Wednesday, December 5, 2007

P.S. New Job Possibility

I wanted to update those of you who were thinking of me and praying for me during my impromptu job supervising a non-custodial parental visit.

The visit went really well. The dad was extremely emotional, and I struggled holding back tears of my own. It was upbeat and positive. And I'm actually going to be supervising a visit with the same family again this weekend.

Also, there is a possibility of more work like this for me in the future. It's rough, emotionally, but I think it will be good. I'm in contact with someone...

I prayed for him, the kids, and the mom throughout the whole visit.

I can't imagine that being a bad thing for a broken family...

Thanks for your prayers!!!

Snow Day

I'm thinking of you today, Jeny! I know that ground cover in December absolutely delights your heart. I'm putting on some Christmas music, heating up the tea kettle and thinking of you today!

Oh, and bundling up four little people for some outdoor play.


It's Wednesday. The Candlelight Christmas parade is Friday. In two days.

Did I tell you that Pathway enters a float into the parade every year? This will be our 4th parade since we moved here. The first year, Seth was only two months old. So natually, we thought, Live Nativity. (Okay, so maybe that's not the "natural" first thought the average mother of a newborn has. I think that natural first thought is, "I'll stay home with the baby." Maybe I'm not so average.) Anyway, our generator stopped working, so none of the strings of lights we painstakingly hung were lit. (Lights are kind of important in a nighttime Christmas parade.) But we did have paperbag luminaries, each filled with sand that anchored a small candle. The kids were dressed as shepherds, a couple of grownups were wisemen, a Joseph was thrown in there, and I was Mary holding a very red-headed baby Jesus, who thankfully slept through the whole parade. I was so thankful, because I didn't really have a plan B if baby Jesus was uncooperative. Oh, and we all sat on bales of hay on a trailer, pulled by a pick-up truck. So, why did I think that real candles and dry bales of hay and small children were a perfect parade combination? Thank the Lord none of the little shepherds set the float ablaze. And the luminaries were actually as charming and lovely as can be, and we won a little trophy for our float as the Chambers of Commerce Choice award. Fun. Kind of. It was FREEEZING.

The year after, we set up a little living room scene with a Christmas tree and sofa and had the families huddled together. Last year, we set up rows of chairs around a Christmas tree and the kids all held battery operated candles. We also made two signs that said, "PATHWAY," with the "T" shaped like a cross, out of Christmas lights.

This year...we have no idea.

We still have no headway into our float. Basic problem? We don't have a float. Basic solution to problem? Find a float.

The fellow who loaned us his trailer the past couple of years just repainted it beautifully, and we really didn't feel like we should ask to use it. With so many kids and decorations, we really couldn't guarantee a scratch-free return.

So...I'm not sure what we'll do. Our neighbor has an old hay wagon. Maybe he'll let us use it? Or we could just deocrate the sides of Rob's pick-up and pile all the kids in the back? But then how do we decorate it?

Anybody have any ideas "floating" around out there?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

B-b-b-b-baby, It's C-c-c-c-cold Outside!

As I type this I'm listening to ice from the heavens angrily pelting my window. It's as if the snow was in too big of a hurry to drift softly, silently to the earth, but impatiently scrunched itself up into little balls of icy mischief and threw temper tantrums from the clouds, who are floating by, shrugging their shoulders at the path of winter they've left behind.

I think winter is here. I'm praying we won't be iced out of church tomorrow.

And I have this feeling that Michigan is going to be one snowy tundra this season. We're due for a hard winter.

Lily and I did a little bit of Christmas shopping today and found the big boys' presents. I won't spoil the surprise, but snow will sure come in handy!

I have a very interesting job ahead of me tomorrow. A lawyer friend contacted me, and he is working on an ugly, brutal divorce case. The dad has been issued a restraining order from his soon-to-be ex-wife and his two young sons. However, he has been granted a supervised visitation tomorrow. He's somewhat of a flight risk, which is one of the reasons it must be supervised, in addition to having made some threats. Also, he hasn't seen his boys for 5 months. So, the person who was supposed to be supervising the visit is no longer able to...and my lawyer friend asked me if I would be able to do it! I've never done anything like this before, but I said, Sure. The whole situation is totally heartbreaking, and I know this dad is going to hate me, just because of my role. But it's my job to keep them on the premisis (What do I do if he grabs his kids and tries to run?) and to make sure the visit is safe (especially emotionally) for the kids. (No talking bad about the mom, etc.) He's coming here to the church, and as far as I know, I'll be by myself. Seems kind of weird, doesn't it?

Rob will be just across the yard at the house, so I won't be totally alone.

I'm so thankful for my husband and my family and that I'm not having to parent alone or worry about visits with the other parent, etc. God has been so gracious to us. I can't imagine what this family must be going through at this time.

Please pray for us! And for them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Family for Christmas

Get the tissues handy...


Sadly, I have no Thanksgiving pictures to share with you today. Seth's curiosity about our camera caused him to extract the photo card, and it was still missing when we had to leave.

Our family traveled to Ohio for Thanksgiving, for the first time in the 12 years we've been married. Since our families aren't close, we are required to travel for most of the holidays, so early on in our marriage, we staked our claim on Thanksgiving as a day for us to celebrate at home. When we were first married, we were both working retail, and as you all know, no one working retail gets the Friday after Thanksgiving off. (BTW, has it always been called Black Friday? I'd never heard that term before until this year, and I heard it everywhere.) So who wants to travel all over, only to have to leave on Thanksgiving Day to return home in order to get up at unheavenly hours to work the following day? Not us. So we didn't.

And then we had kids, and I loved celebrating Thanksgiving with them. We invited people to come to our home for years, mostly college students and single friends who weren't able to travel home for Thanksgiving. This was also great fun. Some years no one comes, but I stil put out a huge spread...and then we eat turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes...and lots of pie! for days and days afterward. It's the feast that keeps on feeding, really.

But this year, Rob's mom and step-dad moved into a much smaller house, and they were wanting to distribute some of the things they didn't need to their kids. Thanksgiving seemed the best time for us to get away, so we went.

Now usually, I spend the first weeks of November menu-planning. I LOVE to try new recipes, especially on Thanksgiving. I know, all the cooking gurus tell you never to try something new on a big holiday; stick to what you know or your're asking for disaster. Phooey, I say. There will always be turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, so the basics aren't going to be ruined if the new recipes don't work out so well. Which has happened, but it wasn't the disaster Rachael Ray said it would be if a new recipe flopped.

This year, however, I was told to bring my broccoli salad. That's it. I almost didn't know what to do with myself. I did end up making a couple of pumpkin pies, too. Gasp, they weren't going to have any! Gotta have pumpkin pie. It's a family fav. I think the boys were more excited about the pie than anything else, so I'm glad I made them.

We had a great time with Rob's family, not all of whom were able to make it, and we christened Rob's mom's house with laughter and family and food. It's now officially Papaw and Grandma's house!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Discovery

No, Caleb didn't find a Santa suit stashed away in a bottom dresser drawer. But true to his skeptical nature, all along he suspected something was up with the big guy dressed in red.

"Mom, I don't think Santa Claus is real," he stated matter of factly last week. Gabe stood beside him, his brown eyes as big as chestnuts.

When Rob and I first got married, long before our firstborn made his entrance into our Christmases, we had a Santa Claus discussion. His position: He grew up with lovely, childhood-belief-in-Santa memories, and he wanted his kids to have that same kind of wonderment and magic at Christmastime. My position: What if once our kids figured out that Santa wasn't real, that we lied to them, they begin to question whether or not God is real before their spiritual foundation has solidified? What's more, I never believed in Santa, and I was FILLED with Christmas magic and romance, long before December hit each year.

We finally came to a compromise: we would allow our kids to believe in Santa, but we would not tell them false stories. Of course they were going to see him riding his sleigh on cartoons and Christmas movies. They would see him sitting on his throne in stores, waiting with candy canes to hold little children and listen to their wish lists. So we let our kids' imaginations grow and sparkle like magic Christmas snow. Everytime a question came up, like, "How does Santa know where I live?" we would ask them, "Well, what do you think?" And then, "That sounds like a great idea!"

Every Christmas Eve, we put out their stockings and filled them with goodies after they went to sleep. In the morning, after they delightedly dug through their sock from top to toe, we'd ask, "Where do you think all those presents came from?" "SANTA!!!" They would squeal. We would smile and ooh and ahh over the little gifts they received.

This seemed to work for us, and I never had to feel guilty about lying to them...because I didn't.

***Disclaimer: For those of you moms and dads who do tell your kids all about Santa, PLEASE don't think that I look down on you or think of you as bald-faced liars! Not at all!! This is just the plan that lets ME sleep at night! Letting them believe something that is not true is basically the same thing as telling them it is true...just passively. Remember, I'm a storyteller at heart anyway, and I don't think this really is lying after all. :o) ***

Okay, so back to last week.

"Mom, I don't think that Santa Claus is real."

"Why do you say that, Caleb?" (See how passive?)

"Well, if he had to visit all the kids in the world, he would have to sleep during the day and be awake all night. So Santa would have to be nocturnal." (Okay, I was trying REALLY hard to hold back the laughter on the nocturnal part. But it was SO hard...

"And, I don't think he could live all year on the north pole. Plus, how would he get into our house at night? If he came down our chimney, he would burn his booty, and I KNOW he doesn't have a key to our house." (Now, I'm SHAKING with laughter by this time and I have to turn away to wipe the tears from my eyes.)

"I just need some evidence," Caleb says. (Is he really only in 2nd grade?)

Caleb and Gabe are looking at me intently. They still think I have all the answers, though Caleb is starting to want to read and research for himself.

The gig is up.

"Follow me, boys," I tell them and lead them to our computer where I look up and read to them the true story of Saint Nicholas, a rich young man who loved God. He learned of a father who was about to sell his three daughters because of the family's extreme poverty. So he sneaked into their house at night and left gold coins in the girls' stockings to keep them from being sold into servitude. He did this all in secret to protect the pride of the father and so that he would receive none of the glory.

"So, Santa Claus is another way of saying Saint Nicholas. And he was a real man who gave real gifts to real people." I pause. "But Saint Nicholas lived a long time ago, and he's not alive anymore."

"Santa Claus is dead?" This from Gabe, who looks partly bewildered but partly tantalized by this dramatic turn.

"We'll see him in heaven one day, because he loved God," I told him. "But we tell the story about Santa Claus because it's fun for little kids to believe in his magic. But really, it's God's love that Santa Claus is all about. And God wants us to give to others the way that Saint Nicholas did. And we celebrate Christmas because God's love gave us the greatest gift of all."

"Jesus!" Both boys chime in.

The boys were surprisingly excited by this story, and I felt good about sharing with them the real meaning of Santa Claus, not to GET gifts or to send him their wish list, but to have a giving heart.

They walk away from the computer, satisfied, promising not to tell Seth and Lily, just yet. Because it's fun to believe in Christmas magic.

Later that evening, I find Caleb at the computer. He has found his way to He's written, "Is Santa Real?" He wants to read it for himself.

This weekend, our town hosted its annual Christmas Open House, and there in the middle of the square was a lovely, old-fashioned, Victorian Santa, sitting in a horse-drawn carriage, waiting with candy canes for the children. Caleb and Gabe excitedly sat across from him in the carriage and chatted with him about some things they might like for Christmas. They came down with big grins, and Gabe asked, "Is he real?" I looked at him, and he answered his own question, "No, the real Saint Nicholas lived a long time ago."

But still he glowed with excitement.

Yes, Gabriel, there is a Santa Claus!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

School Days

I haven't written too much about our homeschool time. This is our third year "officially" homeschooling. Every year I have a distinct plan that I want to follow, and so far it's never gone as I planned. In 2005, I had no idea how the adoption process and fundraising was going to consume my time. Last year, I didn't plan on the transition of adding Lily to our family being so difficult. And this year, well, I've started babysitting for a four-month-old little boy, and his kindergartener brother, whom I must pick up from school, and Lily has speech therapy that takes us away from the house eight hours a week. In addition, I'm tutorting at least 2 hours, sometimes 3 hours, a week and now leading a women's prayer group on Thursday evenings.

Never is there a day that I can sit down with my kids and "do school" for several hours in a row a day.

Now some of you may be thinking that I'm doing my school-aged kids a true disservice. And daily I DO have to evaluate how I can efficiently and effectively help them to reach their fullest potential. We do a lot of reading. We work on math and science and history. We listen to classical music and identify instruments while we're doing art. They memorize Bible verses for AWANA, and set and reach goals in a timely way. They are sociable, polite, respectful, imaginative, active, reflective, curious, hopeful, eager learners.

I think they're doing great. That is the beauty of homeschooling. Not only can I arrange my schedule around their schooling, but I can arrange their schooling around, and through, our life as a family. Family life becomes part of the classroom. Society is only as strong as its family units, and not only am I strenthening our own family, but I'm raising my children to invest in their own families and to invest in others' families as well, in addition to building their worldview in a safe, nurturing environment. Don't misunderstand: I don't want my children to be sheltered in a bubble. I want to them to observe and experience and participate in life they way that God intended. Jesus came so that we could have life and HAVE IT ABUNDANTLY. That is what we want for our kids. And that is what my goal when I approach homeschooling.

So there's a little bit of my homeschooling philosphy. Only a fraction of it, and it also changes and grows and deepens and develops as I teach my children.

Here are a few pictures I have of them doing school. We are studying ancient Egypt and learning how to tell time right now. Also, Caleb is reading a book about pioneer days. Seth and Lily are mastering their ABC's and learning some phonics...all through reading and play. And maybe Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fasnacht Family Fun Friday

My days are FULL! We have so much going on, and I'm struggling to keep you updated regularly. I decided not to feel guilty but to just do what I can.

Life is hard right now, but I'm only chronicling the good stuff. And later, maybe much later, I'll have more good stuff to share, and I'll begin it with, "Look at how God worked in this difficult situation!"

A couple of weeks ago, I felt spontaneous, and declared that day, "Fasnacht Family Fun Friday." Unfortunately the head Fasnacht still had to work without too much fun, but the kids and I spent the day thinking up as many fun things to do (cheaply) as we could.

We started off, after Lily's morning speech therapy session, heading to a state park nearby called Russ Forest. It has several trails, and we walked through the maze of paths for an hour and half!!! before we ended up at the play ground. Okay, so the last half hour of that walk was less than fun for my tired crew, but we truly enjoyed the dark, damp, earthy beauty of the autumn woods, and we scaled fallen trees, fashioned walking sticks for each of us, fought off a couple of aliens (very odd trees/stumps/clumps of earth/etc.who looked like they were up to no good) with our walking sticks-turned-swords, threw rocks into the creek, and played "Pooh sticks" off the bridge. I had forgotten my camera, so the memories of that forest adventure will have to remain burned on my heart alone.

Then we headed back home for lunch.

On the way home, I passed a sign for a lovely place called Butler's Tree Farm, and they boasted hayrides and pumpkin patches. I'd never been there before, but it's only about 2 miles from my house. We went home and ate a comforting lunch of peanut butter toast and homemade hot chocolate. Then I grabbed the camera and we headed back out to the pumpkin patch. They all loved it. Me, too.

Rob came home and we had a relaxing, enjoyable dinner. (Which is quite the accomplishment with two toddlers.) Then we watched a family movie, snuggled up together under blankets on the couch.

We all had a BLAST, and we were refreshed and rejuvenated, and Caleb and Gabe declared that Fasnacht Family Fun Friday was the best day ever, and could we please have another one next week?

Well, maybe not every Friday, but I'm definitely looking forward to the next one, too.

Russ Forest Trails Adventure: Free
Hot chocolate and peanut butter toast: Almost Free
Hayride, Pumpkin Patch, Petting Zoo, HUGE family pumpkin: $10
Movie, blankets, cuddling: Free
"Mom, this was the Best Day Ever!": Priceless

November is Adoption Awareness Month

Please, please, please is there anyone out there who could bring this little girl home??? She is SO, SO cute, and look what a happy toddler she is!

Here is a little bit about this little one, born on 12/20/2004 and found on New Year's Eve in Guilin, Guanxi Province, China:

"She was found next to a lottery post near Fuli Hospital in Guilin City on December 31, 2004. Officials were unable to locate her parents and family; she was declared an abandoned infant and taken to the SWI with the permission of Guilin City Civil Welfare Office. She has been living with a foster family since April 25, 2005. She likes cartoons as well as the weekly Peking Opera program, she loves music. She loves to go out to railroad club, fresh market, supermarket, and to parks with her foster mother everyday. She loves eggs and flour products. In September 2005 she had cleft lip surgery and had her cleft palate surgery in 2006 . She can sing children songs and can count to 20 with help. She likes to meet people and loves to play outside. She eats well and sleeps well. She has normal lab tests and up to date vaccines. (Info dated 4/2/2007)"

She is listed with Christian World Adoption, and the link to her photolisting is:

By the way, both Asher and Lisa have found their forever families! Hooray! Now I need to find one for this precious sweetie...

Thursday, October 18, 2007


October is one of my favorite months. I even love the way the name October rolls off the tongue into the autumn air and is then whisked away by the curt breeze along with the swirling leaves. October holds tons of birthdays for my family, including my mom, Rob, Seth, my dad, Rob's brother Ryan, our nieces Emmaly and JoAnna, and our nephew Nathaniel.

October has held her share of broken heartedness as well.

On Sunday, one of my friends passed away after a long, difficult battle with cancer. She was only 55. Yesterday was her funeral. She was a faithful believer, and I'm so thankful that she is no longer suffering. Still, we miss her.

October is also the anniversary of the deaths of my best friend and sister-in-law, Erica and her daughter, my niece, MiKayla. Eleven years ago on October 4th, God allowed a horrific car accident to take them to Himself, leaving my brother, age 18, a widower and single father to 10-month-old Ralphie. I once thought that the pain of that day would never dull, but I have to be has. God hasn't taken it away completely, nor would I want Him to. Pain helps you to remember, and I never want to forget.

What He has done is poured heaps of comfort and joy onto our hearts, renewed His promises and hope and given us great things to look forward to. Like when I get to the place God has prepared for me, after I've seen Jesus with my own eyes and touched him--I hope I'm allowed to touch him--then I have the biggest hugs and brightest smiles stored up inside me for Erica and Mikayla. We'll have a lot of catching up to do! And God brought to my brother and newphew new hope and new love and family through my sister-in-law. He is a good God.

For the longest time, October 4th was a day I loathed. Especially the first few years. I would find a newspaper article or magazine that was published before the accident, like October 1st, and think, "When this came out, Erica and Mikayla were alive." It was a long road of healing.

And then God, in His perfect wisdom and comfort, saw to it that Seth was born on October 4th, totally redeeming that day for me. Take one look at him, and you see one thing: JOY. It bubbles out of him relentlessly. Even when he is being contentious, God fills me to brimming with joy because of this child. So on his birthday every year, I don't think about what I'm missing; I think about, with great joy and gratitude, all that God has lavished on us.

Some joyful Seth stories:

***We reminded all our children yesterday that they must be very quiet at the funeral. Upon entering the building a mortician greeted us solemnly, and Seth put his finger to his lips at the man and scolded, "SHHHHHH!"

***This week Seth had to have a ECKO to monitor a heart murmur recently detected, which required him to lie still for 45 LONG minutes. The radiologist put on a movie for him and then leaned over him to adjust the electrodes attached to his chest. He stuck out a little foot and tapped her in the booty and told her, "Move!" as she was blocking the television. I was mortified. I corrected him, "No, Seth, if someone's in your way, you say, 'Excuse me, please.'" He shrugged his shoulders and said, "She already move," and went back to his movie.

***Like many toddlers, Seth points with his middle finger. recently he pointed at me with his middle finger and said, "My magic finger! Take that!" And then he waved it at me like a magic wand. (Why a magic finger? Your guess is as good as mine.") We were of course at the grocery store surrounded by parents who wonder about my personal integrity.

And this year, Seth turned 3!!! Three is so big! And boy, does Seth think he's big stuff! We had a very full day on his birthday with Lily's speech therapy and then AWANA, but I planned fun for him throughout the day, and I think he enjoyed it. It's very hard for us to have big birthday parties for our kids, because we live so far away from family and many of our friends. But I love the memories that we are creating within our family unit as well. (And hey, with this many children, every day is a party!)

Here are some images celebrating Seth:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

They say it's your birthday

Today is Rob's birthday.

The very first of his birthdays we celebrated together while we were "just friends," he hinted to me that Tori Amos was coming to town, and it happened to be the weekend of his birthday. I was lucky enough to score a couple of tickets, and we spent a great evening together reveling in the soul-touching beauty of live music.

I wish we could spend every one of his birthdays like that. We couldn't go back to those days of sweet, newly blossoming romance, leaning towards one another, knees touching, hearts pounding along with the piano, meeting his eyes at a particularly captivating stanza to enjoy it together, wondering what God had in store for each of us, and PLEASE, God, could it include this wonderful man beside me?

But I wouldn't for a minute trade the new, baby flower blossum of our early relationship for the gorgeous,fragrant, hardy yet delicate flower that is our marriage today. How could I have gotten so lucky to be paired forever with this guy? He is my absolute favorite person in the entire world. He is smart, funny, kind and thoughtful. He's a level-headed visionary, a foundational revolutionist and oppression's oppressor. He refuses to be told what to think or how to feel, yet his mind and heart are not proud, but humbly teachable, allowing the truth of God's Word to mold him to think and feel what God would have him to think and feel. He is a wonderful husband, an amazing father and a faithful friend. And...he's great-looking to boot. The man makes my heart sing! I thank God every day for the privilege of being his wife. (Even the days we don't see eye to eye!)

Happy Birthday, Love!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Please forgive the last post. I had just come home from 2 1/2 hours of tutoring algebra, after a full day of chasing small people, cleaning, only 1 out of 15+ loads of laundry done, canning applesauce, 3 1/2 hours of speech therapy (includes travel time) and then a nasty McDonald's on-the-go supper for the whole family. So you can see that I was truly not in my most reasonable frame of mind.

I mean, who in a reasonable frame of mind would think that anyone reading a caual blog cares about algebra formulas and passenger trains?

Please come back, reader! Don't abandon me! I promise I won't give you anymore algebra!!!

See? We'll talk about something else. Like Seth hiding from Rob in the drier, he didn't close the door. Or that Lily is starting to make the "p" sound at the beginning of words, and even a few "b" sounds! That's all much more interesting, right?

So, do you forgive me for my late-night math ramblings? We're okay?

Right Brain, Left Brain: Duking It Out

Many of you know that I studied English Ed in college. And some of you know that I love to read and truly enjoy expressing myself with the written word. Go ahead and think it: I'm a nerd. Would it help if I told you I play the clarinet? Yeah, I'm an even bigger nerd than you originally thought.

Last year, my friend's high-school-aged son was struggling with some of his classes. I offered myself as a tutor. This school year I stepped up once again to fill that role as tutor for him, in addition to tutoring his cousin. But it's not in Shakespeare, even though I did help him with his "Romeo and Juliet" worksheet last night.

Even though I have a deep and spiritual love for good literature, and I become almost indignant at misplaced commas and semi-colons, my left-brainedness is having to step aside--with pouty lips, if a brain has lips--because I've been hired as an algebra tutor. I admit it: I love algebra! You should see the nerd-radar go off in these kids' eyes when I get excited about manipulating equations and solving for x.

And tonight, we had one of those story problems with the trains moving in opposite directions. You know the kind that goes like this: If train A leaves Chicago going east at 90 mph, and train B leaves Chicago at the exact same time going west at 80 mph, in how many hours will the trains be 510 miles apart? Hey, I actually know how to solve this problem! The equation is going to look something like this: 80h + 90h = 510 (with h representing hours), and when you solve for h, you know that in exactly 3 hours, those trains will be 510 miles away from one another.

Okay, my right brainedness knows how to figure this out. My left brainedness is asking, "Why even ask this question...unless...

Two lovers, destined for heartbreak due to the misalignment of stars (No, I'm not into astrology...just making a reference to "Romeo and Juliet", prologue) must say their final goodbye on a lonely train station in Chicago, IL. The woman's grandmother has fallen ill, and she must take the train back home to care for her. The man, after recovering from a sluggardly and wasteful youth, has just been offered a promising job, and he must take it to make himself worthy of her love. He steps off the platform onto train A, and she reluctantly climbs aboard train B. Three hours later, they both reach their destinations. Will they be able to continue to be faithful to one another seperated indefinitely by 510 miles?

Okay, so at that point, it might be helpful to know about math and trains.

Who says math is boring?

(BTW, I've forgotten almost all of the math skills I acquired in high school and college, and every tutoring session finds me poring over the examples and formulas in the kids' textbook trying to relearn them so I can teach my pupils how to do it.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Brotherly Love

I found the sweetest letter today.

Of course, Seth must have realized that I'm sentimental and employed his super powers of contrariness (it is TO a word; I looked it up), and crumpled it up. Actually, he didn't just crumple it up; he rushed it outside as fast as he could, splashed water on it, and used it to wrap up a handful of peagravel from the playground before I could catch up with him. Have I mentioned here that he is somewhat destructive? At least he's truly creative in his destruction.

*Like the time he came into the room with a red crayon. "I found red," he said. He put the red crayon into my hand and walked away. I looked all over the house, up and down for NEW red crayon marks--he's already left a Crayola trail from previously destructive artisitc endeavors. (Oh well. I guess I WILL paint the natural wood entry closet after all. Yes, I have tried the Mr. Clean magic eraser and sanding it makes it look uneven.) But this time I didn't find the red crayon marks...that is until I ran an errand the next day, and the side mirrors of my van looked as if I purchased them from a little mirror store in Elmo's World. Yes, I found the red. Yes, I SEE RED! (OK, I really wasn't that mad since crayon washes off mirrors quite easily.)

*Or like the time he turned on the water hose this summer...and then came in the back door and began watering the flower patterns on the carpet of the laundry room.

*Or like just a few days ago when I took all my kids to my friend's UBER-TIDY house to babysit for her, and when she came home, he greeted her at the door with an open bottle of nail polish in his hands. (Ugh! How did he sneak past me with that? And why did she have to be the first to see it?) THANK GOD he hadn't yet decided what he wanted to paint.

Okay, so the kid sorta likes make things happen. He's kind of a cause-and-effect type of experimenter.

Back to the letter I found. Here's a picture of the front of it:

And here's a picture of its insides:

Let me translate this for you, as Gabe writes exactly the way he talks, and he sweetly misprounces some consonants: "I love Caleb. I hope you have..." (Oops he writes "you have" twice, I hate it when it when I do that.)"...a great day. Your best brother, Gabe." Isn't that the sweetest? (I love that he spells you YOOH. And why shouldn't he, when POOH is spelled like that? Crazy English languange. And seeing him write Brusr for brother just warms my heart. They are little for such a short time...)

I have tons of pictures of the two of them as a pair. My prayer since I first found out I was pregnant with my second child is that my children would have a close relationship with one another that would continue far into adulthood. My sister and I are very close. Our relationship had rocky moments in our childhood, mostly because our personalities are so different. But now, she is the first person I call when I need someone, and I absolutely treasure our relationship. I'm also close to my brothers, who have grown to be great guys, both of whom fear the Lord and have leadership roles in their churches. I want my children to treasure each other as well.

Here are some pictures of my big boys as a couple...a couple of brothers who are truly devoted to one another. (I have lots more, but I haven't digitized them yet, so you'll have to stop at my house and dig through photo albums if you want to see more!)

crime-fighting duo


french horn duet

"The play's the thing!" (Two of the Three Little Pigs...see the curly little piggy tails on their backside???)

Oh, and Seth and Lily have a little love thing goin' on, too.

"What do you think? Should I kiss her?" (These pictures were taken just a month after Lily came home to us.)

He loves her after all.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Little Cherub

I am such a sucker for chubby cheeks! Maybe it's because each of my children was born with soft, so, so kissable jowls. Even Lily. A month after we began pursuing Lily, a dear friend left for China to adopt her own sweet daughter from Lily's orphanage. Lily wasn't there, but the orphanage director told my friend that Lily was doing great and "has a fat face." I love it. Thank-you, Lord, for chubby cheeks.

Take a look at the cheeks on this little sweetheart. Oh my word, she makes my heart flip! She was born on April 24, 2006. What a fun age she is right now, toddling all over the place, I'm sure getting into everything. I bet she keeps her nannies hopping. She was born in China, and she is listed as "Lisa" with Adoption House. You can see her here:

Her personality is described this way: "Lisa is a happy, extroverted child. She is active and enjoys being kissed. She likes to listen to music and will sometimes dance along. She also enjoys playing games, playing outside, and playing with colorful toys."

Is there a family out there for this precious one? She loves to be kissed; surely someone out there has some extra kisses to share.


I had the most lovely visit from a dear friend today. Tiana is an AMAZING woman, and I was so excited to learn that she was going to be spending a couple of weeks in the area, and even more excited when she arranged a visit. Her visit was such an encouragement to me. Tiana is the type of woman who steps into a room and dramatically enhances its warmth and beauty just by being in it. She is quick to see God's hand in her life, and in mine as well, and she simply encouraged me in my ministry and calling here in this land called Michigan. Even though we're really not that far away from family and friends, the reality of daily living and family life often allows months, sometimes years even, to go by without seeing people that are precious to me. I do often feel isolated, and sometimes I hear Satan whispering in my ear that I'm all alone. I know in my heart that's a lie, and rebuke it as so.

Even so, I can be quite vulnerable to loneliness if I'm not careful. Tiana told me about her parents' ministry in Alaska where she was born, grew up and still calls home, and I felt God ministering to my heart as I learned of the long-term commitment they've made to the people there and how even though they have been there for over thirty years (I think), the fruit of their ministry is not glamorous or completely obvious to the whole world. It's the same kind of fruit we're growing here, the kind that takes much labor and commitment and may seem very small or even invisible. But God sees, and He has never promised those who sow seeds that they will get to count the fruit and feel a sense of satisfaction at its abundance.

Sometimes the one who plants the seeds never sees one piece of fruit with her own eyes.

I choose today to stop wasting time looking for fruit and I commit to obedience in the task that God has set before me of planting seeds.

On a less philosophical note, I was cleaning off my entertainment center today and I came across a home video of baby Seth, only two days old, and two familiar, adorable little boys. Why do they have to grow up so fast? In most of the video Caleb, who was five, and Gabe, just a little guy of three years, were dressed up in all different kinds of costumes. They were so darn cute. And Seth was just this squishy, squeaky bundle of pinkness, grimacing and grunting like newborns do. Even though I would give just about anything to hold my children as babies just one more time, I love, love, love watching my kids grow and develop into the people that God created them to be and discovering gifts and talents that continue to amaze me.

For instance, my boys, once so small and sweet and gentle-spirited, have mastered the most challenging skill of arm farts. Really. I know, you're as amazed as I am, but it's true. This is a recent discovery, and it far outshines any academic or developmental accomplishments in their short lives thus far, at least as far as they are concerned. I laughed and laughed till tears poured out of my eyes as the three of them took off their shirts and produced a concert for me. Seth still can't make the coveted "pth pth pth pth" sound, so he just flapped his arms like a naked little bird. Then, here was the best part, the band members all paused and preceded to try to teach Seth the tricks of making it happen. Here's a snippit of that conversation heard backstage:

Gabe: "Seth, you just have to SQUEEEEEEEEEZE your armpit like this."

Seth: "I tan't do it!"


Seth: "I tan't do it!"

Caleb: "Sometimes I have to blow on my hand like this. And then SQUEEEEEEEEEZE."

Seth, after two puffs on his little hand and more flapping, "I tan't do it!"

Gabe: "Sometimes it hurts when you SQUEEEEEEEEZE, but that's what you have to do."

And they were so gentle in their instruction, but the show must go on, and they continued their music.

It was funny...until I noticed Lily trying to take off her shirt so she could try. Call me a chauvinist, but instantly I saw this vision of her 15 years in the future. In it, she is wearing a pale blue silk top with lovely, tiny flowers embroidered around the collar, a pair of comfortable jeans and cute, strappy sandles with heels not too high. Her hair is pulled up sylishly. She is the picture of feminine beauty, and she is out on date, her first date with a fabulous, godly man, whose intentions are pure. This could be the One, the future father of my grandchildren, if she plays her cards right. They are both extremely nervous. She thinks maybe if she makes him laugh it would break the ice a little. In a moment of really bad judgement, she remembers the laughter of her brothers, and she thrusts her perfectly manicured hand under her armpit and says, "Listen to this." He never asks her out again.

I said, "No, Lily. Girls don't need to make that sound." She said, "Oh. Ok." But I think she's secretly been practicing in her room when I think she's asleep.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fields of the Fatherless

***Platform alert***

Many of you who know me know that God has placed in my heart an open wound, sore and bothered by the plight of the orphaned child. God blessed us tremendously with the adoption of our own dear, sweet, fiesty Lily Chang, the daughter of my heart. What many of you don't know is that my soul LONGS for another child, but God is saying, "Not now." I scour the waiting child lists, especially those children from China where I left parts of my heart 19 months ago, and I don't think I'll ever get them back. Nor do I want to. If I am not to bring another child to my home, it is my prayer that God uses my voice to open other families' hearts to the possibility of bringing one of these little children into their own homes. Especially those children who are harder to place in families because of differences.

Can I just say that "normal" is my least favorite word right now? God delivers every child as a package. Each one comes with beauty and intelligence and talents and extreme value. Each child also comes with challenges, obstacles begging to be overcome, quirks that drive us crazy, rebellion that tests our resolve, and needs that must be met with sacrifice. Every single one of them. And at the end of the day, every decent parent will tell you that when we gaze upon the sweet face of our sleeping child, though we may be grateful beyond measure that our child has finally passed out and please, God, let her sleep through the night, all of the challenges that child's life has thrown at us throughout the day melt away into immense love and gratitude at the wonderful, beautiful, precious child that we've been given the PRIVILEGE of raising. And then we try to clean up the path of destruction our wonderful, beautiful, precious child(ren) left, and two hours into it we haven't made much of a dent, and so we sigh a big sigh, toss in one more load of laundry before collasping into bed with exhaustion, praying that God makes the next six hours of sleep feel like eight. (Okay, maybe that last part is just me.)

Regularly I'm going to be including in my blog a child's picture or profile. Each of these children are available for adoption at the time of my post. For security reasons, I'll only be posting pictures of children whose agencies do not require a password for viewing. Just so you know.

***Stepping off the platform, now.***

So, about this precious little face at the start of this post. Can you believe how cute this little guy is? He is listed with A Helping Hand Adoption agency. We worked with them to adopt Lily, and we had a great experience. He lives in China right now, and he has a cleft lip, that has been repaired (see that ADORABLE grin?), and he has an open palate. My heart is so drawn to these cleft babies. Lily was born with that condition. I would hardly consider it that much of a special need at all here in America where medical care is so readily available. That's not always the case in China, especially the poorer areas. We take Lily's surgeries--she's only needed two so far and maybe only one more in a few years--one at at a time, and they are very manageable. We do speech therapy a couple times a week. How many other kids around this country need speech therapy? Millions. It's not a big deal, and it totally doesn't define who Lily is. AHH's website is . Click on the "Special Delivery!!" link on the left. This little guy is named "Asher."

Bottom Hero

The first post of a new blog...this computer screen is blanker than a blank page of crisp, white paper, having the potential of either doodles and drivel or profundity. You probably should set your expectations closer to the drivel side of the spectrum. After all, I do have four small chilren, and they tend to make depth of thought a bit of a challenge. Ah, but the rewards. I'll share with you one of my bigger paydays from last week.

Seth, my almost-three-year-old, had a pretty bad diaper rash. I'm not sure what he ate, but he was playing outside when nature called, and he answered right into the back of his pullup. (Surely you must know that rarely a day goes by when mothers of diaper-clad children do NOT have poop discussions. Sorry to have to mention it here, in this my first post of a new blog. Please refer back to the part about expectations and drivel, etc.) Anyway, since he was playing outside, the poop radar detection system we have installed, i.e. our other children who prefer not to play in his fumes, was ineffective. So by the time I detected his situation manually, he had been sitting in mess--what DID that boy eat???--for quite some time. In the midst of changing him, he started to whimper that his bottom hurt. And then the whimpers turned to outright cries of pain. That poor baby's bottom was a red as his carrot-top head. So I did what any mother would do and held him at arm's length and trotted off to the bathtub and a bit of warm water. ("I'll snuggle with you when your bottom's either clean or covered, preferrably both.") Then I laid him on a warm towel and applied soothing salve and rediapered him. Okay, here's the payday part: He jumped up from the towel, wrapped his chubby arms around my neck and exclaimed, "Thanks, Mom! You saved me! You a good helper my bottom!"

I had saved him! And he thought I was a good helper for his bottom! Could a mother get a bigger compliment? I felt like I could accomplish anything for this child. I was his diaper hero!

Then, not two minutes later, I asked him to give Lily back her toy, and he blew me a defiant little raspberry with angry lips and landed himself in the timeout corner.

It was a short moment of glory.