Monthly Archives: March 2014

“The EARTH without ART is just EH”

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Last semester Grace was able to take a photography class through her cyber school which she came to really love and learn a lot in. When the semester ended she was sad to say goodbye to Photography 101 but was excited for her next elective, Drawing 101, which is taught by the same teacher. She has really enjoyed her drawing class and it has been fun to see her take the techniques she learns in class and apply them to the drawing she does in her free time. It is amazing the difference a good teacher can make in inspiring a student to become better. Gracie has always had a love and talent for drawing but it is amazing the skills she has learned these last few weeks.

Here are some of Gracie’s latest drawings..

Elsa

Elsa

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Anna

Anna

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Home again, home again…jiggety jog!

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Ahhh…It is so good to be home. Nothing like sleeping upright in a hospital chair for two nights to make you appreciate your own bed. Today I am feeling incredibly blessed. Blessed that we had good doctors who caught the symptoms of appendicitis quickly. Blessed to have so many wonderful friends who stepped in and lent a hand in the midst of the chaos. Blessed to have such good kids who held down the fort and really stepped up when I needed to focus my time and energy on getting Ozzie better. Blessed to have an amazing husband who is unshakable when things get challenging and especially blessed to have been given an amazing bonding opportunity with our newest addition.
When Tyler moved in with us we had a vacation planned for the following week. A vacation which had been planned for months before we knew of his arrival. We were going on a week-long houseboat vacation with another family and were scheduled to leave 24 hours after he moved in. It was horrible timing, as far as I was concerned, but it ended up being perfect timing in God’s plan. Being “trapped” on a houseboat for a week with no place to escape to ended up serving as a catalyst for the bonding process. Great strides were made that first week. Progress that would normally have taken weeks happened in a matter of days. I feel like this experience with Ozzie had much the same effect. Although not nearly as enjoyable as a houseboat vacation, this week was a week of breakthroughs in our relationships as a family. Through the scare of surgery, IVs, and a hospital stay Ozzie learned that we are trustworthy, that we won’t leave, that we will take care of him. He experienced parental love as we held his hand through procedures, were sitting at his bedside as he woke from surgery, and met his needs on the most basic level as we carried him to the bathroom and spoon fed him jello. God saw what we were in need of as a family and met our needs in a very creative way. It wasn’t as fun as a family vacation but the effect of this week was far more profound.
Ozzie is still recovering. He is feeling better each day but is still sore. When the doctor came in to go over discharge instructions he told Ozzie no school for a week and no gym for two weeks.

Ozzie considered the doctor’s instructions..
“How about tag?” he asked. “My brother likes to play tag.”
“Nope, no tag for a few weeks,” the doctor answered.
“Hmm, how about trampolines?” Ozzie asked.
“No. Definitely no trampolines,” the doctor answered.
“Hmm, what about ultimate Frisbee?”
“Uh, no. No ultimate Frisbee,” the doctor replied.
Ozzie considered this and then asked, “What about horseback riding?”
I then interrupted and reminded Ozzie that we don’t even have a horse for him to ride so it was a moot point.
“Ok,” he said, “How about donkeys? Can I ride donkeys?”
The doctor told him to just avoid all strenuous activities until his follow-up appointment. 🙂

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When Ozzie arrived home we settled him in his “nest” on the couch. Waiting for him were cards from his classmates at school and a gift from friends at co-op. He spent the afternoon building the Lego set he received.
Later that day I received a call from my mom. My parents had their follow-up visit with the surgeon that day. (It is hard to believe only a week before I was sitting in another surgical waiting room.) They received the results back from pathology and they were miraculous. My Dad’s pathology results were clean..totally clean. His extremely aggressive prostate cancer was encapsulated and completely eliminated during his radical prostate removal. As of now the oncologist says no radiation is needed and is declaring my father cancer free.

We are grateful for all the prayers that were said on his behalf and know this miracle came to pass as a result of faithful, powerful prayers and a sovereign God.
We are incredibly blessed!

Don’t let your heart be FROZEN!

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This past Sunday was New Beginnings, an annual event that celebrates the Young Women program at church, welcomes the new girls turning 12 this year and says farewell to the Seniors who will be graduating. Every year the young women pick a theme for the night that we then base our decorations, food, gifts, and speakers around. This year the girls, all caught up in the new Disney movie mania, asked if we could do a Frozen New Beginnings. They came up with the title for the event: “Don’t Let Your Heart be FROZEN: Come Unto Christ.” The girls worked on the planning and preparation for the evening over the course of a few weeks. They made posters for the walls, wrapped silverware, cut out snowflakes, decorated the gym and made appetizers for everyone to enjoy.

The night focused on identifying the things in our lives that cause a frozen heart and keep us from “Coming unto Christ.” Our keynote speaker drew spiritual analogies from the movie of those things that cause a frozen heart and then talked about how to “Let it Go.”

It was a beautiful evening thanks to the efforts of our young women, teachers and counselors.

 

Our décor for the evening was "winter wonderland."

Our décor for the evening was “winter wonderland.”

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There were snowflake themed gifts for our incoming young women, seniors and teachers.

 

We even had melted Olaf to drink because some people are worth melting for!

We even had melted Olaf to drink because some people are worth melting for!

Our program for the evening.

Our program for the evening.

The icebreaker activity was a get to know you quiz that earned you Olaf body parts for the girls to assemble.

The icebreaker activity was a get to know you quiz that earned you Olaf body parts to assemble.

The young women singing "Let it Go."

The young women singing “Let it Go.”

The take home gift for all the girls was "think pink" gloves for Personal Progress.

The take home gifts for all the girls were “think pink” gloves for Personal Progress.

The night ended with delicious homemade snowflake cookies, compliments of one of our fabulous teachers, and milk.

The night ended with delicious homemade snowflake cookies, compliments of one of our fabulous teachers, and milk of course!

The Laurel class

The Laurel class

The Mia Maid class

The Mia Maid class

The Beehive class

The Beehive class

Our beautiful young women!

Our beautiful young women!

The theme of the night was poignant as I personally reflected on the things that keep me from “Coming unto Christ.” We all struggle with a frozen heart at various times in our lives…those times when we can’t feel the love of the Savior because of obstacles we place in our own way. What is it that is keeping you from “Coming unto Christ?”

Fear? Guilt? Sin? Peer pressure? The pull of the world? Anger? Hopelessness? Self focus? Disappointments? Loneliness? An unforgiving heart?

Whatever it is perhaps it is time to…

“Let it Go.”

Remove an Appendix, Grow a Bond.

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Every now and then I have one of those 24 hour periods that make me feel like I have lived a week’s worth of life in one day. This was one of those 24 hour periods. The craziness began yesterday when I drove Ozzie to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to have his chipped front tooth fixed. I was dreading the appointment simply because I was dreading the scary drive through Pittsburgh morning traffic to a hospital that I hadn’t visited before. Knowing my propensity for getting lost, I allowed myself 45 minutes more driving time than the GPS suggested. It was a good thing. As I headed on the directed route I found myself facing closed roads due to construction. My GPS, being ever so helpful, suggested that I make a U-turn (in the middle of Pittsburgh morning commute traffic). I, not knowing where to go and feeling the pressure to make a decision quickly due to the large volume of honking horns behind me, chose to simply follow the traffic in front of me and hope that they were all going to Children’s Hospital too. At the very least, I figured, my GPS would eventually give up on the notion of me pulling a Fast and Furious move in the middle of downtown and start directing me on a more sensible route. I did find the hospital and pulled in just as the clock turned 9:00am (my appointment time.)

We walked into the hospital and right away I was blown away by how impressive and kid friendly it was. The waiting room was like a visit to a children’s museum with miniature train sets, multi-tank aquariums and I-pads for the kids to play on. Our first stop was the registration desk where we sat for 15 minutes updating all of Ozzie’s information from what it was at his last visit. It was at that registration desk I learned that Ozzie was multilingual. I only recently found out that he was bilingual. In fact it was at our St. Patrick’s day dinner that he informed us that he speaks Gaelic. When we asked him what he could say in Gaelic he paused for dramatic effect and in his thickest faux Irish accent he said, “Shamrock Shake.” 🙂

While we were sitting at the registration desk a Hispanic family sat down next to us in front of another computer. I was only half listening as I answered the questions of the woman helping us but I could tell the neighboring employee was struggling to communicate with this couple and their two small children. We were wrapping up our registration when the lady helping them called her supervisor over and requested a translator. Ozzie evidently was listening and observing the entire interaction because before I could stop him he just up and said, “Wait. I can handle this! I speak Spanish.” He then strode over to the little girl, crouched down to her eye level and said…”Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco.” The parents looked confused and the little girl looked  puzzled as to why this boy was counting in her face.  Ozzie looked proud, having solved the translation problem. I quickly ushered Ozzie away while nodding my apologies to the parents. “See, Mommy,” Ozzie said as we hurried away, “I told you I could speak lots of languages.”

Ozzie was finally called back to the office to be seen by the dentist. The were able to bond a new piece to his broken tooth. It was wonderful to have it over and done with in one appointment. As we left the hospital Ozzie kept stopping strangers along the way to show them his tooth and inform them that he had tooth surgery. He would then say, “But at least it wasn’t real surgery!” Little did we know 24 hours later we would be at another hospital for “real” surgery.

On the way home from Children’s Hospital Ozzie started complaining of stomach cramps. By the time we got home all he wanted to do was go to bed and sleep. The pain continued through the night. I thought he was getting the stomach bug that had been going around and I kept waiting for the vomiting to start. It never did. By the next day the pain was lower. He was lethargic, had no appetite and complained of pain when he urinated so I thought that perhaps he had a UTI. I had to drive Molly to PSSA (state testing) and took Ozzie with me so we could visit a convenient care office afterwards to have his urine tested. When we arrived and explained his symptoms the nurse strongly encouraged us to head to the ER just in case it was something more serious. It was a good thing she did because it turned out that Ozzie had a perforated appendix that needed to be removed. In a matter of a few hours I went from wondering what I was going to fix for dinner to realizing I would be spending a couple of days in the hospital. I knew Ozzie didn’t feel good because he just lay there quietly. Normally he would have been asking questions and enjoying the excitement of it all. It was soon time for him to go back for surgery. He looked so small in his gown and so vulnerable as he sobbed, “I don’t want to leave you, Mommy.” My heart hurt as I kissed him and told him that I loved him before they wheeled him away.

I sat in the family waiting room praying, crying and waiting. I hated to see Ozzie hurting and hated to see him have to go through the pain of surgery but even in the midst of all that I could see God at work. I could feel Him at work. I knew this was going to be one of those life changing moments that I would look back on years from now. As they wheeled Ozzie away I knew he was mine. Deep down in my heart I felt the bond of mother to child. I felt the same heartbreak and fear any mother faces when their child goes under the knife. I felt the same way I would have felt had it been Grace or Rusty being wheeled away. It was there and I finally knew he was mine.

The bonding that takes place between mother and adoptive child is one of those challenges of adoption that people don’t talk about. You expect it to be instant and powerful and certain. It isn’t always that way in the beginning but nobody warns about that so you live in fear that there is something wrong with you, or your new addition. “It should feel effortless and easy,” you tell yourself. I shouldn’t have to work so hard at these emotions. I knew Ozzie was mine from the start. On a deep, spiritual level I knew he was ours…destined to be part of our forever family from the beginning of time, but my heart struggled to feel the feelings that should come naturally with that knowledge and testimony. I loved Ozzie but was I “in love’ with him in the same way I was “in love” with the others? “Did I love him as a mother loves?” I kept asking myself and then felt guilty that I couldn’t answer with a resounding yes. I felt unworthy and like a failure that it wasn’t easier. I have been pouring my soul out to God for weeks about these very feelings and today he answered my questioning heart when the ache I felt at the thought of losing Ozzie on the surgical table brought me to my knees. When I kissed his tousled hair and breathed in his little boy scent I had my breakthrough moment. He was mine, as much mine as if we were in the maternity ward having just given birth to him instead of the pre-op room preparing to say good-bye. I emotionally gave birth to my son today. As hard as today was, as much as I would have taken his pain away in an instant if I could have, today was a day that will forever be a gift. It was the day God revealed to me the love that had already grown in my heart. I just needed to recognize it for what it was… It was a mother’s love.

It was there all along. I just didn’t know it. I didn’t let my heart feel it.

Today Ozzie became my son…not in the eyes of the court, but in the depths of my heart.

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Gracie got her wheels and is ready to roll!

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Saturday was the  much-anticipated night of Gracie’s 16th birthday party. She has been talking and dreaming about her sweet 16 for many months and finally it was here. When she first approached us about wanting do have a party she didn’t know what she wanted to do, only that she knew she wanted it fun,  light-hearted and a “girls only” night. She finally asked if she could have a skating party. We found a small, privately owned rink near us that we were able to rent out for the evening. The following weeks were spent preparing for the party as Grace made invitations, wrapped party favors (knee high socks) and planned out all the fun details that come with party planning.

Gracie's invitation

Gracie’s invitation

The night of her party we packed up the car and truck and drove over to the rink to set up. Gracie wanted the decorations to be colorful and fun.

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For drinks Gracie wanted “old-fashioned” sodas with paper straws as well as bottled water. She wrapped her water bottles with gummi bear tape to make them more whimsical.

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Since the party was after dinner she just wanted chips, candy and cupcakes to eat.

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Her favorite part of the party decorations was the photo booth.

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After everyone arrived the skating began. There was a fun mix of free skating as well as party games like limbo and four corners.

Ozzie Limbos

Ozzie Limbos

There was a wide variety of skating ability among the girls. Some were pros and some had never skated before. It was fun to see how much everyone improved after two hours on skates.

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At the end of the evening Gracie opened her gifts. This was one of her gifts…just in time for driving lessons to begin. 🙂

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One of her creatively wrapped gifts!

One of her creatively wrapped gifts!

At the end of the night Gracie’s declared it the best birthday party ever. It was a perfect night of fun with a wonderful group of friends.

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Happy 16th birthday Miss Grace!!

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Managing blessings

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There are two teams of players in the game of life…the “glass half fulls” and the “glass half empties”. Some people fall naturally and easily into one position or the other. Many however find that their place on the sidelines depends on more factors than simply what fate has dished out. While I would consider myself a glass half full person by nature there are certain trends I have noticed in my day that quickly change my outlook from positive to negative. Things like fatigue, stress, worry and fear are all triggers that can alter my glass half full outlook to viewing my glass as practically empty. It is during those emotionally vulnerable moments that I forget the truth, that I lose sight of each blessing and only see the struggle of that moment. I focus on the hardship instead of all the goodness. I hear only the thunder and lose sight of each blessed drop of life-sustaining rain. It is easy to get in habit of resenting the very gifts that God has blessed us with. This week I have found myself struggling with seeing life through half empty glasses. I have struggled with frustration, fatigue, self-doubt and dread. I know how easy it is to quickly spiral out of control once I start down that road so I have made a valiant effort to refocus on the blessings. This isn’t always easy in the midst of the storm. When lighting is flashing and thunder is crashing it can be hard to count the raindrops… but we must count them, one by one, because that is how we see them.

So…

When I’m focused on the task of washing a mound of dirty dishes when all I want to do is go to bed…I count the blessing of having the food to eat that dirtied those dishes.

When I am focused on the frustration of having to deal with yet another temper tantrum…I count the blessing of being able to adopt these two precious souls into our forever family.

When I am focused on the bills that need paid…I count the blessings of having reliable electricity and a working phone to keep in touch with those I love.

When I am focused on the bowl of cereal that was spilled on the rug…I count the blessing of a working washer and dryer in my own home.

When I’m focused on the frustration of teaching  phonics to a seven-year-old who would rather be anywhere else doing anything else I count the blessing of being able to home school my children and spend my days with the people I love most.

When I am focused on the fullness of my calendar, all that is looming, all that needs done…I count the blessing of a full life because although my days are busy they are busy with wonderful things. Each appointment is the manifestation of the very blessings we enjoy.

One author expressed it eloquently when they said:

“Most of our problems are simply aggravations that come with managing so many blessings.”

There are so many blessings.

Wednesday was my Dad’s surgery. I drove out to Ohio to be with my parents. He checked in at 6:00 am. The surgery began at 8:00 am. For four hours we waited in the waiting room praying for a good report from the doctor. At noon we were called back to meet with the doctor while my Dad was taken to recovery to wake up from the anesthesia. The doctor was pleased with how it went. The cancerous mass was larger than expected and as a result the doctor took his time to slowly scrape and remove all the cancerous cells that he could. He is cautiously optimistic that he got them all. Tissue samples were removed during surgery and were sent to pathology. We will receive news from pathology next week. Finally around 3:00pm we were able to see my Dad. It was difficult seeing my strong, healthy father looking weak and in pain. As the anesthesia wore off he became more alert and had better color but we could tell that he just wanted to go to sleep. My mom and I left him to rest while we went home to take care of the barn chores. We returned in the evening to visit for a bit before we said our good-nights. He has a long road ahead of him as he heals but the surgery itself could not have gone any better. This was one of those glass half full or glass half empty days. We could focus on the fear, the unjustness of a 58-year-old man battling a very aggressive form of prostate cancer, the frustrations and fatigue OR we could count the blessings as they dropped from Heaven..

The blessings of:

A day of uninterrupted Mommy/daughter visiting in the waiting room,

The affordability and deliciousness of hospital food 🙂

The diligence of a doctor that was determined to do it right the first time,

The blessing of Wooster Community Hospital having the technology of robots to do the precision work needed,

The gift of a husband who would take off work and be Mr. Mom so that I could be with my parents,

The many prayers being said on our behalf,

The wonderful staff…desk clerks, anesthesiologists, lab technicians, cafeteria workers, gift shop volunteers and nurses who all blessed us with smiles, laughter and peace of mind as we waited for news.

The  Nurse Bait we used to thank all the wonderful staff that came and went from my Dad's room all day long.

The Nurse Bait we used to thank all the wonderful staff that came and went from my Dad’s room all day long.

It was a long day, a hard day, an emotional day, but also a blessed day.

While I was with my parents Toby stayed home with the kids and took on the daunting list of errands, appointments and school work that were scheduled for that day. The big appointment of the day was Rusty’s appointment to get braces on. I felt bad that I couldn’t be with Russ for his big day but Toby shined as “Father of the Year.” He even thought to bring Gracie’s camera so that he could share the day with me. Isn’t he wonderful?!

Rusty "before."

Rusty “before.”

Assume the position..

Assume the position..

Dr. G putting the braces on.

Dr. G putting the braces on.

Braces installed!

Braces installed!

Rusty's new brace face :)

Rusty’s new brace face 🙂

When life gets hard or busy or overwhelming we just need to remember that we are… managing blessings.

Don’t believe me?

Just start counting!

“The rhythm of motherhood will always be set to a slightly chaotic beat. I can be rattled to the core by the unpredictability of it all. Or I can choose to laugh, dance, and remember that I am managing blessings.” – Lysa Terkeurst

 

Skating with Dr. G and other fun.

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 Last week we had the opportunity to spend a fun evening at our local skating rink. Gracie’s orthodontist, Dr. G., has a special way to thank his staff, patients and families for their loyalty. Every March he rents out the Olympic Fun Center and invites everyone to come and enjoy a night of fun activities for free. We haven’t always been able to make it but this year the stars aligned and schedules cleared so that we could attend. The kids were all very excited.

The sign outside the skating rink.

The sign outside the skating rink.

Inside the rink there were many activities offered. The older kids spent the majority of their time roller skating while the boys enjoyed many of the extras.

Gracie and Rusty

Gracie and Rusty

Dr. G's patient!

Dr. G’s patient!

The first thing the little boys did was get in line for laser tag. When it was their turn they strapped on their vest, grabbed their laser gun and headed into the arena, ready for battle.

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The little boys also really enjoyed the bumper cars. This was probably the favorite activity of the evening.

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Finally after doing every other activity in the place they decided to skate. Tyler has been roller skating before and is very good. Ozzie had a bit more trouble. We ended up getting a “walker” for him so that he could skate more confidently. He definitely became braver and more confident with the help of the walk…perhaps too confident…

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Even with a few falls everybody had a good time. We thought this might be our last skating party until we took Rusty into Dr. G’s office the following day for a check up and found out that he is next up for braces. He will be getting braces on Wednesday.

Soooo…another year of free skating with Dr. G…Yea!!

And to think all it will cost us is a few thousand dollars.  🙂

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Here are some of the other fun things we have had going on around our place..

Last Friday Gracie had a special date with Toby. For Christmas she received a gift certificate to take a two hour lesson at the glass blowing center that we visited on a field trip. We decided Toby would join her and they would both learn how to blow glass. They had a good time and were able to make 5 necklace pendants each. They learned a variety of techniques including how to make a mushroom inside the pendant. It was a neat activity and both of them came home expressing a desire to take more lessons.

Gracie’s glass blown pendants:

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Toby’s glass blown pendants:

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Last night we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a fun Irish dinner. The kids got a kick out of dressing up in the party favors we had laid out at their spots and enjoyed eating a traditional Irish meal.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

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On a different note…

We want to take a moment to thank everyone for all their prayers and concern about my father. I have had so many inquire about how my parents are doing that I wanted to take a moment to update everyone on what is happening with his treatment. He went in a few weeks ago for additional testing to see if the cancer had spread to the bones or other organs. Both tests came back clear which is a huge praise! Tonight I will be heading out to Ohio to join my parents as my father goes in for surgery to remove the tumor tomorrow. We would be grateful for your prayers. It is through this procedure that we will gain more information about the battle that he is fighting and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. We pray that this surgery is the first step toward health and remission.

Thank you for your love, support and prayers.

We are grateful!

Forever friends

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“Someone has said, ‘If you want your friends to remember you, borrow something from them.’ I want to turn this around and say, if you want to remember your friends, be sure to borrow from them.  Borrow faith, hope, and love.  Borrow courage, humility, and integrity.  Borrow their Christian example of the unseen values of the soul.  Borrow their confidence in the living God and their loyalty to the triumphant Christ. Then indeed your days will be filled with strength.”

– John W. McKelvey

This weekend I had the opportunity to do some borrowing from a dear friend.

A few years ago I had the blessing of being part of a MOPS group. (Mothers of Preschoolers)  At one of our meetings we had a woman come in and talk about the blessings of friendship among women. She talked about three different types of friends…the friends you share a past with (for example: childhood friends), the friends that walk before you (for example: the women that serve as mentors, those who have walked this path and who can help guide us through) and the friends that walk beside you (the friends that share this season of your life.) I have friends that fall in all three of these categories and all are great blessings to me.

Often the friends we rely on most are the ones in the last category. I think it is because they “get it.” There is comfort in relatabilty. When I was a young mom I lived for my MOPS meetings. I knew that every other Thursday morning I could drop my kids off in the nursery, eat a muffin or other treat without having to share it with a little one, visit, laugh, and cry tears of frustration with other moms who understood.  When I graduated MOPS I found that same understanding and support in a group of home school moms. I was no longer crying over sleepless nights and spilled milk, instead my worries and frustrations revolved around teaching a dyslexic child to read and how to meet the demands of a full teaching schedule with younger siblings running around.

I have found God to be incredibly gracious in every season of my life. With each path I have traveled He has put women in my life who “get it.” Women who are praying for the same things, crying over the same losses, are struggling with the same fears, and lifting their voices in praise over similar victories. These friendships are balm for the soul. To laugh and cry in the arms of a friend can be the most effective medicine. I had the chance to “self medicate” over the weekend in the living room of a friend who is walking a similar path down the road of adoption. I was able to expose my greatest worries and frustrations to her without fear of judgement or need to explain. She “got it” because she has felt the same way. It was healing to hear someone else express the feelings that I haven’t been free to express to many. It was rejuvenating to belly laugh over the same crazy road we are walking down and it was testimony building to hear her speak God’s truths…those promises I know to be true but sometimes forget in the midst of the struggle. It was a much needed boost after a challenging week.

Ozzie and Tyler continue to grow in their friendship and relationship as brothers. The sudden change in their relationship from best friend to arch nemesis and back again is whiplash inducing. They are both growing and learning. I have to keep reminding myself that we are not even two months into this process and then try to readjust my expectations accordingly. BUT even with the frequent bickering they both declare the other their best friend. It has been nice for Tyler to have a playmate, someone close to his own age who plays with him not out of duty but out of desire. Here are some of their recent escapades…

Tyler has been trying to teach Ozzie how to tie his shoes. I taught Tyler to tie his shoes a few months ago and now he has made it his personal mission to teach Ozzie. Some days it goes smoother than others. 🙂

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For Ozzie’s birthday he received a game from Uncle Travis called “Boom Boom Balloon” The game is played by putting a balloon in the frame and then taking turns rolling dice. The number on the dice tells you the number of sticks you put in the frame. The goal is to NOT be the one to pop the balloon. For those that read my post on the stress I feel playing the game Perfection you can imagine how much I enjoy this game 🙂  BUT the boys love it so we have been playing it a lot lately.

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We have enjoyed a few days of spring like weather. Toby took advantage of the thaw to get some chores done around the yard. He had two little helpers tag along.

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This past week was Dr. Seuss week at school for Ozzie. He had fun with all the themed days: crazy sock day, crazy hat day, backwards day, and green day for “Green Eggs and Ham.” Every day as Ozzie dressed for the theme of the day Tyler dressed for theme as well. On the “Sneeches” day Tyler showed up at his therapist’s office with a yellow star taped to his belly. It was a fun wardrobe week and a perfect excuse to be silly. For breakfast on “Green Eggs and Ham” day we had green eggs in honor of Dr. Seuss.

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It has always been a focus in our parenting to raise children who are friends with each other. We have always believed that the friendships and relationships between siblings trump all other outside friendships. These are the people who will be part of your life forever. I have been blessed with siblings who are more than just brother and sister. My siblings are my dearest friends. I want my children to be able to say the same. It is hard, however, when you add a child to siblings who have been together their entire life. They now have to grow a new bond with a stranger who will become their brother. With that comes growing pains. Hearts are stretched, patience tested, and a variety of emotions bubble to the surface through the process. It isn’t easy for anyone. The biological children struggle with having their lives shaken up and rearranged to make room for the new addition. The adoptive children scramble to claim a spot in this new family unit while still mourning the loss of loved ones from their past. Parents watch with aching hearts as everyone experiences hurts and pains through the growing process. Nobody comes through the bonding process untouched by both the good and hard parts of it all. Emotional muscles are exercised that have lay dormant for years and from that exercise comes a strengthening. The family unit goes through a period of weakness, shakiness, and pain before those family muscles grow into something powerful, strong, and unwavering. I know it is true. I watched it happen as the kids opened their lives to Tyler and now I am watching it happen again. It isn’t easy to grow but it is what we are called to do. It is my prayer, always my prayer, that through the struggle beautiful bonds will form and my children will know the blessing of calling their siblings, “Friend.”

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“We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.”             – Samuel Johnson

Guess who’s 16?!

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Happy birthday Gracie!

Happy birthday Gracie!

Sometimes the speed at which time passes takes my breath away. The years, which passed so slowly in my youth, seem to be gaining momentum and moving at warp speed. It is the oddest phenomenon. This weekend I woke up and sang “Happy Birthday” to my baby girl who somehow became a 16-year-old while my back was turned. The passage of time is a bitter-sweet blessing. There is inevitably a mourning and sweet sadness that comes from saying good-bye to certain seasons of our lives. When Gracie was little I really struggled with exiting certain seasons and entering new ones. As thrilling as it was to see her take her first steps I mourned the loss of seeing her crawl toward me across the floor. With the oldest child there is also a definite trepidation that comes with entering new phases. They are your first, this new phase is unknown, and that can be scary. The first day of school is scary, the first slumber party away from home is scary, the first time you put them behind the wheel is scary…Nothing in this parenting journey scared me more, however, than entering the teenage years. I was told to enjoy Grace while she was young because as soon as she turned 13 there would be a horrible metamorphosis which would turn her into a frightening creature for the next five years. I must say, 3 years into it, it isn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. Actually I have been delighted to find there is a depth and sweetness that has grown in my relationship with my oldest daughter as I have watched her mature. It is neat to see how she has evolved and to catch glimpses of the woman she will become. I feel incredibly blessed to be Gracie’s mom and am so grateful that God has allowed me the privilege of parenting her for the last 16 years. I am grateful for the example she is to me and to her younger siblings…an example of selflessness, of kindness, of gratitude, of hard work and diligence. She was a delightful little girl; funny, social, and happy. She has grown into a woman of depth, a woman of character. I am grateful for the seasons of our lives and the passing of time because with it comes beautiful growth.

This weekend we had the blessed opportunity to celebrate Gracie’s birthday with Mimi and Pop Pop as well as my sister and her family who were visiting my parents from Michigan. It was a special, although short, reunion as we gathered to celebrate Gracie’s sweet 16 and let their family meet Ozzie for the first time.

Gracie and Noah

Gracie and Noah

Our day together was spent reconnecting and catching up on each other’s lives. The cousins enjoyed playing and doing all those fun things they love to do when they visit the Homestead…play on the rope swing, milk the goats, climb on the hay and ride George.

Ozzie and his "best friend" George!

Ozzie and his “best friend” George!

Tyler riding George

Tyler riding George

It was wonderful being able to enjoy a meal together and let the kids play.

Dinner time

Dinner time

Sammy

Sammy

 

Cousins!

Cousins!

Tyler and Nate playing together.

Tyler and Nate playing together.

 

For Gracie’s birthday gift from Mimi and Pop pop she received a beautiful bouquet of 16 long stemmed pink roses. She was thrilled by the gorgeous gift!

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As I watched the kids run in and out of the kitchen and the volume in the house increased as the adults visited over the laughing and yelling of 9 kids my heart swelled with gratitude and I couldn’t help but feel blessed. There I was in the warmth of my parents’ kitchen, stomach filled with good food, cousins playing happily as my parents looked on. How blessed I am…how deeply and richly blessed. I know I don’t deserve the life I have been given but I’m grateful to God for blessing me with it anyway. I suppose that is what is known as “grace.”

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How grateful I am for GRACE!

 

Perfection

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Who remembers that childhood game, Perfection? I hated that game.

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I didn’t find it at all fun or entertaining. It was stressful and anxiety ridden. The premise of the game, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is to fill a board of different shaped holes with the corresponding puzzle pieces while a timer ticks down ominously. You have 60 seconds to fill all the holes before the game blows up in your face and all the pieces you put into place go flying.

My boys pulled it out the other day to play and asked me to play with them. All that childhood anxiety came rushing back as I faced the ticking time bomb. For me the game always plays out in the same way. The timer begins. There is a feeling of confidence as you quickly locate piece #1 and put it in its place…then piece two…then piece three. You feel confident. There are still 50 seconds left. You think to yourself, “I can do this.” Then you inevitably peek at the timer and discover your time is about up. When did time start moving so quickly? Where is the star shape?? You start scanning the floor…it must have fallen. The timer picks up speed. “AHHHH…we are not going to make it! Who took the star!!” When  {{ BING}}  it all blows up in your face.

I remembered how much I hate that game as I crawled around on the floor looking for the pieces that went flying. The boys, however, found the game delightful. They cheered and laughed when the timer buzzed and the pieces when flying. I continued to think about our playtime long after it was over.

I hate the feelings of pressure and anxiety. I am not an adrenaline junky. (True adrenaline junkies would find it funny that I consider the game of Perfection a high adrenaline game)  🙂 The game of Perfection mimics too closely the very things that I hate most… stress, worry, anxiety, and fear about the future. The game, so aptly named, is an analogy for my days all too often. My day begins with an eagerness and hope. I look at my calendar. There are so may pieces I need to fit in…school with the kids, a call to a friend who is struggling, laundry, a trip to the store for cookie ingredients, some one on one time with a child who needs some extra TLC, a lesson to prepare for church, defrost chicken for dinner, maybe get a shower. There are so many things to do..so many good things..so many things I want to do… none of which, on their own, is stressful or overwhelming. I feel confident. I have the entire day ahead of me. Then the day goes on and I glance at the clock. I am running out of time. That is when the anxiety creeps in. I realize that I am going to run out of time, the buzzer is going to go off, and the pieces aren’t all in place…I won’t reach perfection. So how do we go from being anxious about the game board in front of us to finding joy and delight, like my boys did, in the task of filling those slots? I think it comes down to what we focus on. If we are focused on the buzzer or board as a whole we can easily become overwhelmed and anxious. If we live our life worrying about tomorrow and how we will get it all done we will find ourselves struggling with those same emotions SO we make a conscious choice. We chose to focus on the piece in our hand and the next slot that needs filled. We let go of the things we have no control over and we do the best we can with the ones we do. The goal of filling all the slots is unrealistic in certain seasons of our lives but we can’t let the inability to “Do it All” keep us from doing what we can. We pick up the next piece, we focus on the next task, we live minute by minute and find joy in the journey. And when it all blows up in our face, rather than weeping in despair, we laugh…knowing that we can try again tomorrow.

We are not called to play the game of Perfection.

Instead, pull up a chair and enjoy the game of Life.