Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas is now in our memories.

Jenni and Jeremy are flying back to Oregon today, while Scott and Britt are keeping all three boys busy in the stuffed back seat of the car on their 15 hour trip home to Jersey.

Ashleigh and I are both focusing on getting our houses back to "normal" but really wish the chaos and excitment were not over. I said good bye to the out of town kids, and immediately wanted to take my Christmas tree and house decorations down.

In a recap:
The big kids took the little kids sledding 2 times this holiday season. Jen was able to go cross country skiing while they were here, and also join us for a movie. We had a roasted chicken dinner all together, and crafted for a couple hours the night before Christmas eve. We also had 14 kids in the house for our re-visited Cousins Craft Day. Mike and Scott prepared a feast of fried chicken, salads, chips and veggies and alot of tired kiddo's went home with several homemade christmas ornaments. Britt and I were able to go shopping, and shopping a bit more! I had time to hug each of my baby grandson's and read stories to them. We fit in as much as we could in the week we had together, and I cherish each one.

We actually had ALL the gifts wrapped and ready for all 16 of our kids (the in-laws and the grands)BEFORE Christmas all time record for Mike and I. We have burned the candle at both ends, making as much as possible of the hours we had together.

We celebrated with my brothers families Christmas eve, with our traditional Taco Supper. Our house is not nearly big enough for everyone of the people we have here, but 40 people came and somehow we all had room to sit (or stand!) and visit! Good times of food and fun (I LOVE all the goodies!!) and mostly, another year with our loved ones all together.

Christmas morning we put the kids off from the time they got up (at 5:00 am) until we could drag ourselves downstairs (8:00 am) to open presents. The best part this year was having all three grandsons wake up in our house and have Christmas morning with us. Beautiful memories for this gramma!

The biggest of the kids all came over just as we finished our little kids Christmas, and Ash crafted t-shirts with the kids the rest of the morning. It was great to have her take all of them in the other room for a while and each shirt is as unique as the creator! Another special memory this year.

The frenzy of the holidays are over now, and as we all get our minds ready (or not) to accept a new year ahead, I am hoping for peace and joy to continue on for each of my loved ones in the days coming up. It was a beautiful Christmas for our family, one that will stand out in my heart as near perfect, since we were all together under one roof. Our African baby should be with us next year. So many, many blessings this year.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Thoughts

I sat on the runway at the South Bend airport last Tuesday, on my way to see grandson Kaiden's first Christmas program at his preschool in New Jersey. I got to the airport at 4:30 am, prepared to fly at 6 am.

At 6:15 the pilot announced our delay was due to ice. By 6:30 they moved 3 large men from the front of the plane, one of them coming to occupy the seat next to me. I guess their combined weight at the front of the small plane was inhibiting our take off plans. By 6:45 they had de-iced the wings, and were still trying to push off from the gate. Moving the men didn't seem to help.

Finally, at 7:15 we had moved backward and was ready to fly. I fell asleep before the surge that took us into the sky, getting into Cincinnati at 8:15.

I don't usually mind delays in flight, but this time, there was not enough time between flights, but our delay caused me to miss my connecting flight in Cincinnati, so I was scrambling to get on a flight and get to Philly. After eating breakfast, provided by the Delta crew who felt so terrible that they had messed up my schedule, I dozed and read and talked on the phone until the next flight that would carry me to my desired destination.

It was the first time in about 7 years that I had flown with no children. I was thankful that I didn't have a toddler that needed to be kept happy until we could get back on our regularly scheduled program!

Britt picked me up in Philadelphia, just 4 1/2 hours past my first ETA, and we made the most of the daylight hours.

The highlight and reason for my trip was Kaiden's program on Wednesday morning, and the five minutes of video I was able to capture of his class singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. It was beautiful. Kids have such a wonderful way of making the holidays happy, and their little voices were a perfect holiday blessing. Plus, laughing so hard at some of their antics made my cheeks hurt!

We packed the car, got the house ready for Scott and Britt to be gone for a week, and headed out of Jersey at 4 pm. The fastest turn around trip ever!! We arrived in Michigan at 7:30 am on Thursday morning, after a blown out back tire that slowed our progress right at the end of our journey. Scott was able to change it, in spite of a jack that didn't work, and the freezing, blowing winter winds on the side of the road. I was so thankful that Britt and I were not driving home alone like we had originally planned! I am grateful for God's protection!

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity. Kaid had missed his own Christmas party at his school, but was able to join me for Tom and Mere's kindergarten party yesterday. Keegan wanted to go too, so what fun for me to get pictures of the oldest grandson's enjoying crafting and playing at school with their aunt Mere and Uncle Tom!

Now we are looking forward to Jenni and Jeremy flying in tomorrow night, making it the first Christmas in the last few years that we have all been together for the holidays. My mom-heart is full and overflowing.

We pared down alot of things this year, trying to focus on the important things of the season. Family time, volunteer opportunities and what we can do for others. It's been a growing season, and we are so blessed.

Jesus came as a baby to make our lives complete. He gave his life to save me, redeem me and He calls me His own. I hope all of you can sense the importance of this holiday time, and have a wonderful season full of blessings and joy.

I know I am blessed. Thank you, Jesus. Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 3, 2010


Can you take 8 minutes to hear a message that is changing my life?
This is for Gborlee.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Speaking about Adoption...

When asked to speak about our adoption experience, it's hard to pin point all the things I hope to convey with my answer.

Our lives were good before the adoptions. We had three children, one had left the nest and 2 others were not far behind. There were college plans, the last years of high school and good things happening in the lives of the nieces and nephews, too.

Mike's job was going well, while my own career in Human Resouces was satisfying at the time. I had thought for years that we would adopt, but other than looking at profiles of children online, we had not discussed adoption in depth. I felt there was something missing.

Then we met Nicole. She was almost 4, living with friends of ours in a foster home, when we found out she was available for adoption. We spent a difficult weekend discussing "starting over," and I was ready to throw caution to the wind, and jump into parenting a young child again. Mike, not so much.

Because we are committed to our faith in God, we prayed much, discussed every issue we could think of, and by the end of the weekend had decided we would walk the path towards this child, making her a part of our family. Our first steps toward adoption lead us to consider fostering other children a year later. We had successfully integrated one child into our home, and loved how she had changed our lives. Perhaps there were other children who needed a home, and we could make a difference in other little lives.

I believe we did. We were able to make a difference. But what a difference they continue to make in ours!

We can no longer rent 2 hotel rooms if we travel. NOW, hotel management suggests 3 rooms for our family of 9.

Fast food for 9 usually means going to two separate orders, since our large one won't fit on their computer screens!

Strangers ask if we are running a daycare, but often hear the response from the children, "We are a family!"

We drive a 15 passenger van, look for the best deals on everything we buy, and love to eat at Buffets where everyone can get what they want!

We have toys in the livingroom, plastic plates in the cupboard and are always missing someone's shoes.

We love movie nights at home, bedtime prayers and lively conversations at dinner time.

There is not one of my 10 children I could live without and not a single one of them that is loved or wanted more than the other. They enrich our lives beyond measure and make us proud. They have grown us and made us more sensitive. Each of them are a gift to us, the most wonderful part of who we are, making us better parents, neighbors and spouses. We learn from their questions. We have more joy in our lives because of the sparkle in their eyes.

If we had not considered adoption, our lives would probably still be good. We would have jobs, and plans for our futures.

But because we considered adoption, our lives are fuller, better and without a doubt, more wonderful because of the little lives that keep us laughing. They love us unconditionally, teaching us day to day how to give of ourselves to bless someone else.

I think adoption is one of the biggest blessings I have ever experienced, all in the form of smiling faces, gentle touches and hugs from little arms.

My kids may not have had the best starts to their lives, but we are thankful that their futures are promising. They all have potential that was waiting to be uncovered, and we are grateful to be a part of helping them to reinvent their lives.

There are many children waiting to be loved in a foster home, or adopted into a family. The opportunity to love someone who needs you. To encourage a child to reach their highest to become all they can be. To invest in another person's life is what adoption means to me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkeys, Pilgrims and Indians

My school age kids are all about the Thanksgiving holiday coming up next week.

Tara talks about Colonial Days, and even tried making a felt hat last night. She announced this morning that the felt glue didn't even work because it fell apart when she picked it up. I assured her we can try again tonight.

Bella found out recently that her heritage is American Indian and is quite proud of it. She tells every one who will listen to her that she was "born from an Indian." Part of it is trying to connect with all the other adopted kids in our family who boast of their heritages, and the other part is the novel idea that she has something the rest of us do not have.

In Bella's mind, being an Indian means she is a hunter. She sees herself in buckskin clothes, feathers in her hair, traipsing through the forest to hunt deer. Hunting is a part of our oldest daughters' life also, and an exciting connection they can share. She also informs us she can hunt racoon, and she is proud to know that her daddy has a bb gun, which she will one day learn to shoot all by herself.

While playing with her this week, I told her since she is of Indian heritage, perhaps she would like to get our turkey this year. We live in a somewhat rural area, and it's not unusual to see wild turkeys in the fields, or even crossing the streets in front of the car when we are driving down back roads from time to time.

"Bella, maybe you could get a turkey for us this year for Thanksgiving dinner!" I asked her, a tinge of laughter in my voice.

She looked me straight in the eye, and in her most incredulous style, responds,
"I can't drive!"

Ah, yes. Turkey hunting has not yet crossed her mind.

Mere can not wait to decorate sugar cookies and help cook, along with eating the delicious cinnamon rolls that are waiting in our freezer to be thawed out on the holiday morning.

Me? I look forward to this holiday, since there is nothing but cooking, eating and relaxing with family and friends. Watching the Macy's Parade while we eat sausage balls and cinnamon rolls in the morning, catching whiffs of all the wonderful smells coming from the oven as the turkey cooks. We'll gather around several tables, eating so much we have to rest before playing games. We'll make memories of things that are said and done during the day. Hopefully someone remembers to snap a few photo's this year, since I relaxed so much last year I totally forgot!

Nothing makes me happier than having family and friends gather under our roof, eating all the good foods of the holiday.

We are connected by the love we share for each other, the memories we have made and the new ones we are making day to day.

No matter where the turkey comes from, it's like Bella said last night, as she snuggled in.

"We are family, right mom?"

Yes, Bella, we are family. Pilgrims, Indians and even a few turkeys!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Calling Out the Saints

A tradition in our church has had me thinking for the last few weeks.

On a particular Sunday of the month of November, our church takes a few moments to remember those who have left us here on earth to spend their eternity in Heaven. The names are read aloud, while candles are lit for each name mentioned. Faces flash on an overhead screen, a last look (for many of us)on the faces of Saints who have gone before us.

After the names are read and candles are lit, music soothes raw emotions as a time to remember is allowed to those of us in the pews. We are invited to call out the names of people whom we have lost in our lives, giving tribute, one more time, to the loved ones those around us may not have ever met, but that we each know as a missing piece in our family puzzle since their passing.

As the music played, my heart immediately remembered Pop. He was not my Pop, or Mike's Pop. He was someone we had just met this summer while visiting our kids in New Jersey. He was a kind, gentle man, who we waved at while he mowed the lawn, and met briefly as we shook his hand. We knew him more as the head of a family who had welcomed our children into their fold, since our family was much to far away to be with them day to day. He was spoken of highly by our son, who also has great regard for Pop's son, Dan. He was the top of a chain that seemed to speak wonderful words of a loving God, down to the lives who must now live without their beloved father on this earth. His passing was within days of our church ceremony, and his name and legacy was fresh in our hearts.

Just before the music ended in this service of remembrance, my heart travelled back to the days of loss of my own grandma Thelma this year. I have written of her life, and the legacy she left to us in her passing. She will never be forgotten, and I spoke her name aloud into the silence of the church, reverently giving appreciation to a loving, saving God, whom she now walks with on the streets of gold.

As the service moved on, I was simply reminded in the calling out of these names, Pop and Grandma, just how small our world on earth really is. Although my grandma and Pop would probably have never met on earth, they now rejoice together in Heaven, and they are connected by a thread that makes perfect sense to me now. My son, Scotty, was loved and prayed for by both of these Saints of God, although their earthly lives were over 700 miles apart.

I don't believe any of this was accidental in the broad scheme of life in a Walk of Faith. I was grateful to honor two wonderful saints who have now passed into eternity, and I wonder now, just who am I praying for or connected to today, that will only be made know when I enter those pearly gates when my name is called into eternity.

I miss you, Grandma. I know Pop's family is missing him too.

Small world. Tremendously HUGE God!

Holiday Resolve

We (ok, mostly me) are determined to put a whole different perspective on the holidays this year.

Every year we are thrilled that we have a house full to buy presents for, and Mike, especially, loves to wrap them. We spend hours late into the night wrapping gifts to all the old classic movies roaring in front of us and talk about how exciting Christmas morning will be when the kids eyes pop as they see the glowing tree surrounded by colorful wrapped gifts we chose perfectly for them.

Typically, I have shopped throughout the year, found semi-perfect (but good) gifts for each, and are still wrapping presents the night before Santa's visit. The gifts do get piled high, and it is somewhat magical, and we do enjoy the time spent wrapping and watching our favorite old movies.

But, this year, even more so than last year, I have been burdened by the intensity of the expectations to get/do more and more each year. I love to shop and buy, but I also want to teach my kids about the giving aspect of the holidays. Somewhere we may be covering that up.

I have heard of families who only purchase 3 gifts per child. This approach is not about the money they spend, but about the amount of wrapped gifts. After all, baby Jesus got three special gifts from the Wisemen, and none of my kids are better than Him! That plan may work for some families, but it isn't the one I want to adhere to.

I also know people who "shop 'til they drop", "spend 'til the end," and "Charge!!" We have tried for years to be careful not to purchase gifts on credit, because before our cards would be paid off, the toys would be a distant memory, if remembered at all.

We typically determine a money amount each year, divide it per child, and shop for the best deals for the money. That has always worked for me, and I still prefer
it. I have a set amount to spend, I try to stay close to that, and then I try to make the gifts look "even" between the recipients. I NEVER want anyone to feel left out or disadvantaged in any way.

And I am still cool with all that.

However, somehow, the whole holiday process is being revamped in my own heart, and this is what I am processing these days. We are cutting back on what we spend, but hoping what they all "get" from this holiday add more to their lives than any amount of money ever could.

My kids lack for nothing. Oh, there is always some new toy or gadget they want, but they all have PLENTY of everything. Toys, clothes, food, games, etc. They may not believe it, but it's true. Every day I am finding broken things that I trash, or extra things we don't need. It appears that an overabundance of items in a childs life makes them selfish and expectant, and they can not possibly take care of all the things us parents (in our desire to give them all the good things in life) thrust at them. I am still learning this concept.

I lack for nothing. I do not have all the last minute technology, and I do not have clothes that make me drop-dead gorgeous. Come to think of it, I am pretty enough when I smile, and as long as I have clean clothes or a nice outfit for a special occasion, I am fine. Sure, I get swayed by the colors of each new season, and I attend events occasionally where I feel like I can not possibly compete with Ms. Fashion Plate, but that's OK. I don't really have to. I am well fed, well read and well...well. I try to eat sensibly and I hate exercise, but I am always open to improvements (as long as it is cheap and has good results). I have friends and family who love me. I have way too much "stuff" in my house, but I am learning to discard things every week that I can part with. I am not defined by what I have.

I put Mike in the same category as me, but I do not speak for him. We have both noticed how very blessed we are, and how little we need. Part of that is because of what we have learned over the last few years.

Kids thrive on time and attention. Kids need parents who set boundaries, yet love them unconditionally. Kids need to know their parents love each other, and want what's best for them. Kids need to know that if the whole word crushes them down, there will always be someone who will be there to pick them up, dust them off, and encourage them to try again. Kids need a place to thrive, a place to rest and a place to have fun. They need friends and family that give them positive feedback when they do well, and remind them when they need to make better choices. Kids need to know, under no circumstance, will their family ever leave them for any reason.

Unfortunately, on our journey to our Ethiopian children, we have seen many international children who will never have the security of any of these things that kids need. Most do not have the food to sustain them, or the family to love them. They scrounge for food, and live in overcrowded orphanages. They long for a family to call their own, someone to love them and make them a part of their lives forever.
Their needs will not fit in a golden box with white ribbons.

How does that fit with our Christmas plans? I am feeling, deeply, the losses these Ethiopian children face day to day. I am yearning for ways to make a difference in their lives, lasting differences that will help them develop beyond what their little hearts could ever hope to imagine. I want to be the one to make a difference in the lives of children.

We, as a family, are incredibly blessed. Blessed to be born in a land of plenty. Blessed to go to bed with our belly's full and our mornings fuller yet. Blessed to have care when we are sick, and a home that is warm. Blessed to have each other.

I am hoping our focus is a little bit more towards others this year. A little less of "I want that." A little more of "Can I help?"

A little less of "What can you do for me?" and a little more of "What can I do for you?"

We have set some positive plans in place through the holidays to help us learn how better to live this way. Some volunteer opportunities that will include every one of us, hopefully putting a bit more emphasis on "them" instead of "me." We have taken on a few projects that put a different twist on giving. It's a start.

It's challenging when all the world assaults us with their plans for the holidays. After all, we "deserve" to treat ourselves, and we are happier if it's all bigger, brighter and better than the year before.

But our family is taking a few steps back this year to refocus. I hope we all come out of it with the resolve that it is the best possible kind of Christmas we could ever have.

And that this year will just begin a new type of holiday spirit in us all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mistaken Identity

I have been experiencing a series of events recently that can only be described as Mistaken Identity.

We ate pancakes the other night,formed in the shape of Pumpkins. It was Halloween, afterall. After dishes were cleared and bedtime routines were started, Mike brings a can with a yellow cap to me, looking perplexed, and says, "Do you think this furniture polish is toxic?"

I told him I wouldn't drink it if I were him. It appears we all had.
He thought it was PAM spray for the griddle.
The pancakes slid right off.

The benefits? Our house had a wonderful lemony smell all evening.
I have seen no ill effects, but I wouldn't suggest trying it at your home!

It reminded me of the time a dear one of mine was in agony, and chose the muscle pain relief cream, BEN GAY, instead of PREPARATION H. Another case of Mistaken Identity.

Or the time that Mere was a baby, and daddy was in charge of bath time. When I snuggled her to bed, I realized she had a different scent that smelled vaguely familiar, but not quite the normal baby lotion smell. Daddy checked.
"You probably wouldn't use NAIR on a baby, would you?" As he whisked her off my lap and back into the bath, I realized the identical pink bottles had caused a case of Mistaken Identity.

And the friend of mine who superglued her daughters eyes shut, thinking she was using eye drops. Mistaken Identity. No matter how bad it made her feel (both her and her daughter.) And come to find out, it happens alot, AND, eye lashes do grow back.

Bella came running in this week, saying, "There is a dead MOHAWK out there!"

Someone else ran in. It was a MOLE.

No wait, Mere reports that it's a WOOD PUCKER!!
Mistaken Identity, for sure.

What about the times I call people by the wrong name? Like Keegan is Kaid, and Keano is Keegy? UGH! When I want Mere, I call Tara. When I am trying to get Tommy to come to me, I call him Scotty! Mistaken Identity!

I have seen old friends out in public, I think, but was afraid to call out to them, just in case it was another case of Mistaken Identity.

Of course, part of the fun of Halloween is Mistaken Identity. I mean, how many kids want to dress up as THEMSELVES to go trick or treating??

I have no doubt there will be more episodes of Mistaken Identity around our house.
And from now on, I will check the PAM before Mike is allowed to spray it on the griddle!!


Sunday, October 31, 2010


Trick or Treating last night.

Buckets of candy this morning. "That tastes so good mom!"

Hyper kids.

I sense their teeth are rotting right before my eyes.

They are "selling" each other the candy they don't like for the ones they do. With no money.

They are planning their costumes for next year. This year we had a punk rocker, Rapunzel, Snow White, A tall thin bunny, an escapee from Alcatraz and the cutest little dragon in the world. How can they ever top that?

I have to declare this is more fun for the kids than anything else in life. Amazing what a bucket of candy will do to create great morning attitudes. Breakfast? Who needs breakfast?
And my favorite line: "I am taking candy to church today."

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Moving Forward

As of Thursday, October 28, our dossier is in the mail!
The significance of this is not light to our other friends who have adopted internationally. For those of you who have not worked on an international adoption, let me explain.

When we first decided to follow God's plan for adopting internationally, we had not focused on where we would end up. We just knew we were suppose to begin.

We had adopted 7 children from the state foster system, all the while feeling as if our adoption days were not over. We still had a strong desire to make a home for the homeless, be a family to a child who would have no family if we didn't step up to the challenge. It was not a decision we started without a ton of consideration (our ages, our current situation with each of our children and our future). But we felt compelled to move forward and follow God's plan.

Sometimes, following the path God outlines is not the easiest. There have been bumps in the road, issues with the kids in our home, and a failed domestic adoption. I waivered several times in my mission - but my heart cry always came back to the orphans. Mike has been much more focused on the final outcome, and did not get as discouraged on the path as I had. He has steadily encouraged our family to continue to move forward, even when our heart was breaking. So we have.

I read on a blog post somewhere that International Adoption is not for the faint of heart. Oh, so true! The emotional roller coaster of the intense trainings, mounds of paperwork and time frames take it's toll. I would throw my hands up, wondering if God was really in this plan. Was it just my heart wanting to help a poor child, or was it really what we were suppose to do in our family?

It would be so nice to know the mind of God! But since we can not, we commit to follow and open the doors as He brings us to them. This dossier was the last door in our journey. It will not be the last one we open, but up to this point, we are convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are following the path we are suppose to be walking.

Many tears have gone into the preparation of these priceless documents. Life continues to happen around us, but this important phase of our journey is done. It was a relief to send them off to the processing center, and NOW we wait.

We wait for the documents to be translated. We wait for the dossier to make it to the Ethiopian officials who will refer an orphan to us. We wait for court dates and details to be completed. We wait to bring our children home.

There were many times I was "faint of heart" and was tired of the struggle. I was exhausted from the paper chase, and tired of the details that consumed me. That part is finished.

I want to celebrate, to kick up my heels and sigh in relief. Inside my heart is so grateful to have this behind me now.

I have heard that a long paperchase can lead to a short referral process. There is no science behind that, but it sure would be nice to think that is true! Either way, it is in the hands of God, who set us on this course and has never stopped pushing us forward.

Thanks for waiting with us. I will definitely keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It is getting closer. I can tell by the negative comments I get from those around me.

I guess in a perfect world, everyone would be excited to see an orphan connect to a family. Some one to care for them, love them, feed them, give them medical care and an education.

In a perfect world, those who can care for an orphan would, and those who could not, would simply be supportive of the ones who can.

In a perfect world, it wouldn't take many, many months of seemingly endless paperwork to bring an orphan home.

In a perfect world, there would be no orphans.

Our dossier has been to Lansing for state authentication. It was returned and is ready to go to our agency in Portland, OR. to be sent to Ethiopia. 4 pieces of paper had to be returned for the state seal, so that left yesterday. Within 2 weeks it should be returned. Then the complete dossier is ready to travel across the world to begin the referral process that will match us with our Ethiopian children.

We are so excited to be at this step in the process, but we can't help but be saddened by some of the responses around us.

"Oh, more kids? Don't you have enough already?"
"Why would you bring foreign kids here? We have homeless children in the states."
"Don't you know how old you are?"
"You can't save the world, you know."
"I have 2 kids you can raise."
"What if these kids make your own kids sick?"
"You have 7 kids with problems. That will just make them worse."

I can not explain why God put this desire in our hearts. Sometimes I don't understand it myself. And yes, life for us can be hard some days, but what we go through will never be the hardship that the Ethiopians endure day after day.

I don't want to be stuck in the thinking that because I was blessed to be born in America that I can gloat in my achievements while others suffer.

I never go hungry. I never thirst for fresh water. I sleep comfortably at night, and do not have fears of what tomorrow will bring.

I may not have everything and I know we can not save every orphan.
But God put Ethiopia on our hearts, and helped us prepair a plan to alleviate the suffering of at least one orphan.

We are excited, and I hope others will be too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Brittany's Marathon Results

Official results from the Chicago 10-10-10 Marathon.

» Cameron, Brittany (USA)
Ocean View, NJ 40257 20-24 24 03:59:16

I got so busy having the grandsons here that I forgot to post the results of Britt's marathon.

26.2 miles in less than 4 hours!! I am so impressed by her determination and drive!
She placed in the top 8300 runners (which out of over 40,000 is pretty great too).

We had a great time going into the city by train and all the excitement of her run. Chicago is a busy place, and we all came home tired. I told Britt I was not sure how she ever did that race, because I was worn out just getting there to watch her!

She still has this week to raise funds for the fresh water wells in Africa.

I wish I had taken my camera to capture the kids wide eyes on the train. They were so excited to do things we had never done before. Then watching the thousands of people cheering on the runners, the cow bells ringing, and the excitment in the air. For a camera bug, I sure missed the mark on this one.

Then, just before we met up with Scotty and Tyler, my cell phone died!! It had the directions on it! Ugh!!

We made it, celebrated at the World Vision tent with Britt, and the team, then headed back to the train. When we arrived, exhausted, to our RV, one of the back tires was flat. And the spare was so tight we even got a CTA driver to help muscle the bolts off! It was a stressful couple of hours stuck in the city with a flat tire, but we were on our way as soon as Mike and Scotty got the tire changed.

We stopped at a highway overpass restaurant for dinner, and got home to our own beds for a restful sleep full of visions of a marathon for a great cause.

To most of you, this is old news. To me, it will never seem old. It was an amazing day, by an amazing woman. My daughter in love, Britt.

I am so glad we could celebrate this special time with her.

Fear Not

Today is the Pumpkin Patch field trip for my two kindergarten students. Tommy is excited and motivated to get out the door. Mere, not so much.

Mere is my fearful child. She has a great sense of humor, and is quite the joker. But when there is something new coming up, she will fret about it for days and play out every wicked scenario in her little mind. Today, she thinks she is going to get lost in the corn maze.

I try to help her overcome her fears. They often seem irrational, silly, and unwarranted. They make her look weak, when in fact, she is a very strong, sensible little girl. I don't want her to be debilitated by her fears. After all, she has overcome soooo very much in her young life already.

This is how life started for Mere.
Born to a cocaine dependant mother, Mere was the 5th child born and removed from her family of origin. In other words, irresponsible behaviour was not new to her birth mom. But that's another post, another day.

Mere was born 13 weeks early, weighing in at 1# 15 oz. and just 13 inches long. Picture a ruler, with feet and a tiny face and hands. Barely surviving, she was transfered to a larger hospital in the next town over. Before the week was over, she was transfered to an even larger childrens hospital 1 1/2 was hours away. The man, who thought he was father, took the bus to the town where she was resting in the NICU, just to be a part of the decisions being made in her life. Birthmom? Gone, as if nothing happened.

Mere had to undergo a surgery to removed decaying pieces of her small intenstines, but within days of closing her incisions, another life saving surgery was needed. This time, Doctors had to remove a larger part of her small intestine. She had necrotizing enterocolitis. Big word for such a tiny baby. A feeding tube surgically inserted into her stomach would insure she got the nutrients she needed while her little body healed from 2 surgeries close together.

I didn't meet Mere until she was 3 months old. She was still struggling to gain weight, but her scars had healed to a bright red line across her abdomen. She had a TPN line in her leg and the feeding tube sticking out from under her rib cage. She was wrinkled, and still. The nurses called her Dolly.

Once the state took over her guardianship, the "father" was found to be nobody to Mere according to DNA testing. I've often felt sorry for him, since the first few months of Mere's life he cared for her like a father would. He even brought her a tub full of toys, blankets and clothing before he disappeared into that grey fog of "whose baby is she?"

When we stepped in as foster parents, it looked like Mere would come home to us long enough to heal and move on to the family that adopted her next oldest sibling. A little girl just two years older than Mere. Seeing her later made me think of Mere. They look so much alike.

Mere was released in April, three and one half months after her birth. We had learned her care, her feeding machine, her routine. We learned how to bathe her with tubes attached to her body, how to make her formula that cost $50 a can. Golden milk for a sick baby.

We found a car seat for a preemie, one that still swallowed her up when she was placed inside it for the ride home. She was only five pounds, fully dressed. We bought a mesh cover for the top of the car seat so no one would touch her with unwanted germs. We learned to protect her.

Fast forward to a tiny framed little blonde, ready to turn 7 years old much sooner than her dad and I are ready for it. Most of the time I look at her and see a normal, well adjusted, funny and sweet little girl.

But on field trip day, when I sense her fear of being lost, I take a minute to reassure her that all will be fine. I tell her that she is smart, she is fun and she makes friends easily. She will not go through the pumpkin patch alone, her teacher will put her with a group that will make sure she makes it out of the maze just fine.

"But what if I get lost, Mommy?"

So, again, I reassure her she will be just fine. After all, Someone special has been watching her from her very first breath, well before we ever met her. And I am sure He is going to be keeping His eyes on her for a very long time.

Matthew 10:29-31(New International Version)
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Friday, October 15, 2010

A serious post of Faith

Lately, when I wake up to get the day rolling, it is still dark outside my bedroom window. With the grandsons here the past 10 days, we have been burning the proverbial candle at both ends, so on this particular day, hubby let me sleep in until just before the last bus arrived.

I woke up to the picture above. The back window in our room is so high up that there has been no need to curtain it, and on this morning when the sun was shining, I was so glad for the view.

The leaves are turning all around us, but there is something spectacular when a body can wake up to the grand beauty that God provides for us. While the old window is nothing spectacular, the view was stunning to my morning eyes. I grabbed my cell phone to snap this picture, just so I would be aware of the beauty. I said a quick prayer that I would be mindful of who and what God put into my path that day, and jumped into the shower.

It was after I downloaded the pictures that I realized I had captured something more more than I bargained for that morning. The simple word, "Faith."

Since my folks named me after an old author whom my mom loved to read, Faith Baldwin, I have always been asked if my father was a preacher. No, just a kind and loving man who always showered me with way too much attention (but don't tell him that, because I am still loving the attention today!) And for some reason my mom loved the name Faith.

When I was born at just over 6 pounds, I was deemed too tiny to carry the name given me, Faith Ann Elizabeth, so the nurses convinced my mom to drop the Elizabeth and just call me Faith Ann. I hated it throughout my childhood, and always wanted my name to be something fancier, like Katherine, Julia or Angelique. As soon as I got married, I changed my name to just plain FAITH.

That worked while we lived out of town, but as soon as I came home, every one who knew me still called me Faith Ann. They just didn't get it that I was grown up now, so couldn't they honor my grown up name, just plain FAITH?

When I started writing serious stuff for the newspaper, I officially included my first name, maiden name and married name, mostly to honor my father and grandmother,(also a writer) but once again, trying to upgrade the image of my name to one of more importance, or significance. My even newer grown up name.

I have plaques, crosses, pictures. FAITH is a big thing right now, like Angels, LOVE and peace. But to me, it seemed to single me out as an oddball, a religious freak, or just plain weird. Names in my neighborhood were not as unusual as mine. And I felt like it defined me as a person. An odd one. It has taken me so many years to realize how ridiculous all this thinking has been. My heart inside always felt so puny, so non-important, so PLAIN. Just plain FAITH.

Looking at the beauty just outside my morning window, seeing the FAITH brought on a new feeling inside me. Through all the years of my life, God has spoken beauty into a shell of a person. He redeemed me and called me His own. He took a stubborn and weak woman and made me strong. He put a love and worth in my life because He created me to be more than anything or anyone I could be on my own.

And, I know now, as an adult, that God blessed me when He allowed my parents to call me Faith.

What more could I ever ask for than just plain FAITH? In all HE does, in all HE is, and all HE wants to do in me...

Faith, when making hard decisions.
Faith, when all the world seems to crumble around me.
Faith, when times are hard and life seems cruel.
Faith, when loss or disappointment wants to consume me.
Faith, when the ones I love suffer.
Faith, when pain breaks my spirit.
Faith, when those I love are far away.
Faith, when things are good, or bad.

Thanks be to God, who allowed the SON (Jesus) to shine through my window. My heart now is thankful for being just plain Faith. Make my life full of YOU!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Chicago, here we are!

We just can not travel without some sort of mishap.
I was running behind on the packing and all, but managed to have it all together (or mostly!) when Mike got home from work. The camper was already full of foods, except for loading the refridgerator. It has been Scott and Britt home for the past week, so Britt had gotten it ready to go and we were not far off the mark for our est. time of departure!

I rode with Britt and the youngest grandson, following Mike, who had Scott and the other 9 kids. Following Mike through Chicago traffic was horrendous, watching the camper sway and switch lanes in and out. I have never followed behind it before, and I was a bundle of nerves, thinking of the "what if's." Of course, Mike was confident in his driving, and after all, we did make it. I was just a bundle of nerves. Have I ever said I like driving into Chicago???

After we had a delicious dinner half way here, we were in the dark and the traffic. It seemed like we would never get here, and I kept encouraging Britt to stay close to, don't let anyone between you and Mike! So, following so closely, we inadvertently followed him into a "NO CASH" lane at a toll booth. As soon as Mike pulled the big rig through the lane, we realized we were stuck!! You see, Mike has an IPass and Britt does not. We pushed the "help" button, yellow lights start flashing and an angry attendants' voice shouts over the intercom system..."How can I help you?" We could tell by her tone she was not wanting to help anyone! The flashing lights were blinding, and we felt like every flash of the lights were calling out to everyone on the toll road, "Look!! These dummies went in the wrong lane!!"

The attendant tells us to try swiping our debit card. Nope, that was not set up. I volunteered cash and would even step out of the car to hand the cash directly to her! Nope, that was not possible (for me or her?). So, finally she said they would bill me. I gave her my home address, my phone number and my license plate number. When we pulled away, we noticed we were going to be billed for a $1.50 toll fee. I wonder what the paperwork charge will be??

By the time we got to the campsite, they were just locking their gated community. Whew, just in the nick of time!! We pulled in, started to unload while Scott and Britt headed to their cabin. Did I mention that Scott has had a stomach issue for the last few days, with yesterday being the worst by far? When they got to their cabin it was FULL of stink bugs. Keegan (3) would not walk through the door!! Plan B is in motion: all 14 of us would stay in the camper together! We were so tired by this time, I think we could have slept on the ground!

By 8 this morning, yesterday was just a memory, and the rest of the day panned out as planned. No one got hurt, no one is missing, and Scott and Britt have been able to spend the day in Chi town today, just like planned. We have had a wonderful day with all 3 of the grandkids. It's dusk here, Mike is making beds and finishing bathtime. We expect Scott and Britt to roll in about 10 pm, and hopefully, everyone here will be settled and snoring. Britt has to be back in town by 6 am tomorrow, ready to run her first 26.5 mile marathon!!

It's been busy, exciting, stressful, and adventurous. You just couldn't ask for a better weekend camping trip to end our summer of fun. When we are packing up the camper next week, this, too, is another memory to add to the books for 2010.

It's been a great season.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall highlights - so far!

It seems like we cram so many things into each day that I forget how many good (and great) things keep happening around here.

Although this is not going to be listed in order of importance, I wanted to log all the stuff that has been making our days so full.

Our adoption dossier is in Lansing right now, and we expect it to be returned any day. The significance of this is HUGE! It is the final authentication step, so as soon as it hits our mailbox, it will be sent to our agency in Oregon to prepare the paperwork to send to Ethiopia!! It has been a long two years to get to this step, and we are excited as a family to be marking the official "wait" time for our children to come home. Stay tuned for updates!

My dad suffered another stroke last week. Although that was NOT one of the good things in life, it has been a blessing to see little damage from this stroke, and his at-home therapy is progressing well. He and mom need minimal assistance right now, and a friend of ours has been great to do some of their running so I have been free to spend time with my grandsons.

That brings me to the BEST part of this month, so far!! We were able to have a family birthday party with all three of the boys, celebrating Kaid's 5th, Keegy's third birthday and Keano's first! For a gramma with out-of-town grandsons, nothing could be better than seeing them open presents, eat cake and blow out candles!! We asked cousins to join us for a hayride at the pumpkin patch, picked out the perfect pumpkin for everyone, then came home and painted them. We ended the day with chili and got great pictures of the boys full of smiles. Nothing is better in my life (or PaPa's!) than spending time with our grandsons.

We will be heading to Chicago this weekend to celebrate and support our daughter-in-love, Britt, as she runs the marathon on behalf of the children in Africa who need clean water. She has worked hard to train and raise support through World Vision, and we are thrilled to be able to be in the sidelines cheering her on. She has a heart for orphans like we do, and we are proud of her. Go Britt!!

I have been able to spend time with my oldest daughter,Ash, as she works on things around here to help me out. We have recovered (reclaimed!) some old chairs and made them functional again - which I would never have tackled without her help. They turned out great - but the laughs while we did it are worth more than any finished project. She has painted my diningroom a stunning red that makes me happy everytime I walk in there!! She also is working hard to complete her teaching degree, and it's been really fun to watch her world open up even more. She is kind and fun and I am so glad she is making time to be a part of our daily lives. She will make a wonderful teacher, and it's getting closer every day! Way to go, Ash~!

Another great part of our fall was seeing Jenni and Jeremy for a 10 day visit. I miss them so much, and hate having them live so far away, but it sure is nice to have time with them when they can swing it! They love their life in Oregon, so I am happy for them. Jenni is still pursuing her nursing career, while working full time, so who knows where the future will lead them? I am just thankful we were able to spend a bit of their fall with them, and look forward to the next time they can get back to town. I love you, Jenni.

Mike has been able to have a little time to play guitars with Scott and even get in a round of golf. (Is that what it's called??) Last night he brought all the winter clothes bins (massive job) and I spent hours going through clothes to keep, clothes to donate to our thrift shop, and clothes for a young family who needed them. It felt good to clear out the old, and to find clothing for a little girl just under Bella's size who can get some use out of the hand me downs! We have been blessed by donations from others so it feels good to return the favor. Mike has also constructed a new laundry room closet that will help me keep organized better and make less work in the laundry department!

Our camper will be used one more time this weekend, then we'll close it up for the winter. It's been a busy, fun summer of camping nearly every other weekend. We've spent time with family, traveled near and far, while maintaining our "home-away-from-home" security for the little ones. We spent 7 weeks with 3 of our great nieces/nephew, and have the upcoming holidays the focus on (yes, already!).

Life has been good for us...growing and learning through the pain of loss, as well as beautiful memories for the winter months when the sun doesn't shine as often. I think I am happier when I can count my blessings. These were a few.

Monday, September 27, 2010

You know it's gonna be a long day when...

It's going to be a long day when:

I find empty fruit snack wrappers on the livingroom floor before 7 am. Who ate them? Nobody.

Tommy (6) is reading a DORA book in his underwear 10 minutes before the bus is suppose to be here.

We have no clean knives to cut the watermelon, and that's all anyone wants to eat for breakfast.

Everytime I leave the room the puppy gets up on the couch. He obviously doesn't understand NO!

The house looks like a cyclone hit, and I swear it was clean when I went to bed at 11:00 last night. What DO they DO when I am sleeping???

I check Tara's (8) lunchbox and see she has 2 lunchcakes, a jelly sandwich (hates peanut butter)and 3 string cheese. Really, Tara? You only have 15 minutes to eat it all!!!

Where are Mere's (6) glasses? Oh, mom, they are in that purple bag in the basket of toys...oh, found them last where did HE put them?

We can't find shoes. Not those, the black ones. Who wore them last? Not me! I have to have the black ones!! eek!!! 2 minutes to bus time....didn't we get all this together before bedtime? oh, yeah.....that's where my black shoes are....

Bus!!!!! Out the door, 2 seconds to you all....

Now midst the peace and quiet, I look around. Yes, it's gonna be a LONG day....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's a Dogs Life

Bella(3) and Meredith (6) came downstairs this morning with arms full of dogs. While my nieces stayed with us, Mere and Nila could hardly stand going to school, because that meant their playtime was interrupted for things that, although fun, were not nearly as important as tending their huge litter of dogs.

Now, this is not new to our house. Tara(8) has been an avid dog lover her entire life. We house dogs in every color, shape and size. We have long haired mongrels and short, sassy diva dogs. Some have collars, and names, whereas others are just part of a hoard of nameless, but extremely valued, pets.

In real life, we share our livingspace with just two, airbreathing, toy chewing pets. Carl, the youngest of the two, was the birthday present my husband loves to hate. He has poor house manners, gets into everything he is not suppose to, and nips and bites at the kids. We hear, "NO, Carl!" several times a day, and I trip over him at least 6 times a day! But, we love him. Alot. He has the sweetest eyes and when he sleeps, he is simply adorable.

The second dog is perfect. She never messes in the house, never chews anything she is not suppose to chew, and is loyal to the point of perfection. She can tell time, we assume, because she knows exactly when Tyler's (13) bus is due to arrive. She came to us named Butterscotch, but most of us call her Baby. She is sweet, gentle and perfect as a family pet. She mothers Carl and the 6 month old kitten, Martin, and does a fine job of it.

I tell you about Baby and Carl because they are dogs. They are real. They are a part of our family. But as far as the kids are concerned, they are not really real dogs. The real dogs are the ones that they can pile on top of each other in their play carriers. They never have to go out to potty, although they spend alot of time outside with the girls. So much, in fact, that dogs are a large part of our weekly laundry.

The dogs that are real to the girls do not eat much. However, I continually find little kitchen containers full of dog chow in hidden places in our home. Sometimes I even see little feet sneaking into the bathroom, and then little hands carrying small bowls of water out of it. I know they are feeding their dogs. They are not as sneaky as they think they are.

What this dog fantasy world has created in my girls is wonderful. Mere is quite the animal lover, to the point that she often refers to her dog pets as her friends. She is nurturing (mostly) and is totally absorbed into her play world. Her dogs talk to one another, unless she is in the barking mood. She even has taught Bella how to drink her milk out of a bowl like a puppy, and they often walk on all fours.

Tommy (6) is quite content to play his fantasy worlds on the Wii game system. He builds people with facial hair, personalities, and eye glasses. He does not bark. He likes the music that beep, beep, beeps without ceasing when he has the controller in his hands. But Mere and Bella like the real life. Dogs. Dogs. Dogs.

Some moms are not supportive of children who walk on all fours, bark and drink their milk like puppies. I love it. They are learning to care for those who can not care for themselves. That is a good trait. A trait I want to foster in each of them.

I do not even pretend to know all the names of their dogs. If I call one of them "Tinkerbell" or "George," I am politely reminded that I am calling the dogs by their wrong names. No wonder they don't come running when I call.

It's an facinating world living with dogs. Oh, yeah, and kids.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Puppling

My niece brought home her 4 lb. baby today. Not only is it a miracle that we was born at 32 weeks gestation, and has had NO medical issues, but he also is the long-awaited sibling to 3 beautiful children, all of whom have been with us for the past seven weeks while their mom kept the baby safe.

My niece loves children like I do. When friends would ask us why we volunteered to keep three small children and love them like our own for nearly two months, we had a hard time putting words to it.

I think we defined it, eventually, this way: because we could.

Having 7 kids at home, some of them the very same ages of my great nieces and nephew, means we are set up for kids. And once you hit seven, 3 more doesn't really seem that much more.

I don't work outside the home, like all the other family members. Plus, I love children.

My great nieces and nephew were used to being here, since their mom is also my friend, we have spent alot of time during this past year running around together, going to movies, and scrapbooking. We enjoy each others company.

I love her children, they are my family.

God places us in situations where we can help others. This was a situation where I could help.

I knew her fourth pregnancy was not planned, but she has a wonderful husband and enjoys her children, so from the very beginning, I knew I would help out if she needed me to.

Her pregnancies don't ever make it full term, so when we went on our vacation towards her seventh month, it made sense to take the kids with us, "just in case." She was already on bedrest, so the goal was to keep her pregnant as long as possible. We almost made it home, but my niece was taken to the hospital when her water broke, on a Saturday night so we knew the most likely ones to keep the kids would be us...they had been with us to Jersey and back, and were settled in here. It made perfect sense.

Fortunately, the time on complete bedrest allowed my niece to keep the baby safely below her heart for a few weeks longer, making his birth 2 weeks ago a much healthier birth for the baby.

So, as we all waited for updates from the hospital on this tiny, sweet miracle, he grew and got stronger. So strong that today he was able to come home to a very excited family who welcome him.

Today also marks the last night of my little visitors. They will be returning home tomorrow to begin the adjustment to their newest family member. We will reposition our kids in their own beds again, and get back on our regular family schedule. I will pack their clothes and toys tomorrow, and gather up the things I can find that need to go home with them. I will close the door to our nursery, waiting for the Ethiopian children that will join our family soon.

Until then, I am thankful for the time to love my niece, her children, and welcome such a precious new baby into the family. My 6 year old, Meredith, called him a little Puppling today. Somehow, that really fits.

Welcome little baby Jack. See you soon, Nila, Macy and Liam. Thank you, Tona and Billy, for allowing us to love your children. It's time for you all to be together and build your family. I will miss seeing them day to day. It's been an exciting seven weeks together which none of us will ever forget.

Holding baby Jack today made every bit of the past seven weeks worth it.

Welcome to this crazy world, Baby Jack. You are much loved. And you have a wonderful family that I am especially fond of.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things I have learned at the Laundromat

While washing clothes at the campground laundry, these are the things I have learned:

If I have a can of pop and a package of cookies, near me, the kids will find me.

My kids, come to find out, are NOT the dirtiest ones in the campground.

Everyone has a story to tell. Like the lady who's husband is dying of liver cancer and how she's learned to value life and appreciate it so much more day to day. I wish I had gotten her name. But I will never forget our conversation.

Or the lady who is camping with her 6 grandkids, and complaining about how much laundry she has to do....that one cracked me up, since I was doing laundry for twelve of us!! And, having my grandkids so far away, I don't think I would ever complain about doing their laundry. I would love to have them close enough to me so that I COULD do their laundry!

Another random thought while I am watching the dryer spin, is, for every quarter I am sticking into this dryer or washer, I am depriving one of my kids the opportunity to shower in the campground shower room. Yes, they charge a quarter for a shower. At first it ticked me off, I mean, we are paying plenty in the two week jaunt to cover a shower. And Nicole was terrified it would shut off in the middle of her sauna and she always took two coins just in case. I always shower in the camper, but the big kids, especially, go to the shower room. But then I mellowed out and realized, for just a quarter, I lose 3 teen or near-teen children for up to 1/2 hour. That is actually a bargain for a quarter. With the benefit, I do not have to listen to their teenage conversations, that usually makes my skin crawl after the 22 hour car ride to Jersey.

When I am on laundry duty, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the kids find me. I mean, usually at a campground, I am looking for where they got off to on their bikes, but when they know I have a bag of laundry money, they come running to me like long lost cousins. They are the sweetest, most loving children I have ever seen when they have their grubby little hands out, asking for a couple of quarters for the game room. And, ask their dad? He's had his hands full with them the whole time I did laundry...what??? They were bothering me, not him!!

At home, we both dread laundry duty, and are very grateful for a friend that helps us keep our heads above the suds. But when camping, we fight over who GETS to do the laundry, because that usually means a bit of time with a magazine, our laptops, or a short nap between machines having to be switched. However, since the kids are now masterminds at the whole quarter thing, we get less time alone, and more time fighting off their requests. I may quit lobbying for laundry duty from now on.

Another thing I have learned is that people will knock you down to get their laundry into a washer before you. I typically go early, and figure for 6-8 loads it will be a 2 1/2 hour job. That's if Atilla the Hun is not trying to do her laundry. I fill the washers as full as they can go and still get the clothes fairly clean, but Atilla likes to put 5 pieces of her delicates in one washer, a hand towel and a few washrags in another, while she takes yet another washer for her tennis shoes that she, most likely, would never wash at home. So out of 9 washers, she has just taken up 3, and stands guard over a fouth one, just in case a member of her family may need to put garment in it before she is finished. I think the rules should say, "No saving washers," because laundromat people do not understand the phrase "first come, first served." With Atilla at the helm, I have 5 washers available to do 6-8 loads of laundry, and I am only washing what I have to have to get by. Our camping clothes traditionally get pretty ruined every year, so it's just a matter of necessity that I wash while we are camping. The clothes don't usually look much better when I am done. They do smell better tho. One lady actually accused me of not saving a washer for her. What?? Like I can think about what she needs when I am fighting off grubby hands begging for quarters, Atilla's dark stare as I slink past her to double load the last washer in the place, and she thinks I can save a washer for her? Oh my. It's a world I am not that comfortable with.

Plus, alot of campers have an attitude. I mean, the ones who pay to leave their campers there all summer act like they own the place. In reality, we pay MORE than they do, so shouldn't we be entitled to a little bit better treatment - or at least some kindness!!

I was glad when I met friends of Scott and Britt's to know that there truly are some people in South Jersey who are kind, compassionate, nice people. Otherwise, my dealings with most of them would leave me with a much different impression.

So, that's what I think about when I am doing laundry at a campground. I suppose in some way it will grow me or I will gain compassion, or something like that. Mostly, I get the job done, and when I get home, I appreciate my friend who helps me with my laundry even more. Plus, my friend never holds out a grubby hands and asks for a quarter. Now that's a definate win!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We took an impromptu trip yesterday with all 13 kids and the 4 of us adults. We headed to Philly from Ocean City, NJ. The heat got the better of us so we went with PLAN B.

The Aquarium, Camden, NJ. What an awesome decision! The kids ran from exibit to exibit, excited at every turn. There were some favorites for each of them. The Hippos were fun to watch as they wrestled, with their huge teeth and wide mouths. They were so playful that they drew alot of attention, but they also moved so effortlessly in the tank that it was unbelievable to imagine their massive size.

We saw Penguins that seemed zapped by the heat. They looked like statues, barely moving. The seals glided in their pool, belly up, effortlessly, without a care in the world.

The most intimidating to me was the huge crabs, their pinchers looking like they could kill a human with very little effort. I think sea life is awesome, but scarey too!!

We saw Sea Horses floating, and were able to pet several Stingrays!! That was a highlight for all the kids. Little Keegy was laughing so much everytime they floated past and he could touch their backs. The kids also spent alot of time touching SHARKS!! Some of the sharks were so curious they stuck their noses above water like a dolphin would! Macy, my 3 year old great niece, was intimidated by the moving creatures, so was shy at that point. My 3 year old grandson, Keegan, however, actually picked up a star fish! I think that frightened the worker there, and he had to put it down right away. For the grandsons, they are used to finding things on the beach, so this must have looked like an easy catch to Keegan, with the critters floating in a clear glass tank and someone telling them to touch the creatures!!

Of course, the final room lead us directly to the gift shop, so everyone had to pick out a treasure to remember the day. I tried to steer them away from candy and knickknacks, preferring them to get a stuffed toy or shirt. We were mostly successful, although no one choose the lavendar hippo. I guess I should have gotten one for me. It seems I was the only one who really loved that one!

We stopped at Subway for a fast dinner on the way home. 9 kids meals, 5 adult meals and one adult sustaining from fast food for the night. We ate on the way back to Scott's house, and were back at the campground by 9. It took about 45 minutes to get everyone slowed down and asleep, but eventually, everyone drifted into dreamland, most likely viewing all sorts of sea life in their minds.

I know I did. That's what memories are made of.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Adventures in Jersey

Being on the Ocean shoreline has definitely given us alot of adventure so far this week.

The waves were perfect the first day out, and the kids were jumping in them as soon as their feet hit the water. Since we brought my 2 great nieces, and great nephew with us, I am trying to watch 10 kids in the water, plus my 3 precious grandsons.

Grandson #1 is hitting the waves on a long board!! Amazing. He's not even 5 yet!! He impressed me immediately with his agility and drive to catch the perfect wave. Gnarly, dude!

Grandson #2 played for hours in the sand, found shells and special rocks for me to take home, and chased the sea gulls. He is the shy type, but can melt my heart with one dimpled grin. I love watching his almost 3 year old creative mind while he played on the beach.

Grandson #3, at 10 months old, has eaten his weight in sand. For sure. He is the blondest, blue eyed beach bum, and loved stomping in the water while holding onto his momma's fingers. Between he and his older brother, they had PaPa on his back in the sand, showing us exactly what this beach life is like! Adorable!

I was a bit worried when my 10 month old great nephew was shoving his mouth full of the wet sand, but my grandsons have all done it too, and they are healthy, happy guys. And, like the old saying goes, "It all comes out in the end."

My great nieces had totally different reactions the first time at the Ocean. Nila, the oldest at almost 5, ran to the water and couldn't get enough of the waves. Macy, almost 3, was much more timid, but once Britt took her into the water, she loved it and couldn't stop running in for more. I was able to take several photos of them all, 13 kids, 13 years and under, enjoying God's beautiful creation.

The beach and Ocean are always changing. On Sunday, the beach was literally covered in washed-up jelly fish. I had never seen anything like it. Mere, Tom and Kaiden ran up and down the shore collecting them, and by days end, they had amassed at least 100! They collected them on a boogie board and in sand buckets, hoping to take them home to show our oldest daughter, Ashleigh. It looked like tons of slimy, clear pancakes had been strewn along the beach, almost sticking to the wet sand in hopes that some curious child would come along to collect them. So they did! Of course, they had to be put back in the ocean!! But we were able to get pictures and they are worth a thousand words.

The next day they ran to the beach hoping to collect more, and there were none!! However, this time they had big brother Scotty with us, and the surf boards!! We found out Tara is actually very good and was able to get up on the board several times and ride a few waves in. With her blond hair and deep tan this summer, she looks like she fits in very well with the surfers around town! Tyler took his turn on the board, enjoying the deep water with his big brother. It sure wears them out and helps them sleep good at night.

After being on the beach for about an hour, I was snapping pictures for our memory books, and trying to get shots of all the kids in their worlds of play, when I saw Britt come limping out of the Ocean. As she got closer, I realized her knee was bleeding, and within a few minutes, my EMT son had determined it would need stitches. Three hours later, as the kids were melting down from exhaustion, we returned to the camper, three stitches and a bruised knee later, to a crockpot dinner that we had started much earlier, and an early bedtime. I won't go into details about the neighbors we have to one side of us, but let's just say, East Coast folks are pretty brisk and that's only the nicer way of saying R.U.D.E.
Momma's, don't let your children grow up to be like them! I am sure there are nice folks here, but we haven't met any yet.

Today we spent the afternoon at Britt and Scott's house. They have moved into a large home with alot of yard, so there is plenty of room to run and play. The kids played in Kaid and Keegy's pool, and even baby Keane was having a ball sliding over the edge and into the water! Baby Liam was less impressed with the water, but sure enjoyed sitting next to Keane later and eating tomatoes!! The boys are cute together and it's interesting to hear peoples comments about them being twins. We just say, "Nope, cousins." It's fun to see them together.

We went to Sunset Beach for dinner on the deck, and was able to take part in the Ceremony at dusk of the lowering of the American Flag that had been donated by a Veteran's family. Tonight the man we honored, along with all Vets, was named Larry. He passed away two years ago, and was 91 years old. It's hard to explain to the kids just how important this ceremony is. It means so much to honor those who have served our country. As the music to the National Anthem played, Nila turns to me and says, "Why are we singing so many songs?" I hope one day they will have a small memory of the time we stood on the beach with our hands over our hearts, and remember just how special it was to be a part of a nation that honors those who give us the freedoms we enjoy today. The ceremony always brings up questions from the kids, and is a highlight to our trip.

At one point tonight, Kaiden looks up at me and says, "Grandma, I am glad you are here." Oh Kaiden, I could never explain how much I miss these days when we are apart. I am so glad to be here too. My favorite days are the ones with Kaiden, Keegan and Keane.

On a lighter note, as the ceremony began tonight, I was watching the sun disappear into the Ocean when the announcers voice came across the public address system. Mere looks up at Britt, standing just to my left, and says, "Where is that voice coming from? Is it Santa?" She seemed to be a bit confused about the whole ceremony, but it gave us a chuckle as we packed the van to head home.

We have been able to visit the firehouse where Scott works, get ice cream and smoothies, do 6 loads of laundry at the camp laundromat,surf, eat and play, so tomorrow, when it rains the men will stay with the kids at Scott's house while Britt and I go do some serious shopping. Not bad for our first few days in Jersey...

And, just maybe, we will get to see Keane start to walk. He's so close, and tries harder every day. It is just one of those things that makes the long ride sooooo worth it!! The rest of it is just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Getting Ready for Jersey!

This is the week we wait for all year long. On Friday afternoon, we leave for New Jersey!

I have never been impressed with NJ as a state, or even as a vacation spot. Until my grandsons moved there.

To me, Jersey was just a place - but an important place, now, since it holds a large part of my heart.

Kaiden was six months old when he left Michigan. After his dad, Scott, got through his Boot Camp days in the Coast Guard, they packed up their belongings and we waved goodbye, through our tears, to the most precious little life and his parents.

Over the years we have managed at least one trip a year, as a family, to where Kaiden lives. It's always an added blessing to have time with Britt and Scott too, but the main draw is Kaiden.

In the fall of 2007, Keegan joined the ranks. His cries were louder when he was born than I remembered Kaid's, but just like his big brother, Keegy's little fingers wrapped themselves around our hearts and now we had two very special reasons to travel the globe and back.

I have been fortunate enough to fly out in between our yearly visits, especially during the times that Britt was due to deliver these blessings. I have even managed an extra trip "just because" I really needed a hefty dose of grandkids to get me through my days.

The last trip out was in March for Scott and Britt's birthdays, and also to get in on a little extra loving from the baby of the family, Keane, whom we had only seen at his birth last October 10th. They all came for a short visit in June, but since they were needing to spend time with Britt's brother before he went into the service himself, that time was exceptionally short for us. (Of course, it usually is, regardless of how many days we get to be together!!)

The main thing is, we are getting ready to head out to see those beautiful boys and by saturday, Lord willing, we will be watching our road weary kids splashing in the kiddie pool with their young nephews, and I will be snapping pictures right and left of the bobbing blonde heads of my favorite grandsons!!

It is a moment or two when time stands still and we can enjoy the bond that glues us together as a family.

Kaid will start preschool next month. He's turning 5 on October 3, and I wonder where that time has gone? It seems impossible to fathom that he will now have a great amount of influence from others around him. He will make choices and decisions on his own now, perfect at his age. He will meet new people, and broaden his mind and horizons. His parents have chosen a good school, and he is so smart and ready for it. I am proud of the little man he is already, and look forward to hearing all of his plans in the days ahead. I asked Britt if I could go back pack shopping with Kaid when we are there, and he sounded excited about it!! I wish I could be there for his first day of school, but I know his mommy will let him call me to tell me all about it.

Keegy wants to go to school too, but he is just turning 3 on Sept. 23. He is such a little man. His hair gets blonder every time I see him, with all that Ocean sunshine and fresh air! He loves the beach, and animals, especially cats and horses. He has his own way of talking that sometimes mystifies this gramma, but his dimpled grin gets me even when his words don't make sense. He's a spitfire, since day one, when we could hear his loud cries in the halls of the OB unit!! He was the first "real" Jersey kid, but I hear traces of an accent in both boys voices now when we talk on the phone. Keegy is a bit shy at first, but warms up and skips and laughs right along with all the others. I am taking a bag of preschool goodies for him to stay busy when big brother goes to school.

Hard to believe that Kaid and Keeg are out of the toddler stage now, and on to more important big boy things. Like bikes, skateboards and surfing. They jump the ocean waves with such confidence, telling us about the shells on the beaches and the wonders of their world. I can't wait.

Keane is on the move since the last time I saw him, and it sounds like if he's not walking this week, he will be before we leave Jersey. He's built alot like Kaiden was at that age, thick and soft, a sturdy little man. He's got the bluest eyes I have ever seen on a baby, and he looks so different than the others with brown eyes. But he's definately "one of us" and makes me remember the stages the other boys went through at his very age. It's all happening so fast - he's learned to say "Ball" and "Dada" and "Momma" and before you know it, he will be another little voice on the phone saying "Narly, Gramma!" That's my grandsons!! I know Keegy and Keane may be too little to spend the night in "Papa's" camper, but we will soon be there, around the campfire, or playing in their back yard, making memories to last us through the long winter months while we are apart.

I don't know where their next stop in life will be. I know Scott and Britt are beginning their international adoption process right now, and their next child will be just as loved and wanted as the first three. We will watch and wait with anticipation to see which child we will welcome into our family next, and continue to pray as that child waits for our love bonds to bring us together. I am not sure where God will be leading them over the next year or so, and where their life work will lead them. My heart would love for them to be right in my back yard! But God has a greater plan for their family.

Until then, we pack the trailer, plan meals and get things ready to leave here.
Boys, Papa and Gramma are coming - get those surfboards ready!! See you Saturday!!
Hugs and kisses, until we see you again!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Toothless Grin

I was out with my niece last night when Tara lost her tooth.

She wiggled one on the bottom of her mouth for most of one day, and was rewarded with it's release, very excited about the event. She realized later that evening that the top one just above it had also started to loosen, so she immediately began the wiggling to loosen it enough to pull it out. It took an extra day, but she finally was able to snatch it out last night.

The significance of this tooth event is that she is the girl that is the most persistent person I have ever known. If she wants something, she will stop at nothing to accomplish her goal.

This goal, for Tara, was not to be toothless. It was the hope of a big bonus from the Tooth Fairy!! As the first tooth was put in the envelope, she instructed her older sister to write a message to Ms. TF. Namely, "Please put $7 in the envelope."

Neither of the girls thought this was unusual. Both Mike and I laughed.

For an 8 year old, this is her one chance to make a buck. She isn't old enough for a job, she doesn't get an allowance, and anytime there is extra chores with a price tag she prefers not to partake of the activity. So, loosing teeth is her one shot.

Mike showed me the envelopes they left for the Tooth Fairy. They are adorable, and very politely blatant about her requests.

I remember being thrilled with a dime under my pillow. There may have been a time when a molar could bring in a shining quarter. My oldest kids remember 50 cents for their teeth, possibly a dollar bill if the tooth was lost under duress. Like the one time my youngest brother, Charlie, lost a tooth when mom was moving a chair over his head into the livingroom during a family gathering. Somehow the chair and Charlie's teeth collided, so the Tooth Fairy brought $3, slipping it under his pillow, which seemed totally acceptable for how he had lost that tooth. He was too young at the time to wish it had been more teeth affected.

So, here we are in the day of inflation, putting more demands on the Tooth Fairy. The girls explain it this way:

"When you were little you got change. It got to be too heavy for her to carry, so she switched to dollar bills. She knows you can't get much for a dollar, so she gives at least two dollars for every tooth now."

Tara's pillow hid $4, which, even considering inflation, seems like quite the haul to me.

It's so fun being 8.

Monday, July 26, 2010

School Shopping

It's the time of year when I need to start thinking about school shopping.
I hate it.

I have had kids in school for millions of years now, so when Walmart puts their school supplies on sale, I start grabbing the things I know we will need. This year I was able to get 12 boxes of crayons, 6 scissors, 4 rulers, 24 glue sticks, 18 notebooks, 6 boxes of colored pencils.....the list goes on. That part is easy, because I can shop in the evenings alone while the kids are sleeping and Mike is working on his paperwork.

But when my 12 year old Diva suggests it's SCHOOL SHOPPING time, she is far from thinking of the supplies that will fill her backpack. She is craving clothes!!!

Now, I am not a huge supporter of going shopping for all new school clothes. We are blessed with cousins and friends who pass down wonderful items that fit my kids, and all of the kids have large supplies of outfits to choose from every day. When the weather changes, we may need a few warmer outfits, but we can catch those on sale when it's time.

But the Diva I mentioned is different. For one, she's over 5ft. 6" tall now. She has the body of a young woman, and she never stops growing. She has a certain sense about how one should dress and we seldom see eye to eye on her choices. For her, shopping is pure joy. For me - I would rather have a root canal, broken legs, or a concussion.

I have a problem with all the young girls wearing clothes that show their underwear. You know what I mean. Tops or bottoms, I think underwear should be covered. I don't like to see bellys peaking out, and who came up with the idea that shirts need to be tighter than their own skin? Thongs should never be seen by anyone other than the wearer, and certainly not for me to have to look at when the wearer is directly in front of me at the check out.

I want my kids to learn to be modest, but they think I am a prude. My 13 year old son wants to parade around the house with his shirt off, chest out, manly muscles pumping. I say, "Save us from the show - PUT ON YOUR SHIRT!!"

This prevalent attitude that I have can cause serious issues when shopping. I think it's ridiculous to wear 2 shirts, just for the sake of wearing 2 shirts. She thinks it's imperitive that she does, or else her friends will think she's weird. OK?

I think shorts need to be short enough to be cool, but long enough to be decent. Shirts need to cover all the essentials, but not be so tight that there is reason to believe the wearer can not possibly be breathing.

Pants on a young man should not only cover his underwear, but it should not require the young man to hold his fly, thus keeping his pants from falling completely on the ground. What good is a one-armed young man? Do they know they can actually get more done when they can use both hands, and not have to hold their pants up?

And whoever invented the leggings should be shot. I mean, if you are 90 pounds soaking wet, they can be adorable. And I love them on my little girls. But the older you get, the less you should wear them - unless you have a great figure that is enhanced by the wearing of such tights. Anyone else, beware.

It's like the email I got the other day that said, "Just because you can buy a bikini, doesn't mean you should wear one."

And shoes. Since we live in flip flops all summer, I have to buy all 6 of the school age kids some good shoes. By good shoes, I mean, nice, stylish, (velcro for the youngest)tennis shoes that will get alot of use on the playground. Never white ones, but ones that will show the least amount of wear and tear until the canvas is ripped, or the rubber comes loose and it's time for new ones.

My Diva? She thinks she needs at least 4 pair or 5. And not tennis shoes - those would never do. There has to be enough choices to go with every different outfit and it really doesn't matter if they are comfy or not. They have to LOOK good.

My teenage son? He is so skinny that I have to find LONG jeans, very narrow waisted, with pockets. Forget belt loops. He'll never wear a belt if he can get out of here without me noticing. And the criteria for his clothes? Gotta be awesome.

My eleven year old daughter is so easy to dress. She likes anything, loves hand-me-downs, and is grateful for everything. I love dressing her for school, and all I have to do is encourage her to match her colors better. She's not known for her ability to match an outfit.

I have a credit at JC Penney, which is part of the reason my Diva thinks we need to take a trip to the mall. NOT!! I have to remind her dad not to mention stuff like that out loud!! I would prefer to use my credit on christmas shopping, which, by the way, is just around the corner now!

School shopping is my least favorite activity. I think for today I will put if off and wait for the day when it is absolutely necessary!

There is still much more to do before summer can officially be over, and school begins again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Michigan Dunes - Or, How I faced my Challenge

We spent the weekend camping in the midwestern portion of our state, as close as we could be to the Lake Michigan dunes. Well, actually, we were closer to some of the dunes before we even left home, but these were dunes we had never seen before.

Sitting on the beach, after climbing for what felt like DAYS (but was really about a hard 45 minute climb in slipping sands), Mike told me about the time he remembered being at this same lake with his family and grandparents, when he was a young child. It brought back memories for him that I had never heard about before. Wonderful family times. Priceless.

I downplay the climb, mostly due to the fact that there was more than one time that I thought my life was going to end right there on the sands of Lake Michigan, and my family would be able to roll me down a hill and cover me up to leave me there, or perhaps, they would walk on and never look back as I slowly melted into the ever changing sands that swallowed me up.

I was feeling quite feeble as my old knees screamed, "STOP!" and my heart raced with the uncommon exertion. The kids ran ahead, throwing sand in their wake, then turned around, secretly mocking my inability to compete with their youth and energy, returning to grab my hand or lighten my load by offering to carry something for me.

At one point, I begged them to continue without me, remembering to come back to pick me up before they headed back to camp at nightfall. No deal. We all would go forward, or we all would stop. Solidarity. Nice.

Their springing steps in the hot sand sickened me. I know they are alot younger than me, but come on!!! They were practically dancing circles around my feeble attempts to move forward in the sand!!

I looked over at Mike, expecting him to eye me pitifully, while he secretly wished I could put a little "umph" in my steps. He leans close, and says, "This is making me feel extremely old!"

After we struggled our way over the dunes to get to the lake, I was thrilled to practically run (yeah, right) down the backside of the dunes toward the water, stopping only long enough to breathe. Yeah, it really wasn't any easier going down, no matter what my kids tell you. Thankfully there was a long stretch of poles and rope separating the "endangered dunes" from the "healthy, moving dunes" (still not sure how they could tell the difference), so I could send the chidren ahead toward the water as I meandered my way to the lakeside. Coming closer to the beach were posted signs, "Do not Enter. Private property. No Tresspassing." I was afraid I would lose sight of the kids who had run ahead of us, but I should not have feared. There, just past the "DO NOT ENTER" sign were half of them, swimming in private lakefront off the private beach, oblivious to the major warnings to stay away. At least they were safe there until I was able to reach them!

I layed my sheet on the beach, hoping my heart would quit racing and my breathing return to normal before we had to head back up the dunes to return to civilization. It was already after supper, so I knew I only had about 3 hours for my body to recover before nightfall.

When I realized I would have to begin the treck back, each of the kids protested or requested more time in the water. Since we had not brought breakfast with us, I knew our time up the huge sand dunes was going to have to begin sooner than later, since walking in the full sunlight was challenging enough. I doubted I would ever make it back once the moon came out. We gathered our shoes and towels, drank all but the last water bottle we had carried, and ate all the cookies we brought with us. Going uphill would mean we'd have to lighten our load considerably, or I, especially, would never hope to get off this desolate mountain of sand.

We gathered our wits, coralled our forces, and marched to the foot of the hill. I listed toward the pole that held the dividing ropes, hoping to garner some support from their stalwart positions as I climbed upward to our final destination.

The ropes became my lifeblood. By the time I was halfway up the dunes, I was grabbing, fist over fist, literally pulling my entire weight up the hill, only slipping to my knees every other step of the way. By the time I was within four poles from the top of the tallest dune in the world, the kids were cheering me on, Mike was pulling for me from deep within his heart, and I, although panting the entire time, I finally reached the highest point. It would be all down hill from here.

Well, sparing the rest of the gory details, we made it, enmass, to the bottom of the dunes, where Mike had travelled first, mainly to get our photos from the base to see just how far we had come. I see the pictures, days later, and my knees ached just looking at them.

By the time we had taken our seats in the van so that we could travel back to our campground and comfy beds, the kids were talking about returning to the dunes the following day for another excursion.

I, on the other hand, opted for the calmer trip to the local Petting Zoo and Farm Market, which was just a short drive from our campsite. I slept well that night, dreaming of the adorable animals we would visit the next day, ever grateful that I would not be spending that particular night on the top of a large sand dune, alone, and scared, lost in a mountain of drifting sand.

The Fraility of Life

I am sitting, again, with my husband as we wait for his father to come out of surgery. In the past 4 months, his dad has undergone just as many surgeries. It's amazing how much he's been through. Five bypasses to his failing heart, after a heart catherization that followed a heart attack. Then within a month, before he had recovered fully, he lost the majority of his left leg to diabetes complications. Today, he has an infected bone in his right foot, and is expecting to lose a portion of his flesh and infected bone today.

This is a strange place to be. There have been years of stress in this father/son relationship, and here we are at another point in his life where he needs us. It's not the time to fuss over past pain or disappointments, but time to honor the fact that he is the father, and needs his son. I know God has blessed Mike's respectful handling of his dad, and we are here because the relationship goes much deeper than it probably should.

There is an old statement that comes to my mind today: "Let bygones be bygones." I don't know that I have realized it before, but this is what it's about today. As the past melts away, we are at peace that we are here today, honoring an earthly father, while more so, our Heavenly Father. It's not where we expected to be ten years ago, but we are here today.

While camping last weekend, we stopped on the way home for snacks. The restroom had a soap dispenser, and when I washed my hands there was a familiar scent that caught me off guard. I dried my hands, and the fragrance that remained immediately brought me back many, many years to my grandma's house. The soap in the dispenser had the very same fragrance that my grandma's soap had, and whether it was the same brand of not, I am not sure. But throughout the next hour or so, I could pick up faint remembrances of grandma, just through the scent of a particular soap. Memories are like that. They come out of nowhere, assault your senses, and leave behind a trail of thoughts that take you back to another day, another time.

I was caught in the middle of our weekend camping, making memories with my youngest children, but mindful of the past that shaped me into who I am today.

I am glad that we are here today. It's not the kind of memories that are pleasant, sitting in a waiting room for word from the doctor that Mike's dad has weathered another storm. But our past mandates the future, because who we are today is because of what we have been through in the past.

I am here for Mike. He is here for his dad. We are here together because it's important for us to honor the fact that, through thick or thin, this is what family is, and what family does for each other. It's the lingering scent of our lives, the past, the present and our future. I hope we live a life that leaves a memorable "scent" behind, so when our days are nearing the end, our children can remember us, reach out to each other, and honor the family ties that make us strong.

It's what makes our lives worth living.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Full Cup

We got home yesterday from another weekend camping trip. This was our second trip this summer with my parents and my younger brother and his family. It's always alot of cooking, alot of eating, and TONS of laughing!! My dad can be quite witty, and my brother never stops - he is constant jokes, puns, songs, smiles, and laughter. He keeps the ball rolling all weekend. Precious times.

Today I was able to drop 4 kids off at Vacation Bible School at a church where they have attended VBS for the last few years. They are creative with their props and everyone seems to get into the spirit of the event. My kids love it. It felt strange to leave the four of them and realize they had 3 hours without me there, and they were perfectly fine with it. They are all seasoned scholars now, having school day experiences behind them, and they were even thrilled to have classes with some of their previous school mates today. They were all smiles when I picked them up.

Our local elementary school is providing free lunches this summer for children. The kids thought that was pretty awesome today, so we plan to go tomorrow too. It's plenty of food, but I was hesitant at first that I shouldn't partake. We don't NEED to go for a free lunch, and I didn't want to take from someone who needed it. The staff assured me it was open to everyone, and if they didn't use it, the grant would not be available next time. It was nice to see others from the community, and visit while we ate our sack lunches. After lunch, my cousin and her kids stayed to play on the school playground with us. Then I brought her 2 home to play while she went to her college class. I don't think the kids wanted their fun day to end.

At supper time we got a call from our friend. He and his 3 kids were looking for someone to hang out with tonight, so I asked them to join us for supper. It turned into a fun evening with all ten of our combined children playing hide and seek and then catching fireflies once it was near dark. The kids were so tired from all the running and playing with their friends tonight that they dropped into bed without a fuss. It reminded me several times of the days when I was young, and then the later on years when my older children were youngsters, of playing out in the yard, and running around with the cousins. It brought back special memories for me, and I love the fact that the new generation of children are making their own memories.

It's been a full day. I have more painting projects to finish, but I wouldn't trade the times I had today for anything in the world. Time with family and friends are what makes my day complete, or as a friend says, "Fills my cup." I am full to overflowing tonight, and that is a wonderful feeling to fall asleep on.

I hope each of my friends and family have their cups full tonight, and memories to dream of as they sleep. Goodnight to you all.