walked in, put her hands over her mouth like people do when they’re presented with a BRAND NEW CAR!!! She squealed and smiled a Texas sized smile.

It was a pink plastic table cloth. It cost .99.

But my daughter and her friends acted like I’d given them the moon.

It doesn’t take much to make kids happy.

We don’t need to take them to DisneyLand. We don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on toys. We don’t need to throw a huge, elaborate party.

All it takes is 30 minutes and a pink plastic table cloth.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

God and Me-Love, the Hard Way

Oh the difference between the words "I love you" and actual actions!  I have a family member who is difficult for me to love at times.  It's easy to say "I love you" but it is so much harder to do it.  This week I have found myself questioning what it looks like to love this person. 

She is stubborn.  And passive aggressive.  And manipulative.  And has done hurtful things in the past to people whom I love.  But she's also scared.  And lonely.  And depressed.  And confused.

It is so easy to be bombarded by the negative, to want to strike out and love her "my way."  I think that means loving her in a shallow way, where platitudes are said but where my heart still holds her at an arm's length away.  It is hard to love her.  I want to pretend her circumstances don't exist and claim my time and my energies as my own, that she is not deserving of me spending them on her.  If it's not seeking to isolate myself from her, then it's feeling like if she would just do things my way, then all would be well.  (Actually I'd settle for her doing just a few things my way...)  Because of the circumstances, I find myself dealing with someone who says one thing and does another.  I find myself coming behind her and cleaning up messes.  (And no, it's not my daughter, in case you're wondering!)  It's more of a figurative mess than a literal one.  In short, I find myself feeling like I am repeatedly wandering in circles in my relationship with her.

As I've questioned, I've found myself stuck on the words "It is easier to control people than to love them." I really want to choose the easy way of love? 

And what does the hard way to love look like?  Especially with her.  More than anything, I think the hard way looks like grace.  Like arms outstretched on a cross while a calm yet wounded heart says "this is for you."  It's peace in the midst of being hurt.  It's letting someone else's mistakes make you look bad.  It's quietly saying "I believe you are worth my sacrifice."  And it's choosing to love rather than fix or rearrange or redo.

Oh but it's hard!  My heart keeps saying, "But really?  I don't want to do the hard way.  Grace and mercy?  A kind gentle spirit?  Invest time with her?  Allow her freedom to make choices that backfire and create problems?  Really, God?"  

May my heart let go of the easy way and embrace the hard way.  May I loosen my elbows and resist the desire to hold her at arm's length.  May I love her with Your love, in a way that she may not deserve but in a way that gives her what she needs.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Haiti, Cholera, and the Hurricane

Haiti continues to weigh heavy on my heart.  The cholera death toll is about 440.   And Hurricane Thomas is scheduled to make land on Friday.  Conleigh's orphanage has been told to expect 96 hours worth of rain.  They felt that their temporary plywood shelters might not weather a storm well so they abandoned their cholera induced isolation in order to evacuate to higher ground.  

If you haven't seen these pictures yet, I highly recommend them.  They are beautifully taken and are such vivid reminders of what life is like for so many in a post earthquake Haiti.  Imagine our White House still being in ruins ten months after a disaster?  Or knowing that a hurricane was approaching and living in a tent?  We do not know the whereabouts of Kenson's birth family so as I view pictures like these, I can't help but wonder where they are and if they are struggling.

Walking Adoption with your Kids

We're probably a bit unusual in how much we talk about Haiti in our home, especially since Conleigh came home.  There have been stretches that have seemed to go on for months, where we have probably talked about Haiti every day.  I'm sure some of that has to do with having one who was just at the place where he was starting to be able to verbalize some things and then having one who just came home. 
Regardless, we are a pretty open family.  (Well I am.  D has just been corrupted by me and my extended family.)  Conversation flows freely on a wide variety of topics and in general, not much is taboo.  That carries into what happens with our kids.

There are times when I chose to be deliberate in bringing up Haiti or adoption.  Like when we eat mangoes, I point out how we all ate mangoes in Haiti.  Or if I make banan pese, friend plantains.  I usually say something about plantains growing in Haiti.  Or grilled bone in chicken.  That's become known as Haiti chicken in our house.  (Anyone else wondering why all of this revolves around food?)  It's not just food though.  It's in choosing to read books with strong adoption stories or with themes that might lend themselves to talking about racial identity.  In those times, I don't push my kids to think about the story in any way other than simply enjoying the story.  If they bring up something related to Haiti or adoption or race, fine.  But I don't force it.

We've also tried to create things that support a bridge between their past lives and their current one.  Both of my kids came home to small photo albums of "People Who Love Us" which had pictures of our family and pictures of nannies from their orphanages, their birth families, orphanage staff, etc..  That book was meant to be loved and was on their bookshelves to read anytime they desired.  They both have scrapbooks of their early years, full of pictures of orphanage life and pictues with their families.  These are in the living room and I usually try to monitor them when they look at them just so they treat them gently.  I should have made two copies of everything but it didn't occur to me until after the fact.  We also have the screen saver on one of the computers set to a slide show of our assorted trips to Haiti.  So often the kids will stop and notice those pictures and ask to hear about those trips.  Again, there isn't any pushing it.  It just seems like the kids decide to look at those things whenever they want.  And that if we're available, we try to walk them through what things are happening in the photos. 

Both of my kids call their Haitian Mamas by their first names.  Mama so and so.  Both of them ask questions about their Haitian mamas from time to time, often things that I don't know the answer to.  Like what her house looked like.   And sometimes they ask things that I do know the answers to.  Like if she loved me.  Or what letter her name starts with if she has the same letters in her name as one of the kids.  And both of my kids know the general sequence of their stories, that they couldn't stay with their Haiti Mama, that they were loved at the orphanage, that Mama and Papa flew in an airplane to come and get them.  Each time we tell the story, it seems like more details get added.

We've also read quite a few picture books that deal directly or indirectly with adoption.  A Mother for Chocoand The Mulberry Bird: An Adoption Story are two that Kenson instantly saw the adoption themes in.  Off the top of my head, we also have Tap-Tap, My Family is Forever and Jin Woo.  (And if you don't have them and are interested in buying them, if you buy using my links or my Amazon recommendations, I get a portion of the proceeds!)

I read once that what we say about our children's birth families in their absence is a very powerful thing.  I think that's true of their birth countries too.  What we say when we think no one is listening or what we say when we know the birth family/birth culture as a whole is unable to hear it are powerful messages to our kids.  While negative things are a part of both of my kids' stories, the way I frame them make all the difference in the world.  Choosing words that are life giving words, words about their histories that inspire my kids and bring life and light to their hearts and faces are so important and create a confidence within them that says "all of my life is valuable and useful to the Lord."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Blessings

We enjoyed Conleigh's first Halloween with costumes, pumpkins, candy, and a surprise visit from Grandma and Grandpa. 

The costumes were a steal.  I found them at a thrift store and paid like $3.23 for both of them.  I had to make a dinosaur head for Kenson and hem Conleigh's but they worked great.  (Plus they were nice and warm for the hayrack ride at church.)

We of course made a jack o'lantern.  Conleigh was quite keen on the guts.  And both of my kids actually ate a few roasted pumpkin seeds without complaining and spitting them out.

Sunday night we headed to church for the fall party.  Soup, candy, games, friends...perfect.  We didn't really do too much trick or treating.  We had a handful of people whom we know who we were going to go to but only one of them was home.  We've got a nice little stash that will hopefully be gone by the end of the week, depending on how much D and I sneak out of it.  And so far there's only been one slightly negative moment when the kids reported today that the dog ate a candy wrapper...