Thursday, April 29, 2010

Math from an English Major

Okay bloggy friends. Each week, I have big plans to post something each day. I should be able to do it. After all, there are many mom bloggers who have 10+ kids, homeschool them all, grind their own wheat, bake their own bread, yet still manage to crank out daily posts with amazing photography documenting every precious smile from their outrageously adorable offspring. And then there's me.

I have four relatively easy kiddos (and homeschool only two of them), grind only my teeth, buy my bread, and am grateful to capture a photo in which the child is not trying to escape. These other bloggy moms must not sleep. Or perhaps their brilliant homeschooled children are writing the posts for them as an English assignment. Hmmm. I'm going to go with the not-sleeping theory because the latter makes me feel even more inferior.

So I'm going to fess up on why I can't seem to post every day.


Yep. Most of my challenges in life boil down to the fact that I've never been good at math. I actually chose my college major based on what major required the least amount of math. Unfortunately, the career path I have chosen--full-time mom--requires a tremendous amount of math. (I promise to connect the dots here in a minute.)

I've been fine up until the past couple of years. I was able to manage elementary age math. We drilled math facts and practiced timed tests. We've conquered fractions and decimal points. But as my children have grown, so have their numerical needs. It's when the math incorporates letters that I start to get upset. I mean, really. English/language subjects don't use numbers. Why do the math people have to take our beloved alphabet?

So here I am after a long day. The homework is done, the kids are bathed, the dinner dishes are washed. I make my rounds for bedtime prayers and goodnight kisses. I am minutes from sitting down to post some bloggy thoughts on my computer and I hear the words from my 7th and/or 4th grader, "Mom, could you check my math homework?"

Ugh!!! It's like I've been shot in the back. I mean, what do I say, "Sorry kiddo. I'm the cause of the shortage of math DNA in your gene pool, but I'm going to feed you to the algebraic dogs." No. That would be cruel.

So, although I would rather poke my eyes out with a protractor, I spend the rest of my evening working each problem to check for errors. And, unless you want to read word problems from my 7th grader's Saxon math book, that means no post for that night.

See, I told you all of my problems I could blame on math.

While we are on the subject of numbers (and it's safe to say this will be my only blog post about math), we've been doing some number crunching of a personal nature around here. Related to Daniel's age.

When we started the adoption of our sweet son (almost 3 years ago), we were told he was born in 2001. Halfway through the adoption the orphanage changed his birth year to 2000. We still aren't sure why or what information this was based on. We were sad because that meant we had lost another year of his life.

So when he came home, we were saying he was nine, about to be 10 on April 23, because the only information we had was giving us this birthdate.

But after taking him to the dentist and the pediatrician, they both have said that he physically and developmentally looks more like a child who is eight. Our dentist said that, even factoring malnutrition, his tooth development was too far behind for him to possibly be 10. And we have learned that when you adopt a child internationally (even if you are certain about their age), when you readopt them in the US, you are allowed to adjust their age by up to 2 years to help them catch up.

We talked to Daniel about what the doctors thought regarding his age. We asked how he would feel if he was about to turn eight. To our surprise, he was thrilled with the idea. He seems to realize that he has gotten some of his childhood back.

So if any of you readers noticed that our nine year old son turned eight last week, that's why. I promise that it's not because we don't know what number follows nine.

And I don't need a calculator to figure out that two additional years raising one special child, equals one grateful mom.

One Odd Number,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tulips and Daffodils: Lessons from the Garden

My thoughts today are rooted in the "God, you are amazing" thoughts I shared yesterday. There are so many lessons to be learned from nature, from watching a caterpillar change into a butterfly to realizing that a pruned plant comes back stronger and more beautiful. His creation not only celebrates His majesty, His creation teaches us His truth.

Today I'm going to share about God's greatest parenting lesson to me. (Other "Lessons from the . . ." can be seen here.) To do so, I have to share some personal things about one of my daughters, but she has given me her blessing. But if you know Olivia personally, I ask that you be respectful with what I am about to share.

Although this is a lesson learned through God's amazing creation, I have two items in my Memorial Box that remind me of this lesson from Him. I need this daily reminder of how uniquely gifted all my children are. By the way, if you are new here, Memorial Box Monday was started by Linny at A Place Called Simplicity. She has a weekly feature where she shares her amazing stories of how God has provided in her life. Collect your own items that remind you of a time God has answered a prayer or provided a need to remember His faithfulness in your life. (And click the bloggy button below to read her wonderful stories and link to others.)

God has thus far blessed me with two daughters. Olivia (now 13) was born in April, just about the time that my tulips bloom each year. Ava (now 10) was born in March and my daffodils open every year on her birthday.

I plant my tulip and daffodil bulbs each fall knowing their birthday flowers will celebrate their special days with them. But when I started this tradition, I had no idea what God would teach me through their flowers.

You see, Ava is very much like a daffodil.

You only have to plant her once and the joy she brings multiplies each year with little effort. (Don't get me wrong. She's a kid and she's a sinner and is certainly not perfect.) Like the daffodil bulbs, you can plant her sideways or upside down, yet she always seems to push through the dirt and sprout in any condition.

Although she thrives in full sun, you can find her in the shade making the best of the situation. Life comes easy for her. She learns things quickly, makes friends easily, dances through life without a care, and announces every day is the best day of her life.

Like the daffodil, you can see her beauty and smell her fragrance a mile away. Oh, what a blessing she is to me.

But I've also been blessed with Olivia (now 13).

And she is a tulip in many ways. Elegant, tender, delicate, unique. But tulips require more care and effort. You have to plant them in just the right depth, fertilize them with everything from bone meal to cow manure, and make sure to have just enough sun to grow but not too much to dry them out.

And in Georgia, the summers get too hot for the tulip bulbs to multiply so you have to plant the tulips again each fall.

In the same way, Olivia needed more care than many kids. She came into this world a perfect bundle of joy, with only one problem. She is what some term "highly sensitive." It simply means she processes what she hears, smells, sees, and touches differently.

We could tell in her first days that the world she lived in overwhelmed her. Things that normally soothed babies caused her distress. We couldn't turn on a ceiling fan or run the vacuum if she was anywhere close. Everything seemed to be too loud, too bright, too dark, too tight. She was our princess and the pea and some days as her mom were overwhelming.

As she grew, so did her challenges. Something simple like going to the grocery store required a day's worth of patience. Her clothing never felt "right." The labels in the shirts, the elastic in the underpants, the seams in her socks (oh, the seams in her socks)--all made her feel and react as if she had roaches crawling all over her.

At the grocery store she would be overwhelmed by the number of people, by the feel of the plastic seat in the buggy, by the noise and the smells, by row after row of products, by the cold in the frozen food section. By the time we made it to the check-out, she was coming unglued. So was I.

If you think the grocery store trip sounds difficult, you don't even want to know of the tears and the rage that preceded going to the doctor, having her picture taken, attending a birthday party, or arriving for the first day of school. Stressful situations seemed to heighten her sensory overload. The only thing that matched her extreme sensitivity was her strong will.

There were many years that Brad and I felt like failures as parents. People would comment. People would advise. No one understood. Until we had Ava, we didn't realize that all children weren't like this. It was a relief to discover that this wasn't the norm and there were things we could do to help her cope, still there were many days and nights that I would cry out to God asking Him to show me how to be her mother.

I'll never forget the fall of 2003. I was very pregnant with our third child, my mom was battling cancer, and Olivia was going through a rough patch with her behavior (I'm sure the stress of our life contributed to it). I needed easy in a world in which everything was so hard. I had bought a bunch of tulip bulbs weeks before but hadn't gotten around to planting them. I didn't need to plant Ava's daffodils that year because those from past years would surely multiply. But those silly tulips. I had to get them in the ground before winter hit, yet there was no motivation to do so except the knowledge that Olivia would be sad to have no birthday flowers that spring.

I was grumbling to Brad about the bulbs. He is not a gardener and just didn't understand the big deal and why I should go to such trouble for this high maintenance flower. I explained that, yes, they were a pain to plant, that the squirrels would certainly eat half of them, that once they bloomed they would only grace the world with their beauty a couple days.

But this flower is a masterpiece.

It looks like it is spun from silk. The colors God makes them in have an intensity that is like no other flower in the garden. And each morning this perfect cup of petals opens and reveals a handpainted kaleidoscope design. When I look at my tulips, I rejoice in my amazing Creator.

The last thing I said to Brad in my closing statements of why the bulbs must be planted was: "They are worth the trouble. I can't imagine spring without them."

And then it hit me that my little girl born with the tulips was my own living tulip bulb. She would need more patience, more effort, more time, more prayer. But she is worth it. And when she blooms . . . there is nothing more spectacular.

The first time she rode her bike, her first time to swim without water wings, her first time to sing on stage. A long list of victories that to some may not seem like a big deal, but for a child that has to overcome how the shoes feel before even trying to jump over that hurdle, these moments are breathtaking. These moments bring me to tears. These moments make me grateful that God has planted both daffodils and tulips in my family garden.

I planted those tulips that fall and each day forward I have spoken words over Olivia so that she doesn't forget for a minute that she is worth it. We've had times that I just kept telling myself "Hang in there. You're planting bulbs." But now, we see the flowers beginning to open. It is nothing short of glorious.

In sharing this story, I don't want you to think I am labeling my children as easy or difficult. Children can become what they are told they are, so I'm very careful with my words. Besides, we all have our moments and stages of being tulips and daffodils. Lately Ava has had her fair share of tulip moments and Olivia is blooming so beautifully that I have almost forgotten how back-breaking those years of planting bulbs were.

For example, she got braces recently. Apparently one of the wires was too long and was tearing up the side of her mouth. When we went for a follow-up appointment, the orthodontist was horrified and said, "Why didn't you let us know about this?" Her response was, "It really wasn't so bad and I didn't want to bother anyone about it." What?!!! This can't be the same girl who used to scream about the seams on her socks.

She also got on a bus at 5:30 a.m. last week for a school trip to a place she had never been. She woke herself up at 4:00 a.m. and packed her own things. All without tears or tantrum. As I hugged her good-bye, I said, "Girl, you are amazing!" And in my mind I thought, "God, you are amazing."

In my Memorial Box I have a silk tulip and a silk daffodil. With the recent adoption of Daniel, I need this reminder that all my children are gifts, even on those days when we are "planting" and our backs hurt and our hearts ache. It also reminds me how grateful I am that God gave us a variety in our garden. Had He given us a match set of daffodils, I honestly don't think we would have taken that leap of faith to adopt. I think we would have been too afraid of the unknown in parenting a child of another type of flower, who might have challenges or special needs, one who might have behaviors to unlearn and wounds to heal.

Our years of parenting Olivia through the hard times prepared us to parent Daniel. He had some meltdowns when we were living in Guatemala and I think he was shocked when I'd give him that "seen it already" look and calmly addressed the issue. He tested us soon after he came home, only to figure out that his Mom and Dad had Phd's in unconditional love.

One morning several weeks ago, we arrived in the school parking lot where our daughters attend for Ava's poetry recital. Daniel was overwhelmed by the size of the building and the crowd of strangers waiting inside. He started crying and refused to get out of the car. It reminded me of Olivia when she was little and we'd arrive at a birthday party and sit in the driveway and she would cry that she just couldn't go in. But instead of becoming frustrated with Daniel, I knew to pray over him. His flower is different from Olivia's (I'll share about him later this week), but the care instructions are similar.

When he gives us a "parenting opportunity" we respond with, "Bring it on, buddy, because our gardening gloves are on and we are used to the smell of manure."

I share this story today, because I know many of you may be parenting flowers of various kinds and some days it is hard. I have dear friends who are parenting children with severe physical and developmental challenges, and although my experience is on a much smaller scale, I want them to know that the Master Gardener will give them wisdom and patience when it is winter and it seems springtime will never come to their garden.

I've also met many remarkable moms and dads, many through their blogs, who have chosen to adopt a child with major medical and developmental needs. Chosen, not in spite of their needs, but because of them. Many of these children have attachment issues, but these parents can enjoy the fragrance of their rose and the beauty of each blossom in spite of the thorns. Some children may never walk or may need a lifetime of surgeries, medicine and therapy. These are the gorgeous blooming vines supported by trellises.

Some children may never live independently as adults. These parent gardeners know that these plants will need to be brought in for winter so the frost doesn't hurt them or may even need to grow at the safety of the windowsill. (I'm thinking of spectacular orchids.) Some children have illness and conditions that may mean they will not live to adulthood. These are the annuals planted each year, knowing their beauty will last but a season.

If you are one of these amazing gardeners adopting a special needs child, I understand your calling and celebrate your obedience to care for flowers that others might think require too much care. And if anyone questions why you would spend thousands of dollars and travel halfway across the world to bring them home, explain that these exquisite blossoms won't survive in the rough conditions of an institution and your garden is the perfect climate for this rare treasure.

So today, if you are planting bulbs but wonder if you will ever see them bloom, go to the One who entrusted you with these flowers. He will provide all you need to care for your tulips and daffodils and everything in between.

But for now, water them with prayer, warm them with the sunshine of your love, fertilize them with scripture, and tell them that they are God's amazing Masterpiece . . . for they are worth it.

Much Love,
Kathie (most days a tulip)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Psalm 145:3-7/ "Indescribable"

The closer I am to my Creator, the more I appreciate His creation.

We arrived home the other night to be greeted by this luna moth hanging out on one of the white pillars of our front porch.

I had never seen one before, neither had my kids, so we just marveled at its color, at the beautiful shape of its wings (although one tail seemed to have broken off), and its little furry backside. It looked hand-painted. Boy, would I love to see God's art studio and watch the Master at work putting final touches on luna moths, tulips, and giraffes.

I often just stand in awe of God's handiwork. This gal who loves the written word can't come up with a single word to match His intricate detail and breathtaking brilliance. I find myself walking about my yard squealing, "God, you are amazing!"

I watch my kids and notice the sprinkling of freckles Ava's nose, Olivia's thick eyelashes, Brady's dimpled hands, Daniel's hair of silk. Every day I see something new, brushstrokes on these living Masterpieces, and all I can think to say is "God, you are amazing!"

This week's Sunday Dinner of scripture is (the idea behind Sunday Dinner is here):

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:3-7, NIV

This week's dessert of song is an old favorite, Chris Tomlin's "Indescribable." This tune plays in my head whenever I see a flower open; hear my children laugh; behold a sunset, a rainbow, or a starry sky.

When I wonder if my big God cares about little me, I remember a luna moth, intricately painted even though it only has a lifespan of a week. How much more does He care for us, the ones He sent His Son to redeem?

And once again, all I can say is, "God, you are amazing!"

God Bless,

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Daniel!

Okay, this birthday greeting is a day late, but I didn't want to spend even a minute of his special day on the computer. I didn't think anything could match Daniel's first Christmas at home (you can see it here), but his first birthday with a family was pretty close.

The first thing he said when he woke up was, "I've waited my whole life for this day!" I've waited almost three years for that day, too. I remember spending his last two birthdays in tears because I was missing it. I was able to visit close to his special day to bring him presents and even had a party in his dorm in Guatemala last year, but it's not the same as having him in our home, in my arms.

We filled the day with birthday adventures that actually started the day before. He's so funny and knows exactly what he wants. I told him I could make him a cake and he said he wanted to make it himself. He's helped me cook before, but this time he did everything himself--including cracking the eggs. (Olivia was on a class trip and missed this messy undertaking.)

We filled the day with many birthday adventures. We went to his favorite playground, then headed to our local pet store and got a little aquarium for Daniel and Brady's room. Daniel picked out two goldfish with those big bug eyes and one algae eater--named Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and R2D2. If we can keep these three alive, we might add a Princess Leah and some Clone Troopers.

Our family tradition is to let the birthday boy/girl eat at his/her favorite restaurant. Daniel chose one of the finest eating establishments in our area--Chuck E. Cheese's.

We returned home to open lots of presents. (He changed into his Darth Vader costume with Mickey Mouse birthday ears. This kid is a hoot.) His siblings wanted him to have many things to open so some of them were handmade or Dollar Store finds, but he responded to each gift with "Oh, I've always wanted this!"

We ended the evening with candles on two cakes--the one he made and a cute doggie cake that my sweet sister dropped off with some birthday goodies.

I cried happy tears through much of the day. Just knowing where he came from, how much he has endured, and now how happy and hopeful he is . . . well, it's perhaps the most beautiful "first" birthday I've ever witnessed.

When he blew out his candle, Ava asked what he wished for. His response, "There's nothing left to wish for. I have it all." (Oh my. More tears.)

So happy birthday (a day late), to my hysterically funny, tender-hearted, generous, sensitive, creative, and compassionate boy born of my heart. How grateful I am that God has given you to our family and how we rejoice that you are finally home.

Much Love,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Broken and Healing

Sorry I've been quiet for a few days. I was actually about to post something earlier this week and decided to hold on to it a bit. It shares some personal things about one of my daughters and, although she's given me permission to post it, I want to give her a few days to make any edits to respect her privacy.

I first want to say thanks to all you sweet people who read my ramblings and many who even take the time to comment here and on Facebook (some of my pre-blog friends comment there). Many of you cracked me up with your comments about my snake story last week.

When I first started writing my blog, I was a bit nervous about sharing such personal information and photos that complete strangers could see. I seriously thought about making my blog private. But then I wondered if perhaps our story could encourage others who were going through the same things, so I prayed for God to only send readers who I could call friend. Thus far, every faithful reader and loyal lurker has been worthy of that title.

Okay, I mentioned a bit last week about Daniel's broken arm, but didn't go into details. I think I'm in denial about the whole thing. I just feel like a stinky parent that Daniel lived three years in an orphanage and never broke a bone but has not even been home 4 months and is wearing a cast. Ugh! I've nominated myself for Most Negligent Mom.

It happened Saturday, April 10. We had spent the day at Brad's mom's beautiful wedding and reception. When we got home that evening, it was still daylight. He offered to take the kids outside to play. Daniel had just recently learned to ride his bike without training wheels and wanted to take it for a spin. (Perhaps crash would be a better word than spin.)

I was still changing out of my wedding clothes when Ava ran in the house screaming, "Come quick, Daniel is hurt." Not words a mom wants to hear. I followed her down the street to our cul-de-sac and he was sitting crying next to his mangled bike with Brad rubbing his back trying to assess his injuries. I was so relieved that he was wearing his helmet and I didn't see any blood. (No blood equals mom not passing out.)

Brad relayed the story and Brady reenacted it in his super slow-motion. Daniel started down the hill on our street, panicked as his speed increased, and forgot how to break. He plowed into our neighbor's van parked in their driveway, but as he reached out to keep from hitting the van, he hurt his arm.

Daniel stopped crying and there was no swelling, but when we saw what he had done to the van (also needs pricey medical attention), we knew he'd hit it pretty hard. Brad took him to the ER and an X-ray confirmed that it was broken. He was proud to have the honor of being the first child in our family to break a bone. We were not proud that the ink on our Daniel's new insurance card is still drying, yet we've hit every dentist, eye doctor, pediatrician and ER within a 10 mile radius.

Daniel has been so great about it. I think he has really enjoyed the extra TLC after so many years without it. We got his permanent cast a couple days later. He chose a red, white, and blue star design and announced this was his "welcome to America" cast. I love it. It's perfect for our new little American boy.

He asked me why he needed the cast to fix his broken bone. I tried to explain that the cast would protect his arm while it healed. It keeps his arm from moving too much and shields it from things that could re-injure it.

It made me wish that I could put his broken spirit in a cast--to hold him tight and protect him from further harm. Perhaps we can wrap him with love, surround him with scripture, cover him with prayer. His arm cast only needs to be on for 4 weeks, but I wonder exactly how long it will take Daniel to heal from his brokenness.

Sometimes I forget he is broken because he looks just fine on the outside. They don't make X-rays for the spirit, yet there are times he cries out because it hurts where he has been fractured. Like the stress he felt when we went on vacation and left the cats home alone for a neighbor to check on. He worried and cried about them the whole time, only to later learn that his birthmom had left him alone for days at a time with just a little bit of food.

Then there was the time at the grocery store when I was about to pay and realized I'd left my debit card at home. He watched me closely as I searched my purse and even had beads of sweat starting to run down his face. I could see that he was about to break down and he asked, "What do we do if you don't have any money?" He relaxed when I told him I could just write a check. Later he shared that often his birthmom didn't have money for the food they needed and had to leave the store with nothing. Sometimes she'd send him back in to steal something.

And just yesterday he grabbed for some paper towels and accidentally knocked the iron stand that holds them on the floor. I was cooking dinner and didn't see what happened but hearing the crash I turned around to find Daniel crouched down covering his head. I assumed it had fallen on him and asked if he was okay and he cried out, "I'm fine, I'm just so so sorry." He was covering his head because he thought I might hit him. I assured him that even if the stand had broken, he wouldn't be in trouble and I would certainly never hit him. He exhaled and smiled at my response, but I knew I had simply given some verbal Motrin to a kid who had much to heal from.

It seems he will need his emotional cast for a while. And there may be days that it will itch and he will insist that he doesn't need it anymore, but we will keep holding him close, surrounding him with scripture, and covering him with prayer.

Daniel may be the first in our family to have a broken arm, but he's not the first to have a broken heart. But the good news is that you can never be so broken that God can't heal you. I am living proof.

More Than Lots,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Dinner: John 14:18 and Hebrews 13:5/ "You Never Let Go"

It's Sunday and, for any new readers, this is the day I do something called Sunday Dinner. The idea behind it is here. Every Sunday I post a scripture and "dessert" of song for the week. When I've walked through my valleys, music has brought such comfort. I hope my playlist will give others a place to find songs that will encourage them, too.

By the way, the song I posted last week (Leeland's "Carried to the Table") disappeared mid-week. When I looked for it on, it was no longer in the listings. Hmmmm. I hope Leeland didn't hear that some crazy lady posted it as a "dessert" and pulled it from Anyway, if you missed hearing it, it's worth checking out on iTunes.

I've got two scriptures for dinner this week, that I know bring such comfort to many in times of trouble:

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

John 14:18, NIV

" . . . God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. ' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? ' "

Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV

In the two and a half years it took us to get Daniel home, we visited him in Guatemala 16 different times (sometimes our whole family, sometimes just me, other times just Brad). Each good-bye was heartbreaking. We would tell him that we would never forget him. We promised we would come back. We assured him that we would not leave him to remain an orphan. Still, each good-bye ended in tears--his and ours.

Now, praise God, he is home. But some days he still needs reassuring. When Brad goes on a business trip, Daniel wants to know exactly when he'll be back. When I run an errand by myself, he wants to know down to the minute when I'll return. Fear of abandonment runs deep. I know how he feels.

There have been times that I've felt like a little kid in a store, when he looks around and realizes he is lost. Not one familiar set of knee caps in the bunch. I've cried out to God asking where He is and the reply is always, "I'm here. I won't leave you alone like an abandoned orphan. I am your Heavenly Father and will never leave you or forsake you." What a wonderful Father.

The dessert of song for this week is "You Never Let Go" by Matt Redman. We have a special story behind it. Our church began singing it on Sunday mornings when I was living in Guatemala in late November/early December. I came home and two days later Brad went to Guatemala to try to finish our adoption and bring Daniel home before Christmas.

One ridiculous thing after another happened with our case and it just didn't look like Brad and Daniel would be home in time for Christmas. Because everything shuts down over the holidays, it looked like they would not only miss Christmas, they wouldn't be home till mid-January.

So many people were praying. We needed to do about 4 weeks worth of adoption in only 4 days. But we saw mountains move just as we were about to lose hope. The morning that Brad finally got Daniel's new birth certificate--making it possible to be home by Christmas, Brad and Daniel left that government office just overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy. (Daniel actually got the LAST Visa out before Christmas and came home Christmas Eve.)

They were walking to get lunch in a little village, Chimaltenango, and walked past a row of stores. There's no air conditioning in these little buildings and they keep their doors open. And Brad walked past a store with praise music playing in Spanish. He heard a tune that sounded familiar. As it played in his head, he finally remembered the English lyrics--"Oh, no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm. . . ."

It was that song that he had sung at church. And it just happened to be playing a world away in Guatemala. He got choked up when he called that night to tell me about the miracle of getting Daniel's birth certificate and the song that was playing that was such a beautiful reminder that God would never forsake us.

We sung that beautiful song this morning at church and I can't tell you what joy it was to have my whole family standing together belting out those wonderful words of truth.

This week, may you remember that our God will never let go of His children's hands. He will never leave us or forsake us.

More Than Lots,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Olivia!

We have officially entered the teen years. (Although we've had some sneak peek moments already.) Our first baby girl turned 13 today. As she has grown, so has my love for her.

Olivia was our first Goodness and Mercy baby after three miscarriages. She was the beginning of our family and gave us the longed-for titles Mom and Dad. She has been our parenting guinea pig and reluctant pioneer. She has journeyed with us through sorrow and joy and with the loss and additions of siblings. She got parents who were young and inexperienced and patiently trusted us as we made decisions that would shape her life.

She has become a beautiful young lady with a heart that seeks to glorify God. She has become someone who chooses her friends wisely and treats them with loyalty. She has become a person who is conscientious and caring, kind and respectful. Although she is quiet in big groups, she is a nut around those who know her well. Although she never wanted the privilege of being the oldest (she's not a typical first child), she has become a big sister worthy of that role.

Happy birthday, Olivia!

Our sweet singing,

Brother adoring (and tolerating),

Sister loving,

Beautifully blooming,

Young lady who I am proud to call daughter.

Grateful Mama,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Anaconda Adventure

I'm hoping for a normal day today, because lately my life has been one poorly written sitcom. There are days that I can actually hear the laugh track.

For example, yesterday was beautiful outside so we decided to wash my van. In Georgia we have had a heavy dusting of pollen and my mom-mobile was so yellow it looked like something Big Bird should drive.

I opened the garage to get the buckets and sponges. As I was exiting the garage I looked down to see a large stick just inches from my bare feet. The stick moved. I screamed loud enough for Eskimos to hear in Alaska.

Yes. It was a snake. And it had snuggled up next to our garage door that was now open. Now I'm not an expert on reptiles, but I think it was an anaconda. Perhaps a python. Ranging somewhere between 15 and 27 feet. Being the calm mother that I am, I instructed the kids to "run for your lives."

Okay. Okay. It was some dinky, harmless, probably friendly garden snake. But I HATE snakes. Perhaps I'm still holding a grudge with the whole Eve/fall of man/pain in childbirth story. (But I can assure you that if I had been Eve, I wouldn't have talked to it.) In my opinion, "Snakes on a Plane" is perhaps the most horrifying movie made. I only saw the trailer, but the story combines my two greatest fears--snakes and air travel.

Anyway, I ran back into the garage toward the kitchen door and quickly closed the garage door because if it came into the garage, we would have to move. We ran out the front door to see if it got the message that it wasn't welcome and I saw that I had trapped its belly with the garage door and it's head and tail ends were slithering about. Eeeewww.

I ran back into the house, pushed the button to raise the garage door just enough to free it, and to my relief it slithered away with a little cartoon bubble reading, "I picked the wrong house!"

Once it was well into our neighbor's yard, I took a picture of our anaconda/python.

Brad's out of town and I want proof of how I protected the homestead armed only with a garage door opener while he was gone. Ava said, "Ooooo, Mom, you need to post that on your blog."

The boys still wanted to play outside and later we did wash the car (that's why they have on their bathing suit trunks), but the boys put on their protective gear in case sneaky snake returned.

As we sat down to start our school day today, the boys asked if we could study about snakes. Although I usually prefer a hands-on approach to learning, I think we'll let this lesson come from a library book and internet info.

Reptile Repulsed,

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Waiting Room

The hardest part of my job as mom is taking my kiddos to the doctor. I had to take the boys this morning--an adventure that involved shots and finger pricks. They were absolutely perfect till the needles made an appearance. And then there were screams that made the poor people in the waiting area think the doctor was amputating limbs without anesthesia. They are fine now, watching Curious George sipping on some milkshakes they got for being brave.

After spending last week at the eye doctor, Saturday night in the emergency room with Daniel's broken arm, and this morning at the pediatrician, a story came to mind for Memorial Box Monday. This beautiful idea comes from Linny at A Place Called Simplicity. She encourages her readers to collect items that trigger a memory of God's goodness and faithfulness in their lives. Click the bloggy button below to read her wonderful stories and link to other readers' Memorial Box stories. (By the way, while you're there read Linny's posts from last week called "How to Hear God Speak." Good stuff.)

Every time my kids cry at the doctor I tell them "I wish I could take the pain for you." It makes me think of our Heavenly Father. He loves us so much more than we can imagine. He understands our pain and grief and sorrow because Christ carried it on the cross. I have felt moments where I know God is right beside me saying, "I wish I could take this pain for you . . . in fact, I HAVE taken this pain for you."

The story that comes to mind today took place in April of 2004. Many of my Memorial Box stories happened in the year 2004 (the year of our "valley of the shadow of death") or during our two and a half year adoption of Daniel. God's hand is most evident during times of darkness, His faithfulness most evident during times of trial. And although seas weren't parted that morning six years ago, few times have I ever felt God's peace and presence more.

For those of you who are new readers, January 9, 2004, we lost a baby boy 36 weeks into my pregnancy. Eight weeks later we lost my mom to cancer. (The full story of my mom and Baby Luke is here.) Three months after losing our son, we were blessed with another pregnancy (there's a Memorial Box story there that I'll share another day). Although we were grateful for this new life, I can't tell you how difficult it was to start again down the same road that had ended in such pain. I can't explain how hard it was to go from third trimester back to first.

We had decided to stick with our doctor and midwives. Although our last pregnancy had ended tragically, they had been wonderful and already knew my history. I was just a few weeks pregnant with this new life and went to the doctor for an early visit to check my hormone levels. (I've also had three first-trimester miscarriages so they were watching me closely.)

When I walked into that doctor's office, it was overwhelmingly painful. The waiting room was full of very pregnant women and new moms with their newborns. Just months before I had been in that waiting room feeling my baby kick--absolutely giddy that he would soon be in my arms. But that day my arms ached with emptiness.

I approached the window to sign in and the receptionist remembered me. The staff knew me by name because with all my high-risk issues, I was a frequent patient. But apparently she didn't know we had lost our son because she asked, "Did you bring your baby with you for your postpartum visit?!" I didn't know how to answer without turning into a puddle of tears. I leaned over and whispered, "Our son didn't make it." I know she felt so badly and she quickly apologized, but it was salt in a wound that was already causing excruciating pain.

I found a seat as far away from the other patients as possible. I began to pray for God's strength and peace. I felt like a little kid who had walked up the ladder on the high dive. As I stood on the platform looking below at another nine months of this, I just wanted to run. I told God that I just couldn't do it. I needed to feel His peace and His presence or I was going to walk out of the doctor's office.

This was also just weeks after losing my mom. Oh, how I wished I could have her with me that day. Holding my hand, filling out forms, telling me everything would be okay. She would have given me a pep talk. She would have answered the receptionist's question. She would have found something funny in all this awful to make me laugh. She would have played a game of "eye spy" like we did when I was little to take my mind off things. She would have prayed with me.

I picked up a magazine and pretended to read it. Then a lady came over and sat next to me. She was obviously not pregnant and was probably in her mid-50's so I guessed she was there for an annual visit. She simply said, "Are you having a rough morning?" I nodded trying to hold back my tears. (Later in the bathroom I discovered that my chest and neck had broken out in hives from the stress, so she didn't need to be a detective to see that I wasn't glowing like the other patients.)

I didn't want to invite her to my pity-party for one (and didn't want to download my sorrows on this poor lady who was about to encounter the stirrups herself), so all I offered as response was, "I'm a high-risk patient so these visits are stressful." She leaned over and put her hand on mine and said, "It's going to fine. I just know it." I thanked her for her kindness.

She was so calm, so reassuring, and I was so grateful for this soft-spoken stranger who was perhaps being obedient to God letting her know I could use a friend. She sat next to me until her name was called. And that's when I started laughing at God's sense of humor. The lady sitting with me had the same name as my mom--Dixie.

Now, I've read a lot of baby name books over the years, and Dixie has never been in the top 10 on any list. In fact, the only other Dixie I've ever known was the actress Dixie Carter. Had my mom been given a common name, I would have written off this encounter as coincidence, but to hear my mom's name called out that morning was that little reassurance that I needed that God was with me and perhaps even she was with me in spirit.

The next nine months were so hard, but from then on I had such peace that God was by my side in the waiting rooms, the examining rooms, and the delivery room. So in my Memorial Box I'm going to put a "Hi, My Name is Dixie" name tag. It's a reminder that God is with us when we feel the most alone. When we are the most afraid. When we need His comfort and peace to remind us that not only would He take our burden from us . . . He already did.

More Than Lots,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Luke 14:12-15--"Carried to the Table"

Okay. I'm back. We had a wonderful spring break week starting with Good Friday, continuing on Easter Sunday, having fun as a family throughout the week, and rejoicing at a wedding yesterday. We also had an eventful week, which is my alibi for not posting much recently. One "event" was Daniel breaking his arm last night while riding his bike. I'll share more about that later, but he was a trooper and was so proud to find out that he is the first in our family to break a bone. He also got glasses on Friday and looks precious in them.

The wedding we had the privilege to attend was for my husband Brad's mom. I have some beautiful photos of this sweet couple but don't want to post them without their permission (and I'm not going to bother them on their honeymoon to ask), but here's one of our kiddos at the wedding. (Note Daniel's cuteness in his new glasses.)

If you are a new reader, I should explain that I do something on Sundays called Sunday Dinner. The inspiration behind it is here, but in a nutshell it's a dinner of scripture followed by a dessert of song. The scripture that comes to mind after much dining together with family and friends over Easter weekend and with this wedding is from Luke 14:

"Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.' When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, 'Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God. ' "

Luke 14:12-15

I have really missed the boat on this one. Those who we invite to dinner are usually family and friends. Perhaps the most foreign guest that we've invited to sit at our table is Daniel--and he was invited knowing he would be welcome every day for the rest of his life. He is not "poor, crippled, lame, or blind" but he was broken, lost, abandoned, without hope. What great joy it is to hear him laugh at our dinner table. To see him inhale his food and hear him exclaim, "Oh, Mama, this is so good!" To have a child who once went days without food sit at my table and pat his full belly. And to watch him at Easter dinners and wedding feasts partake in the celebrations as if he's always been part of the family.

But I have feasted at the King's table. I was poor, crippled, lame, and blinded by sin. Undeserving of this place of honor, yet welcomed as part of His family. The thought humbles and overwhelms me.

This week's song of dessert is a favorite. "Carried to the Table" by Leeland sums up these thoughts so beautifully. To be so broken that I had to be carried to the table, yet as I dine with my Father, I begin to heal and even forget my brokenness.

This week may you understand just what it means to feast at the table of your Adoptive Father. And just like Daniel, may you devour His sustenance and proclaim that "This is so good!"

More Than Lots,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Just Saying Hi

Okay. I know I'm the worst bloggy friend in the world. I've meant to say hi this week but my girls are home for spring break and we've been doing fun things as a family this week. (Plus some doctors appointments.) And today Brad's mom is getting married so the past couple days have been about sweet Jody and Bob. (I'll try to post pics soon from the wedding.)

But I haven't forgotten about you! I have much to share from this week and will try to update tonight.

God Bless,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Toxic Fumes and Other Hazards of Easter Shopping

I have not done a "Not Me Monday" in a while, but the past few days have given me too many moments to NOT share. (This confessing of things we would NEVER do was started by MckMama. Click the bloggy button below to join the fun and read other things that people did NOT do.)

I did NOT play an April Fool's joke on myself by taking four children shopping last week for Easter Sunday apparel. (And one of my children is recently adopted and had never been to a department store.)

I did NOT have two boys punch a whole rack of brassieres till the cups were concave as we walked past the lingerie department.

I did NOT have a son with digestive issues--backfiring more than a 1976 Chevy pick-up. Let's just say that he would not pass an emissions inspection. (I don't understand how a boy who spent the first 9 years of his life eating nothing but beans and rice has such trouble with a diet full of fruits and veggies.)

I did NOT have two daughters who seemed to pick only the clothes that were not on sale to want "so, so badly."

I did NOT have a daughter fall in love with a pair of denim shorts that looked like they had been ripped in an industrial accident and I did NOT have to convince this daughter that "distressed" was not a look we needed the fashion world to help us achieve.

I did NOT pray aloud as we passed the fine china department that if we got out of there without breaking something I'd never ask God for another thing.

My gassy guy did NOT clear the dressing room with his toxic fumes that could be both heard and smelled. And I was NOT massively embarrassed that there was a poor customer who said, "Good Lord!" as she exited half-dressed. (And I was NOT just a bit happy that we didn't have to wait to try on our clothes.)

I did NOT have three out of four of my kiddos (inspired by the music from the juniors department) burst into singing Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies" in Alvin and the Chipmunks voices.

I did NOT have all my children moan that their legs would certainly fall off if they had to take another step.

But I WAS grateful that I finally had Daniel home for his first Easter with our family. I was grateful to be so blessed with such an easy life that taking my kids shopping was the hardest part of my day. And I was certainly grateful to leave the mall hand-in-hand with my precious (although sometimes stinky) kids.

Banned From Belks,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Luke 24:1-6--"My Redeemer Lives"

Okay. Who really needs Sunday Dinner in bloggy form when you may have gotten a real one on Easter Sunday?

I'm am full, full, full from this weekend. And I'm not just talking about what I've dined on physically. I've feasted all weekend on a buffet of love and laughter. We had a sweet time with Brad's side of the family yesterday and my side today. I'm too tired to post pics, but it was truly a very special first Easter for Daniel. The last thing he said when his head hit the pillow was, "This was a very happy day."

It seems like each year, the gift of Christ's sacrifice means even more to me. And today I want to shout it from the rooftops that "He is risen indeed!"

Today's dinner of scripture is:

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.

2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,

3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.

5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?

6 He is not here; he has risen!"

Luke 24: 1-6

I think the reason why I like Luke's account of the resurrection is the inclusion of what the angels said: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Had I been one of the women there at the tomb, I think my response would have been, "Ummm. We've had a really rough few days. Please skip the rhetorical questions and open with 'He has risen.' "

But as I replay this question in our lives today, it is no longer ridiculous, but profound. How often do we look for things that are living among places that are dead? How often do we look for joy and peace and purpose in things that are empty? If we truly believe that He has risen, we must live like we believe He has risen!

This week's dessert of song is one of my favorites--"My Redeemer Lives" by Nicole C. Mullen. When this is played on the radio, my kiddos belt this song out with me. There's nothing sweeter than hearing my children rejoice that their Redeemer lives.

This week may you not only celebrate that He has risen, may you live like He has risen.

Much Love,