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.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another Step Closer to Ethiopia

Although it seems it has taken us forever to get to this point, we were very excited to get our passports in the mail this week!! That is a major step, and the last one before getting our dossier authenticated so we can send it to Ethiopia!!

We have had so many delays along the way, including a discouraging start to our first homestudy, which eventually lead us to the sweetest social worker who is also a Christian and a prospective adoptive parent herself! She has encouraged us beyond belief through the past year of paperwork, and is rooting for us (and us for her!!).

We had hoped for a domestic adoption, so our Ethiopian plans were put on hold for a few months this year, but that plan failed and nearly stopped our hearts from going forward. Once we were back on track, we were ready to commit to a newborn boy in Ghana, once again putting Ethiopia on the back burner. We longed for a child to complete our family, and all these roads kept stopping our efforts, and leading us back to Ethiopia. When the placement in Ghana was offered, we knew it was not right for our family.

I admit, our love for the Ethiopian children has been brewing for a long time. We know going to their country will be a hardship for our seven at home, as they (and some of their wacky schedules and special needs) have to do without either of us around for a few days when we travel to court for the new ones, and that is not without alot of concern on our parts. We don't have the easiest situations for someone else to step into, granted, and it is scarey to realize it will have to be a part of us moving forward toward the next adoption. Although we can plan for as much as possible, having seven kids is no small task for anyone to manage. We are used to it, and some days we get overwhelmed with the issues that can surface in a half a minute or less!!

So, getting our passports in the mail was a great reminder that we are back on track, and that much closer to going to meet our newest family members. We have requested two children, as young as possible (wouldn't twins be great!!) but that decision will be up to the Ethiopian government. Sure, there is some nervous wondering who our next arrival will be, but it's just another part of God's plan we are willing to submit to.

Getting our rooms switched around this past week (and week to come!) is another reminder we are making changes in our family. In this house, no one gets real comfortable with their own space, because in the past 8 years, it's always changing!! Kids change rooms, or roommates, on a regular basis, because that is what has to be done to keep the flow running smoothly around here. I think we have a good plan worked out for now! As I was painting this morning, the 6 year old neighbor boy comes over and says, "You're painting? You should call my dad, because he will do it for free!" What a nice neighbor!! (tee hee)

We know the names we want to use for a baby boy, and a couple of choices if we are blessed with a girl. We know once we get the referral, we will have months to repaint and carpet the nursery, and the furniture that is in storage will be put out and ready for the great welcoming.

We still get alot of questions.
Some folks (although well meaning, probably)are downright concerned that we are making a huge mistake. Some people have decided to remove themselves from our life due to the decisions we have made to increase our family with another adoption.
There are family members who are not even a part of our lives now that feel as if they have a say in this decision. As much as I would love to give everyone a wonderful synopsis of why we are doing what we are doing, the only thing I can point to is this:

We are doing our best
to follow the plan
that we feel God
has outlined for us and our family.

We are not trying to frustrate anyone. We really just feel like God has directed us this far, and we are grateful to be on the path toward Ethiopia.

It would be nice to have your support and prayers. If you can't, I don't believe there is anything you could say to stop what God has planned for us.

If you want to offer prayers on our behalf, we will be thankful.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 4

I have been on a major cleaning/clearing/sorting/changing phase this week.

After discussing how we could switch rooms around to make the arrangements best for the kids changing needs and playing styles, we decided the 3 youngest girls, 8 yr., 6 yr., and 3 yr. olds, play the most alike and share the majority of the toys in this house. It made sense that they should be moved in together into the largest room.

The largest room happened to be MY bedroom, which we refer to as "the apartment." It actually started out that way. When we added a large two car garage to the house, our daughter was entering college. We assumed she could use a little more space to study in, and get away from the noise around here, so we planned ahead (which is not typical for us)to make a nice space for her. Before it was finished, she decided to try life on her own in an apartment just out of town, and the apartment didn't need to be finished.

Until our son met the woman of his dreams, planned a marriage on a shoestring, and needed a cheap place to rent. He and his fiance' finished the painting, added some touches to make it their own, finishing it just in time to return to after their honeymoon. They inhabited the space until the Coast Guard sent him to Maine, so they packed up their belongings, our first grandchild, and left the apartment open again.

We toyed with the idea of renting the space, but at the time, our family was growing and it seemed like a better idea of opening it up to the main house, and making it into bedrooms.

Shortly after that, we repainted, got rid of the apartment sized appliances, and suddenly, we had a nice size room that 3 girls could share. It became a girly, cotton candy pink heaven for the three older girls. The two youngest, at the time, had their own rooms, and so did the oldest boy.

Fast forward to now. We have one teenage boy, who was thrilled to make a nice space in the old basement room his oldest brother used to have, by painting it to look very sporty and perfect for a young man. The next one is quickly nearing the teenage mark, when she turns 13 this November. She has her own space, but the next budding teen is sqawking about needing a bit more privacy. Normally, I believe it doesn't hurt for kids to share their spaces and thus learn valuable lessons about getting along, and co-operation. We had already converted the lower half (the garage) into bedroom space last year, so now all the kids, except new ones, would be sleeping in the same area of the house, while Mike and I will have the upstairs of the original house as our new domain.

But, we had the space, with a little tweeking! The major tweek came at me too fast. I would need to be the one to move! Soooooo, the short of it is, the apartment space that I had settled nicely into a couple of years ago, has now become the most prized space for the three youngest and all their toys!

It's not that I mind moving. I am actually enjoying going through everything and cleaning it out really well. I have also shuffled items from room to room, making the most use of the furniture we have, and since the move includes everyone except the 13 year old and 6 year old boys, EVERYTHING is upended!

But it feels good. I have been able to eliminate broken or unused toys, and by encouraging the kids to go through their personal items themselves, I have discovered they are more willing to part with things than I am!! They love the idea that their unwanted toys can now go to our local shelter, or thrift store, and other children will enjoy more playtime hours with their treasures.

It feels good to decide what is actually necessary to keep (since I am going to a much smaller room!!) and what I can discard. I can part with old purses and shoes now, keeping only what I truly need.

I like the feeling that my older kids will now have individual spaces to be in charge of, while the messiest of them all will share a space out of the center of our home, so if it's not on one of their cleanest days, it really won't stress me out when company shows up to visit! They will actually have closets big enough for the mounds of stuffed dogs they lovingly harbor, and still have room for their clothes to hang! The oversized bookshelf fits nicely on the wall by the window, with room enough for a small table and chair which will aid in their reading pleasure.

I am teaching my young girls that we can switch spaces, use what we have, and with a new coat of paint on the walls or furniture, we can create a space that's just right for our needs now! One of my daughters would love to go to the IKEA store in Chicago, pick out all new furniture and accessories, and put together the room of her dreams. I am encouraging her to repaint, repair and reposition what we have to make a nice room, and one she can be excited to share with her friends.

It's a tall order, but here we are on day 4 and it's finally taking shape. It is alot of work, and my back screams at me every night when I have fallen into bed, exhausted but pleased with the days accomplishments.

It is all part of a growing family, making room for the next ones, while preserving the space others need too. Our hard work is paying off, and by next week I hope to be able to sit back to enjoy the results of our labors.

For today, I think my break is over now, and there is someone calling my name. Sigh...I know it will all be worth it in a few more days....

Just a few more days.