Wednesday, December 31, 2008
There's been a lot of talk over at Faith and Family Live! about how people celebrate the New Year holiday. Anyone who's spent time aboard the Ark on New Year's Eve knows that we usually go all out with parties, games, food and friends. This year, our celebration has been scaled back about as far as it can go. We'll still be celebrating, but this year it will just be the nine of us. (We are our own party in some books, I suppose) We're still planning to do a few of our favorite traditions from the previous years' parties, though. One of my favorites is the Ten Year Predictions we all fill out. They are fun to read that night, but even more fun to read a few years later! Here is our list of questions:
Ten Year Predictions
1. In ten years, I will be _______________ years old.
2. In ten years, I will be living in __________________________________.
3. In ten years, my job will be ____________________________________.
4. In ten years, the people in my family will be
5. In ten years, I will _______________________________________ for fun.
6. In ten years, I will drive a _______________________________________.
7. In ten years, the president will be _________________________________.
8. In ten years, the newest invention will be ____________________________.
9. The best thing about being 10 years older will be
10. The worst thing about being 10 years older will be
*BONUS* What will your mom and dad be doing in ten years???(Yes---Mom and Dad, make sure you fill one out. We're all interested what you'll be doing---or more precisely where you'll be doing it--- in ten years!)
Saturday, December 27, 2008
If you have never seen this touching--and funny (how can you not laugh at the "icy patch" every.single.time...even when you the joke has been played to death?) Muppet Christmas special, here is the sing-along scene (nobody does a sing-along like the Muppets) with my favorite song at minute 5:28 (skip ahead if you must, but make sure you see it. It's from another Muppet special called The Christmas Toy) Jim Henson, who even makes an appearance in this special, hits the nail on the head with this one. There is something so special, so intangible, but so powerful about Christmas celebrated with those you love gathered close together.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
My mother-in-law sent me an invitation to a Christmas party you don't want to miss. Now, I am passing it on to you. May your Christmas be filled with much joy and peace!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Yesterday, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we had great plans. (I've just used the most dangerous word in the English language, the harbinger of impending doom---at least around here---plans!)
We had *planned* to bake Christmas cookies, watch The Grinch, eat Christmas cookies, finish Christmas shopping (or start in some cases--ahem) and decorate the second, completely superfluous, decorated simply for the sake of being decorated Christmas tree with large scale Lionel train at its base.
Then it happened.
Moments, no--milliseconds, after the Captain walked out the door for Mass, while I had four very wet, very soapy little children running (and speed-crawling) in four different directions, the Boy hollered these dreaded words, "Hey, Mom, there's standing water in the utility room."
And so we did.
Beulah and Hannah were charged with corralling and dressing the bath brigade while I ran down the stairs with a lame mop and bucket. It's a bad thing when the carpet squishes beneath your feet, I thought to myself, as I entered the utility room--where, sure enough, we had water but no visible leak. The walls were dry, the ceilings were dry and the carpet, for the most part, was dry. Unable to contact the Captain by phone in the middle of Mass, I began calling my tried-and-true neighbor and family who might help me discern where the water was coming from. Given the double digit below zero weather we're having, and the fact that the lines to the outdoor faucets were wide open, made burst pipes seem like the most obvious solution. Except for the lack of water coming from, you know, the pipes. So, when my dad--
Fortunately, the plumber was home and arrived at ours less than an hour later. In the meanwhile, I called the now out of church Captain to gently break the news to him. Nothing like an inch of water in your basement to bring down your spirits, I know, but at that point there was nothing he could do. So, I told him to head out and do his shopping and that the plumber cometh. There was nothing, he--nor I--could do at that point. He agreed. While he headed off to shop, the girls and I put into practice the same "let it go" mantra and started decorating the tree. Finished with that, we headed to the kitchen and started baking.
The plumber (and the Captain) arrived about the same time. The culprit, according to the plumber, was a bad sump pump. Several hundred dollars and a couple of hours later the problem was solved, the water began to recede and we (meaning the Boy and the Captain) started cleaning up.
This sump pump disaster gave us (yet another) opportunity to grow in virtue that we hadn't expected. We could have (and in the past probably would have) let this mess ruin our festivities and dampen--literally--our spirits. But perhaps we're learning something throughout the recent string of disruptions on the Ark. Or perhaps we're getting too tired to care. It's a thin line, but I think the relative calmness surrounding this most recent catastrophe is more the former than the later. At least I hope so. All this growing in virtue is great, but even the schools get a Christmas break from learning.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
from the ark-ives
Advent and Giving
Mrs. Testosterhome has a beautiful post about her work with the Poorest of the Poor alongside Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity. Her blog is worth reading anytime, but today, it's a must.
Her story reminded me of our Women's Scripture Study last month. We'd been discussing the virtue of Justice, which wound around to the topic of charity and the beatitudes; of following Jesus' command to care for those in need. As Advent was nearing, we discussed how many of us choose this time of the year to "clean house" and donate toys, clothes or other *stuff* to local shelters. Someone offered to be a drop-off location for donations as the St. Vincent DePaul truck was scheduled to pick-up donations at her house the following week.
I shared with the group how my own love of donating to charity was a bit jaded by the guilt I feel when said charity pulls up in my own driveway and (sometimes) even loads my boxes and bags of excess onto their truck for me, leaving me to simply stand aside and accept the tax-deductible receipt for the following April.
As we moved on to the final portion of the study, to read the story of "The Widow's Mite", suddenly a great spiritual fog lifted for me. Jesus commended the Widow for her giving because it came not from her excess, but from her need. Of course, my giving was charitable, but it was also a little selfish, if I was being honest with myself. True charity, real generosity, as illustrated from Mrs. Testosterhome's powdered donut story, must come from giving fully of ourselves--even to people whom we decide "don't deserve" it, just as God gives freely to us.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Not only does this time of year leave me feeling a bit nostalgic and melancholy for warm family memories, it also leaves me reminiscing around my previous years' Christmas posts, which leaves you, dear friends, the bearers of my jolly finds.
From the Christmas ark-ives...
The vacant nativity scene should have been my first clue...
But sometimes, you just have to see things to believe them...
Could it be? Rather than the traditional long-eared donkey, Joseph high-tailed it into town driving Mary, the animals and the three kings on--dare I say--a big yellow school bus?
And how did the mother from the Fisher-Price family doll house get on board?
Look out, Oliver Stone. You've got nothing on a three-year old left to her imagination.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It has been brought to my attention that I haven't actually explained what is wrong with our Baby Girl. Trust me when I say it is no great conspiracy theory at work or tabloid worthy illness. It is simply the product of a mom whose thoughts are so scattered right now that I recently found my garlic salt in the refrigerator.
She was discharged with two major issues: a massive sinus infection and a spot suspicious for pneumonia on her lung. These don't seem to be too major, do they? But consider the fact that she has been fighting these very same two ailments since, oh say, October 2007. Kind of changes the picure, huh?
So, after a multitude of scans and tests, she was put on several heavy duty antibiotics which seem to be doing the trick. She also saw a pediatric ENT who will be taking out her adenoids (which are super-sized) as soon as the infections are cleared up.
In the meanwhile, the antibiotic cocktails she is taking are doing a number on her digestive tract and my laundry schedule. She has the mother of all diaper rashes and we have simply thrown out onesies rather than try to wash them in some cases. As she comes off some of the antibiotics, we are hopeful that some of these side effects should subside. Unfortunately, she is looking at several weeks (if not months) worth of treatment.
Please pray for her health on this course of medicine and that she tolerates it until it is finished.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Rather than link to my column this week, I am printing it in its entirety here so that it will forever be a part of this online journal of my family. It is a lesson learned I don't want to soon forget.--Jane
Finding Hope for the Holidays
For every bell-ringing Salvation Army volunteer wielding a red kettle, there are ten Fox Valley parents rallying to de-clutter their homes before the gift-giving frenzy of Christmas morning hits. Armed only with large, black garbage bags, their covert missions typically begin with a highly orchestrated smokescreen involving children’s DVDs and end with mysteriously full Hefty bags materializing on the donation pile. At least that’s what I hear. Ahem.
Recently, I sat down and meticulously crafted a schedule to prepare my heart and home for Christmas that seemed nearly flawless. There were old favorites on my calendar such as
It left me holding the bag (literally) and wondering what to do next.
It also left me contemplating my Christmas preparations. For what exactly, I wondered, was I preparing?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t left with much time to discern an answer as our baby daughter—newly adopted from
Sitting in the quiet of my daughter’s hospital room, listening to the hums and beeps of her monitors gave me plenty of time to reflect on this change. I sat puzzling and puzzling. Having watched A Charlie Brown Christmas every year for nearly four decades, I knew “the true meaning of Christmas” but wanted to understand how that translated into the happiness and joy that miraculously appeared each year at this time. And I began to realize that Christmas was drawing closer and closer whether we sang any Christmas carols or baked any Christmas cookies.
With a new resolve, I stood and walked out of my daughter’s hospital room. Crossing the threshold, my attention was drawn to the ceiling tile above my head. Lifting my eyes upward, I focused on the tile. Where did this come from? Was this here before? I scanned the hallway and noticed other, similar tiles, scattered across the ceiling and painted in bright colors. The one above my head was simple. Consisting of four letters each painted in a different color was the word H-O-P-E. How had I missed this? I had entered and exited that room many times during her stay. A nurse saw me staring at the tile and commented, “Aren’t those wonderful? They were done in 2007 by children staying in the hospital.” And it finally dawned on me; it had been there all along. Even still it remains. There it was spelled out in bold, childlike faith for all eyes to see. What I had been so busy preparing for had been there all along—hope.
So take in a live nativity at one of the local churches…stop by and visit a friend, neighbor or relative for a spell…drive around with the kids to see the lights in the darkness. Be sure to make time to clear the clutter of your spirit as well as your home. And if life deals you a different card than this; or your holiday plans, like mine, get sidetracked on the way to Christmas—don’t despair. Hope abounds this time of year, that’s for certain, but it doesn’t pack its bags and leave town on December 26th. Hope is all around us…all year round…simply lift your eyes upward and see.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
from the ark-ives
Advent and Perseverance
Another mile on the bumpy back of a barnyard donkey.
Another knock on the door of an occupied inn, followed by further rejection.
Another cry into the darkness--My Lord, my God, where are you? This can't be Your plan--or can it?
How different would the story of salvation be if the Holy Family decided to pack it up 10 miles shy of their holy destiny? Faced with obstacles, uncertainties and disappointments could you honestly blame them? Certainly not by today's standards, which say--Don't wait...Have it all...Hey, why not have two...right now.
Fear and doubt may be the Devil's two best known tools, but he's got another trick up his sleeve that requires less perspiration on his part and gets the job done just as well. The Devil's not stupid. Why do something to us that we could ultimately do ourselves? Using our human tendency to need instant gratification, he has but only sit back and wait for us to give up and throw in the towel admitting defeat. Saves him time and effort and the end result is the same--a change in God's holy will for us.
This week in Advent, take a moment to think about those things that aren't going as smoothly as possible, that might be taking a little longer than previously planned or that might be requiring some extra effort. Then, think about what the implications might be if you abandon it because it isn't happening just as you had thought. It may be something small or it, like the actions of the Holy Family on their journey to Bethlehem, may have eternal consequences far beyond your wildest dreams. We need only to look to the example of the Holy Family's journey to help us stay the course.
I have fought the good fight. I have completed the course. I have preserved the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thank you all for the prayers! We are celebrating tonight ( with what I'm calling) her re-birthday on this most beautiful of all feast days. I will update more soon, but tonight my house (and my heart) are blessedly full.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I'm home now, but Baby Girl is still at the hospital. The Captain took over last night and let me return to the homefront. Really it is impossible for me to be content in either place. If I'm at the hospital, my heart is breaking for the little ones crying at bedtime for me at home and if I'm home, I wonder and worry about my Baby Girl and those caring for her.
We were blessed with an amazing day nurse yesterday. A mother herself and growing up in a family of nine children she laughed out loud when she asked me if all of our other children were coming to visit and I replied, "No, only five are coming." It was a nice change from the 4th year resident who saw us and asked a barrage of questions (that I had already answered 800 million times) including, "So, you have seven kids...umm...how's that working out for you?" Tired, worried, and in no mood to debate my reproductive/adoptive parenting choices with this twenty-something woman, I simply shook my head and stated, "Fine." I think she actually wrote that down.
So, additional tests are being run, antibiotics have been started, she will probably be in the hospital a little longer until we have all things run to ground. Please keep praying. It has carried us through these last few days and nights.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Today's appointment yielded little information except the news that Baby Girl is being admitted tomorrow to the Children's Hospital for further testing. I'll try to update as much as possible while she's gone, but until further notice I'm putting my prayer warriors on notice. Pray without ceasing!
Please read the following unbelievable account of Peter O’Malley, a dear friend to the Catholic Exchange family, who recently survived the massacre in Mumbai. I invite you to pass this on to your friends and others you know in the media and blogosphere – Peter’s experience is an inspiration and confirmation to all those who seek to know that we do not walk alone and how REAL the communion of Saints in heaven is on our lives.
(Note: Permission to reprint may be granted provided attribution with direct link to Catholic Exchange (www.CatholicExchange.com) is included. For online publications, reprint may be granted as published here, partial piece with link back to full article. Please contact Lisa Wheeler at or by email at email@example.com.)
Surviving the Massacre in Mumbai: To Whom Much Is Given
by Peter O’Malley
Last Wednesday evening around 10pm, following a relaxing supper, my friend Eugene and I arrived at the check-out desk at the , as we have done together hundreds of times in our travels as New York investment bankers currently living in Hong Kong.
As I placed my bag on the table I heard a loud gunshot, which I recognized from my years living in South Africa to be the distinctive snap of an AK-47 assault rifle. Hearing another shot a second later, I looked at Eugene and said, "Run, that's AK!"
We streaked away from the gunfire toward the nearest exit as the terrorists were entering the hotel lobby from various points. I smashed through the doors toward the pool area and ducked into some bushes as the gunfire grew in intensity. I realized Eugene did not make it out of the lobby.
Five or six people had arrived in the bushes before me, all now paralyzed in fear. From the sound of things I realized that a Columbine-like shooting spree was taking place inside, with gunmen walking around methodically executing people. Mind racing, I concluded that being bunched up in the bushes in the corner of the pool area was not safe.
Surveying the scene brought the dispiriting conclusion that we were trapped, surrounded by dozen foot-high walls on all sides. I scanned the walls and then scrambled for a finger or toehold, but found none. I did, however, spy an air conditioning duct about nine feet above me. I leaped and was able to knock a cover away. I jumped again and grabbed onto the unit, but as I tried to pull myself up, I fell, causing the folks in the bushes to hush me to be quiet.
A quick aspiration to the – “Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the heart of thy faithful!” – and then another leap upward. This time I was able to grab on and pull myself up over the wall where I flipped onto a lean-to roof of the pool shed. I laid low and quiet, partially concealing myself with tree branches.
Breathless, I thought to email my colleagues in London and apprise them of our plight. "Urgent: This is not a joke. At Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Gunmen on loose. People killed. Call police." Then I turned off my phone, thinking a ring could give away my position and bring on a quick and violent death.
For the rest of the article: http://catholicexchange.com/2008/12/08/114661/
Pray for our doctor's appointment today! We'll be at noon Mass for the holy day (where The Boy is serving) while simultaneously The Captain will be at the appointment. Our Blessed Mother will be hearing from us quite a bit on her feast day today.
I know there is a light waiting at the end of this long, dark tunnel...I hope we find it today.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
If there was ever an Advent when hope was first on my wish list, this one would be it. Hoping for a miracle end to Baby Girl's sickness, hoping for a doctor hand chosen by God to greet us tomorrow at the doctor's office, and all the while holding myself up on the hope that God will provide and see us through this.
From the ark-ives:
Advent and Hope
On the first Sunday in Advent, my husband and I were treated to an impromptu nativity play, performed by the Ark's own junior thespians. At showtime, we were escorted to a quiet corner of the playroom, where two seats had been reserved specifically for us. We sat front and center while the narrator/director/producer cranked up the Christmas Cat Chat CD kicking off a rousing rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
CB dressed as an all-purpose angel took her stage direction well. Suffice to say that N and Baby T performing the roles of Mary and Joseph might have benefited from an additional dress rehearsal or two. As the music morphed into an uptempo version of Gloria In Excelsis Deo, we-in the audience-noticed that Mary had taken off her serene covering revealing (big surprise here) her much worn cheerleading dress. Joseph, meanwhile, was alternately trying to turn a bright blue bowling pin into a Louisville slugger and getting down with his bad self to the new song. The angel persevered, but it wasn't enough to keep the play's creator from having an artistic "moment" before calling the troupe back together for a retake.
After a few false starts, Mary re-cloaked. Joseph stopped dancing. And the narrator was able to lead the audience through the final words of St. Luke's version of the first Christmas to the ebullient shouts of the whole cast as Joy to the World played on. At that very moment, watching my children dance and sing around the tiny baby in the makeshift manger, under the computer desk serving as a stable, I smiled.
For with all its flaws and errors, with all its imperfections and miscues, the show went on and the Savior arrived. It was the essence of the Incarnation played out in my basement. Regardless of our sins, despite our weaknesses, our failings and foibles; He came anyway.
Hallelujah! Today we can rejoice---He comes anyway.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
So, you'll recall my saying they couldn't get us in until mid-February to see the pediatric specialist, right? Well, I made a call back to our primary doctor's office and wouldn't you know if she didn't have the names of a few other doctors who we could see in the group---one of whom had an appointment on Monday! As in three days from now! God is truly watching out over this baby. He must have great plans in store for her. If I can only manage parenting her until she gets to them...
And in other news, two rounds of antibiotics are finished! Hooray!
Thursday, December 04, 2008
I wouldn't want you to think I've lost my perspective on what's really important this Christmas season, but this one couldn't go untouched. I made sure to go straight to the source when I received (several) emails telling me that my beloved Talbots stores were ALL going out of business.
I made fast work of making sure this rumor was just that when I saw such blasphemy! You can read about it on their website...and it looks like it may not be true for the others stores as well.
It's all well and good until somebody starts trashing Talbots.
Apparently this is the Advent to end all Advents as far as waiting is concerned. The first available appointment with the pediatric pulmonologist is not until mid-February! By then, I'll be gearing up for the waiting and reflection of Lent! Sigh.
the pediatric pulmonologist! (wizard just sounds better, no?)
Baby Girl had her 15 month check up yesterday and while she has gained almost six pounds in 2 months and grown nearly three inches; and is no longer referred to as "jello girl" (lovingly, of course) due to her terrible muscle tone--she is still sick.
Her ears were "tubed" the first week in November and she is still sporting a nasty ear infection. Her recent chest x-ray diagnosed pneumonia (again!) and we're not certain if it's the old case that never cleared up or a brand spanking new one. Not to mention that her little nose could about win the Boston Marathon it's been running so fast!
And if that isn't enough, Hannah (in preparation for braces in two weeks) had four teeth pulled, which did not go over well. She had a terrible response to the antibiotic and pain killer and spent much of the weekend just trying to keep down a lollipop and ice chips.
Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Mr. T looked at me last week and said, "Mommy, my eawr huwrts" His ears were tubed about 18 months ago, so at the advice of Baby Girl's godmother (who is a pediatric nurse practitioner) I had him checked only to find that, in fact, his ear hurt because it was infected.
And because I believe in leading by example, Naomi and I got ourselves a pair of strep-infected throats, too.
On top of all this, in the mental health category, Candace has been panic-stricken about leaving me. Going to preschool has become a chore and she is worried about everything and anything. Needless to say, this leaves my mental health a little worse for the wear. Nothing like being on call 24-7 for some high maintenance issues to wear down one's resistance.
I'm finding myself getting--not necessarily the Advent I hoped for--but in some ways, the Advent of quiet solitude and prayerful reflection perhaps I need.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Hi all, checking in amidst the plethora of sick people here on the Ark (that is a whole 'nother post I simply don't have enough non-laundry washing hours in the day to write) to share my new column over at the Beacon-News.
"Thanksgiving meals are now tryptophanic dreams, items scored on early morning Black Friday shopping trips are stashed away until Christmas, and, if your house is anything like mine, children aren't waiting until Dec. 24 for visions of sugarplums. Instead, they are anxiously awaiting the beginning of Advent and the myriad of family traditions that accompany this month."
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Last year, I wrote a post for each of the Sundays in Advent. I'll be re-running them again this year and looking at them with new eyes. Mostly the eyes of a mom who is feeling overly grateful this holiday season for all of the many blessings that God has given me--most specifically the gift of His son.
Should it surprise any one of us mothers to find that such a great blessing was given to us in the form of a precious, little child?
From the archives:
Advent and Waiting
TO DO THIS ADVENT
#1--Wait in a frenzied fashion for the birth of our Lord.
That's not quite what I had in mind, but somehow that's what it seems to wind up feeling like. Advent is not the peaceful, quiet preparation for the illumination of the world with the Greatest Light ever known, but rather a litany of baking, parties, shopping and visiting.
Don't get me wrong, those are all fun parts of my pre-Christmas calendar; but they are the side dishes, if I can keep my focus clear, not the main course. Last year, exactly one year ago today, we welcomed home our two Ethiopian born children, which put an end to a waiting that was so tangible it sometimes hurt. This year, we are all beginning our anticipation of Christmas together, but I can't help but miss (just a little bit, mind you) the visceral feelings that last year's waiting offered. It was a small, but effective glimpse into the reality of what years of expectation of the King, trust in the darkness, must have felt like for the Israelites.
Especially, it seems, this is true of those who still wait. And I know they're out there. I remember them when I see the face of an orphaned 10 year old girl, who is brushing away tears as her "segment" on the Waiting Kids video begins, while the voice in English says, "She's just a little emotional. She's done this several times before." It's in the voices of parents with referrals whose children, whether 10 or 10,000 miles away, cracking when they wonder, "Will they be home this Christmas?" In the parent whose child is alone, estranged, detached who longs for reconciliation, and for the child who feels the same. The mothers who wait expectantly, quite literally, to welcome the new soul they carry, and for their children waiting for them in heaven, whom they never *met* in this life.
And yet, in their suffering, they are blessed. Their waiting allows for a most precious, intimate chance to unite with Christ, turn their sorrow to Him and be ready--truly ready--this Christmas to accept the gift in the manger. And God-willing, I will remember, if only vicariously, what it means to truly wait for that which matters most.
Beati qui lugent quoniam ipsi consolabuntur
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Our Father in heaven, Your Holy Name, now and forever! We praise and thank You this for who You are and all You have done for us. You are our God, our Creator, and the Master of the Universe. And yet, You look upon us in our lowliness and lift us up in Your Grace. You have compassion on us as a father has compassion on his children.
Thank You for the gift of our country, the United States of America, founded upon the sacrifices and hard work of our forefathers. You have blessed this nation as a refuge for people from all corners of the earth and from every faith. You have strengthened us in our trials and held us up in the face of adversity. You have granted to us and our children this beautiful and bountiful land, filled with the fruits of freedom, worship, and hard work.
In this , as we gather together with our family and friends, we give thanks to You, O Lord. Remind us to be humble in our abundance and to remember those who have given their lives defending our freedom. Help us to live a life that is pleasing to you. Grant the comfort of Your love and the hope of Your unfailing provision to all Americans, from sea to shining sea.
We ask this, Father, in the name of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave His all for us. Amen.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
We'll be wrapping up school for Thanksgiving on Wednesday. But before we do, we'll be sharing a lovely Thanksgiving Prayer Service with a few other homeschool families tomorrow morning. We'll be making Michelle's Blessing Mix, eating a nutritious, contemporary (and most importantly kid-friendly!) lunch and most importantly, gathering together to give thanks and praise to our God for the many blessings He has given each one of us! Below is a copy of the prayer service we'll be using:
- things which are blessings in your life
- people who have helped you
- a time when a difficult situation turned into a blessing
Friday, November 21, 2008
For anyone who has been down the adoption road, you know that it is fraught with bumps and potholes. There are high highs and low lows beyond the wildest dreams of those on the journey.
And there are questions. Oh, the questions.
There are questions about birthmothers and their pregnancies. There are questions about adoption agencies and ethics. There are questions about attachment and bonding. There are questions about exorbitant fees and fundraising.
Not to mention the initial massive deposit in your adoption's emotional bank account which almost immediately begins draining until you feel nearly overdrawn.
But there is a lighter side.
There has to be. Otherwise we'd never make it through to the end. God's grace and a few humorous and clever adoption thoughts carry us as we navigate on our journeys. Today, I'm taking a break from the heavy stuff to share with you all a few of my favorites from the lighter side.
Accidental Adoption...It Could Happen to You!
A Recipe for Adoption Success
Ten (Not So Graceful) Ways to Survive the Wait
Thursday, November 20, 2008
My good blogging friend, Anne, posted this video clip a few days ago and I knew that I wanted to feature it as one of the adoption posts this week. Even though I hadn't seen it. Mark Schultz is a favorite of mine, I love his songs Letters from War and You are a Child of Mine, but I had never heard his story. Now, in a poignant interview, he shares a part of his journey as an adoptee, his thoughts about birthmothers--including his own, and his epiphany about the nature of adoption to touch people far beyond the "usual suspects" and long after the adoption happens.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
There are many players involved in foster care. There are lawyers, parents, judges, and social workers just to name a few. One important figure, who may be the only constant in the tide of people who ebb and flow in and out of any particular foster care case, is the CASA worker.
What's a CASA worker?
A CASA worker is a Court Appointed Special Advocate. The CASA worker is a trained volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children. Volunteers must be 21 years of age and in good standing.
Maybe you've considered adoption or foster care and found it to be too costly, too time consuming, too difficult to fit into your current family situation. CASA volunteers are another way to help children in need without the full-blown commitment of adoption or foster care. You can read a thorough list of FAQs here. To find out more about CASA volunteers in your state, visit their national website here.
But before you leave to learn more, take a look at the poem below, describing the important role of a CASA volunteer.
We speak for a child who wears shoes that are too large
whose nightmares are reality
who never heard of Mickey Mouse
whose parents ran away.
We are the voice of a child who feels at fault
who lives in fear of daddy coming home
who wonders what it’s like to have a friend sleep over
who eats only when food can be found.
We stand for a child who has never been to the doctor
who wonders what the tooth fairy does
who is unable to stand without help
who knows too well what an attorney looks like.
We listen to a child who doesn’t know what the truth is
who is in constant need of a bear hug
who finds freedom only on a swing
who believes they are the parent.
We are the heart of a child who wants
mommy and daddy to stop fighting
who has never had a bandage or kiss on an “owie”
who thinks we are the bestest friend they ever had.
We are the people who often read these children
their very first fairy tale
who wipe away their tears with our sleeves
who want them to believe life is worth it.
Together we work to make a difference, we are CASA!
A CASA Volunteer, 1997
Monday, November 17, 2008
Did you know that?
This past Saturday, in fact, was National Adoption Day, where families throughout the United States celebrated by finalizing their adoptions. In honor of this month, I'll be running posts related to adoption all week long. And if you haven't tapped into my Adoption FAQs, scroll down the sidebar for answers to some of the most popular adoption questions people have asked.
Today, however, I'm sending you off. Author and foster/adoptive mom, Heidi Hess Saxon, has several important articles about adoption you should know about. You may remember my response to the very anti-adoption article run by the National Catholic Register in September. Heidi has written "an important article about the alarming rise of anti-adoption advocates EVEN IN PRO-LIFE CIRCLES and Catholic publications such as the ." From the article:
Recently I was appalled to discover that these “anti-adoption advocates” are making inroads even in Catholic publications. Last September the National Catholic Register ran this article by self-professed “anti-adoption advocate” Melinda Selmys, who writes about encountering teenage adoptees who were acting out — though the adoptive parents were “kind and loving people.”Rather than consider the real possibility that the teens had been damaged by circumstances that led up to the adoption, or that adoption may indeed have been their best chance at a bright future, or that these kids were just like others teens who have difficulties making the transition into adulthood, Selmys concludes that the adoption itself was the true source of the problem.
You can read the rest here.
Following its release, she posts a review of the book The Adoption Mystique, by Joanne Wolf Small, MSW, whose book was mentioned in her article. She also shares the response she received from the author of the original September NCR article.
There is also a post on her Mommy Monsters blog about coping with the pain of "Phantom Parents." She writes,
"the loss experienced by birth/first parents and adopted children is real, much like the phantom pains of an amputee ... and yet, those pains (however regrettable) may be necessary in order to save a life from the alternative: abuse and neglect, or even death."
You can read the rest here.
And, in the interest of fairness, she posts "a letter from an adult adoptee who is angry over the fact that she was taken from her mother, so you could listen to her story as well ... and better understand the nature of the pain adoptive parents need to help their children heal." You can find that article here.
There is much to read and reflect on here. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for more posts celebrating National Adoption Month!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
I have had a hankerin' for mole sauce as of late. I have no idea why as I've only had mole sauce once before in my entire life.
Perhaps it's my love of spicy, Mexican foods?
Perhaps it's the appeal of a meal eaten without utensils?
Perhaps (okay, probably more than likely) it has everything to do with the fact that mole sauce is a good excuse to put chocolate on my plate in the name of dinner?
Regardless of the reason, I am at an impasse. I searched endlessly for a chicken mole recipe that sounded appealing, but to no avail. Until the mole gods smiled upon me at our local IGA market and a heavenly light shone upon jars of pre-made mole sauce in the Mexican foods aisle.
Which made me incredibly happy.
Until I realized that aside from the main dish I plan to create, I have no clue what an appropriate side dish to serve with this meal--that I have built up in my head as the end-all-be-all dish to end all dishes--might be.
Any veteran mole makers out there with a suggestion for this greenhorn gourmet?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday afternoons are Liturgical Tea days on board the Ark. If you're ever passing through Chicago on a Wednesday, you should definitely stop by for a little "tea and." We have celebrated many different feasts on these Wednesdays this year, but by far, my most favorite celebrations are of the saints. I think the arklings would agree, too.
Yesterday, we celebrated (a day early--because we just couldn't restrict ourselves to Wednesday-only feast days) St. Frances Cabrini. We were blessed to have two dear homeschool friends join us for the afternoon where we first did a lesson on homophones. A perfect lesson, I must say, as it culminated in the creation of a deliciously edible homophone--chocolate mousse--so simple it was made entirely by the children. And while it chilled for an hour in the fridge, we switched gears and learned about St. Frances Cabrini.
Her missionary spirit, born of her early childhood longings, captivated the children. Not to mention, the influence she exerted in the Chicago area was visible to them in buildings, schools and the order she founded. I used a wonderful lesson applicable to all elementary ages (and perhaps even junior high) found here.
As we sat at the table enjoying our mousse, Barbara's homemade biscotti (which are so much easier to make than I ever imagined!) and hot chocolate, tiny paper boats depicting the traveling missionaries adorned the centerpieces. And after listening to the children (even Naomi) describe to the Captain what we did at school, I think we might have actually learned something, too!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Driving home the other night, I heard for the first time a song by country singer Carrie Underwood called Just a Dream. It's been playing over and over in my head ever since. It has been over 10 years since our time as an active duty military family, but the intensity of some of the feelings are as strong a decade later as they were the awkward first days I felt them. I remember well the teary good-byes of deployments, the anxious worry that accompanied an unexpected knock at the door and nightly news reports, and the sheer joy brought by--God-willing--the joyful reunions.
choose to step outside of themselves to act boldly and bravely and --with God's help--make sacrifices that might seem impossible to make.
I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. --Abraham Lincoln
Friday, November 07, 2008
From the great folks at Holy Heroes:
If your family life is anything like ours, it seems that Advent comes at the most hectic time of the year. It is easy for your children to get caught up in the commercialism, materialism, and the me-ism of the culture's pre-Christmas (or should I say “holiday”?) frenzy. Instead of the frantic activity of “Only XX shopping days left until Christmas!” the Church prescribes something different: prayerful, conscientious, joyful preparation for the days approaching our celebration of birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, you’re really busy. You have a lot to do to prepare for the wonder of Christmas Day. So, this year, how can you prevent your Advent plans from being overcome by the hub-bub of what the world tells you is the proper way to spend “the ”?
Take your family on the fun and easy “Holy Heroes Advent Adventure!” It’s free, it costs you nothing, nada, zilch. And you'll get 22 daily fun, easy, free activities for Advent. Click here to sign up.
You’ll find that we have done all the work for you, so you can also enjoy the Advent Adventure with your family. And you will all--from youngest to oldest--actually learn something during Advent which (we pray) will help you on your way to heaven.
It’s free. Click here to sign up. Oh: and when you sign up, you will also receive a 20% discount on all orders you make on our website until Epiphany (which is AFTER Christmas)!
Sign up by clicking here and we’ll tell you all about it. Nearly every day, 22 times during Advent, we will send you an email with a link that takes you to that day’s activities. You’ll see short videos, listen to short audio selections, download , word searches and games, take quizzes to see what you’ve learned, and more.
It’s free, it’s for children of all ages, it’s fun AND educational, and all you have to do every day is open the email we’ll send (and save 20% on any orders you make on our website).
Thursday, November 06, 2008
The girls are finishing up a unit on ecosystems. As a final part of their studies, I asked them to write a friendly letter requesting information from an organization who supports stewardship of the environment. We found this clever little fish game at the World Wildlife Federation. Enjoy!
I'm Fish finatic and
I'm a Bluefin Tuna.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
You can read my new column at the Beacon-News here.
Ed. Note: Unfortunately, whoever edited the article selected a title that states the businesses support FREE trade, not FAIR trade (which is the article's topic). I can't speak to whether or not the businesses in the article support the former, but I do know they support the latter. Sorry for any confusion.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Hello and thanks to everyone who participated! The results are inHooray for my underdog, last-minute pull-it-off victor--Peanut M & M!!!
although they are a little controversial.
Plain M&M won the popular vote, however, Peanut M&M won the electoral
votes.........so the winner is Peanut M&M....this turned out to be a
harder to explain to the kids, but I think they get it. We had 116
votes, 59 for plain, 57 for peanut with 15 states participating!!!!!!!!
The S Family
Thanks Jane for the extra votes from your Blog!
Monday, November 03, 2008
In the midst of a very intense election, take a moment to cast your vote for something a little more lighthearted.
Here are the details from a friend of mine who is working at the *polls*:
As a way to teach the kids about elections, we are holding our own election:
M&M vs Peanut M&M
Their slogans are:
M&M -You can't go wrong with chocolate!
Peanut M&M -More is better!
If you would just take a minute to poll your family, and let us know
that would be great. Please put your state and #
of votes for each....only one vote per person please, we wouldn't want
any stuffing of the ballots! This way the kids can keep a tally for
each state, and when all votes are in we will color code our map - red
for M&M and blue for Peanut M&M (don't let the colors change your vote -
we are only talking about candy here people!) We will then assign a
proper # of for each state that participates according to
the # of people who vote in each state. Polls close at 6:00pm
tomorrow. Thanks for playing with us everyone, and we will let you know who
wins this important election!
So, go ahead. Tell us your favorites and your family's favorites in the comment box! Don't forget to leave your state's name so the final map is accurate!
Go peanut! (Who said that?)
Sorry, we are totally bipartisan on the Ark for this particular vote and I am not above campaigning outside the polling station.
***Feel free to ask others to participate. The more the merrier. Unless of course, they support plain M & Ms!***
O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,"
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them--they are more than the sand; I come to the end--I am still with you.
O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me--
those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. -Psalm 139 (beautifully read at the Baptism by Baby Girl's Godparent's daughter---Thanks, MB!)
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Is it the Andrew Sisters? No, just the Ark's newest pre-teen drama queens...oops, I mean, pop stars!
Watching the Preschool Costume Parade.
My costume is this hat. Wanna make something of it? I didn't think so.
Ballerina and cheerleader ready for preschool.
Tacklin' T the football machine. Notice the chin strap and the large green football jersey on the floor. That's all that's left of The Boy after Tacklin' T was through with him. Or maybe it's the only part of him I was allowed to photograph. I'll never tell.
Me (explaining to Naomi and Candace about the time change): Tonight when you're sleeping, all of the clocks will change.
Candace: Even my princess clock?
Me: Even yours.
Candace: Hmmm...I wonder what it will look like in the morning?
Don't forget to *change* your clocks!
Friday, October 31, 2008
H/T Rhonda via email
A man is walking home alone late one foggy night...
when behind him he hears:
Walking faster, he looks back and through the fog he makes out the image of an upright casket banging its way down the middle of the street toward him.
Terrified, the man begins to run toward his home, the casket bouncing quickly behind him
He runs up to his door, fumbles with his keys, opens the door, rushes in, slams and locks the door behind him. However, the casket crashes through his door, with the lid of the casket clapping on his heels, the terrified man runs. :
Rushing upstairs to the bathroom, the man locks himself in. His heart is pounding; his head is reeling; his breath is coming in sobbing gasps. With a loud CRASH the casket breaks down the door--bumping and clapping toward him.
The man screams and reaches for something, anything, but all he can find is a bottle of cough syrup!
Desperate, he throws the cough syrup at the casket...
(hopefully you're ready for this!!!)
The coffin stops.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Here is a lovely link to Pflaum Gospel Weekly's Family Pages. It has a host of online resources such as reproducible activities (for preschool, K-1, 2-3, 4-6, 7-8 and a family prayer service(including a litany of the saints). Be sure to stop by and check it out before you even start carving those pumpkins!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
You know how people sometimes adopt only to find themselves pregnant as soon as the adoption is final...
Well, here on the Ark, we like to be unconventional. Around here, we don't get positive pregnancy tests when our adoption is complete. Oooohh noooo. Instead we turn up a bumper crop of these positive tests.
Can I help it if we march to our own drummer?
Monday, October 27, 2008
Heard by four year old Naomi in a ladies' restroom in Chicago: "Mommy, I've decided to listen to everything that you and Daddy tell me to do."
Did the earth change its axis? Are dogs friends with cats? Or is it possible my
Friday, October 24, 2008
This is a warning from the Canadian government to its people, but I thought we might be careful about candy from China as well. Also, if you know anyone in Canada , please inform them of this dangerous candy. Happy All Hallows Eve!
H/T Jenny via email
Every now and then, a warning circulated in email proves to be the real deal. Such is the case with this warning about Pirate's Gold Chocolate Coins sold at Costco and other locations throughout Canada. You can read the full story here at snopes.com.
Driving back from my favorite corner store, Naomi, Mr. T and I were singing along to our Patriotic American songs cd when we found ourselves stopped at a red light. Sitting in the left turn lane, I watched as the cars to my right streamed past making their turns on red. I noticed, perhaps out of some paranoid sense, that the drivers all seemed to be staring at our vehicle and then trying to peer through the window. Finally, my fears were realized when a middle-agish sort of man in an SUV like mine motioned wildly for me to roll down my window. Dumbstruck, I rolled it down.
"Did you know you have a box of chalk on your bumper?" he inquired.
Of course I do, I wanted to reply, I have seven children.
But instead, I politely answered, "Oh no! I had no idea. Hopefully, I'll make it back home without losing it."
This good Samaritan took a brief look up at the still red light and slipped his car into park before jumping out and rescuing the runaway chalk box on my bumper. He proudly handed it to me through the open window, hopped back in his car and drove away.
Look out, Bagger Guy! I think you've been replaced.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
For those of you who will be voting in the state of Illinois this November, you can find out how the candidates stack up with respect to issues such as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and related topics courtesy of Illinois Citizens for Life.
And while we're talking about life today, tomorrow pro-lifer across the world will NOT be talking about it...on purpose! See for yourselves. Will you be silent?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
When I wake early needing the stillness and absolute quiet of the Ark before dawn, my children are all awake by 6:00 am?
When we have an important appointment to be at and I need everyone awake, fed and dressed early, they all sleep in until 8:00am?
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Saturday mornings--at least for now--seem to be my quiet time. Granted, there is peace and quiet around here in the evenings, but there always seems to be so much to do...preparing lessons, running out to the store--alone!, meal planning, housework catch-up (now there's an oxymoron if I ever heard one!), column writing and, of course, sleeping!
For now, if Saturday mornings are all I get for blogging, I'll take it; knowing that this too shall pass. A few important updates to share:
- We had our first post-placement visit and it went very well, even though Baby Girl decided to have a messy diaper right in the middle of it all! Our case worker wondered what our *intentions* regarding adoption were and we told her that we had no plans in the near future to adopt again. (I have to admit that just writing that out loud scares me. I know how God feels about me and my plans!) However, she seemed relieved because of the number of children we have and that whole snafu with DCFS approving our homestudy and getting an exception for this adoption and yada yada yada. The whole thing still leaves a sour taste in my mouth and presently, I simply don't have any additional energy to direct towards fighting it.
- The Captain took Baby Girl for her labwork and although we found out that she needs one MORE vial of blood still, the one they drew that day went off without a hitch! Praise God! And...more of a praise even still...ALL of her blood work results thus far have come back normal!
- Speaking of medical results, we also finally got in to see the ENT. He's the same ENT who helped us with Hannah's hearing loss and with Mr. T's tubes in his ears. When he examined her, he found both of her ears to no longer be actively infected, but to be full of fluid. So, she's on allergy meds and nasal spray to try and clear that up. More importantly though, we were looking for information on the *special need* that allowed us to adopt her in the first place. In Ethiopia, she was diagnosed--by observation--with a floppy airway, something which is not uncommon and children typically grow out of by their second birthday. In the first year, however, it can cause multiple breathing problems and failure to thrive symptoms. But in the US, this diagnosis is made by scoping the throat to actually see what the airway looks like. And when our ENT examined her, he felt that she was not showing signs of that diagnosis, but that her problems seemed to be centered more in her sinuses and ears. He ordered several xrays and they called us with the results this week. It seems that the funny Darth-Vaderesque breathing she makes is not being caused by her airway, but from a pair of extremely enlarged adenoids, which is totally manageable! We have a follow-up exam in November to do a re-check on her ears and create a plan of attack. Once again, The Captain and I have been privileged to see God's hand at work here. Without the original diagnosis in Ethiopia, she would probably not have been on the "special needs" list, which would have made her ineligible for us to adopt due to our family size. As The Captain said, this one just slipped through the cracks so that she could join our family. Otherwise, she would have been scooped up in no time. God has been so very good to us.
- Speaking of God's goodness to us, I have to publicly thank all of you who have sent meals (or coordinated sending meals!) our way over these last few weeks. It has been a godsend and I'm not sure how it is I will ever be able to thank you all enough. Just know that I've been singing some serious praises for you all. We love you and God loves you more.
- In other news, Mr. T seems to be coming out of his Baby Sister funk little by little. He actually sits and plays with her every once in a while now.
- As for homeschool, I've been fairly silent about it what with everything else going on, but I have been so pleased with the girls' progress thus far. We are only a couple of weeks away from the end of the first quarter and so far so good. We've been able to do some wonderful projects and are enjoying reading real literature together. I'll try to share more about this sometime.