Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bounce it up

A few weekends ago, we had some changes in our plans that left a Sunday morning open.  That is almost unheard of in this house, so Trent and I decided to be impulsive, and we took the kids to a new place in town that is basically bounce-house-mania.  It's a huge warehouse full of different bounce-house type activities. We got there right when they opened and had the place to ourselves for almost 45 minutes!  Each of the kids was wearing comfy clothes and the longest socks we could find.  Pictures were hard to get, b/c the subjects were moving and BOUNCING so quickly!  But I think the sheer glee is captured by the blurriness.  They had a blast!

Only the big kids were tall enough for this slide.  They had just replaced the lining the night before, so Carson and Syd were flying!  We had watched a safety video on how to go down the slide, and I was kind of impressed they both stuck to it!

Asher was SO FUNNY to watch!  There was a slide his size, and he went on it over and over and over again.  Each time he looked like he was completely out of control and filled with absolute panic.  
But by the time he got to the bottom, he was grinning and asking to go again!

 If you live local and want the deets, just message me.  We highly recommend it!  The place was VERY clean and the staff was super friendly.  I'm already planning a trip with the littles to run off some of their energy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The measure of a moment

Oh, Oprah.  Did she coin the phrase "aha moment"?  Because, dang her, I use it a lot, and I don't like to owe Oprah anything, other than thanks for introducing me to a dozen very good books that are depressing as crap.  (Map of the World?  I Know This Much is True?  Are you kidding me?)

Well, put it on my tab, b/c I do use it.  And I had one the other day.  It was a random situation where Sydney had been invited to a friend's house after preschool, and Asher was having a stellar day of happiness and contentment with actual toys like cars, dolls, and play kitchens, rather than his preferred type of toy, which is chap stick, dust buster parts, food from the garbage and painting the wall with deodorant. 

And at the end of my day when all the kids were back home and daddy was on his way, I had a skip in my step that is often missing around 5pm.  And I tried to figure out why that was.  And I did. And I had an aha moment.

I realized I felt good because I had been productive.  Like, productive even in the eyes of an outside, childless observer who has no idea how that term changes drastically once you have small people in the house undoing your every attempt at order.  Not productive as I currently have to think about it, which means that if I've made dinner and showered IN THE SAME DAY: I've been productive.  I mean, I had kicked this house's butt!  I had rocked my domestic goddess hat and even done some long-term-to-do-list things that had been mocking me for weeks.  And people?  IT FELT GOOD.  I was happy with myself and my life.

And that's when I had my you-know-what moment.  I remembered back to when a friend told me that she and I had something in common.  We begin each day fresh at zero, not allowing credit for what has been accomplished the day before, and whether or not we write it down, we have a list in our heads and our personal success is kind of based on that list and what is crossed off during the waking hours.  This was pre-family, when I was a working gal, and there was no emotional value placed on that observation. I think it was actually a compliment.

However, even though my life has drastically changed, I realized my measure of internal success has not caught up.  My current occupation is Director of Development and Maintenance at casa de T, and my mental to-do list STILL is full of tasks that are quantifiable and observable, when much of my day is filled with tasks that are the opposite of measurable.  When I break up 10 fights, my floors do not reflect my exhaustion.  When I read books, snuggle on couches, remove children from precarious ledges, make 3 squares a day, drive to and from and to and from-- my closets are still a mess.  When I calm tantrums, put band-aids on owies, write grocery lists, wipe noses, hands, faces and bottoms all the livelong day, my dear husband walks in at 6pm and the house isn't just the same as when he left, it is usually WORSE.  Ugh.  And sometimes it feels like failure. (Not to him. To me.)  I love, love, love a clean and organized house.  LOVE. IT.  Don't remember the feeling well, but well-enough to know it is my happy place. 

But in order for that to happen, I basically have to farm my kids out.  And that feels horrible!  I KNOW in my heart that my work with my children is important.  It is arguably the most important occupation of my lifetime.  And it may not seem measurable right now, but these investments are going to pay off.  Maybe not today, but in the years to come. One of my favorite scriptures is Galations 6:9 "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  I have this verse at eye-level in my kitchen, and I keep reminding myself:  harvest = godly, respectful, well-adjusted children.  Proper time = not necessarily now.  Do not give up = DO NOT GIVE UP!

Yet despite daily reminders and head knowledge, my human nature just really longs to walk on my floors and not have crumbs stick to my socks.  I would just really, really like to be able to walk into my bathroom and not smell little boy urine.   Could we just have ONE MEAL that doesn't require 15 wet wipes, a mop and a hazmat suit?  I read somewhere that trying to clean while your children are home is like brushing your teeth WHILE eating oreos.  Oh my word YES that is so true.  And it won't stop being true for several years. 

And I love my life.  And I don't want to wish it away or miss the sloppy days of toddlers and preschoolers pining away for less messy older children, who will certainly come with their own unique challenges. (Although I'm hoping there will be fewer goldfish crumbs stuck to my toes.)

So I'm afraid my aha moment has still left me back to the conflict of knowing what is true and yet FEELING something different.  It will probably be an ongoing internal battle.  I will always have to tell myself that spending time with my children is MORE important than doing the dishes and laundry, and I will have to learn to find internal success and reward in that investment, whether or not any visible progress has been made.  Even when I ignore the house duties and throw myself into quality time with my kids, they still may be stinkers later that day.  They may still crave junk food and cop an attitude and jump on my bed with their muddy shoes on.  I cannot measure my moments by the observable daily productivity.

That is, until my kids are old enough to clean the house for me.  Then I think we've stumbled on a win/win situation.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bing Crosby, the theologian

Remember that scene in White Christmas, where Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney are sitting around the cozy fire, late in the night? And he sings the song full of sage advice: "When I worry and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings"?  It seems this is a concept that is timeless.

Like usual, I'm about a year late to a popular [fill in the blank] and this time it's a book that I've heard about for months and month and finally got for Christmas.  THEN finally started reading at the end of January.  It's called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  To be perfectly honest, her writing style is a bit much for me.  It's very poetic and lovely, and I lean more towards straight-shooters who are self-deprecating and make sarcastic jokes.  However, the content of this book has been extremely valuable and inspiring to me.  The basic gist (in my paraphrased summary) is that this woman, who loved God and her family, found that she had an underlying foundation of sadness and discontent, partly based on some major losses and hurts in her life.  She went on a journey to practice "eucharisteo" or living in a state of thanks and joy, in her daily, mundane life.  (Basic Greek translation is charis: grace; eucharisteo: thanksgiving; chara: joy) She dared herself to find 1,000 small or big things she was thankful for.  Her list (so far, I'm only about 1/2 way through) includes things like moonlight on the pillow, her kids' laughter and the beautiful grated cheese for her dinner.  You might laugh, but the challenge to examine these small blessings in order to live with more fullness and contentment is striking a chord with me.  I haven't literally started a list (I plan to soon), but I do find myself being more aware of small blessings, gifts from God for which I stop and thank Him.

 This is one of my favorite passages so far:

"[giving God glory for cheese] might seem trifling. Even offensive, to focus the lens of a heart on the minute, in a world mangled and maimed and desperately empty.  I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war.  I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.  Why would the world need more anger, more outrage?  How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us?  Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering.  The converse does.  The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring the fullest Light into all the world."
It definitely takes practice, the discipline of constantly finding things for which to be thankful.  But it's an exercise worth cultivating.  Last week there is one that stands out to me.  It was the witching hour, between 4:30 and 6:00, when we are waiting for daddy to come home and save us from ourselves.  I'm usually tired and irritable, trying to get dinner ready and stave off hungry children biting my ankles and/or destroying each other and the house.  But last Tuesday, something was different!  My oldest, often the instigator of all kinds of discord, rallied his two siblings and decided they were going to put a box by each person's bed so we could deliver valentines to each other during the week.  I gave them a bunch of boxes and he helped label and distribute them, and then he and Sydney started working on making cards for the upcoming holiday.  This simple act of thoughtfulness and teamwork blessed my socks off, as I was smiling in the kitchen.  We reaped the benefits of their work on Thursday morning at our Valentines Day breakfast, and his card to me was the icing on the cake.  (See picture below.)  So what about difficult would it be for you to truly incorporate this practice into your daily life?

My apologies for the lack of shirts.  It was first thing in the morning and Asher and I are the only ones who wear PJ's around here.
 Best card ever, right?!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baptism by a different kind of fire

There are just some parts of parenting that no book can prepare you for.  And one of those parts is vomit.  Yep.  Puke.  Up-chuck.  Throw-up.  Dealing with another human's barf just cannot be described in a text.

I remember the first time Asher threw up in our house.  I got some on me, and then soon after he vomited ALL over himself, his ears, his bed, his stuffed animals.  And I remember thinking: the next time someone asks me who his "real" mom is, I'm going to say it's the woman who catches his puke and tenderly cleans it out of his precious black hair, thankyouverymuch.

Tonight I was already on alert.  All three of my kids have a very touch gag-reflex, and a good strong cough sets them off.  Usually at night. My middle child was coughing more than usual.  I was not, however, alert enough to prepare with a bowl for the Sydster. They were all in bed and I heard "the cry" which is a very distinct sound full of shock and disgust when a child is awakened by their own vomit, much like my own face as I'm cleaning the desecrated bunk.

I still stand by my theory that nothing prepares you for dealing with throw-up, and I will also say I, for one, have never gotten used to it, no matter how often it happens.  (And for the record, because this is the kind of conversations parents have, I would rather clean up poop than barf.  Any day of the week.)

However.  I may not be used to it, but I, at least now have a plan of action.  It's a triage situation, you see.  First, assess how to extricate the child.  ALWAYS START WITH THE CHILD.  If you are fortunate enough to have a co-parent nearby, you shout out assignments as you run to the scene.  "I'll get the bed, you get her in the bath!" You take the child in any clothes he/she is still wearing and go straight to the bath or shower and--I say this with utmost love--hose her down.  I mean, fully clothed and all.  Just hose the little sweet baby down.  Lucky me, this has often happened when I'm the only adult home, which has the added bonus that the vomit gets to stay and linger in the puke room, seeping it's nastiness into all crevices and textures, just soaking and letting its aroma spread as you are busy in the bath with the vomiter.

Next, you grab any washable item within a 6 foot radius of the incident and dump it straight in the wash.  This is especially important if you were not present for the throwing-up, as I was reminded of the hard way tonight.  I thought for sure that the Brave blanket was free and clear, and after I was tucking the clean and calm child back into her newly changed bed, she started to freak out again, pointing out that Princess Merida was far from clean.

The only upside of these horrid experiences (other than building up a stronger gag-reflex myself, and of course, strengthening my character) is that the kids love hearing these gruesome stories re-told.  "Tell again about when Asher had puke in his ears!" "Tell the one where Sydney was a baby and pooped up her back!"  We were reliving these awesome moments the other day and I added "And Carson, remember the time you were crying in the middle of the night, and I came to help you get down to go to the bathroom and you puked on top of me from the top bunk?!?!"

His answer, complete with hysterical laughter: "Oh my word!  That one is CLASSIC!"  I'm afraid it is, son.  I'm afraid it is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I've decided to take a fast from F@cebook. I've noticed that I have an urge to check it multiple times a day.  When I'm tired, don't feel like tackling the to-do list, feeling a bit isolated from adult conversation or frustrated with unruly children, sitting down for a quick FB check and laugh and/or write my own funny little comment is a lovely diversion.  I don't think I need to (or want to) quit it permanently, but I thought it would be good to step away for a bit.  Also, the things I write on that site are short and superficial, usually.  It's good for my mental health to process things more deeply, like I can here.  I've wanted to get back into blogging a little more, so this might be a good motivation.
One thing I've been wanting to blog about is our little fish!  Sydney has been taking swimming lessons during the day for the last 6 weeks, and she's doing great!  She's very confident and making great progress. And even moreso...she LOVES it.  Gets her suit on 2 hours ahead of time, smiles and waves at me throughout the lesson, skips all the way to the locker room afterwards.  I mean, she's in the preschool level, so we're not doing laps or anything, but I swear I can see her small successes manifesting through self-confidence in other areas of her life.  (It could just be maturity, but I think the lessons help.)  We lucked out and there were only 3 kids in this class!
Is it just me, or does her teacher look like Aunt Becky?!

This is how we keep little bro busy.  I gotta say...keeping a toddler entertained in a loud aquatic center is SO MUCH easier than in a very strict karate observation area.  This is so much less stressful.
These are called her "alligator hands."

I love that she has no fear of the water or putting her face right in!  I was the opposite as a kid, so I'm glad she's not taking after me.

Go, Sydney, go!

We are so proud of this happy little swimmer!  Love that it makes her happy and feel good about herself and her skills.  In fact, we have one week off, then we're starting up again next week!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Strike while the iron's hot

I've been using this phrase to try to convince people in my life that I am not just on an emotional high.  ;)  I'm not kidding when I say Amy and I came home from our conference FIRED UP about creating a retreat for adoptive moms in the Northwest.  We are two fairly proactive women, and we kinda love planning events.  The train is on the tracks, people!  Last weekend was kind of like a camp high, but it was also amazingly educational, encouraging, refreshing and empowering.  I've FELT better about my role as a mother (to all three of my kids) this week, and I've consciously been making better decisions, especially regarding my interaction with my littlest babe.  It's a GOOD THING.  I think our motivation is more than emotion.  I truly think God stirred us up for a reason.  So many times I see needs around me and think "I wish there was something I could do."  Well, this time, there is a need and there IS something I can do!

As the days unfolded, Amy and I were averaging about 30 calls/emails/texts a day as we prayed and processed through a name and a theme verse and location and mission for our new ministry idea. There were some surprises: what if someone in Mexico or Scotland already had the name and url we wanted?  Do we want a more rustic, camp-like retreat that is cheaper, or a nicer, hotel-like retreat that is more expensive?  Should we plan for 30 or 130?  How do we honor the ministry we were inspired by, without seeming like we are ripping them off?

We were encouraged and uplifted by so many of you, offered assistance by dozens, helped by super savvy tech experts and a graphic designer, and contacted by all members of the adoption triad (birth moms, adoptees, adoptive parents) saying they would be interested in being involved.  Several people said "I know ___________ would love to come to this."

This week we are touring 2 locations and praying fervently about how, where and when this first retreat will take place.  We're waiting until we have some more concrete details to reveal what we've been working on, but you better believe we're gonna promote the heck out of it when we're ready.  :)

Several people have contacted me asking how they can help.   Right now you can pray for us, pray for God to open and close doors as He shows us the path to take.  Pray that this endeavor is ALWAYS for His glory and fame.  Pray that He will guide us. There are hundreds of tiny decisions to make, and several big ones.  Pray for the adoptive and foster moms who could benefit from this type of ministry, that they will have the family and financial support to attend. 

We've discovered we will need a bit of seed money.  The main thing we need right now is a deposit on a location: $500-$1000, depending on the site.  We're brainstorming some ideas on a fundraiser to get some cash on hand for this, as neither of us (in different stages of adoption payments) has it on hand.  This is not as high of a priority as, say, when I was crying out to you all in vulnerability and asking for you to help us bring our son home.  (Have I mentioned?  You did?!  You DID bring our son home?! A fact that is never, EVER lost on me.)  It is not urgent.  But if this is something on your heart and you wish to donate, I put a paypal button up on the top right that is connected to a separate account specifically for this retreat ministry.

You can talk to adoptive and foster moms you know in Oregon and Washington!  Tell them about the crazy girls who want to spoil them for a weekend and send them back better wives and moms.  Tell them you'll have more info soon!

You can think/brainstorm about tangible ways you could bless these mamas.  Do you have a connection to get little gifts we could give them?  Could you come one night at the retreat when we have a time of prayer and intercession?  Do you make a fabulous snack or treat that you want to bring and add to their special time away?  Could you come on our first day there and help them feel welcome and find their rooms?  I'm sure we'll have many more needs present themselves, and I completely rejoice that I feel like I can bring these needs to my village!

So that's the scoop for now.  Thanks for those who have inquired and shared our excitement!  We will keep you posted.  I promise.

Saturday, February 02, 2013


Just FYI, we got a msg from our agency that the government in our son's home country has just decided they don't want us to post any public pictures until after finalization and we receive confirmation from that country.  Well....a little too late in the game for that!  Can't put the genie back in the bottle. So we are keeping all of our privacy settings tight on FB and I'm going to try not to post any new pics of little man on the blog (which is public) until that happens, which for us will be a couple months.  I think 2 of the three pics on my blog banner are not clear face shots, so I'm going to leave them.  But if you wonder why I blurred Asher's face on the family pic, that's why.