Today at our house

*2006 post*

What I've done today so far: Got up early (5:30) to spend time with God. (Something I aim to do every day but don't always make it!)
Went walking with my mom at 6:30. Just showered.

Listening to: Zoboomafoo. (This is the one show my children are allowed to watch on TV. They love this one. I admit it: I get drawn in sometimes, too!)

What's on the agenda today: After breakfast (bran muffins) we're going to go for a walk to an outdoor market that has lots of fresh produce.

When we get home I hope to get some weeding done in the garden (around the sunflowers, and then thin our carrots) while the kids play happily outside. (I'm also hoping my 15-month old will refrain from eating dirt!)

Then we'll have lunch, then naps (for the boys) quiet time (for my girl and me). When the boys wake up we'll probably head back outside.

And at some point today I'm going to pay some bills, too.

That's IT! I love days like these!

Dinner plans: We're going to Amy's for dinner tonight. Thai Peanut Wraps is what she's making (yummy!), I'm making Oriental Chicken Salad. We plan to put the kids down and stay late to play games. Not sure which game (probably Settlers?)

What I've been reading in the blogosphere this week:

My friend Michelle and her family are leaving in just 2 days to pick up their baby boy from Guatemala; I'm tuning in often for the updates!

Kendra has had some great posts this week at Preschoolers and Peace. (Okay, well, she has great posts every week. But especially this week!) Check out, if you haven't already: The Memory Work Box, Thirteen Rules for Gentlemen, and just posted today, Thirteen Rules for Ladies.

Also, Amy mentioned to me yesterday the blog Life In A Shoe. This woman has seven daughters and just delivered her first boy. She blogged (or her husband did) at different intervals during labor and delivery. Kinda fun. (What mama doesn't like to hear the details of another mama's birth story?)

Okay, that's all I have time for. Because what I'm listening to NOW is this:

-My daughter impatiently urging the boys to get their shoes on for our walk. She just came and set my shoes by my feet, saying, "Put your shoes on! We're missing the store!" (meaning, "we're late", I think.)

-My 2 year old standing by the door (ready to go) singing "I've got the love of Jesus in my heart" at the top of his lungs, but throwing in different words occasionally. Oh! Now it's changed to God of Wonders (the song of choice for him).

Time to get going.... Perhaps we'll be having those muffins as we walk! :)

Hope all of you have a wonderful day!

Looking for a solution

*2006 post*

A few days ago I was cleaning our living/family room and decided something had to be done.

As I put things away, I was very conscious of all the things that didn’t really have a place. So I grabbed a piece of paper and taped it on the wall. At the top of this paper, I wrote: "Things without a home". Then each time I came across something (or a group of things) that didn’t have a ‘home’, I wrote it on the list. Not only did I write it on the list, but I then took that item and set it aside. So now I have a pile of things that don’t have places.

Out of the eleven items that made it on my list, five of them are all in the same category: markers, paints & brushes, stamps, crayons, and paintbrush pens. Here are some of those things:

Now, obviously our crayons have a 'home'; they're in a bin, but where should I put that bin? And the markers. Where do those go?

Until now these various containers have been setting on top of this, which houses the toys, but I'm tired of having them there. It's too cluttery.

Can some of you share what you do with crafty items? Do you have a shelf, a drawer or a larger bin you put all these things in? Please help! I’d love some suggestions!

Adoption: Part Six

*2006 post*

This is the final part of this series. To find the beginning of our adoption story, go here.

The name Isaias (chosen by his birth mother) means: God is my help and salvation; the Lord helps me. We love that. We indeed feel like God has given us the incredible privilege of being His arms, extended to Isaias, to help him.

We came back from Guatemala a few weeks before Christmas (you can imagine our delight; getting to have him home for his first Christmas!), and met family and friends at the airport. Our other two children were still at home, though… so we were anxious to get home before they went down for the night so that we could introduce them to their new baby brother!

Here is my favorite just-home picture:

As Ella was seeing and holding her brother for the first time- this baby she had prayed for for many, many months- she started crying. I asked her what was wrong (thinking she was sad that Grandma and Grandpa would be leaving soon). She said she was just really, really happy that Isaias was home. Me too!

That night after Mark and I had tucked in all three of our children, I said (tearily) how happy I was to have them all under one roof.

Most of my thoughts concerning our adoption center around one thing: gratitude.

I am deeply grateful for this son of ours. What a joy he is, and what a gracious God we serve that He lavishes us with gifts such as these!

I am so thankful for God's tremendous provision. (I am still in awe at how He so generously provided for us in the area of finances. At the beginning we didn't even have the $195 for that initial application fee. By the end- all totalled, our adoption expenses came to nearly $30,000. God provided every.single.cent.)

I am grateful for the heart of our Father: who has compassion on the orphans, who longs to set them in families, who is their defender.

I am grateful for the growth I had in my relationship with God during this process. This was definitely a season where God was teaching me full reliance upon Him and His timing. Of course He is entirely trustworthy! Not to mention very patient with me.

I am thankful for the lessons E & I learned during this season, of praying diligently for their brother, and seeing those earnest prayers answered when he came home.

And I am grateful for the friends I've met throughout this journey.

Here is a picture of this sweet boy of ours, taken last week:

What a wonderful journey our adoption has been. Thank you for revisiting it with me.

Adoption: Part Five

*2006 post*

If you're reading for the first time, you might want to start at the beginning of the story.

Then began the most difficult part of the wait. We had met our little boy and then left him. Now we had to wait for all the paperwork to be processed in Guatemala until we had the okay to come back and get him. This is a long process and such a struggle.

I carried an ache around for months. I truly felt like he was missing from our family. A couple of times I actually counted heads- to make sure we were all there; and then it would hit me: Isaias. He’s missing.

It was months of waiting to get to that next step that would bring us that much closer to bringing him home. But there were of course delays, disappointments, and frustrations. (Each day was one day longer than I would have liked!) But God was busy doing lots in my heart in regards to trusting Him. A journal entry during those months:

God, I trust you completely, but it is difficult for me to relinquish the control I’d like to have in this process. (How foolish am I even to write that? It looks so ridiculous.) As if I could possibly control things better than You, Almighty God. Please forgive me for my pride, for my desire to be in charge, to try to- or want to- control the steps, the outcome, and the timing of this process. (As if I could!) Increase my faith, my trust in You. I know Isaias is in your hands, that You are faithful, that Your timing is right and perfect, and that You are in control. May I submit to You, to Your plans, Your desires, joyfully and faithfully.

So we prayed a lot, waited a lot, and cried a lot (or at least, I did!) Isaias turned 4 months old. Then 5 months old. Then 6, 7, and 8 months old. We got new pictures, a progress report (height, weight, etc) and a short DVD each month. We would crowd around the TV and I would weep at the sight of him. Watching him grow up like that- so far away from us- was very, very difficult.

In October I journaled this:

I am sad today. We got Isaias’ progress report today and I am sad. His pictures make me cry. He is sitting up now, he has his two bottom teeth already. He’s just getting so old, so big, and I long for him to come home, to be home with us…

As sad as we were, we knew he was being cared for, he was healthy, warm, and well-fed. And ultimately we knew he was in God’s hands.

Finally we got a call from our agency saying that we were out of the PGN; and that within the next 4-6 weeks we could come and get him! So, the kids and I made a paper chain, one link for each day of the 6 weeks, and began counting down. One night I realized that we were down to a few more links (and not leaving anytime soon), so I added more links for the kids to pull off (they never noticed, but it ended up being over 8 weeks, not 4-6).

In early December we got a call saying that our US Embassy appointment, the final step (!) (in Guatemala) was a mere 6 days away. We flew out 3 days later, arrived in Guatemala late that night, and were scheduled to go to Hannah’s Hope first thing the following morning to go pick up our Isaias.

As I sat in the hotel that morning, waiting for the driver to come and get us, so that we could go to HH and get Isaias, I journaled this:

This song has been running through my head all morning: "I will exalt You, oh Lord… Praise Your holy name, that my heart may sing to You… I will exalt You, oh Lord." My heart is singing to You. Thank you! God, You are *so* good!

As we walked into HH, I scanned the room for our Isaias. Our now 9-month-old boy. It had been 6 months since we saw him last. I peeked around the corner, and I saw him- sitting up like such a big boy in his high chair, having lunch. I burst into tears and went to him but he was still eating so I wasn't able to hold him. I journaled later: "But, oh- to be so close to him, to be able to reach out and touch him and see his cute, cute face- was amazing." Here’s one of the first pictures I took:

Mark had moved in front of him and was talking to him and Isaias was looking at him so intently. He kept checking out his daddy, giving him this curious, sort of amused look. He was so intrigued with this man talking to him!

A few minutes later. Isaias was still a little uncertain, and very sleepy:

It took us only a few minutes to gather his things (we took his stuffed lion, his blanket, his tape recorder, and his photo album (all the things we'd brought down for the first trip)), and he was ready to leave.

I could tell that Isaias was unsettled in my arms- very squirmy and uncomfortable.

It was actually really difficult for me to take him away from everything familiar to him (voices, sights, smells, foods, sounds, and the language). And the Special Mothers there (the caregivers at HH) very obviously love these children and had truly been stand-in mothers to Isaias. His Special Mother stood, weeping, as we gathered him into our arms and took the small bag with his belongings, preparing to go. I was weeping, too. I hugged his Special Mother and let her kiss him one last time.

My emotions at that point were all over the place. I was sorrowful and yet full of joy and relief, too. This was really the culmination of this entire process for us, and yet- such a beginning, too.

When we got back to the hotel room we sat down immediately and prayed for him. We asked God to bless him and help him to transition and bond with us, to give him peace and comfort and help him to feel secure. He was very serious and observant, but not crying or fussy.

Eventually, he fell asleep in my arms as I walked him around. When he woke up he kind of pulled back and checked me out. He touched my face and stared at me. And then he got playful. We played peek-a-boo and he was giggling. Mark got him laughing really hard, and that was fun. He seemed much more relaxed with us. Here he is, later that first day:

We called home and talked to our kids and told them we had their brother with us. I cried at the sound of their voices and of course, couldn't wait to get home...

For the next few days, we spent lots of time with our little Isaias, getting to know him and getting this wonderful time of bonding with him. And we hung out with the another couple (one we had met on our first trip, also picking up their son!) during our time there. We had our Embassy appointment, and were officially approved to take him home with us.

By the end our stay in Guatemala, we really felt like Isaias knew us and felt secure with us (not to mention we were certain that he liked us- he gave us lots of smiles and giggles to prove it.) He had quickly become our little buddy and loved being held by either daddy or mommy.


To read the next (and final) part of our adoption story, go here.

Adoption: Part Four

*2006 post*

For new readers: to find the beginning of our adoption story, go here. For those of you who have already been reading along, here's the fourth installment:

A couple weeks after that phone call, we readied ourselves for the trip to Guatemala. We packed a stuffed lion (that our other two children had chosen for him), a blanket, a tape recorder with a tape of our voices on it (singing, talking, reading. The kids loved doing this!). We also brought a thing to hang on the inside of his crib that held a big picture of our family, so he could see our faces. At the time of our referral they had placed a little Sassy photo album in his crib filled with pictures of us (we had done this in our paperwork phase, and sent it in months before).

Then we flew to Guatemala to meet our son. It was an emotional trip. As excited as I was to meet our sweet boy, I was very sad to leave our two other children. I pretty much bawled the entire way to the airport (2 hours away) as well as the first leg of our travels.

We had a layover in Houston and it was there that I met Michelle (or, rather- saw her for the first time; we’d been emailing and chatted on the phone once, as they were heading down to see their little boy, too). Michelle, her husband Chad, Mark and I all flew into Guatemala together. When we got there we waited for another couple who was also flying in that afternoon.

We were driven to Hannah’s Hope (the name of the orphanage). Mark and I were ushered downstairs to Isaias’ room. We saw him, lying in his crib on his back, sleeping soundly. Up until that moment it had all seemed so surreal, and then- there he was, our little 3-month old boy. He was *so* cute. We were teary, and wanted to hold him but didn’t want to wake him up. What with all the commotion, though (us peering at his face- inches away, crying and whispering), he woke up and looked at us. Mark picked him up. And for the rest of that day (and the following three days) we got to be his mommy and daddy during the daytime.

We held him, talked to him, changed his diapers, changed his clothes, fed him his bottles, sang to him, and prayed for him. We told him all about his big brother and big sister. He looked at us very intently (as 3-month old babies do) and smiled at us lots. He loved being held, and slept easily in our arms.

In the evenings we went back to the hotel and spent time with the other couples we had traveled with. We had a wonderful time with these couples. Each morning we all went back to Hannah's Hope to spend more time with our boys.

I journaled late that first night:

Of course I can’t sleep because I can’t wait to see Isaias again tomorrow. Will he remember us? What expressions will he show us today? How did he sleep last night?...

I am so grateful for the chance to see him in his ‘home’ here at Hannah’s Hope. It is really valuable for me- for my mother’s heart- to be able to see who is caring for him, how and where. When I leave here and think of him in the months to come I will be able to picture where he is at, and who may be holding him.

I rejoice in You, oh Lord, for all of this. For the blessings You have lavished upon us. For who You are. For Your heart. For Your vision. I love You. My heart is so full!

Our days with him passed quickly, and then it was time to go home again. I well remember the last night with him. We were flying out early the next morning and knew it would be many months before we’d see him again. Mark and I took him downstairs where it was quieter. Mark held him and sat in the rocking chair. I knelt next to them, and we laid our hands on his little head of black hair and prayed blessings over him. And we cried; buckets of tears. We had bonded so much with him in these few short days and now we had to leave him behind.

But we entrusted him into God’s capable hands and left him that evening. And we completed our journey as I had begun it: in tears.


For the next part of our adoption story, go here.

I've been tagged

*2006 post*

I've been tagged by Dana! So. Here are my responses:

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4.
…South, for example, Old English Games are commonly seen wandering along…
(From A Guide To Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow)

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What can you touch?
The Happy Father’s Day letter I wrote to Mark and hung on a hook on our fireplace mantle.

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
I don’t watch TV. But, my husband occasionally watches sports… and last night he watched the last 4 minutes of the Dallas/Miami basketball game. I watched with him.

4. Without looking, guess what time it is.

5. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?
4:30. Whoa! What happened to the last 20 minutes?!?!

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
The birds singing outside, my children hollering as they play in the sprinkler with their daddy.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
I stepped outside to take the phone from my husband; he wanted to hand it off to me.

8. Before you started this survey, what did you look at?
Dana’s site.

9. What are you wearing?
Denim capris, brown t-shirt, navy blue saltwater sandals.

10. Did you dream last night?
I probably did, but I can’t remember any of them.

11. When did you last laugh?
I laughed hard as my husband and I walked across a very high bridge earlier this afternoon. He was petrified and I laughed at the expression on his face! (To his credit, he's very tall, the railing was very short, and we were up VERY high!)

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Red paint; I love it. Pictures taped up all over of art projects my children have done, or we have done with them. I glanced around me and counted 13.

13. Seen anything weird lately?
Weird? At the moment I can’t think of anything.

14. What do you think of this quiz?
Oh, I love this kind of thing!

15. What is the last film or video you saw?
We rented Glory Road two weekends ago.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?
Land. A cow!!!

17. Tell me something about you that I do not know.
I am nearly deaf in my right ear.

18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
I would give every orphan a good home.

19. Do you like to dance?
I wish I could say yes but I have to say no; I’m too self-conscious. Oh- but wait: I do dance with my children.

20. Comment to George Bush:
Thank you.

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
My first child was a girl. I call her "honeygirl" most of the time.

22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?

23. Would you ever consider living abroad?

24. What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gate?
Welcome, my child. I love you.

25. 5 people who must also do this quiz on THEIR blog:
Amy (though she usually doesn't do this stuff; I'm warning you!)

Alright, girls.... let's see your posts!

In other news...

*2006 post*

Wow. Thank you all for hanging in there with me as I recount our adoption story. I know I'm wordy and detailed. I really did think I'd be able to cover this in three posts, but... er, it may be three more. Thank you to those of you who are reading and commenting. It really has been a fun process for me to go through old journal entries and remember this, so thank you.

In other news... on Wednesday Mark and I will celebrate our 9th anniversary! Yippeee! In honor of this we get to go away (something done very rarely around here) together. We're heading to a Bed & Breakfast tomorrow morning and will be back Wednesday evening.

I am so looking forward to being away with my wonderful husband and my best friend. These are the delights I'm looking forward to:

-I will have a free hand (no diaper bag or child to hold) to be able to hold Mark's hand with!
-We will get to have uninterrupted conversation.
-We'll be able to talk about something other than daily conversation... (We used to do the purposeful questions but have gotten out of the habit. I was encouraged with Amy's post to bring them back this year!)
-I can have a meal where someone will bring me my food and I won't have to get up to get something for someone else between each bite! I may be able to start my meal and finish all in one sitting! Simple pleasures...
-We can sleep!

I am grateful for this opportunity to take some time away to nurture our relationship. Sometimes it can get lost in this season of life with little ones. How I love this husband God has blessed me so richly with. I can't wait to get away with him!

Adoption: Part Three

*2006 post*

To read Adoption: Part One, go here
To read Adoption: Part Two, go here

Okay, where were we? Oh, yes. Our hot water heater that broke. That was the first of many things breaking down in our home throughout this process. There was the hot water heater, then the dishwasher, then the fridge, then some major plumbing issues. Each one very costly. And each one a huge stress in a season of our lives where we were trying to SAVE money, not spend it. These trials were either sent by God to teach us utter dependence on Him and His provision, rather than ourselves, or they were straight from the enemy (I personally liked to blame everything on him.)

In mid-August we had a garage sale and were able to raise enough money to send in the $195 application fee. On the application we also designated a country. Our decision was narrowed since AGCI only works with a small number of countries (I think 4 or 5 at the time), and some of those countries we couldn’t adopt from. (For instance, China- you have to be 30 years old; I was 29.) We came to the decision to adopt from Guatemala. Mark and I spent time praying about this, asking God for direction. One day I came across a photo of three smiling Guatemalan boys, and that was that. Mark came home that evening from work and I immediately said, “It has to be Guatemala.” He smiled and explained that as he had been praying about it throughout his own day, he also felt tugged in that direction. So, Guatemala it was.

The next decision we had to make was gender. Do you know you have to choose if you want a boy or a girl? Goodness! That was a tough one for us. I kept having these conversations with our agency saying, “Can you please just choose? We’re happy with either. We have one of each and we love them both. I can’t choose this!” We finally expressed simply that we wanted to adopt based on wherever the need was greater. Our agency said that if we left it at that, we would be getting a boy, because for some reason in Guatemala more boys are adopted out. Our decision was made. We were getting a boy.

And then we began the paperwork phase. I have an enormous 5-inch binder I filled with all of our paperwork, and one by one we filled out (or collected) forms. Contracts, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical evaluations, criminal checks, employment records, financial records, income tax returns for the past three years, witness statements, and reference letters. I now wish I had clocked how many hours I spent on this phase. Many, that’s for sure. It took us 3 months to complete all of the paperwork.

During this time, Mark was working overtime so that we could set money aside for our adoption. We were able to save around $500/month with his diligent work and with our new frugal lifestyle (basically, spending next-to-nothing!) We also sent out a letter to our family and friends telling them of our decision to adopt, and asking for their support (both prayer and financial). We saw this as a mission God was calling us to, and figured that we get will-you-support-me-on-this-missions-trip letters all the time, so… why not ask? So we did, and our family and friends were lavish in their support of us. Throughout the following months, we saw God provide tremendously through the generosity of these supporters.

At the end of January, our paperwork was completed and we had enough money for our first payment. We sent that into AGCI and waited. There were other waiting couples, too… and we were able to “meet” some of the other waiting couples (online), via a listserve that AGCI has set up. This was a tremendous support during this time of waiting. The listserve was also where I met some very dear friends: Michelle (who comments often on this blog), Sarah, and Kimmie. We spent this waiting time praying, applying for grants, and praying some more.

On June 17th I packed the kids in the car and went to pick up Mark from work. I came home and listened to this message on my phone: “This is Kim from AGCI. I have good news for you. Please call me back today.” She left her direct line and said if she didn’t answer, to call the 800# and have them interrupt her.

I was trembling. Totally shaking. My hands could barely dial the numbers. I just knew this was our referral; that they had a child for us and we were on the brink of meeting that little one. I kept asking Mark, “What do you think? Is this it? Are you so nervous?” And he wasn’t. He thought that maybe she was just calling instead of emailing an update for the month. But I knew it was big because we were supposed to interrupt her. So- I called her back, and she said, “Do you want a little guy?” And I said, “Of course we want a little guy! Do you have a little guy for us?” And she said yes, and proceeded to tell me about this “little guy”.

This is what we learned: his name was Isaias. He was three months old. He weighed 10 lbs, 1 oz at birth. At three months, he weighed 12 lbs, was a good eater, and liked to be held. We learned very few details about his birthmother.

And then our agency contact told us she was emailing us pictures as we spoke.

We all rushed downstairs to our computer, and waited (at the time we had only dial-up) for nearly an hour, me holding the video camera- interviewing Mark over and over and then the kids, who just ran around enthusiastically, shouting. They had been waiting and praying for their baby brother for many months. Then the pictures finally appeared. Here are some of the first pictures we saw of our new son:

Isn't he precious? In my next post I’ll tell you all about our first trip to Guatemala; our first time meeting our new son.


To read the next installment of our adoption story, go here.

Adoption: Part Two

*2006 post*

To read Adoption: Part One, go here
If you already read that, our story continues…

I ended the last post with Mark and I committing to be purposeful in prayer about adoption; to ask God what He wanted from us and when. I did a lot of journaling during that time. Here’s an excerpt from my journal a in this season of seeking God:

There are so many children who do not have a family. My heart is this: I want to reach out and nurture those who need a family…

I keep thinking of that verse in Luke: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” That is us. We have much. Why not? Why not now? There is a need and we can fill it. Will you confirm this in our hearts, Lord? We want to be obedient to You if this is indeed You speaking to our hearts about us doing this- now or in the future.

Just a few days after that journal entry, I was driving yet again and listening to the radio. Family Life Today happened to be on, and they were talking about another subject entirely, and had two women guests on to share. At the beginning of the show, when the introductions were being done, Dennis Rainey asked about the connection they’d just discovered these two guests had (it turns out that one of them was in the adoption process and the other had been adopted herself, long ago). So he asked them to briefly share about their experiences before they launched into their regular program topic. The woman who was currently adopting shared how she had just come to a place where she just felt like they had room in their lives and hearts and that they had so much to give.

And that was it. I knew right then in my spirit that that was the confirmation I had been asking God for. I turned the radio off and- through tears, thanked God for this. It was simple, really. But I just knew. That is exactly where I kept turning: that we have so much; and that there are children in this world who have been abandoned, orphaned, and have no one. I really felt a sense of responsibility. God had blessed us so abundantly. There was no question to me what God’s heart was on this. Throughout this time, God had led me to the following verses:

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.

Deut. 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

Psalm 10:14 You are the helper of the fatherless.

Psalm 10:17 You hear, oh Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed.

Psalm 146:9 The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.

Hosea 14:3 For in you the fatherless find compassion.

Psalm 82: 3-4 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them…

And finally,

Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.

We knew God’s heart already. At the time we even joked, “So, we’re asking God if this is something He wants us to do. What’s He going to say, ‘NO’?!”

That same day I got online and began researching adoption agencies. A few weeks later we’d decided on an agency: All God’s Children International.

The two next questions were when and how?

WHEN? We decided to start moving forward and see how the Lord directed us.

And the HOW? I journaled this at the end of May, last year:

HOW? Only through God’s tremendous provision and creativity, because we simply don’t have the finances to do this. But we really trust that if this is the Lord’s will for us, He will be faithful to provide… somehow, some way, for this to occur.

So basically we were embarking on a huge step of faith. We live on one income and were basically living paycheck to paycheck. We had no debt, thankfully (well, besides our house), but: no savings, either. This was a huge, huge thing to us. The cost for international adoptions isn’t small. Most international adoptions range from $14,000-$30,000.

So now we needed just $195 for the application fee, and we needed to choose a country to adopt from. We had no idea where that money was going to come from, and we had no idea how we were supposed to choose a country. We decided to pray over the country and our finances, and we decided to start pinching our pennies.

And then our hot water heater broke.


To read Adoption: Part Three, go here.

Adoption: Part One

*2006 post*

Many of you know that our youngest son (now 14 months old) is adopted from Guatemala. We ‘met him’, initially through pictures, a year ago this week. In light of that, I thought I’d take a few days and detail our adoption story.

How we began on this adoption journey is hard to define. Mark and I have always wanted to adopt. This is something we discussed even while we were dating, and long before we met, God had put put this desire on each of our hearts. After we were married and decided we were ready to start our family, we were in for a surprise: we didn’t get the luxury of choosing when we got to have our first child. We tried to get pregnant for 2 ½ years and were unable to. This was quite honestly one of the most difficult seasons in our lives.

However, that story has a happy ending. That period of infertility ended when we discovered that I was pregnant. And we had a little girl, and she is now 4 ½. Our second child was also a surprise and a miracle. We had a little boy, and he is now 2 ½. God is so generous!

Throughout this time, our conversations turned often to adoption. In fact, before I got pregnant with our second, we had decided that we would pursue adoption. Then God blessed us with a second pregnancy. After the birth of our second child, we sort of decided that we would go ahead and try for our third, and then adopt for our fourth. God had a different agenda.

One spring day I was driving and listening to the radio. There was a program on featuring an adoptive mother (who had a number of adopted children), and she was sharing their story. I can’t even remember exactly what she said, but as she shared she said that adoption was something her and her husband had always sort of talked about, too- and that they chose to be really purposeful in their prayers about it, trusting that this was something God had laid on each of their hearts, and entrusting it to Him and His timing. This really struck me. Here we were, “planning” and charting our own course (we’ll have another, and adopt after that), when we should be pressing in to God, and seeking what He wanted to do and when.

I came home that day and said to Mark: “We have to start really praying about this adoption thing! What if God would have us adopt NOW, instead of waiting?” And so we began a season of prayer, asking God what He wanted to do and how He wanted to build our family.


To read Adoption: Part Two, go here.

A delicious dinner idea

*2006 post*

Many of my recipes call for chicken: in salads, casseroles, and soups. In order to ready the chicken I have prepared it one of two ways. I either boiled it (then chopped it), or I diced it and ‘stir-fried’ it on the stove.

No more. I came across this recipe for making chicken about a month ago and it’s all we’ve done since. I cannot take credit in any way for this recipe. Although I wish I could; it’s that good. I discovered this way to make chicken over at Amy’s Humble Musings, but I’ve modified it a bit because I haven’t been able to find the seasoning she used.

So, here it is. It is so easy it’s almost embarrassing.

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
onion (half)
chicken bouillon (3-4 tsp)
fresh garlic cloves (we love garlic, so we use several)
olive oil

In the morning, add the chicken, bouillon, a halved onion, 1-2 cloved of garlic, and salt and pepper (to taste) to crockpot. Pour 1 ½ cups of water over chicken. Turn crockpot on high.

An hour before dinnertime, chicken should be tender enough to pull apart with a fork. Drain off all liquid from crockpot. Pull apart chicken with a fork. Add enough olive oil until moist. Add several cloves of garlic, stir in w/ fork. Leave in crockpot for another hour.

The original recipe can be found here. She suggests serving it with black beans, rice and sour cream on the side. And a bit of lime juice on the chicken. We've done this a few times and have loved it.

This is the only way I make chicken now. Each time we have it, Mark talks about it throughout the meal. It is so moist, so flavorful and so delicious. And each time we’ve had chicken elsewhere since, he’s comparing it to this recipe.

Try it. You won't be disappointed. And- your house will smell good all day with this in your crockpot!


*2006 post*

My children love pancakes. There are two pancake-makers at our house: Mommy and Daddy.

Mommy makes Practical Pancakes. They look exactly like you envision when you think of the word pancake. They are very, very basic. Round, cream-colored, and the size of a sand-dollar. Pretty simple.

Daddy, however, makes Animal Pancakes (this is where you learn who is really the most fun parent in our home). Animal Pancakes are just that: animal-shaped pancakes. He has this down to an art. He uses a spoon and some pancake batter, and creates these great pancakes.

Now, if it were my job to make animal pancakes you would be seeing a lot of worms and snakes (but I would be talking them up big; there'd be daddy snakes, mommy snakes, and lots of little baby snakes; it would be very fun).

But not my man. After all, snakes and worms aren't our kids' favorite animals! Daddy makes giraffes, elephants, alligators, panda bears, doggies, kitties, lions, and every other animal you can think of, really. He does it all. Not to mention that he also makes character pancakes. When our daughter loved Maisy: we had a lot of Maisy's, Charlie's and Talullah's at the breakfast table. And sometimes he makes little pancake representations of our children. (I'm telling you: he's good.) And he does alphabet letters, too. And spells out their names. And he adds food coloring. (Can you believe all of this?)

Today is Friday, and every Friday morning we have pancakes for breakfast. I know exactly how this will go. Mommy will say, "Pancakes for breakfast!" and they will all come running, happily, to their plates. Then I'll plop a Practical Pancake on each of their plates and there is this moment of silence as they stare at the perfectly-rounded sand-dollar-shaped, cream-colored pancake. And always, one of them will say, "Where's my elephant?" And then I have to remind them that daddy is at work; it's only daddy that makes elephant pancakes. (Believe me, when I realized I had this competition, I TRIED to do some animals. I was an utter failure.)

I really have had to step up my game around here in order to keep my standing as a viable pancake maker. At first I add a mashed up banana to the batter, but they rarely noticed that. So then I tried the food-coloring gig, but that just didn't cut it, because they wanted the "animal ones that are colored". So then I added chocolate chips. That was a hit. But we're not doing that every time. So I just continue making Practical Pancakes and while making, serving and eating Mommy's pancakes, we talk a lot about how wonderful daddy is that he can make the most amazing pancakes when he's home!

Keeping mommy busy

*2006 post*

Why is it that disobedience seems to come in waves? We can be moving along for months and have very few issues and then suddenly within days, each child is keeping mommy very busy in the area of instruction and discipline. Here's one of our recent (and frequent, for the time being) scenarios:

As we were crossing the street yesterday, I asked my four-year old daughter to hold her little brother’s hand. She offered him her elbow instead. I asked again, “Please take his hand.” She refused. So I dropped her hand, took his hand, and we all crossed the street.

My daughter did not like the fact that I had dropped her hand. I didn’t like the fact that she had disobeyed. She began to stomp her feet and cry. I told her, very calmly but firmly, that when we got inside the house I wanted her to have a time-out (which in our house means wait for further punishment). Then she really began her fit. She started screaming no, continued to stomp her feet, and was getting louder. I told her then that her fit would result in discipline.

We got inside the house, and I again told her to go to the front room for a time-out. She headed to the kitchen, carrying on instead. I walked toward the rod and then she suddenly scurried into the front room. When she got there, I shut the door and went to take care of the boys. She continued her fit, and added to her screaming and crying and yelling ‘No’, banging on the closed door. I got the boys settled reading books, and asked her to please be quiet; that she wasn’t coming out and I wasn’t coming in until she had quieted down. Then I took my morning shower. (It was 7:30; we’d just dropped Mark off at work). After my shower I grabbed the rod and my Bible and headed into the (now quiet) room.

I opened my Bible and read this, from Proverbs:

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (29:11)

We talked about how the Bible is God’s word and that everything in it is true and good and that it tells us how to live. We discussed what a fool is, what the word “vent” means, and how important it is to obey what we read in the Bible. Then I told her that her behavior was foolish, and that God wanted her to be wise and to keep herself under control. We talked about her actions that showed a lack of self control. Her lower lip was trembling; she said she was sorry.

Then I read Proverbs 22:15. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. She was disciplined and then we prayed together. She said she was sorry and asked God to clean her heart. I asked that God would help her to obey His word; that she would not be foolish but that she would be wise and keep herself under control. We hugged and I asked her if she was ready to join me and the boys; did she have a happy heart? She smiled and said yes. We headed to breakfast.

And ever since we’ve been working on our new memory verse:

Proverbs 29:11
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Fostering a heart of gratitude

*2006 post*

Something Mark and I talk a lot about is how to foster a heart of gratitude and contentment in our children. The fact is that as Americans, we are rich. We are presented almost daily with opportunities to buy our children STUFF. There are toys, clothes, books, food, CDs and DVDs. Add to that the opportunities to go to the movies, the zoo, amusement parks, vacations, and other places.

How can we as parents raise children who are grateful for what they have, who are content, who are not materialistic-minded, who are not greedy, who are generous and would prefer giving rather than receiving? To take that a step further, what can we do as parents to teach our children to be content with little? Also, what can we do to limit the stuff our children get?

My husband can count on one hand the toys he played with as a child. I asked him today, and he gave me the list: “those green army guys, Legos, Lincoln logs and Matchbox cars.” That’s it. Four bins of toys. Can you imagine?!?! Now, let me just say that my husband was not deprived by any stretch of the imagination. He would be the first to tell you that. (He has four brothers, after all. Who needs toys when you have each other? They played football, war, or built dams and re-routed the creek on their property. They did chores. They read. They studied. They poured their pennies out onto the floor and lined them up by year). Those boys played for hours without any toys whatsoever. And my husband is the most content man I know. He truly doesn’t want anything. Oh, how I want that characteristic in our children!

I’m currently reading Hints On Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull. (the great-grandfather of Elisabeth Elliot.) This book was originally published in 1890. He writes,

Children of the present day- especially children of parents in comfortable worldly circumstances- are far more likely than were their fathers and mothers to lack lessons of self-denial. The standard of living is very different now from a generation since. There were few parents in any community in this country fifty years ago who could buy whatever they wanted for their children; or, indeed, for themselves. There was no freeness of purchases for children, for the table, for the house or the household, as is now common on every side. Children then did not expect a new suit of clothes every few months. Often they had old ones made over for them, from those of their parents or of their elder brothers and sisters. A present from the toy-shop or bookstore was a rarity in those days. There was not much choosing by children what they would eat as they sat down at the family table…. Self-denial, or more or less of personal privation, came as a necessity to almost every child in the younger days of many who are now on the stage of active life. But how different now!

The average child of the present generation receives much more presents and more indulgences from his parents in any one year of his life than the average child of a generation ago received in all the years of his childhood. Because of this new standard, the child of today expects new things, as a matter of course; he asks for them, in the belief that he will receive them. In consequence of their abundance, he sets a smaller value upon them severally. It is not possible that he should think as highly of any one new thing, out of a hundred coming to him in rapid succession, as he woul dof the only gift of an entire year.

Trumbull goes on to emphasize that a child should not get what he wants merely because he wants it. Not just for the sake of denying the child, but in order to bring gain to the child as he learns that he must do without what he wants.

I don't know about you, but I see this as a much 'richer' way to live: with less. And for this reason, we try to say no around here. Not all the time, but do we say no more than yes? Oh, I hope so. Now, our children are young and rarely ask for things, so us “saying no” can be defined as me, Stacy, standing in front of some cool thing I know my child would love (Bob the Builder pajamas for my 2-year-old son was a recent one) and debating. Would he love them? Yes. Would I love to see the look on his face when he sees them? Absolutely. But, I choose no. And then again, the next time I see them, no.

I also think that a child being denied something they want gives them a much greater appreciation if they do at some point get the object of their little heart’s desire. Our 4-year-old had been pining for Dora underwear for at least six months, asking for them numerous times in many stores. (We’re not really sure why the Dora fascination; she knows nothing about Dora, but she saw her picture once in a Christmas flyer and has liked Dora ever since!) Each time she asked, we’d ask her if she needed new underwear. She’d say “No,” and put them back on the rack without complaint. She asked again a week ago, and this time we finally got some for her. She was so delighted and grateful. She cherishes them; she places a higher value on them.

And then there's just the accumulation of stuff other people give to our children. It is generally around the Fall and Winter months that this conversation again presents itself in our home. Within that season, two out of our three childrens’ birthdays occur, and of course: Christmas. Mark and I each have large families, and we still all get together (aunts and uncles and cousins) for birthday celebrations. So our children walk away from their birthdays with many new things. And then Christmas falls a month or so later. This is a lot of stuff accumulated in a short time.

We try to limit the toys our children have. I don’t have a regular system for this, other than that we try to load up a bunch of toys occasionally (when the kids are asleep) and take them to the consignment store or to Goodwill. They’ve never missed anything that has disappeared.

The other thing we do is buy books, instead of toys. We have a birthday tradition with our children: On their birthday, we all go to the bookstore and they get to choose a book. (After a couple of years of coming home with lame character- paperback books, we’ve smartened up: Now we enter the store with a list of books we’ve (Daddy and I) agreed upon ahead of time, we pull those down and they can choose from our narrowed selection).

It’s not that I don’t want our children to have toys, I just don’t want them to have a LOT of toys (or a lot of anything, for that matter.) I want them to value people over things. I want them to have thankful hearts. I want them to enjoy giving far more than getting. I want them to be content with what they have- even if what they have may be little; I don't want them to always be looking for their next perk.

So, I’d like to throw this out there for some of you wise mothers: Is this a struggle in your homes? What do some of you do to address this? Do you make it a practice to say no? What do you find yourself saying no to most often? Are there things you do to limit the stuff your children accumulate?

My laundry system

*2006 post*

A couple of days ago I visited Joni’s site and the beginning of her post read: “I am forever trying to find a good system for keeping up with laundry.”

Now this is something I can relate to! Laundry is hands-down my least favorite chore (well, okay, aside from dusting, which quite frankly just doesn’t get done). I’m going to let you all in on a little secret and share with you- in just 8 easy steps- what my laundry system was for years:

STEP 1: Wash clothes
STEP 2: Dry clothes
STEP 3: Pull clothes out of the dryer
STEP 4: Put in hamper
STEP 5: Take hamper to my room
STEP 6: Dump clean laundry from hamper onto our bed, with hopes that I would fold it at some point that day
STEP 7: Do other loads of laundry throughout the day, dump onto bed when dry
STEP 8: At nighttime, when I wearily entered my room and wanted to crawl into bed and sleep, I was met with a MOUNTAIN of clean laundry on my bed. Did I fold and put away? Heck no! My husband and I had a nightly routine of ‘cleaning off our bed’ before we could get into bed. So you might be wondering where we put the laundry, then. Well, back to the hampers, of course.

I am so serious. That was my system. The following day I would empty all the hampers onto the bed again (this is so embarrassing, really) with the fullest intentions of folding that laundry. But again, the day would pass, night would come, and our evening routine of taking the laundry off the bed would commence. And if I did any other loads of laundry throughout the week, well, you know where it went. On the bed! Sigh. You can imagine what it was like trying to find something in those piles of laundry. Occasionally we would get fed up with the mountain and one of those late nights, we would fold and put away all the laundry.

But here is the good news: I do not do this anymore!!! I posed this question to my husband Mark the other night, “Honey, what do I do differently now with the laundry that I didn’t used to do?” His response was immediate: “You fold it.” I’m still smiling at that, because it is SO true.

My new “system” is this: I fold the laundry when it’s clean. It’s really that simple. There has been such a vast improvement in this area of my housekeeping that it truly is notable. Here’s the thing: it really does not take that long to fold a load of laundry. For all the time I was taking hauling it to and fro and digging through the clean laundry for a sock or a shirt, and all the mess it was causing in the process, it is well worth the folding-right-away effort.

A few things have helped that are worth mentioning:

Sorting: I used to sort all of our laundry into two categories: lights and darks. I now sort our kids’ clothes into separate piles of lights and darks. So I have two lights piles and two darks. This way the loads are separate; their clothes don’t mingle with our clothes. When their clothes are clean, I bring them into their shared room. I really think this saves me time sorting. And the time of bringing the clothes into a room that they won’t end up in.

Enlisting help: On Monday mornings, the kids’ laundry is done first. When it is dry, I take their hamper of clean laundry directly to their shared room. We all gather in their room. They first make their beds, and then their job is to sort the laundry. They grab an item of clothing out of the hamper and determine whose it is, then set that piece of clothing on the bed of whomever it belongs to. We do this until the hamper is empty. The baby’s clothes go at the foot of their beds (his crib is in another room). When their clothes have been gathered atop their beds, they each sit on their beds and “fold”. My daughter (4) works at folding hers and I help my son (2) with his. When he is finished, I move to my daughters bed with her and help finish folding her clothes. Then I usually put them away while they play. Then I fold the baby’s clothes and bring them to his room.

They also help me with our laundry. My daughter folds all the washcloths and kitchen towels, and puts them away. She can also distinguish between daddy’s clothes and mommy’s clothes, so she helps sort those. My son finds pairs of socks, and then wanders around helping.

Size: It is much less daunting to tackle a load (or even two) of laundry than it is to tackle the mountain that used to cover our entire king-sized bed. I’ve learned this. It is so satisfying to tackle the folding in smaller portions. It really only takes a few minutes to fold and put away one load (especially if the load is all towels! Those are my favorites!)

Motivation: I still don’t really like this chore. There are times when I grab the timer and set it for 10 minutes and say, “We’re folding laundry!” and we all (me and my children) work at it for that allotted time. This is especially helpful to do if there’s something I want to do instead, such as read, email, blog, make a phone call, or whatever it may be. I tell myself: “AFTER I’ve done 10 minutes of laundry, I will get the reward of sitting down to read that book.”

Scheduling: This is something I’ve only recently begun doing, but I love it. I’ve determined which days I will do laundry (I do it on Mondays and Tuesdays). This has been so good for me: to have a set time for doing it, and a goal for which it is to be completed (Tuesday night in our house. Before I go to bed that night, my goal is to leave no laundry piles anywhere, dirty or clean. Everything is clean, folded, and put away in its place.)

Okay, that about wraps up my thoughts on the subject. But as much as I’ve grown in this area, there is still room for much more growth and efficiency, so: suggestions are always welcome!