Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Mama and Her Girls

A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend. - author unknown

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever - author unknown
A daughter is a day brightener and a heart warmer. - author unknown

Thank you Katie Troup for capturing me and my sweet girls! More grateful everyday that God saw fit to entrust me with two little girls! They are such fun! And give the most amazing hugs and snuggles! I would know since a little girl makes her way to our bed nearly every night to snuggle with her mama! And I am suddenly wanting to freeze time as I realize Heidi is closing in rapidly on her 3rd birthday! These days are fleeting and oh so fun! The girls have been in their bathing suits all day today as well as floaties, goggles and anything related to swimming! Messes galore but so are the giggles! Looking forward with anticipation to what we will encounter and discover over this next year!
*all the updated and beautiful pictures are the creative handiwork of Katie Troup! Thank you Katie!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The After Christmas Post

While most people in the blogosphere have spent this week writing eloquent and beautiful renditions of their picture perfect Christmas I have been trying to recover. Pathetic, right? I look forward to Christmas every year with so much anticipation and then the week following all the festivities I am tired. And I enter into a recovery mode. I hunker down, try to get my house back in order and attempt to enjoy every minute with the kids while they are on break. Key word is attempt! You would think by now I would be able to distinguish reality from unrealistic fancy notions. Kids are tired, out of sorts, trying to navigate hours of free time and it doesn't always go as well as I conjure up in my head. In fact, it rarely goes as I have planned. Someone whack me over the head already so I get it once and for all!
Once again I was amazed by how excited our kids were for each other as they opened gifts. I mean how many 8 year old boys are this thrilled when their sister opens up nail polish? And Ellen, this nail polish has been a huge hit! Good thinking!!
For the record Heidi had jammie pants on when we ventured downstairs to open gifts. I grabbed the camera, turned around and she already had shed her pants. She claimed she spilled some soda on her pants. Turns out she was right. How exactly did she get soda to drink at 7:30 in the morning? Oh yeah......her mother may or may not have put mini soda cans in all her children's stockings. You may go ahead and have my head checked to see if I am ok.
A boy and his football! Happy times!
A boy and his playmobil set. Happy child!
Another boy and his lego set. Another happy child!
A girl who insisted on wearing her hair unfettered, braided or controlled! Kind of mirrors her personality at times!
Overall we had a wonderful time! This week has been a little questionable but we have had some fun moments. I really need to learn that a large part of family life is squabbles and kerfuffles. But in all of it we are learning. At least I am.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paying Tribute

Yesterday I sat in a funeral service. The clouds hung low and seemed to weep along with the family and friends. Death is unavoidable yet seldom welcomed. Saying good-bye to a loved one seems to tear a piece of you away and get tucked into the ground along with their earthly body. Finding a new normal can seem impossible in the midst of such a gaping loss. My heart aches for my uncle!

The service was to pay tribute to my aunt. A wife, mother and friend of many. In these later years of her life her independence was robbed as her body was wracked by a debilitating muscular disease. The quick wit was harder to decipher yet was still at the ready. I spent many, many hours in their home as a child and this week the memories came in waves. Hours spent in a hammock on their porch, traipsing around their yard and woods, ice-skating on their pond, giggles as we ran through the house and meals at their table. Our imaginations ran wild as they do when you are a carefree child.

While I want to pay tribute to her life and how she lived to serve others my mind has strayed more often to my uncle. Yesterday as I spoke briefly with him one could not deny his undying affection for his wife. His eyes hardly left her face as he spoke with me. His hand resting gently on the blanket covering the shell of her body. A man who desperately is missing his beloved. And these years have not been easy for him. Retiring from his pediatric practice to become her primary care giver. He cared for her tirelessly. I am sure there were times he wished things were different. Can you really blame him? I get grumpy some days taking care of my children and they are fairly independent. Yet he cared for her like he promised 49 years ago. In sickness and in health. We let these words roll off our tongues so carelessly in our youth because really we are invincible. We never dream that for years we may have to care for them as their body wastes away.

As someone thanked him towards the end of the service for his devotion to her and his testimony of loving her I felt the hot tears finally spill from my eyes. Except they were tears of anger. The emotion came from nowhere and I felt somewhat blindsided. I muttered to Mark, "If only my father would have had half that devotion for my mom!" It has been nearly 11 years now of processing the anger and disappointment. And while most of the time you just accept things yesterday I felt the pangs again. Some wounds seem to carry only scabs and seem to have a hard time turning into a scar. Scars don't hurt when they are poked and prodded but scabs can tear and bleed again. My heart felt some tugging and I think a small section oozed yesterday.

Today I heard that my father verbally admitted to my uncle sometime over the past few days that he in fact does have some regret for how his life has played out. To which my uncle quickly responded, "I don't!" So grateful to my uncle that he has given of himself and has been spent on behalf of others and he doesn't regret it!

So, what I have been mulling over today is this: I want to live my life so at the end I can confidently proclaim that I have no regrets! I want to live and be spent so that I am emptied out at the end of my life. Poured out for others. Because isn't that the beauty of this Christmas season? The ultimate gift given for us, poured out for us so that we may live and in turn be poured out as well? At this point in my life most of my being spent and poured out is for my husband and children. May I embrace it with a sense of gratitude and grace! I don't want to pine away and wish for what could have been so that I miss the beauty of right now! May God richly bless you all this Christmas! Embrace these moments so that we too can state, "I have no regrets!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


A little over seven months ago I received a phone call from my friend asking me if I remembered a certain young lady that I had met only a time or two. I remembered her immediately. Turns out this young lady was pregnant, due in a few weeks and looking for a family to adopt her baby. Our name had come up and she wondered if we would be interested. I was confused as to why our first impulse was to say no but it became clear over time. One of my biggest hesitations at the time was there was too much familiarity between the birth mom and our family. Plus, the timing felt all wrong for us.

Within a few days as we prayed and kept talking we suddenly remembered a contact we had through my cousin. In the spring of 2010 my cousin contacted me and asked if good friends of theirs could possibly be in touch with us to talk about adoption. They were pursuing an Ethiopian at the time and we had many emails back and forth during those months. Fast forward to the spring of 2011 and there was a slowdown in Ethiopia. This couple felt led to withdraw from Ethiopia and pursue fostering to adopt. We "talked" via email a few times during this tumultuous time.

Now here we were in early May and suddenly I remembered this dear family - waiting and ready at a moments notice for the placement of a baby. I contacted them and told them of the situation asking if they would be interested in meeting the birth mom. Long story short we were the connecting piece! We were not supposed to be the parents and family for this dear little girl! We were just instrumental in helping to connect the pieces.

Why do I share all this with you today? Well, this morning Eden and I found ourselves at the courthouse to witness the finalization of this precious child's adoption! They were surrounded by friends and family and it was awesome! At one point there were 12 children present and 6 of them were adopted! It was simply amazing! And while I would love to show you pictures and divulge the God orchestrated details I cannot. Just trust me when I say that it was wonderful being there to witness the final legal step!

Congratulations to you dear family! One little girl received her new name today and we are thanking God for preserving her life! Give a shout out for the miracle and the gift of adoption today!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Last night the kids and I made cut-out sandtart cookies for fun. Half-way through I questioned how I could have thought this would be very fun. There was a large boy sitting in the middle of the kitchen table (feet almost touching the cookies), little ones licking their fingers to dip into the colored sugar we were going to be using to decorate the cookies, fighting over who got to decorate how many cookies and the counting police were on patrol letting me know exactly how many cookies someone else decorated. Mark walked into the kitchen and said, "Wow! Looks fun!" I stopped and started telling him how much more fun it was making Christmas cookies when I was a child. And then I had to wonder how fun it was for my mom? The mess, the fighting, the unsolicited "help", etc. Confession time: I was grumpy by the time we were done. Sad but true. Part of the problem was we were doing this is at the time of the day when I am most depleted (after 7:00) and in my mind it was going to be outrageously fun! I forgot about the frustrating parts of helping lots of little ones. They are asking to do gingerbread houses next. Help!!

Every year I am determined to be finished with all my Christmas shopping by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. I have found that people become more rude the closer you get to Christmas. The lines get long, people forget their manners and it really puts damper on the giving atmosphere that should be present at Christmas. I almost met my goal this year of being done a month early. I would rather spend the month of December doing advent activities with the kids and spending evenings making memories that will last a lifetime. Like cookie making catastrophes!!

I struggle every year with the massive consumerism. Yet, I still buy things. Every year. There is something beautiful about giving. Mark and I try really hard to keep things simple with our kids and they are always extremely grateful. Even though their friends are getting all sorts of high-tech, high price electronic gadgets. But I just recently gleaned something from a friend. A sort of rules, per say, when it comes to Christmas. It resonated with both Mark and I and will probably become our "Christmas rules" too. (Thanks Katie) They are as follows:

1. One thing you want.
2. One thing you need.
3. One thing you wear.
4. One thing you read.

Brilliant, eh? I think it is genius! When it comes to giving gifts to people other than our children we try to think beyond the box. How about giving money to a grant for a child waiting on Reeces Rainbow? How about giving to World Vision or Compassion in honor of someone? Or how about buying a gift from Ten Thousand Villages? What about buying some coffee for the coffee lover in your life from Saints Coffee? Or buying apparel, jewelry on Etsy from someone who is adopting a child? It makes complete sense to me to buy gifts that benefit artisans in other places as well as blessing the person receiving the gift from you. Last year Mark's family did a chinese auction type gift exchange and all the gifts had to benefit someone else. It was absolutely delightful watching every gift being opened and finding out what had been given. Goats, bikes, latrines, clean water.....all given to help someone else! I urge you to try it out if family and friends are willing to try something new! So fun!

On another note all together........I am going to be an aunt again!! Tomorrow my brother, his wife and two children leave for Ethiopia to meet their two newest additions! I am about bursting at the seams with excitement for them! Would you purpose to pray specifically for them over the next 2 weeks? I will give brief updates if possible all the while knowing this is their story and not mine to share. But I know they welcome and cherish the support and prayer of loved ones!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Little Girls

Impromptu dress up day at our house today! The girls got all decked out and had themselves a swell time! Getting lost in their imaginations is the best kind of play!

And who says you can't wear a skirt as a tube top? Heidi wore it proudly not caring about fashion! And I think she looks sweet if I do say so myself.

Little girls love their babies!! And my two girls are no exception. They finally got to hold and love their brand new cousin Catherine yesterday and were thrilled to pieces. Especially Eden! Who is still hoping and praying for a little brown baby! Look at her eyes and tender smile! She was pretty mesmerized especially every time Catherine's hat fell off and she was able to touch her hair.

And then it was Heidi's turn. Trowing up the quick, "Lord have mercy" I placed Catherine in Heidi's arms. I wasn't sure what to expect.

I certainly was in shock when I captured her first genuine smile with the camera!! Finally!! Look at how happy she was to hold the baby! So thankful God saw fit to bless me with some girls in addition to my handsome boys!