Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Thoughts

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


#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.

Matthew 5:5. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Beati qui lugent quoniam ipsi consolabuntur

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Our Father in heaven, Blessed be Your Holy Name, now and forever! We praise and thank You this Thanksgiving 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 harvest time, 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.

O give thanks to the God of heaven,
For his steadfast love endures forever.
- Psalm 136:26

Prayer from Autom

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Prayer Service

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:

Thanksgiving Prayer Service

Entrance Song: Come Now is The Time to Worship

Opening Prayer: Jesus, our brother, you sat down to talk and to eat with your friends. You always reminded them to give thanks for their blessings. Today, we want to say thank you today for the many blessings you have given each one of us. Amen.

First Reading: Colossians 3: 12-17

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through Him.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Second Reading: Philippians 4: 4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Reflection Song: You Are Good

Thanksgiving Reflection:
Think about…
  • things which are blessings in your life
  • people who have helped you
  • a time when a difficult situation turned into a blessing

Which of these times is it easiest to thank God? What does God’s word tell us about giving thanks to Him? When should we thank God? What will help us?

Present Gifts of Thanks (we'll be creating our own "Thankful Tree" which will be displayed after the prayer service during lunch)

Prayers of the Faithful (response-Lord, Hear Our Prayer)

Closing Song: Forever

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Lighter Side of Adoption

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

More than a Song

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.

For more information about Mark Schultz, to view the video for this special song, Everything to Me, or to read comments from people who were touched by his song, visit his website.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Column

This week, in honor of National Adoption Month, my column tells the story of the experiences of several foster moms--including the benefits they gained despite their difficult task.

You can read the column here.

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

November is National Adoption Month

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 National Catholic Register." 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

Planning Ahead

Autom is having an Our Lady of Guadalupe sale now until November 19th! For those with a special devotion to her, go and check it out! Yes, Cath, this one's for you!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mole in One Foodie Bleg

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

St. Frances Cabrini

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

Wordless Wednesday: "How did THIS get in here?" Edition

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Veteran's Day Gift

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.

Bosnia 1995

It was in those moments as a very young bride and mother in my early 20s I came to learn a great deal about sacrifice--about the sacrifices of each soldier, each military family and the ultimate sacrifice that lurks in the recesses of each one of their minds. And with each safe return, I instinctively knew to thank God for the gift of my husband's safety. Looking back now, I see even greater was the gift of this sacrifice bestowed upon a young couple thousands of miles from home. Early on, we learned that our time together is a blessing--a gift whose duration only God knows. We learned together that much of what happens in our lives is out of our control, but in clinging to God we can find comfort and peace in no matter what. Now, a decade later, we can look at the military families struggling with the same struggles we once knew and realize there is still one more gift. The gift of remembrance. It enables us to be compassionate and empathetic towards others, but also--and in the life of a married couple, perhaps more importantly--to one another. Today, when we share some of The Captain's "army stories" with the arklings, the most important one we will share is the need for Christians to know God's perfect love casts out the fear which accompanies all sacrifice. So they will 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

Not Too Early to Start Thinking About Advent

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.

Join Advent AdventureBut, 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 Christmas season”?

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 coloring pictures, 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

What Kind of Fish Are You?

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

New Column

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.
Why I Now Watch ESPN

What an awesome video about Georgia coach Mark Richt and his family's adoption story.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Polls Are Closed! And the winner is...

Hello and thanks to everyone who participated!  The results are in
although they are a little controversial.

Plain M&M won the popular vote, however, Peanut M&M won the electoral 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!!!!!!!!

Thanks everyone,
The S Family

Thanks Jane for the extra votes from your Blog!

Hooray for my underdog, last-minute pull-it-off victor--Peanut M & M!!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote!

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 electoral votes 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!***
Claimed For Christ

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

Halloween on the Ark

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.
Another Reason I Love Having a Large Family

More pumpkins!
Time Change

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!