Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I seem to have my heart on my sleeve...

PBS has scheduled a series of programs on adoption.  Last night, I happened to catch the middle of one of them.  It featured a family's journey to adopt a girl, maybe 7 or so, from China.  The interesting thing to me was that a Chinese translator was the behind the video camera so it was easy to ask the little girl was she was thinking or to have the translator explain the little girl's comments.  As an adoptive mom, I found it painful in a lot of ways.  This little girl was able to give voice to so many of the feelings my kids have had but have not been able to say.  Her behaviors, her nonverbal expressions...they were all things I've seen in my kids.  I guess now that our lives have slowed down a bit, my grief for my kids has really begun to come out.  It's something unexpected.  I just find myself feeling incredibly sad for the losses my kids have had in their lives. 

Sometimes it's big, like watching an adoption documentary.  And sometimes it's small.  Like last night as I was putting Kenson to bed and was telling him how he had such a beautiful smile.  It's his best feature, one that literally makes his whole face.  I couldn't help but wonder which birth parent gave him that smile.  I've never really seen his birth mom smile.  And birth father is a complete mystery.  I was just sad that he probably wouldn't know the answer to where that smile came from.

I recently read this post by Thankful Mom .  It's so well written and captures a lot of the feelings I've had of late.

"I thought of my children and my heart was heavy. These three years have not only been hard for us, they have been equally, or possibly even harder, for them. While our lives have been turned upside down, it cannot compare to the changes they have faced. They have given up their:




home (even if it was an orphanage, it was home)

friends (some who were like sisters and brothers since they were together for many years)

and the life they imagined.

I do not doubt that this is the life God has for them; He places the lonely in families. But we cannot ignore their losses. We must not ignore them. It is essential that Russ and I acknowledge our children’s grief, fear, loneliness, and anger. We must join with them in their suffering.

Even their healing comes at a cost to them. Letting go of the old ways of relating to people, the ways that made them feel safe, is terrifying. Learning to trust that we:

won’t hurt them,

will provide for them,

will keep them safe,

will love them,

will never leave them,

is hard, gut-wrenching, wrestling-with-your-soul work.

Lest anybody (including me) think that Russ and I have made all of the sacrifices, we must always keep before us just what our children are struggling to embrace.

May we never give up, never lose hope, and always believe in the transforming and healing power of our loving God. And may we do it gently, with our children’s hearts held tenderly in our hands."

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Experiment: Curly Tightly Method

Anybody else out there have a kiddo with great kinky hair who sees photos like this and then finds herself completely disappointed at the way her own child's hair looks when left free? 

I found myself in love with Conleigh's hair when wet and then disappointed with her hair when her curls kinked and shrunk and turned themselves into a tightly curled Afro.  I wanted those little bits of spirally delight to stay.  It didn't seem to matter what curl definer I used.  And then I decided that it was just an issue of "this is what her hair does" and that I needed to deal with it. 

The other thing I learned was that a lot of styles that look like simple Afros are actually twist outs, meaning the hair has been twisted or braided before hand and then gently undone to give greater curl definition.  Good to know but a lot of work for a hair style that may last 3 days at best (and often about 3 hours with a 3 year old who has her hands in her hair, spends time rolling on the floor, etc.). 

The other issue I found myself contending with was that doing free hair is a nice break and gives me a chance for a wash and go hair style.  But the tangles that go with free hair are not so fun and leaving Conleigh's hair free too often meant lots of manipulating her already damaged hair and more breakage.

I'd read awhile back some information about a woman who has a specific method of defining her curls but decided the woman's curls were so much looser than Conleigh's that it probably wouldn't work on her hair.  But then this method became a hot topic of conversation on a hair care board I'm a part of.  So I decided to give it a try.  And I was pleasantly surprised at the results.  I followed her basic directions.  In my case I washed her hair because I was taking it out of yarn braids so I used a Castille soap/water/olive oil mixture to cleanse.  Then I deep conditioned with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose conditioner.  This I rinsed out as it's probably a bit heavy to leave in.  After patting off her hair, I added a "cheap" conditioner (Organix).  This I left in and left alone for a bit until I could see how her curls were starting to separate themselves out.  Then I used those separate curl clumps to make coils.  Basically, I rolled the curls in between my thumb and pointer finger until the curl shape was defined.   The last step was just to let it dry.  After it dried, I did add a small amount of flexible hold hairspray.  I liked how the end result had better curl definition and that it only took me maybe 30 minutes to do once I got her out of the bathtub.  And I liked that since the curls were slightly separated, it cut down on the tangles.  The next day, I touched up a few spots by gently retwisting any flattened curls but didn't do any detangling, just a few minutes of touch up time.  The original style lasted for probably 3-4 days.  I think leaving the conditioner gave the curls some staying power.  And the best part was when I wet her hair again to take the style out, it wasn't a huge tangly mess because of the small coils separating the hair.   I haven't seen much on this method and type 4 hair so I thought I'd share my experience in case anyone was interested.
The pics above are from last week.  The pics below are just her normal Afro.  I know it's probably not much different to a lot of other people but to me, I could definitely tell the difference.

Tomiko Fraser photo credit (Um, not sure. 
but don't see a link to the photographer)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Same song, same verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse...the parenting version

Parenting is hard.  Parenting an adopted child, especially one who is newly home is a bit more than hard.  One of the tricky parts is figuring out what the root of the behavior is.  Is it related to adoption or trauma and grief?  Is it just normal behavior for that age?  Is it just normal behavior for your child and his/her specific personality?  And because that personality is still emerging, even knowing that is a challenge.  It's also tricky because generally speaking kids who come from orphanage care are going to have some delays.  That can include emotional and social delays meaning that while the child is a specific age, like 3, they may have a tendancy to act in ways that mimic the normal reactions of a much younger child.  And as an adoptive parent, you have to accept where they are while helping them grow and "catch up." 

One of our biggest struggles with our newly home girl is related to behavior and sleep.  It is a terribly vicious cycle, one where lack of sleep means nightmarish behavior the next day.  Her personality is naturally strong willed and independent.  She is highly verbal and out to make her view point known.  And she is terribly disobedient when she is tired.  Last night was a prime example.  After supper, she asked me for some watermelon that I was cutting.  I told her she could not have any more because she didn't eat all of her supper.  Less than 30 seconds later, I find her sneaking watermelon off the counter.  (Two nos...disobeying a direction and sneaking food which is an issue of trust)  Blatant disobedience is one of those things that pushes my buttons so I sent her to the living room to sit in the chair while I talked with D about a consequence.  She immediately ran away from the chair, despite a reminder of where I asked her to sit.  When I picked her up and made her sit with me in the chair, a loud tantrum erupted because she was being made to sit down.   3 major discipline problems/deliberate disobedient acts in about 3 minutes.  There are times when you feel like you are in discipline mode ALL DAY LONG. 

That's kind of where we've been living right now.  I'm not sure where it's coming from.  My best guess is because the start of school has changed things up and that change is scary for her.  Most change in her life has been negative.  It's scary in that it's full of uncertainty.  New people, new places-it's scary for a lot of kids.  Doubly scary when you have faced new people and new places in the ways she has.  As a tiny infant separated from the Mama who gave her life.  As a not quite year old baby whose foster family had to return her to the orphanage because of a crisis in their lives.  As a 3 year old girlie who was handed to complete strangers in the middle of the night, separated from her friends, and placed into our arms the next morning without seeing a familiar face.  That's my best guess.  So maybe we'll move around to balancing that disobdience with plenty of grace, repeating truths to her like "New places and friends can be both scary and fun."  "You seem to be disobeying Mama a lot, almost like you're mad at her.  Being mad at her won't change her being your Mama forever."  "It can be confusing to have new things going on.  Guess what things always will stay the same?  Your Mama and Papa and Kenson will always love you and always be here."  Now if I could just remember that instead of getting angry and frustrated...isnt't that the story of every parent?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Fellowship of Motherhood & Homeschooling...

My kids started preschool on Monday.  As I write that, I'm not sure I like the sound of that.  It sounds like they are big kids instead of an itty bitty three year old and an itty bitty four year old.  To be honest, I suppose I have some trouble writing the whole preschool bit.  It kind of represents a committment in my heart to head in one direction with choices regarding school.

For the longest time, I wasn't sure if they were going to go to preschool.  Couple that with my plans for returning to substitute teaching in the fall and the child care plans for that was not just easily falling into place-there was a lot of conversation about whether perhaps this was God shoving me in the direction of homeschooling.   Preschool through our school which would have been free was not an option.  One of the houses we were really interested in purchasing had a great room that would have been a great homeschool room.  And I have some concerns about my kids doing the reading program that the school district uses, especially in grades 1 and 2.  All in all, doing a homeschool preschool seemed pretty appealing.  And it might have lead to the decision to homeschool past the preschool age. 

But then things changed.  We started looking at larger daycare settings for our kids.  And the solution we currently have our kids enrolled in actually feels like a really good fit for our family.  But it still makes it weird to write that my kids are going to preschool.

One of the things that God has laid on my heart through my adventures in motherhood is the need for women as a whole to put aside labels and personal choices in order to be unified as God seekers.  Schooling is one of those hot button issues that has a tendancy to make people bristle and feel the need to staunchly defend their choice.  I recently read a very thoughtful post on homeschooling.  I'd encourage you to read it and the comments by other who also read the post as they provide many different opinions in a respectful way.  As I read the post, I looked at the key reasons behind the blogger's desire to homeschool and realized they represented things I desire for my kids, but things that I didn't feel like had to be accomplished in only a homeschool setting.  In other words, I walked away thinking "Yes, that's my goal for my kids too but I don't feel like I have to homeschool to accomplish it."  It solidified the choices we were making regarding preschool.  And it also reminded me that homeschooling families and non homeschooling families often want the same things for their kids.

Like the blogger, we want Christ to be the center of our home.  For us, this means parenting our kids with the goal of teaching them to be God seekers.  It means saying "Good morning God!" each morning.  It means spend time alone with God, learning His stories, His words, and His character.  It means offering up praise at a meal or bringing our concerns over owies.  It means believing that God has given us all we need for Godly living within His word and establishing a foundation for our behaviors based in this.  And it means chosing to worship God corporately through small groups, church, and Sunday school.

Like the blogger, we want to be the primary influences in our childeren's lives.  Obviously, those who spend the most time with your child wield a fair amount of influence over your child.  But we believe that by choosing to simplify our lives, we can value the time we spend with our kids.  We also believe that being an influence in your child's life isn't always about the quanitity of time you spend with them, but that it is also about being purposeful in the time you do have with them so that you are having meaningful conversations and interactions.

Like the blogger, we want to cultivate strong family relationships.  Again, it goes back to being purposeful.  Siblings start out thick as thieves.  Then they get older, develop other relationships and interests, and slowly start to change their views of each other.  As parents, regardless of our schooling choices, we can encourage relationships with siblings and amongst other family members by shared experiences and by encouraging family members to notice the unique qualities that make each person a valuable asset to the family.  It means sharing games and trips.  It means sharing books and learning opportunties.  It means spending the time to teach our kids to appreciate the unique traits, likes, and dislikes that our family has.  All of that requires deliberate purposeful conversations and activities.

Like the blogger said, we want to encourage our kids to love learning.  I know some feel that public schools kill the love of learning because the curriculum is established by the school/state rather than the likes of an invidual student.  I understand that thought.  But to be honest, a love of learning is not just limited to the topics you are interested in.  Sometimes when someone "makes" you study a particular topic, you discover an interest you didn't know you had.  And it's also not just limited to "school learning."  In other words, if I am sending my child to a public school, I can certainly encourage them to love topics that the school is not necessarily teaching.  Craft activities, 4-H, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, church projects, helping kids select library books, noticing things your child shows an interest in and encouraging this interest-all very doable at home.  And that doesn't even cover the ways you as a parent can support a classroom teacher by working alongside your child or that teacher.

Like the blogger said, we want our schooling choices to provide us with the freedom to do Kingdom work.  I'm going to expand this a bit to say that one of the major appeals of homeschooling is the flexibility of scheduling, not just to do Kingdom work.  I will be the first to admit that when I see families who have decided to homeschool and then get to do amazing family trips as part of their homeschooling experience, I am insanely jealous.  Families who attempt cross country RV trips.  Families who get to jet off for several days for a field trip to a historic site like Washington DC or Gettysburg.  Families who spend several weeks on the beach doing nature studies.  It all leaves me drooling a bit.  But then I quickly realize that this freedom is only doable if both spouses have the ability to take such trips.  And that this freedom also depends heavily on your financial situation.  Or course, flexibility isn't just limited to grand adventures.  It is about being able to take time off to minister together, to actively pursue the Gospel.  Again, it's purposefulness.  If we are puruposeful in not just leaving the Gospel at the church doors, there are multiple opportunities to love others and share the Gospel.  We live next door to a crochety old man who I swear looks just like the little old guy in the movie UP.  His wife is in a nursing home after living for many years at home with MS.  He is grouchy and often angry with a lot of people.  But for some reason, he loves my kids.  What a ministry as we share garden produce or a few baked goodies.  When my kids started preschool on Monday, we took a gift to their teacher, Miss Jill.  A gift they helped make...a meal... because I know as a former classroom teacher how hectic your first week of school is.  That's ministry.  And here's the other kicker, my kids will have multiple ministry opportunities in public school that they would not have if they were homeschooled.  (Just like a homeschooled child would have different ministry opportunities than a child who goes to public schools.)  It is about believing that God is at work in both places and desiring to look for opportunities to serve Him in whatever situation you are in.

So know that regardless of your family's choice, to homeschool or do a public or private school setting, I believe God can and will work in your family.  That's the great thing about our God.  He doesn't fit into a box and He certainly delights in showing up in all sorts of weird places, in ways we'd never expect.  There is no need to bristle, no need to defend your educational choices.  God is the defender and it is His spirit alone that convicts.  We don't have to convince anyone that our choice was right or that our choice is the best for our family.  And there certainly isn't a need to judge based on what someone has decided.  If we chooes to judge, then in effect aren't we judging the plan God has for their family? 

Instead, homeschooling and non homeschooling famlies should look for opportunities to encourage and support each other in the choices they've made.  Homeschooling families certainly have a lot more flexibility of schedule.  What would happen if they offered to provide childcare for a public school family on the days that the school has off but are still a work day for Mom and Dad?  Public school families possibly have more connections for resources simply because so many things go through the school system.  How easy it would be to share with a homeschooling family information about upcoming events and how easy it would be to go to those events together?   What about a homeschooling family intentionally providing a meal for a public school family for the first week of school, knowing that a new schedule can be hectic?  Or vice versa.  What if a public school family gifted a homeschool family with a goodie basket full of new school supplies because homeschooling involves expensive curriculum and it might be nice to not have to purchase everything out of your own pocket?  I'm sure the possibilities for connection and community are endless.  How might you step out and encourage another mom in the area of school choice?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Fellowship of Motherhood

Since starting life as a mom about 18 months ago, one of the things I've come to realize is that women, specifically Christian women, can easily let themselves become divided from each other.  Women feel alone, left out, not good enough, and inferior because of wedges that Satan is able to place in between sisters.  Instead of feeling loved and accepted, women feel put down, discouraged, or confused.  To me, it seems like part of that is due the way God created women.  We are generally more relational than men, seeking to find connections between ourselves and others.  We are more apt to fret, over analyze, and worry.  And our disposition as the more verbal of the two genders puts us in the position to share too much, criticize too freely, and judge too loudly.  But I also believe that it's not just about our female dispositions.  It's about Satan seeing an opportunity to gain a foothold.  I have been encouraged of late to do some writing about fellowship among women.  Fellowship not just as in a "let's go to church together" or "come over to my house for supper" but fellowship that is similar to that of the early church, specifically that set forth in Acts 2. 

42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

Can you imagine what the Church as a body would be like if women dedicated themselves to Biblical fellowship?  If women shared with other women what God was doing in their own lives.  If women taught and mentored each other.  If women prayed consistently for other women, real prayers based on real needs and weaknesses.  If women shared not just hand me down clothing but whatever resources they had.  If women approached each other with joyful yet authentic hearts that were all about bringing honor to God.

One of the things that has saddened me is watching women isolate themselves from each other because of the choices they make.  As a mom you make a crazy amount of decisions, each one based on what you believe is best for your family.  Unfortunately, our human nature recognizes that the opposite of best is worst and that if one choice is best, the other choice must be less than great.  It results in women competing with each other, even if they don't realize it.  It pits homeschooling moms against public schooling families.  It pits working moms against stay at home moms.  It pits calm moms against frazzled moms.  Competition is isolating.  It encourages women to band together with like minded friends, to form a "team" of other women who are equally "good" because of a choice they've made.  I don't think it's quite as calculated as that all sounds.  I think it is a very casual, subtle thing where women find comfort in walking alongside others who share similar beliefs.   Or that it shows up in snippets of conversation when moms bristle at certain topics and immediately feel the need to defend their lives.  Or it is present when moms find themselves awash in guilt, believing that if only they did x, y, and z like so and so, then their lives would be better.

So, I'm going to tackle some of the things that divide women, specifically moms.  Some of the topics are controversial.  Some involve very personal choices.  But all of them represent opportunities for women to honestly come alongside each other and support each other in fellowship.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Some funny tidbits from the week

Apparently it's been a good week for that...

*When I asked Kenson what he wanted for supper tonight, he quickly told me "kitty cat." Hmmmm.... I think he's on a big kick about animals being sources of food ie cows are hamburger, chicken is chicken, pigs are bacon but the kitty cat bit is just too funny.
*Kenson told us that they prayed at lunch today at preschool...and then started singing the little song they sing about your hands to get ready for lunch.  Open shut them, open shut them, give a little clap.  Open shut them, open shut them, put them in your lap."  I guess that's sort of like a prayer.
*Conleigh apparently got a bug bite on her finger the other day. She kept itching and itching. Finally she looked at me and begged, "Cut it off!" That fits perfectly with our earlier conversation regarding getting one's eyes poked. She said to me "it get broken?" to which I replied "ye...s". She then asked "get a new one?" and looked quite puzzled when I told her you only get two eyes.
*From Kenson, "I didn't bite; I was just pinching with my teeth."
* And...as I was straightening out Kenson's hair and removing the dog hair that finds its way into it "I have goat hair in there." Hmmm, I promise he has not been sleeping with goats...

On a just awesome note, he counted to 13 tonight all by himself (and pointed using one to one correspondance for all you education folks) then skipped around to 16 then 15. Pretty good for a kiddo who knew no English 18 months ago!  It's so fun to watch those little brains learn.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's off to preschool we go!

Well, I surprised even myself and had a brief Kleenex moment as the kids were headed out the door with D this morning on their way to preschool/daycare.  They were both outwardly excited, fully of goodbyes and kisses.  I don't know why the whole thing made me teary; I don't think simply sending them to daycare would have had the same affect.  Preschool sounds more grown up, I guess. 

In a somewhat unrelated but really actually connected vein, our minister preached his last sermon with us a week ago Sunday.  Our church is now in a time of transition as Gregg and his family pursue a church plant and our church will host an interim pastor until a full time senior minister is hired.  Gregg's final message to our church body was full of encouragement, exholting us to press on in God's work.  He preached from Ephesians 3 which includes the following prayer, a prayer he prayed for our church while as its senior pastor and as we transition to a new minister.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

It is chock full of the things we want for other believers...and chock full of things I desire for my kids.   After Gregg's sermon, I decided this would be my prayer for my kids as they headed to preschool.  On the mornings that I drop them off, I hope it will be some of the last words I say to them as they start their day.  On the mornings where I stay home while they leave, it provides a great time to meditate on how this prayer can be personally tuned to their little lives.  So today, I pray that they are both strengthened with His power, that all fear or anxiety is eliminated by His power.  I pray that Christ will dwell in their hearts, that they will be rooted and established in His love, showing His love and a simple Christlike faith as much as a 4 year old and 3 year old can.  I rpay that they would constantly be aware of the love of Christ, having a right sense of self that comes from believing you are loved by the Creator of the world and His son.  And I pray that they will be filled to the measure with the fullness of God, that they would both learn to be full of the fruits of His Spirit like love, gentleness, and patience.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Kenson and Conleigh are starting preschool tomorrow.  Even though it's just preschool and only for three mornings a week, it represents their first break from our insulated cocoon.  (And on days I substitute, it will be an all day break.)  All of our play dates and experiences have been in a setting mainly controlled by us.  Preschool represents a loss of control over a lot of things.   I won't be able to really monitor their peer relationships.  I will have to trust that they act appropriately towards their teacher, both in terms of authority and in terms of affection and boundaries.  Preschool (or at least some school experience) will probably start the wheels turning in my kids' heads regarding having a white mom and dad while they are black.  Perhaps preschool will be one of the first places they experience comments made about their race.

I have one who is "not worried, just excited."  I have another who is worried.  She is worried she will miss her mama.  But praise the Lord, she is not worried if Mama or Papa is coming back!  (At least she's not admitting to that.)   Both of them are excited to get to take their backpacks.  We just bought Conleigh's a few days ago and since Papa wasn't there, the first thing she said when I told her we were getting a backpack was "We need to show Papa!" 

Can't wait to hear their comments about the day once I pick them up tomorrow!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Heading off a melt-down

And now I will demonstrate how to head off a melt down...

Me:  Conleigh, go put your shoes on.

Conleigh:  I want three.

Me (slightly puzzled):  Only people with shoes on get to go outside.

Conleigh (a little more urgent):  I want three.

Me (distracted, wondering if she means she can't find her shoes):  Do you know where to look?  They are right by the chair on the porch.

Conleigh (starting to escalate and now using her fingers):  1, 2, 3.  I want three!

Me:  Are you wanting three shoes?  3 pink shoes?

Conleigh:  Uh huh.

Me:  Well you only have two pink shoes.  They don't make shoes in threes; they only come in twos.

Conleigh:  Why?

Me:  Because you only have two feet.

Conleigh (nodding her head calmly):  Ohhhh....

Aren't you impressed with my mad parenting skills?  It's all about the logic (and a lot of guessing!).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer salad series

My mom always encouraged nutrition by setting out two fruits/vegetables at each meal.  I despised this at the time and in fact, in my usual tactless way, once told my a friend's mom in high school that I loved eating at their house because she let them eat whatever they wanted without worrying about nutrition.  But as a grown up, I am thankful for my mom's insistence at two fruit or vegetable servings at lunch and supper.  It's just a great habit to have.  I do find myself getting tired of the same old fruit and vegetable offerings.  (Usually frozen, canned, or fresh fruits and veggies.)  Salads are a nice departure from that. 

My friend, Cari, recently did a post on summer salads.  So I thought I'd share the recipes she shared.  You know, a few new recipes for the end of summer.  I also thought I'd share a couple of tricks I use to jazz up fresh fruit.  If you've got a killer salad recipe or trick for jazzing up fruit/veggies, don't hesitate to share. 

First, a few tricks:
You can easily give fresh fruit a face lift by adding a "dressing" to the fruit.  It's a great way to add another layer of flavor to your fruit.  The best and easiest kinds of dressings are those that require little work and actually 'make themselves.'  One trick is to use jelly or jam as a fruit glaze over fruit.   Nuke the jelly or jam for a bit until it liquifies and then toss to coat your fruit.  It works great with mixed salads like strawberry over grapes, bananas, and strawberries.  Or it's good alone like tossing bananas in strawberry jelly.  Another trick is to use a smidge of sugar and a bit of citrus zest over fruit.  Oranges, strawberries, and apple chunks taste great with a bit of sugar and orange zest.  What about strawberries with kiwi, sprinkled with lime zest?  You can also squeeze a little of the citrus juice over the salad for more citrus flavor.  Of course, if you're really feeling daring, adding some fresh herbs can also be a great mix into a zest based dressing.  Mint and cilantro are two of my favorites.  But if you're like me, you rarely have anything like that when you need it.

And some new recipes to try, straight out of someone else's recipe file:

Snickers Salad
6 Snickers candy bars
2 pkgs instant vanilla pudding mix
8 0z Cool Whip
5-6 Granny Smith apples
3 C milk

Peel & cut apples into bite-size pieces (I don’t always peel; sometimes I use my apple wedger & then cut the wedges into chunks). Cut candy bars into bite-size pieces. Mix milk & pudding together; fold in Cool Whip. Add apples & candy bar pieces.

Asian Slaw
16 oz. broccoli slaw mix
2 pkgs. beef ramen noodles
¼ C sliced almonds
½ C sunflower nuts
2 T vinegar
¾ C oil
1/3 C sugar

Mix together ramen noodle seasoning packets, vinegar, oil & sugar. Crumble raw noodles. Add remaining ingredients; pour dressing over and toss well. Serve immediately. (If making ahead, add crumbled noodles only right before serving.)

Acini de pepi Salad (old family favorite from my Grandma Peterson)

16 oz. pkg of acini de pepi (small pasta, similar to tapioca in shape)
Cook in salted water for 8 min; rinse & drain well. Cool.

1 C sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp salt
2 T flour
1 ¾ C pineapple juice (use from drained pineapple to add in later)
Mix & cook til thick. Pour over pasta & refrigerate overnight.

Add next day:Small can crushed pineapple, drained, regular size can pineapple tidbits, drained, 2 small cans mandarin oranges, drained, 10 oz. pkg mini-marshmallows (optional) and 8 0z. Cool Whip

Refrigerate; best if stands awhile. Makes a very large batch. Freezes well.

Broccoli Orange Salad
4 C fresh broccoli florets, bite-size
½ C cashews
Small red onion, chopped
½ C buttermilk ranch dressing
2 T orange juice
1 T horseradish sauce
Small can mandarin oranges, drained

Mix ranch dressing, orange juice & horseradish sauce together. Poor over other ingredients, adding mandarin oranges gently at end. Mix well & chill for 2 hours.

Grape Salad
2 C fruit (can use mixed berries, but I prefer just grapes)
2 individual containers vanilla yogurt
8 oz. Cool Whip
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix

Mix pudding mix & yogurt together (will be very thick); fold in Cool Whip. Add in fruit gently.

Berry Peach Bellini Salad
¼ C orange juice
3 T sugar
4 medium peaches, peeled, pitted & cut into bite-size chunks
1 C raspberries or diced strawberries (I prefer strawberries)
2 C sparkling wine or lemon-lime soda (I’ve only ever used Sprite or 7-Up; can use diet)

Mix orange juice & sugar together. Add peaches & berries. Divide fruit evenly into 4 individual serving cups. Cover & freeze at least one hr. About ½ hr before serving, remove cups from freezer. Let stand until slightly thawed. Poor sparkling wine or soda over fruit evenly. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Buttermilk Salad (aka Striped Cookie & Mandarin Orange Salad)
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
1 ½ C buttermilk (will make mix a bit thicker & tangier, but can use reg. milk)
8 oz Cool Whip½ pkg fudge-striped shortbread cookies, crumbled (can use caramel-striped as well)
Small can mandarin oranges, drained

Mix pudding with buttermilk; fold in Cool Whip. Add crumbled cookies & oranges; mix gently. Serve immediately. (If making ahead, add crumbled cookies only right before serving.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Guess who has been married for 11 years today? 

In 11 years, we've covered a lot of ground.

4 moves

an arrest of a family member

2 bachelor's degrees and 1 1/2 master's degrees (D is almost done so it's more like 1 5/6 degrees)

3 jobs that paid for college (Shopko customer service, YMCA janitorial position, and Menards cashier)

5 different teaching jobs (a group home for troubled kids, 1st grade, 4th grade, 1st grade, and art)

4 trips abroad (1 to Peru, 3 to Haiti)

2 kids

being trained as foster parents

buying a house and trying to sell it

3 dogs and 2 cats

lots of mismatched furniture and finally purchasing our first set of new things

numerous home projects including wallpaper thus answering the "can your marriage survive wallpapering together" question

becoming a head coach

the terminal cancer diagnosis of D's mom

the loss of a mom/mother in law, a grandpa, and a grandma

walking beside each other as best friends
And just for old times, sake...a photo from the night we got engaged.

Friday, August 6, 2010

We want a legless dog!

Our dear basset hound made a break for it today while Kenson was opening the gate to go move his wagon.  Kenson was less than thrilled about having to move the wagon so I don't know if that minor irritation had anything to do with the dog escaping or not.  Anyway, D had to long, fast run to catch him.  Upon the dog's return and subsequent sequestering in the bathroom, D remarked that the next dog we had would not have any legs.  Kenson looked very puzzled and with a serious face replied back, "How him walk with no legs?"

He's 4!

Kenson Jules is 4!

I can't believe that it's been 4 years since we returned from Peru and started praying about Haiti. He sure has changed from even last year at this time. While still a bit on the unsure side, his confidence is growing and growing. He climbs slides, jumps off of benches, and races on the playground. Gone is the unsteady little guy who even a year ago often let fear talk him out of riding on certain toys or climbing on certain things. He's gone from a short Afro to locs. He's grown by leaps and bounds; it's a constant struggle to keep his pants and shirt sleeves long enough.  (Up to 45 inches tall now.)  He's gained a sister and spent a week away from his Mama and Papa. And yet so much of him has stayed the same. His smile is still his best feature, one that lights up his face. He is eager to please and full of joy. He has deepened his friendships with other kids and put down solid roots in his love for his family.  As I was looking for some pictures of him from last year at the this time, I trolled back through my August 2009 archives.  This post really shows how much he has grown in the last year.  And check out the photo of him.  He looks like such a little guy.  Especially when you compare the face in that photo to the one of him and Conleigh riding their Rubbermaid tote horse.

Oh how I pray he sees how God has set him aside with a specific purpose in mind, how God has loved him from day one, how he is a treasure designed by a Loving God.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

6 months

Conleigh has been home six months. Hard to believe. Very much like that saying "the days are long but the years are fast." Half a year...gone.

When she came home, it was such a crazy time. We literally were not expecting her homecoming to be forthcoming. We spent a lot of time trying not to get too excited until she was actually on a plane, leaving Haiti.

There were a lot of people behind the scenes working to help us and those we knew in Haiti who might need help, including Kenson and Conleigh's orphanage. For weeks, there was a lot of confusion over what might happen to the children in both orphanages. Kenson's orphanage was in Port Au Prince and there were real concerns about their safety and their ability to get food and water. I contacted as many people as I knew who had Haitian connections. And I was pleasantly surprised when multiple people on the ground in Haiti contacted me back, all offering to do their best to help, all doing so in the middle of a disaster where it would have been really easy for them to be too busy to help. A friend of a friend stopped by multiple times with water. Will White, with Mission Aviation Fellowship, helped to find people who might be able to evacuate the kids to the Embassy and also worked to make sure the kids had the basics. I even got an email from a captian on a US Coast Guard Ship; he was offering medical aide.

With Conleigh's orphanage, one of the biggest unknowns was the future of the orphanage. The US had quickly jumped up and the rumblings of some type of parole had already started. Because of this, one of the thoughts was that perhaps the entire orphanage might be able to be paroled to the US. This meant coming up with a plan that could be presented to the US government to see if they would allow the entire orphanage to leave. Multiple places stepped up to the plate and agreed to put themselves out there despite the situation being very murky. My aunt and uncle who own an unused school offered the orphanage the school. Another unused school in Central Nebraska was offered up. Cookson Hills Children Home in Kansas, Oklahoma offered its facilities as well as its power as a child placing agency. In the end, paroling an entire orphanage was not an option but it is still amazing to see several places step out in faith, believing that if God relocated the orphanage, that He would work out the details.

Our representative, Adrian Smith, and our Senator, Mike Johans, were excellent listeners who worked with us and shared any information they had regarding what was happening to help children join their families in the U.S.. When we took off on Monday, we had a pretty good idea that Conleigh would be coming home but we were not 100% certain of when it would be. The group, which supports Conleigh's orphanage offered us lodging at a reduced rate which made our decision to fly to Florida much easier to make.

Upon our arrival in Orlando, we rented a car from Budget car rentals. On Monday evening, we had actually just arrived at our lodging which was an hour north of Orlando when we received a call that the kids might be on a plane flying into Miami that night. Miami was about 4 hours south of where we were. So we hopped back in the car, driving south, until we got another call telling us that the kids were not on a plane but that they were probably flying into Miami on Tuesday. We ended up staying about halfway in between Orlando and Miami and then driving into Miami Tuesday afternoon. The plane didn't land until after supper and by the time the kids were all processed, it was too late to pick them up so we had to wait until Wednesday morning to get Conleigh. We then dropped the rental car off at the Miami Airport on Thursday, right before we headed back home. Budget intially told us that we would have to pay an additional fee because the car was picked up in Orlando but being returned in Miami. When we explained our situation, they waived the fee.

When we arrived home, we entered a house that had been left quickly. But I returned home to empty laundry hampers and clean towels. We did not have a bed for Conleigh and several people from our church made sure a bed was in her room by time we got home. Kenson was gone, having spent an entire week with my parents. Our life was blessed by many other people who wanted to make sure Conleigh's homecoming was as easy as it could be.

I hope as you read the stories of what life was like at our house 6 months ago that you stop and smile as you consider God's faithfulness and the ways in which many people allowed themselves to be used by God, even if they didn't knowingly work from under the umbrella of serving God.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An ode to Maude

When I was younger, my parents helped start a food pantry in the Sandhills of Central Nebraska. I spent quite a bit of time in an old bread store with my parents and grandparents, organizing food stuffs and helping people select food to take home. One of these people was a little old lady named Maude. Dainty, shrunken Maude. Dressed in polyester and dedicated to putting her best foot forward, Maude refused to age gracefully. Her rouge was bright and very unsubtle. Her lipstick followed suit and often escaped the edges of her lips. And perhaps the best part of Maude was that she was the only person I knew who wore a wig. Of course, the only reason I knew she wore a wig was because her actual hair was always sticking out from underneath the wig.

Well today, I pulled a Maude. We had baby dedication at church today and Kenson and Conleigh were two of the children who were dedicated. We got ready plenty early so D and I decided to go to the grocery store and grab some doughnuts, giving us a chance to talk to Conleigh and Kenson about what the dedication service meant. As I got back in the car and drove to church, I glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed I was wearring a blue enamel earring, one I purchased in Romania. That puzzled me. I had picked out pink earrings to match my necklace. Then I realized I was wearing two different earrings, one pink and one blue. I have short hair. Those earrings were very visible for the hour or so that I've been running around town. Apparently, I just grabbed and since they were the same style back, I didn't notice. Classy...just like Maude.

The M.D.s

Playing doctor...something tells me those bandages won't do well if they get wet