Thursday, December 31, 2009

Are You Following Me?

Last Sunday, my dad preached a sermon about 7 things that hold believers back or hinder their growth in Christ. I missed the last half of the sermon because Li'l Empress had a runny nose and we ran out of tissues to staunch the flow. But something that he said really stuck with me and I'll be brewing on it (and the rest of the sermon when and if his sound team gets is up on their website!) for quite a while.

"Are you safe to follow?"

It wasn't really the main point of the sermon, but it drove into my spirit as an arrow. Am I living my life in a manner that makes me a safe sister in Christ for others to watch and imitate my faith? Am I living my life in such a way that I WANT my kids to follow me as I am following Christ?

I'm not one for making big resolutions every year. I regularly fail at my attempts on my own to eat healthier, exercise more, forgive more easily, extend more grace readily, and so on. In fact, I'm convinced that, unless the LORD gives me a goal and a plan for a particular area in my life which needs improvement and unless I surrender my Self to His workings and His power, any efforts of self-will or self-control on my part to "be better" are as filthy rags. And believe you me, I need no more dirty laundry around here.

However, I believe that for the year 2010, I am going to seek the Lord for just how HE wants me to become a safe believer to follow. I am going to commit to prayer and seek HIS wisdom on the areas that HE desires to pare out of my heart and the cleansing that HE wants to make in my spirit and my mind. I desire to be a safe believer, for anyone to follow. I want my kids to be able to trust the footsteps they see me walking. I want younger moms to know that they can rely on me for direction and wisdom that comes from the Lord. I want other adoptive moms to know that they can follow me as I follow Christ's hearts for our little ones as they grow into and attach to our families. I want what comes out of my mouth and out of my heart to be HIS words. HIS WORD.

I want 2010 to be the year that
I KNOW I became a safe believer to follow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Before Santa's big arrival . . .

After Santa snacked out, assembled,
and arranged . . .

It was a Merry, Merry Morning!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Do You Realize?

Merry Christmas
to you and your family!




While you and your loved ones go about your day, celebrating the traditions that you hold dear and enjoying the bountiful expressions of love amongst you, think about the words of this song for a little while.


Do YOU realize?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wrapping It Up

  • Why can't all wrapping paper have the cheater's cutting graph on the back?
  • How on earth do the presents pro-create and multiply after they've been purchased and placed in Santa's workshop (which is cleverly disguised as my closet)?
  • Who has been eating the tape? Do those bows look like appetizers to YOU?
  • Is there a disgruntled little elf with a grudge? I think he's been snipping my ribbons and bows while I sleep. I could have sworn that ribbon was long enough for that package last night.
  • Do all pens have black souls? Do they conspire together to all run out & dry up at Christmas time?
  • Does the proportion of last minute gifts to be purchased EVER match the amount of wrapping paper left in the bin?
This, my dear bloggy friends, is a little peek into my final preparations for The Gang's Christmas celebration. Or rather, a peek into the musings running through my mind at frantic speeds and chaotic patterns during my final preparations for our Big Day. It's not pretty in there.

I'm off to finish my "Master To Do List of Holiday Cheer." Wrapping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, and more cooking. Then more wrapping. I think the bag of Toys R Us goodies just gave birth to another litter. I heard the devious little giggles from the closet early this morning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buy A T-Shirt, Help A Family

I have a long list of adoptive-mommy blogs that I read. I love reading about their back-stories - how they got to the path of adoption. I enjoy following the families as they travel to places all over the world to meet and bring home their precious children. I am regularly inspired by their faith in their calling, by their determination to build their families through the journey of adoption. I particularly enjoy the thrill of those families who are forced to rely upon the Lord for every step of their process. Whether it's asking God for wisdom to seek and advocate for proper care for a special needs child or laying it all out there and begging God to provide the finances for their adoption, I love reading about the miraculous things HE does for those who call on Him. It's so encouraging - and informative too. It gets my creative juices flowing for the next time we consider adding to The Gang through adoption.

I've been following this blogger's journey for over almost two years now. In the midst of what ended up being a four year wait for their little daughter in China, they were called by God to adopt a darling little boy from Ethiopia. As you can imagine, two adoptions in four years is extraordinarily difficult. Financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. My favorite thing about this blogger is the raw and real manner in which she journals their family story. They are weeks away from receiving Travel Approval for their sweet little Kiera. But they are in need.

You see, when you are caught up in a long wait, there are multiple additional financial burdens added JUST because legal and governmental documentation expires. It's a fact that all of us in the adoption community grumble about, but it is what it is. No one really understands how on earth "fingerprints" can expire, but the documentation must be renewed. To do that costs money. Home studies expire. But they must be renewed to be able to still wait for a referral. It's bureacratic, it's political, it's for the safety of the children, it's for homeland security, it's insane. We all know it, we all suffer through it, and we all come out the other side several hundred if not thousand dollars lighter in our checking accounts. But there is NO. WAY. AROUND. IT.

And that's not the only financial responsibility. There are agency fees, orphanage fees, medical documentation fees, immigration fees, and so on. No matter the length of the journey, international adoption is an expensive journey. See what I mean by saying that two adoptions in four years is difficult? And they have been BUSY doing their part: fundraisers, gargantuan yard sales, on-line stores, trimming their budget (in her archives, you can find a really neat 30-day challenge they did on learning how to live on less!), and working additional free-lance jobs from home.

I say all this NOT to invite judgment or criticism or even "how to fix the mess" type of conversations. I say all this NOT to allow questions of motives or questions about the merits of even choosing international adoption. I say all this to help you understand. The blogging community, particularly the adoptive-parents' blogging community is excellent at spreading the word. At sharing one another's burdens. At getting the word out and doing something about it. And at stepping up to pray and intercede for the life of a child. Those are things that YOU can do for this family. Now. No big effort on your part. You don't even have to leave your comfy computer chair. With a few clicks and links, you can help spread the word about a family who needs your support. If you have questions about their journey, I encourage you to skim through their archives and read more about them. I don't pretend to know them in person. But I have followed their story for a long time now and have had some personal correspondence with her that rings very true with me.

But if you want to do more. If you need to do more, you can go here. You can look over these adorable t-shirts and you can do some last minute Christmas shopping. You can cross some gifts off your list AND help this family bring home their little girl. Won't you just take a peek and see? I promise you, the blessing of doing something far outweighs the excitement of a new t-shirt coming in the mail. But the t-shirts are pretty darn cute, too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Portraits of a Snowy Saturday

Final Update: 8:00 Sunday a.m.
We got a total of about 10" of the white stuff.
Church has been cancelled. Pancakes are on the griddle.
Coffee is flowing freely. I have to be careful though.
My beloved creamer is running low.
And the only creamer at the store on Friday was vanilla.
Ick. I may need to make an exchange.

The Boss is prepping the older boys on the fine art of shoveling and clearing the walkways. They'll be thrilled to know that they have to do the neighbors' property too, since the neighbors are out of the country till March. He hasn't dropped that bomb yet. The Li'l Empress is sounding worse today. Any one have any good tips on how to teach a two year old how to cough it up? Thank goodness all that "stuff" is pretty loose. It's just hard to hear it all rattling around while she "half coughs." Ick, again. But a different kind of ick. Of course.

UPDATE at 5:45 p.m.:
Here's the same view at 4:45 p.m.
Quite a difference, and bound to be drastically more
different at the next update, if it keeps up like this!

The Boss decided to head out just now for a little bit of shoveling. So far, it's about 5" of accumulation. The snow is really light and powdery. Normally he'd wait for the older boys, but they're away at a party with some friends. At the rate that the snow is falling for the last two hours, who knows when they will get home. I really dislike having any of my little Gang members out of the nest during storms and such. They scoff at my worry, but I remind them that Mommas like their babies home. No matter that those babies are 15 and 14. . .


UPDATE at 2 p.m.:
This is our side yard at 1:45 p.m.
Not much difference from the 8:15 a.m. shot.

The Gang is a little frustrated with the light cover so far. But still hoping for an increased pace and volume of the white stuff. The Boss and I snuck out before noon to use up the K$hl's cash. A nice clerk had mercy on me and gave me an additional 15% off even though I forgot my coupon for power hours. I scored some really warm, hefty winter boots for myself, at a cool 50% off. It's been about 5 years since I've had proper foot gear for the elements. I figured it was about time. So now, even I feel ready to brave the storm. Except, this storm looks like it might turn into a non-event. I'm off to wrap gifts for the nieces and nephews. The little ones are playing out in the dusting with The Boss. Li'l Empress is snuggled in for a nap - poor thing, I think she's getting another cold. UGH. No cold, wet snow for her today. Maybe tomorrow . . .


This is our side yard, at 8:15 a.m.

We're all bracing for what the forecasters say could be a brutal storm predicted to blanket most of the East Coast. The winds are picking up and the sky is completely white. The contrast of the bare, dark trees is lovely. I think I'll update the same view every couple hours, just to be able to capture the progress of the first "blizzard" of the season.

The kids are all hyped up about the snow. Li'l Empress has been running from window to window, yelling, "'No, 'no, 'no!" and pointing to anyone who will exclaim with her. I've got a new stew recipe to make for this evening and a couple cookie recipes I might try. The other little gang members are already eye-ing up the hot cocoa, before they've even suffered cold-chapped cheeks and frozen toes. The Boss is getting ready to venture out to use our $20 K$hl's cash - we just couldn't get there sooner and it goes totally against our grain to "waste" free money. Otherwise, we're hunkering down for the weekend and taking this as God's perfect plan for slowing us all down to enjoy the Christmas-y atmosphere together!

I'll be back later with more pics. Stay warm, stay dry and enjoy a wonderful snowy day home with your family.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Fun on Friday - Week 3

My Shaggy is by far the most "Christmas-y" of the Gang. Every year, he is the first to start the Christmas music - although he's adamant that it not be played before Thanksgiving Day. When I start my Christmas list making, he's positively twitchy to see things in black and white like, "Bake on Saturday," or "Christmas shopping with The Boss."

On our family tree-decorating night, he's singing along to the carols at the top of his lungs and making peace among the siblings whenever squabbles arise over whose ornament goes where. He doesn't mind watching the same couple sappy holiday movies over and over with me, and when Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" comes on the radio, he gets a dopey grin and sings along in Spanish. It's quite entertaining and really, very sweet. The best of it all is on Christmas Eve. He gets so antsy with anticipation that he can hardly concentrate. He definitely can't sleep. He's even named this phenomenon: "Christmas Spasms." He's probably going to kill me for telling all of you this, but I really get a kick out of it.

Well, Shaggy's holiday spirit has come to all new heights of joy this week. Behold, his "eggs in a basket Christmas breakfast."




I just love that kid!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Cookie Frosting Night


Such attention to detail. . .


. . . eerr, make that Frosting Eating Night!


For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Desperately Hopeful"

That's how Steven Curtis Chapman
described himself on Monday morning,
when sitting with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America.

You can see the clip, along with some
other footage of their time together, here.
(the option to choose that story
is under the large video feature)

What a wonderful summary
of the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Desperately hopeful!

Monday, December 14, 2009

That's What I'm Talkin' About!


It was a good night to be an Eagles fan.

(Although I confess, I headed to bed in the third quarter.
After sleeping through the half-time analysis.)

Let's go all the way!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Give Away Like No Other I've Seen

Get yourselves over to BooMama's site.

And enter the amazing give away she's hosting.

You will NOT believe the loot.

Go ahead, go there now.

And have yourselves a great Saturday when you are done.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Fun on Friday - Week 2

Well, I didn't set out to create a series of Christmas Fun posts on Fridays. But with as crazy & busy as we all are right now; and with the tendency for holiday stress that we all lean toward, I thought you might enjoy this little exchange.


Head to this post now.
But do not, I repeat, do not attempt to drink
your morning coffee
(or Diet Pepsi, you know who you are!)
while reading this post.
Your keyboard will thank me.



Incidentally, if you've never been to Dawn's site before, I must tell you that I HIGHLY recommend it. Not just because of the wonderful humor that you get to experience in the above post. But also because she is an excellent resource on many, many things related to building a family. I've recommended her before, but I will say it again. This site is definitely worth putting on your subscription list, whether you are interested in adoption, pregnancy, birthing, fertility/infertility issues, or general parenting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shaggy's Sayings

Overheard recently in our home, amidst the sounds of carols and the smells of baking. . .

Momma: "I LOVE Christmas baking season!"

Shaggy, in the exact same tone: "I LOVE Christmas eating season!"




And later, when telling The Boss about my first day of baking . . .

Shaggy: "Did you SEE the list of things she's baking this Christmas?"

Yes, I wrote a list. It's a sickness, I know.

The Boss: "No, what's she making this year? Same stuff as normal, right?"

Shaggy: "The roster is amazing!"




When biting into his first taste of Christmas baking . . .

Shaggy: "Mmmm, these are so soft and delicious. Like little bits of Heaven in my mouth."

At this point, he didn't need anyone else in the conversation.
He was doing just fine by himself!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Merry Christmas

I know it's been around a while.
But it bears repeating.




Merry Christmas . . .

a lovely intro to this song,
by the artist who wrote it,
can be found here . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another View Of Attachment

I know I promised a post soon on what I learned in taking A Year Off. But a couple other really noteworthy posts have come to my attention lately. Basically, they are variations on the themes I shared with you. My point in sharing all these things with you is to further spread awareness about just how HUGELY important it is for each family to find their own groove when forging the bonds of attachment. I'd really like it if you head over to there and soak in what this precious mom is sharing.

Go to this post now.
Then come back and let me know your thoughts.

Special thanks to my friend, Stephanie for sharing this perspective with me. I've got another link or two up my sleeve that I think might be of benefit to some of you who are interested in adoption. I'll let you know if they pan out for sharing.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do You Believe?

Bloggy friends of mine have entered a contest to help finance the final stages of their adoption journey. It just takes a vote or two on your part (you can vote daily if you really want to!), which also enters you into a contest to win a $500 gift card.

Please go HERE to check out their blog.

Please GO HERE TO VOTE.

Do YOU believe in Christmas miracles?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Fun On Friday

Okay, so it's been a bit of a heavy week or two here. What with all the looooong posts on attachment and the pictures of sick kids and all. So I'm sharing a different kind of Christmas cheer today.

When I was a little girl, someone bought us the album (yes, the real vinyl album) of songs from Peanuts and the gang. Now, whenever I hear this particular song on my local radio station, I know that the Christmas season has officially begun. It's not very spiritual, but it is chock full of happy memories of dancing around my royal blue bedroom with my younger sisters in our matching Christmas nightgowns. The song makes me happy. So very happy. I hope it makes you happy too!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Go Tell It On The Mountain!

I'm so excited. I mean, I always love Christmas, with all the cookies,and eggnog, the lights, the music, the colors. The anticipation, the cookies, the eggnog. Did I mentioned the eggnog? But seriously, I really am feeling so buoyed up in my spirit right now. Why now, in particular, you ask? Well, I'm more than happy to tell you about it . . . and I'm so glad you asked!

I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge Oprah fan. I mean, I watch the shows that interest me, on occasion. And I almost never miss her big "Favorite Things" show. But other than that, I'm not a regular. Sometimes, I luck out and get to oooh and aahh over a favorite celebrity, but really, that's about all I tune in for. Honestly.

Well, since she announced her impending retirement and since the Christmas season always provides some good viewing, I've been "dvr'ing" her show. Yes, I programmed her in. This way, if I record something that's worth my 40 minutes of laundry folding time, I can sit and enjoy it while I match the gazillion socks I washed that morning. And boy, am I glad I didn't miss Monday's show. (Well, I actually did miss Monday's show. But like I said, I "dvr'd" it so I got to sit yesterday afternoon and watch it.) It was a continuation of a show from last week, about Heroes (honoring everyday heroes, including Capt. Sully from the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight last year). If you didn't see it, you really ought to catch it in re-runs. I especially loved the tribute to the mail carriers. It was so nice to hear regular folks talking about "doing the right thing" just because it was the right thing to do!

So anyway, Monday's show was the second half of that Heroes show. It was a concert of duo acts, singing a Christmas concert for the heroes in the audience. The pairings were unusual but they really worked: Tim McGraw with Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige with Andrea Boccelli, and Sugarland with Jennifer Hudson. The music was beautiful and inspiring and artistic.

But what struck me the most?
What excites me more than
anything else at this time of year?

It is the ONE time of the year that the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST is poured forth without censure and without reservation. From Oprah's stage. From television channels all over the world. From radio stations across the globe. In malls, in grocery stores, in the post office. In beautiful traditional classics. In smooth jazzy tunes. In fun, joyful celebration. Where ever you go from Halloween till New Year's, you hear the stories of the birth of the Savior.

So the next time you are walking through the mall or hunting down that perfect gift in your local W@lM@rt, remember that for this season THE WHOLE WORLD is singing of THE. ONE. PERFECT. GIFT. Go ahead, sing along with all your might. His Word promises that it will make a difference. And you know what, while you are singing, pray that that Word goes forth and changes hearts. Pray that hearts are open to hearing the story and receiving it. You don't even have to preach it. Oprah's guests will preach it for ya!

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV)

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

This has become an all-too familiar scene
on our couch these last few weeks.
This week it isn't Baby Blue Eyes.
But the pitiful look in his eyes
captures well how we all feel about
this nasty virus STILL lingering.

This week it's her turn,
even though she's smiling here.
Here, she's just imitating her big brother.

Trust me, when she sees me coming
after her with a tissue for her nose,
that little smile disappears.
And so does she!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Christmas Giveaway 2009




The ambitious, generous gals over at 5 Minutes for Mom are at it again! There's a whole bunch of great giveaways posting daily there. Take yourselves away to their site and start perusing the options. Personally, I'm loving the "Jewelry That Celebrates Life." Except, wearing one of those necklaces with charms for all five of my Gang might be a bit cumbersome. Good thing they only include one charm in the prize package. I'll have to train for the additional four I'd need. I'm willing to suffer for the cause should I win one, though.

I know I'm a bit behind the times, as this has been up and running for a while now. Would you believe, I had 99 posts from 5MFM sitting in my Reader queue? It's been a busy few weeks, what with all my Gang members taking turns being sick. And now, they're starting on Round Two of free-flowing boogies and hacking coughs. Lucky, lucky me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Speaking of Attachment - Part 3

So, I'm close to wrapping up my little series on our journey through attachment. Let me say again, that we are no experts. I've done a lot of reading. I've done a lot of talking with more experienced moms and adoption workers. I've done a lot of praying. What we settled on isn't necessarily how we started the journey. It's more a matter of what shook out after sifting and trying things out happened those early months. It's what we came to after we spent time learning our daughter's temperament and personality. We're still fine tuning things.

That being said, you should check out this post to get the full picture, if you haven't been following along already. The first two posts generated some good discussion. I'd love to hear more from you all and share some ideas or tips among us that might help someone along the way.

This last concept I'm sharing is one that took me a little while around which to wrap my brain. When I first felt the Lord asking me to consider "Taking a Year Off," I was almost scared. I mean, a whole year with nothing but the bare necessities on our calendar? It sounded so extreme. But when I approached The Boss with the idea, it became very clear that the Lord was asking us to strip away all the non-essential from that calendar and that To Do list and our weekly routine. That He was asking us to focus our time, attentions, and efforts on "cementing" Li'l Empress into our family, and to allow all 7 of us to adjust, transition and find our way to our new, healthy dynamic.

So, we set about putting things in place to accomplish this task. I wrote a post about it in this post, before we left for China. When we arrived home on Sept. 27th, 2008, it was the beginning of a new way of living our daily existence for all of us. We intentionally shrunk our world to just the 7 of us (as the most vital members of Li'l Empress's new world) as frequently and for as long as we could possibly get away with it.

This meant that we did church & youth group, but not many extra services or events. We tried a small group with our church but it was really hard on all of us. We kept the four kids in public school for the year, but I stopped volunteering in the classroom, in the library, or in the special committees for the whole school year. The kids did not participate in any extra-curricular events until late spring, and then it was only one night a week for a local soccer league. The Boss continued to go to work (I mean, the mortgage still has to be paid, right?!), but he was very intentional to work from home whenever the opportunity presented itself and he tried to establish one day a week where that was his norm.

I gave up the moms' group that I had been leading for several years. (That one hurt. I really enjoyed the fellowship and the mentoring.) I also gave up the bulletin. The original intent was to give it up just until the new year, but my sweet friend who took it over for me gave me a couple extra months and I took it back in February. I had really missed it, and enjoyed picking it back up and digging in to it and the other related projects it generates. But I will admit, getting back into the swing of writing on a deadline and proofing for errors and cross-checking details was much harder than I'd anticipated.

In addition to stripping "stuff" from our calendar, we created a Family Night that was not previously part of our normal routine. Before traveling to China, we'd never been so busy that we needed to create a regular event of it, but now that we were being so intentional, we decided that Friday nights were our sacred time. We played Wii, we baked cookies, we watched silly movies. We ate our combined body weight in popcorn over the winter months, I think! We even did some crafts and board games. (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate kids' board games? And crafting with my little ones? OY! I am so not regularly "that mom.")

Those things we did created some designated bonding time and a sense of identity for all of us, but especially for Li'l Empress. As the months went on, it was as if I could see her "clicking" into her role in our dynamic and settling in to what it meant to become part of "The Gang." I remember sitting with The Boss on the couch one night in particular and watching her play cards with the big kids, just giggling and flirting with Shaggy. She was picking up some of our mannerisms by then. And she was definitely getting the hang of her mischievous side and how to express it. That night, it clicked. This was our new normal. This was our family.

During this season, we also made the difficult decision to limit the amount of company we had in our home and to limit the travel we did to other homes. This was especially hard, as we love to entertain. For the most part, we shared our limits with my siblings and their families and a few of our closest friends. We did an occasional sleepover here with the kids' friends, since we were home anyway. But we really concentrated on keeping our circle of places where Li'l Empress could feel safe to a small boundary for that first year. It's really paid off now, because she feels completely safe here in our home, even when we have company that she doesn't know. It's as if she knows she can trust these visitors to love her and care about her because they've been allowed into her safety zone.

Finally, we intentionally limited child-care for Li'l Empress to just the 6 of us as much as we possibly could. There were a few times that my sister watched her for me, but once the older kids got out of school for the summer we even stopped relying on that. Our purpose was to really anchor within her the idea that we are her first line of care, that she would always have her needs met and that we would do so consistently. Before she came home to us, we counted that she had 5 other "care scenarios" in which non-permanent people were meeting her physical needs. For a 13-month old, that's a lot. We're fairly confident that the quality of care she received was excellent - she's always been in great health and had no traumatic experiences to overcome that we know of (besides the manner in which she even came to us in the first place, obviously). But still. 5 sets of folks who have come and gone in the life of a little one who is only a year old. That's a lot. We set about to "re-wire" her ideas about family and help her understand that she could attach to us all and that we weren't going anywhere.

Of course, this has meant that her transition to the nursery program at our church has been a bit of a struggle. Now, after praying about it and talking with some other moms, I'm okay with that. To me, it's not a deal breaker. She sits well with us in church and loves the music and the worship time. I guess, with four older kids, I also have the perspective that says all too soon she'll be waving "bye" to me as she runs off to play with her friends, maybe without even a second glance at dear old Momma's face. I'm okay with delaying that eventuality a while!

Our goal in all of this was to intentionally and methodically help Li'l Empress concretize the concept of OUR family identity and how she fits in to that. To help her KNOW in her little knower that she is ours. That she belongs. That we are her FOREVER FAMILY. And that she is our daughter, completely. I am proud of how all of The Gang came alongside this particular method of doing that. And I'm proud of how well she has grasped that concept and let it take root in her heart. That anchor will serve her well in years to come.

I think I will do one more follow up post, about the additional things that this "Year Off" taught me. It was much bigger than I had originally grasped it to be. I'm so grateful that the Lord prompted me to consider it. And I can't wait to share what else we learned!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wild Olives Is Gettin' Festive!

Photobucket

Head over now and get in on the action.
There's another give-away going on right now.
And don't forget, whatever you spend at this awesome
site will help pour resources into charitable
organizations that support orphans all over China!

Tell 'em The Gang sent ya.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving
from The Gang's All Here!

Here's an old quote I found
to be quite amusing:

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Speaking of Attachment - Part 2

If you haven't read yesterday's post, you might want to back it up a bit and start there first. This is actually the second in a short series regarding our family's journey of attachment with Li'l Empress.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

In addition to intentionally regressing Li'l Empress in some specific ways, we purposefully went after some of her Self-Comforting Behaviors. It was our intention to replace these behaviors with a healthy belief and the security that she no longer needs to comfort herself. In order to do this, we had to observe her carefully, and become a "student" of our new daughter. It was pretty easy to find the "big" stuff coming to the surface, as the whole transition from foster family to orphanage for a short stay and then to our arms created a big sense of insecurity and fear. The little stuff (control issues, fear reactions to poor listening environments, panic in chaotic situations) manifested later, when she began to experience the rest of regular security and was more attached and relaxed in our home. We are still working on those and feel like the foundations we've set are serving us very well so far!

We were told by the nanny that Li'l Empress would normally just take a bottle in her crib and fall asleep on her own. We stopped that immediately, and began training her to be comforted to a sleepy state in our arms. It went right along with the bottle feedings, in that we reversed (over a few days of intentional changes) the order in which she was doing things. Instead of getting a bottle when she woke from a nap, we helped the "gentling to sleep" process by starting nap time with those bedtime ritual/bottle feeding practices that I mentioned in my post about Intentional Regression. It was exhausting to make every single bed and nap time such an event. And I found myself crying and praying over her more once we returned home than I did in the long wait for her. But in those precious moments of intensely warring for her healing and her comfort, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit met us and began His work in her heart. I am convinced that, though she often resisted us at first, the prayer covering over her and our family broke down that instinct to protect her heart and take care of herself. Gentling her to sleep was a huge part of that process for us both.

She had some very "hard to watch" self-comforting behavior in those early months. She pulled her own hair out when bottle feeding. She picked at her skin and any little bumps, abrasions or cuts. They took forever to heal up. She did a lot of self-stim*lation that created some awkward and embarrassing moments for the older kids. In fact, she still practices some of these things when stress levels are extra high, when she's overtired, or when there is a lot of chaos in our environment. It's taught us all to be mindful of keeping a peaceful environment in our home, and makes us practice extreme patience while correcting and replacing the same behaviors over and over sometimes several times within a few minutes. Here's some of the new behaviors we introduced:
  • We got her a soft, mini-blankie and placed it in her free hands during bottle time, to deter the need to yank at her hair. As we are preparing to wean her from a bottle now, she also has attached to a soft stuffed puppy who "waits for her" in her crib so he can sleep with her.
  • We moved her hands away from her "boo-boos" when we caught her picking and reminded her to "let it heal." It has become a response that carries many levels of meaning now and I try to phrase it that way often, carrying that message to her spirit as often as she needs to hear it.
  • We would remind her not to play with her diaper, and pick her up to re-direct her attention to another activity or for a hug and snuggle. That actually came after several other "fails" on our part - it took awhile to find what worked with this one!
  • Basically, we had to teach her "from scrap" that we were her parents. That we were not caretakers. That we were/are permanent. That she could trust us to meet all her physical needs. And that we would answer her EVERY. TIME. she called.
  • Yes, that meant we did not let her "cry it out." I've never been a big fan of that parenting tool, but that's a whole 'nuther post that I likely will never write!
  • We did do some co-sleeping on and off, more especially in the early months. She's not a particularly tiny child and it was difficult to feel rested on the nights that we attempted it. But when she needed to feel us both surrounding her and touching her, we did it.
  • I've always believed that co-sleeping is a really good thing, but only when everyone feels rested as a result. We didn't need to keep it up after she started sleeping soundly through the night without any of the bad dreams or fearful wakings.
Next post, I think I'll share with you the final portion of what I shared at the seminar. It's a different concept that came directly as a result of prayer and research into attachment. It was scary and difficult to wrap my brain around when the Lord first asked it of me, but I believe whole-heartedly now that it was a hugely important key concept to cementing Li'l Empress in to The Gang's dynamics and to helping her understand who we are as a family. Further, I believe that it really set the stage for the whole Gang to welcome the change in dynamics that a new family member brings. It helped us all to embrace a change in the way we do things for the sake of someone in need. That it was the most loving compassionate thing we could do while she was at the height of that need.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Speaking of Attachment

Recently, I had the opportunity to share at our adoption agency's Special Needs seminar. I spoke for about half an hour (I forgot how long 30 minutes is when you are facing a room full of mostly strangers!) and covered our experiences with the International Adoption Program at CHOP. Then I spoke on our journey through attachment and bonding with Li'l Empress. I thought it might be helpful to some of you to share some of those thoughts over the next couple of posts.

My disclaimer is that we are by NO MEANS experts on this issue. We did do a lot of research, reading and talking with other folks before we left for China. And thankfully, The Boss has always freed me to explore ideas I have regarding parenting and encouraged me to try things that sound interesting to me. He didn't do the research himself, but he trusts me to do the reading and share the important stuff with him so that we can be on the same page. I will be totally honest in saying that we didn't do all this perfectly along this first year. However, we were willing to try things that others had shared and to talk about what worked and didn't work. We did a lot of tweaking along the way and this series of posts represents the summaries of what worked for us in that process!

First, I spoke on the idea that attachment is less about a set of steps, checklists, or progressions toward one set goal. It's more like the tides of the ocean, if you consider that the child's heart is like the beach. At "high tides" in our attachment journey, we can see tremendous progress in the waves wearing down the walls of self-protection, self-preservation, and/or self-comfort that they have built around their hearts. Make no mistake, those walls are there in some form and usually for a really good reason: survival. As we work to attach, it's our consistent, loving, nurturing choices that help to wear down those behaviors that hold them back from releasing their hearts to healing and full openness. We all need the low tide moments, when the progress seems minimal and the waves are almost still. It's a resting period of sorts, and should be seen as such. But we also need to be sure it doesn't get too comfortable. Instead, pray for high tide to return when their little hearts are refreshed and ready for the next level of bonding to wave in. And when you are in a low tide of attaching, try to remember that no sandcastle or wall built in the sand can stand through a full cycle of waves and tides. Low tide is just a part of that full cycle. (I take no credit for this metaphor. A friend shared it early in our settling in time and the Lord has used it many times over to keep me focused on Li'l Empress's process with us.)

Next, I talked about our decision to try some Intentional Regression with Li'l Empress. By this I mean that we purposefully took away many of the "normal toddler behaviors" that would continue to move her toward greater independence. We replaced them with nurturing, parent-directed actions that required her to be more dependent upon us than was considered "average" for her age. Let me explain:
  • We took away most of her self-feeding. Whenever possible, we spoon fed her (more intentionally in the very early weeks and months) and posted ourselves face-to-face with her while we did so.
  • Further, we gently took away the holding of her own bottle. At a time when most parents would consider weaning from the bottle, we instead made a ritual out of bottle time. Darkened room, blankie, rocking chair, singing and praying over her, etc. Basically, I tried as often as I could to re-create the nursing experience I shared with my older kids with the goal of creating an intimate bonding time together.
  • The nanny who brought her to us told us that she was potty-trained. Our guide explained that by their cultural standards, that meant that she probably only needed diapers when out and about in public. We, however, put her into diapers and did not introduce the potty at all until just recently (We're slated to start potty-training, American-style, sometime this winter, as I'm sensing she's going to be ready soon.) We even made diaper time an event for bonding, with games, face-to-face play and plenty of snuggles and kisses along the way.
  • Finally, we kept most feedings to only The Boss and I. Rare exceptions were made to allow the kids to participate and usually only when those feedings were not connected to a sleeping time to follow. It was good for the kids to bond with her but their attachment as siblings came far more easily and with less need for intention as they all just got the joy of "playing together" without the responsibilities of parenting!
In the next post, I will share with you some of our ideas and practices regarding issues of Self-Comforting.

You can mull on these and share in the comments some of your experiences if you've already been through the "coming home" part of the adoption journey. And if you are waiting for a precious one to join your home, please feel free to leave a comment as to how I can pray for you. One of my favorite things to do is participate in "praying home" these little ones. My other favorite thing is to "pray them in" to a firm and secure attachment process once they are home!

In the meantime, please feel free to share and pass this information on to other moms that might enjoy my musings. Again, I am no expert. I have been blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who all support our efforts and a husband who has encouraged me to listen to the Holy Spirit and good counsel.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Conversations in the High Chair

The Gang's Momma (while listening to praise chorus in the background): "Oh, let's worship Jesus. Hallelujah, Jesus. We love you Jesus."

Li'l Empress: "La la looo ah. Jeee uh."

TGM: "Awwww, Li'l Empress. Do you love Jesus?"

Li'l E: "Awwww, I lah ah."

TGM: "Yay. I love Jesus, too."

Li'l E, signing while speaking: "Moh Jeee uh."

Amen. "Moh Jeee uh" today. For all of you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Say It Ain't So!

Okay, today's post was going to be a recap of my time at our adoption agency's special needs seminar Tuesday night.

Until my dear hubby saw a promo for the 11 o'clock news from his hub of horrible sickness in the middle of the living room.

We tuned in, live. Cuz, well, in our foggy-up-too-late-what-are-we-thinking state of mind, we forgot we have a DVR. Anyhoo. We tuned in and watched the entire newscast. Only to have my heart shattered in million pieces.

My dear Dave is retiring. Effective December 11.

(You can read about my itty-bitty local celebrity crush here and here.
Don't judge me, you know you have celebrity crushes too.)

The happy news is that for the coming weeks, they have promised all kinds of tributes and retrospectives on his career and his life serving the local region. Which means I'll get lots of opportunities to see him in action, sharing his folksy charm and winning smile with me. And if I'm really lucky, they'll be smart enough to throw in a couple peeks at Dave's adorable son. You know the one I mean. . . .

How often is it that a girl gets TWO celebrity crushes
in ONE FAMILY?!

That's some good genes there, I must say.
But I digress . . .

So, in tribute to my local celebrity crush, I give you this video. Don't be fooled by the different names - he's used a couple different ones over the course of his 56 year career. That's right. I said FIFTY SIX. You go, Dave.



Now, I must go clear my calendar of all fluff and nonsense in order that I might be able to sit and wallow in my sorrow and loss every night at 6 o'clock from tonight till December 11th. I don't want to miss a minute of my final moments with my Dave.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Notice the date stamp . . . that's the last time
that all the kids got to play outside together
in the leaves. Between the recent weather and the
flu-like symptoms that have been nailing
one Gang member at a time,
we're really hoping for another chance
to build a leaf pile to play!

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ready for the Olympics

My Gang has always been mesmerized by figure skating on television. The Olympics are like a two week party around here. Recently the Today show featured one of the men who is hoping to bring home a gold medal. It would be the first gold for American men in like, twenty-something years. When I heard the intro to the story, I stopped and settled in to watch. So did Li'l Empress. It seems that the fascination with spins and leaps and artistic interpretation on the ice has bitten another little Gang member.

While I ran for the camera, she stood "thiiiiiiiis close" to the television and just stared with big brown eyes at the screen for several minutes of his program.

As soon as I turned the camera on? Well, she showed me her short program. Enjoy.


video

We'll have to work on the gleeful screaming.
I hear those judges frown on that sort of display!

"I tate" means "I skate."

And "wa wa" means baby or baby doll in Chinese.
Interestingly, it's the only Chinese word
she knew when we met her.
and the only one she still uses, even though
we're trying to incorporate some
of the words we've learned over the years.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dear In The Headlights

The other day, I asked The Boss a question. Ladies, you know the kind I mean. I'm talkin' about the type of query that makes the man stop in his tracks and look at you in alarm. The kind that makes him take a deep breath and swallow the huge lump of fear that has just accumulated in his throat.

I remember thinking that he was likely having his very own "Conversations In the Intersection" kind of moment. I even felt faintly bad for him. For a New York minute. Knowing that the nature of the question forced not just a response, but a response that required honesty with emotion attached. Honesty that would likely get him into trouble. And emotion that was on a level of vulnerability with which The Boss is not regularly comfortable. Not like I am anyway. I mean, I kinda live with my emotions right out there which, by the way, has its own set of unique and troublesome issahs, I tell ya. Yeah, I live there. He only occasionally visits the territory for special events and monumental arguments. I mean, ahem, meaningful interactions of intense fellowship.

So anyway. I asked him this question. I needed to connect and have some feelings explored. He needed to get out of there. Fast. I needed verbal intimacy and word cuddles. He needed to pound his chest, growl and grow more chest hair. I needed to feel the comfort of his voice washing over me. His voice was stuck in the back of his throat.

Does anyone else want to laugh out loud when they have caught their dear in the headlights of wifely conversation?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


Baby BlueEye's art work
makes me feel better.
Especially when it's
a mini- jersey of #81.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taking a Sick Leave

Okay, so, now I have whatever was working its way through The Gang's house slowly and insidiously for the last three weeks. I've actually had it since Sunday night. The congestion. The cough. The overall feeling of BLEH. The headache that won't quit. Huge bags under my eyes. Sinus pressure throbbing. You get the picture.

I don't really get sick days. You know, cuz I'm a mom. But I'm resolving to spend as much time off my feet, on my couch, sipping liquids and closing my eyes as I possibly can. I really don't want to miss the women's conference slated to begin Thursday night.

And since my comfy couch is pretty far away from my computer, I'm pretty much outta here. No writing after this. Maybe some random blog reading to break up the boredom. Maybe not. Maybe some FB updates. Maybe not.

Oh, yeah. Could you please pray for Li'l Empress? She has it too and we really need to keep her hearing ear clear of congestion and fluids. And it's really sad to listen to her cough. I'd really like for her to be much better by the time I try to leave for the women's conference.

Thanks.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Live webcast and events scheduled
all over the country.
Check it out here!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This is WHY

This post. You have to read this post.

It answers so many questions. So. Many.

Not the least of which is "Why is she my bloggy hero?"

Go there now. Read. Be blessed. Be inspired.

But remember. She's. My. Hero.

Mine.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Let the Holiday Festivities Begin!

Over at 5 Minutes for Giveaways, there's a couple really great contests commencing. But you have to act fast, this one is only open till the end of this week. And this one ends the following week.
On second thought, don't act on this at all. Nope, don't go there and enter the fray. Leave the fun to The Gang.

I'm just sayin' . . . .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remember When?

Remember back in August I shared with you a post called Three Little Girls? I asked you to join me in praying that they would find homes and families that would get them the medical care they so desperately needed? Well, it seems that I am a little behind the times in finding this out, but the happy news is that ALL THREE LITTLE GIRLS HAVE BEEN MATCHED with their Forever Families.

I'm so proud to be connected to this amazing international adoption community. I'm incredibly thankful and proud to be connected to China Care. But I am even more in awe and a state of gratefulness that Our Father loves these little ones more than any earthly parent ever could. So much so, that He brought them to the right place. At the right time. To be rightly matched with a mommy and a daddy who won't just love them forever. But will move Heaven and Earth to get them the life-saving medical treatment that they need.

God is good. All the time.
All the time. God is good.



November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
Please, click on this link if the issues surrounding
adoption interest you and your family.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


It was a muddy, muddy game.
But they went out on a big V.
30-0.

For more Wordless Wednesday fun,
head over to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Hut, Hut, Hike!

Football season may officially be over for Dr. D, but we are regularly treated to live re-enactments of the sport's greatest plays ever. I'm talking Hall of Fame material here. Enjoy!


video



And on a completely unrelated note, but NO less important or enjoyable: Baby Christopher has been taken off all his blood pressure meds, had his chest tube removed AND was extubated successfully - all since Saturday! God is moving in this precious little man's body and the best news of all is that his sweet momma finally got to hold him for the first time yesterday. Pray for continued strengthening of his little lungs and endurance for Momma and Daddy as they continue to live away from home! He's making great strides but still needs plenty of time to rest and heal and move forward. Thanks for all your support and prayers - and for spreading the word to pray!

Friday, October 30, 2009

*UPDATED* Update On Baby Christopher

Please continue to pray for our youth
pastor's son, little Christopher.
(You can read the first
request for prayer here.)

Since he was admitted to CHOP on Monday, he has remained stable. However, the doctors are concerned by that and need to see him turn a corner with some serious progression toward improving. It's imperative that he experience a breakthrough, and according to his daddy, these next couple of days are critical.

Our church family has really come together on behalf of this family, gathering for the next week to pray each night from 7-8:30 p.m. If you are local and care to join us as we seek God for a miracle, please feel free to do so. If you cannot be here physically, please consider joining us in spirit as we approach the throne.

This song seemed to be the over-arching theme of Thursday night's prayer time. I pray it ministers to you where you are. And that it be a fragrant offering to our Father on behalf of little Christopher.

Today's news is very hopeful. Christopher's levels have improved overnight and they were able to remove his chest tube. There's been no problems since doing that. It's not huge improvement but certainly "baby steps" in the right direction! Please continue to pray with us and I'll update as healing continues.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'll Bet You Are Tuckered Out With The Waiting!

Okay, so, you've been so patient. Well, most of you have been patient. Some of you have been antsy-in-yo'-pantsy (you.know.who.you.are!). And some of you have likely plumb forgotten what the heck you were supposed to be waiting for. If you fall in that latter category, just play along. Pretend you care. (And yes, I did use the word "plumb." I read a Western over the weekend. It's baseball AND football season, what can I say?!)

Several weeks ago, we tore apart our dining room. We'd been living with wallpaper-stripped walls, full of nicks and scratches and nasty blue chair rail for close to four years. We had 1st grade turkey art hanging on the wall, accompanied by my husband's graffiti. You can see the "Before" pictures here. Go ahead. I'll wait. It's only fair. You waited for the "After."

I'm so gracious to you, dear readers, I know.
It's a gift.

Finally, after weeks of stops and starts on this relatively easy home improvement project, we finished enough of it to share with you. I still have a couple details to work out, including what to do with that huge wall that is gapingly empty right now. But I'm COMMITTED to filling it ONLY with something that I LOVE. And what I think I might LOVE is kinda out of the ballpark, speaking budgetarily, that is. (And yes, I may have in fact just made up that word. Budgetarily. But it works, does it not?! Humph.)

Without further ado, I give you my newly re-decorated dining room.

This is the view from the kitchen doorway,
looking left into the dining room.
These curtains are the same as
the ones in the living room, but not tied back.
Not necessarily permanent, but they are
growing on me for this space.
I'm sentimentally attached to them,
as a dear friend made them for me
as a gift when we were young, first-time
homeowners with BIG windows to cover.
And sheesh, who can afford curtains
when they have gaping spaces to fill?!

Please, ignore the random appearances of burgundy
through out the room. When I'm truly done,
there will be no burgundy
accenting any longer. I'm over it.
(Except for the burgundy place mats
that will still appear
on my table for meals.
Cuz, well, they are still in great shape.

Just won't be needing their services
as accents anymore.)


We spiffed up our chandelier with new
mocha-colored shades.
For now, the secretary that The Boss
and Dr. D re-finished returned to its spot also.
Good spot for concentrated school work.

My china cabinet got a coat of fresh khaki paint.
And put back right where it was before the re-do.
It just didn't seem to fit right in any other space.

This antique chest of drawers also went back
in its original spot, but that's likely a temporary move.
We're really hoping to find a longer, lower buffet-type
piece at a flea market.

The lamp got switched out and we bought a shade
that matched the chandelier shades.

I hung this picture on Monday.
You'll have to trust me when I say that it fills the space perfectly.
From this angle, it seems a little puny for that corner. It's not.
You'll just have to trust me.
It really pulls the two rooms together nicely.
Remember our green living room?

The color is a lovely shade of brown called "Rare Spices." It reminds me of hot chocolate or really good quality milk chocolate. I get almost the same rush of happy when I look at the wall that I get when I eat really good milk chocolate. (Almost . . .)

So, I've got the big wall between the china cabinet and the secretary to fill. It's about 11 or 12' of space to think about. That's a lot of thinking. And think, I will. Wait, I will. At least until I get tickets to the Opr@h Show, where I too can win $500 just for plunking my butt in a studio seat on a lucky day. Or not.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Playing peek-a-boo.
"Waahn, Tooooo, Tweeee, Doh, Digh . . ."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Please Pray! *UPDATED*

Our youth pastor and his wife gave birth to a sweet little baby boy this weekend. Baby Christopher was diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension in infants and over the course of the weekend experienced a collapsed lung. He did not respond to the treatment that the local NICU prescribed. So last night, they "Life Flight'ed" him to CHOP.

Please pray with our church family for complete and total healing over this precious little baby. Please pray for his awesome momma, who is recovering from a c-section in another hospital. Please pray for his daddy, while he stands guard over the little guy's crib in the CHOP NICU. Please pray for our church family while we stand in faith for the healing of this future warrior of the Kingdom. Thank you.

I will post updates as I receive them.

Posted at 2:30 p.m: Little Christopher is stable, but still in critical condition. It does appear as if he is responding postively to the treatment regime. The Boss is actually trying right now to break away from a meeting and head over to the hospital proper to pray with Pastor Mike and maybe get him a healthy (read: non-fast food!) lunch. Please, keep spreading the word and praying annointed healing over this little guy!