Monday, April 16, 2018

One Day At A Time

      The gaps just get longer and longer between posts these days, and while I often think of documenting the happenings of our life here, there's really just not much time.....so perhaps the gaps will just remind me of the business of our life at this stage some day when I look back.  Part of me feels like my thoughts are way too scattered to record anything coherent anyway.....sooo I'll attempt an overall update and to answer some of the questions we get often....

    Last week we received some news (that we later found was not entirely accurate) that really threw me for a loop.  Things have been a bit more stable around here the past several months, and I hadn't realized how much my faith was transferring back to circumstances, and away from that constant daily trust in God that I had come to depend on.  I'm currently reading the bible chronologically, and the reading last week was about the Israelites escaping from Egypt and all of the miraculous ways God orchestrated their escape.  And yet....almost immediately they began complaining that they would have been better off staying enslaved in Egypt, because at least they had food there!  How quickly we forget God's provision and promises.....I felt God speaking to me, especially as I read on.  Each day, manna would rain down from heaven...the Israelites were to collect all that they needed for that day, but no more.  The following day, the same would happen as God provided for their needs on a daily basis.  Daily.  Day to day, trusting that God would provide.  That He alone would sustain them.  That HE IS ENOUGH.  I've also been reading Katie David Majors book "Daring To Hope.  I picked it up again last week....and would you believe what she was referencing?  "I think of the Israelites.  God Himself had faithfully protected them.....but when they found themselves in the desert, the first thing they did was begin to grumble......Does it take just one hard day to forget?" So many more reminders as I read on....and in so many ways I could relate....could have written the words myself.  God was so present, reminding me of His truths and promises, and re-directing me back to that daily trust in Him.  And even if the news turned out to be true, with my focus back on Christ, and my trust in Him, rather than people and circumstances around me....I had peace. 

    There is so much uncertainty in this life.  So much pain and heartache.  It feels like everywhere I turn, everyone I talk to.....I see suffering.  But when I spend the time with Jesus.....when I place my focus where it belongs, there is so much hope, comfort, peace.  We have been through some challenging roads, but He has always been faithful....always seen us through.  Why do I doubt?  I want things to be all figured out....everything fixed and just right......no uncertainties.  Or do I?  Was there really true peace in trusting in the current circumstances?  Or was I getting caught up in trying to control things myself a whole lot more than when my focus was on daily trusting Christ....which really wasn't very peaceful at all.  Sometimes I may not understand....may not think it's fair.....I may question and grieve why things have to be this way.....but if I truly trust that He works ALL things together for HIS good, it really changes everything.

    We've also been trying to focus more on others....to BE the gift even in our brokenness.....especially in our brokenness!  Not only does it take the focus of off ourselves and our own problems, it brings us back to what we are created to do - to love others and bring Glory to God!  I love being able to teach my kids to be mindful of others, and we are learning together that there are SO many simple ways to bless those around us!  It's really such a privilege and blessing.            

   Otherwise we are just busy with day to day life!  Still homeschooling and trying to keep up with everyone's differing needs and schedules.  I'm thankful to have a husband who is so involved and invested in his family...we make a good team....we are so blessed!

    We get this question a lot these days, so I've decided an attempt at answering it here.  How is Keira doing?  Despite the fact that some have assumed we just gave up on our girl and she's just not here anymore and that's that, we actually talk to Keira daily.  We have family therapy via skype and in person, and we are fully involved in her treatment.  For everyone's safety and for Keira to get the help that she needs, she is currently at a therapeutic boarding school out of state.  Keira has a long way to go and progress is hard to gauge at this point because there is so much foundation work to be done every time she moves somewhere new.  Thankfully, she has been in one place for the past six months and there should not be any more transitions other than the ultimate goal of her returning home when she is in a healthier place.  We truly do not have a timeline for that happening, but again are having to take it one day at a time.  There are a lot of ups and downs, but there is a LOT of support for her in her current environment and we hope and pray that it will help her to heal.  We have had to recognize that nothing that we do can change things....we tried that approach and always came up with the same results....Keira has to desire to make the changes and put the work in.  That's a heavy load for a teenager, especially with so much trauma in her past....but we know that with God ALL things are possible.  I'll be honest, it's easy to lose that focus and to have feelings of hopelessness, but we have to believe that God has a greater plan than we can see in the here and now.  As always, prayers are so appreciated as we all continue to walk this road.

     I spend a good part of my week homeschooling with Caleb (and Kyleigh...sort of ☺).  This year has been our most challenging and most rewarding.  I've seen huge progress in his abilities which is always fun and exciting to be a part of, but we've also had our share of issues that brought us pretty close to calling it quits.  I'm thankful that we saw it through.  I really do treasure the time we have together, and the way I get to be such a big part of all that he is learning.  His excitement for learning (certain things!) is so precious and contagious.  I am learning right along with him, and his interests and desires push me to be a better teacher to him.  He is still this clash of a super outgoing, social boy who loves/needs to be around people versus a homebody......he is truly his own person, unique in so many ways and I love that about him.  He is learning to be compassionate and to care for others, and I'm so proud of the ways that he initiates this on his own.  His vocabulary and ability to reason with us has been an interesting development and certainly keeps us on our toes!  He's participated in a variety of sports/activities this year, and after taking some time off, he's back to playing soccer this spring.  He's almost finished with his first year of Awanas at a new church and he has done so well!  I was so nervous about this, because he loves it so much and it was such a big change.  He jumped right in, made friends and has had a blast!  And he finished his book and review with a few weeks to spare, so he was pretty proud of himself.  It's been fun learning verses together (even Kyleigh joins in as we sing the songs to learn them!) and being able to talk about what they mean and how they apply to our lives.  He's definitely a busy guy these days!!

     I have my moments of wishing Levi could be with us each day, but he often reminds me how much he loves his routine!  They had a four day weekend back in February and when I told him he was going back to school that next day, he threw his arms around me and said "thank you mommy!!!"  Ha!  It's moments like those that remind me he is exactly where he needs to be.  He has an amazing teacher who is incredible with him.  I can tell that he feels loved and cared for there, but he is also being pushed to reach his potential - best of both worlds!  He had a rough start to the year, but after some different efforts he started on medication a few months in to the school year.  It's been so incredible to see the complete change in reports coming home each day, as well as the updates at his last IEP meeting.  I feel so relieved for him....as he's able to focus and keep his body calm, he is so much more able to succeed and feel proud of himself!  We still have our challenges at home once things have worn off and there isn't as much structure and routine, but I'm thankful for the progress that's been made.  He has his own little circle of friends, we've been able to get together and play with one of them somewhat regularly, and he seems so proud to be able to share that part of his life with us - something that is his and makes him feel special.  He is getting sooo tall, catching up to his big brother!  He loves trying to keep up with Caleb and it's been great seeing them play together more this year....but he also enjoys his time with Kyleigh where the two of them use their imagination in the craziest of ways.  It's sweet to see his different sides.  He continues to teach me and stretch me in so many ways!

   Kyleigh is as crazy as ever.....so sweet and loving, and so wild and out of control all at the same time!  She keeps right up with her big brothers, bossing them around, wrestling with them, and playing right alongside of them.  And oh does she adore them!  She demands hugs and kisses - she literally pulls their head to her forehead to give her a kiss - before nap and bedtime.  And it's the same when daddy comes home in the morning and heads up to bed...."my need my kisses!!"  And I will enjoy her misuse of pronouns as long as it will last!  She absolutely loves to sing and will turn anything into a microphone to perform for us, complete with bows and the "thank you, thank you."  Her birthday (not until June btw) has been talked about every day since the beginning of December when we celebrated my moms birthday and she realized that she would have a party eventually too.  I hope it turns out to be all she has dreamed :)  She loves to play with her babies, cook in her kitchen and is still very much into her paw patrol figures.....and she lovvesss animals, so she always has several stuffed animals surrounding her.  This little girl brings so much joy to our lives....she is just so special!!
   
     At almost 34 weeks, poor baby brother still remains nameless.  Most conversations regarding a name end in a steady stream of obnoxious suggestions being given for a laugh because we can't come up with one we actually love!  Feel free to send any nice boy names our way :)  We are more than ready for him to arrive....and he will certainly be well loved and cared for!  I have three little additional parents telling me all the things they are going to do to take care of him.....we'll see how long it lasts, ha!

    It's been a long winter this year, so we are excited for spring and all the craziness that is about to kick off.....we have so many weddings, showers, visits from friends and family, vacations, birthdays and other special occasions that started this month and will carry on for the next few months.  Life is busy, often unpredictable and sometimes really trying....but there is so much beauty and so much to be thankful for!

                               And so we take it one day at a time.....daily trusting Him

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

100th Day Fun

Yesterday was our 100th day of school!  We've been plugging along through snow days, and other days off so that we can be done before this baby arrives!  


I'm sure I was more excited than they were about the little details of the day, but that's okay :)


We started the day with donuts at the library before story time.  Kyleigh decided to pose with her movie while we waited for it to begin.  She gets most excited about singing the songs.  I love watching her dance around and sing...too cute!! 


Daddy worked a double so he was actually at work during normal hours.  We decided a mini field trip would be fun so we brought some cookies and headed over for a tour.  They were so into every detail! (Including eating daddy's cookies)



Kyleigh got right to work on her "puter"


Then it was on to some good old school work, which I thought was fun, but Caleb wasn't too impressed with.  It was still work so it didn't qualify as fun just because it was 100 day themed. Ha!



He definitely enjoyed this one though.....he was very dedicated 😊


  I wish Levi could have been here, he's worked through his days off right alongside of Caleb....mostly because he wants to join in, but still.  Such a hard worker!  I'm sure he'll do some fun activities at school on his 100th day there :) 


I love these days, so much fun making memories together! 










Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sweet Victories




Last night we were talking about how far this little guy has come....how much he has endured in his short life and how hard he has had to work for each small victory. It often seems that he is not the same little baby boy we met five years ago. This morning he buttoned his own shirt (completely on his own for the first time!!) and then later he zipped up his coat on his own!! It wasn't easy....he told me he was mad several times, and had to take some deep breaths and try again and again.....but he did it! Because he CAN. He is SO capable. Sometimes my own impatience, or just my underestimating his ability, gets in the way. I am SO proud of him and probably don't say it enough.



I realized this morning that next week will be five years since the week he came home. I used to remember all of these dates so vividly as they came....first meeting in October, court in December, picking him up 30 days later in January.....but now I tend to forget. I didn't really even think of it these past few months as they came and went. Those dates will always be special....always be a vital part of his story....but I think with each passing year it feels more and more like he has always been here.....that it couldn't possibly be the same little boy from across the ocean because we were never apart. ❤



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Season 2017


      I love this time of year.  For many reasons, but I think they all stem from our being more intentional than usual.  We have slowly established several family traditions that we hold to each Christmas season....and naturally that requires planning and being intentional about making them happen!   

We begin the day after Thanksgiving making Christmas crafts!  I've become less creative each year, and realized we don't have to make 8 different projects :)  We've settled on three somewhat simple crafts that the kids can (mostly) do on their own.  It's so fun to watch them be creative.  


I was surprised to find that Kyleigh spent the most time on each project.....she painted her ornament for what seemed like forever.  Levi had completed everything and she was still painting away!  


Caleb was very purposeful in his painting.....it's so fun to see their abilities develop!


I think Levi was just being sweet and humoring me this year 😂  He was done with everything in a flash....so funny!!  


They were excited to hang their freshly made ornaments on the tree, and decorate their rooms with their new snow globes!




When daddy came home we enjoyed decorating their rooms with lights, and then the tree.....each year the kids choose a new ornament and we add it to their box that someday they'll take with them to their own homes and trees.  



  
Busy bees....they were SO funny decorating this year....three very different ideas!


Kyleigh's idea was to fit as many ornaments on one branch as possible.  We may have had to do a little rearranging later on :)


They get so excited each year to play with the nativity set....


Christmas cookies!  Meme has a day of making crafts and cookies with the grandkids too, but at some point we always make our own as well.  This year it was a marathon process.  Kyleigh and I made the dough earlier in the day while everyone else was out and about.  She was SO into it, adding ingredients and stirring away.  I'm pretty sure everything was covered in flour.....but I stopped so many times and just marveled at how blessed I am to have this little girl in my life....she is SO full of joy and makes everything so much fun.  Rolling the dough and cutting out the cookies was much the same...it took three times as long as she layered one cookie cutter over another cookie and we started again, but it was so much fun.  Eventually she "decorated" her cookies and then insisted on waiting in her high chair for them to cook so she could eat them :)     


Caleb had a surprise guest during his school day, so round two began as they decorated their cookies.  So cute how serious they were about it, taking their time and being very detailed!  It's a good thing Levi has his own special sprinkles because these two used up just about all we had!



Round three when Levi came home from school!  He was pretty excited about his own tray of cookies with frosting and sprinkles he can actually enjoy!


At some point in December we take some time to make a list of gifts for Jesus.....things we can do to serve others and in turn show our love for Jesus since we are, after all, celebrating His birthday.  One of our annual traditions is to visit the elderly at a local nursing home around the holidays....those that sometimes seem forgotten and may be overlooked.  We've made one particular special friend there, and the kids are always so excited to visit her.  I think it's one of my favorite things to watch them get excited about.  Caleb eagerly asked if we would see Shirley, and expressed his excitement.....and I marveled at the fact that this full of energy little seven year old boy would be so eager to visit this elderly, often very quiet, woman.  We try to bring something to give to many of the residents....just something simple and homemade, but something to remind them that someone cares.  But for Shirley....her gifts have become more elaborate each time we visit.....this year Caleb colored a stocking just for her so we could fill it with gifts :)


The others helped to make cards, color pictures, and create little angel and wreath ornaments....as well as some other unidentifiable festive gifts!


 Kyleigh was thrilled to learn about the bead container, so we made a lot of gifts from beads and pipe cleaners! 

    We were a little disappointed to find that the nursing home wasn't allowing children to visit as there was a great deal of respiratory illness going around.  We all stood there, in the lobby, a couple days before Christmas, wondering what to do with our gifts.  The nurses finally decided it would be okay for us to briefly visit those in the lobby who were feeling well, and they brought Shirley down to see us :)  Phew. 
      The residents were in the middle of a bingo game, but were eager to pause and visit.  They were so appreciative and enjoyed the energy of our three wild ones! Times like this are when Levi really shines.  Nothing holds him back....he doesn't feel nervous, or unsure...he's just Levi.  He was happily wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and handing them gifts as fast as he could...commanding them to open them and watching (too closely) as they did!  The others joined in easily as well and seemed to enjoy the joy they brought to these sweet people!

   They were especially thrilled to see Shirley, and she was also happy to see us.  I think each time, her personality starts to come through a little more.  She was so grateful for the stocking full of gifts, it was so sweet.  Caleb really enjoyed watching her open each one....I think because he had really been the one to pick them out and wanted to make her gift extra special...so sweet!  


"Christmas With Keira"
The weekend before Christmas we were able to go all together for the first time, to visit Keira.  Luke and I have taken turns, but we had yet to be together as a family.  Other than starting off with one child getting violently sick outside and my panic that we'd have to leave before we even entered, the rest of the night went great!  We brought pizza so we could have a family dinner together first :)


I made sure to get a picture of all the kiddos together since those are few and far between these days.  This also solved my Christmas Card dilemma....I hadn't known what to do with it and had given up on the idea of even doing one this year, but was able to at the last second :)


The kids were so eager to give her all of her gifts.  They just stood there watching, excited for her. 


    We do our three gifts, plus a stocking and this year was a little challenging.  I'm not entirely sure what she can have there, but it's also such a different environment, I couldn't really think of much she'd even want/need.  Her experience gift had to just be us coming and having a family dinner and visit.  Her need was a new bible she'd asked for, but her gold gift had me stumped.  When I thought about what she really really wanted, all I could think of were gifts we really couldn't give.  Healing.  To be a "normal" kid, without all the baggage.  Us to have adopted her as a baby.  Baby photos.  And then....I thought....that was it!  I remembered seeing something about a company that does photo regression pictures!!  You send them several photos that meet certain criteria and they work to create a photo at a younger age of your choosing.  We were SO excited...while it may not be the exact real thing, it's as close as we'll ever get, and we really thought she'd love it.  She had also expressed interest in making a life book.  I had made one for Levi before he came home, and Keira and I had long since planned to make one for her together.  She never actually wanted to take the time to do that, rather than playing or other activities, so the scrapbook she picked and other materials we had put together in preparation were just sitting there.  I decided that was the perfect way to give her the photo.....in her completed life book.  It took months, but I tried to include every detail I could about her life, starting at birth until the present.  I also made sure to leave extra space on most pages where she could add her own memories and details.  


      I'd say it was the right choice.  She was definitely happy.  She said it "meant a lot," which meant a lot to us!  I could tell she wanted to look through and read everything, but also wanted to spend the time we had together.  We all looked through the pictures and reminisced and then she surprised us.  She had gifts for each of us....thoughtful, wrapped gifts.  


She knows her siblings well, even with not being home for so long.  They were SO excited.


They all played together for a while which was sweet to watch.  At some point, Keira sat back down and opened her book.  I sat by her while the others played and was able to spend a little time looking at it with her.  I thought about how that's what we would have done....later on, when the others went to bed, we would have sat and looked through it together as she shared her thoughts and memories.  It made me sad to think of her sitting in her room later, looking at it by herself.  A few people have said she's shared it with them when they've been there, so that's sweet.  Our hope is that she can look at it and feel loved....that even though there's a lot of hard memories mixed in, there's also a lot of good.  So many memories made together as a family.  So many smiles....so much joy.  
Altogether the visit was great....another good family memory!


The church we've been visiting is always sharing ways that you can partner with different organizations and groups to serve others.  It's amazing how many opportunities there are, and how many different ministries they support.  It's truly so exciting!  A few days before Christmas we were blessed to be able to join in and serve by very simply delivering a couple of meals to some Cranston residents.  All we had to do was pick them up at the senior center and then bring them to the homes of those whose addresses we were given.  The kids had pictures for them, and we had brought a bouquet of flowers to give to one of the women along with the meals :)  But when we got back in the car and I looked at our papers, we only had men! haha!  Caleb didn't think a man would want the flowers, and we had pictures anyway, so he wanted to save them for our neighbor.  He's too funny :)  Anyway, it was a lot of fun and just such a simple way to help out!  


Annual Christmas Lights Adventure!
Heading out to see all of the fun houses decorated for Christmas.....



  
       Each year, we have experimented with different children's advent devotionals.  Last year we found "The Donkey In The Living Room" and decided to stick with it for a few years while the kids are young.  It's more on their level than many we've tried, and it's interactive so they get really excited about this part of our day!  Here they are looking for the wrapped nativity piece for that day :)


Once they find the piece, they unwrap it and add it to the nativity scene and we read that day's story....from the perspective of whoever was found.  It's cute, and easy to modify for their differing ages and understanding.  They always guess who they will find each day, and for some reason weren't getting the fact that baby Jesus would probably arrive on Christmas.  So by Christmas day, they were relieved to finallyyyy have unwrapped baby Jesus and place him in the stable :)


Another favorite is giving our gifts to Jesus on Christmas day.  We LOVE the Gospel For Asia Christmas Catalogs that we can look through and choose ways to truly change lives.  There's a great children's book called "Beatrice's Goat" which helps make this whole idea more real for the kids.  I love how they are always incredibly decisive about what they want to buy.  Typically when making decisions there's a lot of wavering....but these things are so important, so necessary.....they don't have to think twice about it.     


After we do our devotions and gifts for Jesus, we enjoy giving to our kiddos.  They were excited to learn about their experience gifts to come (these have proven to be very tricky with weather and other factors, but they are by far my favorite as we just enjoy experiencing new things together!).  Needs were easy this year as the boys helmets had been falling apart, and Kyleigh will soon be needing a big girl bed so she received some cute new bedding!  These munchkins love everything so Gold gifts are also pretty easy for them.  Caleb really needed a new bike, so we were excited to get him the bike he'd been hoping for.  Levi is a little challenging since he likes the same things he's liked for what seems like forever and still has a million of...so we settled on some police and fire playsets, as that seems to be his newest interest!  And Kyleigh....well....Luke's been working for months on hers....using random pieces of scrap wood and different parts he's saved "just in case."  I had just suggested that we maybe add on a counter and cabinet to her little tikes kitchen set.  Yeah. I should have known better.  Over time, it became an entire kitchen and laundry set and the old kitchen got the boot.  But it will be a great thing for them all to enjoy for years to come....such a labor of love.  She walked in with her back to it and didn't notice at first.....as she turned around she said her famous "Oh my gawsh!"  She said "thanks mom, dad," and then ran and hugged daddy when I explained that he made it for her.  💕


         And aside from all of our traditions to celebrate, are of course our fun family get togethers....starting with Christmas Eve breakfast and fun at Meme and Pops....
     This is a great advent devotional too, if you're looking! "What God Wants For Christmas"  Meme  does it with the kids each year before they open presents, and this year my niece narrated...it was precious :)


      Singing Happy Birthday To Jesus.....for some reason Kyleigh asked if it was her birthday party when she woke up that morning.  I didn't think much of it, as she speaks daily of her "Hello Kitty" birthday party that she's planning six months prior to her birthday.  But then as we sang Happy Birthday later that morning, she looked around expectantly...not singing...waiting to hear it..."happy birthday to....Kyleigh."  When we said "Jesus" instead, she seemed a bit confused, but quickly moved on.  Oh she is just too much! 


Then on to Christmas Eve at my grandparents at night.....featuring Princess Kyleigh


And Christmas Day at my Aunt's......




Such special moments and memories being made.....I just love this time of year.
I'm so thankful for my family and friends and most of all for God sending His only Son to be born into this world.  What a sacrifice.  What love.  What a GIFT.
  All of this would be so meaningless otherwise.  




Merry Christmas 💚