Friday, August 31, 2007

This time last year....

Today 16 months old
8/31/2006 4 months

This morning one of the moms from our travel group (10 families in all) posted to our yahoo group that it was on this day last year that our babies' referral pictures were taken. We didn't see those photos until January 3, 2007 but they were taken on August 31, 2006 in preparation for them being matched with a family.

I thought it would be interesting to take Piper's picture today and put it side by side with her picture from one year ago. Looking at these photos brings up so many emotions and thoughts. I look at her a year ago and just want to take that little baby and hold her and love on her. We have only 4 pictures of her from her first 10 months of life, 4 pictures. Before we adopted her, I couldn't have imagined how much I would want more clues as to her life before us. I would love to have more pictures, some piece of clothing, something.

It's interesting to think back to this time last year. We had just gotten Hunter settled into Kindergarten and Ella in a new preschool. On the other side of the world, Our Piper Grace, Xiu Fu Zhu, was getting her picture taken, the first glimpse we would get of her. I think back to all of the prayers we prayed for her, not knowing what a wonderful little blessing God had in store for us.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just because I care...

I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she was telling me how for the first time in a very long time, she and my dad felt a little bit 'normal'. He is finished with radiation , is on a 3 week break from chemo, and has gotten the OK from the doctor to drive. So that day, he'd been able to go a few places on his own - to the store, stopped by to see a friend, etc.. Meanwhile my mom went to lunch with a friend. She said it was good to have a day that wasn't all about cancer.

After we got off the phone, the wheels of my brain began to turn (you could have heard it had you been within 5 miles). You know, I think I could help them out with this feeling normal thing. I mean, what would feel more normal than me offering up one of my children up for an overnighter?

So I set out to 'bless their socks off', and offered to have Ella spend the night tonight. Yes, it's a sacrifice on my part, but you know, that's just what family is for in a time like this. And, I am caring like that.

Ella is SO! EXCITED! because her Grandma likes to MAKE! STUFF! and her Papa can FIX! ANY! PROBLEM!!

Yes, I am a lot like Mother Theresa. When I am not 'blessing' others, I am actually saving lives. Well, one life really. This one 16 month old life bent on seriously harming herself ALL DAY LONG. I know I have used up my lifetime quota of capital letters in this one post, but this is serious business. I think we are making progress though, at least now Piper shakes her head 'no-no' as she is climbing on the table.

It's a start.

I am absolutely not smiling from ear to ear as I pack Ella's overnight bag.

The family Time Keeper goes to 1st grade


My world changed the day Hunter learned to tell time. Before that, he would say, "Mommy are we going to be late?"


"No, we have plenty of time, we're fine", as I ran around barking out orders and throwing anything that stood in my way.


He was 5 minutes late ONE DAY last year and that was it, the days of simply trusting me were over. I swear he learned to tell time the next day.


So, Friday afternoon we went to Meet the Teacher at his school and met Mrs. Smith. She has that sweet look about her and I immediately felt I would like her.


I just know we had told Hunter at least 150 times that school started on MONDAY, after the weekend. However, at 5:30 AM on SATURDAY MORNING he was at my bedside, worried we were going to be late for school. "Oh sweetheart, you are 48 HOURS EARLY, even I can get us ready by then!"


We just completed our 4th morning of getting him to school, and though we've made it, we've cut it close a few times and I know I will be paying for that until at least Christmas. This morning I found myself standing at the coffee pot, mentally going through what I needed to do. I needed to get dressed and make Hunter's lunch. I started getting out the peanut butter, but caught myself having this thought: "If Hunter comes down here and sees that I'm not dressed, he's going to be on my case for the rest of the morning. I'll get dressed first and that will make him think I'm further along than I really am."


It totally worked, ya'll. When he came down and saw me making his lunch, already dressed, he took a deep breath, smiled and looked at the clock. Instead of the constant "T minus 5 minutes", he said "just holler when you're ready, mommy".
It's going to be a good day, indeed. I am still smarter than a first grader.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What a day!





2 years ago on this date, we had finally completed all of our paperwork to send to China. Our "paper chase", as it is called, had many ups and downs and twists and turns, and we were sooooo relieved that we'd finally had every paper reviewed, stamped, notarized, certified and authenticated. Our paper chase lasted about 8 months or so, just about twice as long as we'd anticipated. When our dossier (mountain of papers) left for China on August 26, 2005 the wait time to receive a referral was a steady, predictable 6 months. We started planning for our March 2006 referral, thinking we'd travel at the beginning of May 2006.


As the months unfolded, it became increasingly evident China had different plans for the process, which they began implementing about the time we sent in our dossier. Of course, they don't actually communicate these plans with anyone. It's like a mystery in which you a get a small piece of the puzzle each month when referrals come in.


March 2006 came and went, and we were still very far back in the line of parents waiting for their referral (pictures and info. on the baby you've been matched with). I've written before about some of the emotions and struggles the wait held for us, so I won't go into it all here, but just say it was very difficult at times. By December of 2006 some of our paperwork began to expire and we had to make the choice to redo it to stay in the process. OK, tears now rolling, thinking we could have made a different choice.

We did redo our paperwork, and on January 3, 2007 we saw Piper Grace's picture for the first time. And on February 26, 2007 we held her for the first time - exactly 6 months ago. I really can't believe it's only been 6 months. I feel like I have always known her and loved her. I truly believe that during all those months of waiting, God was growing her not below my heart, but in it, as the poem says.

Happy 6 months home, sweet girl, and also to your 9 buddies from Xiushan who have traveled the same road home as you!
In another family milestone, Scott turned 40 yesterday! He played golf in the morning and we had a family party for him last night. 40, wow, honey you just get better every year - can't wait to see what you're like at 80! I kind of like being married to a 40 year old, makes me feel so grown up, and yet WAY younger than he is, you know, 3 years is A LOT younger.
And tomorrow - Hunter's first day of school - 1st grade! It is milestone crazy over here. We met his teacher, let's call her Mrs. Smith, on Friday. I so love her already!
God is good, my friends.

Friday, August 24, 2007












To Piper Grace:

I read this poem on the Duckworth's site earlier, posted by a woman who was adopted and whose mom had printed it in her baby book. I could have written this myself (had I had the talent, of course).


Not flesh of my flesh

Nor bone of my bone,

But still miraculously

My own.

Never forget

For a single minute:

You didn't grow under my heart

But in it.



(anonymous)
I am finally convinced that it's time for me to start memorizing some scripture. I am embarrassed to say that I really haven't ever put a lot of time or effort into it, because, well it's hard!

So far I've memorized one verse, but it's a long verse! Already it is helping me keep my joy in God fresh throughout the day.

I think the hardest thing about having small kids is keeping that flame for Christ alive throughout the day while I'm wiping bottoms and pulling Piper off of the table for 10th time. The other day I listened while a man asked John Piper how to keep our joy in Christ during the mundane tasks of the day. One of the most important, he thought, was to have 4-6 verses in the background of your mind that you can "pull up" at any time, promises from God, that are meaningful to you. He mentioned Isaiah 41:10 as being one of his. It's always been one of my favorite as well, so I decided it would be a good place to start.

Here it is (from memory of course!)

Isaiah 41:10
"so, do not fear, for I am with you
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."


So, yesterday, I was talking to my mom on the phone, planning Scott's bday. Piper was in the bathtub playing and I was sitting in the bathroom with her, where I could see her head, but not the water. Something told me to stand up and see what she was playing with. Well, my friends, it was not pretty, not pretty at all. How do I say this delicately? My sweet beautiful girl was playing in her own poo poo. Sorry, I know it's icky, but there it was.

What to do, what to do?
1. Get off the phone
2. Hold child under the arms and place her in the shower while she screams
3. Do your very best to wash her without touching any of the contaminated areas
4. Realize that is impossible
5. Fight the temptation to call your husband and somehow blame it on him
6. Once child is decontaminated, take a deep breath and remember that you have a bible verse, a promise from God, one verse, but one verse more than you had yesterday!
7. Remind God that He promised to strengthen you and help you b/c Lord knows, you NEED strength and help at this point
8. Survey contents of the bathtub
9. Decide that none of those plastic toys are worth what it would take to ever use them again
10. Cover as much of your body with plastic as possible and go to work.
11. Thank God that He protected the said child while she was on the kitchen table while you were scrubbing down the tub for the 5th time, just to be sure

It sounds weird, but recalling that promise really did help me in that moment. And this morning - I was so excited, I still remember the verse!

I was feeling pretty good about that until I watched this, the cutest little girl. EVER. Well, except for mine of course.
Click here:


http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=9e7c4b40cf5a13cea6ca

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And you thought I was kidding about the kitchen table...


Orange, Mama?

Oh, it's a special season, indeed.

Another adoption miracle

For almost 2 years I have followed the website of a little boy named Jacob Duckworth in Florida (along with hundreds of thousands of others). His mom wrote such heartfelt, honest, uplifting posts about Jacob's long battle with cancer. He went to heaven over a year ago and I cried, though I'd never met him. He was one of triplets who are about the same age as my Hunter (7). About 9 months before he died, the doctors told his family the end was very near and that whoever wanted to see him should do so right away. Their family flew in and gathered around him, still praying for a miracle. Well, they got one, as people from all over the world prayed for him. He made a remarkable recovery and ended up coming out of the hospital and starting school. Most of his last 9 months were healthy, happy times for his family. They are a truly special family, and I am so happy for them as they are in Guatemala adopting a beautiful baby girl right now. She is so adorable and I can just imagine the joy they are feeling right now. Go here now, and be blessed!

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils, sound of backpacks zipping shut, mamas with a tear in one eye and a gleam in the other...must be August!

Just in case there is someone out there checking on us, wondering if we're still alive, we are! This is always a very full time for us: school starting, Scott's bday, planning Ella's Bday, kids consignment sale to get ready for. And now, add in little miss Piper Grace. Little Miss Piper Grace with a new and improved ability to climb and reach and discover. Just trying to keep Piper off of the kitchen table is proving to be a part time job.
School starts next week - Hunter in 1st grade, Ella in one more year of PreK. They are both excited for it to start. Mama is excited too. Before I had Hunter, I taught elementary school for 7 years and I love the excitement of the start of a new school year. As a mama, I get to participate in all the fun, and also look forward to a bit of time to complete a thought or two.
Hopefully, I can catch up on a little blog reading and posting.

While you're waiting for those awe inspiring, mediocre posts, you can go visit one of my favorite blogs here. Visiting Sandy Coughlin's site is like taking a little retreat. I always feel refreshed after reading her posts and seeing the beauty of the place she calls home. Her husband is a writer and I am about to order his new book, No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps. I have come away from her site with fresh, encouraging ideas time and time again. I may as well say goodbye now to those who will click on that link, for once you go there, you won't be back!

Happy last week of summer!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ummm...

Someone asked me a question in the comments a while back. I wanted you to know that I am not ignoring you and I have not forgotten, just still mulling over an answer. It was a question about faith, and it really got me thinking. I am still thinking and will post a response soon, still waiting on some Divine inspiration I suppose!

Psalm 90:14

"Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love, that I may rejoice and be glad in you all my days." Psalm 90:14
I usually change 'days' to 'day', because I figure I need to concentrate on today, and 'day' will turn into 'days' on its own.
Or from The Message Psalm 90:14
"Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we'll skip and dance all the day long."
When all is as it should be, I start the day with the the things in the picture above, oh, and a hot cup of coffee.
My journals are full of my prayers, my deepest inmost thoughts and concerns, what I'm learning at the moment, quotes from books I'm reading, and verses from the bible. Something about the process of writing helps me sort through the confusion that is my mind most of the time. God uses that process time and time again to lead me back to the truth.
Every so often I go and reread parts of my journal. Every time I do this, my faith is renewed as I see how God is weaving together the story of our lives in a way that begins to make sense out of things that at one time looked hopeless or meaningless.
One thing journaling has taught me is to pour out my concerns before the Lord, and then wait and watch. Wait - with expectation. Trust, in faith, that He does hear me and will act, most likely in a surprising way.
Just before we left for China, I got a new journal, the one pictured above. This morning I noticed that it's almost filled up, so I went back and read the beginning. The first entry was written the morning we arrived in China. It took me back to that place. What an adventure! I'd already forgotten about some of the details I wrote about.
One of my favorite entries of that time is one of the simplest:
Thurs. 3/1/07 1:30 p.m. China time
PG has been with us since Mon. at 1:30 p.m. - I love her more than I could have imagined. She is so ours!!!
Since we've been with Piper, I've been writing on the blog instead of this journal.
Simply put:
China...amazing
Piper...beyond our wildest dreams
Thank. You. Lord. -
You are amazing and have blown my concept of you to smithereens!!!
If you could read the 2 years of journals before this entry, you would see that every word of that simple entry is packed with meaning. Sometimes the words "Thank. You. Lord." just say it all. In that moment I was thanking Him for every step that led us to that place. Every step - the exciting ones, the sweet ones, but also - the agonizing, fear filled, discouraging, overwhelming, heartbreaking steps. In that moment each one of those steps became precious to me, as I got a glimpse of how He redeems. How He works all things together for good. All things. This is something I too easily forget.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fashion Friday: Must haves for the fashion forward this Fall

Snake skin belt, this one courtesy of a 7 year old designer extraordinaire
Totally worth the extra bulk
And for that special evening out, pure glamour
Must have accessory - Platex bottle with drop in liners
Gymboree and Baby Gap are soooo last year

My kids are back from vacation!

Rolling hills out the front, woods in the back


Lots of trails to hike
cousins
my Brother in law
He used to read this blog. He's probably too busy climbing trees, I mean working, to read it now.



These pictures are from last year, when I went with them.

I couldn't post this before, but now that they've made it home, I can reveal that Scott, H, and E just returned from a 7 day adventure to paradise, otherwise known as grandparents house in God's country - Wisconsin! We like to go in the summer when we are usually melting at home. The cool air of the evening and morning is heavenly in the middle of the summer. This year we were waiting to see how my dad was doing, and sometime during his 33 day hospital stay, we decided for S to take the older kids and just go before the summer got away from us. Other than one small panic attack on my part the day before they left, it all went great. They made all of their 4 flights without incident and had the most wonderful time with Mama L. and Papa R..
A typical phone conversation with Ella:
"Mommy, I got to go to a REAL wedding, and mommy, I got to see the bride - UP CLOSE!!!!!!!
Gotta go, mommy, we're at Mike's house now and we're going to sit in the HOT TUB! BYE!!!"

Hunter just wanted me to tell him what Piper was doing at all times. "Well, pretty much what she was doing the last 1,000 times you have asked me - you know, toddling around, opening every blessed drawer or door in our house."

The kids say their favorite part was "just being there, with Mama L. and Papa R.". One day, while on a hike up in the woods, Papa R. took off his hat and they filled it with blackberries that they picked as they walked. Mama L. and Ella used them to bake a blackberry pie. I asked Ella what she thought of the pie. Ella: "Picking blackberries - very good, eating blackberries - not so good!".

Hunter is our nature nut, and for him, being there is pure heaven. I think it is his favorite place on earth.

They got home on Wednesday with, get this, a suitcase full of CLEAN CLOTHES! I could kiss my mother in law right now!

More on what Piper and I did later.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Good stuff

I came across this post this morning that reflects so many of the thoughts that my husband and I have discussed over the past few years.
http://pioneerparenting.blogspot.com/search/label/fishbowl%20parenting

If you are a Christian parent, go read the article and the comments that followed, I promise it will get you thinking as it did me.
Here are a few quotes to get you interested:


"I've been stirred by an analogy about church that seems to fit with my current thoughts about parenting. I'm ruminating on what I call the "cult of protectionism" in our parenting. It seems it has become the job of every "perfect" parent to protect their children from every single evil thing in the world. Granted, it is our job to provide a safe home for our children. We should be wary of strangers. We should teach our children how to navigate this world. Of course. But sometimes I see parents parenting solely out of fear. They keep their children away from negative influences their entire lives, including their teenage years, because they're afraid their kids will be unduly influenced.So, the analogy and the stats are this. Apparently, there's a stat that 70% (ish) of kids who grow up in a Christian home stray from the faith when they hit college. Why? Because (in part) they've lived in an ..."

and

"Yeah, it's safer in that fishbowl, but is it serving our children? There is a place when our children are young, to protect them. But as they grow older, it is imperative we begin to introduce them to the real sea world out there. I know this is probably not a popular opinion. But I can say this: pioneer parents tend to swing to the other pendulum when raising their kids. If they grew up in a permissive home, they move toward a more controlling home and visa versa. We so long to see our children have the safety of a Christian home. But we need not aim too shortsightedly. Think of the long haul. Think of your children interacting with the world. And prepare them now. Teach them to swim in this crazy world. Maybe part of that teaching involves personal risk.
I wonder how many of us ALSO prefer to live insulated, safe lives in the fishbowl."

That last sentence really hit home with me. It's something that I definitely have a bent toward, and something that I have felt God leading me away from the past couple of years, though it definitely calls my name and beckons me to a world that feels safe and secure. Several years ago, I read through the gospels(Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) with fresh eyes, wanting to really see Jesus as the disciples did. It was a life changing experience for me. I was already a Christian, but the Jesus I found was so much more than I'd known before. He was strong, beautiful, focused, fearless, bold, the ultimate risk taker, and he called his followers to do the same. He turned the world system as they knew it upside down. Was I allowing Him to do the same in my life? Were we showing our kids to love Jesus in a radical way? Or were we teaching them to love safety and comfort and sameness above all else. I love the idea of keeping my kids safe, and pray for their safety all the time. At the same time, I want them to experience taking risks as God leads them and to see their parents doing the same.
God used Piper's adoption in a profound way in this regard. Pursuing her adoption meant risk. Everything in my nature fights risk taking. It was through that entire experience that I had to rely on God, pray earnestly, and trust. Just the thought of flying to the other other side of the world and leaving our kids home caused my stomach to turn. There were times when fear gripped me, and I had to fight to rest in Jesus and His strength and power. There were so many facets of the whole process that were completely out of my control. As it turned out, our time in China and adopting Piper were among the most exciting, wonderful times in my life. It was like God opened the door to whole new world for me. I felt Him say "Look what's out here, look what I am doing. I want you to be a part of this." Now I feel like that was just the beginning for us. I can't wait to see how God works through our family.
For some reason, I am bent toward finding my joy(and security) in comfort and safety and sameness. But those things never deliver.

It brings to mind this quote by Tim Keller on Idolatry in a Postmodern Culture:

"Sin isn't only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry."

And just in case you are still reading, here's another great post on the topic called, Shelter is not a place:

http://raisingfive.blogspot.com/2006/08/shelter-is-not-place.html#links

Saturday, August 04, 2007

It's a cry'n shame, I tell you

We don't really know the people who live directly behind us. I believe they both work because, you know, THEY ARE NEVER HOME, ever. We are good friends with our next door neighbors, but have never really hit it off with the ones behind us, I guess we'd have to, you know, see them first. Here's where the story gets sad. They had a gorgeous pool and outdoor kitchen area built this spring. It's been completed since April. I watched it go in, as I am home, just about ALL THE TIME. From our upstairs window I can see most of it. They had 4 palm trees planted, I can hear the sound of the waterfall from our backyard, but I have never once, no not once, seen or heard anyone in the pool, EVER. I saw the man of the family in the backyard ONE time back in April, hosing down the new stone patio, while me, my mom, and sister-in-law were "taking a walk" right by their iron fence, right after the pool went in. That's it. It is a beautiful, hot, sunny Saturday here - what could they be doing??? It's just not right. I do realize I've become semi-obsessed, but it's just 25 levels of wrong to not use a pool that gorgeous. It's August, people, if not now, when?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Miracle of the Moment

I triple love the words to this new song by my buddy, Steven Curtis Chapman.

http://www.stevencurtischapman.com/popplayer.htm

My favorite verses:

This is the only moment
we can do anything about
And if it brings you tears,
then taste them as they fall
And let them soften your heart
And if it brings you laughter,
then throw your head back and
Let it go, let it go, let itgo....

Quilt Update

Julie asked in the comments about Piper's Good Wishes Quilt. It was funny b/c my mom and I had just discussed it. The quilt squares were a wonderful surprise for Piper at her baby shower thrown by my buddies at the end of April. My mom's friend is going to put all of them together into a quilt for Piper. Each square came with a hope or a bible verse for Piper written by the person who gave her that fabric square. My mom has also received some in the mail from people who were not able to come to the shower. I have not counted how many we have. The week after the shower was the week we found out that my dad has cancer. At that point, life took on a life of it's own and we have not had the quilt made yet. So, if anyone out there wants to send her a square, leave it in the comments and I will send the info. via email to you.
I really want to incorporate some material from her time in China into the quilt. The only material we have was what she was wearing on the day we met her. I feel weird about cutting a square out. Do I put it in the quilt or leave it in tact?
I love the thought of her being wrapped in the love that the quilt represents. I love the thought of her wrapping her own child in the quilt someday.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On the glory of God in nature, and pretzel stick families




Ella's version of our family:
That's Scott, me, Ella, Hunter, and itty bitty Piper.

It was unusually nice out the other morning, so the kids and I went out and laid on a giant beach towel and watched the clouds roll by. We talked about how creative God must be to make such a beautiful sky. I asked them what we could learn about God by looking at the sky. Hunter said, "I see how great and BIG He is." Ella said, " I see how he likes fluffy things." At about that point, Ella decided it was time to make a pretzel family. Hunter and I laid there for a while longer and I was amazed at how just stopping and looking at the beauty above, made my joy in God richer that morning.
I decided to get my latest John Piper book that we are reading and bring it outside to read while the kids played in the sandbox. I opened it up to the page I was on, read about half a page and came to this reference:
Psalm 19:1-4
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

Whoa!
My dad could sure use some prayer this week as he has started back on chemo and radiation and is concerned about his body's ability to handle it. He has lost quite a bit of weight since he went into the hospital on July 1st. He is scheduled to go home tomorrow (Friday). He has made amazing progress with regards to the stroke. I really never thought he'd have the kind of mobility that he has now. I am so grateful that God seems to still have plans for my dad and is showing us glimpses of healing. He made quite an impression with the nurses on the floor he was originally on, and when the charge nurse from that floor came on Sunday to administer the chemo, she was amazed at his progress. She seemed to really get a kick out of my dad, and it was sweet to see how excited she was to see him doing better.
Thank you to every person who has been a part of that healing with your prayers, thank you.

Ice, Ice, baby


She's an Aggie already!

"Have you seen my new teeth?"

It's hot today, at least 275 degrees (can someone please tell me where to find the degrees symbol on the keyboard???). We came in from being outside and instead of putting regular 'ol water in Piper's sippy cup, I added some ICE. Well, for this 15 month old, it was heaven on earth, I tell you. She was so happy and amazed, and I can't help from feeling all puffed up that I was the one who, you know, put the ice in the cup.