Happy Spring!

April 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Posted in family | Leave a comment

what a big boy!

It’s soooooooooo good to finally get some spring around here!  We’ve all been outside in the last few days, doing yard work and re-discovering the swing set.   Simple pleasures!



March 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Posted in family, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

laundry waiting to be folded

I’ve not written anything in a while.   Mostly because I feel like I’m ‘supposed’ to say only happy and hopeful things here.      And recently, I’ve just decided to go with the Thumper philosophy of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” But……

Spring is here and that means mud.   It means the snow melts revealing a whole winter’s worth of dog poop scattered around the yard.   And speaking of poop, the cows down the road have been doing the same thing all winter and that warm spring wind blows it juuuuust right………..

It means projects, ball games, play practice, prom and academic fairs.   It means getting that college app mailed off for one kid, helping the other one with her (different) college registration day and helping another one plan the wedding that’s only 17 weeks away!   All while picking out a preschool and potty training too.    And no matter what time of year it is, life always means laundry.

Not that I don’t love my job here at home.   I work for the best people ever, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.   But sometimes I have a hard time feeling like I do it well.   I’ve subscribed to Southern Living and Traditional Home for way too long and that crazy standard of ‘beauty-and-peace-topped-off-with-homemade-pies’ is a big rub.    It contributes to an exhausting, uneasy feeling of failure that’s hard to shake.

But it’s not just those “Gone With the Wind-esque” magazines that get me.   I read other ‘mom blogs’ and some of these women are incredible.   They’re creative.   Some have craft ideas and field trip suggestions.   Others poetically draw my soul to the quiet whisper of God.    Some moms maybe even keep their kitchen floor clean and I’ll bet their roots don’t show.   In my fantasies, this is my life:


But in reality…… , this is more our style:

crammed, over-stuffed and choking

And, yes ~ I get freaked out by household clutter and rust stains in the sinks and JUNK in the garage.   And the roach I found munching on a whole bag of mini-marshmallows in my teenager’s bathroom drawer (?!?!)  just put me over the edge today.

Some days I can be pretty surly about it all.   But…. today, thanks to a friend’s facebook status, I got some serious Biblical comfort and perspective.    It pointed out Proverbs 14:4  [which, honestly, I can’t say I’ve ever noticed before].   But – I’m tellin’ ya –  it was written for harried, overworked, slightly o.c.d. moms like myself who get easily mired up in the chaos.   It says:

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”

Now I know the analogy breaks down a little, but it still soothes this (sometimes) quivering soul.   This manger is NOT clean.   That’s for sure.   But all too often I lose sight of the reality that I’m in the middle of some truly abundant crops!    Of course my life isn’t perfect and tidy.

It’s a chaotic, holy mess.

Oh God – keep me aware of the crop and give me a heart to embrace the ox and all that comes with it as we bring in the harvest around here!

broken hearts

February 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Posted in adoption issues, Prayer, secure relationships | 1 Comment

When the cupboard is empty, I go to the grocery store and within minutes, I’ve fixed that problem.

When a kid needs their school uniform ready, I get it spinning in the machines and …. Voilà!…. it appears folded for them shortly.   Problem fixed.

When the teenager is running errands and realizes her bank account is empty, a few clicks online put her back in shape.   Problem fixed.

From rides to project-poster-boards, from bake sale brownies to late night counseling sessions, I’m the go-to person around here.   And, frankly…. I deliver just about all the time.

But I’m finding that there are some problems that I just can’t fix.   Specifically:  Broken, fearful little hearts.

Children who have experienced early childhood risk factors (such as neglect or living in an orphanage setting, etc)  sometimes come with lingering issues that are very present and real.   So real, in fact, that these kids are classified as ‘special needs kids’ by developmental experts.   They’ve been harmed by their early circumstances and they’ve suffered losses.   Even if a child was pre-verbal at the time of the harm, the impact of these risk factors is profound on his brain chemistry.

Tender hearts learn the unspoken rules about what it means to live on this planet very early on.

We see this often as tears and frustrations continue to be part of the daily rhythm of our son’s life.   Without being able to articulate why,  disappointment lands on him like an avalanche of pain and distress.   He wails and seemingly overreacts to almost every situation.   There’s a ‘sense’ of uncertainty in his experience, even though he IS secure now.     There’s a ‘sense’ of danger, even though he IS very safe and very loved.   There’s a ‘sense’ of helplessness that informs his perspectives and shapes his responses to the regular stimulus of daily life.   He gets these inaccurate, but powerful perspectives from a deeper place that imprinted on him long before we ever met.   It’s a message that repeatedly tells him, “Life is not safe.   Life = despair.   It’s hopeless.”

How great it would be if I could just go to a psychological ATM and withdraw the amount of security and confidence that he needs.  Or if I had the right pills or better yet, a time machine to go back and eliminate the issues to begin with!    How I wish I could fix what ails him.

What I can do, is coach and reassure and walk with him through it, praying that the ‘sense’ he has will eventually shift to one of peace.  I need to be reminded often that God:

“heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”  Ps 147:3

I can’t fix my little guy’s problems.   (and I’ve been trying for a while now..)   But my maternal heart rests more knowing that even as I type this, God is on the case.   He’s healing and He’s binding up the broken, cracked emotional and psychological places deep below the surface.    There’s hope in that.

are they twins?

February 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments


We get that question surprisingly often.   When Haley and Kelsey were little, I don’t remember people asking me that.   They were pretty close in age (only 25 months apart).    They were both blond and fair and had similar smiles.   But – I really don’t remember being asked if they were twins.

I live with Philip and Zachary and see them every day, so maybe I just don’t see what everyone else sees.   But when i look at my boys, they look so very, very different from one another.   Yes, they are pretty close in age (21 months apart).   But Philip is a whole head taller than Zach.    He moves like an older child, while Zach bobbles and toddles.    Their facial structure is different.    Their hair lines are different.   Philip’s eyes are very round and poetic.    Zach’s eyes are twinkly and can be crescent-shaped when he smiles.    Their body types are different.    The only thing that makes them look a little alike is that they’re both black.


merciful balance

February 6, 2010 at 11:44 am | Posted in family | 2 Comments

  • brand new prescription glasses, warped and bent with a lens precariously hanging in the rim
  • the shredded pages of a favorite book lying on the floor – evidence of a lost battle with a toddler
  • pizza stains on the carpet after a forbidden feeding of the vulture-dog below the high chair
  • orange lips staining the upholstery and cheezits scattered throughout the house after a renegade raiding of the pantry
  • the surprise, yucky feeling of wet socks after stepping in the puddle of water poured from the dog’s dish
  • a brother wailing and holding his throbbing skull while the offender stands, guiltily still holding the heavy wooden block in his chubby hand
  • the pure inability to sit in a high chair without a 3 point harness secured
  • the walls and blinds behind the high chair spotted and thinly coated with spaghetti sauce and oatmeal
  • the new toy train, inoperable due to fat hands crushing the wheels against the floor with the full weight of a 30 pound body
  • the TV rendered useless due to fingers that willfully poke buttons until the poor appliance gives up the ghost
  • the dvd player shall rest in peace as well
  • the frightening THUD of a small person jumping off the dresser in the nursery, late at night — when little people should be asleep

and then…..

  • the soft patter of pajama clad feet, scuffling across the bedroom floor in the dark hours of the morning.
  • standing at the side of the bed saying nothing… and just the whites of his eyes visible in the shadowy room.
  • chubby thighs straining to climb into the bed next to mama.
  • snuggling down in the warm covers with stillness and affection.
  • quiet, sloppy kisses freely given.
  • even deep breathing as he dozes.

The awareness of his goodness restored.

Adoption Day

January 31, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Posted in adoption process, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

It actually happened.

After more than a year, we finally got our paperwork together, hired a lawyer, got a court date and appeared before a judge.   And then, ten minutes later – it was done and Philip and Zach were legally ours and we were legally theirs.

Someone asked me if it felt different leaving the courthouse now that it was official.   Actually – it didn’t feel a bit different.   We drove home, like we have hundreds of times already, with our sons strapped into their car seats with a day ahead of us to play with them and love them and live with them.

The details on the papers have changed.   We can now claim them on our taxes.   They now have inheritance rights.   We can apply for their American citizenship.    And those things are big deals… in their own way.     But – in the ways of the heart and in the ways of family – this deed was done quite a long time ago.

From our little point of view, it was done when we were able to bring them to the states.   Or maybe, we could back up and call it ‘done’ when the judge in Uganda granted us guardianship.   Or maybe it was even done earlier ~ when were received our referral that these two were assigned to our family.    But ~ more important than our experience and more important than a legal process in a county in Minnesota is the reality that our destiny as a family was written before time began, when God put His purposes in motion for all of us.

Either way – if we look at it from a legal standpoint or from an eternal one – fact is, IT’S DONE!!!

Apropos words of advent

December 4, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Posted in devotional | 1 Comment

There’s a TON of stuff happening in our lives this year.   Like the rest of you – our life is moving fast – sometimes, at break-neck speed.   We’re planning a graduation, looking at colleges, planning a wedding, getting a driver’s license, teaching 5th grade, finalizing an adoption, making a transition with a corporate merger AND all the ‘regular’ stuff.   And sometimes I get a little stressed about it all.   Sometimes I wonder how it’s all going to work.   Sometimes I freak out a little bit.   (Sometimes a lot.)

But the verse featured in our advent story the other day was the medicine this fretful soul needed.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

For I am the LORD, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.”  (Is 41: 10, 13)

God hid a little gem of encouragement right in the middle of my day, when I least expected it.      I’ve been steeping in those verses for a few days now…. like a hot bath for the soul.




Take His hand.

What a combo day!

November 26, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Posted in adoption process, Uganda | 1 Comment

Thanksgiving Day AND Gotcha Day all in one!    It’s been a whole year, folks!    We’re blessed beyond words.

Gotcha Day!

Over the past 365 days we’ve had some amazing days (like this one) and we’ve had some really hard ones (which I didn’t actually have the energy to blog about much).   The boys have grown and have adapted to so much in the past year ~ and so have we.       We are forever re-defined as a family and have stretched and groaned and giggled our way through the past 12 months. And,  with this important anniversary date, feel like we are no longer novices at this thing.   We are now officially seasoned veterans!  <wink>

Thanksgiving dinner brought the first comments about the fact that today is the anniversary of the day we were became a family together.     Philip, especially, was interested to hear about it again and before we ate he thanked God for ‘the airplane and for America and for home and for the plane coming down here’.

Yep – we were all choked up and could each say a hearty ‘amen’ at the end of that prayer.

Later tonight, when we were finally ready for pie, we had our Gotcha Day .   A couple weeks ago, I wrote about being in a bit of a dilemma, not knowing whether to do Gotcha Day or not.   Thanks for your input, friends.   You really did help us make up our minds.

We decided to celebrate the day by looking at pictures from our return trip  from Uganda and there was lots of laughing as we told the story over again.   Haley made a great little slide show for them, which they loved.   And, finally, we gave them their first gift from Uganda.    Each boy got a stuffed animal that we purchased in Jinja – their home for a while before we all became a family.

They felt celebrated.   We felt delighted.   Such a fun time.

A field trip to Staples!

November 22, 2009 at 10:09 pm | Posted in God's obvious goodness | 4 Comments

United Methodist Church of Staples Minnesota. Ever been there?   I hadn’t either until this weekend.

Staples UMC

Here’s the story:

Last year, Anne,  a young woman from Minnesota decided to go to Africa as a  volunteer.    She enlisted her whole congregation in her little church in Northern Minnesota to be her support team and she ended up spending two months in Jinja, Uganda caring for babies at the Amani Baby Cottage.

Upon her return, she gave the standard post-missions-trip slide show and challenged her little church to continue supporting the kids at Amani by creating a regular milk-money offering that the children of Staples would give to support the children of Amani.   Now in it’s second year, this little fund has grown and also enjoys the support of the church at large.   They donate to babies they’ve never met and through their generosity, they’ve raised some serious dough and have kept the babies at Amani supplied with their much-needed milk.

Some of the little ones that benefited from this milk money campaign were our very own Philip and Zachary!    And since we’re a real, live Amani family that lives sort of close by, Anne (and her family) asked us if we’d be willing to come to her church, tell them our story and let them meet our boys.

So, yesterday we loaded up and drove three hours north to go to the Staples United Methodist Church.

It was like stepping back in time or into a small-town fictional novel.   For this gal who’s only lived in bigger suburban areas and has attended mega-churches for 25 years, it was eye-opening.    The tiny 150 year-old sanctuary was beautifully adorned with stained glass windows and dark wooden pews,  upholstered in red velvet.    It was both charming and breath-taking all at once.

The people were genuinely glad that we were there and I think EVERY single one of them told us so!    They were friendly and gracious and welcoming.   We talk about ‘community’ a lot in big churches.   We are hungry for it and try all kinds of things to ease the isolation that so easily happens in big churches.   There – they were ‘family’ to each other and extended that heart-felt love to us.   It wasn’t hard…. It was natural community and it was really beautiful.

We spoke to their Sunday School classes and then again in their ‘missions moment’ in the main service.    Philip and Zachary were the stars!    The people were so glad to actually meet some of the babies that their funds had supported.

I was humbled.

Here was this tiny, tiny church WAY up in northern Minnesota.   We had nothing in common except for Anne and the cross.   But that was enough.

These people provided for my boys before I ever could.   Anne cared for them and was a mama to them before I could be.    The UMC in Staples has just a couple hundred people in it (maybe??).    And God connected the dots to call them to be involved for the cause of orphans almost 8,000 miles away.   Don’t you just love the way God works?

Anne holding Zach at Amani

Today, as we sat in the children’s Sunday school, they passed around the little coffee can that they collect the milk money in each week.   I saw that it was coming my way, so I reached in my purse and gave Philip a few coins to put in the can.   When it arrived at our pew, I noticed that the can was covered in bright lettering spelling out ‘Amani” and there were pictures glued all over it… pictures of the children of Amani.   And there, on the little coffee can, was my son, Zachary’s face.    And as I choked back the tears, the reality of it hit me:   Philip and Zachary were once the orphans.   They were on that side of the fence.   Today, they sat in church with me, and Philip put money in that little can to serve and benefit those who are still orphans.     P & Z are now on the other side of the fence.     They are now the ones contributing to the relief effort.    God is good in so many ways.

Thank you, Staples UMC!   Thank you.

Happy Birthday to Zach!

November 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Posted in family | 2 Comments

Zach is 2!!

Zach had a party tonight ~ a party to celebrate HIM!

He enjoyed every minute of it, from the cupcakes to the gifts!    Philip cried because he ‘wanted some birthday too’.     Luckily, Zach was happy to share his birthday.

big brother, Philip

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