Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I can't imagine any post being harder to write than this one. Looking back over this past year is exhausting, much less trying to express the range of emotion, all the happenings, in a few short paragraphs. It really can't be done, at least not and leave you with anywhere near an accurate picture. My, how many things can change in one year?

Exactly one year ago this evening, we piled into our Dodge caravan with our 4 children and headed to a friends house. There we met lots of other friends, with great food, played games right till midnight, and then threw confetti all over the place. It was a great night. Just before that Christmas, we had learned that Blessing's birth mother's appeal of her parental termination had been denied, and we would be able to finalize her adoption soon. It was a wonderful holiday season. One favorite moment happened just about Christmas time. Blessing fell and bumped her head. She began crying, and calling me, "Momma, momma, momma". I scooped her in my arms, and noticed the tears in my sister's eyes. "You're her momma", my sister said quietly. I teared up, too. It was only a short time before that she would not have wanted my comfort. All the hours of holding her while she screamed bloody murder and body remained stiff and rigid melted away. She folded to my hold. She looked me in the eyes. Her arms wrapped around my body. What a beautiful, beautiful moment. I was, indeed going to get to be this little girl's forever momma. What a Blessing. ;)

And though that moment didn't take place in 2008, it's exactly how we began our year. Early in the year (February) her adoption was finalized, and we celebrated with great joy!

Over the course of the year, 4 new children came to our home. We no longer drive a mini-van. We also gotten bigger versions of a washer/dryer, and extra pots and pans, too. Some children have left, some still remain. Each child's journey, short or long, has left a deep impression. Extreme highs, joyful celebration when children reach goals previously not known if they could accomplish. Sweet moments of tender love, family games and movie nights, bear hugs from 6 children at once. There is no better life. There were extreme lows. Researching problems, reading prognoses that are less than desirable, turning from one to another with no answers. Steps forwards. Steps backwards. Saying goodbye to children, when you know their chance out in the world is slim. Lower lows than ever before. Fits of rage (not only from my children), pleading with God like never before, hopeless at times. Yet Higher highs than ever before. More hope, love, blessings, joy, and peace than I've ever known. Even now, as I type, the warm breath of a newborn as she sleeps against my neck...the tickles in the ear when a little one has a secret to share... the utterly ridiculous moments having 6 children brings! There is just no other life I'd prefer..

He gives and takes away. Worship has new meaning. Relying on Him has new meaning. Family has new meaning. Friends have new meaning. Life is all new. More exciting, more precious, more sensuous. We've laughed, cried, hugged, and held on for dear life! I can't imagine more heartache, nor can I imagine life any more abundant than it is now. And besides, if all of that's what it takes to praise you, Jesus, bring the rain.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Grace's Christmas Favorite

My husband's mom, who we call Mimi, loves Christmas. She loves our kids. She also loves gift giving. This combines for a mountain of treasures beneath her Christmas tree. She starts at the turn of the new year, and every gift carries with it lots of thought for that particular child.

I've mentioned Grace's love for her red dorosy shoes more than once. And her obsession with the Wizard of Oz is well known by all who care for her. Mimi lovingly made, yes, home-made, a Dorothy dress. She found her a new pair of ruby red slippers (this is her 3rd, the first two looking more than a little worn). Also in the box was a basket, which held tucked inside blue ribbon bows for her hair, and a little black puppy dog.

Mimi knew that Grace would love it eventually. But she wasn't sure she would know what it was right away. She thought she wouldn't recognize it as Dorothy's dress. I assured her she would, that she knew everything "Oz" very well. But Mimi continued to worry.

When Grace opened that particular package, she first pulled out the red slippers. "Oooooooo, Pretty", she said. She was excited already, and hadn't even yet noticed there was more in the box. Look at Hope's face. Isn't that precious? That's my favorite part of that picture... a big sister so lovingly anxious for her little sister to see her gift.

Next, she pulled out the puppy dog, stood, twirled him around, and exclaimed, "Oh, Toto!", with all the dramatic flare of a child who had lost her puppy months ago. I laughed. Mimi beamed.

The dress had to be put on immediately. You might have noticed it in her picture in the previous post. And as you might suspect it can only be torn from her skin with a fight, to be washed each night, and then to be donned again the next morning.

After all the gift opening, an aunt and uncle who she rarely sees, and doesn't really know, came for lunch. As fate would have it, her aunt's name is Dorothy. Grace bounced in with her little dress on, and Aunt Dorothy ravished her with compliments. Then she said, "You know, my name is Dorothy." Grace looked her up and down as if trying to find a piece of the Dorothy she knows in her dress or body somewhere. Then very matter of factly said, "No, it's not." And bounced off singing, "Flollow (not a typo, that's how she says it) the yellow brick road."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Long time, No blog

Christmas has been wonderful, and I'm still just completely overwhelmed when I think of this last year. I desperately want to write that end-of-the-year- post that can at least give a tiny glimpse of how I feel about it, but words seem to fall so short, and lack any accuracy of it's depth at all.

So much is happening right at once! A lot of it, I can't share because of privacy to our foster children, and really absolutely nothing is set in stone. Yet the recent chain of events is leaving us with some real possibilities that completely change our future and how we plan for it. Mostly having to do with the number of children in our home, and how many we might joyfully celebrate as fully ours. That possibility is incredible, and would be nothing but welcomed. However, that does not mean that it won't bring it's own challenges, and change much about our life and future.

At least there is finally a new post, and even a few pictures to share from Christmas. My mom and dad got the middle girls these great little riding toys. EVERY. ONE. has had a turn on these things, not only the little girls, but the big ones, and the even bigger ones! That's my sister on one of them! ;) They aren't powered by pedals, and you don't push them with your feet. It's hard to explain, but they are "motored" by turning the steering wheel back and forth. TOO. MUCH. FUN.

Charity, pushing my sister... rather delightfully, I might add! I love the look on her fact! And my sister looks like a bug... she's 29, by the way, not exactly a little kid! I had a turn, as did my mom, too! hahahaha!

Charity, pushing Faith, and Grace:


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Practice Sessions

It must be some new fad I've bought into about raising kids. I can't tell you how many practice sessions we've had since Blessing's arrival in our home over a year ago. When Charity joined our family, then the ghost, practice sessions hit an all time high. I wish I had video taped some of them. I mean, we practice things "normal" kids don't usually need to practice. Like, with Blessing we practiced looking at the dog without falling into the fetal position and screaming bloody murder. Really. We would stand her in the room, tell her "Let's practice". Pull a stuffed animal dog out complete with mocked growling, and ask, "what are you going to do?" and I'd hold my arms out so she'd know to come to me when she was afraid. At first she didn't get it, but eventually the game of jumping into mom's arms became something fun. I'd laugh and squeeze her, and make a big deal. Then we'd put her back in the middle of the room and call Toby. Of course it took her awhile to come to me in the real situation, but you get the idea of a practice session.

Oh, the things we've practiced. We've practiced saying, "yes, mom" with a smile rather than folded arms and pouty lips. We've practiced putting an empty plate into the sink without licking it down, first. We've practiced a low, normal toned voice rather than whining. We've practiced getting in and out of the car seat quickly. Patting gently rather than way-laying. Petting rather than kicking. Looking at who you are talking to in the eye. Telling the truth. And the list goes on and on and on.

Just a few days ago I summoned all 5 older ones to the rug, where I then told them we'd been having some trouble. I told Faith to tell me "no" when I asked her something. I said, "Faith, will you help me put these dished away?" She said, "No". And then I threw the biggest, exaggerated fit possible. Really. Got down in the floor and kicked and screamed and said phrases common to the two born of the heart babies. "It's not FAIR!!!" and so on and so on. I did a good job. ;)

Then I asked her again. Again she said "nope." And I folded my arms and pouted and whined. You get the picture? We went through that cycle several times, with me giving different, yet inappropriate responses. The giggles were fantastic. Did you know throwing a worthy fit is exhausting? I had no idea my little ones were getting so much exercise! Whew!

From there, I suggested the kids ask me for something they commonly ask for. Then I had them first give the WRONG response. Then I had them give the RIGHT response. This was hilarious to me, because each one actually asked for something that they ALWAYS ask for. Something that drives me crazy, especially when they ask at the most inopportune times. Then, each one did EXACTLY what they usually do that is wrong. Might I remind you I did not tell them what to do, just to do the wrong thing. Faith rolled her eyes. Hope looked pitifully sad. Charity whined with all the flare we usually see. Grace did some fake crying complete with real tears. And Blessing cocked that little head to the side, jumped up and down, and proclaimed, "But, Mom...." and then fell into her fit. Really funny. It proves how devious they really can be, how fake the fits are, and how they often ARE in control when I want to chalk it up to something in their past. I'm NOT saying there aren't times when rage-full fits are a result of being overwhelmed and their little bodies' way of releasing major stress, but more times than not it is something they can control... or at least should be learning to control. Any way you think about it, it was certain proof they absolutely understand their normal responses are not correct, and they are fully capable of rising to the occasion and responding appropriately.

So... go practice! (If your kids need it, like mine!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fine Arts

I began second guessing my decision to take my 11 and 8 year olds to "The Nutcracker" when one belched at supper and then hysterical laughter by all followed. One also managed to look much like a dog lapping up his food from a bowl, practically laying on the table. Forget not having elbows up there, how about entire torsos? There we sat, with friends, all dressed up, which we rarely do, and yet manners fled them. I had failed to have a lesson about concert etiquette before hand, and was realizing that maybe it wasn't such a good idea as I watched them have less than desired behavior at the dinner table. Not to mention they did not sit next to me, so I couldn't pinch them into properness. Though there may have been a kick or two under the table.

To be completely honest, I've never cared much about ballet. I understand the strength, dedication and hard work that goes into making something so incredibly hard look so beautiful and elegant. Really, I do. As a martial artist, I absolutely understand the strength it takes to hold a leg out so high for so long. And though every martial artist in the world would hate my guts and strongly disagree, I actually think it takes MORE strength to dance so gracefully than it takes to get through a form or break boards. But for whatever reason, though I completely respect and can even appreciate the art, there is not the same deep love for it that I have for the music alone. Oh, the music! It's too hard to put into words the love and adoration I have for such beauty. Even as they began warming up, I watched intently, listening to different instruments, each with it's own beautiful sound. Oh, how I missed playing, myself. I leaned over to Faith and whispered in her ear..., "I spent many an hour while you grew in my belly, playing in different bands, orchestras, and gigs like this." She asked why I stopped if I missed it so much. I understand the beauty of relinquishing something you love to focus on children and family. There just isn't time to devote to the kind of practice it takes to play on that level. But right at that moment, I had to wonder what life would be like had she not come so unexpected... my husband and I had dreams of touring, playing, and performing. And I couldn't bring myself to tell her she was the reason. At least, not like that. I was afraid she couldn't understand that though I miss it, and still dream of what might have been, she is worth every minute of anything I might have let go of.

And then, the lights dimmed and the ballet began. Faith watched intently for the first, oh, 2 minutes. She quickly faded. And though I expected her to enjoy it, her boredness (like that made up word?) was obvious. She wiggled in her seat, sighed often, and would have fallen asleep had I allowed her to lean over.

I thought my 8 year old, Hope, would fade like Faith did. I knew she would like it, but doubted her ability to really watch and enjoy the entire thing. But, oh, how wrong I was. That little one sat captured the EN. TIRE. ballet. She watched wide-eyed and softly whispered her amazement, "ooooo" she would say. Or , "oh, how beautiful". Or "Mom, did you see her?" "Mom, look at that!" "Mom, Did you see that?"

She had lots of favorite moments that she relived on the ride home. She laughed hysterically when Fritz received a spanking. She loved the life size dolls who could do amazing things with their bodies. She loved Mrs. Ginger and her children (one of which was a friend of hers who had auditioned for the part). And of course, the snowflakes were "the most beautiful thing." And lets not forget the arabian dancers, the chinese dancers, and the sugar plum fairy.

And now, she's BEGGING for ballet. And twirling ever-so-gracefully, or not, across the living room 50 times a day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Morning Routine

So the picture has absolutely nothing to do with the post. I was looking for an image (without uploading from my own camera) that would go with getting kids up in the morning. For some reason, my search words pulled this image, and I thought it was hilarious, and fit my exhausted mood. So there you go, the link between the post and the picture! ;)

I was telling a friend yesterday about our morning routine. Now, I must warn you that just a few short weeks ago our morning was NOTHING like this. At that time, we were home schoolers. We slept till 8 or so, mornings were leisure like, and it wasn't really until lunch or after that any real work was accomplished, chores/school or otherwise. The combination of choosing to put our kids into school, learning more about how to help RAD kids, and a need to affectively get everyone ready and in the car by 7:25 without spending my morning yelling and nagging, spurred my husband and I to hammer out a routine that works for us in the morning. I'm proud of how well it's gone, and thought I'd share.

First of all, I did some practice sessions with the kids. I talked, explained, posted some rules and chores, and even had the kids literally walk through the "morning" the way we expected. (Remind me to dedicate a whole post to some of the practice sessions we've had. You're sure to die laughing) Then, we started the first morning with a bang. I think one of the main keys to making this work is that we committed to not ask the kids over and over to get their things done. They don't get them done, breakfast is not served to them. I have had kids come to the table, only to be completely ignored as I spooned every one else's breakfast onto their plate. And yes, even my slightly delayed 3 year old knew what needed to be done and completed it without being told again. She screamed for awhile first, certain we'd break and remind her. And I'll even admit I wasn't sold. I wasn't convinced she understood why I was ignoring her and not putting anything on her plate. It was hard not to tell her again that her bed needed made and her shoes needed to be on her feet. You know what? After only a few minutes of ignoring, she went to her room, finished up, and came to the table with her shoes on. SUCCESS!!!! And then a little anger on my part, because that means the little toot has had me repeating myself senselessly when she really knows what she should be doing. ;) They're so much smarter than we give them credit for.

I wake them at 6:30. You'll be happy to know wake up call comes in the form of beautiful, loud singing on my part, "Rise, and Shine, and Give God the Glory, Glory!" Complete with enthusiastic clapping and ripping of covers to expose pajama'd bodies to the cold. Faith, just this morning, said with hands over her ears, "Really? I mean, really... must you? Must you do this EV.ERY. MOR. NING.?" In fact, Blessing is the only one that seems happy to see me and joins in song. I picked the right name for that one, huh?

I serve breakfast at 7. But only to children who are at the table, fully dressed with shoes on, whose beds have been made and rooms are clean. They also must have already brushed the hair and teeth. I realize the teeth thing is slightly out of order, but, I assure you there is NO WAY anyone's teeth would be brushed at all if we waited until after breakfast. Can you imagine? 5 girls gathered around one sink right about the time we should be walking out the door? Besides, nothing can be held over them as incentive if breakfast has already been served. The oldest 2 do have a couple of extra morning chores. They make sure the bathroom is back in shape, including kitty litter and sweeping around her litter box. Often, the kids are actually done before I'm done with breakfast. In that case, they each go to their "Think within yourself" spot, and do a brain gym we call strong sitting till I'm ready. I'll try to remember to explain that one a little later, too, but for now just know they are still, quiet, in one spot practicing some self control while thinking or praying. Blessing, because of the drugs she's been exposed to, has the most trouble with this part, but is getting better all the time, and poor impulse control just runs strong in her veins. I usually have her sit close to Faith, who just reminds her to sit back down every time she gets up, and that's usually enough to keep her on her spot.

Now, sounds great, doesn't it? And most mornings it really does go that well. Don't get some picture perfect idea in your head, though. This morning was one of those that just didn't go right. We still have those. I'm not even sure exactly how it went wrong this morning, but no one was strong sitting. In fact, 2 kids had oranges on the way out the door, 1 will eat at school, and I told the others we'd eat when we returned home. Blessing left with NO shoes on her feet, Charity was crying because she couldn't find her jacket, I was still in house shoes, and Hope was desperately trying to find a book she was suppose to return today. So, every morning is not that smooth... But most have been, and I'm proud of how every one is doing. Charity even helped Blessing put on her socks yesterday morning. For those of you who can't appreciate that, you should know that Charity has shown very little interest in helping anyone but herself unless she has a 2nd agenda. Blessing is neurologically challenged and socks give her the worst fits! Those seams, the feel on her feet, I'm not sure exactly what goes through her mind... but putting on socks is usually an ordeal and they must be pulled back of and put on again several times and there are often tears and throwing the socks across the room and kicking involved! ;) Which, by the way, is the beauty of the morning routine. I'm not fighting with her anymore. No socks and shoes? No breakfast. No emotion. No pleading. Just ignoring. And eventually, she gets them on herself and appears at her place to be served! And I congratulate, tell her how nice it is to see her this morning, and all is well! How 'bout them apples?

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Wordless Wednesday just really deserves a few words. We'd been threatening to put up the Christmas decorations for several weeks, not caring that it was way too early by some folks' standards. I LOVE this time of year, and the kids were begging, but we were simply just too busy till the week of Thanksgiving. That was an emotional week, as we had a little drama concerning family gatherings and a new baby girl that just so happens to have skin slightly darker than ours. (It was extended family, you can rest assured all of our parents and siblings have been nothing but smitten by the new baby) It was really not at all worthy of a response from my husband and I, though we were "barred" from a few gatherings over the course of a year. It doesn't at all affect us directly other than those gatherings that have been tradition, but we aren't bothered by that. We are, however, completely disgusted with a still living idea among "Christians" that white and black people (though, I say again, she is not black, or at least, not just black) should not live or worship together. I new that it would not be a choice that other family members would make for themselves, but I really fully believed they couldn't possibly look at a baby in desperate need of a loving family and deny that based on color, or even believe that we shouldn't, as foster parents, care for her. Apparently, when they showed up at the door, I was supposed to take a look and say, "oh, wait, she's the wrong color, take her back." ( I actually did know that she was bi-racial before she came, but you get the idea).

Anyway, again I'm chasing rabbits, but it does help you understand my frame of mind that week. It made me sick (literally, I spent much of the week nauseous) to think of this little girl's future rejection and hurt because of some people's ignorance. I'd look in her little face and my heart would break. Oh, how Satan is so skilled at attacking those things that we just slightly question about ourselves, and then suddenly confidence in who we are... and whose we are, and the very things that make us beautiful become something we hate about ourselves. My husband and I fully anticipated rejection towards ourselves, but I suppose I did not process that rejection all the way down to the little one, and what she might one day feel. I also did not consider the affect it would have on our parents. I mean, I knew they would love and accept, so I didn't blink. I'm now realizing it affects their relationships with their siblings and their immediate families. I'm not as confident as I once was.

But I can tell you what I am... and that's fully in love. Oh, how wonderful it is to hold her, to feel her warm breath against my neck as I rock and sing. She's smiling at us now, recognizing our voices, and even turning to see her foster sisters playing. Our 3 a.m. feedings are special quiet times when I get to hear what she has to say... those sweet little coos and beautiful eyes that lock on mine.

And she's not the only huge blessing in our life. As I hung those stockings across the mantel, I got really tickled. I was laughing so hard as I was trying to get them all to fit up there. My husband was laughing at me, and saying, "What in the world are you laughing at?" "Look at these!", I said. "I can't even fit them all up here! We really have too many kids, we're gonna have to hang some on the wall!" And as I stood gazing across 8 stockings, suddenly my laughing became crying. Poor Hubby. He was looking at me like I was from outer space again. I know, so completely womanish and hormonal. But really, this year has been the wildest ride EVER. We've had a total of 8 kids, 4 of them brand new to our home this year. There have been ups like never before, and downs like never before. Some days have been so hard I wanted to quit. I mean, really quit. Somebody give me a gun. Or a rope. Some days have been so full of joy and hope and laughter and blessings that I thought my heart would burst. I'll save some specifics for the end of the year review, sure to come around New Year's Eve, but this year has just been like no other in my life. And the hugeness of it all... oh, so much bigger than myself.... just hit as I stood looking at all those stockings. First I couldn't stop laughing, then I couldn't stop crying, and I'm just so completely overwhelmed with how blessed we are, the gifts we've been given, that we've survived, and not just survived, but are living in this messed up world with the joy, love, grace, and favor of our Savior.

...A Savior whose birth I'm so excited about celebrating this season! We've got some fun things coming soon.... I'm taking the big girls to see the Nutcracker Saturday. We're having a big "Happy Birthday" party for Jesus with a couple of other families we're great friends with. All my kids will be in a Christmas pageant (actually, 2) this year. And we'll be filling a stocking for Jesus as well! So... what are you doing for Jesus's birthday this year?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Don't Wear Panty Hose

Well, there was a funeral about 3 years ago....

But Grace is only 4, and I suppose she doesn't remember that one time. Grace needed to see the doctor, which I don't typically do very quickly with my born of the body babies. In fact, I have a reputation with my doctor. The born of the heart babies are rushed in for the simplest things. It's not favoritism, more like accountability. As a foster parent, I can't afford for something simple to become major, and be accused of not caring for them properly. My own children? Oh, they'll live. And that must really be in question if I'm taking one of them to see a doctor. Although I did recently take Hope for a wart the size of Mt. Rushmore even though I knew it wasn't life threatening. However, she had been hobbling for a few weeks because the thing was right smack in the middle of her tender little foot. My natural remedies seemed to only be encouraging more growth, so I gave in. I also took her in 3 weeks after swallowing a large metal ball when she set off a metal detector, too. I figured 3 weeks in was a little long. ;) Another post for another day....

Anyway, the real story is that Grace's throat looked horrible, and she had run fever for 3 days with no sign of improvement. So I hauled her with the rest of my crew to see Dr. S. Now Grace is used to seeing Dr. S, after all she delivered her and has cared for her since. Not only that, but between 6 kids, 2 newborns that needed often check-ups, and Grace thinks Dr. S is her best friend. We were only passing Dr. S. in the hall while she was working with SOMEONE ELSE when Grace started shouting her complaints. "My throat is sore, Dr. S., and my ears have cereal and boogers in them, and I have a ganglion cyst (which actually disappeared, but she still tells everyone she has one), and are YOU gonna take my throat out?" There was some laughing from doctor and nurses alike as I tried to shush her and explain she would get her time in a few minutes. I also told her that Dr. S. would not have to take her throat out, but the frog in there had to go, and if she didn't hush that I might ask her to take out the tongue as well. She replied that THAT was a "no good idea" because she needed her tongue to taste sucker she was sure to get as she left the office for being a good girl. Then she decided maybe it WAS a good idea after all because she couldn't taste broccoli or get in trouble for sticking her tongue out. And then I pulled my hair out because this kid can't stop talking!

Eventually Dr. S. stepped into our room and looked at Grace's throat and ears and the spot where the ganglion cyst used to be. She aims to please. ;) Then, she sat on her stool and began talking to me. I could see the inquisitive look on Grace's face, as she sat across the room from the Doctor, eyeing her legs. As the Doctor and I talked, she slowly, stealthily, creeped over beside the doctor. She then promptly sat down on the floor right beside her stool. I knew what she was about to do, but Dr. was still talking, and well, it's rude to interrupt. Sure enough Grace's hand slowly reached for Dr. S's leg. You see, she had on panty hose. Grace had quit looking at her leg, and was watching Dr. S's face intently as she carefully, slowly reached forward and touched her leg. Grace then proceeded to rub her little hand up and down Dr. S's calf, which I'm sure was silky smooth and a nice feel to this little 4 year old's mind. I honestly can't tell you Dr. S's initial response, I was too busy trying resist the uncontrollable urge to bust into a fit of laughter and keep my composure. Doctor did eventually look down at Grace, right about the time she quit innocently rubbing her leg, and proceeded to actually pinch the panty hose, pull them away from Dr. S's leg, and then let go. They snapped back into place, and Grace was delighted. "What ARE those?" she said, wide-eyed and full of wonder. Completely unaware she was being ever-so-inappropriate, and extremely excited about this new find, her eyes and face said it all. She would definitely need to ask Santa for a pair of those! I'm so thankful our doctor is also a mother herself. She was only amused and did not press any kind of charges for sexual harassment.

And sure enough, in the van on the way home, she piped up, "Mom, why don't you wear those nice things?" Because they wouldn't look right under my jeans, darling. Cleaning poopie diapers and mixing juice cups and refereeing fights over puzzle pieces just doesn't fit with panty hose wearing outfits. The time will come..... and then I"ll miss these days.