December 12, 2015

Finding God in the Garbage

God is funny.  He really is, if we are created in His image and we laugh, then don't you think he laughs too?  In a world that seems to be falling apart, laughing is so important.  When Ella asked for a leaf blower for Christmas, she was completely serious.  We even went leaf blower shopping, only to discover that leaf blowers are very expensive.  As parents we had to pull the "Not a Good Idea" card.  What a disappointment it would be if grandparents, great-grandparents, and parents pooled our money to buy her a leaf blower that she opened in the middle of winter.  Gifts that can't be used for nine months are bummers.  Aside from the fact that it's a leaf blower we are talking about here, and she's a 13 year old girl.  We felt it was best to nix that idea and tell her to ask for a spy kit instead.

But God wanted to give this little girl a leaf blower.  Because, honestly, that's funny.  I giggle to think of a 70 pound girl hauling a leaf blower around.  I laughed when she said she wanted one.  God loves Ella more than I can imagine.  And God wanted to give her a Christmas gift.  So he did, in our neighbor's garbage.

Last week, we pulled into our driveway and I teased that two doors down our neighbor was throwing out his leaf blower.  I was just teasing Ella, but she hit the driveway before I put the van in park.  I won't easily forget the picture of her straining under the weight of her new treasure as she struggled across the street with it.  I, as such an awesome mom, didn't bother looking at the leaf blower since I assumed it was broken.  I'm so busy, I probably had dinner to make or a poopy diaper to change.  No time to inspect leaf blowers for malfunctions.  Seth looked at it the next day to discover it worked perfectly.

Not only has God given Ella this prized gift, he gave her such enthusiasm that I watch a Tom Sawyer-esque situation unfold in my yard.  Neighborhood kids were begging to use Ella's leaf blower and my yard and driveway were soon cleared of leaves.

God gave me a gift that day too, I suppose.  He shows up in the oddest places, like my neighbor's garbage.

December 9, 2015

Seven days in Dressember

I got caught today not wearing my black dress!  It's the first time I haven't been in it. It was in the dryer and the baby was asleep downstairs, so I couldn't get it out in time to leave for piano lessons.  A legitimate reason for running around sans dress.  I got caught nonetheless, call me a fraud if you must.

This experiment has been interesting on so many levels.  At first I thought it was no big deal, but I am having conversations about human trafficking nearly daily!  That means I needed to beef up on my knowledge so I'm speaking intelligently.  That also means that dressember works.  The fundraising is amazing, but the awareness is miraculous.  I have had so many people declare, "I had no idea.  Here in the United States?!"

Yes, I can't make this stuff up.  It's terrible, but it's true.

The other odd side note is that I have too many clothes.  If I can wear the same dress day in and day out, then I probably don't need a full closet, dresser and off-season bin.  I can't say that I don't desire a little variety, but you can really do a lot with a simple black dress.  By December 31 I will probably want to burn this thing, but for now, it's serving me well.

Dressember Day 1

$32 billion generated annually by human trafficking, December 2 is Int'l Day to Abolish Slavery.

It's more than just a dress! According the human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry.
This statistic is from unlockfreedom an organization that works to educate young people on the dangers of trafficking here in the U.S. Thirteen years old...that's my Ella and Elijah.

According to force 4 compassion, 3,287 men, women, and children are sold or kidnapped and forced into slavery every day.
Wearing my dress to lacrosse practice. Dressember is fundraising to support A21, this video tells the story of one of the 1-2% who survive trafficking.

My sisters and Mom have been sharing information as well.  It's been an incredible experience to see their pictures daily along with the stats they have found.  It's a project in awareness for all of us.

All I want for Christmas...

My in laws were chatting with the kids about their Christmas lists.  It's still pretty early in the season for everyone to have figured out what they really "need", but those grandmas need time to plan.

After much pestering, Josiah finally looked up from his plate and stated, "Okay. Fine.  I know what I want for Christmas.  I want to be famous."

That makes Ella's request of a leaf blower seem more manageable.  

December 1, 2015


Today I am wearing my pajama dress.  I call it that because I could be wearing my pajamas underneath and it would still look classy.  I plan to wear this dress everyday for the next 31 days. 

I heard about 'Dressember' and thought it was just a funny name, but it's a call to bring awareness to the plight of women around the world who are exploited.  This unique fundraiser is donating all funds raised this year to the International Justice Mission and A21, both organizations strive to free women who are enslaved, victims of trafficking, or exploited in other ways.

It's an odd way to bring awareness, but it is something I can do, so I will.  It's hard to believe that there are over 20 million people enslaved around the world.  I can't get my mind around that number and I can't believe, as I enjoy my middle class American lifestyle, that there are men, women, and children who have been forced into slavery.  Right now.  And most of us don't know slavery still exists.

So I will wear the same dress for 31 days. 

What follows is the story of Dressember from it's founder, Blythe Hill.  She was, like most of us, overwhelmed by the knowledge that slavery still exists.  Like most of us, she didn't have talents that lent themselves to an anti-sex trafficking occupation.  But, she wanted to do something.  And most of us could probably do something.   A little thing like wearing the same dress for a month, or donating a little money to the IJM.  Maybe your little something will become something big, like Blythe Hill's idea.

The History of Dressember,

as told by Founder Blythe Hill:

It was around 2005 when I started hearing about the issue of human trafficking. I began learning that slavery exists in every city in the world, around every major sporting event, at brickyards, brothels, truck stops and massage parlors. It’s estimated that there are currently over 30 million people trapped in slavery—more than any other point in history.

When I started hearing about trafficking, I felt an urgency to do something, and so naturally, I looked at my skillset for a way to engage. The problem was my interests and talents didn’t seem to line up with making a difference. I’m not a social worker, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a cop. I’m someone who’s interested in fashion, trend analysis, wordplay, and blogging. My interests felt shallow in the grand scheme of things. I remember feeling powerless, and thinking, “There’s nothing I can do.”

In 2009, everything began to change, and I didn’t even know it at the time. It started with a dress.

I was in college, and felt stifled by the lack of time for creativity, so I decided to create a personal style challenge. I came up with the idea of wearing a dress every day for a month. When I realized the next full month was December, the name “Dressember” came to me and, since I love wordplay, the deal was sealed. So I did it; I wore a dress every day for a month. And I never planned to do it again. 
The next year, a handful of girlfriends wanted to do it with me. So I did it again. And then the next year, my girlfriends' girlfriends wanted to join in. So, when women I didn’t even know were participating in it, I realized this was a good idea.

And then I started to dream bigger. I thought, “maybe I can use Dressember to raise some money for anti-trafficking.” So, in its fifth year, 2013, I aligned Dressember with International Justice Mission and decided, “we’re gonna go big-- we’re gonna try to raise $25K," which felt like a huge, scary goal. When we hit my huge, scary goal-- on the third day of our campaign-- I realized what had started as a few girls in Orange County wearing dresses for fun had become a community of over 1,200 women in 32 countries who collectively raised over $165,000!
Last year, in our second year, we doubled our participation at over 2,600 women registered, and nearly tripled the funds raised, at over $465,000.

Something that started as a silly idea, born out of boredom, has become a global movement, and created a pathway for not just me, but thousands of women like me who are ready to put a stop to one of the greatest injustices of our time.

November 30, 2015

Day 100

So if you read the past ten posts ten times, that would equal 100.  Can I admit that God gave us exactly what we could handle, and it didn't include me blogging for 100 days in a row?

Women who can raise a brood, write, cook, and teach are of a superhuman race.

I'm deciding, for my own sanity that I have stepped up my blogging and that's the best I can do right now.  There is a season for everything and this is my season of wading through teen, tween, and toddler at once.

For example, every other Friday I teach Chemistry lab at our homeschool co-op.  It means leaving the house.  Yeah, you thought there would be more to that sentence, but there wasn't.  Leaving the house is a big deal in itself, especially in the morning, with supplies for a lab and necessities for baby survival.  I arrived an hour before class to get things set up.  Everett has model United Nations for an hour before lab, and the other bigs watch the babies while I run around.  I stopped on the way for donuts and bagels, a Friday morning tradition.  I raced to drop Everett off, and unloaded the van.  Baby strapped to my chest, toddler in the stroller, glassware and breakfast were stowed underneath--I was on top of things.

In the scramble to get out of the house, my meticulously packed diaper bag, which is actually more like a diaper suitcase, was left behind.  My 'on top of things super mom' bubble deflated.  It was replaced with the 'I can't handle things and even left the diaper bag at home' storm cloud.

On a more positive note, I didn't forget a baby.

November 28, 2015

Day 10

Christmas list time is upon us.  I hate them.  I hate the list making and the gimmies that arrive with the Target catalog.  I hate that I don't have the willpower to break the habits of list making has become Christmas in our house.

Every year I hope for better Christmas wish lists, along the lines of...
1-Goats, bunnies, and chickens from World Vision
2-Donation to Children's Hopechest
3-Yarn to crochet warm hats for homeless of Cleveland...
You know, an idyllic child who puts others far above self and gives sacrificially without being asked.

I can't expect our children to do what I've never been willing to do myself.  Can I?  Though I don't sit down with the 300 page Toys-R-Us extravaganza and a black sharpie, I do send out a list to my family.  I collect the lists from my children and work to satisfy each of their desires.  Since, somehow, they will grow up as loving and satisfied adults if we give them everything they ask of us.  Right?  I'm still working through this generosity vs greed thing.  I wouldn't call any of our children greedy.  I daresay, if we had a family meeting this week and argued for spending all of our gift money on Jirigna and Dirbe in Ethiopia, they would agree that we don't need a thing and we should give to our friends in need.

But, I would have to decide to hold that family meeting.

Every year I feel the same way.  I'm always excited to do something.  We send donations to build a well one year.  We buy some supplies for a school the next.  None of those gifts required a sacrifice from our family.  That's where I get stuck.  I'm unwilling to ask our children to give up the 'magic' of a Christmas morning spent opening gifts.

I would love to hear from any of you who have figured this out.  I have only two years left before we send Everett out into the world as an 'adult' and I still haven't figured out how to be a good parent during this Christmas season.


November 25, 2015

Can I call this Day 9?

I am a failure as a blogger.

Two months ago I felt guilty about not finding time to write.  Slowly, with the madness of life, that guilt slipped away until I didn't give writing a second thought.  Then, I talked to my Grandma.

I love my Grandparents.  My only complaint is that they don't live next door.  We don't see each other often and we rarely talk.  I take full responsibility for everything.

She mentioned my blog.  She mentioned me writing for 100 days.  Her excitement...and my failure.  Not really, she didn't mention anything about me failing.  She just mentioned that she wanted to hear from me.  So, I dusted off the laptop and decided to write.  This update is for you, Grandma.

I suppose I should begin with where I left off.  We still have seven kids.  Life is still quite chaotic.  I'm exhausted.  Seth is exhausted.  We are functioning slightly above survival mode.

The biggest update would be that the babies' week long stay has turned into nearly three months with us.  Our new norm is hard, I can't lie.  It would be a disservice to moms out there who are struggling with littles and bigs and schooling and life, for them to hear me say, "This is a piece of cake."  This isn't a piece of cake.

This is hard.

I let things go that I would have been on top of three months ago.  My sliding glass door has dried dog snot on it.  If you know how I feel about prints on windows, that's a biggie.  I know it really doesn't matter in the long run, so I let it go.  Or I remind Josiah to scrub the window, "...and I'm not just talking about at your eye level, I'm talking about that nasty jelly hand print encrusted with dog snot that dried there last week!"

So, I'm calming down about how the house looks.  Not to say we live in a pig sty, everyone does their chores, but I can't be everywhere, so I have to trust that trash is emptied and litter boxes are scooped.  That's one thing that is hard.

The other real hard thing is not knowing what is going to happen.  That seems like a stupid statement, since life is full of uncertainties.  This is a different uncertainty.  Today, seven children, tomorrow...five?  What's going on with the babies' mom today?  Is she making choices that are bringing her closer to reunification?  Is she straying?  Will they be here for Christmas?  Will they be okay next week at their aunt's?

It's hard, because they aren't our children.  And, we don't want them to be.

As much as we love adoption and what it has done in our lives, it comes from a terrible heartbreak.  This is the first time that we have stood on the other side of the adoption story.  For each one of our children, we have come AFTER their loss.  We loved them and adopted them and they were ours.  We love these babies, but they are not ours. 

You will never pray more often for a person as when you are raising that person's children.  That is the underlying reality of our days--we are raising someone's children.  I don't have time to think about it during the busy days.  When I'm snuggling with a chubby, tired baby in his last moments of being awake, I think of his mom.   I pray for her, because she's missing these moments.  His first birthday.  Cutting four teeth.  Eating solid food and climbing up stairs.  He will walk soon and she will miss his first steps.  That's heartbreaking.

Her little girl calls me, "Mama" and runs to me for comfort.  These are healthy behaviors and it's good that she has them, since she needs a 'mom' now.  But it's sad that a family she didn't know three months ago has become her familiar comfort.  Her mom missed her second birthday, saying goodbye to her binky, and watching her language explode.

That's hard.  Then there's the diarrhea for eight days and waking up at night.  Seth wearing a mouth guard because he is grinding his teeth.  Josiah enjoying the shrieks of anyone younger than him, so his favorite past time has become taunting babies.  That about sums our house up.

Screaming, pooping, and mouth guards.  And occasionally, screaming while wearing a mouth guard because the dog just ate a poopy diaper.  No joke.

September 4, 2015

Day 8

There is a fine line between giving too much of yourself and refusing to help others for selfish reasons.  I tend to burn out because I give until I have nothing left.  I'm not bragging, I'm admitting that I have issues.  I read an article about 'me time' when my five were younger.  It was interesting, but probably propagated mom guilt up the wazoo.  The writer asserted that you can never have too much 'me time', thus you expect two hours alone during naps and you are irritated when life happens and interrupts that time alone.  That well deserved time alone, which she said wasn't a right, was a monster which crept into our lives until we wanted more and more of it.  I bought into that short article and bear many scars as a result. It took a long time for me to realize that it's okay to do something for myself.  I still feel guilty, but I know that without taking care of myself I can't take care of everyone else.

It's a "put on your oxygen mask before helping those in need" lifestyle.  The past few days have been busy.  That doesn't do the chaos justice.  Lovely chaos, as I am watching the Bigs help with Littles.  I ask each of the kids once a day how they feel about the new additions.  I'm hoping to head off any feelings of irritation or anger by lessening a burden if they mention that.  But, no one is taking a poll from me to see what I might be feeling.  Did I mention my husband left Monday morning and won't get home until tonight?  If he gets home tonight, since he just texted me to tell me that all planes are grounded.


It's Everett's birthday.  Fifteen years today.  Blows my mind.  He told his friend he couldn't do an amusement park this weekend because he couldn't leave me with all of these babies.

Sweet guy...maybe.  I question his motives. Where was that attitude last night?  He had a cross country pasta dinner at 6, the girls had soccer practice at 7, and the babies were wailing to eat.  Actually, everyone was wailing to eat.  So I scurried, and realized that I was the only one scurrying.  Between the high chair and stove and back again and in the that Wild Kratts I hear?  No time for me to call for help, I continued scurrying and Everett moaned about being late to the pasta dinner.  Then he disappears, while I'm throwing meatballs and bread on plates and scooping the messy baby up to accompany us around the corner for Everett's dinner.  He is no where to be found and finally after yelling several times I catch a glimpse of him sitting in the van.


He's calmly waiting for me to chauffeur him to his party.  Deep breath.  Another one, because, really, I'm sweaty and hungry and toting a baby that he's going to feed as we drive and frustrated because I was looking everywhere for him.  Upon my return, the whole house greets me in the yard.  The Escape Artist is sans clothing and covered in marinara.  She's full and smiley so that makes me smiley.  Then the big four open their mouths and yell four different requests.

"Ella's new cleats are both left feet!  You need to take her back to the store!"

"Can you take me to Speedway to buy a soda?  You promised!"

"She's covered in pasta and touching everything!  Make her stop!"

"Mom!  I can't find my..."

I might have cried, if I had the energy.  Instead, I just covered my face and quietly whispered, "I am so hungry.  I am so tired.  I need your help."

Quietly whispering is scary to kids.  I heard that at a women's breakfast.  Experience has taught me that it's true.  Suddenly, baby was in another's arms.  I had a plate of pasta sitting in front of me and the kitchen was a flurry of cleaning.  Then, the two girls rode off to practice on their bikes, Everett texted me that he had a ride home, and the house was still.

We did baths, books, and bottles.  And realized after severe withdrawls that pacifiers are like a drug to some children and losing 'their' pacifier is akin to stabbing them repeatedly in the ear.  Or so she made us believe.  We did find a second best lost in the lining of the diaper bag, but only after enduring screaming and writhing for 30 minutes.

After that, I felt that I deserved a run.  I was taking ME TIME.  Even when two kids begged to join me, I held strong.  And you know what?  They weren't heartbroken.  They didn't even really care.  They played cards and were happy.

By the time I finally left it was dark.  I hate running in the dark, but I was desperate.  It was dark, quiet, and cooler than it had been all day.  The run felt soothing.  Did I mention it was really dark?  Dark enough for me to break a leg by tripping on the sidewalk.  I had to cramp my ninja-running by using my phone flashlight to shine on my path.  Still, it was a great run, I felt great about finally taking 20 minutes to myself.  I felt great because it was so quiet and cool.  I was a ninja gliding through the night.  Then a bug shot to the back of my throat and I dry heaved.

In the dark, quiet, stillness I stood dry heaving in my neighbors grass.  A Perfect finale to my day.

September 1, 2015

Day 6, oops, Day 7

I am typing while holding an infant who woke up from his nap too soon.  He must have heard me power on the laptop and pour my cup of coffee.  My mom says that my sisters and I used to hear her open a can of Tab from miles away and come running for a sip.  Maybe it wasn't the sound of the soda popping open, but the sound of a mom relaxing.  I won't be able to write just as I had hoped, but I do want to explain my lack of posting yesterday.  I have two great reasons!

This weekend brought unexpected excitement.  In the form of two babies that we welcomed into our home.  They needed a place to stay and we were willing. We aren't sure how long they will be here, but we are trying to enjoy each moment. 

A baby hasn't been living in this house for seven years. That's a long time to forget about the waking up at night for bottle feedings and structuring your day around nap time.  We have been given a rude awakening.  Last night, I played the don't-let-the-baby-fall-asleep-during-dinner game.  You know, the one where the baby didn't take two full naps so he's ready to pass out in his high chair, but you know if he does you will be up all night?  It's a test of your creativity and your resolve.   We did win the game and managed to keep him up until 7:17, at which time I finally said it was close enough to give him his bottle.    

I'm living the life of homeschooling mom to five in addition to a toddler and baby.  It. Is. Wild.  It is also an opportunity for our big kids to step up and take turns helping with these littles.  The toddler is an escape artist, and I'm terrified she may actually succeed in her pursuit for freedom.  Her brother is content and chubby.  He is so chubby, he's been waking me up at night for an extra bottle.  Chubby and The Artist plopped into the tornado that is our family with their mess of sippy cups, bottles, and teeny tiny socks.  I feel cheesy saying it, but we are genuinely being blessed by having them here, even if it means I am breaking my vow to blog for 100 days straight.  Show me some grace, I'm taking care of seven kids right now.

August 28, 2015

Day 5

Tale from the trenches...

I'm not even joking. 

My parents were alone with Sally in the car on the interstate.  As they zipped along, my Dad quipped that he was glad they weren't going the other direction and pointed at the congestion across the median.  Sally asked him, "Why is it so busy?"

"Because it's rush hour," he said.

"Well, what time is it on that side of the road?" she innocently asked.

Really.  That really happened. 

August 27, 2015

Day 4

My husband and eldest have now shared their unbelief with me.  They don't think I can write anything for 100 days.  I had to pause and think, because usually my husband is the grounded one.  They may both be right, what am I thinking? Reality sets in though--after so many years Seth should know me well enough to recognize scoffing would make me work harder.

Maybe that was his point.

Before our wedding, Seth and I wrote letters to our parents and to read during the ceremony.  His was long, eloquent, and written on beautiful paper.  It now hangs in a frame in his parent's house.  I couldn't set my pen to paper.  I kept waiting for words to come, but it seemed like one of the most dreadful writing assignments.  That letter and the 'let's write our own vows' idea, which was also terribly strenous.  We not only wrote them, but memorized them.  I have a picture of myself and my friend sitting in the dressing room at the church chanting my vows.  That day was high pressure!  I did memorize my vows, and I did have something to say to my parents during the ceremony.  It isn't framed hanging on a wall, since I never actually got it on paper.

It went something like this:  Dad, thank you for challenging me and keeping me grounded.  Thank you for telling me that my schemes were harebrained and wouldn't work.  Mom, thank you for tiptoeing behind Dad and whispering that I could do whatever I set my mind to.

It was a touching moment with tears all around.  Shortly after that while lighting the unity candle, it lit then tipped over and started rolling.  That may be all that anyone remembers from our wedding ceremony.

100 days of writing seems harebrained, but I'm planning on proving Seth and Everett wrong.

August 26, 2015

Day 3

One year ago today I pretended to be a doula.  I am not a doula, and after that experience I don't believe I will ever become one.  Or pretend to be one again.

Giving birth is an incredible experience.  It is also intimate and stressful.  Sometimes, labor is long and sometimes it is gruesome.  The ladies that are real doulas, do they live lives outside of their profession? For three days, I lived at the hospital.  I took a break to run and teach at my co-op, but I was so fried after a night of being at the hospital that I put my white board on the wall upside down and began teaching as if nothing was amiss.  It was during this stint away that my friend dubbed me as The Doula to a pushy nurse.  "I want to wait until my doula arrives before I make any decisions about intervention."

Yeah.  She did. 

I arrived an hour later and was addressed by said nurse as The Doula.  "Oh, so glad you are here!  We have been waiting for you since she wanted her doula present for discussion."


For the rest of the long labor, I played the part of The Doula.  Magical words in the world of labor and delivery.  I was scared, so I was called midwifery friend of mine asking for specific labor advice.  None of it helped, because, if you have birthed a child, you know that no two deliveries are the same. I pretended to know what everyone was saying and immediately googled anything that didn't make sense after the professionals left the room.  Then, a whispered conversation would ensue between me and my friends.  The stress of doulaing during labor was nothing compared to doulaing during actual birth. 


I have been in the delivery room exactly two times.  Once for Everett and once for Elijah.  I was, obviously, the one BIRTHING those guys.  So I missed seeing all of the messy business, since I was making the messy business.  The pushing, the leg holding, the coercing and cheering--it's messy and intimate.  It's exhausting.

In the end, it was also delightful.  A privilege and one of the highlights of my entire year.  It also confirmed that I will not become a doula one day, if I decide I want a second job.  I think librarian might be more my speed. 

Today we celebrated one year of life for the sweet little girl who knows me as Doula.  The one and only.

August 25, 2015

Day 2

I drank a soda last night at dinner.  It was a long day and ended with a long homeschool co-op meeting.  Many well meaning parents making many seemingly important announcements, but too often taking too long.  I had to sit on my hands to avoid clapping prematurely just to get a few of them off the stage.  Since I was exhausted, I splurged on some caffeine.  I gave it up a few years ago, and even as I had my first sip, I leaned to my friend and whispered, "This will probably keep me up all night."

I finally fell asleep around 2 am.  I am a glutton for punishment.

Lack of sleep and a terrible sore throat made me a little laid back today.  My excitement last night about getting into real learning has waned.  That's a bad sign, considered the excitement usually lasts at least the first week! 

In the throes of researching Neptune with Elijah and telling Josiah that school really did start and he really does have to sit down and work, all I could think about was a nap.  A nap and maybe some orange juice.

We don't have orange juice, or anything else palatable in the house right now.  See yesterday's post about my Latin exploits and that may clue you into why I haven't had time to grocery shop.  I found some frozen burritos in the garage freezer and slapped them down for lunch today.  Elijah was so excited, "This is like, oh, memories!  You used to buy these all of the time when we were little!" 

Score one for me by accident.  I bought those nasty things for Everett since he's been avoiding food and I'm experimenting on what might tempt him.  Easy + delicious + healthy = impossible  I'm at the place where I don't care if it's healthy I just want him to eat.  If I walked into the kitchen and he was pouring the chocolate syrup directly from the bottle into his throat, I might flinch but I also might applaud. 

My dreams of a yummy lunch and reading a great book aloud were thwarted by a poor decision 12 hours ago and a nasty virus.  Starting school is always high on the 'need to make this super amazing' list so the threat of mom guilt lurks.  Frozen burritos feel like a fail, but who knew the kids thought it was great.  A memory for lunch. 

My mom guilt was gone and I even gave myself permission to get a guilt-free nap. I woke up to a little chaos, along the lines of Josiah chasing Ella with her prosthetic leg.  Go figure. 

August 24, 2015

Day 1

It seems fitting that my first day of blogging would begin on the first day of school.

And that my husband would come screaming down the hallway in his underwear while pumping his fist in the air, "I got him!  I got him!" A rather unusual wake up call.  I was still groggy after a night of strange dreams, no doubt because of the frantic school preparations that went on last night.  His excitement was a little irritating.  Then it dawned on me.  The mouse.

Three months ago our freezer broke.  We have a massive, rather expensive and rather new, fridge.  We bought it in the dent and ding section of the appliance store and then bought the warranty.  Seth's mantra has become, "They don't make them like they used to."  Hence, my two sets of 30 year old washers and dryers in the basement.  I have a back up in case one fails, because we definitely wouldn't want to buy a new one.  No way.  Even though I really miss my beautiful front loader.  Really.

This repair guy has been coming every three weeks all summer trying to fix our freezer.  Our last visit revealed a little visitor behind our fridge.  I was appalled and a little embarrassed.  Seth was downright mad.  The repairman, who has become a familiar face around here, suggested sending one of the cats behind the fridge.  Those stinkers showed no interest in the mouse, they probably thought it was another one of the pets.  They enjoy bringing already dead rodents into the house, but evidently they don't feel like taking care of one in the house.  Irritating.  Seth declared war on this mouse and the hulking fridge has been sitting in the middle of the kitchen waiting for the mouse to take the bait.  Tricky little guy, he taunted Seth for a few days by eating the peanut butter from the trap.  Thus, his excitement this morning, he finally outsmarted the rodent.
I was exceptionally nervous this morning because I am teaching Everett's class at our Classical Conversations campus.  I can't determine whether my nervousness is because Everett is in my class, or because I haven't ever covered the material we will be learning.  It could be that I just fried my brain by cramming one year of Latin into the past two weeks.  When I started my school preparations, I didn't realize how long it would take for me to do lessons 1-6.  I also didn't know that first year Latin students spend their first year on ONLY lessons 1-6.  When it dawned on me, in class this morning, that I just completed a year of Latin in two weeks, I sagged in relief.  I'm not an idiot, that was truly an accomplishment!  Alas, I'm starting off in an already burned out state.

Armed with my purple gel pen and my new power shirt, gifted to me by my sister, I loaded up the van with learning materials and students.  This is the first year we didn't pose next to the Black Eyed Susans wearing new school clothes for our first day of school pictures.  Instead, we frantically threw lunch boxes, children, and backpacks into the car and sped off.   The day was truly a blur of books and discussion for me. 

I think it went well.  That is the best we can hope for, right?

August 23, 2015

100 Days of Something

My brilliant, amazing, super-writer friend just published a book.  She declares she isn't a super hero, but she's lying.  Only super heroes are able to accomplish what she did.  She wrote a real book!  I was and still remain impressed. 

Her book, The Raw Homeschool Mom, chronicles her life as a homeschooling mom for 100 days.  I love those 100 day things.  Julie and Julia?  Loved it!  100 days of anything, sign me up, I'm gonna read it and appreciate your determination in writing about something for 100 long days.

So, I feel challenged.  The last time I blogged was April.  Nearly five months have passed since I sat down and wrote.  The guilt from that realization and chatting with my amazing writer friend have pushed me to ponder my own 100 days.  100 days  It won't be eloquent because I'm not a writer.  It probably won't be very interesting either.  I just keep thinking these days are slipping away.  One day I will look up and it won't be Everett doing Chemistry with me, it will be Josiah.  Everett, who sat down and read my blog posts from years ago, quipped that I "used to be funny" and our house "used to be crazy".  I think he doesn't realize that, though we are all getting older, our stories haven't changed all that much.

So, here we go:  100 days of life in our house.  Homeschooling.  Adoption.  Transracial family issues. Prosthetic legs, kinky hair, and running shoes.  Who knows what's going to happen, but I'm going to write about it.

April 15, 2015

FourHearts + You

Many hands make light work.

My grandma said this to me.  Probably, she said it to a group of her grandchildren about snapping green beans or shucking corn.  My grandpa always had an enormous garden and many hands did indeed make light work.   Instead of my grandma working her fingers to the bone, we all pitch in and soon the bushels of just picked beans slowly become rows of canned beans.  

I have repeated that phrase many times over the years.  The truth rings clear whenever faced with an insurmountable task.  

As FourHearts begins its ministry to pregnant and hurting teens, an insurmountable task faces them.  In the throes of forming a Board of Directors, establishing itself as a non-profit, and navigating the laws of Puerto Rico, they are hoping to get their first safe house, Hogar En-Hacore running.  The overwhelming mission ahead is made even more burdensome by trying to raise $35,000 to open Hogar En-Hacore.  In Puerto Rico, Nidza has the framework established, the employees are ready, the facility waits, but the funds are lacking.  

Many hands make light work.

I don’t have an extra $35,000 stowed away.  God keeps my family hopping in our finances so we are always flushing our savings away on new pipes, new prosthetics, or the like.  But, I do have enough to stop for a cup of coffee with a friend.  Or buy that book I’ve been hearing about on Amazon.  I have enough.  I have more than enough.  I want for nothing.  I definitely have an extra $5.  I venture you might have a spare $5 too.

Danica thought, if we all donated just $5, what might happen.  If you pulled that wadded up five from the bottom of your purse and donated it to FourHearts, and I grabbed that forgotten five from the top of my dryer—could we put enough fives together to make a dent in the funds needed to open the first safe house?

Many hands make light work.

My grandma says so.  I agree.  For the next four weeks, FourHearts will be holding it’s first fundraising campaign.  Let’s see how much ‘work’ we can do.  Every little bit helps bring the home to completion.  It helps bring hope to one girl who is scared and hurt and needs a safe place to recover.  

Many hands make light work.  Join in the work today! Visit

April 8, 2015


I get carried away when I talk about adoption and orphans.  The rushing river of emotion floods over my lips.  Often, I am met with blank stares. My flood becomes a babbling brook until it finally trickles to an end.  Embarrassing.  Sad.

My sister gets me now.  She has those moments.  The does-anyone-care-that-I-just-birthed-my-burden feeling.  She has a burning passion to help bring an end to human trafficking.  It has been a long, but exciting, path.  What began as a conversation in my Mom's kitchen over Christmas years ago has grown into a support organization for a safe house and task force training classes. I'm proud of seeing her grow into her faith.  She has followed God's direction every step of the way.  When you do that, you get a glimpse of God working in a unique way.

I wrote this story for Danica to post on her Gofundme page to begin their first fundraising campaign.  The story is almost too intricate and laced with God's leading to portray correctly.  Danica needs a novel written!  Regardless, it's a tale of four ladies that were on different paths searching for God's will and a way to serve Him.  Four women who make an unlikely group, aside from their love for the Lord.  God brought them together to create FourHearts, a ministry organization to support safe houses.  I hope to share their burden and perhaps make it a burden you will carry.  Please don't meet my verbose barrage with a blank stare!  Let the words wash over you and imagine how God might be calling you to make a change in this world.  Nothing is too big! 

Hogar En-Hacore was founded in 2011 by Nidza Barreto in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico.  Nidza desired to serve God by enriching abused pregnant girl’s lives.  Her vision was to restore the dignity of abused teens by empowering them through spiritual healing, medical attention, education and vocational training.  Nidza happened upon a property that was abandoned and pursued information on how she might purchase it as a home for at risk ladies.  After investigating and finally contacting the owner, she shared her vision for the property and was met with an amazing gift.  The owner was touched by her passion and gave her this amazing home and land.  Unfortunately, the property was overrun and in need of renovation.  Nidza struggled alone trying to raise the funds to open the home.  Working tirelessly, Nidza ensured necessary repairs were made, but continued to meet with many obstacles.  Amidst these challenges, she laid the framework for what will be a transition home and functioning bakery.

Carmen dreamed for many years of ministering to at risk women and teens.  She thought it was a dream that would fade, until she visited family in Puerto Rico.  A chance encounter lead to her meeting with Nidza, her cousin, and hearing about Hogar En-Hacore.  Thrilled, Carmen returned to Connecticut with a passion to help her cousin in her endeavors.  God gave Carmen encouragement, while she endured several hardships.  In 2015, she heard of a meeting at a local church for people interested in learning more to combat human trafficking.  It was there she met Danica.

Danica became aware of the reality of present day slavery and child trafficking through a conversation with her mother in 2012.  Over the next several years, God created a passion in her heart to help.  After moving to Connecticut, Danica began researching the topic as she felt a pressing burden.  She was surprised to learn that the anti-child trafficking organization she heard of years before was just a short drive from her new home.  After getting connected with the founder of the organization, Danica was spurred along to start a local task force to combat child trafficking in her community.  A list of interested people grew and after several months of preparation, the first task force meeting was held.  Meanwhile, Danica’s family received news of an upcoming move to Puerto Rico.  A Puerto Rican woman came to the first meeting, her name was Carmen.

When Carmen told Danica that her cousin, Nidza, had been working on opening a safe house for young abused girls in Puerto Rico, it was obvious that God had orchestrated the meeting of these women.   Danica’s family will be living only 20 minutes away from the safe house, Hogar En-Hacore.  Since that first meeting, they have been praying for God to connect them with others and guide the way to opening this house and supporting this ministry.

Jules has a love for Jesus and a passion for single mothers, orphans and widows.  She was praying about a way to get personally involved and give.  She wanted to be blessed by being able to watch her generosity play out in the lives of others. After months of praying for the Lord to open doors, she was connected with Danica.  She heard of the human trafficking group and wanted to stay informed.  When she heard about Carmen and Hogar En-Hacore, she knew it was the opportunity she had been seeking. 

The lives of these four women intersected through miraculous circumstances with an obvious purpose.  Their desire is to form a support organization, FourHearts, and assist with all aspects of carepoint ministries.  Their unique abilities, coupled with their passion for bringing an end to human trafficking and bringing healing for abused teens, creates a strong foundation for this young organization.  The long term dream of FourHearts, is to be a support organization to other homes like Hogar En-Hacore.  Realizing this dream will require many hands, and volunteer possibilities abound.  The passion shouldn’t end with these four women, as many opportunities are available to help Hogar En-Hacore open its doors to hurting children and teenagers.

February 26, 2015

Ella's Courage

Everett and Elijah have been swimming for several summers.  They detest jumping into a cold pool at 6:30 every morning, but the friendships far outweigh their early mornings.  The meets are long, but fun.  After several sweaty years of watching from the stands, Ella and Sally begged to join the team this summer.

Though the team takes even the youngest swimmers, beginning at five years old, they must be able to swim two strokes.  Sally has only recently been able to swim a front crawl successfully.  Her backstroke brings even the most lackadaisical lifeguard to his feet in worry over her drowning.  She flops this way and that, all of her appendages moving independently of each other.  I fear for her life.  Nevertheless, we thought the coaches might be able to work with her.

Ella is a different story.  She is incredibly athletic.  Lacking a foot and hand hasn't slowed her down.  Nothing is impossible for her, swimming included.  I emailed the coach before the season began expressing some of my worries.  Ella is still wearing a size 8 bathing suit.  Some of the 12 year olds on the team that she swims with are my size!  I knew she would be creamed based on size alone, so I wanted to protect her.  Add to the issue of her size the fact that she's missing body could easily become a summer of disappointments.

Everyone wanted to swim in the first meet and every meet following.  Sally griped because she always came in fifth.  Ella popped out of the pool ecstatic because she always felt like she won.  She was always very, very far behind the other swimmers.  Maybe she thought she finished so far ahead that everyone else was still swimming.  Either way, she loved the summer swim team.

The meets were a challenge for me.  Ella's mental abilities didn't allow her the acuity necessary to know when to go to the pool deck.  If, by chance, she showed up for her event, she most often stood at an arbitrary lane.  I watched like a hawk as her events drew near.  Racing from the stands, many evenings I grabbed her from her perch on the low benches behind the blocks only seconds before the event began.  Without her prosthetic, she crawled onto the block and kneeled, poised for the beep.  Instead of diving, she would plummet into the water, only slowing her start as the tall, limber swimmers dove into the water.  The race was on.  Ella, being 12, is forced to swim 50 yards.  She was strong during her first 25, but began to slow as she approached the far end of the pool.  I could always make out the voices of her coaches cheering from the sides.  Usually, a cluster of pre-teen girls would stand at the far end of her lane waving their arms and cheering.  By the time she began her flip-turn, the other five swimmers would be hitting the finish, panting.  Their swims completed, the event over, sans one lonely swimmer in lane 6.

Ella is rather proud of her flip-turn.  Finally, she learned how to do it, and never hesitates to show it off.  It's sweet, but cumbersome and slow.  Her energy wanes as she pushes off the wall with her good foot.  By now, all eyes are on lane 6.  The parents watching their daughters have turned their attention to the small girl struggling to finish her event.  They probably noticed her at the start, she was the only one kneeling on the blocks, but their attention would have been focused solely on their athlete.  Until now.  All eyes are on Ella.

I can't hear Ella's coaches any longer, my own voice drowns them out.  Then I realize, it's not only me.  People are on their feet, cheering for Ella.

Elijah always says he can't hear anyone while he swims.  I yell relentlessly because I am that wild, encouraging mom.  I believe they can hear my voice.  As I watch Ella finish the last 10 yards of her event, I can see by her face that she hears.  She is smiling.  A big, toothy, wide smile pops up every other stroke.  I silently chant, "Just breathe, don't smile!"

She finally tags the wall and the pool erupts.  My arms are covered in chills and my eyes filled with tears.

As summer passed, relatives in town visiting always took the opportunity to come for a swim meet.  At the summer finals, my in laws crowded next to me as we watched Ella finish her event.  The crowd screaming, my mother-in-law looked at me in tears and said, "Does this always happen?"

Yes, yes it does.

Ella taught me something this summer, it's far more important to give her an opportunity than to protect her.  What she may lack in physical strength, she makes up for in sheer will and determination. The courage of that humble little girl is awe inspiring.