Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fanning The Flames

I think I might have neglected to mention this to ya'll: Dr. D has spent the last ten days in Alaska! How cool is that?! He is part of a ministry work team that was sent by our home church to go and support the work of Last Frontiers Ministries. As soon as we knew about the trip, we just KNEW that this was something he had to do. And from the reports that have been trickling in for these last days, we weren't wrong. It's been awesome to hear things like "killer work ethic" and "in his element" and "awesome team work" from him and from the other folks with whom he has been serving. Makes a momma's heart proud!

His most recent status update on F@ceb**k alluded to his love of the beautiful land and the fact that he could see himself going back and settling there. Heh. Imagine how much this momma loved hearing that! I assigned one of the team members the special task of being 100% certain that Dr. D gets on that plane and comes home to his momma. The team arrives home tonight and we cannot wait to hug him and hear all about his adventures!

But seriously, what a blessing to be able to launch him off to something that is so life-changing and at the same time, so RIGHT UP HIS ALLEY! I love that God takes such joy in the way He wired my boy AND that He crafted an opportunity like this one for Dr. D to learn more about His Great Love and His plan for his life. As I'd mentioned in my previous post about his enlistment, we've known from a very young age that God had a very creative and unique wiring built into our boy's heart. This trip and the kind of ministry that it offered, with its brand of teamwork and its type of practical ministry (like digging trenches, weatherizing, and other construction projects), set in that rugged environment are indeed integral to the man that Dr. D is becoming. I'm not sure I would have known this as a young mom, but I gotta tell ya: as the mom to two almost-adult young men, one of the most exciting things I get to experience is their steps into that plan and the path that sets them off to pursuing it. I'm so proud, I could burst open with it!

This is now the second short-term missions project one of our Gang has done and I have to say, we are hooked! The benefits AND the lessons that these experiences bring to their lives are really invaluable. Early in our marriage, The Boss and I both did a couple short-term experiences (as staff) with our former youth ministry so we knew that it was something we'd incorporate into our bag of parenting tricks. We are anxious to see what opportunities will be available when LadyBug is ready to venture out.  And we are SUPER excited about a potential trip that The Boss is hoping to take this coming March, ministering in a manner that is very near and dear to our hearts. I'm equally excited about what his experience on that trip will speak to our kids as they watch him prepare and hear about it when he returns. Fanning the flames of ministry in our kids' hearts by exposing them to all different kinds of opportunities to serve around the world is a really fun part of being the Momma to this Gang He's given us!

As soon as Dr. D has settled back in and we get our family debriefing out of the way, I'll be sure to share more about the trip and some of the pictures various team members have shared. Who knows, maybe he'll be excited enough to "guest blog" a photo post?! Until then, here's a sneak peek at a pic my brother-in-law shared with us.

In the meantime, if you are the momma to a little one OR a teen, consider including a short-term missions trip in your family's "curriculum" for launching them to adulthood. You won't be sorry - it's a priceless life-changing experience!


If you want to hear more about some of the experiences and resources to which we are connected, I'd be happy to share! Leave me a comment or shoot me an email and I'll be in touch!

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Too Many Words"

"Too many words, Li'l Empress. Too many words."

It's an oft-repeated phrase here, particularly in the early morning hours before I've had my coffee. Before my eyes are fully opened and certainly before my brain has caught up to the fact that my body is vertical now. Really the only true morning person in our house, even The Boss has been heard shushing her with this quick reminder to go easy on the rest of The Gang.

Most days, she wakes happy and chatty. Very chatty. From the very moment her eyes flutter open. Chattering to herself quietly in her bed. Singing quietly into her pillow before her feet hit the floor. Thankfully, it's mostly all quiet enough not to disturb Mei Mei. Who does NOT wake quite so talkative. Happy, yes. But quiet. Blissfully quiet and snuggly. But once Li'l E comes down those stairs, it just doesn't stop.

We have to tell her, "too many words, Li'l Empress. Too many words."

When I'm well-caffeinated, awake, and it's a decent hour of the day, I can totally relate to my girl's verbosity. I'm known in my family for being the wordy one. I love words. I love learning and using new ones. I love talking with friends, sharing my thoughts, listening to what's going on in their minds, asking questions about their lives. I enjoy sharing a good story. I get really excited about cheering folks on with my words. I like spirited discussions about lots of topics. I am a verbally expressive person. I love using words to tell folks how I feel about them.

(I don't, however, love repeating the same words
over and over to my children. Ad nauseum.
Can I get an "Amen" from the momma crowd?!)

A while ago, The Boss (semi-jokingly, semi-lovingly) told me that my frustration over a particular conversation, in which I was trying to verbally support that person, likely was because I use "way more words than necessary" to get across my point. That it could have (and in his view maybe should have?) been said far more succinctly (my word, not his!). While I don't disagree with him at all, AND while I know he was sincerely trying to help me see another viewpoint in a loving way, it stung a little. Probably because in this instance, I was attempting to offer my words as a sort of gift. I know now that the gift was not so fitting for the recipient. Although I truly didn't know it so definitively previously and that's why I appreciate The Boss's insight. I've been examining my response to the situation and to his observations for a while now.

I do try to make my words count when speaking with people. I try not to vainly flatter or falsely build them up. I desire my words to be an encouragement. That is likely the reason his summary stung a little. Words aren't the "thing" that this recipient responds to, apparently, and thus my words fell flat. I felt like the gift I had offered was politely accepted as if it was a garish purple and orange sparkly scarf given by that crazy old aunt who shops in her ancient closet for birthday presents. My gift was dismissed.

In examining my feelings about the experience, I've been wondering now. Do I do that to the ones I love? Do I take their gifts and dismiss them without realizing the treasure they represent to the one who gave them? The simple offerings that my gang shares with me come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Not always words, but often that is how it starts. My gang members all know their way around the words. To varying degrees, they are all well-spoken, conversational, and sometimes down-right chatty. Do I take what they are offering, in the form in which they are offering it, and see it as the gift they are extending? The invitation into their world they are issuing?

Dandelions from the yard clutched in muddy, grubby fingers.
Stories of junior high drama and angst in uncertain voices.
Slightly strange, sometimes bordering on inappropriate, memes gleaned from friends.
"Knock, knock" jokes that really NO ONE understands.
The 999'th "hold me" with reaching arms and clutching fingers.
The random "Hey Mom, listen to this" kind of songs that I don't quite "get."

Sadly, in this recent examination, I'm discovering that it's an area of parenting that I really need to work on with the Lord's help. I need to be more mindful of what is behind what they are saying. They often are attempting to form connection between us and in response, I must throw open my heart more freely and receive those attempts as such. I'm certain that in receiving more openly what my gang is offering, I am creating more safety and security. I am shaping a foundation of love and confidence. I really need the Lord's help in this - to move from examining it into implementing it.

I do think, though, that it is fair to reserve the right to gently tell her "Too many words, Li'l Empress. Too many words." At O'dark Thirty. When the barrage hits me before my big ole Tigger mug full of sugar-free hazelnut creamer-flavored coffee. Right? Right?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mei Mei - 1, Momma - 0

When we were little and would cry dramatically over something not really worthy of such a display, my mom would mimic us in a horrendously melodramatic manner. Usually, it was hilarious enough to distract us and get us giggling within seconds. Sometimes, the more stoic of us (umm, that would NOT be me) would not cave quite so easily and she'd take it up a notch.

It was just one of the MANY displays of my mother's creative skills of distraction that headed of the need for formal correction. She was a master. Still is, as many of the grandkids can attest.

I've taken many a page from her book over the last 19 years of parenting. I'd been thinking about this particular trick for quite a while. Searching for the key to breaking the mood that she myopically gets stuck in once this cycle starts. Wondering if it would work on her unusually single-mindedness. Waiting for the right moment to try it out on Her Royal Ridiculousness.

So the other night, when Mei Mei was in a ridiculously overtired state, being ridiculously melodramatic about every little bump and offense, with ridiculous amounts of wailing and (faux) weeping, I pulled out my trick.  

She came to me while I was prepping dinner, moaning pitifully and on the verge of bursting into great big crocodile tears over something of pathetic origins. For about the 79th time since nap time.

I scooped her up, held her close and started my own over-the-top version of her wailing and weeping. Loudly. Ridiculously dramatically.

She stopped. Stared at me in shock. Silent for oh, ...a millisecond.

And proceeded to mimic me. Mimicking her.

OMIGOSH. Seriously.

She clearly won that round. I lost the round. AND my composure.

Literally, I laughed till I cried.

Then I cried some more. It's official. All 6 of my kids are smarter than I am.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grace Like Rain is LIVE!

There's a big event going on over here that you might want to check out.... wait. Read the rest of this first. Then, go check it out.

This gal, Robin, has been an adoptive momma friend and cheerleader to SO many of us within the Chinese adoption community. I started following her original blog very early in our journey to Li'l Empress, having found her via our (then) mutual agency connections. She was such an encouragement during the long wait. And when we announced we were adopting again, she was equally supportive in both word and deed. While I've never had the privilege of meeting her in person (yet!), we've had many, many discussions and interactions over the last 6 years. Her heart is magnanimous. Compassionate. Steadfast. And Driven. This woman and her husband, in the last five years, have completed three adoptions of beautiful little girls from China. THIS time, they are going back for a little boy (oh, I could just eat him up!) AND another little girl (also quite delish!). Oh yeah. AND they have two older kids already in the mix!

Many of you are likely familiar with her work - I've shared some of it before - and some of you will be new to her creations. The stuff she sews is beautiful, creative, and intentional. She's been "firing up her mean machine" for months, crafting amazing clothing to auction in this fundraiser. This momma is no slouch - her efforts in bringing in the finances to bring these two (and her other kiddoes, frankly) are to be admired. Her work ethic and diligence have been impressive to witness. And the workmanship on these outfits is amazing. This auction is nicely rounded out by many other things donated by her friends and family for the purpose of finishing off the balance of the expenses for these two adoptions.

I know I'll be puting my name and my bid on a couple of the things lined up here. This particular event is near and dear to my heart as one of the kiddoes has a need quite similar to one of my girls. I'm always thrilled when Waiting Children come home but I love the additional connections that Robin and I will share with the addition of these two sweeties. Would you consider heading over and maybe sharing the auction with others too? Just don't bid on the stuff I'm shooting for - it might get ugly!  {insert big grin here}

Grace Like Rain
~An Auction for Caleb and Gabi~

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Joy Is Greater

Mei Mei turned 2 on June 30th. It was a beautiful day to celebrate our girl, even if the weather wasn't perfectly cooperative.

The cousins swam, we ate burgers and dogs, Grandma Bonnie made her FABLIOUS (Li'l Empress' new word o' the day!) macaroni salad, and we enjoyed a perfect day together. It was awesome to watch her blow out her candles - she knew JUST what to do, as The Boss had his big 45th birthday just a few days earlier.

It was such a treat to introduce her to our family birthday traditions and to make sure that her first birthday home with us was grand and memorable! I loved watching her figure out that the gifts were for HER. That ripping open that paper would bring a fun new surprise guaranteed to make us all "oooh and "aaaah" while she explored it. It was pure joy seeing her new family just wrap her up in all their love and affection and carry her along on the wake of "forever."


But when I had a few moments alone to think and observe the goings' on, I was also a little sad. I watched her giggling and teasing her cousin with her trademark impish grin and wondered what her birth mother was feeling at that same moment. I couldn't escape the thought that her birth family will never know what an amazing, delightful, brilliant child she is. That pierces my heart each and every time I think on it.

While we may never fully know exactly what led them to place her at the orphanage, we certainly understand that her physical needs and health issues might have been the predominant factor in their choice. Culturally and economically speaking, it's likely that they were completely ill-equipped to handle what they knew she likely would need. But it couldn't have been an easy choice for them, knowing what a gorgeous and sweet baby she must have been. The early pictures of her just take my breath away - her perfect little rosebud lips, her long sweeping eyelashes, and those deep onyx eyes. Thinking of it tears me apart - their pain and fear juxtaposed against what I can only (maybe niaveley?) assume was utter joy in looking at their pretty new baby girl. I don't know any of it for sure, obviously, and I can only suppose any of this from my readings and experiences within the adoption community.

I am everlastingly grateful for the choice they made for Mei Mei - the attempts to ensure her safety and well-being, the plan to find security and medical care for their beautiful baby. I pray for their peace of mind and comfort for their hearts often.

I am forever bound to the women who carried my daughters and I don't let myself forget it. My gratitude unspoken makes me hug my daughters a little tighter. Linger a little longer in their sweet snuggles at the end of the day. Love them a little more fiercely than I thought myself capable of doing.

So I joined the celebrations, juggling my mixed feelings. As I also do for all of Li'l Empress's birthdays and milestones. As I will for years to come, I'm sure. And celebrate, I did. For even though the losses are indeed great, the joy is greater. The endlessness of forever promises that.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

DIY: Shabby Chic Storage

I have a plethora of memories to document here and really no time or mental clarity to commit myself to capturing my thoughts, editing those thoughts, and getting them into a regular posting schedule again. So I'm starting out the gate again slowly... bear with me as this one really has nothing to do with the many milestones Mei Mei is tackling almost daily. Or the adjustment to our new normal that I'm still working through carefully and slowly. Instead, here's a peek at a DIY project that The Boss and I threw together for LadyBug.

Several months ago, I found this small dresser by the side of the road. Dr. D had asked us to be on the look out for "project pieces" that he could clean up, fix up and re-sell. He loves working with his hands and the chance to make something beautiful out of others' cast-offs appeals to him. So I loaded it into the van with Shaggy's help and brought it home.

However, the bones of the dresser were pretty rotted and warped, so he decided to trash it. I asked him to save the drawers and clean them up for me. I had seen an idea in a design magazine a long time ago and then again when my sister did something similar for her boys' rooms. I asked The Boss to make a help me make it a reality for LadyBug's room as she is in a bit of a "re-do" mood and we're trying to accommodate her design gene without breaking the bank.

I asked The Boss to pick up some casters, while I shopped for the knobs and contact paper.


Then it only took a little bit of sandpaper, some clear coat varnish.
Just like that, LadyBug has beautiful
new storage made from these old drawers.

I wish I was "together" enough these days to give you the tally of costs
for this little DIY. But alas, I'm just glad it's done and it's one less thing
for me (and The Boss) to think about for now.
You'll have to trust me when I say it was done "on the cheap!"

What summer DIY's do you have goin' on there? Share in the comments.
I'm always looking for inspiration and ideas.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, America!

Oh.My.Word. I can hardly believe it's the 4th of July already. At the risk of sounding trite and cliched, seriously: Where did the month of June go?! I have so much to catch up on and will have to do some backing up of events like the end of the school year, Mei Mei's birthday, and all things momentous. I've mentioned before that Mei Mei does NOT tolerate me sitting at my desktop very well and it really hasn't gotten better. When she's awake, I'm hustling to get something done around here and clean up the messes and STUFF she gets into while trying to "hep" me. And when she's asleep, I'm trying to finish all that I started when she's awake. Or I'm crashing in exhaustion myself. This little one is a spunky little busybody and she seriously is never ever still. Even in her sleep, her little toes and fingers are in motion. Which I know because she's spent the last four mornings in bed with me, snuggled in to go back to sleep after waking at o'dark thirty. Oh.MY.WORD! Anyhoo, that's my disclaimer going in... more to come on other big stuff later!


This year, the 4th of July is taking on some new meaning for The Gang. It's now forever linked with an important anniversary that we will always mark as a family. Yesterday, our son, known here as Dr. D, enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. It's been a long time coming, as he's been praying, researching, and meeting with recruiters of various branches of the armed services since January. But truthfully, it's a calling and a path that The Boss and I have seen growing within our boy since he was a very young child. We are very excited and proud of his single-minded focus to figure out what was the best path for his career and at the same time, nervous and concerned about what this choice means for his life. But this has been in his blood a long, long time and we know God has great plans for whatever twists and turns this path will unfold along the way.

Dr. D has an unusually developed sense of honor, justice and loyalty to country and there's no doubt that he's been deeply affected by world events in his 17 years of life, when viewed through those lenses. I so enjoy listening to his heart, full of idealism and pride in what our nation means to him. I love that he gets legitimately upset at those around him who fail to summon proper respect when the Pledge of Allegiance is spoken at school or other events. His pride in our flag, his respect and honor for the men and women who serve the armed services around him, the rapt attention he pays to his grandfather's stories of their own service, all of it speaks of a deep identification and camaraderie that he is now so excited to be a part of. When he arrived home yesterday after the trip out to Ft. Dix for his official enlistment event, he was beaming. We've always known that he is a kid who NEEDS to identify with a cause or a purpose bigger than himself, and it's a point of great pride for us both that he has found his niche. This niche.

And just like that, I've got a new label to add to my own resume.... As a dear friend mentioned to me on FB yesterday, I'm now a military mom. I even get my own bumper sticker for my van that says so!

Here's some pics of our little attempts at home to honor Dr. D since we couldn't be with him for the actual enlistment ceremony. He was surprised that we did all this for him, but really, he should know me better than that by now! This momma does love to celebrate, especially something so amazing for one of my gang!

Here he is, the newest soldier to join the ranks the U.S. Army.

And just because no celebration of America's birthday
would be complete without a picture (or two!) 
of the cutest little new citizen in town, I give you these!

MWAH! Happy Birthday, America!!!!
I love my new country!

"Daddy's Sweetheart"
and an
"American Cutie"
It just doesn't get better than that!