Monday, January 28, 2013

A Few of my Favorite Things...

I thought I would share a few of my favorite things.  I am much more likely to try something when it has been recommended by someone I know with similar tastes.

1.  Rick got this blanket for me for Christmas. It has the right amount of softness, warmth and weight to it.  It is velvety on one side and fluffy on the other.  I am in love with it, and I am always finding a kid wrapped up in it.  Thankfully, it is mine so I always get first dibs.

2.  I eat these many mornings for breakfast.  I am not really a breakfast person, but know that I SHOULD eat something.  These come in handy 4-packs that you can grab and go.  I actually usually only eat 2 of the "biscuits" along with my next favorite thing.  Hopefully, eating these will give me some of the benefits of eating breakfast when I wouldn't otherwise.  Golden Oat is my favorite flavor.  Blueberry is my second favorite.

3.  I pinned this Apple Cider Vinegar Elixir back in December.  I decided I would try drinking it at the beginning of the year because of all the health benefits listed.  I have been drinking it for 2 1/2 weeks.  It is easy for me to drink it each morning while I take the kids to school.  I can't say that I have seen any positive effects, but I am trusting that it is making me healthier!

4.  As many of you know, Abby is gluten free now.  It has made a huge difference in her headaches.  She really is a different child.  I don't feed our whole family gf because I just can't afford it and honestly, I don't want to eat gf if I don't have to.  I have found these mixes called Nuffins, that I absolutely love.  Actually, it is the business of a friend of mine.  I don't like them because she is my friend.  I like them because they are delicious, affordable, and a good value.  The mixes make way more than other gf mixes I have tried and taste most like the equivalent gluten version.  Abby loves them and they freeze really well.

5.  I don't have a link for this because any one you pick will do.  My favorite CO everyday winter wear is a hoodie.  I don't wear coats.  They are a hassle to me.  If I wear one for the 2 minutes that it takes me to walk from my truck to the store, I then get hot and have to carry it around the whole time I am shopping.  I also don't like driving in a coat.  It just feels bulky.  If I wear a hoodie, I can pull the hood up when I am outside and take it down inside.  I also love to use the big pocket on the front to hold my iphone which has my grocery list in it.

6.  I have 2 words for you, PINK Pants.  I would wear these every minute of every day if it was appropriate.  My friend, Laura, introduced me to them.  Really, every women needs a pair of these.  It is best to buy them during the Semi-Annual Clearance Sales.  My favorites are the "boyfriend pant" and the "campus pant."  LOVE THEM!!

7.  I am a "sweet and salty" sort of girl, especially if it involves chocolate and caramel.  I found these at the grocery store one day and my life has never been the same.  They are the perfect little dessert at the end of a meal.

8.  My skin is so dry.  Colorado only makes that worse.  I need good products to help me not be a mess all winter.  My friend, Holly, started a business called "Lotion Bar Cafe."  Her products are all natural, high quality, and perfect for me.  My favorites are the Goat's Milk Lotion, Bath Fizzies, and most of all, the soap.  I use the lotion and soap on Isaiah and Laila, too!!  The soap is so good, I use it to shave.  Way better than any shaving cream you will ever use.  She has the best scents, too.  My favs are Oatmeal, Milk and Honey, Monkey Farts(for the kids), and Sweet Home Alabama!!  The thing I love the most about Holly is her heart of service and giving.  She has been a huge supporter of Beyond Survival, and I have seen her give sacrificially to many other ministries over the last 5 years!!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Adventures with Sam

Rick was in Dallas for work this week.  Why does he always get to go to Dallas, one of my top 5 favorite places in the U.S.???  Why can't his business trips be to Idaho or Nebraska?  Anyway, his absence resulted in even more driving for me than my regular 50 miles in town a day.  The worst part was the early mornings taking Cody to school.  We leave the house at 6:45 and, once again, it was dark each morning.  Blah!  I just don't think we were meant to be up and about before the sun.   I took this pick on the way home to get the other kids of the sunrise.  I definitely prefer sunsets!
This is Sam's Birthday month.  He is turning 9 years old on the 30th.  I noticed when I was looking through my recent pics that I have lots of pics of him and his activities.  I thought I would share them.
Sam's Birthday Date with Rick and Me.
He chose Panda Express.
This picture represents Sam perfectly.  He is passionate about life and just dives right in.  
He doesn't really know the meaning of moderation.  

He is the one I am most concerned about when it comes to finances when he is older.
The minute he gets money, it is painful for him to not spend it.  
He was so anxious to spend his money one time that he begged me to let him buy me paper towels.  He just could not stand to leave the store without spending some money just because he had some!!

I had the privilege this week of participating in a Buffalo Eyeball Dissection with him!
He is so excited, he can hardly contain himself.

He is a little scientist and engineer at heart.  
He loves to do experiments and take things apart to see how they work.
The Eyeball!
The only part that really bothered me were the eyelashes!  Can you see them?  Creepy!
Sam is also a little prankster.  He has the best sense of humor and says the funniest things.
Here he is pretending he is holding his own eyeball!
The kids were able to touch it all they wanted, but could not do any of the cutting
We found all the parts of the eye.
Who knew a retina could be so colorful?
Afterwards, they had to record their findings in a scientific report.
Sam has also started up his basketball season.  This is his third year to play.  I can really see him improving each year!  He truly loves the game and has fun whether they win or lose.  That is a good thing because the first two games were painful to watch.
He is number 9 and is point guard for the team.
Rick is the assistant coach for his team.
Taking a breather on the bench.
Coach Chris coaching them during half time
On Friday night, Cody, Lauren, and Abby were all out doing their things.  That left Isaiah, Laila and Sam with me.  We were anxiously waiting for Rick to return from Dallas so we made a little stop at TCBY to pass the time with a treat.  
Because of a deal I had, we all 4 ate for $4!!
Sam is freezing after his cotton candy froyo!
I am looking forward to celebrating Sam over the next few days.  We are having his family party tonight, and we have some fun things planned for his actual bday.   I have so much more to say about him.  I will save it for his bday post!

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Sacred Time

"Can you imagine what God can accomplish in and through you if you offer Him 40 days of devotion?"
"A Place at the Table" Chris Seay

For the first time ever, we are going to observe Lent as a family this year.  

I am excited about this opportunity to take a period of time to truly focus on Jesus, His Presence, His Sacrifice,  and His Resurrection.

I have been doing lots of research and figuring out what this will look like for our family and even more so, for me. 

You can go here and here to read a bit about the History of Lent and the practice of it today in the life of your family.

We will focus on the "Giving Up"(Fasting of some sort) and the "Giving Away"(Alms Giving).  

I am excited.

I am nervous.

I am ready to be challenged.  

A few days in, I might be ready to give up.   

BUT, I am praying that I can stick it out.  

I truly want this to be a sacred time between God and me.  

Do you have any family or personal Lent practices that you can share with me?  

I have identified some specific books and devotions that I will be doing personally during this time and that we will be doing as a family.  

The time will end with our Easter traditions that we love so much!!

In case you didn't know, Lent is February 13- March 30 this year!  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snaggle Tooth

Somebody cute just got cuter!

Laila informed me today while she was looking at my hair:
Laila:  Mommy, when you have white hair, it means you are old.
Me:  Are you saying that I am getting old?
Laila:  Well, Daddy has more white hair than you.
Me:  You're right about that.
Laila:  Don't worry, Mommy, I will take care of you when you are old.

Well, I feel much better knowing that.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"I Have a Dream, Too!"

At the kids' school, there is a program called "Titan Buddies."  It is where they partner an older student with a younger student to build a relationship with each other.  I really love the idea and have seen so much excitement in my kids over the time they get to spend with their buddies.  The older ones enjoy leading the younger ones and the younger ones feel really special having someone older pouring into them.  

My Sam has such a tender heart.  I love that about him.  Sam and his buddy worked on a project together this week.  They took the ideas in the Martin Luther King Jr. speech and added in their hopes and dreams for our country and the future.  I will put their words in bold italics.  I can't think of a better thing to share with you today:

"I Have a Dream, Too!"  
By Nick and Sam
I have a dream that one day this nation will help people in need.
I have a dream that one day this nation will be nice to black people.
I have a dream that one day people will give school supplies to people in need.
I have a dream that people will donate to the less fortunate.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day people will go to the less fortunate and give them hope.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day people will be content with what they have and do not ask for more.
This is my hope and faith.  With this faith we will be able to be nicer.
This will be the day when people are nicer and give other people what they need.

It breaks my heart to think that less than a generation ago, our family could not exist as it does today.  I sometimes lay awake at night thinking of how I am going to explain our history to Isaiah and Laila.  No matter how I try to explain it, it won't make sense that their skin color could be a source of rejection in their lives.  I shudder to think of the discrimination they may face in their future.  

I dream of a better time. 

 I dream of equality.  

I dream of a future for ALL of my children!!

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr. for fighting for our future!

‎"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today." 
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Grief of my Son

Adoption is not an event.

It is a lifelong journey.

A lot goes into the process of adopting children, whether domestic or international.  There is a financial component.  There is tons of paperwork.  There are classes to take, and home studies to complete.  It really is an exhausting process, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  All along, we look to that day when we meet our kids and can finally be a family and feel like that is the ultimate goal.  

In some ways, I would relate it to marriage.  There is so much planning and preparation for the wedding, but really the wedding is only the beginning.  The true work, joy, challenges, love and sacrifice come in the marriage.  Living out the vows you made when life isn't easy, is where the rubber meets the road.

Once you bring your adopted children home, that is when the real journey begins.  Unless you have been to the classes that are required as part of adopting or been intentional in reading about adoption, you might be surprised to realize that the challenges that are faced in adoptive families are something that will last a lifetime.  I have found that in our family, these challenges come in seasons.  I am sharing all of this, because I want to bring about awareness.  Those that want to adopt need to be ready and those that support those who adopt, (I hope everyone falls into one of these categories) need to know the reality so that they can be a strong support in the midst of these challenges.

So far, most of our processing has been with Isaiah.  Laila attached really naturally to us.  She was 9 months old.  She just came on board and hasn't really had a lot of questions during her almost 4 years with us.  She does mention her brown skin and our white skin, but not really in a questioning or upset way.  It seems like it is just a fact to her at this point and really no big deal.  We don't make a big deal out of it to begin with.

My philosophy in sharing their story with them is to answer all the questions they have, but not constantly be bringing it up.  I let them lead.  When something arises, we talk through it as much as they seem to need and then we move on.

A couple of months ago, Isaiah asked if he was in my tummy when he was a baby.  I told him, "No, you weren't."  He moved on and a few days later, he said, "If I wasn't in your tummy, then whose tummy was I in?" You should have seen the look on his face when he said this.  It was priceless!   I told him his Swazi Mama's tummy.  I think after my response, he asked if he could have a snack.  That is kind of how our conversations go.  He will ask a question, I will brace myself, run through my mind all the different directions this could go, answer him, brace myself for the next question, and then he changes the subject to something really random and insignificant.

A few days later, the floodgates opened.  Isaiah obviously had been processing his questions and my answers.  He said to me, "Where is my Swazi Mama?"  You see, up to this point, I don't think he has consciously processed the fact that his mother died.  He was only 18 months old.  He doesn't really remember.  I had to explain to him that she died.  It was so hard.  His little face just dropped.   He started weeping.  We were in the truck at the time.  I pulled over to a parking lot, gathered him in my arms and cried with him.   He was saying things like, "She was such a good mom.  I miss her so much."  It broke my heart.  Because of things I know about her, I could agree with him and tell him that she was a good mom and loved him very much.

I'll admit, there was a part of me, as his mom, who hurt a little to see him saying these things about his birth mom.  He didn't really remember her.  He just found out about her a few days before.  In that moment, I had to put my feelings aside and realize that this moment was not about me.  It was about my son and the grief he needed to process.  I sat there, held him and told him how sorry I was.  I told him I didn't know how it felt to lose a parent because my parents are still alive, but that his Daddy could understand because he lost his dad.  I told him he should talk to him about it some time.

The most precious part of the time came from Laila.  They are biological brother and sister.  So, she lost her mom, too, but she obviously did not grasp that.  She leaned over to him, patted his cheek over and over and said, "It's okay, buddy.  I'm sorry you lost your mom."  It was adorable and hilarious all at the same time.

I am sharing all of this for a few reasons.  First, I have several friends who have adopted.  There are 3 in particular that I am in communication with regularly.  I am finding that all 4 of us are dealing with adoption related struggles in behavior, but each manifestation is very different.  What I am dealing with today will look very different when Isaiah is 10 or 16 or 20.  I share because when I hear of others' struggles, it encourages me in mine.  Secondly, I want to remember these times and record them for Isaiah and Laila.  I want them to see my heart in walking through this with them.  I want them to someday know how very important their story and how they process that story is to me.  Third, I want to encourage those of you who know someone who has adopted to reach out to them.  Maybe you were a part of their journey to bring their children home, but have stepped back now that the process is complete.  I would say to you:  Please continue to journey with them!!  They need the support of their community.

Grief is a very real part of this process for everyone involved.  I pray for God's wisdom every day as I go hand in hand with Isaiah and Laila.  I want to honor the woman who gave birth to them.  She loved them and did not choose to leave them.  I think about her a lot.  I know very little, but the little I do know makes me so proud of her.  I am sure she never would have imagined that her children would be taken to another part of the world to be a part of another family.  I hope I get meet her in heaven.  I have so much I could tell her about our son and daughter.  It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the possibility.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reentry into Real Life

As you can see, I have not posted this week.  Therefore, this post will be in bullet points.  That's all I can produce at this point.

~The kids went back to school on Tuesday.

~We had evening meetings at church Sunday through Tuesday nights called Impact.  It was a great way to start off the new year as a church body.

~Have I mentioned how much I love my church?  That is another post for another time.  Let's just say, I am thankful for where God has us in so many ways and for so many reasons.

~I am suffering once again from sleep deprivation.

~My house is a TOTAL disaster.

~I can't seem to get warm.  When I drop off the kids at school in the morning, it is in the 20s.  This weekend, it is supposed to be snowy and cold.  Not looking forward to that.

~It is hair braiding week.  Let's just say I will be exhausted and relieved when Saturday afternoon arrives.

~Some of the things I really like right now:
   -Chick-fil-a free breakfasts each week.
   -Early bedtimes for the kids.
   -Rick having Fridays off.
   -Checking items off my to do list.
   -Reading through "The Purpose Driven Life" again.
   -Getting some projects done over the break.
   -Seeing so many people sacrifice and invest in our Beyond Survival's Giving of Life Project.
   -Taking a break from Facebook and realizing I might be better off without spending so much time there.
~ Some of my pet peeves these days:  (Just to name a few)
   -dirty microwaves
   -speed bumps
   -my hair gathered around my neck(This is why I can never be a wearer of scarves)
   -going to the bathroom and finding out there is no toilet paper(This problem is not solely at my house.  Everywhere I go, I end up being caught off guard without toilet paper.)
    -alarm clocks(I just think we would all be better off if we could sleep as long as we need to!)
    -my bank asking me to sign up for something new every time I go through the drive-thru.  Then, having to explain to them 3 different times that I don't want to sign up, I don't want to make an appt. to speak to a banker, and I don't want them to call me!
    -hair on the bar of soap
    -clothes sticking up out of a closed drawer
    -being asked the same question 10 times.
    -shoes and backpacks strewn around the main level(especially since there is a place set up to put them.)
That's enough for now.  I do feel a little better just getting it out there.  Hopefully, I will have something more productive to share soon!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ringing in the New Year

The alternate title for this post would be "Flexibility is my Friend."  (For those of you who have been to Africa with us, this should bring a smile to your face!)

Traditions are important to me.  Sometimes, too important.  When I find myself demanding, "WE. WILL. HAVE. FUN. DOING. THIS!!"  I know that I need to evaluate my motives.  I have several purposes for our family traditions(That is a whole other post.  I have a whole talk that I have done with groups about this subject).  When the tradition becomes something that is not enjoyable, I am realizing that I need to be willing to "tweek" them a bit for the benefit of our family.  

As my kids are getting older, some of our traditions are becoming "not cool" to them.  Some of them will remain the same for the sake of the younger children.  Hopefully, someday, the older ones will see the value in them again and do them with their children.  For the first time, this Christmas season, I faced the reality that our traditions need to begin slowly morphing to fit our aging family. 

I began with my most treasured tradition, "The Annual New Year's Eve Theme Interpretation/Dance Competition."  There were murmurings leading up to the day from various kids about not wanting to dance this year.  I have to admit, it hurt my heart a little bit.  I have so many fun memories from this time each year, and there are a few of the kids that really blossom doing this tradition.  So, I began brainstorming about how we could change it up without eliminating it.  I found a good compromise.  Lauren got "Just Dance 4" for Christmas.  So, instead of no dancing, we had a double elimination "Just Dance 4" tournament.  Everyone was happy, and it turned out to be a fun, relaxing time with laughs and no drama!  

Rick and I have never been New Year's Eve partyers, so staying home with the fam in our jammies is really a good fit for us.  I have never really felt like I am missing out by not going out on this night.  
We started our evening with some pizza 
 The Dance Competition Began
(We paired up matching aged kids together first so it would be a more even fight, and then let the double elimination bracket dictate the rest of the match ups)
Isaiah won against Laila
 Sam won against Abby
 Cody won against Lauren
 Rick won against me(I don't have a picture because I was dancing my little heart out). In the end, Cody won the title for 2012.  His victory earned him the right to open the last gift of the year later in the evening along with the thrill of victory that lasts the whole year!!

Afterwards, we did our tradition of homemade donuts(canned biscuits cooked in oil with various toppings to add - chocolate syrup, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, etc.)
 We added bakery donuts this year for those who don't like the homemade ones.  
Abby had her own box of gluten free donuts
 Toasting to 2012, talking about our best memories and biggest challenges with our donuts and sparkling juice.  Looking forward to what God will do in 2013!!
 Cody opening the last gift of the year
(I have no idea where he got his dramatic personality ; )
 The new game for this year was:
We watched the ball drop at 10:00 MST in New York City, did a little celebrating and then sent the littles to bed.  The four big kids stayed up with us to play the game and ring in the real New Year for Colorado.

It was a good night.  I am finding this whole "kids getting older thing" is really bittersweet for me.  I miss my babies.  I miss being the one that hung the moon to them.  I miss the simpler days.  I miss being able to solve their problems fairly easily.  I miss having the final say in everything.  I miss them thinking I have a brain and some wisdom from my years of experience.  I am hoping that in 2013, I can embrace this new phase more and really glean the good in these years as my kids get older, more independent, and don't need or want me as much as they used to.  Regardless of their choices, I want to keep relationship with them through it all.  That has to be more important than me being right.  This is where the unconditional love that we have told them about all these years is really put to the test.

As the saying goes, "Flexibility is my friend.  Expectation is my enemy."  Oh, how I need these words to begin sinking in a little deeper this year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

This Christmas Break has truly been a time of relaxing and refreshment.  We have been able to live the schedule we would live if there were no obligations, staying up late, sleeping in, lazy days, staying in pajamas all day, reading, playing games, drinking lots of coffee and hot chocolate, watching TV, napping, luxurious!  Because of the cooking I did for Christmas, we have had lots of leftovers and have even gotten to do takeout a couple of times so my cooking has been at a minimum.  I bought paper plates before the break so even the dishes have been few and far between.  We have been able to connect with some friends as well.  Everything in me screams, "THIS CAN'T END!!"  The reality of that is not possible.

Rick went back to work today.  He only has 2 days of work before he is off again for his normal weekend, Friday and Saturday.  For some reason, the school district decided to go whack-a-doodle this year so, the kids don't back to school until January 8th.  I am not sure how I feel about that.  I am very glad to have more opportunities to sleep in.  I am relieved to not have to pick up the crazy driving schedule right away.  I like not having to get back into the crazy routine right away.  On the other hand, I am concerned about everyone getting along for another week.  They are getting bored.  Entertainment options are limited because of the weather and expense.  The longer they are inside this house, the more  little squabbles break out.  I had to lay down the law a bit this morning, threatening to make those who aren't getting along work on house projects together.  I might get a lot of things done around here.  I have already had to take some ipods away.  It is times like these when having 70 degree weather in winter would be lovely, not to mention how happy that would make me!!  

I wanted to give a glimpse into some of the activities of this house over the last few days.  I don't have any pictures of me sitting on the couch reading or watching Netflix under my new comfy blanket.  I have spent many hours doing that.  I also don't have pics of Rick watching football or playing PS3.  Those seem to be his relaxation activities of choice.  Here are some of the things the kids have occupied themselves with:
Sam got this gift for Christmas
 We started with the color changing slime
 This gift will bring him hours of fun.  

 Rick and I took Isaiah out for his Birthday Date with us.  He loves riding in Daddy's Jeep
 He chose Red Robin
 2 of my favorite boys in the world
 Lovin' that burger and fries
 They even sang "Happy Birthday" to him and gave him an ice cream sundae!
He loved that attention!!
 Lauren has been dressing Laila up in her hoodie stuffed with pillows and blankets
I introduce "Hammy" to you:
 It is so funny to watch her walk around.  Watch out when she falls down.  
Poor thing can't even get up by herself!
 Grandma gave us IHOP gift cards for Christmas.  We went out for breakfast Sunday morning
 The kids LOVED being able to order anything they wanted.
There were lots of smiles and full tummies.  Thanks, Grandma!
Today, it looks like I am going to be getting foot and back massages!  
There is also a gift shop, and I have a 50% off coupon!!  Sam has gotten a job working at the spa earning $.25/hr.  Laila just came down with her nails painted and a Twizzler in her mouth.  At least for now, things are peaceful in this house!
Vacation is a good thing.  I just need to figure out how to live like this every day!!