Saturday, January 30, 2010

Basketball Memories

Today was the first game of the Upwards Basketball season. All nine of us were up and ready to go by 8:30 for the 9:00 game.

I love sleeping in on Saturday, since it's normally the only day to do that. That will be out of the picture for a while. But I wouldn't want to miss Tylers first game anyway. Or watching the other kids while Tyler played his game.

Bella is able to sit and watch most of it this year, which is a huge difference from last year. She found a place on the floor just outside of the court, cross legged, hands folded, ready to watch her beloved Bubba play ball. Her sweet little voice called out to him across the court, "Hey Bubba, go Bubba. Whoo hoo!!" She tried to get his attention several times, and it didn't matter whether he was on the bench or the court. Finally, he glanced her way and smiled. It's really not cool for a 13 year old to smile at his little sister in front of everyone in the gym. She caught his smile, turned toward me and grinned ear to ear, "Momma, he looked at me!" Priceless.

Meredith sat beside Bella on the floor for most of the game. They had bought a pack of gum and were sharing it. Mere was impressing the kids around her with her newfound ability to blow bubbles. As a matter of fact, Bella was so impressed she removed her gum from her mouth, handed it to Mere and said, "Blow a bubble for me, Mere!"

Although it feels like we are transporting everyone of the kids in that gym when we leave our house in the morning, there are actually alot of kids there that are not called by our last name. Since it was the first game, my kids were anxious to run around with the others in the room. There is a bowling game off to the side that they remembered playing last year, so they were excited to get a game going today. While cheering for Tyler's team, I was mindful of the kids behind me chatting and playing, when I unmistakenly hear Mere's voice burst out above the crowd.

"But dad, they are playing with a stranger!!"
Mike kindly reminds her, when they are playing with other children, once you ask them their name, they simply are not strangers anymore.
Case closed. Strangers no more.

Towards the end of the game, Tommy,(5)sees a player stoop down to tie his shoe, mid game. He turns to me, and announces, "Mom, I know how to tie my shoes too. Make an X with the ties, shape a bunny ear here, and a bunny ear here, push them together and pull it tight." Yes, Tommy, that is how you do it. I love the things he's learning and doing.

After a play date with his cousins this week, Tommy plopped his little boy body in his little boy rocking chair, let out a sigh and said, "Whew, I'm poofed!"

Final score, 48 to 52. Close game, good times. All within an hour. I am sure after the girls game at 1:00 I will agree with Tommy's sentiments of Wednesday, "Whew. I'm poofed!"

Friday, January 29, 2010

Unreal, Totally

Homestudy in hand.
Immigration paperwork ready to mail tomorrow.
Taxes E-filed.
Children all asleep.

It's 10:17 on a Friday night, and I feel like we just lived through the longest week.
We were so blessed to be introduced to the birthmom of one of our adopted children. It was surreal - seeing our child's eyes in the eyes of this almost stranger. Seeing her smile on the face of another.

Our daughters birthmom has lived a long, hard life in her 26 years. She is the same age as our second daughter, and I couldn't help but notice the similarities of the two. How would I feel if I were sitting at the table with my daughter, knowing what I know of this young woman? We were both moved by compassion at her plight, and without doubt, believing she loved her children and wants the best for them even though they are not a part of her life today.

I liked her. I was prepared NOT to. But there was a deep warmth in her eyes and kindness in her comments. I want to hold on to those feelings that were stirred inside of me when I met her. I can tell my young daughter, some day, that she was wanted, loved, cherished, but not able to be cared for like a child needs from a mother. We stepped in. But her birthmom really will never step out of her life. She is a carbon copy of her mother, in all the good ways that she will need to make it through life. I hope we can help our daughter make healthy, appropriate choices in her future, but take the determination that was born into her through genetics and make a strong mark in this world.

It was unreal. I was so unprepared for the experience, but so very grateful for it today.

As the children sleep, and we enter into a busy weekend of activity with basketball games, I am reminded of how great our God is that puts us in the right place, at the right time, to do the right thing...

And some days, it just feels unreal. Totally.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Death - when it's close to home or far away

I think it's taken me several days to wrap my mind around the Haitian tragedy. I keep my television tuned to the current news and the faces haunt me when I lay in my warm bed each night. I can not fathom the loss, the extreme devastation and the pain these people have suffered and continue to suffer on a level I probably will never know. I hope I never have to.

Death. We lost a dear friend to it's grasp last week. He was a mentor to my husband, a grandfather to my oldest children and a model of the type Christian I hope to be someday. He was a selfless, precious soul, kindness and compassion oozed from his smile, his tender eyes, his work worn hands. At his funeral, while snow swirled and cold winter winds blew outside, we stood with the family and friends who mourned the passing of this great man of God. With Military honors for his service to our country, we watched the solemn process as the American flag was folded with great care and handed to the beautiful widow who loved him in life and will never forget him in death. As guns saluted him in honor, we wept for our loss, grateful that at that time he was already touching the face of God.

Then I see the funerals of fellow humans in Haiti, reeling from the harsh reality of the magnitude of deaths in their community, well over 200,000 lives snuffed out by an "act of God." An earthquake that has caused aftershocks in it's wake that create further terror as the ground continues to shake. Mothers crying over the deaths of children in the piles of rubble that they will never touch again, their cries snuffed out from their injuries and slow deaths. There are no honorable burials there, but people who have suffered much already, burying precious lives in unmarked graves, or mass burials where they pile hundreds of bodies into huge holes in the ground just to rid the immediate area of impending disease and decay.

It is a stark reminder to me that the death of our friend and the deaths in Haiti are so very different that they can not be compared to each other. However, the grieving here is planned and we are allowed time to process our grief through a compassionate service. The funerals in Haiti are performed quickly to aid in allowing rescuers to continue seeking lost and buried bodies, hoping against all odds that they may, possibly, find one more soul who is waiting for their hand to pull them from the rubble.

Has anyone else been sickened by the sad eyes of even more orphans left in a massive amount of destruction, needing basic necessities to exist one more day? For what? How many just pray for it all to end, or do they have small pieces of hope left in their hearts against the reality of their desperate situation?

As we continue to pray for the Ethiopian children who seem like a distant dream some days, I pray for the Haitian children and wish deeply that there was something more that I could do to ease their suffering. I pray that the 3 empty beds we have in our home can be filled, and the hearts of suffering, lonely children can be made whole again here.

Death is final. We all face it. It just hurts to see death come to children who are alone, scared and dying moment by moment. And there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Pray with me for the little orphan angels. Godspeed to the ones who are on their way home.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Brittany's Race,8052,s6-5-0-1,00.html?bcpid=2884339001&bclid=1126074425&bctid=1747278190

This is the video that highlights the Marathon that my daughter-in-law will be running this fall.

All proceeds benefit the World Vision project in Africa.

I will post more information in the near future about how to support this wonderful endeavor.

I am so proud of our Britt, and how she wants to be able to make a difference in the world with the talents God has given her.

Run, Britt!! Our prayers are with you while you train!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tara's 8th Birthday weekend in review....

A birthday at our house is no longer a short event. It appears they are now thought of in weekend segments. Let me explain.

When Tyler turned 13 in October, our 3rd grandson had just been born in New Jersey. We could not think of missing out on his birth, so that happened to be on the 13th, while Tyler's birthday was the 15th. Little Keane Eli was just leaving the hospital, we knew we would have to leave town to return home soon, so Tyler's birthday co-incided with a trip to the grandson's favorite pizza/play place on the night of his birthday. We made sure each of the boys had a small cake and Tyler got his own strawberry delight dessert. We took pictures, marched around the pizza place following a big grey Mouse, and celebrated Tyler's 13th, Kaid's 4th and Keegan's 2nd birthdays. Fun was had by all.

When we left Jersey, the topic of birthday parties came up on the long car ride home, and I reminded Tyler that few of his friends would have spent an extended vacation in New Jersey for their birthday like he had. He is one lucky teenager, Mouse and all. Not quite the party he expected, but he took it like a man.

Then Nic turned 12 in November. I took her shopping for the day, went to a musical presentation at our church, and had dinner out. Nice mother daughter day, and we had cake with the family the next day to celebrate again.

When Meredith was turning 6 just two days after Christmas, we planned another Mouse Pizza Party, mostly because the celebrations over the holidays had left me quite exhausted, and taking the mess somewhere else had alot of appeal to me. Plus, the kids would play, I could eat a salad and drink a diet coke, and watch the fun while Nicole took pictures for our scrapbook.

Now, just two weeks later, Tara turns 8. She determined months ago that her party would be at the local bowling alley, including pizza, a BIG TOP cake, and big sister Ash and her husband Andy would LOVE to join us too.

This is the weekend for the big party. It just happened to fall on the same weekend as the local Ice Festival, and since gramma J. came to stay the weekend with us, the celebrating started early, lasted a long time, and included everything possible that we could fit into one weekend.

We watched a Pirotechnics show last night downtown by the river, called Fire and Ice. A huge ice sculpture of an electric guitar was lit on fire in the center of the sculture, giving the appearance of burning ice. Interesting. But cold standing out in the snow. We left the riverfront park and looked for a restaurant that we could all agree on. The birthday girl was pleased with a buffet in the next town over, but after a long week, a tiring walk out in the cold and at least an hour off our normal evening schedule, we sat for a relaxing dinner to the meals of everyone's choosing. Right.

Tom had broken the Glow stick he got at the ice festival, announcing "My thing broke in half and my hands are glowing green..." We entered the restaurant, admonishing the children that we would mind our manners and enjoy our meal before returning home for a movie night.

Somewhere during the meal Mike announced that our table was going to get the award for the noisiest, messiest one. Tom attacked Bella for stealing his strawberry jello, while Bella screamed at the top of her lungs in revolt. Tara was eating a bowl of ice cream without a spoon, as the three oldest discussed who was the funniest. I looked at gramma J. who kept humming quietly, eating her dinner, when Mere put her head back and began howling. It seems they had just watched "Where the Wild Things Are" and she was mimicking the end where they all howled.

Gramma J. and I shook our heads in disbelief, realizing we could cry or laugh, but laughing seemed the only thing that we could do to get through the rest of our meal.

This morning the birthday celebration began with a huge breakfast with all grandparents joining us at home. By 1:00 we were back at the Ice Fest to check out the sculptures, and to enjoy the Hunter Ice Cream (made with the original recipe from the early 1900's) while we froze our ....well, it was cold, but the kids didn't notice that at all. They just enjoyed the sledding, the ice cream treats, and the plan that we would be meeting at the bowling alley for pizza, cake and two games of bowling with 12 of us.

When my parents got to the bowling alley to share in the birthday fun, dad smiled and said, "I don't know too many people who take 7 young kids bowling just for the fun of it."

I realized the gifts were opened, the cake that I made at midnight last night was devoured, and the birthday girl of the weekend was thrilled that her party had gone off without a hitch. The mess was not at home, and exhausted kids were smiling and not wanting the party to end.

Birthday success. Happy kids. Gramma packed up and headed back home until the next party. A long birthday celebration, but a weekend for the memory books. And in 19 days we get to try to top this one when Bella turns 3.

I think I will sleep on that one and dream of the possibilities. Happy Birthday, my sweet, big girl, Tara.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In the Right Direction.

I received an email yesterday from our social worker. The HOMESTUDY IS COMPLETE!!

If you have never gone through an international adoption, perhaps that news is not all that exciting to you. This is why it's extremely exciting to us:

We started over a year ago with our first homestudy agency. We had joined adoption forums about a year previous to that, and figured since we had adopted 7 children domestically, we were old hats at this. Wrong.

We started praying about the country we wanted to adopt from. I researched Liberia (closed), Haiti (wouldnt' accept our family size), and Russia (too long in country for me to leave my family.)

We poured our hearts out over waiting list children, looking into their eyes and requesting information on each one. By the time the agencies got back to us, the children had been placed, or for some reason we would not fit the criteria for adopting them. My heart sank a bit each time. We decided Ethiopia would be the best fit for our family, and researched agencies who place children from there. We sent off our application fees, then contracted with a placing agency. That was Jan. 09.

After our contract was reviewed and signed (ALOT of reading!!), we had located a homestudy agency in Michigan, and began the tedious process. We bought required reading books, studied the country of Ethiopia and dreamed of the children who would soon be part of our family. Mike and I spent HOURS writing out our personal history, our reason for adopting again, and everything about us and our families that would matter in the end. By the time our social worker showed up to begin the homestudy, we were so psyched and pumping every ounce of energy into making our remodel projects complete, and getting ready for our new children.

Social worker #1. Discouraging. To. Say. The. Least. After 7 frustrating months, we received a letter stating our social worker had left the agency, and the comments he left about us in his wake were less than desirable. We had close friends and family question if this was "God's plan to stop the adoption process", and our hearts sank a little more. I cried tears for the children we would never meet, the plans that I thought God wanted for us, and the turn of events that had stopped me cold in my tracks.

But a small, still voice spoke peace and comfort in our ears, so stepping out on faith once again, we contacted another agency, who seemed more than willing to give their best shot. The first agency refunded our initial expenses (unheard of, from what we hear now) and we really had lost very little with that attempt. Except time. Which can not be refunded, ever. God continued to speak to our hearts cry, while, step by step, we moved closer to what we understood to be HIS will.

Social worker #2. An answer to prayer. Mary Beth was kind, a hopeful adoptive mom herself, and loved our big family. She was supportive, never critical, could see our hearts and knew God still had a big plan for us. What a perfect fit! We went through hours of training, in person and on-line, read different books than the first time, and we were on our way. More than half the year was over, but we were hopeful again.

My oldest daughter got married in the fall, went through surgery, then recovery, and we knew that the timing was perfect. We could see why we still hadn't gone to Ethiopia yet, because we were needed here. But then the waiting for the homestudy felt like it was dragging on,so we questioned again, would we ever get our children? Pregnancies last 9 months. It felt like we should be nearing the end of ours. September. October. November. Still waiting. December.

I started to lose my focus. We were approached by a man who asked if we would be interested in another domestic adoption. I jumped, heart first. It never worked out. Then we were approached about adopting twins who were due in December, again domestic adoption. I jumped, knowing I had a nursery set for two, once again, heart first. We celebrated holidays, a precious visit from my second oldest daughter from Oregon, and still waited. Birth mom choose another family. Obviously, this was not how God was going to add to our family. He clearly was telling us to wait. My mom heart grieved, but I really wanted to be faithful to the path that God had placed us on. It was just hard to see the empty cribs, and I contemplated taking them down so the constant reminder was not there. Would an empty nursery feel any more comforting? The cribs remain.

A new year dawned, making this wait well over the expected pregnancy phase. Our social worker had emergency surgery, recovery time and other clients. I wanted to be strong and faithful, but I was wavering. Big time. I heard the voices of others in my head, questioning our intent, our plan, the path we were walking. But in my heart, I still saw the big brown eyes peering out of an orphanage crib, and God continued to ease the emptiness in my heart that cried out to bring the babies home.

An email that said "your homestudy has been approved and copies will be in the mail this week" brought all the year past into focus. I do not know the children God is preparing for us, but this is a major step in the right direction. Our next hurdles are the immigration paperwork, fingerprinting, and dossier preparation. Most of that paperwork is completed, just waiting for the homestudy piece that was needed to go with it to the next level.

So, what have we learned? I can't speak for Mike, but for me, waiting for something to happen does not mean that God has changed His mind. For all my questions, tears and fears, God has remained steady, pushing us gently on our path. That's the main thing. Secondly, International Adoption is hard. It's time consuming, and I have to be careful that is doesn't consume my entire life. Life with 10 kids will be hectic, unpredictable, and consuming enough, so adding the IA piece will not make anything else easier. Over the year (plus) we have had opportunity to teach the kids more about the country we will be bringing home our children from. Nicole has done reports for school on Ethiopia. Bella hopes on a daily basis that we will get our babies today, and the other kids have had time to adjust their thinking on what life will be like when we add more children to the mix.

Has it been a good year? Yes.
Was it a hard year? Exceptionally.
Is it over yet? Nope.
But like Mike said when he read the email from Mary Beth, "It feels we are moving again."
Might I add, "in the right direction." Finally. In the right direction.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I think we are all getting anxious for the Ethiopian adoptions to proceed. It feels like we have been waiting for this "pregnancy" to end much too long!!

Bella has a comment to make nearly every day about the "new babies." She sees the cribs set up, blankets folded neatly, waiting to wrap up our treasures. She sees bottles and pacifiers in the store, and begs me to purchase them so that we can get them home "for our babies." She plays with her dolls, calling them "Africa" or "Opia." She asks to see pictures of our babies on the computer. Every baby in the stores, in her mind, is fair game and she doesn't understand why we can't take them home.

I hear you, Bella. I feel the same urgency!!

We got news late last week that our placing agency in Oregon finally received a first draft of our homestudy. Our social worker suggested some changes and sent it back to the homestudy agency in Michigan. I hope that means we could expect to receive a finished report some time this coming week. I can not express how frustrating this whole process has been the entire 2009 year. But now it seems as if we are nearing the close to that chapter, which allows us to move on, finally, to the next stage.

We knew when we started the process that International Adoption would not be easy. We knew it could be frustrating, time consuming, and a ton of paperwork. We have done our part, completing hours of training, determined to see this through to the children God has waiting for us across the world. I read stories of families who have been on this adoption path for years, waiting for government approvals, or to get to the top of waiting lists, and I wonder how they keep their spirits up. It is hard to wait. And wait. And wait. So far we are just waiting on paperwork. So out of our control.

Life continues. I pray daily for ways to make a difference in lives around me. In my home, in my family, in my neighborhood, in my church. I know somewhere in Ethiopia is a family in distress, making difficult decisions for their children. Perhaps they are struggling with life threatening illness, and they hope for a safe place for their children to grow and thrive. Maybe they have already taken their last breath, and children have been shuffled to an orphanage that is overwhelmed with the needs of the many others in the same situation. I don't know what our childrens story will be. But I know there is a story forming now, that will impact the lives of our future children, and our lives as well.

I am trusting our God to protect the children who may be waiting for us, and I am hoping He finds me faithful to complete the things I need to do here in the meantime.

2010 is a new year. I hope this year we can bring our children home.

Monday, January 4, 2010


"For 19.99 you get the amazing brownie pan...perfectly cut brownies everytime!"

My kids want this pan really bad. They also wanted the BIG TOP cupcake pan. So I bought it at the drugstore in a moment of weakness when I went in to pick up a gallon of milk. On TV it looks like it's HUGE, but in actuality, I am wondering if it will even hold a full cake mix.

But, since we have at least one birthday a month all year long, it seemed like a harmless expense. Tara's birthday will be the first one to test it on, and she's thinking we will need to make 3 cakes for all the people at her party.

All the people, Tara? We celebrate birthdays with siblings and grandparents, so I think one cake will be enough. But since she opened the box and saw how little the BIG TOP really is, she's thinking how much cake she will have. I wonder if she is going to be an event coordinator some day? Definately is making her way towards being the baker in this group of kids.

Everytime the brownie pan infomercial comes on, one of the kids tell me how much we need that. (And the touch toothpaste container that means you can put the paste on your brush with just one hand!!)

None of the little ones really have a clue what "the low price of $19.99" really means, since they are just learning that a dollar spent at the thrift shop doesn't include the state sales tax. So much to learn.

But Tommy saw the brownie pan commercial this morning, and used a new approach. Instead of saying,"we really need that, Mom" or, "we do bake alot of brownies!" or,
"that would make it alot easier for you, mom," he tried a whole different angle.

"How old are you, Mom?" Because if you were 18 or older you could buy that pan."
When I asked him how old did he think I was, he said, "Probably 17."

I am gonna get him that pan. We DO make alot of brownies around here, after all!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Boss of the Christmas Tree

I must admit, after these last 2 weeks with constant parties, activity and holiday noise, I am ready for a little simplicity to begin again.

Today we met a dear friend who was in town for the holidays. She is traveling 24 hours by train tonight to get back home, and we had about an hour of catch up time over breakfast. I snapped a couple pictures, asked alot of questions about how life was treating her and tried really hard to hold back the tears when we had to say goodbye again.

After a trip to our local thrift store, we headed to the grocery to stock up on the important things, like milk and bread, to hold us through the impending lake-effect snow we are suppose to get yet before tomorrow morning. We dropped eggs off for my parents so they wouldn't have to get out in the deep snow, then headed home with enough time to get the majority of the family home so Nic and I could meet my niece for some special pampering to celebrate her 14th birthday.

I was giving "orders" to cover my expectations of what everyone should accomplish while I was away this afternoon, when I heard two voices from the backseat of the van just as we were pulling into our driveway.

"Mom, is Bella the boss of the Christmas tree!"

I had to think about it for a minute before I could answer.

Everyone around here seems to think they are the "boss" of something. For Tyler, he thinks he's the boss of the dog and whatever happens in the barn. Admittedly, he spends the most time in chores with both the dog and the goats, so I guess, if that means being the boss of the dog and barn, he would be it.

Nicole thinks she is the boss of her room. Although she shares it with Nelly, Nic seems to think it's up to her to tell Nelly where things go, when to put them there and how quick to do it. I try to squelch that attitude of bossiness, because I don't really like the kids to boss each other. So Nic, in turn, becomes the boss of the upstairs bathroom. Since she likes to boss who/when/how it's used, she also gets to be the boss of cleaning it most of the time. That takes some of her bossiness right out the window.

Nelly likes to think she can boss Tara. NOT. So, Nelly usually is the boss of helping Tara, Mere and Tom with homework. Usually it's reading to them, (which she is an expert at, actually) and as long as she keeps a positive attitude with them, it's nice having her as the homework boss. She could use someone to boss her in that area, however.

Tara bosses everyone. She thinks if one of us doesn't do what she wants or when she wants it, she is justified in being angry at whomever disappoints her. She is a very determined boss, not always the kindest at her bossiness, but she is learning a little bit better every year that bosses get more out of their subjects with kindness and appreciation. Not really a bad skill for a 7 year old to be learning.

Mere is the boss of all the stuffed animals. Every toy in the house lines up under her scrutiny, and she forces each of them to be completely under her spell. They jump, wiggle and move at her command, and I never hear one word of complaint from her bossiness to them. They smile, eyes bright, and come back day after day for more of her demands. It's one of the better situations that I see on a daily basis.

Thomas is the boss of...Bella. He thinks it is his single handed duty to make sure she gets caught doing anything wrong, gets blamed for things he probably has done himself and even roped her into, while all the time maintaining complete innocense in all of it. He prefers bossing Bella, mostly, because she is not quite old enough to understand that he is really not her boss. She will come crying to us at times, telling us what Tommy has told her to do, and we reassure her that Tommy is NOT her boss. But Tommy doesn't believe that for one single minute.

So, up until today, we have thought that Bella was the boss of the bunny. She tells everyone when they can hold him, if they have had him too long, and introduces him to everyone who comes in our home. When they smeared applesauce on him, everyone told us that she was responsible for nearly killing him by dousing him in really cold water to get the applesauce off of his fur. He made it, although it was amazing after his "saucy" ordeal, and we figured Bella would continue to boss the bunny. And she has.

However, today Bella declared, out of nowhere that we knew of, that she was the boss of the Christmas tree. All the bosses in the van were indignant, to say the least. I mean, if she was going to be recognized as the boss of the Christmas tree, everyone else was going to have to come up with a second bossing job too, or it would never work. We could not have such inequality in our family. No way.

So, I calmly replied, "No Mere, Bella is not the boss of the Christmas Tree."

There was a few moments of silence, when that same little voice said, "So who is?"

Well now, I know whoever is the boss of the tree is going to have to answer to me. It's after the holidays now, and the twinkling lights are still twinkling. The majority of the ornaments have found their way to the uppermost part of the tree, because of the little fingers that can't help but remove them several times a day, to which I end up trying to place them just a bit further up on higher limbs. Just out of fingers reach. So the bottom is practically bare. The space it occupies could really house the chair and instand, and maybe even that new recliner I have my eye on at the furniture store.

So, the tree has to go. And since the boss of the tree will be responsible for packing it all back up into the nifty cartons that house it 11 months out of the year, I believe the decision of who is boss of the tree has already been declared years and years ago. Matter of fact, back at our first christmas in 1980. Mike could be the boss of the christmas tree LIGHTS, but I would utimately be the tree boss. I could decide when it gets set up, where it went and how long it stayed. So, although the trees have changed through the years, the BOSS has always been the same.

"Me, Mere." I answered her. "I am the boss of the Christmas tree. Not Bella."

I may have heard a nearly whispered "oh". Or it might has been a collective sigh from behind me in the van. But now there is NO question at all, I am the boss of the Christmas tree.

And I say, tomorrow it comes down.
End of story.
And it feels kinda good to be the boss of something around here.