Thursday, December 15, 2011

LOA

Yesterday, at a particularly busy moment of the day, I received an email from our adoption agency that our LOA had arrived. This is two weeks earlier than we had predicted. This particular step in the process is very time sensitive. The letter is overnighted to us, and we must overnight it back the same day. We write one simple line, "We accept Pu Min Sheng," and sign our names. Such simplicity, and yet I want to write a thousand adverbs in front of accept, gratefully, joyfully, unhesitatingly, yet even the addition of a slew of those adverbs couldn't capture what we feel right now. We just want to bring this little boy home.

Now the paperwork picks up and we begin counting down until David will be able to travel to pick up our son. We still have 10+ weeks, but it is coming together. It was hard not to hang a stocking for him, hard to think of him so far away these holidays, hard to know he will spend Christmas and his first birthday in an orphanage. Still, we pray. We give him the only gift we can right now, prayers. We are given an opportunity to poignantly experience this season of joyful anticipation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

3 Years Ago

This true gift from God was placed in my arms. What a blessing she truly is.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful

Last year at this time as we celebrated Thanksgiving and began Advent and Christmas preparations, we thought we were safe. Safe because we were over our quota, we had too many children. Even if we wanted to bring home another little child, we wouldn't be able to do so. That made things easy for us. Growing our family from three children to six in such a short time had taken its toll on me. I was struggling to figure it all out and there was a comfort to knowing we couldn't adopt again even if we wanted to. We put the idea of another adoption out of our minds. Somehow that lent a selfishness to our family.

Closer to Christmas I began reading a book that talked of orphanage conditions in that far off country. It was a book I only read because I was certain we couldn't adopt again. I read the book, and I wept. I wept for the children in that orphanage. I wept for my beautiful son and daughter who had most likely experienced some of what was detailed in that book. Little Juju weighed barely four pounds when she was found on the side of the road the day she was born. Poor Joseph's cleft lip and palate prevented him from getting adequate nutrition. My heart went out for them and those like them who were cold and hungry.

I thought then of my own stress. I was worried about pulling off a Currier and Ives, picture perfect holiday. Beautiful decorations, new presents, Christmas dresses, new jammies for perfect Christmas morning pictures, a cleaner home, dozens of cookies that would make Martha Stewart proud. I lost sight of what stress really was. Each night I was laying my head on a fancy silk fiber pillow, in a temperature controlled house, snuggled into a down comforter with an amazing warmth rating. While I struggled with preparing and cleaning meals, there was never a worry there wouldn't be a meal. Not just any meal either, we eat like kings; turkeys, stuffing, pies, much more than we need. We have fancy appliances to prepare meals, countless pretty dishes and gadgets. We have closets of clothes, and more in bins in the basement waiting for a child to reach the right size, and toys everywhere I turn.

These aren't even the important things. I have an amazing husband, I have six beautiful children who daily reflect the blessings of God. I'm never, sometimes overwhelmingly never, alone. I am so incredibly blessed and loved. We have an absolutely amazing extended family. Parents who make the most amazing grandparents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, so many people who love us. We have wonderful friends, a beautiful parish community, a fantastic homeschool group. So many people who enrich our lives in so many ways.

Stress? Really? These children might not survive the cold winter. No fancy down comforters, no thermostats, little food, little clothing, and most importantly little love.  How could I be so blessed and yet think I was stressed?

Then right before Christmas last year we received an email that changed everything. It was an irrelevant message that started us asking questions, and then eventually it turned our world upside down. We could indeed adopt again....

This year I am so incredibly thankful for that privilege, again. Thankful for the reminder of the gifts we are given. Thankful for the many blessings little Peter will bring to our family. Thankful for the perspective he gives me as we head into another holiday season. No gift means as much to us as bringing him home.

Please pray for him. We long to have him here with us this Christmas, but know we still have months to wait. We want so much to lavish him with food, warmth and the love he so much needs. He still has a few cold months in a place with no family, no warm holiday mornings. All we can offer him right now is our prayers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving


Psalm 100
A Psalm of David

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord is God!
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tidbits

Dh has had to be into work early all this week, and he has been working pretty late. This means long days for everyone... especially me. Luckily these little ones make me laugh.

On the way home from our Children's Holy Hour, I told Catie if she couldn't do as I asked she'd have to write "I will be obedient" fifty times. Being the demanding mom I am, she would even have to look in the dictionary to figure out how to spell obedient. She claims she already knows how to spell it and begins rattling off letters, but is clearly getting it wrong. Juju interrupts her and says nuh-uh that's not how you spell it, it's E-I-E-I-O, in her all-knowing tone of voice.

During the Hour of Mercy, I was roped into holding a large banner as the little kids (1st grade and younger) processed around the hall singing a Litany of the Saints. In the hustle and bustle I lost track of little Gabe. I found him later in the line of children processing as well as the older children, hands folded and singing along, "Pray for us." He followed the line all the way to the sanctuary, hands folded, quietly in line. My heart melted.

The boys have taken advantage of the long days and have been even more mischievous, but they know how to score points with Mom. While scavenging the cupboards and counters, they overlooked the multitude of leftover Halloween candy and sequestered themselves in the laundry room with an entire container of grape tomatoes. At first I thought to myself how can I be upset about them eating tomatoes and not candy? Then I had to clean the mess on the rug in the laundry room. I am still finding random tomato seeds. I also had to change the multitude of diapers that followed... OY!

In the midst of all this, I have had two or three vivid reminders that the time we have with our children is shorter than we think. Right now the days seem long, I fall into bed exhausted and I wake too early still tired. My patience is thin, and the general noise level here seems decibels too high. Still, how blessed I am to have these children, to have another day with them, to have the comforts and opportunities we are given each day. They bring more joy than fatigue. I don't want to miss these moments one day, I want to enjoy them today.


The pictures are totally random and from a walk in a downtown park almost a month ago... I just can't seem to keep up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Saints Day Round Up

Each year our parish hosts an All Saints Day party for the kids. This has been a favorite of my girls for years. Each year there are games, a parade, a pinata, crafts, door prizes, and more. The highlight, however, is when our resident priests try to guess the saints. This year Hannah decided to go with an easy guess because she just wanted to put together the costume. Here she is as Our Lady of Lourdes, yellow roses on her feet. She made a beautiful Mary.

Catie was all about stumping the priests... and she did. She went as St. Margaret d'Youville. She really impressed me though as she took the initiative to do a little research on this saint. She created a little card with her own hints to give the priest with things like, the first canonized saint of Canada and patroness of widows, loss of children, and more. 

This was my first attempt at a saint costume many years ago, we seem to keep coming back to it. Here little Sophia makes a beautiful St. Therese of Lisieux. She too enjoyed hearing more about this wonderful saint.

Juju made a beautiful Mother Theresa in one of my favorite costumes to make. It was so easy, a pillowcase, a leftover scrap from Our Lady of Lourdes, and blue painters tape. Took me 20 minutes and it was a hit. 

The boys were more interested in the games and the pizza and the cake, and still a little young for saint costumes, but I am already planning for the boy saints :)

Our Saints Day festivities were rounded out with pumpkin carving.
Always chaotic with six kids!! (you can even see little Gabe in the background eating raw pumpkin, eewww!)

And of course Trick-or-Treating...
Here the boys joined in.
Joseph went as Thomas (again), but this year he added a few train sound effects.

Little Gabe was so excited about his "airplane" costume. I bought these boy costumes almost 10 years ago when Hannah was a baby hoping that a boy would come along. I certainly didn't think then that it would take so long. For many years, I thought these little costumes would be relegated to the basement dress-up bin. Now almost a decade later they were the perfect little costumes for my boys. 

I also went out and bought cute (and warm) butterfly costumes for Sophia and Juliana, and they love them. They have worn them around the house and wanted to wear them out with Mom. However, when the time came, they both wanted to wear their saint costumes rather than butterflies.
How could I argue that with these Saints in the making?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My New Homeschooling Motto

Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love.
Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.
 -- St. John Kanty

Clues

If you find yourself in one of those moments where things are just too quiet...

Chances are you're going to find a mess like this in your living room...

Then you might find yourself in another moment of panic when you can't find the baby -- anywhere!

Just remember to stay calm, remember the alarm hasn't beeped warning of an escapee, no one is crying, swear he was just at your side seconds ago, follow the clues...


And you'll find him

Friday, October 14, 2011

Opening Pandora's Box

Have you tried Pandora?

We've been big fans here for a little over a year. We have a Veggietales Station, a Wheels on the Bus Station, Jim Croce and Michael Buble for Mom, and George Winston and others (which will remain nameless) for Dad. We can run it through our TV using this wonderful device, and so we often play it during chore time.

A few months ago I started singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to one of the girls after a long day of Math because, yes, I am just that cheesy. My radio dial is on one of two stations ESPN or (according to Sophia) "Catholic ESPN" known to most as EWTN. Since we don't listen to most music stations, my girls are pretty sheltered and had never heard such a song. Being the dork I am, I loaded up a new Pandora station... the Don't Worry Be Happy station which introduced my girls to such classics as Deo, Daylight come and me wan go home... (that can't be the title of the song just think Bettlejuice-- and the dorkiness snowballs), and other wonderful, mostly stadium rock type songs.


While listening one afternoon, I was caught up in cleaning and chores running all over the house. It soon became clear I was not paying enough attention to the music blaring through the living room when I walk downstairs to hear "Son of a Preacher Man" playing on our surround sound. While it has horrible lyrics, it apparently has quite a catchy tune. I quietly turned it off, not wanting to make a scene or call the girls attention to it. It soon became apparent I had not succeeded. Little (5 year old) Sophia hummed that tune for a few days.

Then yesterday she was belting out strains of "Son of a PIZZA man" all afternoon. That is the only line she remembers, but all afternoon she sang of this famed pizza man. I am not sure if it was more entertaining or horrifying. Yes, this clinches my Mother of the Year Award.


After awhile Catie picks up on the little ditty and starts to question it. I hear the following conversation going on across the house:

Catie: I don't think those are the words to that song.
Sophia: Yes they are! (I can just see the look on her face even though she is out of sight. She is giving her sister the most matter of fact look, probably with one hand on her hip.)
Catie: (Thinking about it for a moment more) No, I don't think anyone would write a song about a pizza man. Go ask Mom.

I know it's coming. I do all I can to prepare myself. A few minutes later this sweet, little girl with a pink flowered headband freckles on her face greets me in the kitchen. "Mom," she says, "Is this song really about a PIZZA man?"
My response?

"Yes, sweetie. Of course it is." Because, really, I'm just not going there with a five-year old.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Listening

Last week Joseph and Sophia had a check-up with the ENT. Both of them have ear tubes and have to be evaluated every six months. We completely forgot the first appointment, things have been like that lately but that's another post. I've been interviewing for some help. We had a wonderful helper last year and the kids miss her, and I miss her more. Thankfully our new helper starts this week.

Since I was so busy, dh had to take them to the appointment. I am so appreciative that he can occasionally do this. He came home with just enough time to scoop the two into the car and then sped off. He didn't want to be late to our make-up appointment after we had already completely forgot the first. As a result of the rush, we didn't talk about any potential issues.

As they were in the waiting room he decides to take matters in his own hands and asks Sophia if she feels her hearing is better now that she has the tubes. She thinks about it for a second and then responds, "Well, I can always hear Mom when she is angry, but sometimes I do have trouble hearing other people."

Sheeesh that girl! Of course when there is milk involved, she hears it all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Alphabet Soup

Yesterday we received notice of our PA (Pre-Approval). This means that our dossier has been moved from its place in one very long line and put into a much shorter and faster line for special needs children.

More importantly, it means we can post pictures of our newest little guy.

Blog World, meet Pu Min Sheng...
Known to us as Peter Matthew.
Or maybe Matthew Peter? (the jury is still out)


This little guy will turn one in January, making him a year younger than our Gabe. He has a bilateral cleft lip and palate that is a little less severe than Joseph had when we were matched with him. Joseph had his lip repaired in China a few months before we traveled. We are unsure if this little one will have that surgery or not. Either way, our hearts long to be with him, to care for him, to show him the love of a family. Please keep him in your prayers in the coming months as we continue to jump through the necessary hoops.

He sure is a cutie, isn't he?

Friday, September 23, 2011

All On a Friday Afternoon

Before lunch I asked Bophie to pick up a few pencils that had rolled under the kitchen table. I asked again before putting lunch on the table, and again while cleaning up lunch, and again later in the afternoon. Her response? She didn't hear me...

However, later this afternoon, while I was running the vacuum (imagine the noise), and she was clear across the house, I quietly told the baby I would be happy to get him a cup of milk. She came skedoodling as fast as her five-year old feet would carry her and asked, "Can I have some?"
c
And after an hour and a half of asking this little one to take a nap, I relented and let her come downstairs. Lest you think I'm a softy, I only relented for fear of her waking the napping boys. That would only punish me.
This is what I found five minutes after relenting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Made us a match!!

We can't share too many details until we have Pre-Approval.

I can say we are over the BLUE moon here!

Please pray for our little guy, he is only eight months old and it might be another six months before we get a chance to meet this little fellow.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do It Anyway

Because I am forever a day late (and often a dollar short-- especially if you only take cash and I can't use my beloved credit card), I am posting this beautiful poem the day after the feast for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. My mom reminded me of it earlier in the weekend, and it seemed more providence than coincidence that I have that reminder right around the feast of this amazing saint of our times.

This was posted in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:


People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. 
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
 Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. 
 Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 
 Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 
It was never between you and them anyway.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Second Day of School

I'd like to be clever enough to come up with alternate lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" detailing our first twelve days of homeschooling, but I'm too tired to be clever :)


On our first day of homeschooling, I was trying to bolster enthusiasm by having a special Back-to-School Breakfast. I splurged and bought juice (we only drink water and milk here) because the packaging read  "nourish your brain." I'm not sure it helped get more math problems right, but it did lead to quite a few full diapers-- I should have remembered this is why I don't buy juice. All day long there was yucky diaper after yucky diaper. Just what I needed on our first day of school. The remaining brain food juice will most likely be dumped down the drain or poured into some mixed drink if I survive this first week of school. The latter option suddenly seems quite appealing. Our first day of school also saw a dumped container of baking powder, many leaves shoved between the screen door and the screen protector, and some raiding of a few upstairs drawers which led to the discovery of our old cell phone stash.

It amazes me how quickly my little ones learn the ins and outs of phones. These play ones don't cut it for Juju who wants a new i-foon (iPhone) so she can play antree burrs (Angry Birds).

Our second day has seen yet more after effects of the brain juice, a bloody nose obtained while army crawling on the floor (which meant blood spots every few feet or so), the dog ran away and Joseph got stuck in the briers trying to follow her and a then slipped inside and drank half my morning cup of coffee. Oy!

The thing is I find myself remarkably calm about it all. We're miraculously getting done with the all our work and despite the chaos, the routine of school has brought a peace to our home.

If you look closely at Bophie's drawing you will see it is a self portrait, complete with the hair bow of which she is particularly proud.

I was blessed to go on retreat for a weekend before this school year began and it has made a world of difference. I was reminded of all those reasons I began homeschooling. It was a lovely weekend and I am eternally grateful I was able to attend. The retreat centered around this scripture:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
This is my prayer for our little homeschool this year, that Christ will dwell in our heart and that we are rooted and grounded in love.

Monday, August 29, 2011

DTC

The Chi*nese adoption process can often feel as though it is a big bowl of alphabet soup, one acronym after the other. Today we hit a rather important milestone. We are DTC, which means Dossier to Chin*, which means our dossier of documents we spent the last few months gathering, getting certified, then couriered to be authenticated, have all been checked and double checked, translated and finally sent to Chin*. This means that in a few weeks we will have our LID (log in date) which means that our dossier has been accepted. After this we will have LOI and LOA and then TA, and the list goes on....

This is ahead of schedule and we are so grateful there were no major glitches. We were under a little bit of a time crunch, but managed to sail through the paperwork-- which is not an easy task. We are now at the point where we should begin the matching process. With Joseph we were matched so quickly and it was very hard for us to know him and yet not be with him. We hoped to minimize the waiting this round by postponing our match process. We have been praying all along for our littlest family member half way around the world and now those prayers will be redoubled as we are one step closer to meeting him/her.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

GAK

On Sunday the girls had some friends over after church. They played outside, we walked to the park, but we needed another little activity. 

This one had been on the back burner.

School glue is on sale for 20 cents a bottle right now making this an inexpensive activity.

My surprise was that five young girls got such a kick out of it. The food coloring made it even more fun.

Not so fun are all the little bits I am finding dried on the floor :)

It was worth it though. I love cultivating such beautiful friendships for my girls. My house was so full of giggling, chattering, and silliness.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Neighbors

I mowed the lawn on this gorgeous day. In a reversal of roles, I mowed the lawn and dh fed the kids lunch and cleaned the kitchen. It works for us. I like the hour and a half of alone-ness, the buzz of the mower and blaring playlist from my mp3 player mean no interruptions, and I get some exercise. Dh gets more time with the kids and to gain an appreciation for how my days go. It felt good to get out after the heat has kept us indoors the last few weeks.

As I was mowing, I came across this little scene:

It is part of an elaborate world my girls make for themselves in our backyard. Their imaginings keep them busy for many an afternoon. It reminded me of how I now have my own "world" that keeps me quite busy. I seem to always be trying to get it just right. It sometimes takes so much to keep everything running smoothly (ok, I'm not sure we've seen smooth in quite awhile) that I get caught up in project after project that I forget the world around me.

We live in this house that I strive to make a home. Our little bubble away from the hustle and bustle of the world, a safe refuge from storms. It can be easy to forget that this street is lined with families, each with their own struggles, their own stories, their own lives.

Today we found out that our next door neighbor, a man who told me he was so happy to have our swingset near his fence so he could listen to our children play, a man who takes the girls and helps them pick his excess tomato crop to bring to us, a father and a grandfather, a husband of many years, has only two to four weeks to live. As I mowed the lawn I watched a seemingly endless line of friends and family go in and out of their house. I imagine the next few weeks will see quite a bit of that.

Somehow I was brought back to that little world my children created, and the seemingly bigger world I try to create, and the even bigger world that has been this man's life. I wondered if God saw his life with the affection I felt towards those little reminders of my children's endeavors.

 I will be praying for him, for his wife, and his family.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

Peach Picking Edition

Nothing signals late summer more than ripening peaches on the tree. A few years ago a friend recommended a family run orchard where we could pick absolutely delicious peaches. We've been hooked ever since.

{pretty}

 Rows and rows of peach trees and having so many children means lots of helpers. The grandfather who runs the orchard even gave each of them their own baskets to help.


They are delicious and are one of my favorite August foods. The bright reds and yellows of late summer days.

{happy}

Being together as a family makes me happy. 


{funny}


Gabe and his peaches! (See here and here)

{real}


All those peaches can sometimes be a lot of work. Thankfully, we also have lots of helpers for that.


With so many peaches we, of course, had to have some cobbler.


While these last two pictures definitely fall under the pretty and happy categories, I put them in the real category because of all the calories they are adding to my diet.

For more contentment visit:
tiny blog chickens2-2

Park Days

It is an absolutely gorgeous day in our neck of the woods. 
The sun is shining.
The clouds white and fluffy.
The perfect summer day to head to the park.
After a few morning set backs, 
a trip to two different libraries, 
and various errands along the way,
we did just that.
We went to the park.

Within seconds, Juju had to go to the bathroom.
Only there weren't any.
So we made do with a secluded spot.

Within minutes after that, Joseph needed a diaper change.
Another trek back to the car and we were set.

Then before I had finished, Gabe had a horrible blowout.
Another trek back to the car.
Only I had no extra clothes for him since his extra outfit was used last week.
Joseph had issues at the pool.

By this time, I was no longer enjoying fluffy clouds and beautiful temps.
We went home.

We went to the park today and all I got was this picture:

Maybe we'll try again tomorrow :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Five Loaves and Two Fishes

Last Sunday's gospel reading was about Jesus feeding the five thousand. The priest praying the Mass gave a homily that has provided me much food for thought (pun intended), especially as I begin the task of preparing for another year of homeschooling.

The gospel speaks about the sheer number of people that followed Jesus out into a deserted place. As evening approaches the disciples notice the growing problem of the hungry crowds and go to Jesus and expect him to solve the problem. They want Jesus to send the people away. Instead Jesus says to them, "Give them some food yourselves." The disciples responded with how little they had. They knew that five loaves and two fishes were certainly not enough to feed the throngs of people that had gathered. Yet Jesus has them bring him their measly portion and then, "he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds."  Not only were all the people fed from those meager portions, but there were leftovers-- baskets full of them. Matthew 14:13-21 was the full reading.

How often we are confronted with what seem to be insurmountable problems. How often we want Jesus to send away those problems, just like the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowds home. We want him just to take care of the problem without having to give up anything. Instead Jesus wants all that we have no matter how insignificant and inadequate it may seem. He wants us to offer it to him. His blessing, and his breaking of that gift miraculously take our inadequacies and they are used for far more than we imagined possible.

Last week our new schoolbooks were delivered and in all honesty a weight was put on my heart. The task of schooling our children is my "crowd in the desert" problem. Sometimes just getting them all dressed and fed is a feat. In a few short weeks I add the monumental task of academic endeavors and continued faith formation.

I'm standing here with my measly five loaves and two fishes looking at the task in front of me and I think it may be utterly impossible. I'm impatient, often quick-tempered, sharp tongued, and easily distracted. I have only two hands to try to keep up with twelve. Can I really do it? I'm tempted to ask Jesus to send the problem away as the disciples did.

Father reminded me, however, that if we bring those five loaves and two fishes to him, bring him the little we have to offer, he will bless it, break it, and use it to accomplish what is impossible on our own. My five loaves and two fishes are painfully inadequate and yet, if I offer them to Jesus, he will feed the five thousand with them. Blessed and broken, with Jesus, we will have another successful school year.

Here's hoping that the leftover baskets will equate to laundry being done and dinners on the table :)

More Mischief

  A face like this must mean mischief, right?



In this case it sure did. It was the smile of conquest. A dare-devil climb that had led to the ultimate prize for a sweet-toothed, quite adventurous, little 17 month old boy-- Mom's basket of peaches.



 He savored his prize-- the whole basketful!



Then, he left this in his wake...



And much to his father's chagrin, he also left this: