Friday, August 31, 2007

Favorites Friday

We were blessed today with FREE tickets to a great show in a few weeks down at a big stadium in Philly. I'm still not totally sure of the chain of possession that these tickets have followed, but I am sure that I'm grateful and excited to be going. And the fact that it's free is certainly a huge part of my gratitude. So thank you TRION, thank you CHOP, thank you Sue, and thank you Dawn & Laura! (You all know who you are!) And if I left anyone out of that chain, I sincerely apologize.

Are you dying to know who we're going to see? You 80's fanatics will love this one: We're going to the Genesis Reunion concert in Philadelphia. (And before I get all kinds of hate mail: I know, I know Genesis is so much more than the 80's. Me? Not so much, but I know they are!!!!) So, today's Favorites are dedicated to them (in no particular order).

Favorite Songs by Genesis and/or Phil Collins:
  • "Land Of Confusion" - for its poetic lyrics that still make me think when I'm singing along
  • "Invisible Touch" - just a great, catchy tune to blast while driving with the windows down on a sunny afternoon
  • "Sussudio" - fun, funky song that makes me want to dance and makes me laugh when I remember my sister's fascination with the song
  • "I Can't Dance" - so glad I'm not the only one!
  • "Don't Lose My Number" - great memories and still one that makes me crank it up and sing along
I must admit, I would never pay money to see this tour. Especially right now that we are stripping our budget to the bare bones and cutting most extras out for the adoption financing. But the fact that we get to go, we get to go for free and we get to be in a sky box has both The Boss and I all a-twitter. And you can believe, I'll be singing along! Besides, who can resist a short, shy bald man who writes amazing Disney soundtracks as a second career? :)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore . . .

I gotta tell you that I am completely NOT looking forward to the start of school. In fact, I have a knot in my stomach and am totally frustrated at the tears that seem waaaaaay too close to the surface when I think about it. I started this blog to be an encouragement to the faithful few who read and to keep my skills in practice by writing about the things I love the best. So I'm sure that many of you have already had your fill of how great my kids are and how much I love my family. blah, blah, blah, blah . . . I know, it may seem too sticky sweet and hopelessly upbeat if you read this blog very often. If that's the case, I apologize. By no means do I want to say that life is perfect around here, but I am acutely aware of how amazing my life is and how blessed I am. REALLY blessed. And that's what I try to emphasize in my writing - I try to pick out the good and the noteworthy. There are enough hard things in the world, without me adding my sob stories to the blogosphere. But again, I don't feel that I have much to whine about. I've got a great life. I do.

But therein lies my dilemma. With this great life comes a great home and a great marriage and great kids. Follow me here: in a few short days, I'm preparing to send off three of these great kids to school. To climb aboard a big yellow bus and travel across town. To be educated (in fabulous schools, by great teachers I might add!) and trained in all things academic. They will be learning math skills, study skills, history, Social Studies, English and reading skills. All good things. All very important things. But they will be doing it away from me. These great kids will be excelling and learning and growing for 7 hours a day, away from me. I hate that. I hate saying good-bye every morning. I hate missing the "spark" of a new skill ignite in their eyes. I hate losing precious time to hang together, laugh together, and explore the world together. I hate being subject to the alarm clock, the bus schedule, and the district calendar. I hate that I must be the most frustrated home-schooling advocate I know! Okay, "hate" may be a bit strong, but I strongly dislike sending my children to someone else for the whole day. For 9 months in a row. (and I really do hate that alarm clock!)

It would be incredibly easy to stop here and tell you that I've had it, I'm yanking all my kids out of their schools and homeschooling everyone. But it's not that easy. (These dilemmas rarely are, are they?!) It would also be incredibly easy to shut off my feelings, "suck it up" cuz this is my life and just learn to deal with it. That's not really an easy option either. For these past 13 years, I've been working with The Boss to raise godly, grounded in the faith, solid kids. And training them to listen for the Holy Spirit in their walk with Christ. Which is presenting yet another dilemma. Raising them that way requires that I learn how to slowly release them and trust the Lord to speak to them. And trust the Lord to go with them when I do release them. And I think I do that pretty well, usually. But it's the last week of August and my heart is crying out that I don't really care what Shaggy thinks the Lord is telling him about 8th grade. And I don't want to hear that Dr. Doolittle thinks he wants to keep trying to stand strong and persevere in the public school. I. don't. care.

Taking a deep breath, I halt that flood of feelings that threatens to overtake me. That threatens to take over my logic and clear-headed decision making skills. That threatens to overwhelm the peace that comes from really praying out a decision, made with The Boss and the gang when emotions are not ripping at me. A decision that was made after prayerful consideration of everyone's thoughts and feelings - based on what was appropriate for all of us as a family. As my breathing slowly returns to normal, I remember that no educational option is without its faults. Yes, homeschooling feels mighty appealing right now, but I well remember the days that it felt never-ending and monotonous. When I felt as if I'd never, ever get to ever be alone in a car again. And I hear my friends talking: I know that homeschooling a "reluctant to be there" teen-ager can be its own version of you-know-what on earth. That's not even counting that I'd have 2 who would be most reluctant this year to be home. And I remember the opportunities that a public school setting offer our family, that we simply cannot offer this year: field trips and scientific experiments, free time to clean the attic and re-organize the house after 3 months of minimal cleaning and household management, to just name a few. I remember, too, that as a born-again, daughter of the most High God, I am not to live by how I feel. I must live by what I know - from His Word and from His Spirit moving in my life.

Finally, I remember that my three students are godly. They are wholesome and largely uninterested in the "stuff" of the world. They do desire to learn all that their school exists to teach them, and to put aside the "stuff" that hinders that learning. And most importantly, they do want to be a light, to share Jesus Christ with the friends they have come to love. They are great kids: that's not going to change, so help me God. Literally! Hee, hee. I also just remembered that they've all been given advance notice: it's entirely likely that when our daughter Aidan comes home from China, the whole family is taking a "year off" from public schooling to educate at home and to really connect as a family. I'm making plans in my little heart and mind even now for ways to make them sooooo completely fall in love (again!) with homeschooling that none of them will ever want to climb aboard that big yellow bus again. Devious, aren't I?!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Introducing. . . .

I thought I'd take a moment to share with you some brand new members of the blogosphere. I'm pleased to say that I had a part, however small it may be!, in infecting these new bloggers with my addiction to the fun. I'm not sure they'll thank me in the long run, but while they are around and their spouses haven't blackballed me from polite society yet, take a moment to click over and meet them!
  • My brand-new niece, Teagan has begun her own blog. I know, she's a genius! She gets it from her Aunt Tracy :) Seriously, my brother decided to put his considerable wit and humor to great use and is charming me every day with his new entries over at The Adventures Of Teagan Siobhan! Is there anything sweeter than the absolute adoration of a proud new daddy for his simply amazing first-born daughter? By the way, Teagan and Siobhan are both Irish and her middle name is pronounced "Shivonne;" love those Irish girl names, eh?!
  • Lauren, over at Episode One, is a new friend of mine. We met at Curves where she works part-time. She's a brand new graduate of Shippensburg University and is using her blog as a means to sort out the craziness of life after graduation while she sorts out who she is becoming. She's charming, funny and very sweet.
  • The third blogger I'd like to introduce is my sister-in-law. I introduced her early in the summer in this entry here, but now she has joined the bloggity madness (and blames me)! She's a creative, gifted, and loving friend and a great home-schooling mom of three. She's just getting things started, so head over and give her a huge welcome - I love reading the funny things that my nieces and nephew come up with; and she's just light-hearted enough to share her Lessons and Life! in a way that cracks me up and makes me think too.
  • Finally, meet Marie over at Kid At Heart. What a perfect name for this sweet, lively young woman! Marie and her hubby are members of our church and very faithful members of our small group for married couples. She has been a Christian for almost her whole life, has had some really cool life experiences, and is very up-beat and energetic. My kids all adore her and if I'm being totally honest, I wish I could be a little bit more like her. She has a child-like joy and enthusiasm for life that is completely contagious.
So there you have it: the crowd that I've infected. I mean affected. With this blogging madness. I figure, "I'm having so much fun, why not share the bloggity goodness?" It's kinda like a candy bar - when you have a really good one, it's kinda sad to eat it all alone. Unless it's a Reese's peanut butter cup. Then, watch out, I'm eating it alone and I'm not letting you anywhere near it. Or a Butterfinger. Or an Almond Joy. Okay, so candy bars are meant to be eaten alone. But you get what I mean - gotta share the goodness!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Favorites Friday

We're excited to welcome some very good friends to the Gang's house this weekend. We've been friends with this couple since the fall of 1990, when our pastor sent us to a Young Marrieds' Small Group that his daughter and her husband were hosting in their home. We'd only been married a couple months and were very anxious to make some new friends. So when The Boss and I were introduced to Ron and Sherry, I immediately issued a dinner invitation. I didn't know it then, but they were completely taken back that a virtual stranger would so quickly offer to serve dinner to them. And I'm happy to report that we've been great friends ever since!

My Favorite Things About The Staleys:
  • They are consistently a pleasure to spend time with. Conversation never lags and we have a wonderful balance of light-hearted, fun conversation mixed with spiritually thought-provoking topics to explore every time we are together.
  • We share a mutual love of great food, new recipes, and interesting new ingredients. Their kids are more adventurous in this area than The Gang, but we always have a great time sharing new things we've learned since our last visit.
  • Our kids and theirs are great friends and have grown up together. They play together very well and this allows us to really enjoy each other's company.
  • Since we've moved, the visits are even more meaningful for all of us. They've made an equal effort to stay in touch and stay close. In fact, considering that their whole family and church network is centered around the Mechanicsburg/Dillsburg area, they've actually made more effort to sustain the relationship since we left.
  • Even though they don't totally understand (or like!) some of the decisions we've had to make over the years (moving!) they have been consistently supportive and encouraging. I think it's safe to say they are almost as excited about our adoption as we are and I KNOW they are often on the look-out for jobs for The Boss to lure us back to Mechanicsburg :)
I think we can all agree that friendships like these are hard to come by and harder still to sustain. I count it a real joy and a complete privilege that the Lord has seen fit to give us these kinds of relationships. I can count on one hand the friends I call intimates and I recognize that this is more than many people ever get in a lifetime. I think I owe my parents a big debt of gratitude for this, after thanks to the Lord. I've seen them consistently choose in their lives to put people ahead of things and real relationships ahead of surface acquaintances. Watching their example, I am blessed to say that I have learned the value of true friendship and people-focused living. The Staleys are a great example of the kind of hospitable, warm and loving heart that Christ must have had when he walked the earth. The kind of hearts that make great friends, for life! We are grateful for friends like these!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Welcome To The Family, Baby O

I am proud and pleased to announce that Baby O made her grand debut at 5:45 a.m. today (August 24). The new little bundle of joy came just in time to be the perfect birthday present for her big cousin, K. Reports are that he's thrilled to share his day with the newest, youngest member of the growing O family.

Baby O was born at 6 lbs., after about 12 hours (?) total labor and an hour or so of pushing. Sister-in-law and baby are resting comfortably right now, and the local aunts are making plans to visit her later this afternoon. Li'l Bro was still high on adrenaline and joy when I spoke to him this a.m. and was happy to tell me the story about how he got to "catch her." He kept commenting that this all felt so surreal, that he was holding and looking at his daughter. It reminded me of when Shaggy was born - I think it took me a few weeks to get used to the idea that I was a mommy. And I can't even get started on how weird it is for me to think that my baby brother is a daddy now. Now, THAT's surreal :)

So, for all of you praying: thanks for your prayers. Everyone is healthy and recovering well. And for those of you wondering what happened to more creative names for my other family members: not today! I'm too tired and am thinking in way too many other directions to even try to be creative now. Way!

Happy BIRTHday, Baby O and Happy 12th Birthday, K!
Aunt T loves you both tons and tons!

Days like this make me exceedingly grateful for a godly, healthy, loving family - and that we all keep adding to it! Thank you Lord, for this amazing day. We are indeed blessed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Have To Tell Someone!

I just got the call: Baby Brother and his wife are going to be making me an auntie again - in a matter of hours, I'm sure. Yes, I realize it's 11:36 p.m. and I have a gazillion meals to deliver tomorrow and a bulletin to write and errands to run and groceries to buy, and I'm way past my bedtime. But I've been watching the clock all night and waiting to hear more details since I found out that contractions were coming with regularity and clock-ability. I'm NEVER gonna sleep now! And yes, I realize, it's not about me. It's about new Baby O, making me an auntie. And about Baby Brother and wife, finally making me an auntie again. See, it's not really about me at all!

More when I get the scoop. Maybe I'll think up better screen names for Baby Brother and wife, and Baby O by then. Maybe I'll wait to get some caffeine into my system first. . .

The Gang Has Gone Digital!

Some of you may remember my fledgling attempts at blogging, in which I broadly hinted to The Boss that I would love a digital camera. (You can read that here!) And several posts ago, I hinted that we had some answered prayer to report (here). Well, you guessed it! Through the hands of my in-laws, the Lord has answered my wanna-be techie heart's cry and blessed us with a digital camera! YIPPEE! The Gang has gone digital!

I'm not totally grasping all that The Boss tried to teach me in that first lesson, but I have on at least one occasion today successfully uploaded two or three pictures on my own and sent them off to a friend. (Promises Fulfilled, did ya get those pics I sent?!) I was seriously motivated to do so, because Baby Blue Eyes has agreed that it is time to part with a select few of his Rescue Heroes collection (don't worry, it's mostly duplicates that are waving bye-bye!) and we are selling them on our local craig's list. We're planning on putting the money into our Adoption Jar. And after BBE agreed that his 4th Billy Blazes and 2nd Jake Justice would do well to serve and protect in another little boy's home, he cheerfully agreed that maybe it was time to sell his Geo Traxx train set. So I snapped some photos of both sets of toys, posted the classified and added photos. All by my lonesome. Well, mostly today by myself. Last night The Boss gave me that quick run-thru lesson.

There's only one problem: I am terrified that in the uploading and storing of our new pics, The Boss and I will have completely differing ideas of where to store, how to label said storage, and what to store. I mean, already he took a picture of Dr. Doolittle and labeled it Whitney Pics in a little album on our software. Honestly, did he think that I needed to know that this was a Whitney Pic as opposed to, say a Walker Pic? Or a Smith Pic? a Jones Pic? Come on, aren't all of them essentially Whitney Pics? I mean, SERIOUSLY?!

Our conversation last night about what to do with the photos once I upload them was all too reminiscent of the night we bought our first file cabinet. I had visions of neatly labeled, alphabetically placed files hanging in a row, top drawer filled first. The Boss just started stuffing things that "looked like they belonged together" into files, scribbling titles and putting them in both drawers. My eyes started twitching and I developed this weird tic in the side of my neck when I tried to patiently explain that this must be done in an orderly fashion. "Kitchen Appliance Manuals" must be printed neatly and all successive titles should be similarly printed for consistency. Cut to 15 or so years later and this venture into the digital world has me twitching again. Can you feel my pain?

I made The Boss promise me last night that we would try to do this uploading and storing thing in some semblance of order. The thing I didn't nail him down on was who's order we were talking about! I think that I need to go back and clarify exactly what I mean. After all, the family photos have traditionally been my domain to sort, maintain, file and utilize. If left to his devices, The Boss would probably never even take the camera with him for family trips, birthday parties and other important outings. He worked so hard to pick just the perfect one when he bought our last camera, and I have had to work twice as hard to get him to BRING it anywhere. And actually displaying or framing any of the photos we take? That's all me, baby; all me! I know the novelty of this digital answer to prayer will wear off and family photos will return to my area of responsibility. I just need to clarify that I need a system. A system that makes sense and is easy to use. After all, isn't the new digital age supposed to make our lives easier?!

Thank you Mom and Dad W, for sharing your camera! It really is a blessing to have, and all of us really appreciate the thoughtful generosity. Enjoy your trip to Alaska, take lots of pics with your new one and tell the polar bears hi for me! :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Still Raining Here

Well, it's Tuesday morning and it's still raining. I woke up later than I'd planned, to the sound of banging and clanging in the kitchen (below my bedroom). I had all kinds of great intentions that these last three weeks before sc*^^$ (bad word here!) be a gradual return to routine and a gentle retraining for getting up early again. And I did wake up early, only to roll over and fall back to sleep till 8:08 a.m. To the sound of banging and clanging in the kitchen.

It seems Shaggy is coming down with a whopper of a cold and he couldn't sleep anymore. So he got up, ate his breakfast and started the dishes left over from last night. I swear this boy is an alien! Who gets up because they feel lousy and WORKS?! BEFORE a cup of coffee hits? That is just so weird, isn't it? He gets that perky morning energy from The Boss. It's really quite annoying to those of us in the house who aren't morning people. After the dishes, he folded a load of towels and swept and mopped the foyer. All before 9:30. That's just weird, isn't it?

But this morning he inspired me - I'm working on not reacting so violently in the a.m. to mild annoyances :) I made myself a huge Tigger mug full of coffee with yummy hazelnut creamer (sugar free!) and I dragged out my PILE of papers that I avoided all last week. (After all, taking care of them last week would have intruded upon our hours of fun in the sun!) I sorted it all. Every single last page of it. All that's left is to cut the coupons, which I can do after I get home from Curves. I even had time to type out a nice reply to our new Youth Director's questionnaire about our expectations of youth ministry - that's been sitting there for well over a week.

Now it's about 9:30 and I'm already tired. I really need to finish that cup of coffee. Hang on a minute, it's cold. Yesterday I had the bright idea of going back to 1/2 decaf - 1/2 regular, to cut the dependence of the caffeine rush that I've been slowly developing. So today's coffee is packing a less powerful punch. Okay, I'm back! I'm sitting here inhaling the nutty goodness of a re-warmed mug of coffee, looking at the rain and planning out my day. It feels all too much like a "regular" day, not much like summer vacation. But judging by the amount of work that's gotten done here these past two days (yesterday was a pretty productive day, too!), I'm guessing it was more than the dry, brown grass that needed the rain. My counter tops and my spirit needed this mini-housecleaning. I'm actually glad that it's still raining here . . . .
*Lest I make Shaggy out to be too much of a saint, I must confess that he is the "morning dish guy" for the summer months and that the other jobs listed are part of his weekly chores. He is a normal teen (aaack!) who does grouse at even being required to do jobs, but likes to get them out of the way early in the week (and apparently early in the day!) so he can lay around playing video games ad nauseum and listening to music at ear splitting decibels later in the week. Honest!

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Perfect Weekend

What a whirlwind weekend we had! Friday night started with a Philly themed birthday party for Shaggy. We had soft pretzels, real cheesesteaks, the Eagles exhibition game (Eagles kicked some Panther butt!) and late night swimming for Shaggy, Dr. Doolittle and three of their friends. Li'l Sis took LadyBug and Baby Blue Eyes home with her after an afternoon of swimming, so they didn't feel left out of the festivities.

Saturday, The Boss stained our deck a lovely, dark brown slate color. He was really pushing to get it done, as there was rain forecasted for Monday and he wanted it to dry for at least the recommended 24 hours. About the same time he finished, Li'l Sis and Pastor Brother-in-law dropped off their three munchkins for some fun with The Gang while they headed out on a double date with our brother and sister-in-law. We spent the evening walking around the neighborhood, hanging with the Favorite Neighbors, and managing 7 kids plus the neighbors' girls. It was like a playground at lunch time recess here!

Sunday we woke to RAIN?! The Boss frantically pulled all the towels and cushions off the patio and checked the deck through the windows all morning to see if the rain was "beading up" on the newly stained deck. I think that was supposed to be some kind of litmus test to whether or not the deck was dry yet. No beading up. But we were planning to do a second coat of stain closer to the end of the swimming season anyway, so I think we are okay. After church, we sent all four kids over to the neighbors' for a movie so Shaggy could keep an ear for their napping twins while Mr. Neighbor worked in the yard and Mrs. Neighbor shopped with me. Cuz you know, shopping on a rainy Sunday at the mall is a great antidote to "rainy day blues." Only now I have "Payless shoes blues" - so many pretty, pretty shoes and so little budget for shoes. No budget, really! I found animal print flats, and plaid sneakers, and alligator skin boots. And an amazing orange purse. They were all calling for a warm, loving home at The Gang's house, specifically in my cozy closet. But I resisted. I'm shocked, but I actually resisted.

Then we all gathered at Favorite Neighbors' home for a yummy dinner of home-made mac & cheese followed by waffle bowl sundaes. We even had cherries for the top. But for me, the real cherry on the top was a fabulous night of fun conversation and easy friendship, topping off a perfect weekend of family, friends, and great food. Nothing could be better than that!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Favorites Friday

About 5 years ago, I started checking out the Country Music station in the Harrisburg, PA region. I'd heard a couple songs while hanging out with Li'l Sis & Pastor Brother-In-Law that I really liked by Brad Paisley and thought "I've never really given Country Music a chance, maybe I should. . . " (or something along that thought line). I've always loved a wide variety of music genres, but honestly had never even tried Country. So I tuned in and I got sucked in right quick! All these years later, I'm not a huge Brad Paisley fan; my tastes run more to groups with great harmonies and border-line grunge Aussies. There are some who argue that what I like isn't really country, it's more pop-country, but I like it and that's what counts! I like the stories, the sound, and the "Americana" of it all. So, today's post is all about my not-so-secret, little-bit-of-a-redneck five favorite country artists . . .

My Five Favorite Country Artists:
  • Keith Urban-love his sound, his guitar skills and his pretty hair; and don't even get me started on his accent! :) (right about here, The Boss is chuckling and shaking his head!)
  • Rascal Flatts-like their harmonies and their passion for Jesus! I've gotten the whole Gang hooked and singing along
  • Little Big Town-amazing, big harmonies, reminds me of Avalon (from the later 90's) in many ways
  • Tim McGraw-he's TIM McGRAW!
  • SugarLand-good twang when I'm feeling particularly red-necky, and great for hard-driving tunes while cleaning or driving with the windows down
Keith Urban is in concert tomorrow night in Philly. I didn't win tickets. Pups N' Horses and I were each trying, with the agreement that we'd bring each other if we won. The Boss was okay with that, not being a huge fan of Keith Urban. Or of my obsession with Keith Urban. I've been thinking all week of ways to finagle free tickets, and even penciled the concert date into my calendar, so I didn't plan anything that I couldn't get out of . . . just in case! But the sad fact is that I didn't win tickets. Even with my frantic prayers when I dialed in, I didn't win. I know I'll live, and even thrive in spite of it, but the sad fact remains - I didn't win. I didn't.

As I read this over after the initial posting, I realize it's seriously lacking in spiritual depth. So here's my editing to correct that: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the insight that Pastor Brother-In-Law showed even before he was a pastor, to lead me to this endeavor. His wisdom can have only come from You, O Lord and I'm so grateful that you brought him to our family, to share this with us. And thank you Lord for the incredibly cute and wonderful nieces and nephew that he and Li'l Sis gave us too. Amen!

Have a great Friday, all five of you, my faithful readers :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Special Blessings

Okay Kateri, this is for you!
I wouldn't want to cause undue stress
on that cute little heart of yours or anything :)

Our adoption agency, Living Hope, hosted its annual "family reunion" at a local hotel in the Philly suburbs. We had known about it for months, had prayed about whether we could go, and decided to skip it this year. Finances have been very tight since we started our "waiting" process (not that they are ever free-flowing and extravagant other times!) and we just felt that it would be good, probably lots of fun, but not necessarily wise to spend the money this month.

Enter my new friend, I'll call her K's Mom. K's Mom is a mom that I met through LH. They actually paired us together for support through the waiting process. Having "been there, done that" K's Mom has been a very supportive and encouraging new friend. She's got lots of great ideas for educating our family about Chinese adoptions, and has been a good resource of ways to pray, how to handle people's comments and other things we face in this journey. Anyway . . . . When K's Mom found out that our tight budget was the main reason we did not register for the reunion, she went to Samuel and his staff. (Samuel and Lily Fang are the founders of Living Hope Adoption Agency.) On our behalf, K's Mom requested that we be able to come "a la carte" so we could still experience the fun and the connections within our own budget constraints. The LH staff graciously agreed that that would be fine and we joined them for a really well done family picnic around the hotel pool. My little ones even got to tie-dye t-shirts (now I have a fun family craft plan brewing in my head!!) and meet a couple girls their ages.

The Boss and I were near tears all afternoon. Little chubby cheeks, glossy black hair and shining brown/black eyes were everywhere! It was so encouraging to see the "end result" of this journey we are on - in living color! One little girl in particular just captured our hearts. All of about two and a half years old, she sashayed right up to me and said, "Hi. What's youh name?" Through my blurry eyes, I introduced myself and my family. When her mom came to find her, we got to hear her story and that of her older sister. As if that all weren't enough, one of the families had tickets to the evening banquet that they couldn't use and offered them to us through the LH staff!

So we went home, swam with the kids for a little bit and then ordered a pizza and left Shaggy in charge. We headed out to the banquet, for our first night out in a very long time! We sat with two couples that we've known for a little while and got to hear their stories and meet their families. And we got to watch an area dance troupe perform some traditional Chinese dances, complete with the dragon. At the close of the night, there was a special presentation of information about Living Hope's sister organization that provides homes and training for kids who do not get adopted. It's a sort of vo-tech orphanage and is doing great things in the country of China. If you have a heart to see children cared for, equipped with the Gospel and trained with life skills to re-integrate into their own society, you should check this out. They are actively pursuing sponsorships and support, as well as staffing personnel. When I'm feeling particularly stressed about the ones that I cannot take home, I focus my prayers to Living Hope International!

We spent the whole night checking on each other, gaging each other's emotion and ability to cope with this overflow of cuteness and fulfilled dreams! I can't even describe to you what was stirring in our hearts and minds - I'm still feeling overwhelmed. Thank you, Lord for your care for us. And thank you, Living Hope, for being HIS hands to minister such encouragement and community to The Gang! These special blessings will be in our hearts as precious memories during this long journey.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


This past Sunday, Shaggy made me the MOTHER OF A TEEN-AGER. I put it all in caps, because of the momentous-ness of the occasion. It's not just that Shaggy turned 13. It's that my job description has changed. Altered slightly might be more accurate.

I find myself looking at him and wondering how we got here. When did his adorable little bowl cut become a shaggy mop of beautiful blond waves? When did his pinch-able, chubby little cheeks become narrowed and thinned out, ready to begin the chiseling process of manhood? When did his sweet little voice stop singing "Happy, Happy, Happiness!" (from Sesame Street) and start rumbling and cracking while he beat boxes his way through his morning chores? When did he stop asking for "peanut, peanut butter . . . . and jelly!" (also sung from Sesame Street) and start making lunch for all of us every day without being asked?

But I'm also wondering when he stopped being reminded to read the Word every day and started spending time with Jesus all by himself. When did he stop looking at his friends for cues on how to behave and try to stand in what he knows is right? When did he decide that he could be strong and make it in the public junior high? When did he start memorizing the Word and lyrics to Christian music, to fill his head with those things instead of the junk around him? When did he figure out that although he doesn't always like the rules here, his job is to learn to submit to them right now? (That's an actual quote of his to a friend that didn't like the house rules. - Proud mama, I know!)

I'm feeling so blessed and overwhelmed by the young man he is becoming. I'm feeling completely undeserving of the Grace of God that has allowed him to grow up (thus far!) so well, many times IN SPITE of the stuff that The Boss and I do. We've made our fair share of mistakes, and will continue to do so, I'm confident. We are flawed. And I tell Shaggy all the time that this new stage of parenting is as new to us as becoming a man is to him. But we're partnering together to get through it and so far we've been able to keep our goal of glorifying HIM intact. We're working it out together as we go, trying (all of us together!) to become more like Jesus a little each day. But as I said, my job description has to change. I have to turn my focus now to preparing him to make choices for himself. I have to find ways to let go, loosen the reins, and allow him to experience graduated levels of freedoms that will put him in the positions to choose. And even more difficult that that, I have to choose to allow him to fail and be a safe place for him to come to when he does. Without judgement or condemnation. With love, guidance and acceptance.

OMIGOSH! I know this, I've been mentally preparing for it and praying about it for years. But now it's time to do it. And I think we're doing it okay so far. When I watch him from across the room, I can hardly see through my tears. He's so tall and handsome and strong. He's kind and tender-hearted and generous. He's becoming a godly man of integrity - I can see it even in its earliest forms. OMIGOSH! I am the MOTHER OF A TEEN-AGER, and I'm certain that I don't remember how we got here!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First Things First

I have a ton of great things that I want to blog about today. I promise, they are coming. But first, I need to share a great site with you. This blog belongs to a family in our adoption community, the Bishops. They are in China right now, celebrating their "Gotcha Day!" with their new daughter Emma. They have two blogs, actually, because blogspot is hard to connect with in China. To see the celebration pictures, check out their second blog, here.

I'm sharing this with all of you because they have moved me tremendously in the months that I've been following their story. Their faith and trust in the Lord's plan for them in this whole adoption has been inspiring. They've been through A LOT in their journey to Emma (check out their archives on the blogspot site) and they've had rough patches, but they've always trusted that THIS is the path the Lord has been leading them along for their family. And of course, to see evidence that this will really happen, has been so encouraging for our family!

So, I'll be back later with lots of great updates on The Gang, including but not limited to: our first day as the parents of a TEEN-AGER, a special blessing from the Lord and our adoption agency, new friends, and answered prayers. It was a full, full weekend for all of us!

*Please be patient with the blog site for the celebration pictures! They ARE worth viewing, but the link has been pretty slow lately. Seeing that beautiful smile on Emma's face will make it worth the wait :)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Favorites Friday

It's raining today. Pouring, really. And it's dark and humid and hazy. But I'm rejoicing! I've been praying for a rainy day for about a week now.

I'm not complaining, but when you own a pool and its beautiful, blue shimmery-ness is staring you in the face daily, you almost feel guilty NOT using it when it's sunny and warm. Or hot and humid. Or oppressively hot and humid. Maybe it's just me - maybe I'm the only one who feels slightly obligated to get out there and take advantage of every possible opportunity to play and bask and hang with the kids. Maybe it's just because everyone keeps talking about summer's end.

But it's raining today and it's Friday! I don't even have to see the beautiful pool and its welcoming waters. It's too gray out to see any blue. I'm sharing my favorite things about rainy days today.

My Favorite Things About Rainy Days
  • Rainy day movies with the kids - complete with popcorn, blankets, pillows and drawn shades
  • "Day off" feeling, coupled with the "early weekend start" feeling on a Friday!
  • Slower pace, the day seems longer
  • Quiet classical music or smooth jazz fits the day perfectly
  • Chance to putter in the kitchen, sort piles of paperwork, or create a masterpiece for dinner
So I'm off to enjoy this rainy Friday with my kids. I'm thinking about running to Blockbuster for some old movies, and praying that it rains all day tomorrow too. Then The Boss can join the quiet, low-key fun!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Luke 11

Last night at prayer, I spent some time reading and praying through Luke 11, where Jesus is teaching on prayer. First he shared with the disciples a model of how to pray. We all know that as "The Lord's Prayer." I love that prayer - it comforts and soothes my spirit like few other "scripted" prayers ever do. I think it's because it is a combination of the most basic yet most profound expressions of all I will ever want and need in my relationship with Jesus and the world around me. I also love it because it reminds me of my roots: I remember saying it during mass as a child, flanked by my parents in our little 70's "modern" Catholic church or by my grandparents in their hulking, ancient Catholic church. The continuity of mass being the same wherever I went was a thing of beauty to me. I feel like "The Lord's Prayer" anchors me.

After meditating on it for a while, I moved on to the teachings in Luke 11:7-11. Here, Jesus is talking to the disciples about the Father's heart for His people. He likens God here to earthly fathers - reminding them (I'm sure they connected with this analogy because many of them were fathers themselves) that a father loves to give good gifts to his children. And that if a child is bold enough to ask, the father doesn't disappoint. That got me. Bear with me, I'm brewing this one in my brain now, too!

I'm very blessed to have a father who loves to give good gifts. In fact, on vacation we were reminiscing about some of my dad's travels when he was in auto-parts sales. I have a distinct memory of a beautiful, shiny (fake I'm sure!) gold ring with a flat stone on top that had been painted with a pretty horse head. He got it for me in my "horse stage" when he was on a business trip to wherever the Kentucky Derby is held. I remember other gifts, things that I needed or wanted, things that I'd hinted at and things that I outright asked for. One year, I really wanted a bike. We were in Bible school at the time and a bike wasn't really in the budget. But I got one. I still don't know how or from where it came, but I got the bike. And our family cabin was purchased by our parents for the whole family to have a touch point, a place of connection. A gift to facilitate retreats, future relationships, and memories for all the kids and grandkids in years to come.

As I prayed, I felt the Lord stirring this in me: with this great experience of a earthly father (and mother, I can't leave her out!!) who loves to give good things to his child, why do I have such a hard time asking my Heavenly Father for those things that are good for me? Why do I struggle to articulate what is in my heart for my walk with Him? Or my family life? Or my marriage? Or our finances? I have no problem praying with great confidence and even authority for a young mom about to welcome another little one to the family. Or for a friend struggling with her marriage. Or for The Boss in this season of upheaval and change at work. But if you were to ask me what I wanted from My Father for my heart, I would have a hard time answering that. I do have a hard time answering that.

Pastor Brother-in-law asked us last night what God was speaking to us during the quiet, individual portion of prayer time and I couldn't answer. I couldn't say out loud that "God showed me from Luke 11 that I have a hard time believing that He wants to give me good things when I ask for me." And believe me, for those of you who know me, it's not like I was at a loss for words. HA! It was more like I couldn't even admit that out loud yet. And I'm still working through what I think. Is it that I have a hard time believing that He wants to do it? Or that I have a hard time actually asking for it? Or is it that I don't even know what it is I really want?

I don't have any particular answers to these questions. I do have a lot of questions, and would love to hear from you. Do you wonder over this passage? Do you have different life experiences that make you respond to this passage differently? What can I learn from your thoughts on this? I'm still brewing, and I know it's something that HE started. After all, I've read that passage a thousand, million times. It never sent my mind percolating in this direction before! And like the previous brews, I'm sure this is gonna be a good one!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Vacation Wrap Up

Yesterday we wrapped up our first ten day vacation in I-can't-remember-when. After a crazy rush of June and July with family, friends, work, church and other activities, it was a welcome change of pace. And boy, did we change pace! Here's a few highlights of the past week and a half:
  • Hanging out all day with Don't Stop This Car - the whole carload of 'em!
  • 4 days of laying around the family cabin, rotating between lounge chairs, the hot tub and the couch!
  • Hanging out at night, talking and laughing with my parents till late, late
  • Shaggy and Dr. Doolittle's first experiences with tubing behind Grandpa's boat
  • LadyBug and Baby Blue Eyes catching so many little fishies off the dock
  • Visiting Oak Hill Farms Bulk Foods store (an annual tradition we all have come to love!)
  • Lots of sleeping in, cat naps, and reading in between - at the cabin and at home
  • Working out at Curves in Penn Yan - I still love mine best . . .
  • Pizza, swimming and hot tubbing with friends
  • Skipping church to hang out together over a late morning pancake breakfast
  • Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ - loved the seals! And don't even get me started on the turtles and sharks!
  • The Boss puttering around the yard and the pool area - apparently he got a lot of little chores crossed off his "To Do" list
Today, life goes back to "normal" for our summer days. The Boss went to work, the gang all got up and started their weekly jobs and I worked out bright and early. I even dragged my sorry self to Weight Watchers, knowing it wouldn't be good news. But it had to be done. It wasn't good news. This week, I begin re-training the kids to go to bed at a decent hour and get up at a decent hour. And I start looking for ways to hold the coming of fall at bay, making our days slower and longer to squeeze out the last possible ounces of summer as I go! I'm so glad we have one more vacation week planned before the summer sun sets . . . .

Saturday, August 4, 2007

My Favorite New Cleaning Tip

I had the privilege of hosting Don't Stop This Car and her lovely family last Saturday here in our home. While I was giving her the grand tour of The Gang's abode, we got talking about new bathrooms, and our plans for updating & remodeling. When I showed her my shower, she asked me what that thing was hanging off our shower faucet. Well, I got so excited that I had to share my new find with her and we decided that I really should post about it to share the goodness of it with all of you!

Let me start by saying that I am not one to run out and buy the latest gadgets, nor am I one to believe much advertising or hype about new products. In fact, I am quite skeptical as a general rule and a traditionalist in my view of keeping a clean home: good old-fashioned elbow grease and a bottle of Fantastic or 409 are my products of choice when cleaning the bathrooms. It keeps my boys busy to do it the old-fashioned way! But when I heard about the Scrubbing Bubbles Shower Cleaner, I knew that I needed to re-evaluate the way we were doing things. Mostly because Shaggy and Dr. Doolittle's ideas of cleaning down the shower and my ideas were vastly different. They are just boys and they are only 12 and 11, I know!

Well, let me tell you: I love my Scrubbing Bubbles Shower Cleaner! Once a day, after the shower has been used and wet down, we press the little button, seal up the shower curtain and listen to it whir around for 12 seconds of cleaning joy. When placed in a clean, well-scrubbed shower, it prevents soap scum buildup and keeps your shower stall (of any size and variety!) clean and smelling fresh. When placed in a stained, mildew-y (our former home-owners were slobs!) shower, it slowly chips away at the mess and the grime. Voila, after about 10-12 days of daily use, the gross shower is noticeably cleaner and the grout and tiles are significantly brighter. I promise!

And the extra bonus is that if you watch the coupons carefully and shop the sales, you can find coupons for $10 off to purchase the start-up kit. And I found that generally speaking, WalMart and Giant have the most competitive pricing for the kit and the refills. The refills do go quickly at first, because you must use it daily to start. But now that we are living with clean showers, I really only run them a few (3?) times a week. With our first shower, we scrubbed it down really well and then placed the mighty little tool in the stall. With our second, we just put it in, wet down the walls and started it up. The difference is amazing. Really!

So, that's my favorite new tip: Let the Scrubbing Bubbles Shower Cleaner clean your shower for you. And maybe you can use the extra time you glean to indulge in a nice hot bubble bath - in your newly cleaned shower!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Favorites Friday

I am 39. In fact, for three days, I have been 39. I am not overly happy about turning 39. And dear Shaggy hasn't helped, with his timely reminders on my important day that I am now only 364 days away from 40 (today, only 361). I can't (YET!) find things to love about being "almost _orty." Sheeeesh, I can hardly even say the "f" word (numeric, not nasty!) out loud.

My Favorite Things About Turning 39 (as if one can have favorite things about this event. . . . )
  1. I am more sure than ever before that I am done bearing children, if the decision is totally left to me
  2. I got to eat steak from the grill, salt potatoes, and chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream cake
  3. I didn't have to do dishes all day long
  4. I got an e-card from Keith Urban when I got home and checked my email (I know it's not really from him, but it had his cute little face on the greeting and a girl can dream a little, can't she?!)
  5. I spent the whole d-day just hanging out on the deck, rotating between chairs and the hot tub while reading and talking with my mom.
Okay, I'm taking my tired, 39-year-old self off to the couch. With a book and a bowl of popcorn. Thinking up SOMETHING to like about turning 39 was exhausting. And I really stretched it. Not doing the dishes wasn't really that big a deal - the boys do them most days anyway! I got nothing else. . .

I'll blog more on our fabulous relaxing lake adventure when I recover from the shock of seeing "39" in black and white so many times in one post. ugh.