Friday, August 31, 2012

A solemn pause

Yesterday, as I took my oldest son to a music lesson, we were slowed by school traffic.  I sighed, a bit impatient, as the crossing guard held up her hand for me to stop.   But then, she started clearing a lane and I realized there was more going on than was at first apparent.

There was a funeral procession coming over the hill.
Bright lights of the police car flickered as it sped ahead to block the intersection and I prepared for the long procession to pass.  My heart was sympathizing with the mourners as I watched their solemn faces following the hearse.

But suddenly it was over and I blinked.

There only 4 or 5 cars in the procession, not the usual 20 or 30 that you see around here.

It troubled me.  Why so few?  Was it just a private graveside service for the immediate family?  I can understand that.  But where is the community?  Who is going to stand with them and hold them up in their grief?  Who is going to remind them of the good and laugh at the old stories after the tears have dried?

Who was this person that is now lowered into the grave?  Are these the only people who loved them?  Are they the extent of this person's influence?

Where is the celebration of a life well-lived?  This quiet, small cluster of cars just did not seem like enough and it haunted me all afternoon.

This morning, I ventured out to my front porch with coffee in hand and the questions came back to me.

How big is the circle of influence God has given me, and am I being faithful to connect and encourage others in their walk?  Am I living my life in such a way that others see Him?
Oh, I pray it is so.
I know the ways I stumble and fail every day, but I pray that I am reflecting the Father to every person God brings into my life.  I pray our lives end well, with celebration and song and hands joined in praise to Him who is the author and finisher of our faith and has created this huge, beautiful family we call the Church.
This huge, beautiful family that we have the incredible privilege of joining by His grace.

Ahhh, yes.  Grace.  It all comes back to that, doesn't it?  

Monday, August 27, 2012


Aaaaand, we're off!
The Fall 2012 sports season has begun with a plethora of activities to make one's head spin!
Basketball, Soccer, Swimming, Ballet, Clogging , Piano, Drums, and...oh yeah...LIFE to keep us busy, busy, busy.

So what I am going to do?
I'm going to sit on my front porch with a cup of coffee and my Bible and just breathe in the morning.
I'm going to rock and listen to the creaking of the wooden planks beneath me and notice how the sun shines slanted through the leaves of our tall trees.

Just.  Breathe.

Because He wants us to be still and know that HE is God.
Not sports, not dance, not music, not education.  HE, alone, is God.
If I allow all these fun and busy things to push Him aside, then I am making a serious mistake...
a fatal mistake, if you will, because trying to live life in my own strength results in failure and sin every single time.  I have made that mistake too many times and I am painfully aware of what I become when He is not given full reign over my heart and my schedule.  I cannot, I must not let busy crowd Him out of my day.   I must strive to walk in the Spirit every moment, not only for my own sake, but for the sake of my children.  I will do it imperfectly, of course.  But I must set that as my goal.

He cannot use me, use US, if we allow the busyness of daily life to drown out His voice.  We must actively listen and seek Him and that is the key...
the key to "doing it all."
The key is to push it all aside and be with the Lover of my Soul before anyone else and let Him dictate what is important.  Linger over that difficult passage.  Pause and share the wonder of His Story as I read it to my children.
Lead them to drink by taking the first sip.
Savor, swallow, and drink deep because the Living Water is so very sweet.
Let Him fill me to overflowing so I can, in turn, share that abundance with my family.
If I am not full, then I mother them empty and I cheat them of the best He has to offer.
Yes, these mornings are the lifeblood of my day.
Before I can possibly be ready to go, I must stop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Toothy Trials

So sweet Drew apparently has an intense fear of losing teeth.  Now, he loves the "loose" part...knowing it is wiggly and grownup teeth are coming makes him feel very big, very much like his big brother.
But when it comes down to actually pulling the tooth...

Now, that is another story altogether.

This is my sporty boy.  My lover of all things round and bouncy and daredevil extraordinare.  But my little boy...

He is a wuss.

There, I said it.

A few weeks ago his first tooth was ready to pull.  So ready, in fact, that the permanent tooth was almost completely in behind it.  So Daddy took charge.

I do not do tooth pulling.  Vomit, diarrhea, blood.. I'm good.  Pulling teeth?  Makes my stomach turn every time.  Something about memories of a metallic taste and the ping of the last shred of skin letting loose.  Gag me with a spoon!  I found out 4 kids ago that it would have to be Daddy's job.

So Daddy pulled the tooth and Drew was ok for about half a second...until he glanced in the mirror and saw his lower lip filling with blood.  The wail that ensued will surely go down in history.

And I got it all on video.

I am an awesome mom.

Well, it was inevitable that another tooth would soon follow, which it did.  And this tooth hung on and on.

And on.

Then we went to the dentist and he sweetly said, "You know you can put Orajel on that and pull it.  It's just being held on by skin.  The root is gone."
For.  The.  Love.
Can someone explain to me why I have FIVE kids and had NEVER thought of putting Orajel on a tooth before pulling it?  (Of course, this is the first time one of our kids didn't just yank the tooth out and present it with a casual "Here, mom.")  I could not get to the pharmacy fast enough.  Once again my boy had the permanent tooth almost completely in and, well, he looked like a cuter and browner Nanny McPhee.

Orajel in hand, I smeared it good on his gums.  We gave it a minute to work and Daddy proceeded to pull.

Not on your life.

Drew could still feel it, albeit numbly, and he was having none of it.  Now, we could have held him down and just yanked the thing but he does have quite a few more left to lose and we really didn't want to traumatize him to where he needs sedation to pull his baby teeth.  How's that for thinking ahead?

Almost two weeks passed and that tooth was still hanging on.  We were doing school yesterday morning and it was so bad, so loose, so...just hanging across his bottom lip that he could hardly speak.  I gave it a test bend just to see what would happen and, y'all, the thing was nearly upside down and STILL attached in his mouth!  For crying out loud!

"That's it," I said.  "It needs to come out.  You can't even function because it is distracting you so much.  Let's go in the bathroom and pull it.  "

All the while I am remembering that I have never pulled a tooth before and my stomach is lurching at the thought.

Shut up, stomach.

I marched him into the bathroom and held my breath, willed the stomach to calm, and yanked that tooth out.
Once again, at the sight of blood, he wailed like he was mortally wounded.  Thankfully the wailing was short lived.  The event was traumatic, but the tooth was out and he suddenly threw his arms around my neck.
"Thank you, Mommy!  Thank you!"

He took the tooth and proudly showed it to his siblings.  He put it in a special box and put it under his pillow, not mentioning it again for the rest of the day.

And then, the tooth fairy forgot to leave the money.
For.  The.  Love.

Poor, fourth born baby.  Tonight the tooth fairy will leave your money, with interest.  Because the tooth fairy is awesome like that. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


These cool mornings on my front porch have become the breath of my days.
Coffee, my Bible, and journals await and I can hardly wait to settle into that white rocking chair for a quiet appointment with my Father.
He has given me the desire to write in ways that I haven't in years.
It has been energizing and healing to let my pen go where it wills and see what comes of it.

My journal is filling and I realize that, though many entries are just for me and my children, there are some that I want to share.

Not for attention, but to bring glory to Him.

If you would like to celebrate the beauty that is life, join me at

I have also created a link at the top of this home page.  I feel so techy today :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I think I can...

I have a confession.

I love homeschooling.  It has been a wonderful, life-changing decision for our family and I would not trade this time with my children for the world.

I am teaching two Kindergartners to read this year.


And I think my head just might explode.

On one hand I have Mari who is happily reading three letter words.  She did that on her "teaching" from Mom required.  We just add new words each day and practice until she masters them.  Easy peasy.

Then I have Drew.  Drew is ALL BOY.  All boy spelled basketball, baseball, soccer, and football.  All boy with a capital "why do I need to read?" punctuated with "I can't do it cuz it's too hard."

Oh.  My.  Word.

So Drew and I have embarked on the journey called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  The first twelve lessons were painful.  And I mean nails-on-the-chalkboard painful.  Whining and complaining and an attention span of 12.5 seconds were wearing my patience thin.

For example:

"Drew, we are going to read this word.  I want you to sound it out.  Finger on the ball...go."

"RRRRRRRR"  pause pause

"AAAAAAA"  pause pause

"MMMMMM"  He looks at my forehead with crickets chirping as his little wheels turn...


Me:  "Ok, let's try that again.  Do you see letters on my head?  You have to look at the page, honey.  Not at me.  Finger on the ball...go."

"RRRRRRRR"  pause pause

"AAAAAAA"  pause pause

"MMMMMM"  He looks at my hair.


Me:  "Honey, why are you looking for letters on my head again?"

Nails.  On.  Chalkboard.  Maybe I need a tutor.  Maybe this one is beyond my level of expertise.

But then, this week, we hit lesson 15.  And suddenly he made that leap from separating all the letters to blending them together and oh my word it is a WORD!


Bright eyes lit up with a smile and he said "See me read!"

See me read.

Those might be the sweetest words I've ever heard in our school days.  See me read.

We broke out Bob books and, suddenly, he was sounding out the words and reading the stories!

Mat sat.  Mat sat on Sam.

Hallelujah he is getting it!  Not only is he getting it...he LIKES it!  He now WANTS to read!

See me read!

I can do this.  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength...and with a good cup of coffee.  Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, please.

The next two years promise to be intense as I teach my youngest two to read and write and learn.  But oh, the payoff we will have.  I may lose a few brain cells myself and I certainly will gain a few wrinkles and grays, but it will be worth it.  The day all five dive into their work and the room goes silent because their brains are engaged...that will be a sweet reward.  Watching my babes help each other along and get into what the other is doing...lining up at the microscope and taking turns looking at mom's red blood cells (because mom was the only willing victim)...reading 100 Cupboards and watching their faces turn white with anticipation as the old man in the purple robe stares Henry in the eyes...oh yes, it is worth these mind-numbing drills.  It is worth the exhaustion at the end of the day.

These days of monotonous reading lessons, of stumbling over letter sounds and frustration over whether to use the long or short "a" sound, will pass.  And, just like their first days home, I will have warm and fuzzy memories and I will forget how utterly stretched thin I was and how many cups of coffee I consumed during their early elementary years.

I had better enjoy it while it lasts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

He uses the simple...

Each morning we begin our school day with a Bible story.  Usually we read from the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  The "plan" is for the big kids to do their own devotionals and prayer time while I read to the littles, but these stories are so captivating they end up on the bed with us every single time.

And I'm ok with that.

Have I mentioned that our school room has a queen-sized bed?  Yeah, it used to be the guest bed.  Now it is the cuddle-up and read spot.  I don't know how we ever did school without that bed.

So last week we began our third read-through of the book.  It had been a while since we had used it, having spent time in 1 and 2 Peter and reading from Psalms and Proverbs over the summer.

I turned to the second story..."The Terrible Lie."  I read of Satan's deception, how he, in essence, convinced Eve that God didn't really love her.  That God didn't want her to be happy.

Oh, how easily we fall.  How often he still uses that one against us.

I read on...

"Just trust me," the serpent whispered.  "You don't need God.  One small taste, that's all, and you'll be happier than you could ever dream."

We are so very gullible, aren't we?

I read slowly, dramatically, and all five children listened with eyes glued to mine.

Adam and Eve, banished from their home.  Sent away, out into the world and suddenly in danger.  Death creeping in as the clock of time began to tick, tick, tick away.

But God...

In spite of everything, God loves His children.  And his children would always miss Him, long for Him. We are "lost children yearning for our home."   But He didn't let the story end there.  He already had a rescue plan in place.


"One day, God Himself would come."

I closed the book and the kids were quiet.  DJ looked me straight in the eye and spoke out of the fullness of his heart.

"Mom, I want to be baptized."

I breathed in and out and willed my heart to stay calm.  "Ok," I said.  "We can talk to Dad about it when he gets home.  Then he will call Pastor Barry and they can set it up."

He nodded and I let it go.  We worked through our school day and my spirit prayed.

You see, DJ is twelve.  Twelve...well, it is hard.  He has had great days and awful days and days of every range in between as he has wrestled with who he is and whose he is and why is he here and does it all really matter anyway?

Are my parents telling fairy tales or does God really love me?  I believe in Jesus but all this obedience junk...I'm not a bad kid so does He really care what I do?  

(Mom's translation of the unspoken.)

But suddenly, in this simple story written for children quite young, my twelve year old boy saw and believed and the Holy Spirit that was already living inside of him since he was seven years old rose up and grabbed him with both hands and my boy...he said "YES" to God.

Then, if that was not wonderful enough, Katie decided to join him.  She had discussed the possibility of being baptized several times, but always put it off.  Waited.  We always told her she would know when the time was right.

And now it was.  Because she was waiting for her big brother.

Of course.

They have been the best of friends since she was born.  I often find them sitting side-by-side, her head on his shoulder, watching TV or looking at a book together.  She absolutely adores him and is just not the same when he is not around.  He is her protector, her security, and her favorite companion. Of course she would want to take this big step with him.  That is how they live.

So on Sunday, I watched with tears streaming down my cheeks as my husband...their earthly Father...through sobs and words of blessing lowered his oldest children into the waters of Baptism before our beloved church family.  I watched my son walk into those waters with a strong focus and determination that I have never before seen in him, and I watched my daughter, mature and unwavering in her stand, lock eyes with me as she went under.  I dried their glistening faces and kissed their sweet heads and my heart sang.  I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in Truth.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weak stomachs, do not read!

The other day, miss Gracie was not feeling well.  It was just a head cold...stuffy nose and maybe the slightest fever.  So I have her some tylenol and a blanket and she rested on the couch in front of the Olympics.

A bit later, my mom called.  As I chatted with her my hubs left to run an errand.  It was after dinner and I was cleaning up the kitchen while I talked to my mom.  (Talking to her always makes dishes less tedious!)  After we finished talking, I walked across the room to check on Gracie.  She was holding her stomach and grimacing.

"Honey, does your tummy hurt?"

"Yes," she said as she started to cry.  Then she burped.

"Are you going to be sick?"

And then the answer became abundantly clear.  Poor baby.  I whisked her out of the kitchen to the bathroom and realized with horror that Danny, our 102 pound German Shepherd, was following me.

He ran right through the, um, puke.  With his giant paws.  And he was  tracking it across the floor and heading straight to the living room carpet.

I had a split-second decision to make.  Stay with Gracie and have to sanitize literally every square inch of our  first floor or send her on the bathroom and GET THE DOG OUT OF THE HOUSE.

I do hope you understand why I chose the latter.  I literally dove at him, grabbing him by a flank and steering him toward the back door.  I tried not to freak utterly out as he tracked the yuck back across the kitchen and all the way to the back door, across the screened porch and deck.

Then I ran to check on Gracie, who by now was feeling much better.  I cleaned up the majority of the, um, yuck and asked Katie to swiffer the floor while I cleaned up the bathroom.  All this time, Mari stood still, wide eyed.  She had been planning on going upstairs but now had an, er, obstacle to cross.

"You can go up if you want.  It's ok."

She paused.  "I think I will just pray for Gracie."

Sweet girl.  I praised her and went back to my disgusting task.  And then, once Gracie was back to herself and playing like nothing had ever happened, I did what any good  mom would do.  I shared the story on Facebook.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sibling Sweets

Last week, Katie got a job.  She was to fill in for her friend who normally walks a dog in our neighborhood every afternoon while they were out of town.  She was thrilled to have a chance to make extra money (she is saving up for a bow and arrows set...yes, she dreams of being Katniss from The Hunger Games.) and happily accepted the responsibility.  The only problem was she had to cross a busy neighborhood road and, well, it made her nervous.  So she offered to pay DJ part of her loot if he would accompany her.  Since he has an Airsoft Gun habit to support, he agreed.

Fast forward to Wednesday.  The two of the were fighting like cats and dogs.  Snipping and snapping and just annoying the you-know-what out of each other.  I had it "to here" and finally told them they were in boot camp.

What is boot camp, you ask?

Well, around here it means no friends until the sibling relationships are sweet again.  If you can't be nice to your family, then you forfeit the social life.  It works every time.  Beautifully.

So they decided to go a bit early to walk the dog that afternoon, but they forgot the private school around the corner was back in session and after-school traffic surged as they rode to the house.  DJ nervously watched the cars whizzing by as he determined to stay on the sidewalk and not have to ride on the road, but while watching out for cars he didn't see a cable box leaning slightly into his path and he nicked it.  He fell and hit his head, but thankfully was wearing a helmet so was completely unhurt.  But it scared Katie and she yelled, "Are you ok?" as she slammed her brakes.

Her bike flipped and over the handlebars she went, but her foot got caught in the pedal.

That is when DJ called me (I always have them take my cell phone, just in case.)

"Mom, Katie is hurt."

I could her her sobbing in the background.

"Where are you? "

"On Alexander.  Mom, I fell and she fell and...Mom, I'm so sorry," he choked out through tears.

"Honey, it was just an accident.  It's ok.  I'll be right there."

So I loaded up the youngest three and we drove right over.  I was fearful of what I would find, but wilted when I saw my children.  He sat with her head in his lap, stroking her hair as she sobbed.  I pulled over and examined her foot.  It was swollen-a big goose egg on top.  I silently thanked God that my husband can fix this stuff and carried her to the car.  She was almost inconsolable.
"Mama, I just kept praying to Jesus that we'd be ok.  It hurts so bad. I was afraid that DJ was really hurt and I just kept praying."

I called my husband and he told me to bring her to his office.  Sweet DJ dutifully completed the job they had been on their way to do...walking the dog for her and then meeting us back at our house.  Once he was safely home and reassured that this was not his fault and she would be OK, I took Katie to see Daddy.

X-rays commenced and a thorough exam was done.  No breaks, thank goodness, but probably a crack which was causing the pain.  His assistant brought out a boot and my fashionista looked at me in horror.
"Do I need to wear that?"

"It will make your foot feel better."

I chuckled because I think she was actually hoping for a know, bright purple and signed by all of her friends.  But she made do...once we got home she found a gold paint pen and let the sibs sign it.

What warms my heart, though, is the effect this minor ordeal had on my oldest two.  It is so easy, when you are together almost 24 hours a day, to take one another for granted.  It is easy to ditch a sibling for friends when it is convenient and to pretend not to notice when their feelings are hurt.  But when accidents happen, even minor ones, there is that hard reminder that you really do love each other.  You really are best friends and, when it comes down to it, you really would do anything to protect one another.  They have drawn closer, as they always do, and I have watched with a joyful mama-heart as they have loved each other well this week.

Not that they don't still rib and annoy the you-know-what out of each other, but it is more good-natured.  And their renewed sweetness trickles down to the others.

I am so grateful that they have always been the best of friends, and I pray they always will be.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Unexpected grief

I went shopping for a baby shower yesterday.   My friend is having a baby girl.
I haven't been to a shower in a long time, so it was fun to look around and get all mushy at the cute little pink outfits, bedding, and baby gear.
I may have gotten baby fever.
But my dear hubby would have to be on board with that, so I guess I'll need to take an aspirin.

Miss Mari was with me as we cruised the aisles of Tar-Jay.  She oohed and aahed and asked lots of questions.  "Mommy, what dis for?  Mommy, you think she will like dis?  Mommy, can we buy dis?"

Me:  "Well, honey, that is brown with turtles on it so I think it is for a boy.  Let's get something pink."

We got to a rack with packages of Sleep 'n Plays.  I melted as I remembered cuddling my babies in them...little feet lost in folds of cotton in those newborn days, lost in what appeared to be a tiny outfit until wrestled onto a tiny, curled-up-into-a-ball newborn.  I remembered the little Winnie the Pooh gown that all my babies wore and could almost feel them, diapered bottom in my palm as I cradled them on my shoulder and the ribbed cotton that felt so good and smelled even better after a bath in that yummy lavender baby wash.

And then my heart sank.

Mari never wore that gown.

I never got to buy her baby clothes.

I missed those days with her.

She never smelled like lavender.  She was hungry and small and barely survived her infancy.

I looked at her...healthy now and growing.  Five and a half and learning to read.  Fluent in English but still with a trace of her Ethiopian accent.  I wanted to cry.

I took a deep breath and thanked God.
You see, the past month has been tough.  She hit an easy spell and I thought we had "made it."  But one day, we went to the city and decided to stop by an Ethiopian market.  We had never been there before and she had been asking for injera.

I have tried and tried, but my injera attempts have been dismal failures.

So happily I took her in, and the smell of the market nearly knocked me over.  It smelled like Addis Ababa.  It was like going back in time.

We brought home two packages of injera and she could hardly wait to have some.  She ate it with every meal for the next two days.

And then she stopped eating.

That purchase set her back a good 6 months...and I am so sorry I bought that injera.  She put her little foot down and decided she wanted what she wanted and if I tried to give her healthy food she would just pretend she couldn't chew.  Or throw up.  She pressed every button and I got terribly frustrated.  I will admit I did not handle it well.  I couldn't believe we were fighting this battle again.  Could not believe it.

But I have realized something this past year.  I have prayed and tried to figure out why she presses my buttons in ways my other kids don't.  I mean, they were all adopted, for crying out loud!  I have the typical frustrations of childish misbehavior and sometimes just want them to take a NAP, but they don't press my buttons to the degree that she does.  And then it hit me.

When my other kids act up, there is a part of me that draws on the warm fuzzies of their infancies.  I remember those soft fat folds and long nights and staring into their eyes.  I remember holding them on my chest and just feeling them breathe.  For hours.  I remember coos and first smiles and first steps and slobbery kisses.  My earliest memories of them are warm.

But with Mari, the first days were hard.  Scratching and biting and screaming and...
Wait, we'd been told she was always happy all the time and they were worried about her neurological development because she never cried.  Someone, somewhere withheld the fact that she did, in fact cry.  A lot.  She was what you'd expect a child who has experienced loss and death and hunger to be...scared, angry, and manipulative.  I don't have easy days to draw from.  I am going to have to create them.

And I believe that is what that trip to Target did.  The Lord stopped me in my tracks and reminded me, so sweetly, that my little girl was once a baby.  Once she was hungry, but I was not there to feed her.  Once she was scared, but I was not there to comfort her.  She has hurts deep inside...hurts that she cannot articulate, but are powerful and painful.  I have to draw upon what God shows me...because He was there with her when she was an infant.  He saw her first steps.  He heard her cries.  He brought her to us.  I have to see her through His eyes...unselfish eyes.  I have to keep those boundaries crystal clear for her sake, but when the conflict is over I need to get over it.  Move on, and teach her to do the same.  I need to imagine her in the forest, on that bed made of sticks and held by a mother who was afraid she would stop breathing in the night.  I need to remember how she clung to me when we arrived home and how she suffered with night terrors and could not tell me what she saw because she didn't speak English.

So I took my littlest girl and we walked over to the stuffed animals.  I haven't bought her anything "fun" in a while.

"Do you like these animals?"


"Which one is your favorite?  There is a dog, a purple zebra, a sock monkey, a cheetah..."

"That one.  I like that one, Mommy."

"You like the tiger?  Do you want me to buy it for you?"

Big eyes shone and she smiled.  "Yes!"

She walked out of the store cradling that stuffed tiger like a newborn baby.
Like I cradled my first four babies.
Like I wish I could have cradled her and protected her from all that hurt her.

"What are you going to name him?"


Of course.  Superhero.  Perfect for a little girl who has overcome much and who I am trusting, with all that is in me, will someday spread her wings and fly.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

One week down...

The school year has begun, and we are happy.

Lesson plans are made, order has returned, and brains are recharging, refilling.

Our book collection grows and we can hardly wait to start the next great story.

ABC's and 123's are just the beginning!

These days of togetherness fill us and bring us closer together, closer to the One who made our family.

I am thankful.

I am tired.