Friday, July 29, 2011

FIA: Changing goals, changing me

What a month it has been!  What started as a simple idea to help me be a little more content, a little more mature, has turned into something so much bigger than I had imagined--and has gone completely different from the original plan.

At the begnning of the month, I sat down and created 31 goals.  Some big, some small.  Some fun, some hard.  I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I was determined.  I could stick to anything for 31 days, right?  Well, sort of.

Before I go on, there are a few things you need to know about life in our zoo.  First, I am a tornado.  Mr. Fantastic affectionately calls me a "nester."  I make nests of stuff.  A nest of things that I'm not quite ready to put away because I'm likely to need them again soon, so they morph into a pile instead.  A nest of things that need to go upstairs (or downstairs) but I don't want  to waste time making 10 individual trips, so I let them pile up until I can take them all up at once.  A nest of things that I need to go through later, when I have more time.  A nest of things that I don't know what else to do with.  I try to keep the house looking "company nice", but I typically have a couple of nests stashed throughout the house, in places where most people won't see them.

Second, I am organizationally challenged, and especially since Monkey was born and I went into such a yucky depression, I get overwhelmed easily.  And when I get overwhelmed, I give up.

Third, in case you didn't know... I have three small children at home!

And fourth, Mr. Fantastic is the exact opposite--seriously, the exact opposite--of my 1st and 2nd points.  He is unbelievably organized--seriously, I think it is a gift from the Lord--and compulsively neat.  He doesn't want anything out of place, and he doesn't "get" why it doesn't seem to bother other people when things aren't perfect.

Can you see any potential for conflict here?  Ha!

So keeping all of those things in mind, we come to July 5, when my goal was to create a cleaning schedule for the house.  Now... here's another thing about our family... I hesitate to share this, but it's important for the post... until a few months ago, we had a cleaning lady who came twice a month.  So until recently, I didn't worry about cleaning toilets, I rarely had to think about vacuuming or mopping (Yes, twice a month was just fine with me.), and I only dusted if we were having company over.  But now that has all changed, and I needed a plan to keep from getting hopelessly behind.  Because I was already starting to feel overwhelmed, and as I pointed out earlier, it's not a good thing when I get overwhelmed.

I worked and worked on that cleaning schedule, and I actually continue to tweak it even now.  But what seemed like such a simple throw-a-few-things-down-on-paper kind of task has taken on a life of its own.  Somehow that one little day started to change the focus of the whole Faith in Action project.

First of all, creating the schedule was no big deal.  Sticking to it has been a monster.  I am still trying to find a balance between being responsible and taking good care of what God has entrusted to us, and by eing a mom who is there for my kids and who enjoys spending time with them.

But second, as I have shifted my focus away from my original goals and concentrated on the simple task of just taking care of my house--and my household--God really has shaped and changed me throughout the month.  I have developed a new appreciation for what we have, instead of focusing on what we don't.  I have seen how much Mr. Fantastic appreciates my work, and I have realized that I don't actually want him to come home and say, "Wow!  Our bathroom is so clean!"  Because I don't want it to be a surprise to him that it's clean, for goodness sake.  And in that, I have also come to understand that sometimes when we do a good job at something, it is easy for our work to go unnoticed, because if we do it right consistently, people just expect it to be that way--and that's actually a good thing.

I have also started to incorporate my kids more in the cleaning, and I hope I'm helping to teach them a little more responsibility.  For example, every single morning after breakfast, they immediately go upstairs and clean their room.  And now that it's been going on for a couple of weeks, they are figuring out that the morning cleaning goes much more quickly if they put away their toys as they play with them instead of waiting until I make them clean their room.  And they learned that on their own--I didn't nag point it out to them.  And they don't cry and pout when I ask them to do it.  I have no idea how the daily room cleaning will look once school starts, but for now it is working and we're forming some new habits.

And I feel like I'm changing in less tangible ways, too.  I'm realizing how self-centered my thoughts and attitudes have been lately (maybe my whole life...!) and I'm trying to change that, and I am developing a greater appreciation for my husband, and... other things that I can't quite put my finger on.  All because of a cleaning schedule?  Well, no, not really.  It's not about the task itself.  It's about being obedient, setting aside my own desires (because my desires do not include scrubbing toilets) and doing what I need to do--with a good attitude--and allowing God to change me through it.

As this simple task of cleaning the house became a bigger focus, many of my other tasks fell off my plate.  But that is truly OK with me.  I honestly feel like my heart was open to what God was/is trying to say, and that He wanted to use this, to show me that I can learn and grow through my regular daily life.  This was what I needed, and what my family needed, more than special crafts and meals.

So what about that original list of 31 daily tasks?  I still think they're good things to do, and I want to incorporate them into my life, but maybe not each day.  I am realizing that God has given me plenty to handle--and plenty of ways to learn about Him and grow--in my everyday life.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Katy's Family Forest, Part 12

So my dear little Roo woke me up at 5:30 this morning... and then Mr. Fantastic's snoring wouldn't let me go back to sleep.  And I thought, "This actually is a good thing.  I can get up early, do a little blogging, and just have some quiet time before the whole house is up."  I was all proud of myself because I would have my "Family Forest" post up first thing in the morning.  Then as I sat down to write, I realized... it's Thursday.  Here I thought I was so on-the-ball for doing it early, and then I figure out that I'm a whole day late.  Dang it, I just can't get it together.

Well, my apologies, friends.  Here--a whole day late--is the next installment of my Family Forest...

As if entering my senior year of college, planning a wedding, and finding out that my biological mother was gay weren't enough… for some reason, that summer it became very important to Mr. Fantastic that I locate my biological father, a man that I will call George. To be fair, it's not like he was pushing me in a direction I didn't want to go—I had at some point told him that I felt I was ready to start searching for this man. When I had first found out the details of my adoption from my parents, knowing that Danielle was my birth mom was enough. I didn't want to push any harder—I couldn't take any more! But now two years had gone by, my relationship with Jan was settling into its own unsteady rhythm, and I was becoming a stronger person. I felt that I could handle whatever lay behind that door.


In all honesty, when I told Mr. Fantastic that I was ready to search for my biological father, I just meant I was ready to spend a few minutes on the internet Googling him (Did we have Google back in 2000?) and then give up and say, "Well, at least we tried." But to my soon-to-be-hubby, this became a real mission.

So let's start with what Danielle knew about him. It wasn't much. She knew his name (which is a very common one, both first and last), the state that he lived in when they met, that he was also in the Air Force, and that he was married at the time of their relationship. Her last direct contact with him was on the day that I was born, or maybe the day after, when she told him that she had given me up for adoption. She knew that he had lived in California at some point after that, but had no address or anything like that.

That was it. Wait—I believe we even knew his MIDDLE INITIAL. Yep, now THAT is a detail, folks! Seriously, it wasn't much to go on, and we weren't even sure where to start. Mr. Fantastic, a landlord who periodically has to track down tenants who chose to skip town without paying their rent, quickly thought to contact a man that he sometimes used to aid with finding such tenants. He agreed to help, but warned us that it could be expensive. He talked to us about some options to keep cost down… like he would print out a list of every man with that name in the right age range who had a military background, and then Mr. Fantastic and I could do further research on each person on the list to eliminate the wrong ones. Yikes!

I was ready to give up. I was reading the writing on the wall: Don't go down this road. But now that we had started, it was hard to stop. Especially for Mr. Fantastic. When he would get burned out at the office and need a break (He was a workaholic who often stayed at the office until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, only to return by 7:30 or 8:00.), he would search online for anything that might help.

And that's how we got our big break. He somehow came across a messageboard for people searching people who had been in the military. (Did ya follow that?) And do you know what he found? A message from a woman named Danielle searching for a man named George (with the same last name as my birth father) who had been in the Air Force in the 70s and 80s. He knew that the woman was not my birth mom, but it seemed like more than a coincidence. He used her profile to contact her and explain what little we knew of my birth father (without disclosing why we were looking for him), and asked if it was possible that we were seeking the same person.

We were.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bible Stories... sort of...

My breakfast conversation with Monkey this morning...

Monkey: "Is the Ten Commandment Boogie in the Bible?"
Me: "Well, the Ten Commandments are... the boogie is just a song someone made up to help us remember them."
Monkey: "Yeah, 'cause they didn't know how to boogie then."


Monkey: "Mommy, do you know what happened after David knocked Goliath down?  He cut off all. his. HAIR."
Me: "No, Buddy, he cut off his head."
Monkey: "Oh yeah.  And without a head, you can't hear or see or talk or... or... or smell anything. So that's bad."

Can he just stay 4 forever?  Please?!?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quality Time

It's a little before 3:00... both boys are down for naps... and Lamb and I just finished reading time.  Right now she is in the craft room, whipping up some new piece of art and singing joyfully away.

And I am basking in the glow of a few stolen moments with my daughter.

Of all the fun things we have done or have planned to do this summer, hands down the best thing I have done is institute afternoon reading time.  This is the first summer that Lamb hasn't had nap/rest time in the afternoon, so while the boys lay down, she spends about 30-45 minutes reading.  And the best part is... (with few exceptions) I read with her.

For the first 15-20 minutes, we snuggle up together and she reads to me--generally we pick something at the upper end of her range, so I can help her when she needs it.  I love hearing her voice, seeing the way she looks to the pictures for clues if she gets stuck on the words, catching her when she tries to mumble something under her breath and move on quickly if she's unsure.  I love the joy she has every time we finish something new--especially if it's a chapter book (She's speeding through both the Junie B. Jones and the A to Z Mysteries series.), the way she gets involved in the story and thinks about which character she would be.

But the best part is the second half of reading time.  This is when we each read our own books.  We sit at opposite ends of the couch, tangle our legs all up together, share a blanket, and sit in a wonderful silence as we get lost in our own stories.  I love that we share not only the ability to read, but the enjoyment of it.  I love feeling this kindredness, even when she's reading Purplicious and I'm reading Gone with the Wind.  I'm glad that I make myself take the time to sit down and read while she's reading, to show her that it is an important hobby at any age, that it doesn't always have to take a back seat to scrubbing toilets and unloading the dishwasher.

My dear sweet Lamb knows how to push my buttons.  She is often silly beyond measure--and in ways I don't always "get".  She is defiant at times and has even been known to be mean to her brother.  But for about 30 minutes each day, she is all mine--my sweet kindred spirit in books.

In a few short weeks, school will take away our reading time most days.  In a few short years, adolescence and boyfriends and extra-curriculars will take it away altogether.  But for today, I enjoyed a few moments of peaceful bonding with my baby girl that I hope she will carry with her throughout her life.  I know I will.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Katy's Family Forest, Part 11

Yes, I know it's almost 10 PM, but it's still Wednesday...!  I got it on here in time... :-)

Well, I'm sure you don't want me to get off on a huge tangent here, so I'll try to keep this part of the story as brief as possible. I went to lunch that day with Mr. Fantastic, his half-brother, and my cousin. Needless to say, she and I didn't have any deep conversation about her relationship with her destructive boyfriend. But during that lunch… oh yeah, and another one a week later… I realized that I was not quite over my childhood crush on Mr. Fantastic. Between that and some mad matchmaking skills of my cousin, Mr. Fantastic and I went on our first date on January 29, 2000.

That date was followed by a second and a third and… well, you get the idea. :-) After several years of dating and wondering how I would know when I had met "the one", I realized just how easy it could be. Within two months we were talking about marriage, and Mr. Fantastic officially popped the question on May 20, 2000. We were married on February 17, 2001, and have been living happily ever after ever since!

Anyway, while we were engaged, we went to visit Danielle. I honestly don't remember when she first met him—but I'm pretty sure this visit wasn't the first time. I could be wrong, though. But either way, there we were, an awkward little foursome: me, Mr. Fantastic, Danielle, and Roommate Pam. Whether or not it was the first time Danielle had met my husband-to-be, it was definitely the first time I had visited her—she had always come to me. And one thing became very obvious very fast: it was a two-bedroom duplex where only one bedroom was being used.

Yes, I'd had my suspicions, but I don't think I really believed them—or maybe I just didn't really want to face them. But now there was no question. And it became even more evident the next day when Pam came to me and Mr. Fantastic and said, "There are some things that Danielle wants to talk to Katy about privately. She's uncomfortable to say anything, but I don't mind telling you—she needs some time alone with you." So later that day the four of us went somewhere and decided for some reason that it was better to take two cars… so I rode with Danielle and Mr. Fantastic rode with Pam.

And that was when we had the talk.

"I think it's important that you know… that I am gay," she told me.

"I know," I said.

"You know?"

Why do we always think we're better secret keepers than we are? I remember trying to keep things from my parents as a child and teenager… they always knew. I think Danielle honestly believed that no one had any inkling of her orientation. But the signs were all there, and it didn't take a genius to put the pieces together.

Anyway, it was an odd conversation, and it was one that could have ended a fragile relationship, but it didn't. I was honest with Danielle about my view of homosexuality, but I also assured her that I disapproved of her lifestyle and not of her as a person. I have any number of flaws and sinful struggles, and if someone chose to just label and view me as one of my struggles, they probably wouldn't waste their time on me. But I would hope that people chose to see beyond those flaws and love me anyway. That's how I feel about Danielle. I continue to wrestle with her stance on homosexuality, but I also continue to love her. And ultimately, it was good to not wonder anymore. It was nice to have all of the facts out on the table, you know?

Monday, July 18, 2011

FIA & WIP (Work In Progress)

It's a new week.  It's a week full of possibilities and hope and wonder.  No, it's not anything special--it's just as yet unknown, as every new week is.

Last week was... incredible.  Incredibly good (at times).  Incredibly hard (at others).  Incredibly funny (mainly because of my children).  Incredibly busy (as always).  Incredible.

But it wasn't incredibly "bloggy."  I was so glad to be able to share with you a few days, but I didn't share as much as I wanted to.  Why?  Well... here's the best way I can explain it... in the middle of the week last week, I read this post by Tricia Williford (Have I told you all about Tricia before?  She is an amazing writer and woman--you really need to check her out.), and I thought, "Yeah, that's exactly right."  Our circumstances are different, but she so often says the things that are in my heart.  I write to be read.  But then I look at the Google Friend Connect box to the left of her posts--242 followers.  I look at Jamey's--119.  I look at Patti's--560!  And that's not even looking at the "big" bloggers, who are in a completely separate league.  And I wonder, "Why do I write?  Who is reading this?  What do I have to say that other people aren't already saying a lot better than I ever could?"  And I don't really know the answer.  So I write... or I don't.  It depends on the day, on how hard I have to work to carve out the time, on how much I am struggling with wondering why God brought me to this little blog in the first place.  Yes, I know, we shouldn't compare--we should follow our own path that God has laid out before us.  I get that, I really do. But it really isn't a jealousy thing--and that's something that I really searched my heart for, because honestly I struggle with that.  It's jsut a question of... Why am I doing this?  What good am I doing?  I heard a fantastic quote the other day: "Only one life, 'Twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last."  It's only been a few days, but that quote--and the interview that it came from--are already shaping me in major ways.  (I highly recommend that interview, by the way.  It's a 4-part interview with John Piper on the radio program "Family Life Today."  Here is the link to part one, and you can find the rest on their web site as well.)  So I'm trying to use my time and my talents and my resources in the best possible ways for this short time I'm here.  And sometimes I wonder if I am blogging for Christ or myself.

Right now the answer that I have come up with is... the fact that I am taking such a hard, honest look at it means that my motives aren't entirely bad.  And God has me here for a reason, and so for now I continue to blog.  Until He tells me otherwise.

As for my FIA project... it got a little derailed last week.  Starting on Wednesday, I didn't even look at my tasks/goals and I have no clue what they were.  But as I said from the beginning of this post, it's a new week!  I am starting fresh today.  Mondays are health-related goals, and today's is to drink 5 (or more) glasses of water each day this week.  This will be a good one for me--I am so bad about remembering to drink water.  And tomorrow's task is to host a thank-you get-together for those who provided support for us when I went to Mozambique.  I am really excited about that one.  As of right now, I'm planning on around 15 adults--and another 15 kiddos will be out playing in our backyard.  It should be a lot of fun.  I'm working on a video now, and will share at least the first part of it here when I'm done.

OK, Roo has been upstairs talking to himself for quite a while now--I'm going to grab him before he wakes up the big kids.  Thanks for reading, friends.  I'm a work in progress, that's for sure.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Looking up

Well, I think we all know that yesterday didn't start off too well.  It was one of my DS low points, and there were definitely some tears involved.

But what I didn't tell you is that yesterday wasn't just Assessment Day... It was also my birthday. What a way to kick off the day, eh?

But you know what?  There was nowhere to go but up... and it went up.  A few hours after the assessment, the kiddos and I had lunch with my parents and mother-in-law, where I got my first round of birthday presents.  My parents gave me money for a much-needed trip to Ann Taylor (Aahhh, Ann, my BFF... how I have missed you!), and my mother-in-law gave me this fantastic find...
 Can you believe it?!?  I cried.  She used some of my pictures, so those photos are actually from my trip.  This is just the COOLEST thing!

After our fabulous lunch (and ice cream!) we came back home for naps & some housework, but little did I know that Mr. Fantastic would pop in the door at 3:30 in the afternoon to snatch up the kids for a "Top Secret Mission"!  They took off, and I felt like the peace & quiet that ensued was quite possibly the best birthday present ever.  And that wasn't even my gift!!!  What more could I possibly need?!?

They were gone about an hour, and they came home carrying armloads of presents.  OK, Mr. Fantastic had an armload--each of the big kids was carrying one present.  But it was kind of an armload for them.

First I got a gift from Monkey.  Let me give you a little bit of background... Monkey got a Nerf dart gun for his birthday in February... then Lamb got one for her birthday in June.  Monkey then determined that his daddy needed one for Father's Day, which left me the only one who was unarmed--well, you know, the only one who is big enough to hold a dart gun.  So Monkey handed me his present, with a handmade card on the front, where Mr. Fantastic wrote the message that Monkey had wanted to say.  It said, "Dear Mommy, I'm sorry you don't have your own dart gun.  But open this present and you'll be surprised!"  Can you guess what I got?!?  :-)  But here's the best part: My gun holds 10 darts, and all of theirs only hold 6, so while they're reloading I can take them all down.  Oh yeah, baby.

Then I got my present from Mr. Fantastic--a window box to attach to our deck!  And Roo got me 4 different herbs to plant in it.  I am SO. DARN. EXCITED about this--it is exactly what I asked for.  And if you knew Mr. Fantastic, you'd know that this is in itself a miracle--normally the thing I ask for is the one thing that he WON'T buy for me, because he wants me to be surprised.  :-)  I love that man.  And I am SO VERY HAPPY to have gotten exactly what I wanted this year.  :-)

But it wasn't over yet.  I still had a present from Miss Lamb.  I opened it up... and it was a plate.  But not just any plate.  It was THE plate.  You know, the collectible plate that my birth mom had given my parents and my mom had given me?  The one that I dropped and broke as soon as I brought it home?  Yep, that one!  No, it wasn't the broken one--Mr. Fantastic must have found it online somewhere.  (At least, I'm assuming that it was him and not my 6-year-old... ;-) )  I thought my tears were done for the day, but no--that plate and the love and effort that went into finding it (again)... oh my goodness.  Have I mentioned that I love that man?  Oh, and here's my plate...

And just to top off my wonderful birthday, we piled into the van and went to a local nature preserve and then out to dinner.  Yes, you read that right--I didn't even have to cook!  ;-)

OK, and I know you're probably tired of hearing me sing the praises of Facebook (If you're not, talk to my husband--he definitely is!), but I also got almost 100 birthday messages/posts on Facebook, and it made me feel so darn good!

So yeah, the day got off to a rough start.  But it came to a wonderful conclusion.  Absolutely wonderful.

By the way, just a couple of orders of business... I am still working my way through my FIA goals, although this week has seen a few changes.  I'll write more about it soon.  And with all that's been going on here, I have completely forgotten to post the next installment(s) of my adoption story!  I'm so sorry.  Next Wednesday.  I promise.

That's all for now.  It's time for me to snuggle up my Monkey and watch a little "Bolt" before bedtime.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Well, friends, today is assessment day, the day when our service coordinator and our early intervention specialist sit down with all the reports from the therapists and we talk about all of the things that typical kids can do but Roo can't.

Can you tell I'm in a little bit of a funk here?

This is my 3rd assessment day with Roo.  They have them twice a year, so we had his initial evaluation right after he was diagnosed, his first follow-up in January of this year, and now today.  We review what his goals were for the preceding 6 months, look at the current evaluations from his therapists, and make new goals.  I'll be honest, out of every hurdle we have faced since Roo's Down syndrome diagnosis, the assessment days are the hardest for me.

Words like "at risk" and "below normal range" flood the reports.  Some of the goals from the last assessment just got copied right into the new one.  Age ranges for his development don't go above 12 months, and most of them are below that.

This is hard.

In my life I've become very familiar with the things people say to be supportive that probably shouldn't be said.  Since Roo's diagnosis, I have heard over and over again, "Oh, I just know he's going to be high-functioning!"  This is usually given along with some rock solid evidence, such as "he's just so cute" or "he's so sweet" or my personal favorite "just look at him--you can't even tell anything is wrong with him!"  (I'm going to leave that one alone because if I start, my head just might explode.)  But guess what... there's just no way to know.  And every single time I look at these assessments and I see that he's behind, I feel like I'm letting someone down.  Like one of those people who just know how high-functioning he could be will wonder what he might be able to do if he had a mom who was doing more for him.  And worst of all, I feel like I'm letting him down.

Don't get me wrong.  I am well aware that he is not going to develop like a typical child.  But that doesn't make it easy.  And harder still are all of the people I "know" (some in real life, some through blogging) who have kids Roo's age with DS... and they are so much farther along.  They are saying words and cruising and picking out the right picture in a group and doing all of these great things... And we're just not there.  And we're not even close.

And mom guilt is a killer.

Am I not working with him enough?  Should I be pushing harder?  Is it because of his weight gain issues--is that slowing down his overall development?  Is there something more I should be doing?  Or worse yet, does this disappointment make it seem  like I am disappointed in my child?

I'm not, by the way.  I am head over heels in love with my child.  But sometimes I wish we could just raise him in a bubble, where there's no one else to compare him to, no expectations.

There's actually a popular phrase in the DS world right now: Expect, don't accept.  It's true--for a long time, a diagnosis of Down syndrome came with the idea that you just had to accept that your child wouldn't be able to do or learn or contribute much of anything.  Thank God that isn't the case now.  I have great expectations for Roo.  But where is the line?  He's a 15-month-old baby boy.  All of my high expectations don't mean a thing if he's just not ready to do something.

So for today, I'm expecting my sweet baby boy to take a good nap while I shed a few tears.  And I expect that he will wake up on his own timetable, not on mine, and that he will continue to melt my heart with his smiles and laughter and his little frog-hop crawl.  I expect that he'll be happy most of the day, that he'll cry when he bumps his head, that he'll throw every toy that he picks up, just like he usually does.  And I expect tomorrow will worry about itself.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Join the Crew!

This time last year I was a weary, sad, angry, mess of a momma much of the time. I felt alone, but would also cut off people who tried to get too close.  I wanted to know that others were going through the same experiences I was, but I was afraid of looking into the mirror of my future.

Around the beginning of August I heard of an event called the Buddy Walk, and I kind of wanted to do it... but I wasn't sure I was ready to make Down Syndrome that much of a reality in our lives.  The day came and went, and I didn't give it too much thought.

But now here we are, one year later, and let me tell you... Down Syndrome is very much a reality in our lives.  I'm still a mess, but more in the normal way that I'll probably just always be a mess.

And once again it's time to start thinking about the Buddy Walk, and this time I am IN and I am EXCITED.  We're not just walking in this Buddy Walk--we're forming a team.  And it's going to be great!  Guess what our team is called, friends... Roo's Crew!

I am so looking forward to being part of this event, taking my kids there, having some fun.  And here is the absolute BEST PART to me--the thing that brings me joy and warms my heart more than I can ever tell you... I have been telling people about this walk, and multiple people have said that they are interested in doing it too.  These are not people with DS or whose children have DS... these are our friends and family who want to join Roo's Crew just because they love us!  Seriously, you have no idea how much that means to me.  Even if it doesn't work out for any of them to come, the fact that they so sincerely have showed interest in being part of our team makes me feel incredibly blessed.

In the meantime, we've been trying to decide the best way to raise money for our team.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but since I feel like I just sent letters to everyone I know asking for support for my Mozambique mission, I feel a little funny to do it again.   So instead of a big letter-writing campaign, I've just been telling people about the walk and I am having a Tastefully Simple fundraiser party!  I think the Tastefully Simple party will be a great thing--20% of the show's total will go to our Buddy Walk, and everyone who orders will get their yummy TS stuff!  It's a win-win!  :-)  And other people have just offered donations to our team just from hearing about the walk.  God is so good.

I have learned a huge amount about fundraising this year.  Between Mozambique and this Buddy Walk, I have realized that raising money is so not about the money at all.  Every single time I got a check for the Mozambique mission, it brought tears to my eyes. Every time someone shows interest in walking in or donating to the Buddy Walk, my heart swells.  Over the years I have gotten many letters from friends and acquaintences who were raising money for one thing or another, but never did I really understand that a donation wasn't just about helping them meet a goal--it is truly a way to show love and support for a person.  I couldn't believe how spiritually and emotionally blessed I felt by a physical gift.

I feel like I need to give a little disclaimer here, though... I also got support from friends (for Mozambique) who didn't or weren't able to provide financially.  Many provided lots & lots of prayer, some sent cards or letters, some even brought food to my family while I was gone.  Every single one of those things made me feel incredibly blessed, and I don't mean to downplay those things by talking so much about the money.  My point is simply that I never understood that giving the money was also a way of actually showing love far more than it was about raising funds.

Anyway, all that to say... we've come a long way in the last year.  And I am so thankful for every single person who has been on the journey with us.  And I am excited to see Roo's Crew come together for the Buddy Walk next month!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Faith in Action, Days 7 & 8: Kindness cooks & reading books

Happy Friday! Is it just me, or is the summer absolutely FLYING BY?!? Lamb is only going into first grade, and already I miss when all of my kids were "little" and we didn't have to worry about dumb old school schedules. I actually wish (and those of you who have known me IRL for any length of time will probably fall over laughing at this) that I had my act together enough to homeschool her... not forever... just for a year or two. But I don't.  So we're going to have to pack as much fun as we can into the next 6 or 7 weeks.

Yesterday's project was to bake a cake for someone, and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. My kids love helping in the kitchen, especially Monkey.  Take a look at how our project went...

It takes a super hero to bake a cake from scratch!

And a beautiful princess, of course.  :-)

Now THAT is some sisterly love right there.

She made sure there was enough left for herself, though. :-)

Monkey's cars had to watch.

The finished product!  Complete with yellow sugar sprinkles (which you totally can't even see, but that's what Monkey picked out...) and dolphin sprinkles (Lamb's choice).

This was my favorite day of the FIA month so far.  I had tons of fun making the cake (& frosting) with the kids, and I loved listening to them decide who should get the cake.  They settled on a GREAT family.  Not only is the little boy Monkey's favorite person in the world--and both of their kids are great friends to my kiddos--but their mom has been a super friend to me, always willing to lend a hand with babysitting or meals when we needed them or anything else.  She has shown our family so much kindness, I was so happy to be able to do a little something in return.

And as we baked the cake, we talked about other ways to show kindness.  The kids came up with all kinds of things we could give people, so I asked them how we can show kindness without "things."  That really got them thinking.  I loved hearing all of their ideas!  Everything from hugs & kisses to just the tone of voice we use when we talk to someone.  And on the way to our friends' house, we all took turns praying for the family.  It was such a great day with my kids!

Today my task is to start on a book that Mr. Fantastic and I are going to read together.  Also... I am ashamed to admit that I got behind on my Bible reading--I missed the last TWO DAYS. And since the reading is 4-5 chapters per day, I have my work cut out for me tonight!  I just completely and totally forgot about it.

So I guess I'd better quit jabbering and get reading!  Talk to you soon...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 6 & a Day Trip

Today my kiddos and I went for a little trip... down memory lane.  You all met Jamey from Zehlahlum Family when she guest blogged for me while I was in Mozambique, but I actually met her many years before that, when she was just the little sister of my friend Laura. :-) When you're a teenager, 2-3 years can seem like a lifetime, but motherhood tears down so many walls, and a couple of years is nothing.  So when Jamey and I reconnected on Facebook, I checked out her blog, she checked out mine... and over the last year we have done some serious mom-bonding.

And this weekend, she came "home."  Not home as in back from vacation, but home as in the place she used to live before she got all grown up and moved away.  And fortunately for me, that kind of "home" for Jamey is only an hour from my home-where-I-live-every-day.  So today, my kiddos and I went for a little trip.

But what you don't know is that Jamey lives in an area that I consider my old stomping grounds. It's actually not the town where I grew up--it was over an hour away from me even then. But I was in a competition called Bible Quizzing as a teenager, and many of the friends I made in quizzing lived in her town. And because of them, my high school sweetheart lived in that town. I actually think I spent more of my social time in her area than in my own.

So as we drove today, and the big kids were mesmerized by "Because of Winn-Dixie" on the DVD player and Roo was (thankfully) asleep, I had a chance to reminisce.  I looked for familiar landmarks. (It's been several years since I have been down there at all.) I tried to remember how to get to old hangouts. I turned on country music, because that's what I listened to with those friends back then. I remembered good times and bad, wondered where some of those old friends are today, and thanked God for Facebook that allows me to know the answer to that for many of them.

And then we arrived at a house that used to be oh-so-familiar to me, but that I never would have picked out in a million years... Jamey's parents' house.  And I got a chance to see Jamey, to see her younger sister (who was just a snotty little kid back when I was a teenager... sorry, Sarah...), to meet Pickle, Peanut, and Boohoo.  And I got to make new memories with new friends and watch my kids make new friends and... it was a great way to bring the past & the present together.

After our fun morning, I knew I wasn't likely to get much accomplished at home, so I decided to make it a big ol' Day o' Fun for me and the kids.  We left our visit with Jamey and drove straight to our favorite ice cream place, then stopped home just long enough to change clothes before driving to my aunt's house to go swimming.  We got home in time to have dinner, get baths for the kiddos, and put them to bed.

It's been a great day.

By the way, I'm not slacking on my Faith in Action tasks, though.  I haven't done my task for today yet, but it is just a simple e-mail that I need to send... and I need to read my Bible reading for the day.  But... there's no time like the present, right?  So I'm going to get on that now.  Can I just say, though, that this project has been great for me already?  I am so excited to see the outcome, to see myself starting to form some new habits... And tomorrow, the kids and I are making a homemade chocolate cake with homemade frosting to give away.  It's going to be so much fun!  Stay tuned for pictures... :-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Faith in Action: Day 4

Not much of an update today... I've been keeping up on everything... and having a great 4th of July weekend!  :-)  But just in case you've been missing the face of a certain little boy, here's a shot from his first bath in the big tub...

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Faith in Action: Day 3

It's Sunday... I love Sundays.  We've been at our church for 2 years now, and since our first visit there I have loved Sundays.  I love the music, the sermons, the classes, the people.  I love going out to lunch together (which we don't do as often as we used to...), spending Sunday afternoons together, or even the occasional Sunday afternoon nap.

The preceding paragraph is what I repeated to myself over and over this morning... Everything I said there is completely true, but I'm just wasn't feeling it today.  I woke up tired and grumpy... and remember that post about how I shouldn't be mad at my kids just for waking up?  Well, today I was.

But sometimes when you have nowhere to go but up... you go up.  So the day has definitely gotten better.  I enjoyed our church service, as I knew I would, and then we went out for pancakes, and home for naps--and I actually got to take a nap!  Now Lamb is making a craft, the boys are still asleep, and I am getting some much-needed peace and quiet.  Ahhhhhhhh.

As for my FIA tasks, yesterday I read my assigned Bible chapters, something that will continue every day this month, although I haven't done today's yet.  And today I will start a gratitude journal, which couldn't be better timed!  I want to use this journal not as a place to write big long entires, but to just jot down things that I am thankful for. This month, I hope to specifically track things that I am discovering about myself, my family, my life, God, etc, as I go through this journey; but as time goes by I may do things like... list 10 things I'm thankful for about my husband... or 5 reasons it's good that my kids are morning people... or something like that.  Also for today--and really this whole week--I am trying to be very prayerful about this "project" and making sure that I am growing from it and honoring God through it.

But for now, I'd better go wake up my husband... and figure out where we're going to see fireworks tonight!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 2: A new name, a better focus

Good morning! I hope you’re all still asleep as I’m writing this—no one should have to get up at 6:00 on a Saturday morning… but Roo hasn’t learned that yet. So here I am.

I am excited to share with you what I put together yesterday. First, the name. Our church has been doing a sermon series on James called “A Working Faith.” The idea is that salvation is not through works, but faith in Christ should produce action. In other words, faith without works is dead. (See James 2:17) And isn’t that really what I am trying to do? I want to serve and honor Christ in my everyday life. And so, I bring you… “Faith in Action”, my 31-day journey.

As I mentioned yesterday, my task for the day was to list my resolutions for each day, but also to define my broader goals—what do I really want out of life? I want my individual tasks to relate to my goals—I don’t just want them to be some random jobs to do. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but I am very pleased with the results. Some of the days have a bit of a theme to them… On Sundays I’ll be working on a gratitude journal and I’ll have a prayer focus for the day; on Mondays I’ll be focusing on health & wellness; and on Thursdays I will be doing kind acts for others with my kids. But the rest of the days are just filled in with the various tasks on my heart.

So here, my friends, is my completed list.

Faith in Action

Key Verse: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

• To serve God in everything I do (“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24)

• To grow in Christ (“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7)

• To share the love of Christ with those around me (“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14)

• To be a better wife, mother, and friend (“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14)

• To serve others (“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4)

• To be content in the Lord regardless of my circumstances (“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!... I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:4, 12b-13)

• To use my time, skills, and resources effectively (“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16)

• To be healthy, honoring God with my body (“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” I Corinthians 6:19-20)

• July 1 – Create list of goals & resolutions

• July 2 – Read my Bible every day, using this guide

• July 3 – Start a gratitude journal, pray about using this month to serve & honor God

• July 4 – Health Day: Exercise 3 times per week throughout this month (starting today)

• July 5 – Create a cleaning schedule of my “regular” duties (so that I don’t get overwhelmed and just give up on them)

• July 6 – Pursue a ministry opportunity (I have a more specific task in mind, but I’m going to choose not to share it on the blogosphere!)

• July 7 – RAK Day: Bake a treat for someone

• July 8 – Read a book with my husband (throughout the month)

• July 9 – Write a note of encouragement to someone

• July 10 – Gratitude journal & prayer focus on marriage

• July 11 – Health Day: Make sure I get at least 5 servings of fruits & veggies each day this week

• July 12 – Make a special dinner for my hubby

• July 13 – Finish my Mozambique journal

• July 14 – RAK Day: Make a card and/or craft with someone

• July 15 – Invite someone to dinner (the dinner doesn’t have to be that night :-) )

• July 16 – Write a thank-you note to someone who has been a help to me

• July 17 – Gratitude journal & prayer focus on kids/family

• July 18 – Health Day: Drink at least 5 glasses of water per day this week (I know it should be more, but considering that I usually drink 1-2, I think this is a good place to start)

• July 19 – Host a thank-you dinner for everyone who provided support for my Mozambique mission

• July 20 – Work on a project around the house that I have been putting off (So many to choose from…!)

• July 21 – RAK Day: Make dinner for someone

• July 22 – Do a special project with Monkey

• July 23 – Limit my internet time to 15 minutes/day for the next week

• July 24 – Gratitude journal & prayer focus on ministry opportunities/direction

• July 25 – Health Day: Track the food/calories I eat this week

• July 26 – Write a love note to my hubby :-)

• July 27 – Invite someone to church

• July 28 – RAK Day: Kids’ choice :-)

• July 29 – Do a special project with Lamb

• July 30 – Pray for a friend… while they’re listening! (Way out of my comfort zone…)

• July 31 – Gratitude journal & prayer focus on relationships

So… wow, that seems doable, right? I am so excited to share with you as I go through this month. I hope that you will be inspired to grow and maybe formulate some goals of your own. If you do, would you share them with me? I said this yesterday, but you can post a comment about your goals here, or you can post on your blog and leave a link. I would love to know if you do a journey of your own, whether it is 31 tasks like mine, a general list of goals that you’re aspiring to, or even just one simple thing you’d like to accomplish. There is strength in numbers, friends.

Alright, I’m off to feed my little guy his breakfast, then read my Bible, then head to 2 parties. I hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, July 1, 2011

July: The month of... new... stuff

A few weeks before I left for Mozambique, I noticed that I had gotten in a bit of a rut with my kids.  There were things that they did that always got a rise out of me... I think I was so stressed out after Roo's diagnosis that cetain things just got under my skin and I overreacted to them, and then my brain/body just got in the habit of overreacting to those things.  Suddenly it's a year later, I'm not nearly as stressed, but some of those behaviors from the kids would still send me from a perfectly good mood to completely angry in an instant.  And of course, we're talking about majorly bad behavior here... honest... you know, like... if they got up early on a Saturday when I wanted to sleep in... Yeah, I was a little out of control.

So while I was away, I became determined to change those bad habits, to not be such a psycho mom over dumb stuff.  I knew it would take some time and patience--and it has--but it has been a good thing.  The morning after I got home, I was up a little bit early and looking forward to some time to myself... and then Lamb walked in.  I immediately felt my blood start to rise--and then I forced myself to stop.  I smiled and said, "Good morning, Honey!  I'm so glad to see you--I missed you so much while I was gone!"  And I gave her a big hug, and I enjoyed spending some quality time with her while everyone else was asleep.  It sounds like a little thing... it IS a little thing.  But it was a step.  I was teaching my brain that just because I was used to reacting a certain way doesn't mean I have to.  My new motto became "Retrain your brain."  I would repeat this to myself any time I started to get frustrated with the kids over little stuff, and it worked.

In the days that followed I became more and more successful at choosing new, more positive ways of responding to my kids.  Now, I know that I gave a pretty silly example about getting up too early, but overall I had just realized that my temper was too short with them.  My discipline wass ineffective because I was too over-the-top angry about dumb stuff, and I was getting disproportionately (Come on now, tell me you're not impressed with the use of that word!) frustrated over small accidents or forgetfulness or other silly things that kids do.  But I quickly got in the habit of stopping myself from reacting in what had become the "natural" way, and instead choosing better ways of interacting with my kids--and in the process, not just changing my external actions, but changing my internal attitudes as well.

As I really started to get into this idea of "retrain your brain", I also read an article about a book called The Happiness Project.  The author, Gretchen Rubin, realized she was just going through life with no real focus, and life was passing her by.  She decided that what she really wanted out of life was happiness, so she spent a year making changes to make that happen.  Each month she had a new resolution, like singing in the mornings or keeping a gratitude journal.  It sounded to me like she was retraining her brain too.  ;-)
So, inspired by The Happiness Project and my success of my "retrain your brain" experiment, I have decided to devote a month to making some changes.  But here's the thing... my focus isn't really on happiness.  Because, well, happiness sounds like a nice thing, but... it's a little more self-focused than what I want to be. Gretchen asked herself what she really wanted out of life--that was how she got started.  So what do I really want out of life?  Well... I want it to not be about me.  I want to be a better servant.  I want to show the love of Christ to others.  I want to be a better wife, mother, and friend--but not so that my husband, children, and friends will think, "Wow, she's really great!"  I want to do it because I want to help them.

At the same time, some of the changes I need to make are completely internal.  I need to work on being... maybe not a happier person, but a more content one.  That's another thing I want out of life. I want to learn--to borrow from the apostle Paul--"the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12)  Happiness is a feeling, and it's OK to be unhappy sometimes.  But I want to learn to be content regardless of my circumstances, my mood, my crazy hormones.  ;-)

And so... for the next month, I will have a new resolution each day to help work toward these goals of becoming a better servant of God, servant of others, and a more content person.  Some of them will be ongoing--tomorrow, for instance, my goal will be to read my Bible every day for the rest of the month--with the hope/expectation that I will continue to do those things after the month is done.  Others will be more... self-contained... like writing a note of encouragement.  But again, my hope is that these tasks will become more habitual for me and help me grow into the person I want to be.

Now to me, a project like this is much more effective if it is documented.  So for the month of July, I will be blogging each day to journal my progress.  I am really excited to share this little journey with you!  I will still be blogging about the regular stuff, but I think this will be a fun addition to my regular (or... not-so-regular) posts.

So now I need to name this little project of mine.  What on earth do I call it?  I'd love to say that it's a month of service, but not all of the things I'm going to do are directly service-related--some of them are just about... well... self-improvement, I guess.  But at the same time, "A Month of Self-Improvement" just sounds too... self-ish to me.  I liked the sound of "30 Days of Change", but July has 31 days, and that just doesn't have the same ring.  What do you think?  Thoughts?  Suggestions?  No really, I'm open to some input here--leave me a comment if you have a good one.  :-)

In the meantime, here is my task for the day... It is actually a 2-part task.  First, I need to actually make a list of the tasks/resolutions I will be doing this month.  And second, I want to write down exactly what my goals are--my life goals.  Yeah, these are probably steps that should have been done ahead of time, but... there's no time like the present, right?  Anyway, I really want to define my goals because I want this month to be about working toward something.  I don't just want to do a bunch of stuff that sounds good.  I want to be able to link each task/resolution to a specific goal so that I can make sure I'm focusing on what's important.

Are you ready to embark on this journey with me?  Look out, world!  And hey, if you are inspired to make some changes, whether it's just some abstract thoughts about things you want to change or you want to do a month-long project with me, will you let me know?  Post a comment here, or post on your blog and leave the link here.  Let me know we're in this together.  ;-)

Thanks for walking alongside me in this. I'm off to make a list. ;-)  (Oh, and I really do want a good name for this project...Any ideas?)