Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Frodo, Laura Ingalls, a knight, and Princess Sophia all live in your house

Life with these four can never be dull!

I'm not sure what Frodo, Laura Ingalls, a knight, and Princess Sophia have in common but for today they were all family, brothers and sisters!

I managed to finish my daughter's Little House on the Prairie costume right around midnight last night, nothing like last minute!  Also with the last minute, the fair-trade, wasn't-made-by-child-slaves-in-Africa chocolate candy I ordered finally arrived on my doorstep literally minutes before our first trick-or-treaters!

For only hitting about 3 streets in our little neck of the neighborhood, my kids sure did take in quite the haul of Halloween candy!

 Some pumpkin carving fun earlier in the week (the 6 year old is patiently waiting his turn to scoop out the pumpkin):

Funny pumpkin faces:

It was nice that my older two kids wanted to man the door this year and gave me a break from the every couple of minutes opening the door to trick-or-treaters.  My 10 year old even combined his door duty with a little studying!

And Laura Ingalls took a turn passing out candy:
   We handed out an entire big bowl of candy (and were stingy only giving out one piece per child) before turning off our light!

Speaking of being helpful, my guys were at the kitchen sink this week and I heard my 10 year old tell his 6 year old brother, "Okay, hands up!" and then he flipped on the garbage disposal.  This happened again before I asked what was going on, was the little guy under arrest?  My oldest told me that's his way of making sure nobody's hands are in the disposal when he turns it on, he tells anyone nearby "Hands up" and has them raise their hands up high before he turns it on!  It's good to have the safety police around!

Happy Friday, Friends!  I'm really looking forward to the extra hour this weekend. I love Fall-back, just that feeling of gaining a whiole hour of time!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Eve of Halloween

'Twas the night before Halloween, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, 

Except the sewing machine whirring!

Why, oh why, did I agree to make one of my children's Halloween costumes again this year?

Didn't I learn my lesson with the Dorothy costume a couple years ago?  Store-bought costumes are GOOD.  Store-bought costumes are my friends!

Why did I put off so much of the project until the last minute?

And why was I so overconfident that I could easily sew together a Laura Ingalls costume?  Turns out those Little House on the Prairie dresses are not as simple as they appear!

Also, there's the little issue that we have no Halloween candy!

The fair-trade, no child-slaves were used in the making of them, chocolates I ordered over the Internet have not yet arrived!  So, it's looking like we'll be the lame-o house giving out raisins and pencils!

Those Little House on the Prairie women did have it easier without Halloween to worry about.  No rain for the crops and fires in the barn seem like much more preferable worries at the moment!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Breakfast delivered right to my front door!

I have 4 kids.

As much as I try to avoid highly processed foods to feed my family, breakfast cereal is an exception.

We eat it for breakfast about 5 days each week.  I know it would be better to cook a from-scratch breakfast each morning, but that just is not going to happen on most school days and with one child allergic to eggs I struggle to find healthy breakfast options for her anyway.  I do at least pick the healthier cereals, ones with more protein.

But, all that being said.  Six of us eating cereal 5 days every week adds up to A LOT of cereal.

So, wanna know what I'm loving right now?

This delivered right to my front door every few weeks:

Cracklin' Oat Bran Cereal, 17-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 10) from

The price is comparable to what I'd pay at my local grocery store!  And the convenience of fewer items on my grocery store list, not having to fill up my cart with just cereal, and an automatically replenishing supply is awesome!

Even the dog is happy!

Now, to bring back the milk delivery (and not pay a fortune for the service). . .

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Family Football Game

What better activity for a fall Sunday afternoon after church than a family football game, kids versus parents! 

Everybody fussed at me for taking pictures while I was suppose to be playing, but the kids were too cute and hilarious not to capture!  

Of course the oldest child secured his position as quarterback:

Not sure what Little Girl thought she was doing in this picture below, but her biggest brother soon got her straightened out and the ball snap went on!

There was much play discussion among the oldest 2 kids:

A team huddle:

The game ended in a tie, which perhaps tells you something about my husband and my combined football playing abilities!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Music Box, Fake Camera Smiles, and Playing Orphanage

We gave Little Girl a jewelry box for her birthday, the kind that plays music with the ballerina that twirls around when you open the lid.  She loved it!  Pure joy opening and closing the lid over and over again!


Speaking of Little Girl, lately whenever you ask her to "smile for the camera", this is the face she makes:

All squinty-eyed and grimacing more like she's in pain than happy.

It took a lot of coaching to finally get this:

Our family portrait session in a few weeks ought to be fun!


I walked into our playroom earlier this week and found this extraordinary mess:

 "What?"  My daughters asked me when they saw the look on my face.  "We are playing orphanage," they told me.

Then I noticed the mess was rows and rows of baby dolls with blankets and pillows.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!  

My girls know orphanages.  One daughter lived in them for 14 months and the other daughter has visited 6 different orphanages in the past 2 years.

This burden, this heart for orphans that we carry as a family is not always pretty or storybook fantasy.  But, my kids know this reality and they also know the hope of a really big God who promises not to leave us as orphans, but He will come to us (John 14:18)!  May those little girls playing "Orphanage" in my playroom grow up to be world changers!


Our family is participating in a Run for Hope this weekend to raise money to fund other people's adoptions.  There is also the cool aspect that we'll get to see many kids who were adopted and their families at the race and the families of adoption wear different colored shirts than the other participants in the race, so kids get a good visual for how many other kids were adopted like they were.  I believe there is a lot of power in not feeling alone in a situation.


Have a Beautiful Weekend!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Birthday Card from a Big Sister to a Little Sister

Sometimes it amazes me that people still ask me how my biological children have taken to their adopted sister (adopted 22 months ago).  I don't think anything bad about the person asking the question, it's just that my kids are my kids now and imagining that my younger daughter would have some sort of different sibling relationship with my other 3 kids than they have with each other is such a strange concept to me and so far from our reality.  All 4 of my kids interact as normal siblings, brothers and sisters.  They love each other, they annoy each other, they play together, they share rooms, they correct each other, they laugh, they fuss, but when it comes right down to it, they are each other's best friends.  Lifelong companions!

I understand this curiosity people have about bringing a child into a family as a 3 year old and from a different race and culture than the children already living in the home.  But, what I want people to understand is that the love of a sister or brother can transcend those differences!

I couldn't help thinking of this when I looked inside a small birthday book/card my 8 year old daughter created for her sister, my 5 year old daughter:

"Dear (I blanked out her name), Happy Birthday.  You are medium now.  I love you.  I'll let you pick a game to play.  I looooooooove you again.  Love, (her name was here)"

The "You are medium now." made me laugh.  This refers to the fact that my 8 year old says to her 5 year old sister, "You are not little anymore, but you are not big yet either.  You are medium."

They are sisters through and through!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Surviving the Laundry of a Family of Six

Recently I was at a playground with a friend while we watched our kids run around, I commented that I really needed to go home and put away laundry.  She said, "Oh, I feel like I am doing laundry all the time and I just have two kids, I can only imagine what it is like for you with four kids!"

Yes, the laundry is something!  And it threatens to eat me alive most days.  Thankfully my 8 year old has gotten to be nearly as capable as me at folding and putting away wash!

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 20th

What God Can Do:

October 20, 2010
This little girl entered a government-run orphanage in Ethiopia, malnourished, infested with ringworm, and covered with sores.  Without knowing the real date, October 20th forevermore becomes her birthday for legal purposes.  She is estimated to be 2 years old.  She is a female orphan in a 3rd world country, over the age of infancy, a low state of being by the world's standards.

October 20, 2011

That little girl legally becomes our daughter!  God redeems that day, October 20th, in her life, by placing her in a family on that exact day of all the other calendar days it could have happened. Her name is changed, she is an orphan no more.  He made her a daughter!  But she spends that birthday in an orphanage, waiting on remaining red tape to be cleared so that she can go home with her new family.

October 20, 2012

She has been home for nearly 10 months.  Her family and friends got to celebrate her 4th birthday with her!

October 20, 2013

That Little Girl has been home for nearly 2 years.  Surrounded by tons of friends and loving family, her 5th birthday is celebrated.

Our God never leaves us nor forsakes us.  Even when it seems we are all alone, starving, and forlorn, He has great plans for us, plans for a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)!  He is a God of redemption!

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."1 John 3:1-2

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Snapshots from Life This Week

 That dog did not actually shower while she was in there, she just likes licking the shower water (gross, I know!).  I usually keep her out, but she got past me while I was getting out of the shower and then I didn't want to deal with drying off her paws, while I was still drying myself, so I shut her in there for a few minutes.  Too bad she can't shower herself, she really does need it!


Pedicures with my daughters.  They picked five different colors, a different color for each toe on a foot!  Colorful and high-maintenance my girls are!   


Practicing his spelling words with my 6 year old.  "Said" does not at all sound like it is spelled, so it's a tricky one!


Happy Friday, Friends!  Find more Friday Fragments here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When Life Feels Hard

There have been some especially hard things in my life lately, big, ugly situations that are not my fault, yet I must deal with them.  Those situations combined with tons of busyness has made it super important for me to focus on that which is good.  

There is a whole lot of good, some days I just have to remind myself more to look for it.  You know, "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. . ."

So, let's focus on the positive, 

Like the one square foot of my house that IS clean.

Sisters in matching pajamas:

(That is the one clean spot in my house!  Okay so maybe, it's 3 square feet!)

God's mercies, new every morning.  And several perfectly timed reminders this week that through Jesus we are more than conquerors even though we may face trials here on this earth!

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."  Romans 8:37

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Can We Do About The Orphan Crisis? Part 1

I posted last week about my visit to an orphanage in The Dominican Republic during a mission trip and how I was not okay with the reality that nearly all the kids I met would never be adopted, they'd grow up in that orphanage.  Being an adoptive mother and having the privilege of knowing many adoptive families, I've seen the amazing, astounding, dramatic ways God heals children just by putting them in a family and I want that for all children!

Megan left a comment on that post saying, "It is def not ok! Breaks my heart...I want to help, anyone know where to start??"

I so appreciate Megan's heart and her desire to help.  It is such a good question, but not an easy one to answer.  I have been a part of a few different adoption/orphan care ministries and can tell you we all spend a lot of time talking about and thinking about this very question!

So, I thought I'd begin sharing some of what I've learned about how to help.

International adoptions are sadly declining.  The reasons for this are many, but countries have closed due to suspected corruption, like Guatemala, and some countries have stopped adoptions to the U.S. for political reasons, like Russia.  Then there are countries where there is so much red tape that international adoptions take a very long time (think years and years), like Haiti and now often-times, Ethiopia.  So, adopting all the orphans to the United States is not the main answer to get kids out of orphanages an into families.  I still believe it is AN answer but it is not THE answer.

So, what is?

Some countries have tried to promote adoption within their own country, but unfortunately, many countries, like Ethiopia, have a strong culture against adoption.  Orphans are viewed as very low members of society and bringing one into their family is not something most native people would consider.

There is an organization that has a unique solution.  It is called "Bring Love In".  They couple orphans who are given to them by local authorities (often school-aged children living in orphanages), and widows from within local Christian church communities, to create new forever families in Ethiopia.  You can to find out how you can get involved in what they are doing on their website.  But, also, it is a model I'd like to see take off in many different countries.  Orphans + Widows = Family  It's a beautiful idea!

This is just Part 1, the topic is huge, stay tuned for Part 2 (not sure WHEN that will be, but stay tuned).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

For The Love of Books and Oven Space

My 6 year old guy has finally turned an important corner in his reading.  He likes to read!  And actually chooses to read now some in his free time, as opposed to being forced/prodded to read like it's been for the past year.  What brought the turning point?

His reading got good enough for these books: 

The Magic Tree House Books are great books about the adventures of a sister and brother, Annie and Jack, as they travel through time in their tree house to different places in history.  In the series there is a book about dinosaurs, one about pirates, one about travels to the moon, one about ninjas, and on and on for 50 books!

We invested in the set when my oldest was starting out on chapter books and I'm glad we did.  The books are great for boys and girls alike!  As much as I love the library, there is something to having an entire series right there on the bookshelf in your bedroom, too.

My 6 year old first grader is so excited about these books that he's read about 12 of them in just 2 weeks!  Before that he never really wanted to read in his free time and I worried he was not going to love reading like my older 2 children, my husband and I do.  I actually told his first grade teacher at the beginning of the year that really my only goal for him this school year was for him to grow to like reading.  Goal accomplished in October -- not bad!
But honestly who could blame him for not liking books when the books went like this:
"Mat sat."
"Sam sat."
"Mat sat on Sam."
"Sam sat on Mat."
"The end"

That is a paraphrase, but really we were so OVER the easy readers!

The little guy reading in bed with his book light:

I love that sight!


We got a new oven this week.  The old one was an oven with a microwave attached to it on top, a model from the 1980s.  The microwave stopped working a few years ago, but the repairman said it was too old to repair.  Since it was attached to the oven, which was working fine, we just never prioritized replacing it.  And life without a microwave was really easy.  Seriously, I can count on one hand the times I missed it.  We learned to pop popcorn on the stove and heat left-overs in the oven or in a pot on the stove.

But, then recently the oven stopped heating properly, only the top heating element would work.  The bottom heater coil would not heat at all.  So, it was time to replace the whole thing.  We debated over an oven/microwave combo again, but ultimately decided we'd more use a double oven in the space.  Of course, the new double oven was bigger than the old unit, so we had to get our handyman to cut into the cabinets below to make more room.

Hence my kitchen looked like this from Monday when the new oven was delivered until today when it could be installed:

Feel free to soak in the mess in the background.  That's real life, folks!

Fun does happen amidst the chaos, though, and that is the important thing!

Happy Friday!  I have no idea how I'll handle my new-found capabilities to cook 2 ovens-worth of food!  Oh the power and possibilities!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How long does it take to fix her hair?

I get that question a lot about Little Girl's hair.  The answer depends on the style.

This one?

Took 3 Brady Bunch episodes (our whole family loves old Brady Bunch episodes we get from Netflix).

So about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

And that is just the braiding and beading, it doesn't include the washing and detangling that I did for about 30 minutes prior to the braiding.

If you'd told me 4 years ago there would come a day that I'd spend 2 hours fixing 1 child's hair, I'd have said, "No way!  That's crazy!"

But, this is our life now and it's not so crazy, it just is the way it is.

Is it worth it?  I mean it's just hair!

In your native culture a little girl's hairstyle may not be a very big deal, but in some cultures, including much of the black culture, hair is very important and how a little girl's hair is fixed represents how well she is cared for.  Fixing my daughter's hair in some of the more ethnically-traditional styles is one way to embrace her birth culture.  There are a lot of things in life that are going to be different for her growing up in a white family versus growing up in a black family, hair does not have to be one of those things.

And, it's practical!  The braids and twists keep my Little Girl's hair much healthier.  Her hair dries out very quickly when it is in a "free hair" style and it is much more prone to getting sand, grass, dirt, and debris in it that are hard to get out.  Also, while the initial investment of time is a lot, this style will easily last a week with very little maintenance, maybe longer.

My 8 year old white daughter with long, fine, straight hair gets it brushed and fixed a bit each day, sometimes twice a day, and her hair has to be washed nearly every day. So, while she does not get 2 hours put into her hair in one day, she gets 10-15 minutes each day.

And my 4 year old black daughter with her coarse, curly hair, gets 2 hours of maintenance once a week (and some styles do not take that long) and then she only requires about 1 minute each day to add some oil to her part lines!

Another reason it's worth it:  She likes it!  This style is only the 3rd time I've done beads and I only attempted them after Little Girl and I were reading a book and the girl in the book had braids with beads in the ends and my Little Girl said she wanted her hair to be like that so she could swing it and hear the beads click, click, click together.

And the best reason of all:  Little Girl often gets compliments on her hair and people ask her, "Who did your hair?"  And she proudly says, "Mommy!"  As someone who only got to start being her Mommy when she was 3 years old, hearing her get to boast about something her Mommy did for her makes every minute spent on her hair totally worth it to me!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fuel Level Low

It has been busy lately, too busy.  

So, it is entirely appropriate that my car displays this message:

26 miles to Empty.

It's a good warning to stop and refuel!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Leaving An Orphanage Without a Child

During our family mission trip to the Dominican Republic this summer we visited an orphanage.  I knew this was part of the trip agenda and was excited about it, after all, I have a heart for orphans!

I totally underestimated how hard it would be, I mean, I had already been to several orphanages in Ethiopia.

But, the difference was, this was the first orphanage I have visited since I left an orphanage with a child in my arms 19 months earlier.  

When an orphan becomes a daughter, everything changes.  Not just for the newly adopted child, but for the parents, too.

As you watch God's redemption unfold despite your human shortcomings, as you witness the amazing healing the presence of a family has on the life of a child, you want that for every orphan.

The orphanage we visited in the Dominican Republic was MUCH nicer than the orphanages I saw in Ethiopia.  The kids were in much better condition.  We had a great day of playing with the children, eating lunch with them, and delivering toys, clothes, and supplies to them.  Back on the bus, many from our mission group seemed to feel really positive about the good Christian orphanage the children we visited were in and there was talk about how more such orphanages might be developed.

Me?  I felt like a mama bear.  I wanted to roar, "It is NOT okay!  I want more for them than that.  Those kids need families!  Do you understand the PROFOUND loss it is for a child to be without a family?!!  We can deliver dresses and toys and that's great but what those kids really need are families to love them forever!"

The Dominican Republic does not really adopt children to the U.S. right now and adoptions within their own country are few.  It is very, very likely all these sweet girls (and several others we met that day) will grow up without a family:

I don't know what to do about it, but I do know I'm not okay with it.  

Maybe it starts there.  With us all being NOT OKAY with it.

Until every child has a family . . .

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What's in Your Cupholder?

A totally random snapshot from my week: 

Little girl's school does show-and-tell based on letters of the alphabet.  The first week all the kids bring things that start with letter "A", the second week was "B", etc.  The kids write 3 clues about their item and put it in a small fabric bag.  When they take it to school they get to tell their clues and the classmates try to guess.  She took this tiny doll to school this week as her letter "D" show and tell.  And then it rode home from school in my cupholder.  Because why not?  When you are that tiny you can just ride anywhere!  Of course Little Girl wanted me to take a picture of her doll in the cupholder since clearly a doll in a cupholder screams "Kodak-moment!"


Speaking of dolls, having 2 daughters and having been a little girl who loved dolls, I thought I'd seen it all when it came to doll features.  You know, there are ones that talk, ones that go potty, ones that drink a bottle, ones that crawl, ones that swim, etc.  But, no, I had no seen it all!

Recently I took my 8 year old to the toy store to redeem a gift card she got for her birthday and we saw this doll:

The Runny Nose doll!  She comes complete with her own box of Kleenex and a little cup that she apparently drinks out of and then this happens:


I told my daughter.  Well, at least they are making dolls true to reality now, because when you guys were babies and toddlers there were days when I felt like all I did was wipe your nose over and over again.  But still, I wouldn't want that feature in my doll!

Next there will be the projectile spit-up baby doll!


I had to make the walk of shame recently.  The one where you have to go up to the librarian at the elementary school library (the one where you volunteer once a week, no less) and tell her your child has lost their library book, it cannot be found anywhere and you need to pay for it.  

There was a time earlier in my mothering when I might have seen this as a parenting failure.  But, really it's not like they hand you a "Bad Mom" sign right there in the library.  You pay for the book, get a receipt, and you instruct your little angel to be more careful with books in the future, life goes on.  No big deal!  

There's nothing like the wisdom of more years of mothering and more children to mellow a woman out!

And honestly, the fact that this is the FIRST school library book we've lost after 6 years with some combination of kids attending is actually a win in my book!  I have 3 kids at this school; 3 different possibilities to loose library books every week!  Really the librarian should have high-fived me -- FIRST BOOK lost!  In SIX years!  Amazing!

It also helped me feel better that I saw a friend and told her I was paying for a library book and she said she'd had to buy the equivalent of an entire bookcase during her kids tenure at the elementary school.


Happy Friday, Friends!  Find more Friday Fragments here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Easy Sensory Activity for a Preschooler

Sensory processing refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses.

This website provides much more information

Many children struggle with sensory processing.  This can be anything from getting upset if their hands are dirty to being too sensitive to tags in clothing to chewing on things to craving constant motion.  Children from hard places are more prone to sensory processing issues, but all children can benefit from having some sensory activities throughout their day.

Here's one super easy activity I set up for my preschooler (Yes, she is sitting ON the table, that happens a lot, and is often not a battle I choose to fight!):

I used one of those plastic shoebox type bins and put some soft, colorful pom-poms, clothes pins, and a plastic ice cube tray in the bin.  

My 4 year old loves to pick up the pom-poms with the clothes pins and that is really good for her fine motor skills that will help with handwriting later.  Also, the soft texture of the pom-pom balls is a good way to exercise her tactile processing.  The repetitive nature of the activity is also calming for an overstimulated child who needs to settle down.  And as if all that stuff wasn't enough benefit from this easy activity box, kids love to sort the pom-poms all kinds of different ways into the ice cube tray and this helps with mathematical skills and logic thinking.

Also, super awesome, this activity might just entertain your preschooler long enough for you to shower in peace! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Checklist to Help Kids Get Things Done

My 10 year old was having some trouble managing all the tasks associated with his 5th grade life, complete with swim team practice 3 to 4 times per week, school work, and his safety patrol duty.

He was leaving dirty clothes everywhere, forgetting to bring his lunchbox and water bottles in from the car, he was getting to bed too late, running late for places he needed to be, and having to be reminded tons of times about basic tasks.

So, this weekend we created a checklist of all the things he needs to do after school, including tasks for before his swim practice and tasks for after.  All tasks have an end time.  And we even agreed on some consequences should he not have the tasks completed on time, some privileges he'd loose.

It's only been 2 days, so I'm totally asking for a fall by saying this, but so far, it's WORKING!!

He is like a new kid!  A new focused kid who can accomplish many tasks efficiently.  I'm not having to go behind him and do all the things he should be doing for himself!  And (this part is really huge) I'm not having to remind him of anything!

Some tasks take seconds, like lunchbox by sink or agenda signed, and some take longer like homework done.  But even he has been amazed at how quickly he can get through the list when he focuses on getting it done!

Oh and he's already figured out a quick way to eliminate a task.  He used to shower after swimming in the master bathroom and would leave it a mess with a wet swimsuit, towel, clothes on the floor, and his watch on the counter. My husband and I got tired of wading through the mess all evening after our son had gone to bed and we faced the choice of waking him up to clean it or clean it up ourselves.  So, the task of "Mommy and Daddy's bathroom picked up" went on the list for sure.  But, guess what?  Since the checklist, he's gone back to showering in the kid bathroom -- hooray!

I laminated it so he could use a dry erase marker to check off tasks.

So far, this checklist works for me!!

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.