Paperwork and Other Life

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I’ve been having a hard time finding time to write lately. Life seems to have accelerated the last few weeks, and I can’t seem to make it stop spinning.  We’ve made some wonderful memories, but it’s been a bit of a blur.

ADOPTION:

A few weeks ago, we began the process of updating all of our homestudy paperwork for the first time.  This paperwork has to be updated every year…..things like home visits, doctor’s appointments, and a lot of signatures.  We are just about done with the paperwork, at which point we will submit it to our homestudy agency for review, they will send it to the state, who should renew our foster/adopt certificate.  Then we will take the approved paperwork, mail it to the USIS office, and they will schedule another appointment (in St. Louis) for us to get fingerprinted for immigration again.  Then, once they approve us again, we will send our approval to AGCI who will submit it to Bulgaria….hopefully all before we go past our deadline, or we will get our file pulled and stuck on the bottom. Yikes!  Room for some anxiety, but we’ve started early and should (fingers crossed) not have to worry about it.

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FRIENDS:

After a failed camping trip in the spring with our friends, we planned months in advance for a fall camping trip.  We’d had it on the calendar since the summer, and all the kids were excited.  So, even though the weekend arrived with severe weather warnings and non-stop rain forecasted, we decided we’d rather be stuck in a camper playing board games in the rain than at our homes cleaning all weekend.  So, we headed to the lake, and lo-and-behold, aside from some drizzle and cool weather, it was a great fall weekend.  We had such fun watching the kids play at the playground, riding on the golf cart, playing cards, roasting smores and visiting the LBL Nature Station to see Smoky.

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Heading home from the lake, we decided to take the kids to Cave-in-Rock, IL.  Andy and I hadn’t been since we were little kids, so we went on a grand adventure exploring the cave, and then picnicked over the Ohio River.

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FAMILY:

I’ve mentioned my Grandpa’s battle with Alzheimer’s here before.  This month, my family teamed together for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  What started out as a fun family moment of uniting together, ended up being really emotional for me.  I found myself crying at the most bizarre times during the walk.  I think it’s easier to not think about hard things like this, and when I let me guard down, the flood gates open.  My cousin formed our team–Grandpa’s Memories.  We had t-shirts made, and even just the silly little stick people on the shirt got me all choked up!  It felt so great to join together for this cause.

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FAITH:

This past week, we had the awesome opportunity to have our friends, Ryan and Laura, over for dinner.  Laura and I were next door neighbors in college, and were both English Education majors.  She and her husband were called to the mission field 4 years ago, and have just come home for a few months before returning to Asia Pacific for another term with New Tribes.  We have been partnering with them the last few years, and it has been a real blessing.  It was such a neat day as the kids and I studied about were they serve as part of our school lesson, and spent the morning praying for them and the people they are ministering to.  The kids had some really interesting questions for them…..most of Abe’s questions revolved around food (specifically spaghetti) and Addy wanted to know about more practical things like the language and daily life.  While the kids spent the evening making pictures for them, we had a great time of visiting and hearing them share what God is doing in that region.  I tried to get some new pictures for their ministry needs, but the rain prevailed, and I didn’t get to take all the “fall” shots I had in mind!  It was a blessing to see them and be encouraged by their faith.

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FALL FUN:

We’ve been trying to enjoy the outdoors before it gets too cold to do so.  Last weekend, we went for a walk “off the beaten path.” We had a contest to find the most beautiful fall leaf, and Andy spent the walk trying to find the perfect walking stick for each kid.  So thankful we live on this quiet, country road…..it never gets old to me.

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This world never stops spinning, and at times it spins faster than others, but sometimes I need to just take a step back and remind myself to live in the moment and slow things down long enough to enjoy them.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

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We have the sweetest AGCI caseworker ever.  Every time I talk to her, I feel like she is my own person cheerleader in adoption.  This journey can be long and drawn out, and every once in a while you need someone in your corner saying, “You can do this…it’s going to be awesome….God had GREAT things in store for you and your child!  Hang in there!”  So…..this post is per her request.  Hoping she can use it to make other  AGCI families smile, and that maybe other families who are waiting or already have children at home, can join us in learning this simple, fun song in Bulgarian.  So, without further ado….here is “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” by my kiddos.

 

 

 

For those wanting to learn–here’s the way each word sounds:

Head- Glava

Shoulders- Ramena

Knees- Kolena

Toes- Prusti Na Kra Kata

Eyes- Ochi

Ears- Ooshi

Mouth- Usta

Nose- Nos

We aren’t the best singers, but we have fun….and as silly as this little song is, we pray it might be a comfort to the child we bring home…to hear familiar sounds in a new and unfamiliar environment!

A Normal Week With Children

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Things that should not be “normal” suddenly are when you parenting more than one toddler or child.  Here’s a running list of “normal” things in my life this week…don’t judge, you know you have “normal” kids too!

  1. Apple cores in the couch
  2. Toothpaste all over the counter
  3. A pee-puddle on the front step…twice.
  4. Red Sharpie on the walls
  5. Red Sharpie on small feet
  6. Red Sharpie on the cream carpet
  7. (Red Sharpie  on  _____fill in the blank____)
  8. “Mom, today I sucked on a worm.”  Why? And, gag.
  9. 17 shoes in the yard
  10. The “wrong” answers to the caseworker’s discipline questions during the homestudy update. (I hope she knows this is “normal.”)
  11. My missing cell phone buried in the dirt under the swing set. Hmmm????
  12. A Ziplock bag filled with water and apple seeds
  13. A new bouquet of yellow mum branches….yes, every branch from my new yellow mum.
  14. A two-year-old- sitting on the counter with a gallon bag of parade candy at 6:40 AM
  15. A chicken with a helmet on.  Okay, really that was me and Andy, not the kids.  But, to our defense, it wouldn’t have been “normal” without kids involved.
  16. 16 shoes in the van.
  17. An exciting discovery of milk curd in a week old sippy cup.  You know you’ve been there.
  18. A masterpiece –a mountain drawn on computer paper–then glued…..GLUED….to the wall.
  19. A bouquet of beautiful sneeze-worthy weeds gracing my kitchen table.
  20. No shoes in closets. ???

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

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Yesterday was the worst day of homeschooling we have experienced up to this point.  If it could go wrong, it did.  If it could be met with distraction, unwillingness, or whining– it was.  Cora was feeling especially needy, and as a result acted out in every way possible. (Think nail polish on the floor and on her head and toothpaste spread all over the bathroom, and that’s a start.) By 9:30 I had text my dearest friend and asked her to say a prayer for me……that kind of bad day.  At 10:30, I had to throw my arms up and say, “It’s not working right now. We’ll try again later.”  We ate lunch and had some “recess,” and we did recover some ground during Cora’s nap (bless her, she just doesn’t always enjoy Sissy and Bubby’s school time).  Homeschooling is a decision we made based on convictions and exciting opportunities, and even at it’s worse I don’t ever have second thoughts, but man, sometimes it is so hard.  Just. Hard.

Fast forward to today (ah, the promise of joy in the morning!)–we had barely finished breakfast and my phone rang.  It was my momma, and she wanted to know if she and my dad could come “borrow” Cora for the day while we did school.  A few things to insert here:

  1. I do not consider Cora the “problem” with our school days.  She is an active participant, but no matter what ANY other homeschool blog tells you–sometimes 2-year-olds just don’t want to do puzzles, color, “sensory boxes,” or play with toys.  Sometimes, they just want YOU to play with THEM.  She is not a problem, but at times, it does make it hard to have school.  I’m the first to admit that this can be a “con” of homeschooling, but not a end-all.
  2. Given the choice, I would assume my parents probably would not have chosen homeschooling as their top educational choice for their grandkids.  And yet, they have never alluded to that idea at all.  In fact ALL of the grandparents have been nothing but supportive in this decision.  Whether it is a late night text of encouragement from Andy’s mom or offers to watch the little ones from Granny, or watching my dad explore his pasture with the kids enhancing their “tree” study, we have felt so blessed to have their love in this area.

So, Cora got to spend a fun day with grandparents, and we got to spend an awesome day learning, reading and exploring.  Today might have been the BEST day of school we’ve had so far!  Today reminded me of all the things I LOVE about teaching my children.

We are studying trees in science.  We have been studying the nuts, seeds, fruits, pods of every tree we can find.  We have gone hiking and exploring.  We have researched questions and found the answers.  I adore the fact that we can read a science lesson about trees and then go outside and get hands on experience.  The kids can hold the pine cones and gather acorns lying on the ground.  They can match a walnut leaf to a walnut and know they come from the same tree. I love that the science book isn’t where they are getting the majority of their information, but they are hands-on figuring it out on their own…and having fun doing it!  Right now, we are studying the tree’s bark and learning about the differences in each tree.  We are learning to count the rings of a tree stump to learn it’s age.  We are exploring rotting tree roots to see what happens when they decompose.  It’s amazing.

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Today we discovered red berries on our dogwood tree!

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Learning about moss and bark

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Examining our only apple in the orchard!

And the best part?  One learning adventure often leads to another.  We came across this crazy caterpillar today, stopped what we were doing and ran for the magnifying glasses to check him out.  It is INCREDIBLE the creativity of the Creator!

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After some research we learned that this spiky guy is the White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar. We learned that his hair will cause an allergic reaction, and he will cocoon in a tree and emerge as a (pretty ugly) caterpillar 2 weeks later.

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Notice the questions running through her mind.

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After our observing and researching, the kids asked if they could go get their sketch books, and try to draw this creature.  They spread out a rug next to my tire, curled up with their new kitten, and colored for 30 minutes, carefully examining the caterpillar’s every feature.

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After school, they started acting very suspicious and working together on something .  As I finished cooking supper, they ran into the kitchen and yelled, “Surprise!”  Ah, again with the gifts from my children.  So precious.

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A bundle of “wildflowers,” 2 necklaces, and beautiful drawings. Be still my heart.

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“For giving love, I love Mommy.” After the struggles yesterday, I cherished the “forgiving love” too.

This homeschool journey has it’s share of twists and turns.  We win some, we lose some….but it is beautiful.  In the blink of an eye, Cora will be right there with us on grand adventures, and we will learn amazing things, and no doubt, they will have a thing or two to teach me too!

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Gifts From My Children

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My children aren’t perfect.  I know– you’re shocked.  But I can assure, they bicker and disobey and act hatefully and throw massive fits.  Despite the fact they are “normal” (I use the term loosely!) kids, they teach me abundantly about the Lord.  Every. Single. Day.  Lately, they have reminded me of the Lord’s gifts.

I like to give gifts.  Anytime a birthday or Christmas approaches, I painstakingly rack my brain for that “perfect” gift idea.  And I do love watching people receive the gifts, anticipating that they will somehow be blessed by them.  However, this is nothing in comparison to the way my children give gifts.  They don’t wait until a holiday to bless others with their gifts.  At times, it seems they spend every moment (before/after school and not sleeping) making gifts to bless the hearts of others.  I can no longer count the times Andy and I have come to bed to find a little envelope inscribed with “MOM” or “DAD” laying on our pillow.  At least a few times a week one of them will disappear for an hour and return with a beaded necklace or bracelet in the recipient’s favorite colors.  They color a dozen pictures for me a day and present them as a most cherished present.  They make things for each other, for me, and for other people outside our family.  They just LOVE to give gifts.

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Gift from Addy- She and Cora swinging

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This was an unused Christmas card she found. “Dear Mommy, It is going to get cold soon even though you don’t like it.”

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Cora’s first ever masterpiece…she kept drawing “eyes” until she ended up with this!

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My kids have learned that Mommy always likes flowers.

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“Dear Cora, I am sorry you are sick. I hope you feel better soon. I love you.” -From Addy

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Addy made a bracelet for Abe in all his favorite colors and then wrapped it with his favorite wrapping paper, followed by a gift bag. He wore it proudly the rest of the day.

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More precious than pearls.

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Just a few of the bracelets from THIS week!

 So these are all gifts just from the last few DAYS.  I mean, seriously, the kids love to shower people with gifts.  And the real kicker…..they never expect anything in return.  They don’t hand over the gift and then say, “Now what are you gonna give me?”  They don’t do it out of obligation, they do it out of love.  Sounds sort of like someone else I know.

God LOVES to bless His people.  Daily, if your eyes are open to His love, you can see His blessings in your life.  They come at times when you least expect it, they come often, and they come from LOVE.  Even in troubled times, flowers still bloom, the sun still rises, and hope still lives on.  God showers us with these things–more than we ever know–and He doesn’t say, “Now what are you going to do for me?”  He simply reminds that “My grace –my precious gift of grace–is enough.”

I’ve noticed that with God’s gifts and my children’s gifts I often take them for-granted.  I don’t give the thanks that is due, I may even consider in my sinful heart some of the gifts worthless–trash.  I may not see their beauty and full potential.  But the beautiful thing is these gift givers who were made by the Gift Giver, give on.

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 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

 

Daily, Hourly..By the Minute.

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One of my dearest friends asked me not long ago, how often I think about the child we will adopt.  “I know you think about adopting, but how often does it come to mind……every day?”

I found the question interesting.  When we first began praying and talking about it, it was on my mind every waking (and dreaming) moment.  For months I couldn’t even talk to Andy about it rationally without sobbing because the burden was so heavy.  I would lay in bed with tears rolling down my cheeks in a longing for a child I didn’t know, before we had even committed to adopt.

Then we did commit.  We filled out an application, and started a crazy 9 months of paperwork and doctor’s appointments and fingerprints.  A large weight of the burden was lifted, the moment we said, “Okay, let’s do this thing!”  Many of the tears had dried up and were replaced with excitement and purpose.  I worked diligently at organizing appointments and ordering documents, arranging our schedules to meet deadlines.  Every paper, every signature, every appointment was a reminder that the end result would be our son or daughter.  Then, we finished it.  All of it.  We sent our paperwork off, it was accepted by Bulgaria and we were placed on the wait list.  I thought that since everything had settled down, my thoughts would return to (mostly) normal.

I was wrong.

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As I prepared to answer my friend’s question, I realized that I not only think of the child (or children) that will come home to us daily, I’m not sure even a waking moment has passed in the past year and a half that they weren’t in my thoughts.  At breakfast, I check emails and Facebook groups and read the excited chatter of families travelling to bring home their children, or getting that important “call” and think about what that will be like for us.   As I begin school with Addy and the little ones, I imagine what our school table will look like with four students sitting around it. At nap times I daydream about who this child will be, and which room they will call their own.  As the kids run around the yard, I imagine one more barefooted baby joining in the mix.  I sit at church on Sunday morning, and I think about my baby preparing for supper and bed.  As I snuggle up with Addy and Abe to read a book, or rock with Cora and softly sing “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” I wonder if anyone has ever snuggled up with my baby.  I wonder if anyone has ever rocked them and sung them a lullaby.  I wonder if they must lay awake and rock themselves to sleep in a room of a dozen or more other babies who are missing another night without the touch of a mother.  When I see Cora playing with other babies, I long for the day that she gets to play the part of big sister.  When we go out in public and I do a head count to make sure all my precious ones are accounted for, I find myself time and time again, panicking when I only find 3. (I’m not yet sure if this is my sub-conscience way of realizing we aren’t complete, or that after having three kids I have lost my mind.)  When we find ourselves awake in the middle of the night with a puking child, I wonder if anyone is there to clean them up and reassure them that they will be taken care.  Is there anyone there to gently stroke their hair, and hold a cold washcloth on their forehead until they fall back to sleep?  As I’ve prepared for rummage sales, I’ve held up tiny items of clothing and wondering which ones will be worn by this child.  On good days, I’ve felt moments of grief that this child isn’t already home with us to share and add to these memories.  On bad days, when things feel like they are falling apart and the children are driving me nuts, I wonder why I ever thought I could handle another child to add to the madness.  Yesterday, as I updated my children’s pictures in the frame, I yearned for the necessity to  buy and fill another frame.  I bought different colored water bottles for each of my children to put in the camper, and bought an extra in the anticipation of our first camping trip together after we are all together.  I find myself saying things like this to Andy, “The next time we are on a flight together, I think it will be to Bulgaria,” or “I’ll bet the next time with see the ocean, we will have ALL of our children with us.”

The thing that I have found the most bizarre in this whole journey so far (and trust me, there have been a lot of bizarre things) is that I believe there is a newborn baby laying in an orphanage crib right now,  and that baby is mine.  I can not wrap my mind around this phenomenon.  I have a child halfway around the world at the very moment your eyes are reading these words, and I don’t know them.  They will be fully our child and I can not know them for possibly 2 more years. How can this make sense?  It is impossible to imagine where or what that sweet baby is doing right now.  I am able to trust that God is holding them gently in the dark places, and I pray daily that He will place hope in their hearts, even now, that we are coming to bring them home.

I long for them to know that they were always wanted, and their home was prepared for them much in advance, in the same way our Heavenly Father promises that He has prepared us a home.  I want them to know there wasn’t ever a time that they weren’t thought about and loved….daily, hourly, by the minute.

Throwback Thursday: A Look back at God’s Faithfulness

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To the outsider, I don’t have a very exciting testimony.  “I was lost, and now I’m found,” may not necessarily put people on the edge of their seat.  That’s okay, it changed my world.

I didn’t have an overnight conversion.  I look back now and see God’s slow steady hand pulling me nearer to Him.  My first memories of God include a little girl, barely old enough to read and write, hiding in my downstairs closet writing a song of praise song.  (I can vaguely remember some of the lyrics going something like this, “Even in a car wreck, He’s still there.” Hey, you gotta start somewhere.)

I can remember riding home from VBS with my best friend form elementary school asking her what I had to do to be saved. Another year or so, and I can remember swiping a brochure off a church table at the state fair about how to know Jesus.

A few years later, right before starting high school, my best friend invited me to church camp with her.  This was when God truly began to reveal His realness to me.  It was no longer about religion, it was about Jesus–a man.  Church camp gave me older mentors and teachers who showed me what a beautiful life of Christ could look like.  They made me realize I wasn’t alone in this.  But, aside from God drawing me to Him during these years, He also always had other blessings in store during these summers….

 

 

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After my senior year, God sent me to Bulgaria.  Before I left I told that guy in the picture that I did not love him and did not want to date him.  But then to ease the blow of those words, I added, “But I’m sure God could change my heart.” (Oh, the irony.)  I proceeded to go to Bulgaria, and here is what I would tell that girl sitting on the highest building in Varna:

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“You know all those things you thought you knew about the world and about other people?  You have no idea…..you don’t know everything and you are not any less of a sinner than them.  Remember that guy you just told you didn’t love?  You are going to fall madly in love with him in a few weeks and know you could never live life without him.  The two of you are going to have adventures unlike any other, and then three precious babies are going to become the adventure.  Then, someday (before you know it) God is going to send you on the craziest adventure yet, and He is going to bring you back to the very soil you are standing on to find your next baby.  Here in this beautiful land, with it’s beautiful children, delicious food, and breathtaking coast–here is where one of your children will be born.”

So my “throwback Thursday” is a reflection on God’s faithfulness in my life.  THAT is my testimony…..and it keeps ME on the edge of my seat!

Remember the marvels He has done….He is the Lord our God!

Psalm 105:5,7