Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Fun!

I love this time of year! Every day holds a new surprise or fun activity. Some of these things can overwhelm a well-balanced child. It has been a challenge to find a path through this season for our new kiddos. They are so happy that they have been home a year and we are now repeating traditions. They have a little frame of reference as to what is going to happen.

Sunshine made me laugh when she said, "I like Christmas this year better. I was so grumpy last year." Yes she was, but who could blame her?

Some of our fun has included: Riding the train at the Tree Farm and cutting down our tree, a trip to Seattle to see the Nutcracker, our homeschool co-op Christmas concert where M&M, Pumpkin and Sunshine sang and Elsie signed in ASL, decorating the house, making cookies and candy, celebrating Advent, and rehearsal for our church Christmas Musical that will happen tomorrow night.

In the midst of all of this we have begun therapy. What a blessing at this time of year. We have had two visits and I am praying that this will be the help that my little ones need.

Stand-Up Dad has been traveling A LOT. We are all looking forward to him coming home tonight and not traveling again until after Christmas.

Our greatest desire this time of year is to try to slow our hearts in the midst of the busyness and focus on the reason that we are celebrating.

The birth of Jesus Christ changed the world! Because of Him, we can be changed for eternity!

God Bless You and Yours! Merry Christmas!
Sweet Momma

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy Family Day!!!

Yesterday we celebrated our first Family Day! Last year on this day our family was complete! December 1st will be a day that we celebrate every year. The big kids love to tell the story of how they took a nap after dinner, because our flight was coming in very late at night. My dear friends brought our four big kids to the airport to meet our 12am flight.

It had been 37 hours of travel and we were all quite exhausted. But the reunion/meeting time was so sweet! As a mom I was overwhelmed when I saw my big kids. I had missed them so much. It is not easy being on the other side of the world away from four people that you love so deeply. After hugs and hellos we piled into our van and filled every seat.=)

When we got home it was very early in the morning. Sunshine and Little Buddy wanted to explore their new house. We gave them about an hour and then said it was time for bed.

The next morning was filled with much play and dress-up and generally getting to know each other. The picture above is the first picture of all six of my children together.

We celebrated Family Day with cards and a little candy. We also spent time in prayer around the breakfast table thanking God for our first year all together.

Our breakfast was a traditional Ethiopian porridge that my little ones call "G'at." They like the porridge with oil and berbere. My four oldest had theirs with oil and cinnamon sugar. For lunch we ate injera with shiro sauce and boiled eggs. The smiles on my little ones faces were huge! Sunshine said that her tummy was happy. She also said later that her fingers still smelled like berbere. This made her happy all over again. Maybe it has been too long since we had Ethiopian food.=)

I ended the day by meeting with an adoption attachment therapist. The meeting went very well and I am anxious to see what the next weeks and months will bring in terms of healing for my children.

I want to take a moment and thank you for your prayers on our behalf. It has been an amazing, eventful and challenging year. But I have never felt more in the center of God's will. Please continue to pray God's best for our family.
Thank you in advance,
Sweet Momma

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Year Ago Today!!!

One year ago today we met Sunshine and Little Buddy for the first time. Our meeting was different than I had thought it would be. I had heard the stories of my friends who adopted from China all going into a big room as the babies were all brought in and handed out to each family. I had seen their tear filled videos. Our experience was different.

Stand-Up Dad and I had just arrived in Addis Ababa from Mekele, which is in northern Ethiopia. We were picked up in a van by a representative from our agency and they began to drive through the busy streets of Addis Ababa. As we drove he asked us if we wanted to go to the transition house to meet the kids or go to the guest house to get settled and the kids would be brought to us in half an hour.

We chose to go to the guest house. We took in our luggage and unpacked. I was so excited and nervous and did not know what to expect. Our room was on the third floor. When we walked out the door we could see down to the court yard and out onto the street.

After we unpacked we did not know how long it would take for them to get there. Should we stay up in our room where they could bring them to us or should we go down to the court yard and wait?

After what seemed like forever, We heard a honk outside the door of the large metal gate of the guest house. Through the open gate came a white mini van. From the third floor I looked down and watched two couples climb out holding beautiful little babies and then I saw the tops of my two little ones as they climbed out of the van.

I ran down three flights of stairs and met them at the bottom.

What do you say to your child the first time you meet? How do you let them know about the love that you already have for them and how you promise to take care of them?

You can't say all of that because they don't know English.=) So I took their hands and walked them up the stairs to our room. Stand-Up Dad and I gave them each a back pack full of surprises and I took this first picture.
Many months later, when they had learned enough English to share their lives with us we learned that no one had told them about us. They had no idea that they were being adopted. They did not know that we would be their new mommy and daddy.

It helped us to understand so much about those first weeks after this first picture.

This past year has been amazing to say the least. These two children are absolutely incredible. I am in awe of how they have transitioned into our family. They learned English very quickly. They opened their hearts to us for love even when they did not understand. It seemed as if every day held new experiences those first six months.

It was apparent very quickly that they loved having a mommy and a daddy. They showed us right away that God had chosen the perfect children for our family. They are hilarious. Even without English they somehow got the joke and could keep the joke going.

They opened their hearts to not only our love but the love of God as well. They could not get enough of the stories of Jesus and how much He loves them. They have each made a profession of faith and are walking with the knowledge that they are a child of God.

Now that the first year has come and gone we are living life. It has become apparent that there are some real, deep issues that they are struggling with. They have been through a lot in their young lives and it is our desire to help them find a way to process the hurts of the past so that they can move forward into the future. We will be meeting with an attachment therapist in a couple of weeks. Please pray that this additional help will be exactly what they need.

Below is my favorite picture that we had taken recently. What a gift these children are! I am overwhelmed at how God has worked through each and every situation before they came home and since they have joined our family.

He is certainly weaving a masterpiece!
Sweet Momma

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Pumpkin!!!

A Volcano Birthday Cake
Pumpkin to the rescue!

Today is the day we celebrate Pumpkin! He is eight years old. God blessed him double this year by giving him snow for his birthday. We live in western Washington. We don't get much snow, and I can't remember having snow before Thanksgiving. This picture was taken last night with just a bit on the ground. We woke up to a couple of inches and more has been falling throughout the day.

We got up this morning and he couldn't wait to open his presents. It was definitely a "Lego" birthday. I love this picture with his brother in their pj's. He has truly grown into a wonderful big brother this past year. Most of his youngest child traits have slipped away as he has taken on the job of leading Little Buddy and Sunshine.

I am so thankful for Pumpkin. He is such a kind young man who loves God and is working on becoming a man of character. He is quite good at telling jokes and loves to ride bikes or shoot baskets with anyone who will join him.

I can't wait to see how God will use him in the future!

Happy Birthday Pumpkin! I Love You!!!
Sweet Momma

Monday, November 15, 2010

Professor Pumpkin!

Pumpkin will be eight years old on Monday. I am wondering how much longer he will allow me to call him Pumpkin on our blog. That was his name when he was in my tummy, before he was born. Eight seems older...we will see.

Last weekend we had a "Science Party" to celebrate his birthday. You can have a lot of fun and make a lot of noise with ten boys and science experiments.

This party was a big reminder to me of what we were doing last year at this time. Last November we got a call from our agency and they asked us if we wanted to come to Ethiopia two weeks early. Our original date to travel was Dec. 3rd. We got the call on a Monday and the change would mean that we would leave on Thursday. Leaving early would mean that we would be in Ethiopia for Thanksgiving and we would also miss Pumpkin's birthday.

We sat down with all the kids and asked them what they thought. I specifically asked Pumpkin what he thought about us being gone for his birthday. He put his arm around me and said, "It's OK Mom, you need to go and bring them home." What a brave boy at almost seven years old!

Exactly one year ago today, we got on a plane for the trip of our life!

Here are a few shots from the fun time at Pumpkin's party.
A silly shot from some very Serious Scientists

Professor Pumpkin building a toothpick and marshmallow tower.

Rocket Blasters
This was the absolute favorite activity of the day. Each boy got an empty film canister. They filled it halfway with water and dropped in 1/4 of a piece of Alka Seltzer. They quickly put on the lid and waited for the fun. In about a minute the lid comes flying off and the squeals of laughter ensued.

This activity was repeated until the supply of Alka Seltzer was depleted. So much fun!

If your kids haven't tried this, make sure to give it a try. It's a BLAST!!!
Sweet Momma

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Our Latest Family Photo

Here we are at a park that we love. It was so much fun to get shots with all eight of us! There are many more pictures that I hope to share later.
Sweet Momma

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Pumpkin Palace

Two years ago this month we obeyed God's call on our family to adopt and began the process. I remember standing at this pumpkin patch with Stand-Up Dad so full of excitement at what the next year might bring. We even wondered if our little ones would be with us for the fall of 2009.

They did join us in November, but were not present for the annual pumpkin patch visit. Last year we were waiting in anticipation to pass court. That was the day that these little kiddos would officially be ours. Our court date was October 29, 2009. We passed!!! And the rest is history.=)

So this year the trip to the pumpkin patch is quite special for me. For the last two years we have had these two precious ones on our heart as we visited this fun place, anticipating the day that we would share our tradition with our newest members.

This week we finally got the chance. We have had a lot of rain here and I don't enjoy mud and rain all in the same day. So we waited for the perfect day and that is what God gave us yesterday.

Brothers in boots. What could be better?

They loved tromping through the corn maze, although I got the feeling that they didn't understand the point. Come to think of it, what is the point?

One of the favorite attractions at our pumpkin patch is a huge pile of wood chips. There are little cars and sleds to ride down the side. Or you can jump or slide down on your backside. This sweet shot was taken just before each of them did a face plant into the wood chips. They both thought it was funny. I was glad.

I have a picture of my children in front of this sign for the last twelve years. When the little ones saw the sign, they both said "Hey, there it is, I know about that." So funny!

I asked Sunshine if the Pumpkin Patch was what she thought it would be. She said, "No, I didn't think it would be so much fun." They each chose their own pumpkin and cannot wait to carve it this weekend.

The tradition is complete. They are here for good. It has almost been a year and I still can't believe it sometimes. God is so good!
Sweet Momma

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Not a Punishment; It's a Privilege

Sometimes life takes you to a place of emptiness.

You know that feeling. You have given every last bit of yourself and it is not enough.

I am so thankful that I serve a God who shines brighter when I, through my emptiness, get out of the way and allow Him to be the center of my life.

I am always amazed at what God uses to take me to this place. I definitely don't like being in this place. But I know that as I struggle to work through this time, God is continually showing Himself to be faithful and good and loving and purposeful.

Last Friday, during care group I received prayer. Last Monday, at Co-op I received prayer. I am very uncomfortable being the "one who needs prayer", but God is also working on my humility.

I took a few minutes the other night and pulled out a book by Stormie Omartian called The Power of Praying Through the Bible. It was exactly what I needed to read at the moment I needed it. God is so amazing that way.

The scripture was out of Numbers where it is talking about how God led the Israelites in the desert by forming a cloud for them to follow. When the cloud moved, they would follow. God was physically in their presence in the form of a cloud, yet they still struggled with following and obeying.

Learning to walk with God is a process. Just when we think we have it all figured out, God leads us into a new place where our old tricks won't work. In fact we may feel as if we are learning to walk all over again. And in a way we are. We enter unfamiliar territory and are soon reminded that, on our own, we stumble. Yet when we take His hand, we walk with confidence. God wants us to soar above our limitations of our circumstances and ourselves. He wants to take us to a place we have never been before and can't get there without His help.

If you are at a place where you feel as if you can't take one step without the Lord's help, be glad. He has you where He wants you. If you're wondering, 'Have I done something wrong?' the answer is most likely that you've done something right. God has you on this path, regardless of how difficult and impossible it may seem right now, because you are willing to follow Him. He wants to accomplish great things through you that can only come out of a life of faith. He wants your undivided attention because you can't do things on your own. The path is not a punishment; it's a privilege. It's not a restriction; it's a reward.

I know that I have not shared the specifics of my struggles. But I don't think that is really what matters. God is doing a work in me and my family, and I am so thankful.

So if God has you walking through a valley, remember to hold tight to His hand because He has you right where He wants you.
Sweet Momma

Sunday, September 26, 2010

And All The Angels Rejoice!!!

Little Buddy posing with Luv E Lamb from Cubbies at AWANA

Today is the day that Little Buddy asked Jesus to be his personal Savior. We have been talking about it for a long time. He even asked to pray the prayer months ago when Sunshine did. But I didn't think that he really understood what it meant.

This morning before breakfast he asked again how he would go to heaven when he died. I shared the whole story again. He knows it well enough that he can say it with me.

We are all sinners and because of that sin, we can't be with God. But God made a way by sending His Son, Jesus, to earth to die on the cross for our sins. He rose again and lives with God. But all we have to do is ask Him to forgive us of our sins and ask Him to lead our lives and then...the ANGELS REJOICE!!!

Before lunch I was talking to another child and he interrupted again. I sent him to sit on his bed to think about it for a few minutes. When he came back I expected him to just apologize. But he had a very serious look on his face and he said, "Mommy I need to ask Jesus to forgive all my sins." I gathered all the siblings around to witness this amazing moment.

After his prayer we all cheered and I got to tell him about the angels rejoicing over his new salvation. That was Little Buddy's favorite part. He now knows that his name is written in the Book of Life. He is excited to know that the Holy Spirit is now living in his heart and will help him to obey.

Thank you God for new life through adoption, new life through salvation and a new life that includes both!
Sweet Momma

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Elsie!!!

My beautiful baby girl, the one who made me a mommy, is 14! I don't want to think about how old that makes me.

This past Friday began her weekend of birthday celebrating. She had a sleepover with some girlfriends. I love listening to them talk. This is not eavesdropping, I was just doing dishes and overheard the funniest things. Oh, to be fourteen!

My daughter amazes me! She LOVES the Lord! He is growing her daily and I am thrilled to be here daily watching the process. She is thoughtful and kind and is working to daily exhibit these qualities to her family.

I am most thankful for the relationship that is growing between the two of us. She daily shares her heart with me and I am working at listening and lovingly leading her. It truly is the coaching phase of parenting. She is growing into a precious friend.

Happy Birthday Elsie!! God bless you as you grow in His plan for your life.
Sweet Momma

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Saviour, He Can Move the Mountains!!!

Have you ever had God speak to you during corporate worship? I have, lots of times. He mostly reminds me of His love for me or reiterates a promise to my heart.

A couple of years ago God spoke very specifically to my heart during one particular song one Sunday at church. You see, I was in a very intense time of prayer with God. I had been praying for months in the area of adoption. God had placed the desire firmly on my heart and He continued to grow the desire daily.

Stand-Up Dad and I both had a desire to adopt. But Stand-Up Dad was not sure that the desire was for us. Maybe God wanted us to support others in adoption or pray more fervently about God working in adoption. He was not sure if it was the right time for us.

I went through many different emotions about this, and finally came to the place that I knew I needed to line up under my husband's authority and if we never adopted, that would have to be OK. God could just use this example to teach me obedience. Even still, the desire grew stronger, and Stand-Up Dad seemed unmoved.

Then one Sunday in church we sang this song...

Everyone needs compassion,
Love that's never failing;
Let mercy fall on me.

Everyone needs forgiveness,
The kindness of a Saviour;
The Hope of nations.

Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.

Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave.

So take me as You find me,
All my fears and failures,
Fill my life again.

I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in,
Now I surrender.

My Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.
Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave.

It is an amazing song. But when we got to the line that says "My Saviour, He can move the mountains," God spoke to my heart, "Sweet Momma, if I can move mountains, I can move Stand-Up Dad's heart in the area of adoption. Trust me and wait." The next line talks about that God is mighty to save. I know that it is referring to salvation, but it also seemed to mean that He is mighty enough to save these two precious ones from a life of poverty without knowing God.

Of course, I bawled, and left church that day with a new promise to trust in. And you know the rest of the story.

Every time I hear or sing that song I am reminded of God's promise to me. There is NOTHING that is too hard for God. When His people pray, God moves in amazing ways.

The reason I share all of this is that God gave me another window into His heart the other day. A confirmation of His love for me and our family.

I was sitting at a school table correcting math while most of the kids were off schooling somewhere in the house. Sunshine and Little Buddy were having some playtime in a bedroom nearby. These two little ones love to sing. From the moment we met they have been singing. Our best memories in Ethiopia, were after dinner, before bed, every night they would sing and dance for hours. It was wonderful fun.

Back to correcting math. they had been playing quietly in the bedroom, when all of the sudden I heard them burst into a chorus of..

"My Saviour, He can move the mountains.
My God is mighty to save,
He is mighty to save. Forever author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave.
He rose and conquered the grave."

I didn't even know that they knew that song.

It was as if God was hugging me and saying, "Thank you for trusting me, thank you for waiting and never once doubting my plan for your life."

God is beyond amazing in His love for us.
Sweet Momma

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It Just Takes Time

My Super Little Buddy

Our littlest one is working through a lot for a four year old. I have mentioned his strong will in the past. I know that God will use this "will" for good as he grows. Determination is a wonderful quality. But right now, this determination is fighting what is right and what he wants to do.

I know that you might be thinking that all four year olds do this, but it is clearly different from normal four year old stuff. I can tell that his heart is still trying to decide if this family thing is really what he wants.

Please understand that he definitely loves our family. And as an outside observer, you would say that he is completely "attached." But as his Mommy, I know that his heart is still processing. He is still testing the waters of "trust." He is still trying to see if we mean what we say when we promise to love him forever. How does he do this? In a million subtle ways every day.

Because of his "choices" he has had the opportunity to spend extra time with me. He can be quite frustrated with this arrangement. As I have said before, he wants to do what he wants to do and have fun.

One of his consequences is to sit through big church with Mom and Dad instead of going to class. He has shared in the past that he does not like this, because it is not fun. But over the last few weeks, things have changed.

At home his behavior has sort of stalled. I have become increasingly frustrated with the choices he is making and have felt at a loss to know how to move him to the next level. His behavior has actually gotten worse. Stand-Up Dad and I discuss our options or lack of them and keep praying that God will help him trust us.

Today he sat with us in church. Stand-Up Dad held him during worship and he spent the time during the sermon snuggled up with me. He played with my hair while I rubbed his back and held him close. It felt wonderful to hold him for a solid hour. I don't have that kind of time at home. During the service he asked me if he could make a card when he got home.

Immediately upon entering the house he asked Elsie to help him make a card. The card I received ten minutes later read as follows. Elsie told me that these are his exact words.

Dear Momma, I love you. We love you. I love Mom. I love you and thank you for being a good mom. Little Buddy loves Mom. Hugs and kisses - You're smart. I love being in church with you. I love when you rub me. It feels good. Do you know I love you Mom? I really do. Everybody loves you. I'll never stop loving you. Love, Little Buddy

God knew that I needed this precious card from my precious boy. He is doing a work in his heart. I have to keep trusting and praising Him in the process. It just takes time.

Sweet Momma

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Day of School!

Today was the first day of school. We have been taking "First Day of School" pictures since Elsie was in Kindergarten. Because we homeschool it is important to make a few traditions that mark these wonderful occasions. I also love to look back at their pictures with their signs and see how much they have grown.

You can see from the picture that we have a 9th grader, 7th grader, 4th grader, 2nd grader, 1st grader and a Pre-Kindergartener. I am anticipating a busy year, but am also excited to get back into teaching full time. I know that a stay-at-home mom is always teaching, but I am referring to the more structured teaching of homeschool.

My favorite group shot

The classic silly shot
May God bless you and yours as you pursue higher learning, whether it is third grade or graduate work.
Sweet Momma

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Calgon, Take Me Away!!!

Have you ever felt in over your head? I seem to be living in such a state lately. =) I am still smiling and it is really not that bad.

I am attempting to prepare for another homeschool year where I will be schooling six children. I have a preschooler up to a freshman in high school. It is our own little one room schoolhouse, but our one room consists of a large home with plenty of room and forced air heating.

I absolutely love schooling my children and I take the responsibility of it very seriously. I plan very carefully and attempt to cover each subject necessary and then some. Each of my students has needs in different areas and these must all be taken into account as I plan out my schedule. This year I hope to help Sunshine become a completely independent reader. Little Buddy refuses to sit by and just play, so he has math, handwriting and age level workbooks to make him feel like the big four year old that he is.

Sweet Pea and Pumpkin will be tackling Sonlight 4, which covers the second half of American history. They will also begin a Latin program this year along with all their other subjects.

M&M is in 7th grade and becoming more independent each day, but still needs quite a lot of guidance. I am hoping to take a good amount of time focusing on character this year. I have a wonderful study called Polished Cornerstones that has hundreds of activities and assignments that help a young lady learn how to be a woman that honors God in all she does.

Elsie is my first high schooler. She will be studying the History of Christianity, Algebra 2, Physical Science, Speech and Debate,etc. Her load is full, but she is very excited. She is taking a class at our co-op called Coffee Shop. I am told that she will learn about how to run a business in this class. I am just hoping that she will be able to make an excellent mocha when she is all done with it. =) She has just recently started a blog that you can check out under my friends list.

Stand-Up Dad and I began teaching our parenting class that runs for 18 weeks last night and we will begin Bible Quizzing practice next week.

Stand-Up Dad often reminds me that we wanted a big family and with many children comes much responsibility. So today, I am thanking God for all the blessings in our home and working at organizing it so that every one of them can grow and learn and thrive!

May God bless you and your family as you prepare for this new school year!
Sweet Momma

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Sunshine and Little Buddy!!!

When we got our referral for Sunshine and Little Buddy we noticed that their birthdays were one day apart, August 15th and 16th. Their oldest sister had given them these birth dates and for that reason they are special to our little ones.

Soon after they came home, two of their sisters had birthdays in January. They got to experience birthday parties and the opening of presents. They were anxious to know when they would have a birthday. It was so hard to explain that they had to wait for eight more months.

One day after Sunshine had been home a few months she seemed sad and I asked her about it. She said that she had never had a birthday before. She was mourning her missed and forgotten birthdays. She told me that nobody celebrates birthdays in Ethiopia. She said, "People don't know when their birthday is." Because of all of this, their first American birthday was extra special.
They have grown so much in the last eight months. Sunshine has grown 3 1/2 inches and Little Buddy has grown 4 1/2 inches. They have also grown in many other ways. They have learned a new language and learned how to be part of our family and also jumped right into a completely new culture. They are still learning each day and taking everything in stride. They are absolutely amazing!!
Here they are riding Little Buddy's new plasma car.

Little Buddy is now four years old. How I adore his smile and his belly laugh when I tickle him. He loves to play games outside and is very fast. His favorite thing to do is play and have FUN. He can be frustrated when he receives a consequence like sitting on the stairs. He tells me that he doesn't like it because it is not fun. So if he could have fun all day long, his world would be perfect. Sounds good to me. Too bad that fun all day is not reality. =)

This little boy was in desperate need of a mommy and daddy and has blossomed in our home. He has learned a lot about how to obey his new mommy and daddy. But this little boy has the strongest will that I have ever come in contact with. It takes him a long time to decide to obey. Please pray for him to continue to trust us enough to obey the first time. And please pray for my patience as I parent this precious little boy.

Sunshine is now six years old. She amazes me daily with all that she can do and her sheer determination. Last night we took the training wheels off her bike and she just rode off down the street. She has decided that having a mommy and daddy is a good thing and works very hard to obey. She struggles with working for perfection. She knows that the only perfect people are God and Jesus. She knows that we all make mistakes and just try our best. But she is very hard on herself.

She is a very generous and loving little girl. She is learning to play piano and can't wait to start homeschooling again. She is smart, smart, smart. She is very easy to teach.

I feel so privileged to be her mommy. I know that God is going to do something amazing with her as she grows up. She asked Jesus to be her Savior this past year and knows that God is helping her in all that she does.

I am so thankful for both of these little ones. Parenting them is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It is also one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It is funny how those two things often go together.

Happy Birthday Sunshine and Little Buddy!!! I love you!!!
Sweet Momma

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our First (And Definitely Not Our Last) Tent Camping Experience!

I grew up camping. My childhood is sprinkled with wonderful memories of time spent in the woods. Up until now, the idea of sleeping on the ground in a tent did not appeal to me. But I also knew that my kids were missing out on tons of fun. So when a friend of mine invited us to join them on a camping trip I knew that I had to snatch the opportunity to become a camping family. I bought cots for the grown ups and began gathering all the things that are necessary for camping.

As you can see, our sight was amazing. Elsie and M&M slept in the small tent in the background. Just beyond their tent was a stream that flowed into a nearby river. It was perfect.
Sweet Pea and Chickie hanging out on the hammock

Our kids learned the well known truth that everything tastes better when cooked over the fire.

Sunday morning was Sunshine's birthday! She was so excited to wake up in the tent to six balloons. She also enjoyed eggs, bacon and donuts for breakfast! She had a wonderful day. I will share more about that later.

The camping trip was a huge success. The kids are already planning another. It was, as I expected, a lot of work. I am still doing laundry. But it was completely worth it!

So if you've never tried it, grab some friends who know how to camp and go for it! Your children will thank you.
Sweet Momma

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Foundations of a Relationship

We have been doing some very hard work this summer. The attachment, bonding, trusting, failing and trying again kind of work. We have been learning about the core foundations of a relationship.

These little ones have come to us with so many gifts, and yet their basic understanding of how relationships work was completely lacking. They desire to have a close trusting relationship with all of us, but have no idea how to achieve it.

In the process of helping and teaching them, I have been taken aback at how basic the foundations of a relationship are.

Honesty: Without this in a relationship, there is no trust. Lying has been a huge issue with our little ones. I remember saying that it was as easy as breathing with one of them. That is not a way that anyone would want to describe one of their children. But I am not blaming this little one who has not been taught about the pitfalls of dishonesty. This has been a long hard process that we are still in the middle of.

After months of working through this they are both acting with the understanding that dishonesty damages a relationship and being truthful honors God. They pray each night that God would help them to tell the truth so that Mommy and Daddy can trust them. They are each seeing little victories each day and we rejoice with them.
Proverbs 12:22
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men (and children) who are truthful.

Seeking Forgiveness: We all sin. We all lie or disobey or offend another person. Without seeking forgiveness the relationship is broken.
1 John 1:8-10
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

This has been a big area to tackle with our little ones. It began with explaining what sin is and how it hurts the person and the relationship with the person they have offended. At the beginning we taught them how to seek forgiveness. " I am sorry for _____. Will you please forgive me?" They learned how to do this. We also taught them to seek God's forgiveness.

Stand-up Dad and I believe, with children, that actions precede belief. This has been true with our little ones. As they began to seek forgiveness it was very apparent that they were not sorry for their sin. They were completing the act, but their beliefs had not yet lined up with that act.

How do you teach someone to feel sorry? You can't. We continued to pray that God would soften their hearts and they would begin to feel some hurt in their heart for their sin.

God has continued to be faithful and both Sunshine and Little Buddy are beginning to understand what seeking true forgiveness looks like. There is no longer the hardness in their eyes when they are caught in their sin.

Yesterday I was talking with Sunshine about some disobedience. She tearfully asked for forgiveness and I gave my forgiveness and held her on my lap. I shared with her how proud I was of her. Just a few weeks ago, if she were given a consequence, she would have expressed anger toward me which would usually lead to more disobedience. Yesterday we were able to seek forgiveness and completely restore our relationship within a few minutes. These changes are huge.

Characterization: What are you characterized by? How are you seen by others? Are you kind? Do you encourage others? Are you willing to humble yourself?

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

In our home we value Christian character. This is something that we teach daily through scripture reading, specific instruction and by example. I fail many times in the area of being an example and am quick to humble myself and ask forgiveness. This was not modeled for me growing up and I know that it had an affect on those relationships.

It has been fun to teach our new ones what God thinks about obedience. Our family paraphrase: "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. And things will go well with you and you will have a good life." They often say that they want to obey so that they can have a good life.

The latest discovery, in regards to relationships, has been that Mommy and Daddy don't like giving consequences. They thought that we enjoyed giving consequences. I was able to explain to them that Daddy and I are required by God to teach them right from wrong, and to give consequences. If we do not teach them these things, we would be disobeying God. This was quite a surprise to them both. Such simple concepts give them peace in their hearts. After that understanding they have not pushed as hard against consequences, since they know that I am trying to obey God too.

Thank you again for your prayers for our family! I covet them. God is surely weaving a masterpiece in our home and we are so thankful!
Sweet Momma

Saturday, July 31, 2010

History Camp

For the past few summers my children have enjoyed attending history camp at Fort Nisqually. Fort Nisqually is a living history museum. The time period of the fort is set in 1855.

My lids love to go to camp. There are three camps for different age groups. Each camp is different. The fort includes an actual fort perimeter that can be closed off from the outside. There is a laborer's dwelling, blacksmith's shop, granary, trade store, wash house, kitchen, and the Factor's house (this house is the nicest dwelling that would have housed the man in charge of the fort.)

During their time at camp they learn all about life in 1855. They play with period toys, play period games, wear period clothing and eat period food. It is an amazing place that all of my children look forward visiting every year.

Sunshine and Pumpkin went to Kit Camp this year. They had so much fun learning about the beaver trade and how the Native Americans lived.

M&M went to Camp Ft. Nisqually which is a 5-day day camp. They had the privilege of spending one night at the fort, sleeping under the stars and waking up with the rooster. In this picture she is speaking to Captain McNeil who oversees the Hudson Bay Company and has come to the fort to recruit workers. She signed on with the Hudson Bay Company for one year as a seamstress. She agreed to be paid four pounds a month. (This is all part of the wonderful role play that happens at the fort.)

Here is M&M attempting to make fire with a flint and steel. She also worked on her hatchet throwing skills during the week. They were required to do daily chores like watering the garden with buckets of water. She also made candles by dipping a wick repeatedly, for hours.

Sweet Pea finished her camp yesterday. Her camp was called History Through the Arts. They completed a different art activity each day while learning about the history of the fort.

Some of the best time at the fort was spent playing games and singing songs. My family loves history and studied American History this past year in school. Elsie is too old to attend camp, but was able to volunteer as a helper at two of the camps. She is hoping to join a program that will teach her how to be able to explain the history of the fort. She will be an Apprentice Interpreter.
Sweet Momma

Monday, July 26, 2010

Raspberry Picking Fun!

One of my favorite summer activities is berry picking! Last year when we went to pick raspberries we had just received our referral for Sunshine and Little Buddy. At that time we began conversations that went something like, "Next year when we_____ they will be here with us."

It is so much fun to experience all of our favorite activities with them for the first time. It is often difficult to explain what we will be doing. They both admitted that picking raspberries was different than they thought it would be. They thought it would be hard work and they were thrilled when they got to eat some.

My two oldest girls were at history camp and were not able to join us. I was a little sad that my best pickers were not there to help this year. Their presence was missed, but their picking expertise was not. My four youngest were amazing at choosing the very best berries.

Sunshine is showing you her biggest raspberry.

Look what two brothers can do when they work together.

Who can resist this adorable smile.

We took home enough raspberries for four batches of jam and a raspberry pie, with more for snacking. Next we move onto blueberries, blackberries and I hope to throw in some apple picking this year.

The next morning, while enjoying fresh jam on her toast, Sunshine said, "Lots of berries in America!"
Sweet Momma

Sunday, July 25, 2010

18 Years With My Love!!!

Yesterday, Stand-Up Dad and I celebrated our 18th anniversary. We are both amazed at how the time has gone by so quickly. We went to a lovely italian dinner which is right next to Pacific Lutheran University. The weather was warm and perfect. After dinner we took a walk around campus and talked and laughed at the silly things that only he and I would understand.

God has done some amazing things in and through our marriage over the years. We feel so blessed to have the privilege of following His leading so many times in our lives. We know that God is not finished with us yet and we look forward to what He will call us to next.

As the wife of this wonderful man, I am extremely thankful that he chose me so many years ago. He is such an awesome support to me. He has sacrificed much to provide for me and our children. He has offered much needed emotional and spiritual support. He loves me constantly, even with all of my faults. He makes me laugh and is the first person I want to share my world with.

After 18 years, he is still and always will be, my best friend.
Sweet Momma

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ahhh, Summer!

I love summer! I love the long days. I love the long periods of free time for the kids. As a homeschool mom, I love that summer allows me time to get projects done.

I have spent this week deep cleaning kids rooms and cleaning carpets. With six children to help, the work can be done much more quickly than I could do it myself. Yeah, big families!!!

Summer has been good for the little ones in some ways and hard for them in others. I believe that the initial adjustment phase is over and we are now dealing with the hard work that we will work on for a long while.

The reason that summer has been hard for them is that there are so many fun things going on. They want to participate in all the fun, but have learned that disobedience quickly removes you from the fun. Major bummer! This is a hard lesson for them to learn. Some days I think they are getting it, and other days they fall back on what they are used to and the consequences follow.

We are finding that it is very important to be consistent with them. We try to be consistent with all of our children, but these new ones have not been here long enough to know what we expect all the time. There is so much to learn. They really are amazing!

Please pray for them as they battle their own will and their desire to obey! You could pray the same for me while your at it!
Sweet Momma

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vacation 2010 - Part 4

I know that I am dragging out this vacation, but we had such a great time and I have to show a few more pictures. I promise that this is it.
I took this shot on our last night, right before we ate smores.

M&M and Pumpkin jumping the waves at Indian Beach which is just north of Cannon Beach.

It was such a perfect day at the beach. The kids played for hours.

One of our favorite activities at Indian Beach was watching the squirrels eat our carrots. Their chompers can really move! So funny!

Our vacation was a huge success. God blessed us with fabulous weather and our little ones did pretty well with all the new adventures. We feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to go away for a week. Little Buddy thought that Stand-Up Dad was done with work for good. He was a little disappointed when Daddy had to go to work on Monday. Now on to the rest of our fun summer.
Sweet Momma