Monday, August 30, 2010

Last Day's of Summer

The end of summer is rapidly approaching! There is so much I love about summer but since I operate better with a routine I look forward to life returning to a schedule. We are trying to squeeze last minute fun things into the week before the start of school. I asked the boys this morning what they would like to do yet and the list became very long! I will do my best to accommodate a few of their desires but that is all I can offer! Here is a large spider that Mark and the boys found last week. Of course admiring it from a distance is not good enough. It is now residing in a large plastic container in our house!! I thought it would die within a day or two but I forgot to account for my boys capturing moths and other spiders to feed it. Lovely!! They are most fascinated with the amount the spider is pooping! Such a boy thing!
We didn't any kind of grand vacation this summer but instead tried to do a few smaller scale things with the kids. Stuff that wouldn't be completely overwhelming and things that felt manageable with the little ones. We did the mountains for a few days two different times. And this past week we took them to a local amusement park. It was a cooler day so the park was the emptiest I have ever seen it. No waiting in lines at all!! And to make the day even better some of our friends unexpectedly showed up at the park. Eden insisted on going on so many of the big rides, screaming the entire time because she was scared and then screaming after it stopped because she wanted it to continue.

Can you tell that a certain little girl was having the time of her life? Seriously....can she be any more photogenic?
As we were preparing to leave the park the boys asked me to ride the gravity drop with them. I tried not to scream for the sake of the poor gentleman riding next to me but gave up after the screams involuntarily came out!!
I have hardly any pictures of me with my kids since I am almost always behind the camera. I am purposing to change that.
Such big guys now! I love watching them become young men! We had a date night last week one evening which I will have to fill you in on when I have time. We were discussing future professions. Very enlightening!!
And to give a quick update on my friend Lisa's little girl. Madeline Grace continues to hang in there and seems to be a puzzle to the doctors. She had heart surgery last week and was alert and awake following the surgery. Would you continue to pray for Lisa, her husband, Madeline and their three girls as home? Madeline is now 2 weeks old and seems to be a fighter. They had over 30 doctors meet last Monday to discuss her case. She is a tiny miracle!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cedar Run

After spending a few days in Cedar Run I am convinced it has to be one of the prettiest places on this beautiful earth! The mountains are spectacular, the water perfect, the quietness satisfying to the soul and just overall beautiful everywhere you look! I am already trying to figure out when we can go next summer. So....what do you do when the days seem long, there is no internet and no cell phones? You spend lots of time in the water, riding bikes, eating snacks, catching crayfish, fishing. And if you are the mom this means you spend your days following your children from one activity to the next, changing them from swimming gear into clothes and then back into swimming gear multiple times a day while sporadically feeding famished children. The little ones liked stacking the stones down by the water while the older ones would swim.
The kids sitting on the couch in the cabin first thing in the morning. Judah was trying to appear grumpy but you can see the smile simmering below the surface.

Heidi loved wandering around the campground. She would walk the few steps down the driveway to my brother's camper and then back again. She became more comfortable as the days went on although she still didn't want her mom or dad out of line of vision.

Early morning snuggle time with Grandma. My mom came along for two of the days we were there and it is always fun for my kids to have Grandma around. They don't get to see her too often so that was an added bonus!
There was one part of the creek that someone had created a dam and channeled the water through a 4-5 foot opening. The result was a portion of the creek that you would lay back in the water, get rocketed through the opening and carried downstream until you could get out of the current. Here was Mark helping Cassie evade the current so she could go back upstream and do it again. I cannot believe the kids did not wear out sooner than they did.
Here is Heidi just looking beautiful! She is pretty skilled in that department!
Cassie playing with my girls while they ventured into the shallow portion of the creek.

Kayla and Eden getting warmed up after playing in the cold water. Cousins at heart!
Cassie stacking the rocks.
And more......
And more....
My boys favorite part was the "jumping rock".
Untamed natural beauty that calls to the hearts of adventurous boys! this momma wants to caution and keep her boys safe. But yet knows deep within that their father knows better than I what validates them. It is part of my gift as a mother to want to nurture and protect. That is all fine and good but I am learning there comes a time in a little boys life when they don't need all that nurturing as much. It is hard for me to believe we are at that point already but they need their daddy more than me. Or I guess I should say they need him in a different way. They tire of me telling them to be careful. They want to push the limits, compete and prove that they are men! I know my days are numbered with my little Tristan man and I feel a tinge of sadness.
They had the time of their life! Climbing, jumping, swimming and doing it all over again. I would hear, "I dare you to....." and I would cringe.
And just to make sure they had enough energy we gave them more sugar!
Cousins who don't get to see each other enough - at least according to my boys! They usually get a few days every summer to connect and play but it is never long enough. The dog days of summer are nearly gone and it makes me a bit sad. Life seems to be speeding up and I wish I could freeze it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good News Amidst Hardships

I feel a mixture of emotions today. I will explain. We did some more checking into dear little Anna and discovered that she now has a family that is pursuing her and spoken for her! We are overjoyed for her and for the family who is blessed to call her their daughter! So that is the first bit of good news.

Secondly, do you recall me posting about a hosting camp for Ukrainian orphans that was happening this month? Yesterday we got to spend some time at a picnic watching all these children interacting with their host families and it was a delight to watch them. And you know what is even more amazing? From what I understand 20 out of 22 have now found a forever family! How incredible is that?! I was in tears numerous times yesterday watching the interactions between the children and their new families! Absolutely the hand of God working things together for the good of His children! All the situations are different: a couple with an empty nest is again parenting a young, rambunctious 9 year old, this same couple's adult daughter and her husband who have 4 small children are also adopting - sibling sisters who are 12 & 13! It was wonderful getting to catch a glimpse into this process. I am hopeful that there will be many more camps in the future to aid in finding more children families.

And now for the heaviness of my heart. My dear friend Charity and her husband who received a referral a few weeks ago have been informed that he is no longer adoptable. Until you have walked this adoption journey you can't fully understand how you instantly love your child. This is not an easy season for them or their children.

And my dear friend Lisa from high school is watching her daughter fight for her life right now. I cannot even type this without tears! I have so many memories with Lisa and it is so hard knowing her level of pain. Lisa's 4th little girl was born a week ago at 32 weeks with heart defects and they are not sure yet what all is going on her her very tiny body. Because her heart wasn't growing correctly she is very tiny. She has an infection in her lungs and the doctors are meeting today to come up with some type of plan. There are so many unknowns and the outcome is very uncertain. If you are reading this and could please pray for Lisa, her husband Shanker and their little girl Madeline I would appreciate it. I will try to post some updates too.

And now it is time for me to make some lunch for the troops! They are feeling kind of grumpy today (why?) and I am trying to not be obnoxiously cheerful! Better to be obnoxious while being cheerful than grumpy though. And I have some very fun pictures of our days in Cedar Run last week. So much time spent in the water and so many memories etched into the minds and hearts of our children!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Little Anna

Have you ever seen the face of a child and felt an instant connection? Or looked at a child and fallen in love without even knowing who they are? Or what about felt as though your heart had been captivated by the sweetness of a child? As much as I love children this doesn't happen to me very often. But a few months ago I experienced it with a little girl named Anna. I am on a personal mission to find this precious girl a home! Is she not amazingly sweet? What is it about her that makes me want to scoop her up and kiss her?

She is 2 years old and waiting for a family to come and rescue her. I look at Heidi almost daily now and see Anna. My heart aches that she is waiting for daily hugs and kisses. She does have Down Syndrome and is waiting in the Ukraine. What makes this situation even more gut wrenching is she has a beautiful mother who adores her. From what I have read her mother visits her nearly every week. She takes her for walks, picks her flowers, holds her and has to leave again. There are no programs, no therapies for children in the Ukraine with special needs so her only chance at really thriving is to be adopted.

Here is a picture of her with her mother. I cry almost every time I look at it. Mark and I did a little investigating last week to see if there was any possibility we could bring both Anna and her mother here. We were hopeful that her mother (if willing) would be able to get a visa, come here to work, live with us until she got settled (however long that took) and be able to raise her daughter. We were told that she has relinquished all parental rights, Anna has been cleared for international adoption and that was the end of that! I cried! I so badly wanted it to work!
Now, I know some of you who are reading this are probably thinking that this is not a new scenario - a mother loving her child so much that she is willing to watch them walk out of her life in order that they may live. But I have cried so many tears over this. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to place your daughter into another woman's arms and believe that they could even begin to love them a fraction of the amount you love them.
And I am left wrestling with so many things. Things that I have a hard time even writing because they sound so selfish. Want to know why I am hesitant to scoop Anna up and bring her home? Because it would be hard - at least I think so. Because special needs is something I am not used to. Because we could possibly always have a child living with us even when we are older.
But what God has been speaking to me through the past few weeks as I have cried and wrestled with my own self is that in His eyes there are no special needs. In His eyes we are all created perfect! That Anna is made in His image just as I am. And when I hear my boys ask to bring her home I weep.
So, as we head to mountains for a few days with our kids (yeah!!) I will continue to pray for this sweet cherub! And I am very hopeful that she will not be without a family for too much longer!! She is precious beyond words!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our Week

Here we are on the cusp of school starting again and I feel like the summer should only be half-over. Where does the time go? I'll tell you where. Swimming, doctor's appointments, playing, dentist appointments, eye-doctor appointments.....see the pattern? Yesterday alone I spent 1 1/2 hours at the pediatric dentist while Eden had 3 teeth fixed and then another hour at the doctor in the afternoon for Eden to be seen for a small bump on her cheek bone. Folliculitis. She is on a 5 day dose of antibiotics which make her extremely delightful! *insert sarcasm* She will be finished with her medicine just in time for us to head for the mountains for a few days next week with our kids! We haven't been to the beach in 4 years but we decided since Heidi really isn't a big fan of sand that going to the beach could be slightly traumatic for her and a drag for us! We will instead hole up in a cabin for a few days and spend lots of time in the creek. The kids are counting down the amount of sleeps we have until our departure and Tristan informs us everyday how soon we will be leaving. He also tells us the day of the week and the time of day over and over all day long! He likes having his facts in order.

Yesterday Judah and Shane had another adventure with Ellen. This time they went a little farther than normal so they could watch the Steelers practice. Now, for those of you who don't know us too well I will fill you in on a few things: first of all, we are not Steelers fans! Gasp! We are Eagles fans! But we have one son in our house who is a Steelers fan. It has been a bit contentious in the past between the two boys mainly because they share a room and Shane has to look at all the Steelers paraphernalia every time he enters the room! Shane was a bit unsure if his loyalty would be in question if he went to watch the Steelers practice but we assured him it was a-okay!

Now, we aren't crazy football fans! But we do really enjoy when football season starts and we don't miss too many Eagle's games. And obviously there is such rivalry between the Eagles and Steelers. But I must say something beautiful happened yesterday when they arrived home from their grand adventure. At least to me it was precious! I overheard the boys and Mark downstairs in their bedroom talking about what team was best. And I heard my husband tell Judah that we would cheer for the Steelers when they play! I almost interrupted out of shock but I listened as they all came to an agreement to cheer for each other's teams. This may seem ridiculous to most people but my husband has been an Eagles fan all his life and to hear him affirm his son and tell him he would support him made me smile! So, I guess that means I have to somehow dig deep and cheer for the Steelers.

On another note all together I was reading a story to Eden this evening and had the cutest thing happen. It is a story about a bird who is searching for his mother and asks animal after animal if it is his mother. The bird is rejected numerous times before a mother bear overhears her cries and says she will be her mother. It is a really sweet story and at the end it shows the bird with her new mom and the rest of a family - an alligator, a pig, and I can't remember the 3rd one. Very obviously they are all different. The following conversation took place:

Me: Eden, do they all look the same.
Eden: No.
Me: Do we look different?
Eden: No.
Me: We don't?
Eden: Are you brown mommy?
Me: No. You have brown skin and I have white skin.
Eden: You aren't my mommy!!! (with dramatic flair and a big grin)

We sat and laughed together at her silliness but I wondered briefly if she really doesn't see the differences yet. She has mentioned her skin color often and I just assumed she realized I was different. It brings a smile to my face as I type this. She is just so cute!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Let's Help One More

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. - Mother Teresa

I read this on another mother's blog last week. I was crushed upon reading it and have chewed on it daily. This coupled with some other things in my life has been making reevaluate my life yet again. It is so easy for me to become complacent and begin living my life forgetting that simple decision I make could be having a lasting, eternal impact.

When did it become acceptable to live our lives however we want? When did it become normal to look like the rest of society? When did it become okay to jump in and pursue the American Dream?

I will tell you where my downfall has been. Living my life based on how other people are living their lives instead of continually taking it to the Word and seeing exactly how Jesus lived his life. As I have been digging in the New Testament I have not found one place that assures me that my life will be easy. That I get to decide how to live my life. That I can dictate how my life will pan out.

I find instead people who lost their lives (in the literal sense), who looked odd in the face of their society, who had to live by faith because they walked away from the comforts of their life, who were ship-wrecked, beaten.......

This whole theory that God will not ask you to do something that isn't already in your heart is bunk!! You read the Bible from cover to cover and you will find that nearly everyone had to lay down their lives, embrace discomfort, embrace persecution, death. The gospel is not easy but it is beyond worth it!!

As Americans it is easy to buy into the whole prosperity gospel (which I personally abhor). It fits right into the American Dream. The pursuit of happiness. But is it truth? How exactly do you take that gospel to the widow in the slums of South American who is prostituting herself in order to feed her children? How exactly do you take that gospel to people in Africa who have watched half of their family die of AIDS? Or have watched their children die a slow death of starvation?

I post the question: what if we took the opening comment to heart and started really evaluating how we are living our lives. Make frugal and wise choices - not because we necessarily have to but because we want to make our lives count!

It is not easy! Two things happen to me. I tend to be quick to judge others. And while I am busy judging how others are living their life I become discontent. I become disheartened and disoriented. Because I am looking at others instead of my Father. If I keep my eyes on Him, keep pursuing His heart, keep looking for ways to live with an eternal perspective instead of a "now" perspective I walk in peace. As soon as I fall into judgement of others I loose all peace.

I am getting to the point where I am more comfortable with the fact that my life is going to look crazy to other people. That we will get mis-understood if we add more children to our home. That we will be a spectacle when we go anywhere. That we eventually may have to drive a big van (ugh).

I again encourage people to go ahead and take the chance, the risk of opening their homes and lives to one of the 147 million orphans of the world!! You may adopt a child in your own backyard, across the country, across the world.....and if you really feel like you can't bring a child into your home I implore you to do whatever you can to sponsor a few children. Maybe limit the amount of times you eat out in a month. Maybe stream-line your clothing budget. Get creative! Get your kids involved. If they work a job ask them to chip in some money. Let's help one more! Each and everyone counts! I promise!!

I look at Eden on a daily basis lately and am beyond grateful for what God has done in my heart! I will update soon on where we are at with our darling daughter. She feels like my own! I can't explain it but something has happened in my heart. A work of God Himself. And a work has happened in her heart as well. Is is perfect? No!! But He has promised that if He begins a work in me He will see it through to completion!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Loneliness

I am lying on the couch this Sunday morning as my kids play around me. I love listening to the chattering amongst them. This morning they have been looking at a book with sea life in it and talking a lot about sharks. Mark has been out of town this weekend and I have gained, yet again, a greater appreciation for women whose husbands travel for business and for military wives. It is tiring being the sole disciplinarian, sole mediator to the fights, sole diaper get the point.

I am not sure what is on the agenda for today. I have to kind of plan things on the fly lately (really challenging the planner in me) since my back can be different from day to day. Some mornings I wake up and I know that it will be more of a survival day and then some days I wake up and know it won't hurt to live life. I ended up cancelling my appointment with the specialist because my back had been feeling much better. Of course a few days after the cancelled appointment everything seemed to go down hill again. So here I am, trying to figure out what to do with all the kiddos today to help pass the time. As of this morning my back is ouchy enough that I am not going to attempt the great wrestling match to get everyone ready for church. Maybe by this afternoon I will feel like surprising this kids with something fun. I can't make any suggestions here though since Shane is sitting next to me reading as I write. (he started giggling reading this)

I have been finding lately a bit of loneliness settling into my soul. Are you familiar with it? Kind of an achy feeling deep within. I am always confused when I get assailed by loneliness. It is a very cyclical feeling/emotion for me. Sometimes I almost feel that homesick feeling but I am already home. Sometimes I feel very isolated. Like I am the only person driving down the road. Sometimes I feel misunderstood. Like people don't understand me. Or I feel like an oddity. As though something is inherently wrong with me since I am content to be home with my kids, since I don't have insatiable desires to go out with friends, that I must be crazy to rather be at home tucking my children into their beds. When I start questioning myself I begin to feel isolated.

I heard someone say over 10 years ago that loneliness is God's cry for intimacy with us! That single comment has stuck with me. Sometimes (like this small season I have been experiencing) the loneliness I feel cannot be satisfied by anything or anyone but my Father. Quiet moments spent savoring His goodness. Moments spent recounting His faithfulness. Moments recognizing the beauty in the diversity He has created within my children. Moments crying out for His strength as I attempt to train those same children. (like right now as they are having a hitting match)

Having friends, my sisters, my mom who I can call when I feel alone is a beautiful gift. And seasons of loneliness can be a gift as well. It causes me to be introspective and causes me to evaluate my life. And the view from my couch right now says I am blessed beyond words! Now...if I can only figure out how to view the fighting as a gift somehow. But I am coming up empty handed.