Thursday, April 30, 2009

Please Pray

When we were in China, I was very blessed to meet a blogger whom I'd been following for months. I found her through a special needs on-line forum I belong to. We'd chatted by forum and by blog several times before actually meeting in person.

Remember the day we had to walk through this? Well, we serendipitously met the Campbell family that morning, all of us standing in the foyer of this little studio to get our daughters' visa photos processed. We were all soaked, muddy up to our knees, and trying not to think of the disgusting things we'd just exposed ourselves to. We were joking about how happy we'd be to get back to the hotel to down our antibiotics and shower off the muck. We were admiring each other's gorgeous little ones, still so new and unknown. Yet so loved and so known. It was a quick conversation, and we bumped into each other once or twice more on Shamian Island over the next two days while shopping or eating out. If you have some time to kill (I know, funny, ha ha!), you ought to read some of their archives. They have a beautiful family. I've been so encouraged by their blog and their story so far. And yes, I still love peeking in on them after meeting them in person!

But this week, this beautiful family needs our prayers. Their precious little one is facing a huge surgery this week. The whole family needs the love and encouragement of the Body of Christ to support them through this big experience. Please, take some time to bring little Naomi to the throne. Join me in beseeching the Great Physician for wisdom and discernment for the doctors and speedy healing and recovery for Naomi. Pray with me for comfort and peace for Mom and Dad and all her siblings. Continue praying for the coming months as they all adjust to a new normal.

The back story (or a bit of it anyway!) can be found here.

Thank you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

There he is, my Baby BlueEyes,
running drills with his team.

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taking It Back

I'm on the mend, slowly feeling the release of pressure and pain in my jaw, eyes and forehead. This time, the sinus infection hit me hard and hit me fast. I saw the doctor yesterday and about cried when he was tapping my cheekbones. He gave me quite possibly the biggest pills ever made and said I should be "back to normal" by tonight. I laughed, as I'm not even sure what normal really is anymore!

I've been toying around the last two weeks with doing something "drastic" about my health, knowing that the (more than a) few pounds I've gained since my local C*rves closed and Li'l Empress came home has been really hard on my body. Add to that the increased pressure and pace of raising now 5 kids and the decreased rest and down time, and it's no wonder I've been sick so often this winter. I'm tired of it and have decided to do something about it.

So today, while The Boss watched Li'l Empress and worked from home, I took myself off to my local W*ight W*tchers. I re-joined. It's been a long time coming, and I know that I need that extra level of accountability and "push" from others in the same journey. It's helpful that the Lord blessed us with an unexpected bit of finances. That goes a long way toward making me feel less guilty about needing to spend money to lose weight. And it's also helpful that I have several walking DVD's and CD's, plus some great tools and resources from my earlier years in the program. I don't have to spend that again.

When I first moved here, my membership in WW transferred without a hitch; and I had a built-in community of support and help. But as finances got tighter and the adoption loomed closer and closer, the decision to quit had to be considered. I was only 1/2 way to my goal weight and working out regularly at my local C*rves. I thought I could handle the freedom and "do the program" at home on my own. And I did okay, while I was still using the weigh-in options at C*rves. But with the big adjustments and different focus that we've been called to in the first 6-8 months of settling in with Li'l Empress, I got totally off track. I lost my focus and my health has suffered for it.

So today. I'm getting back on track. I'm honing my focus. I have a 10% goal to achieve and I'm moving myself forward. I'm doing this to feel better. I'm doing this to keep up with my kids. I'm taking my health back. And it feels really good.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Still Not Popping Here

I'm still sick. Went head long from cold to sinus infection, with all the accompanying pain and pressure. Still not feeling witty and charming. But apparently, my normally quiet LadyBug was feeling soooooomething . . . . Let's hope it's youthful exuberance over the beautiful weather and not anything permanent!

Here's my sassy girl. . . .

Friday, April 24, 2009

Too Pooped to Pop

I think I caught Li'l Empress's cold. I'm really draggin' my tail this morning. So, in lieu of coming up with something charming and witty, I'm sharing this video of my daughter playing "Patty Cake" with her great-grandmother. I'm so thankful for the times I have to spend with her and that we have these momentos of the two of them getting to know each other.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mother's Day Giveaway 2009

Mothers Day 2009

5 Minutes for Mom is at it again! Starting Wednesday, April 22 through Saturday, May 9th, you can register to win all kinds of fun prizes in their annual Mother's Day Giveaway 2009.

It's also an awesome opportunity to find other bloggers and connect with moms from all over the place when you leave comments. I always get a huge kick out of other comments and find new favorites to add to my Google Reader when these gals run one of these fun events. Please, take a few minutes to head over to their site and get yourself started!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Blogging friends meet-up.

This gal and her adorable daughter, S, attend my sister's church in New England. While we were there, we got a chance to meet in person after over a year of reading about each other's adoption journeys and trading emails back and forth. She was as lovely to meet in person as she's been in our blogging and email exchanges; and I'm thankful for yet another friend that has been brought to my path through the community of Chinese adoptions. We traveled to China about a week apart and have both been busy about the business of bonding and attachment with our daughters, so the short time we had together exchanging stories just did not feel like enough!

I know this is supposed to be wordless, but if you think of it, could you please pray for little S today? She had a procedure done late last week and is still in a good bit of pain in the recovery. The whole family could use some rest and comfort from The Healer today!

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Exciting New Reality Show

This weekend, I found a video on a blog by a college student in the mid-west. She was an intern in the China Care program when Li'l Empress was waiting to be united with us. Reading her blog has given me a peek into her passion for orphans and a heart for children in China. We're especially grateful to her because she was instrumental in helping us access the 60+ pictures and a few videos that were part of Li'l Empress's files while in the China Care program. I have thoroughly enjoyed our interchanges, and like having a connection to someone who cared for and prayed over our girl before she came home. It's another one of those little treasures from My Father that many adoptive moms don't get to experience. I don't take it lightly, it is a gift.

Anyway, the video. I found this video on her blog!

*Edited to clarify: This video is a ministry that she was highlighting on her blog, not one that she herself is working with. She's just really great at highlighting ministries that are doing God's work in the lives of kids around the world. Sorry for the confusion!

The Children's Heart Project is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse. Recently they launched a new reality show following the lives of children who are receiving life-saving, life-changing care for heart conditions. I haven't found the show on any of my local listings, but you can watch videos on the Children's Heart website, here. I'm so thankful for this young woman's blog, that exposes me to other ministries and organizations that are being Jesus to the children of the world.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Funny Read on a Rainy Monday

Gals, you really ought to read this. It tickled my funny bone. And I'm sure it will do the same for you.

Thanks, Shannon, for exposing the deep, dark, evil plot.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Conversations In The Intersection

A little while ago, someone made a fairly big (and pretty inaccurate) assumption about me. It hurt. A lot. It rubbed and nagged for the rest of the day. And then some, apparently.

It was a statement that came like a bus careening out of control into an intersection. At that point in the conversation, I could tell something was rumbling down the pike, something that could have had some serious collateral damage. Do I pull out into the conversational intersection? Do I speed up and ignore the caution light? Do I slam the brakes and sit, waiting for aftershocks?

I had to make that split second decision when I heard it coming: I chose to floor it and move through the intersection as quickly as I could. I'm still not sure if it was the right choice.

I sat on the other side of it, trembling and shaking inside. Quivering with the "what if's" and the "should I have. . . .?" that plagues us all after a near miss. Yes, I felt relief that the catastrophic conversation was averted. And when I looked around, the damage wasn't visible. But today, sitting here and reviewing it in my mind, I'm feeling the damage. I'm a little wary of going through that part of town again. A little cautious about putting the car in gear and moving out of the driveway. A little panicky at the idea of revisiting that conversation. Ever.

I know what the Word says about nursing hurts. I know that in certain areas, I am easily offended. I know that how I handle, or not handle, conflict and disappointment isn't always the best way. If it was, I wouldn't be feeling shaky and uncertain. I wouldn't replay conversations, wondering how I could have addressed it differently.

I also know that each time these sorts of things happen, I have an alarming tendency to beat myself up with the "what if's" - turning them all into things I should (OH! That word, "should") have done better. Differently. In the interest of keeping peace and avoiding conflict, I absorb the hurtful words. The wrong assumptions. And I keep driving.

What's left behind is not gaping, open wounds from shattered glass and deployed airbags. It's uncertainty. Doubt of my intentions and my navigational skills. Insecurity about my driving abilities. Of my decision making process. Certainly less visible. Certainly less tangible to attend to and doctor up. By any human relationship.

But it's no less painful. And it can only be, must only be, attended to by the Great Physician. The Healer with comfort in His wings. That's where I'm resting today. Or trying to anyway.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

That's What I Get

We had a lovely mini-vacation, visiting my sister's home and some of the Italian side of my family. So much fun, sooooo much food, and now, so much laundry!

In the interest of getting our home back on track after 5 days away, I spent the morning running errands in the rain. This afternoon, I washed and folded multiple loads of clothes. That's NOT counting the load that the older boys folded while we all vegged in front of Oprah's Country Music Extravaganza. (By the way, I sent the letter. Yes, I did. Aren't you proud of me?!) It's a good thing all the songs were upbeat - otherwise that load would have taken them FOR.EV.ER!

I haven't even touched the mounting pile of papers that is looming on my counter top. Why is it that papers from school seem to multiply like rabbits, no matter the season, as soon as you put them in a pile on the counter? I swear, that stack was only 2" deep last night when I took myself off to bed. Now? It's precariously tilting like the leaning tower of Pisa. And it's almost that tall already.

It's what happens every time I "skip" a day of responsibility. That's what I get for taking off for five days in a row. But it was so worth it. One tight little hug from that littlest Viking, and it made it all worth it. Hugs from all four of them?! Well, this auntie can handle the piles of papers and the loads of laundry. Bring 'em on, I say.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter

We're off on our Spring Break trip to see family. I'm excited to be with my sister and her clan in New England for a few days. And thrilled that we're able to squeeze a side trip to visit my Grandmother and my aunt and uncle, too. It's my favorite way to spend time off from our regular routine.

May you all have a beautiful celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. His gift of love, taken to the cross and beyond for us is indescribable. May you all spend these days finding ways to worship HIM and remember His sacrifice. And being blessed with the love of The Father and the family into which He welcomes you!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dear Ms. Winfrey

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

I am writing in response to your recent show, The Secret Lives of Moms. While I whole-heartedly applaud your efforts to honor motherhood (after all, you do say all the time that mothering is the hardest job in the whole world!) and to give moms a chance to share what it's really like, I gotta say ya left me hangin' (along with quite possibly a whole bunch of other moms).

I was with you on the secret confessions. Some of them were funny. Some of them were shocking, crude even. Kind of like a car accident that is gruesome but holds our stare all the same. Some of them were just downright sad. But we all have them. And I remembered that I am not alone in this life I have chosen.

I was even with you, albeit a little less "with ya," on the "who am I" and "will I ever be ME again," conversation. Yes, I too was skinnier. And probably more vivacious, exciting, and certainly a more interesting conversationalist. And I was skinnier. I know I was more well-read and more interested in world events. Did I mention I was skinnier? Listening to the moms talk about missing their former selves, I remembered that I am not alone in this feeling. But being surrounded by other mothers who feel this way was of little comfort to me at this point in the conversation.

I say I was "with you, albeit a little less" because quite frankly, I don't ever want to go back to who I was before I became a mother. I was more selfish. I was less tolerant. I was more judgmental (And yes, I certainly WAS a better parent before I had kids. Insert snarky laugh here.) I was less compassionate. To top it all off, I was also much less likely to look at my snotty 20-something self and see any of this about myself. I didn't know it, but I was only an under-developed snapshot version of the portrait I needed to become.

I wasn't with you very much by the time moms started whining about not getting showers and complaining about the intimate details of their marriage (or lack thereof apparently). We've all been there. It's not pretty, it feels desperate and never-ending. And all-consuming when you are in the midst of it. I remember it well. I'm still there some days. Apparently, I'm not alone.

I was lost even further when a young mom stood up and commented on the "war" between SAHM's, WAHM's, and working moms. The tensions between these groups are legendary. One of your panel moms made an excellent point that could have been pulled apart and dissected by you and your author-guests with so much more empathy and compassion. The subject deserved more attention than it got. In spite of that small failing, I was reminded, again, that I am not alone in that conversation either.

Overall, you did a great job of exposing the hard parts of the "job" of motherhood. You successfully laid bare all the nastiest and most desperate times that moms across the country feel. You targeted the monotony of the days. Over and over. (The days, I mean. Not you.) You reminded us all that we are not alone. That we should, no, must support and encourage each other. That we should be confident that the choices we make are indeed in the best interest of our children and, therefore, are right for our family. That we need to give each other the safety to "be" what we are. That the snarkiness and swiping at each other must stop. That we can NOT do this journey alone.

But, Ms. Winfrey (can I call you Oprah?), you left millions of young moms just hangin'. You failed to give concrete ways that we can DO all these things. HOW do I get support when my twins are on different feeding and sleeping schedules? HOW do I ask for help when I feel like I'm drowning in post-partum depression; when a shower feels like an insurmountable task? HOW do I get a date night with my husband when my toddler is laboring under an extreme case of separation anxiety? HOW do I feel confident that my choice to stay home with my kids is right, when I feel like said kids are spinning out of control? HOW do I take a shower, do the laundry, grocery shop, wipe noses, wipe butts, raise mannerly kids who DO SOMETHING with their lives, check homework, balance the checkbook, wipe more noses and more butts, and be a good friend that supports the mom next door who is busy wiping her own little noses and butts all day long?! And still be a good little wife when the hubster strolls in the door?

This show was a good starting point. But it should be Part One followed by another whole show on HOW to do this thing called motherhood. The right way. Together, linking arms with the other moms in our lives. I feel like you had a golden opportunity to give tools to millions of moms and you missed it. You left us hangin' Ms. Winfrey.

There are tons of groups out there to support and encourage moms along the journey of parenting these treasures whom have been gifted to us for this short season of their lives. Resources that moms can access, in their communities, in their school districts, and from the comfort of their own homes. You touched briefly on the blogging community. What a segue that could have been, to featuring some of the great Mom-blog communities out there. 5 Minutes For Moms is one such resource, accessed on-line daily by tons of moms for information, support, connection and a sense of community. Many regions have MOMS Clubs, small, community-based organizations for women who need the safety and camaraderie of NOT being alone during teething trauma and toddler tantrums. Finally, MOPS International (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers) is a nation-wide ministry that exists to create community between women during what can be the hardest years of parenting and molding our little ones.

These are just three of the tools that you could have presented to the motherhood community on your show. Instead, I was left thinking that I really need to pick up those books (what were they called again?) and read them to get some answers. 'Cuz we all know I need ONE. MORE. THING. to add to my "to do" list that never ends. I was left overwhelmed by the things I should be doing, stressed that I'm not doing them, and frustrated that ya left me hangin'.

Finally, I was really quite saddened to realize that the hour was coming to a close and there was little or no discussion as to WHY we all do this, some of us several times over again. Why do we hang in there, showerless day after showerless day? Why do we willingly (and sometimes at great cost to ourselves, our budgets, and our sanity!) pursue this calling of motherhood? Here again was another missed opportunity. This was your shot to infuse the audience with the reminder that they are molding and nurturing tomorrow's doctors, lawyers, moms, coaches, and yes, even presidents. What we do now, in this pressure-cooker of raising our kids, will make or break this great nation. What we GET to do is pass on our traditions, our identities, our beliefs and our passions. What we GET to do is be the launching pad from which these amazing little rockets will burst forth and explore the universe that we only dreamed about. What we GET to do is be a mother. It IS the hardest job in the world. But it is also the most amazing privilege anyone can imagine. And, in the weariness of our over-scheduled lives full of over-blown expectations, it's sometimes the most-taken-for-granted thing we do. Sadly.

Really, Ms. Winfrey (I just can't bring myself to call you Oprah!) I appreciated the laughs. I'm still just juvenile enough that stories about snot and poo and potty dilemmas make me giggle. But, the laughter turned to tears when I realized that the hour was over and I am not alone. I still had no idea how to change it. Ya left me hangin'.


The Gang's Momma

This letter was written after
Monday's show, partially
in response to a lively discussion
I started on my Facebook page.
While not all of the experiences
here are my own stories,
they are certainly representative of
many of the young moms I've
been privileged to know
in the 14 1/2 years since
I became Momma to my first
little Gang member.

And I would have posted this
on Ms. Winfrey's website.
But it was way crowded over there
and I didn't want to "join" one more
forum or website. I don't need one more
thing I "should" check in on these days!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

"On the menu tonight, we have a delightful
garlic sauteed super bouncy ball
with a side of cuteness."

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stirring Up Memories

This is one of my favorite recipes. It's easy, tasty, and uses up those cartons of white rice left over from ordering Chinese take-out quite nicely. Not that we have many left-overs of take-out anymore, with our big brood! I got the recipe from a dear friend many years ago when we led a small group for young married couples. They moved away shortly after she shared this recipe with me and I've always missed hanging out with her. Every time I make it, I take the time to pray for D & J and the path the Lord has them on. I recently re-connected with her on Facebook; so yesterday when I made it, I also dropped her a note telling her that I prayed for her and her family. Don't you just love how food connects us to wonderful memories and dear friends?!

Chicken Salad Casserole

2 c. diced, cooked chicken
1 can cream of celery soup (I use the 98% fat free)
1 1/2 c. cooked rice, cooled slightly
5 oz. can water chestnuts, drained and sliced thinly
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 c. light mayo
1 c. shredded cheddar
2 c. crushed potato chips, reserved
Combine all ingredients except reserved potato chips. Pour into a 9x13 that's been lightly sprayed. Sprinkle top with crushed chips. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly around the edges.

This freezes great if you choose to double or triple it. Just be sure to NOT top with the chips till it's thawed and you are ready to bake it.

If you do freeze it, you may need to add more rice to balance out the moisture that builds up in the freezer.

So, what recipes do you have that stir up great memories?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Another Gotcha Day!

There's another family, halfway across the world, who is reveling today in the joy of their new daughter in their arms. Another little girl has been given the gift of a forever family. Another momma has her arms and her heart permanently expanded to include one more precious little life.

Please, pray for The Dobbertin family. They are in China right now with Living Hope Adoption Agency, celebrating the excitement of this week's "Gotcha Day" and settling in to the business of attaching and bonding. If you want to follow their journey, you can start here with the first day that they got to hold their precious little Lindsey.

Drop them a note in the comments to let them know you came by. They could use the encouragement and the knowledge that they are being prayed for. One of the most special things about being able to blog my way through China when we adopted Li'l Empress was knowing that there were folks praying for us and for our kids back at home. I love being able to do that now for families that I know are traveling for their babies!

*Updated to add (Thursday p.m.): I just read their most recent post and Mom and Dad are weary and homesick. It's very hard to be in a foreign land, especially for such a big life event as an adoption. Won't you please head over and give them some love and support? They could really use it today!

*If you are pretty new to The Gang's All Here!, you can read about our trip to China for our Li'l Empress by clicking here, our first post from China.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Today is not my normal
Wordless Wednesday picture post.

Today, I want you to head over to
Love Without Boundaries.

See what my friend Mississippi Zen did
with this lovely picture.

You can help change the life of a child.

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

***For the outtakes of this photography project, head over here - the cuteness factor is just the thing we all need for a mid-week recharge!