Monday, May 31, 2010

A Big Decision

In light of the recent loss of the baby we were ready to adopt, the subject has come up over the last few weeks about whether we should continue on our original adoption plans from Ethiopia.

It is a subject neither Mike nor I take lightly.

We had spent over a year researching Ethiopia. We spent another year gathering paperwork, filing necessary paperwork, connecting with other adoptive parents and following legal trends and formalities. It was decided that I would travel to pick up the children, hopefully with either my older daughter or a good friend when the time came.

We have invested many hours of training, obtained numerous references, signatures, and have felt God's hand and presence through it all. We were distracted when we had the opportunity to adopt a newborn sibling of one of our children, although we felt it was the right thing to do to put off the Ethiopian adoption long enough to finalize the domestic adoption right in front of us.

Then the domestic adoption fell through. Our hearts were broken, our faith was shaken, and we really wondered what the next step would be. Do we quit the path we were trying so faithfully to walk? Did God change His mind? Did we really even understand what it was that we were suppose to do next?

A sweet friend brought me a small glass jar, with beautiful crystals floating in a clear liquid,with a small token which had baby feet imprinted on it. It was to be a memorial jar for our lost baby Ava, the one that had grown in our hearts but we would never be able to raise in our family. It symbolized the tears that we cry that Jesus tells us He collects for us. Someday those tears will be laid at the feet of the One who called us to care for the orphans. This baby will not be forgotten in our hearts.

I was ready to give up trying again. Friends reminded me of the joys we have with the 10 children we have been graciously given through birth and adoption. We are so grateful. The losses along the way are still painful, so desiring children that can only come through the gift of adoption, we know we are opening ourselves up to possibly suffer another loss. In my heart, I don't think I can suffer anymore.

However, this is a partnership in adoption. Mike, although shaken, did not feel as if all hope was gone. He cried,out from his heart, "What do we do if there is a child in Ethiopia who is waiting for us, but we were too bruised or wounded to make that final step to go get them?" He was not ready to give up hope.

I prayed for peace, asked for hope, and this weekend we decided to step out on faith once again and reopen the process that was nearly complete several months ago. The time is right to begin again, and we will step faithfully over the next few weeks as we tie up lose ends that will allow us to continue the Ethiopian adoption.

As a family, we know God has called us to be faithful to meet the needs of others. We believe we are honoring Him by loving the "least" of these. In our home, we want the focus to be on the little ones that we can love and raise to be a part of an eternal kingdom. It's just what we do.

Thanks to all our family and friends who continue to pray for us. It will not be an easy road, but one that we are happy to be traveling again.

More Camping Tales

One of the things Nelly loves the most about camping at KOA's is the activities. She picks up a schedule as soon as we pull in to the campground, and she's scouring every line, deciding which of the activities and the appropriate times that we'll do each one. She even knows who will want to go, what the cost will be, and she checks her watch religiously to keep us all on track.

This weekend they missed the scavenger hunt due to swimming with her dad, but they were rewarded with candy at the camp store the next time they went in to purchase ice. I used to worry that our 7 kids would be a burden when we camped, you know, using more than our fair share of water or electricity, or making more of a mess than the average size family. I now realize we also spend much more in the camp store with our several times a day purchases of candy, pop and ice cream, so I think it all evens out.

It's no doubt most campgrounds know we've been there after we leave. Sometimes we are that "HUGE" family of kids, sometimes we are that "NOISY" bunch, and sometimes we are the "PARADE" of bikes throughout the day that others watch when we ride together around the campground. This time we were nearly out of here without making even ONE spectacle!! Until late last night.

Nelly had waited all day for the BINGO games to begin. She knew it was 25 cents a card to play, but she found out in past games, she really could handle 2 cards at once. I think I heard her mention BINGO at least six times yesterday, so I knew she was hoping someone would plan to join her at the Clubhouse. Tara decided she would play too. Not a bad activity for the two of them just before bedtime.

After they were at the Clubhouse for nearly an hour, we decided to go check up on them and make sure all was well. Mere and Bella decided to ride along with us, so we hopped on our bikes for the short treck to where the girls were playing their game. Bella ran towards the door first, because it took Mere and I a bit longer to dismount our bikes. As we headed for the doorway, I spotted Nelly and Tara at a front table, intent on winning their games. Each had 2 BINGO cards, and were looking for slides to flip over that just may make them a winner. The caller was just finishing calling out, "N-39" when Mere realized the game they were playing. She called out "bingo!" as she ran through the doorway towards her sisters, and I realized the whole room stopped and stared in our direction!!

I covered Mere's mouth, said, "Oops!! No one really got a BINGO! She was just excited to see what you were all playing!!" Everyone relaxed, went back to their games, and within moments, Tara was able to yell out, "BINGO!!" and claim her prize.

Nelly, of course, stayed until the end of the game night, but Tara returned to the camper after collecting her prize. That's typical of them both!!

We are pulling out of the campground now, excited that the next trip is just not that far away! Nelly, I am sure, is already dreaming of the possibilities just ahead!! That's my camping girl!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thoughts While Camping

Ahhh, camping.
This is truly one of my favorite places to be. I love the wood fires, the awesome foods we cook on them, and the fresh air.

Right about the time I am so totally frustrated with the teenagers saying, "There's nothing to do!" one of the little ones says something that turns my heart the other way and makes me smile.

Yesterday, Mere' throws her legs over the seat of her "new" bike (the one Tara outgrew this year) begins to pedal away from the campsite, and yells over her shoulder, "Gotta go meet some more people!" This is the shy girl that doesn't take risks, struggles where the others excel, the one who is tucked under my arm in most new situations. "Gotta go." I love that! She is expanding her world, feeling safe and ready to grow.

I watched the 4 youngest kids ride their bikes yesterday. It's amazing how they each approach their rides so differently. Tara,8, is the oldest of the younger four kids. She is a little bit delayed in much of her development, but this year we have seen tremendous growth in her socialization skills, schooling, and overall development. She learned to ride her bike this spring without training wheels, to which we cheered and made a video of her success. Mere tried her best too, but by the time we got to the campground she really needed those training wheels after all.

So, Tara rides off on her bike, wobbly, but determined to get to where she wants to go. She pushes the pedals down with force, eyes on the far off place where her wheels will carry her. She barely watches for who may be in her path, determination on her face. That's how she approaches most of her life.

Mere', at 6, more timidly mounts her bike. She sets her feet to the pedals, almost methodically pushing each foot to the ground, watching her feet the entire time she gets the bike moving in forward motion. She spends alot of time watching the pedaling process, often forgetting to look forward for who or what may be in her way. Once she masters the motion, she gleefully goes toward her goal, singing or humming, or talking to the stuffed animals who are spilling out of her basket. Just like she approaches life.

Tommy,5, however, is in constant motion. He hits the seat of his bike, running, forcing his feet to hit the pedals as they move in a circle, almost trying to catch his feet on the upswing. He pushes fiercely forward, heading for whatever he finds on the way, or in the way. He goes full speed, stopping only to pet a dog, or find a treasure. He brings bugs or sticks back to the campsite, staying just long enough to get a snack or a drink. That's life for him. All fast and furious.

Bella, the baby at 3, is the youngest of our kids to "get" the bike riding down. She got a new bike for her birthday in February, and rode it through the house until the weather was nice enough to take it outside. She jumps on the seat, ready to join the others to where ever they are going. She sings as she pedals, happy as a lark to be mobile and moving. She says, "Wait for me, guys!" But even though they don't wait for her, she tries her best to keep up and find whatever it is that moves them all forward. She rolls into the campsite, singing her adorable made-up song, a collage of melodies that stream through her tiny mind all day long. That's just how she is, day to day. Life, for Bella, is still a happy song.

I guess watching them makes me even more mindful of their differences. The older kids use their bikes to get to specific places, to keep from walking. The younger ones ride for sheer pleasure, enjoying the feel of the wind as they race, and the freedom it gives them, as they explore their world.

I am grateful of their differences. In another place, their differences may not be celebrated. They can be trying, difficult for others to understand. They need medications to keep them functioning at their very best, and they each struggle with different things.

But here, on their bikes, they are just kids. They love the camping, the freedoms of riding, the things they can do on their own that are helping them grow.

There is nothing better than this day.
Ahhhh, camping!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I took some wonderful video earlier this afternoon of the 3 youngest. They had filled up an old pool that was in the barn, and they were running, jumping and splashing in the cold water.

Today we saw over 90 degree heat, and the humidity is daunting to me. But as I watched them play and splash and giggle, it made me remember my own childhood of running through the yellow sprinkler, or jumping into the three foot pool. The idea of hot summer days and cool (or cold!!) water just brings a smile to my face.

This summer will mark some interesting times in our family.
The oldest at home, Tyler, is old enough this year for a farm job. He applied for corn detasseling. The only requirement was to be 13. His dad took him to the next town over for the application process, helped him fill out all the employment paperwork and waited while he picked up all the colorful brochures that talk about how much money he will earn this summer!

Just think of all that money!! I have never had a detasseling job, but in this area, there is no lack of stories from people who have.

"Toughest job in the world."
"Best thing for a young man."
"He'll be exhausted."
"Does he have any clue how hard he's gonna work for that money?"

Yeah, I think the same things. Tyler is really wanting to be cool about it, but the main thing is, he has to be reminded to do his daily chores around here, and they are NOTHING compaired to the work this company will expect from his hands!!

He showed me the paperwork when he got home. I said, "Oh, you'll make $7.25 per hour. You will wonder if that's worth it when you are toiling in that hot summer sun!"

He replies, "We'll I read the stuff they gave me, and honestly, it just doesn't look that hard to me."

I told him to file the paperwork somewhere safe, because that is now his responsiblity as a "working man." He said, "You can put it somewhere." Oh, no, it is HIS responsibility. Step one.

My youngest son, Tommy, was playing the Wii today. He said, "I am good at this game. I was born a winner."

I love that approach to life. Born a winner.

And although I believe this could be the toughtest summer that Tyler may possibly ever endure, his attitude at this point is priceless. Sure, it's gonna be really hard. He'll see. But, he is just like his younger brother, brought together in a family that believes you can do anything you set your mind to, if you want it bad enough. Yes, Tyler, you to, were born a winner. I think you will prove to yourself that hard work never hurt anybody, and maybe, just maybe, you'll like that big money even more because you worked so hard for it.

This summer proves to be a hot one. I think the splashing pool and sprinkler is bound to get a good amount of use. But mostly, I think there are two boys in my family that are learning about being winners, and compared to their rough starts in life, that's a very good thing to be.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010



I have a beautiful friend who stopped by yesterday. We were discussing LOSS. I have been experiencing a painful loss this week, and I found myself hanging on every one of her words of comfort. She had suffered a great loss 15 years ago, so I know I can share my loss openly with her. She never criticizes or minimizes my feelings, but instead, allows me to share every facet of my pain that I am trying to work through, while she kindly shares her experiences through the years of how to deal with all the stages I will be going through as I explore the depth of my own pain.

I am encouraged to have such dear friends who can walk through the depths with me. I am also accutely aware of other pain that seems to be swallowing people all around me.

The friend who suffers a tragedy with his young daughter.
The friend who had a stillborn child.
The friend who is is working through a difficult relationship.
The friend who is alone.
The friend who's life is made more difficult by illness.
The friend who has recently faced death in his family.
The friend who is going through a life-changing surgery.
The friend who is facing custody battles with their child.
The friend who is dealing with cancer treatments.
The friend who has searched for employment for over a year.
The friend who's son has unexpectedly died.

Pain. Loss. How do they cope?

I can sense so many different stages of grief in each situation. The loss either suffered or upcoming.

I believe I need to focus on Christ. In my life, I know He has always soothed the pain. He is the ultimate in suffering, overcoming evil and despair, the model of grace and perserverance. So what can I learn from Him?

I know I can not handle loss alone. I want to retreat into my pain, away from the loved ones around me. I want to quietly suffer in my dispair, tears falling, agonizing over what I am missing. Feeling alone. But I can not travel this path alone. I need these friends to hold me up, tell me how they survived their pain and loss, all the while assuring me that I can survive too.

I also know that I have to focus on the good in my life. After every loss, no matter how extreme, there is still much good. I am blessed beyond measure with children, a good husband, and friends. I have a comfortable home, many dear friends and plenty to eat. There is sunshine, rainbows and fresh air. I am blessed with family who loves me, and family who surround me with laughter and joy.

I also know I have to allow myself to grieve for the loss I have suffered. I have to allow the tears to flow, cleansing my heart for loving and hoping again. I need to recognize our great loss, without wallowing in the despair, but embracing all that life has for me that is good. I have to believe there are blessings ahead, and hope to be had again.

Loss is hard. Loss can wreck marriages, friendships, businesses, and lives. I do not want to be one of the statistics that are spoken of in hushed tones that point to the devastation. I want to thrive in the new me who has overcome the loss and made a better me in the meanwhile.

I do not claim to understand why. I do not claim to like the place I am in. But I am claiming the promises of Jesus who suffered so much on my behalf. And I am believing that above all else, He loves me more than I will ever realize, and He has a plan even better than I could ever plan for myself.

I don't want the loss I have experienced to define who I am, but as my dear friend assured me, I will be different, but the difference will be OK. The new me will be OK.

Yes, thank God, I will be OK.

Monday, May 17, 2010


There are days that leave me totally speechless.

Last week I took my niece to pick up two puppies from a rescue organization. She has wanted shepherd mix puppies for quite some time now, and the 3 hour round trip drive seemed like a good time with 2 nieces, their 5 children and my 3 youngest. We planned fast food lunch, and snacks on the way back if the kids could all play nice together.

Other than needing to use the little potty or finding a corn field for the boys, the trip down was eventless. Until we got to the puppy farm.

I told myself for days that I sure wouldn't get a puppy again. I mean, this trip for me was just a way to spend time with my nieces and their kids. A road trip. Been there, done that. 7 kids at home already, who needed a puppy?

Evidently, I did. As we were leaving I told the lady in charge of the operation that if she had a kitten, I wouldn't be able to leave with out one, but shepherd puppies were simply too big for my life. We have our 3 year old char pei, yellow lab mix, Baby Butterscotch, who is a real honey and a great watch dog to boot. She is completely house broken, protective of my kids, and never a bother. I don't like puppies.

But then she showed me her "other" pups. Oh, I should never have walked behind her house to the kennels! There were so many puppies of all types, and one certain puppy hung back with his head tilted just so, his dark eyes begging me to say "No."
I couldn't stand it!! The owner asked me if my husband liked puppies, or did I live in a house that was not appropriate for dogs? I explained our home, which really had nothing to do with my disdain of puppies.

Then the imploring fellow who stayed politely at the back of the crowd was lifted over the fence, into my arms, and all I could think of was how very much I LOVED puppies, wanted one, and how happy Mike would be to get this particular sweetie for his 50th birthday on the 29th.


I had my niece waiting in the car with her puppies, already to go home, while I finished the transaction. Seems he gets his soft ears and wavy hair from the Cocker Spanial in his bloodline. His tail is cropped, and he has the most adorable white streak right between his tiny eyes, and a tuft of white fur on his chest. He is seven weeks of baby energy and just the transfer from his kennel to our car caused him to sleep almost the entire hour and 1/2 ride home. My niece took his photo, posted it to Mike's email, with a sappy note of birthday wishes from his loving wife (me). I knew he'd be as hooked as me once he saw this precious little critter.

Unfortunately, the 7 children take so much time with the baby dog that there is rarely any time left for Mike to do any significant bonding with his birthday pet. Except throughout the night.

It seems the box I choose for him to sleep in is not even a slight challenge for Pup to remove himself from. And he really prefers sleeping in the crook of Mike's arm, or between us, or on the pillow with his tiny head on Mike's shoulder.

Another one of my nieces, Ali, told us she had a puppy that was so adorable and tiny that she slept on her chest. There only problem is, the puppy grew into a 65 pound dog who still wants to sleep like that. Oops!!

So, forget creating bad habits, Mike continues to bring the puppy to bed with us, and the puppy is great at waking him up to take him outside. There are few accidents if he goes out every 2 hours. There is also very little sleep on the other side of my bed going on since puppy joined our nighttime routine.

Ah, the joys of puppies. Oh, and I found a gray and white fluffball kitten, the same age as the puppy. I asked Mike if I could get it, and since he could hardly refuse after the wonderful gift I had just gotten for him, I now am the proud mamma to a 7 week old kitten, with claws and sharp teeth, and a purr too big for his body, whom I named Martin.

Mike chose the name CARL for his miniature shadow, and I believe he will definately become this mans' best friend. I remain a cat person, but I can't stand to see this tiny dog all alone while Mike's at work. I know what you are thinking, but when I am holding and playing with the puppy while Mike is gone, it's really just because I don't want to see him lonely. After all, I really don't even like dogs.....

I guess in this case you could say I am speechless...and hopelessly in love with the two babies who joined our household last week.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My First Son

Today is Mother's Day, the Nationally recognized day to honor our mothers. People are celebrating all over the U.S., and in our home, Mike has always made it a full day event.

When I think of the events that made me a mother, I travel back in time to my first set of children, and the powerful feeling I experienced becoming a first time mom.

Throughout my entire first pregnancy, I referred to the baby as our "Chad Michael." The first born in both of our families were both boys, so I figured our first born would be also. When Ashleigh was born, we immediately forgot about our thoughts of a boy. The next pregnancy brought us another wonderful little girl, so our third pregnancy would not have surprised me if I was, again, carrying another girl.

Around the 5th month, an ultrasound revealed, to our surprise and joy, a baby boy was growing and thriving in my womb. We immediately determined he would follow in daddy's footsteps and we would name him after his dad. We were to have a "Junior" in the house, but we would call him by his middle name so there would never be any confusion about who we were talking about.

We called him "Scotty" from the moment of that first ultrasound. Our much anticipated Son took center stage as we decorated a boy's room, bought blue outfits and prepared for his birth. It was some of the most exciting days of our lives - a boy!!

During my pregnancy there were very few issues, but the last week prior to his delivery was full of problems. My blood pressure teetered on the edge of dangerous, and baby's heart rate fluctuated enough that, in those days, the doctor considered me high risk. We were blessed to have my mom come stay with us in Tennessee during this time, and I remember moving painfully from chair to couch to bed the entire week. I was miserable.

Finally, doc decides to deliver. March 14, 1986. My water was broken, and labor began. Mom was at home with the girls, who were then 4 and 2. Everything seemed to be running smoothly, when baby's rate dropped, and doctor didn't leave my side. As soon as the doctor thought we could try delivery, my epidural had kicked in, giving me sweet relief from the pain. After delivering both girls naturally, I knew the process would be painful, but this time I was having a hard time focusing on the end result, so the epidural was a huge bonus.

I remember the relief I sensed when the doctor saw the crowning of baby's head, but then the fear I sensed invading the room within minutes. The cord was pulling tight against the baby's neck, making his delivery frightening. After what seemed like a very long time, the forceps brought Scotty into the world, blue, and not breathing. We were holding our breath when we heard the first cry, and realized, we just had a baby boy! Although he was bruised and slight color slowly infused his cheeks, he was finally here and we were blessed. He looked just like the girls, on first sight, then the nurses whisked him away to the nursery where he could get life-sustaining oxygen and his apgar scores could be recalculated.

Many other thoughts crowd my mind of that time, but I jump forward to today. Scott is a man, father of three, married to a great gal. He is nearing the end of his career in the Coast Guard, making plans that will take his family into the next stage of life. Although he lives over 700 miles from us, he has a strong presence in our lives even now. He is a firefighter, plays guitar in his church worship band, is a creative dad and wonderful husband. He works hard to make a good life for his family, and he is pursuing an online college degree to secure his future.

Sometimes I think he took on an awful lot at an early age. But what he has accomplished is far beyond what some men will never do. He is kind, considerate, and extremely funny. He is sensitive to the needs of others, and he looks for ways to help out. He makes friends easily, and his laughter brings laughs out of others. He is compassionate, dedicated and loyal. I have no doubt all of these things will just continue to deepen and ripen as he ages, and I am so proud of all he has accomplished so far.

He doesn't like me to brag on his accomplishments, but when he earns an award for something he's done with the Coast Guard, I say, with pride, "That's my boy!!" When he comes up with a new song he's written, or one of his boys calls me with something funny to share, I know it's in part because of the father he is and I swell with pride.

He grew so tall over the years, and he's strong and handsome. He's a great example for my younger boys to follow and he's a man that I am never afraid to lift up to them. He's become so much more to me than the baby boy I longed for. He's now a man, with a bright future, and a precious past I am fortunate to be a part of.

Scott, I miss you being in my day to day world, but your life is a beautiful picture to me of selfless contribution to family, friends and your community. I miss you and love you. I am so glad that God chose me to be your mom. Thanks for contributing to my life and making me a stronger, better mother. With all my love, Mom.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Those Dreadful Catepillars

I don't know about your area, but our area is being overcome right now by those tree eating, wiggly, furry catepillars. They build ugly white, filmy tent houses and destroy my flowering bushes. I hate them.

My children, however, love them. They name them, pet them, and build fabulous houses for them out of boxes and sticks. They beg to bring them into the house at night, and they carry them around as if they were kittens. They want me to fall in love with their striped, furry bags, their tiny black legs, and their beady little eyes. Oh, ok, they are kinda cute, but I still hate the destruction they create.

I saw my neighbor cutting branches out of his beautiful maple tree last week. I shouted for him to be careful on the ladder, and he commented on how many caterpillars we seem to have this year. He was clearly trying to save his tree. I wish him luck, but I am not exactly sure how successful he will be this year.

So, on our weekly scrap day this past week, my great nieces and my youngest daughter were carrying these critters around in plastic boxes. Of course, like every great treasure, each one wanted the boxes of caterpillars that the other one was carrying. Two boxes of wiggly worms were not enough, evidently.

We broke up numerous squabbles between the kids, and I even told them if they didn't play nicely together with each other, I will stomp their little heads off (the bugs, not the children).

The final axe fell when Macy, the cutest two year old in my world, came in to complain about her cousin.

"Macy, what is wrong?" her momma asked.

"Bella took my cattapissers!" Macy cried.

Oh, we couldn't help but laugh. Yes, Macy, I agree, because my new name for these dreadful critters is now the DREADED CATTAPISSERS!

I hope they are not destroying your trees right now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How Big is God?

"Mom, is God a King?"

We were coming home from dinner at a fast food joint, in the pouring rain, and I just wanted to get home and into my comfy jammies for the night.

"Yes, Mere', God is the King of Kings."

"Tommy said God is not a King."

Tommy jumped in, "I know God is alive, and I believe in Jesus, but I just don't think God is old enough to be a King."

Such heavy conversation from two kindergarteners. I really just wanted to get home.

"Yes, Tom. Even if you don't believe it, God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The Bible tells us about how big God is."

"But, I don't know how old God is. Is He old enough to be a King? Is he older than Grampa or Grandma?"

I wasn't sure which grandma he was talking about, but I replied, "Yes, Tom, God is bigger and older than grampa and gramma. God has always been here, and is the biggest of anyone we know!"

The conversation was not over yet. "So, is God older, even older than dad?"

Oh yes, God is even older than dad. As I began to answer that one, he turns to his six siblings in the back of the van, and says, "Hey, mom says God is older than grandpa and grandma, and even older than DAD!!"

If only life's lessons could all be so easy to grasp with just a little bit of belief and a whole lot of conversation to help me understand them all.

Yes, God is older, bigger and more powerful than I give HIM credit for. And that is an answer I just can never waiver on. My God is a BIG, OLD GOD!! Oh, yeah!!!

Thanks, kids, for the uplifting discussion. It never hurts to cover the basics, does it?

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Jenni is my second daughter, who just turned 26 in November. It's funny that no matter how hard I try, I constantly refer to her at the wrong age.

One year when she was only 20, I added 21 candles to her cake. That's an age that young adults never want to get wrong since it's the "coming of age" birthday. But in so many ways, Jenni always seemed older to me than her actual chronological age.

When Jen was really young, serious migraines defined her life. We saw so many doctors, therapists, and specialists trying to locate the reason for the pain that plagued her. She endured so much poking, prodding and questioning most of her young life, that it makes me think her desire to become a nurse is probably the result of all the things she was exposed to from so early on. Some of the worst memories of her childhood, for me, was having to give her injections for her migraines when she was already in such pain.

Jenni has always been creative, in spite of her pain. She was not a complainer. Around 10 years old, Mike rushed her to the medical center for a large cut just below her thumb. As the doctor stitched her up, he questioned her dad about how she had gotten a cut like that. He was astonished that we allowed her to use an X-acto knife, and was discussing safety issues.

Doctor: "Why were you using a knife, Jennifer?"
Jenni: "I was building a doll house."
Doctor: "That is probably not a good thing for someone your age to be doing, especially with a knife."
Jenni: "I've been using craft knives for a long time. It's the 3rd dollhouse I've built."
Doctor: "Oh."

That has always been her personality. Making things gave her satisfaction and joy, and she still makes a huge majority of her own clothing. She also has made stunning art by combining pieces of magazine pictures,or dried flowers. She just has an eye for that. She also has books of drawings (all three of my kids can draw - that's a trait they get from their dad's side of the family!) that are beautiful. She beads, and just recently taught me some of that skill. I think Jenni can take anything and make something out of it.

Jen has also been my adventurer. She was the first to leave the area when she moved to Alabama for a year, so I should not have been shocked when she married and moved to Oregon. I don't know what I would do if there were not cell phones, email or airlines!! The cost to fly home is tremendous for her, but she never complains. She looks for ways to make it home twice each year, and tells me that it's just part of being the one who moved away.

For a while her days off were on Fridays, so I looked forward to a call each week. We missed each other for 2 weeks, and when we finally connected, it seemed like so much time had passed. I really miss being able to know her day to day thoughts, feelings, or current projects she is working on. I wish we could go to the Farmers Market together on the weekends, or run to the fabric store when the whim hit us. I would love to have her come over for a Chili dinner and stick around for a cheesy movie. I would love to have her and Ash run around to garage sales with me on Saturday mornings. I would love it if she lived closer.

Life is like that, though. We love our kids, teach them to be responsible and prepare them for life, then send them off into the world. Some parents have a hard time letting go (I don't want to!!)but I don't want to cripple them. They need to explore, see their own adventures and build their own worlds. I am proud of who Jenni has become, and as much as I wish she were here, I am thankful on this busy planet that she still maintains such great contact with us. She has made friendships and formed a lifestyle that suits her personality. She makes me proud.

So, two days before Mother's Day, I am not only thankful for Ashleigh who made me a mom for the first time, but I am also grateful for the second daughter that God blessed us with. Jennifer, you make me smile just thinking of how far you have come and how well you have gotten to this point in your life.

Jenni, If you ever want to move back here, I will enjoy it immensely. While you are away, know that I cherish our conversations, and I can not think of anyone else who has kids just as wonderful as mine. You made me a better mom when you entered my world. I love you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My First Born

One of the things that makes me extremely happy is that my oldest daughter lives just a few miles away from us. It's not that I love her any more than the others, but since they live so far away (one on the west coast, one on the east), I get excited about seeing them for vacations and special events, and miss them terribly, but my oldest daughter is here all the time, and I love that.

She is the one who has stepped up to say, "I am here" if anything happens that we can not raise our little ones to adulthood. Our other daughter and son would make sure everyone is safe too, but it's comforting to know that the oldest one is here, learning to understand each of the kids and their quirks, along with seeing the day to day struggle that some of the kids bring into the picture.

Don't read this wrong. I feel tremendous support from all three of our grown kids, and I am very, very proud of the things they are doing in their own families. I have NO doubt that when the chips are down, they are pulling for us, comforting us over the miles through phone calls, emails and cards. We never walk alone in this family. They all pray for us, support us, and love us. We are grateful. It's just that their life walks took them out of town, and our oldest daughter's walk is, at least for the moment, here.

But because our oldest daughter is here, I think we have a tendency to understate her importance in our lives.

I appreciate it when she comes to help me clean. ALOT.

I love the fact that she is not the hoarder and pack rat I tend to be, and she's not afraid to tell me when something needs to go.

I am grateful that she has grown to understand my intensity, and that she knows when I am near tears, all she has to do is hug me and tell me it will all work out. Together.

I like it that she is opinionated, and a strong woman. But she is also tender, gentle and caring. She has taken us by surprise with her love of animals, a simple farm life, and her career choice in caring for others. That extends from years in nursing home care, but it's also choices she has made to give so much of herself to loving people that sometimes she experiences deep hurt.

She can fix nearly anything, and I believe there is no project that she won't at least try to tackle. She works on fences, cars, construction, art, sewing, mending and puzzles. She helps put people back together, too. She mothers her small flock of ducks and chickens, tenderly, as a momma loves her child. She is sensitive. She loves to talk politics. She would rather read in her garden bench or dig in the dirt than shop at a mall. She prefers a cold beer to a diet coke. She makes no excuses for the way she lives her life, and she constantly strives to make her life the best she can be. She is not caught up in material things, but has a beautiful house that she proudly fills with her style of creations from the earth.

She cares for her younger siblings, and even asks to spend time with the ones who may just need a little less mothering, and a whole lot more big-sistering. The littlest ones here can think of no other place they would rather be than at her house. I love that.

I am grateful that she has taken time to help with Girl Scouts, show up at science fairs, and comes to birthday parties even when she gets a last minute notice.

I am thankful that she keeps my bathrooms clean, empties my trash cans and finds numerous ways to make life easier for me.

She's beautiful, fun loving and continues to value growing. Whether it's her mind, her garden or her ability to take on a new project.

I tend to take her for granted, and I am reminded each time I am with her that the reason I do is because she requires nothing from us. She is not demanding, but welcomes us when we pull into her driveway. She asks for advice, but lives within her budget and her abilities to make it on her own. She is proud of her achievements, but never boasts of all she accomplishes.

I see other people who are not as lucky as us to have such a wonderful daughter. Another day I will write about the other wonderful children we have been blessed with, but today, I just wanted to say how very much I appreciate my oldest daughter, and how very glad I am to be her mom.

She never reads my blog, but I hope I can do better at letting her know just how very wonderful she is. I am proud of the daughter that first made me a mom. I love you, Ashleigh.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It's been a trying week emotionally. There have been some wonderful moments in each day, but for most of the days, there has been a sadness, an awareness of life changes, and sometimes a little bit of righteous anger, even.

Last Sunday night at this time I was returning from the Emergency Room. I sat for 6 hours with my father, my brother and sister-in-law, as doctors tried their best to determine what was wrong with my mother. Mom was weak, feverish, and very confused. We had been seeing some disturbing things going on with her thinking lately, and noticed her decision-making skills were a bit skewed. It culminated in this trip to the hospital, which later she confided to us that she was not really even sure how she had gotten there.

She had a wide-eyed stare, or a blank and sleepy countenance. She was definately struggling with an infection, but the disconserting part was her inability to focus on simple questions, like her height or her birth date.

Fast forward to a few days later. She's released from the hospital, fever is down, and the antibiotics seem to be working to clear up her illness. Those were blessings. The hard part now, is realizing her mental state still fogs up on a regular basis, and her reasoning ability is much slower. She is compliant, and allows us to help her with basic care, but it shouldn't be this way.

Mom is 72. She used to be fiesty, fun, dark headed and stubborn. She's shakey, weak, and we had to cut her thick curls so she could manage combing through her own hair. My niece is a nurse, and has been great this week at helping mom bathe, sort her medications, get her to eat, and help her change her clothes. My oldest daughter has been cleaning for mom and dad, clearing out some of the things that they don't need in their way, and helping them make sense out of their schedules of doctoring appointments.

I just wonder, where did my parents go? They can not be these people who are depending on us to help them get through their days. Their home is beginning to look like OLD people live there, and I resent it.

I wish my kids would have known them when they were younger. My dad, who built his own home, can work any math problem perfectly and can tie a bolen knot that will never slip. My mom, who loved having people stop by, told jokes from the Reader's Digest magazine, and could make pork chops that my husband would die for!! The dark headed, fun-loving couple who square danced on the weekends, and offered tea and coffee for visitors as soon as they walked in their door way. The man who could fix anything, and did, or the woman who loved any baby she could get her hands on.

Where are the real parents who I grew up with? When did they disappear, and in their place, these dependant, old folks who only slightly resemble the people I knew, appear? Their dark hairs have gone white, their stamina gone.

I realize we are growing older every day, I was just not sure when this obvious change really happened to them. I saw them slowing down, I saw their health issues take some of their life exuberance away, and I know each illness put them deeper into the "older folks" category. But now when I trudge up their stairway, I see remnants of who they were, and I worry that who they used to be will be lost forever to the younger generation.

My front door is always open, because I learned that from my mom. I love having friends and family around. I embrace it. That's my mom.

I think any project at home is doable, like tearing a wall down and expanding our living space, because I grew up that way. I think men should fix their own cars, change their own oil, make money to support their families, because I saw my dad do that.

I never knew my maternal grandparents, because they were gone by the time I was born. But I loved my paternal grandparents because my parents taught me the value of family and relationships. I knew you could live without alot of things, but family would always be there for you. I learned that from my folks.

I guess my anger came in this week when I realized our roles are reversed. I will be taking more time to care for my folks from now on, and I see them in a different way. Their lights are waning and I dont' like knowing that my younger kids will never know them the way I do. There's a dignity to their life that will be diminished as they are forced to accept more daily care. And I resent that.

I will never resent caring for them. I am glad to do it. I just hope that some of the good I learned from them will be passed on to my children through the way I live my life.

Because my folks are good people. I have learned so much from them. I just hate it that they had to grow old before it seemed fair.