Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our Christmas Letter...

It's hard to believe that a year ago we were on our way to Ethiopia to meet our three new kiddos for the first time.  We spent Christmas day in London eating fish-n-chips in a not-so-great pub, freezing our tushies off walking around London on our site seeing tour, Gatlin and I falling asleep on the tour bus cause the jet lag was so bad, and almost missing our flight to Ethiopia cause nobody in the London airport seemed to know where our gate was -- but I'm not complaining cause it all made for a great memory and fun story to tell.  

Fast forward a year...we were sleeping peacefully in our own comfy bed when three little black children excitedly ran into our room to wake us up to start the Christmas celebration!  LOL    Thankfully, it was 8:30 (I've trained them well - ha!)  And it seemed perfectly normal to me.

Isn't that amazing!   In the 10 months that the kids have been here, it's gone from a few weeks of feeling completely overwhelmed, to a few months of, "Ok, I can do this", to a couple more months of, "Getting kind of used to this", to now..."Can't imagine life any other way".   There have been some emotional ups and downs, that's for sure, but if I've learned anything at all this year, I've learned that it's just not about me and I MUST keep an eternal perspective in ALL things in life.  That isn't always easy, but it is imperative for a joy-filled life.  I want to choose joy.  

All five of our kids are doing really great.  Kaleb and Kali are loving first grade and doing so well.  Bennet is doing wonderfully in school, but that has been one of the biggest challenges for us...not having to do with Bennet, but just the communication between us and the school as to Bennet's needs and how to meet them.  We finally got the kinks worked out and things are running smoothly now.  She loves to read and it's been so fun to watch her dive into a book and not want to put it down.  It does blow me away that she's only been here 10 months and is flying through 3rd grade level books now - I'm so proud of her.  Gatlin is making all A's except in Algebra, and she has a high B in that one.  It has been such an adjustment for her to go from homeschooling to a difficult private school, but she's doing great!  I'm very proud of her for making such good grades and feel quite relieved, actually.  ha!!   I mean, I know she's smart, but when you home school and then put them in a school, there is a sigh of relief once you know they are doing well (and not just doing well, but excelling).  Whew!  Cooper is still homeschooling and doing great.  He is taking Spanish through a tutorial and is making a strong A in there, so that's great.  Homeschooling is such a great choice for him because it gives him such freedom to work on his music and to teach his guitar students.  So proud of him and his strong work ethic.

Brian is super busy these days, which is a HUGE blessing cause a couple months ago he didn't have work lined up and it was a bit scary, to be honest!   I've told this story a couple times, so if you've heard it before, sorry...but when we started the adoption process, we told the Lord that we'd eat peanut butter and jelly if we had to, but that we wanted to provide a life for these kids, and even a life filled with PB &  J would be better than the life they had in an orphanage because they'd have the love of a family.  Anyway, this year got pretty tight financially and I found myself just a little worried and crying out to the Lord telling Him that I didn't mean it -- I didn't really want to eat PB & J -- I wanted some steak!  You understand.  And, really, we have never gone without, it's just been different.  God is faithful and has provided everything we need and even things we want.  We are blessed.

I have to tell you that there have been friends that have been extremely generous to us this year.  We've had many friends give us hand-me-down clothes but a few that have just gone above and beyond and continually send us boxes!!  There's probably not a day that goes by that Kaleb isn't wearing something given to us by my friend, Shelli, and Kali is constantly in something from my friends, Tish and Courtney.  Bennet has been blessed by my friend, Kimmy, and Moriah keeps blessing Gatlin.  And MANY others have given us clothes -- it has been a HUGE, huge blessing!  It blows me away!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, sweet friends!  

So, clothes weren't something we needed at Christmas (ha!) but Forever 21 did have an on-line clearance that was unbeatable so Gatlin got a couple new things, which was fun for her.  We got all the kids a pair of shoes -- the two big kids got Tom's and the three young ones got boots that they had mentioned liking.  Then they each got two other gifts from our family and a gift from Nana and Papa and Uncle Jack and Aunt Lora.  And then Uncle Jim blew us away with his generosity towards all of us.  We are blessed by him and how he loves our family so well.  

We enjoyed a casual lunch with our gang plus Uncle Jim and Cooper's girlfriend, Brianna.  Yep, that's big news this year...Cooper has a girlfriend.  We all love Brianna and it was great to have her here with us for Christmas as her family went out of town but she had to work and couldn't go with them.  That worked out well for Cooper!  LOL  She and Cooper have been close friends for a year and a half, but decided a few weeks ago to start dating.  Cooper is 17 and Brianna is 18 so they're at a good age and are displaying wonderful maturity and godliness in the whole dating/courting process.  It will be exciting to see what the Lord does with/through their relationship.  

Gatlin and Kali made a birthday cake for Jesus and decorated it so nicely.  We sang Happy Birthday and blew out the candle and celebrated THE life that gives all of us life.  How blessed we are to know JESUS!  How blessed we are to have brought three children into our family and now we get the privilege of helping them grow in their relationship with Him.  It just doesn't get any better than that.  All we have, all we are, EVERYTHING is because of HIM.  

One of Bennet's gifts today was to inherit her brother's old computer (a nice little Mac Mini, because Cooper bought himself a laptop) and so now she has an email account set up so she can email her family.  I was the recipient of her first email and it said, "Thank you for the gifts.  This was the first and the best Christmas ever.  Thank you so much and I love you very much".   Makes me cry again just typing it here.  Good grief, ya''s AMAZING to think that somehow God allowed us to be a piece in the puzzle of a transformed life.  Humbled.

One last thing, today my sister left to go get her little boy, Crew, from Ethiopia.  It's been a year since they started the adoption process and it's been quite the roller coaster ride.  But, God is faithful to finish what He started and they will be home on Wednesday.  The timing is perfect for us to jump in the car and actually get to be there for their airport arrival.  How awesome is that!!   I can't wait to grab that little guy up and squeeze him.  I can't wait for him to see that he has cousins that look like him.  In a sea of white people, that's a special thing!!  Woo hoo!!   

I pray that you've all had a wonderful Christmas and that you know the joy that comes from knowing Jesus as your personal Savior.  Be blessed!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Story of Crew Dawit Coder...

Monday is a VERY important day for my sister's family....the US Embassy will be interviewing the man who found their little boy and took him to the orphanage.  They will question his story and make sure that everything he is saying is legit.  After his interview, they will decide if they believe that Crew is, indeed, a true abandoned orphan, and their decision will determine if he will come home to the Coder family.

I wanted to take a minute and share the story of Crew - it's an amazing God-thing!  I won't give all the details of the story, cause those are theirs to share, but I'll tell you a little bit about my part in it cause it's pretty incredible.   I was looking at some pictures that my friend, Kelly Putty, had posted from a recent trip to Ethiopia she'd been on.  I was just glancing at all the amazing pictures when I scrolled down to one of her daughter holding a little boy - and my heart almost leapt out of my chest.  I KNEW that was supposed to be my sister's son.  I just KNEW it.  I emailed the agency director immediately and just casually asked her how many boys she was able to put on the referral list since she had just returned from Ethiopia herself.  I asked her if she thought that any of them would be my sister's son since they had started the process and were waiting for a referral.   She proceeded to tell me that she had exactly the amount of boys for the people she had on the waiting list, EXCEPT she might have one boy left and my sister was next.  Ok, I pulled the picture of the little boy off Kelly's blog and I emailed it to Sue.  I said, "Is this the boy, because I believe this little boy is supposed to be my sister's son".

It was, and now, he is.  Isn't God cool?!  I just love stuff like that.  I still have the email to Sue telling her how my heart jumped when I saw him and I just knew he was meant to be with my sister.  It's also really wild because he was actually referred to another family first as an infant, but then through a serious of events in Ethiopia, wasn't able to go with that family and they got another referral and brought their little boy home a year ago.  When I was asking Sue if that was him, she wasn't sure he was going to be available because she was waiting to find out if that other family could take him at this point, but since they had just adopted the other referral, they couldn't.  It's a long, complicated story, but it's an amazing story of God's hand because that other family lives 10 minutes from me and has been able to meet my sister through FB and pray for them as they bring Crew home.  So now they know that he is going to a loving, Christian home and have such a wonderful peace about it.  And their little boy is the sweetest thing you've ever seen.  Both these precious boys are in exactly the family that God meant them to be in.  Miraculous!!

So, Monday is a huge day and I'd like to ask you to spend some time Sunday night praying for little Crew and my sister's family.  Oh, how we'd love to hear a "HE IS YOURS" from the US Embassy!  Those words will be sweet music to our ears!   I can't wait til Crew gets to the Coder home and is surrounded by his four awesome siblings and his amazing Mommy and Daddy - and of course, all his fabulous cousins and Aunts and Uncles.  I just want to squeeze him so hard.  LOL

Check my FB page on Monday - I'll let you know as soon as I know.  I'm praying and believing for GOOD NEWS!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Crazy Days of Summer (THE CONCLUSION!)...

We got to Oklahoma super late so we just did our best to tiptoe into my mom's house - I think we did a pretty good job, or at least they were too nice to let us know we were loud and rude.  ha!!   We're always so thankful to get to stay at my mom's house as we have the whole upstairs to ourselves and there's a bed for everyone.   Well, an air mattress for Cooper, but it's a nice one!  (:

It was wonderful to have no agenda for a couple days -- just sit around and relax and do nothing - ah, loved it!!   Mom has been fighting the cancer fight so she still tires easily, yet she was up serving the kids breakfast and making sure they were taken care of.  She let me sleep.  Now, how sweet is that!!  

Gatlin and I ended up going school supply shopping at the Coweta Walmart.   Oh yes, it was a treat!  Seriously, we probably spent almost two hours there.  Gatlin could NOT make up her mind even about simple school supplies.  How hard can it be to pick a folder - just grab one already!  Oh my!!  I seriously shopped for three other children while she got her supplies, and I finished before her -- way before her.  Goodness.  We went home and got everything out of the packages and labeled everything.  But then there's this one little funny part, AFTER I did all that, I saw a post from a friend about being glad she pre-ordered the supply kit from her school, and something about that sounded familiar.  And yep, AFTER all that shopping and labeling, I had already pre-ordered the kits for Kaleb and Kali but had forgotten - hysterical!.  So, we have their supplies for next year.  Woo hoo.

My sister's family came over for dinner and we just did a whole bunch of nothing - well, other than that labeling school supplies stuff.  The kids love being with their cousins and I'm quite positive that Bennet is hoping that the whole, "You can't marry cousins" thing is a lie.  LOL   She has quite the crush on her 16-year-old cousin, Kason.  Sweet.

The next morning we had breakfast with my dad and Viva at The Cracker Barrel.  Yum.  Had a really nice visit with them and enjoyed eating all the biscuits we could fit in our bellies.  I do love those biscuits.

It was off to my sister's house after that to hang out and let the kids swim.  Cooper picked up a guitar as soon as we walked in the house.  He hadn't been able to take one on the trip so was having serious withdraws!!  It was so nice to hear him playing again.  I forced my sister to make cookies (these are the ones that I used to be famous for, but can't seem to make right anymore).   My 90-year-old grandma came over for dinner and we visited while helping Gatlin do a book report project for school.

On Sunday, Brian, Cooper, Gatlin and I got up super early to go to The Church at Battle Creek where we were leading worship.  This is my mom and Jim's church and it's an awesome place.  Alex Himaya is the pastor there and he and his wife, Meredith, just adopted a little girl named, Lemley, from Ethiopia.  Alex preached a sermon years ago that was a catalyst to us making the decision to adopt.  God used him in a big way in our lives.  And, then, in a funny little twist, God used me in their lives as well, as I was the one who sent them a picture of Lemley and told them that I thought she was supposed to be their daughter.  My mom and I prayed over that little picture so hard and were so very happy when the Himaya's chose to adopt her.  Now they have her home and, wow, what an incredible little girl.  SO, it was wonderful to be at their church with them and we had a great time leading worship for their services.

We ate lunch and just chilled out the rest of the day....said our goodbyes that night and headed out the next morning for home.  I LOVE my family and it's always hard to say goodbye.  I'm so thankful that we'll be going back SOON to see my new nephew, Crew, when he gets here.   (And I'm pretty sure my next blog post will be about him and his amazing story).  We drove the 9 1/2 hour drive home and were so very grateful to be back in our own comfy beds again.  

And THAT was our summer in a nutshell.  ha ha ha ha ha   Ok, I know, it was a BIG nut.  (:    Honestly, the summer couldn't have been any busier, which made it fly by!   I hate to admit this, but I still don't quite have everything put away from our trip.  I've unpacked it, but some of it is still on the floor waiting for me to actually put it somewhere.  That's pitiful.   But the kids started school two days after we got home and it's just right back to crazy around here.  Blah blah know how it is.

On August 19, we celebrated the kids being here for six months.  SO much has changed for our family.  There are easy days and there are hard days, just like in any other family.  Thank you for continuing to pray for us as we still adjust to all the things that need to be adjusted to when you adopt three kids and go from being a family of four to a family of seven.  It's a wild ride, to be sure.  But, it is a ride worth taking.


The Crazy Days of Summer (part 5)...

Some of you may know that we have been friends with the Cyrus family for many years.  Tish (Miley's mom) and I were best friends when they lived here in Tennessee and I actually baptized her prior to their family moving out to Los Angeles (it was a sweet, private "ceremony" and our pastor baptized the rest of the family).  I used to take Miley on auditions with me back when she was about 10 years old...she would always book them and I wouldn't (little brat!  ha!!).   Back then, Cooper had a recurring role on a show called, "Yes, Dear", and on one of our trips to go out to CA for that, I asked Tish if I could take Miley with us and introduce her to our agency.  She said yes, and when I took Miley into CESD, our agent, Margot, signed her up on the spot.  About six months later, Miley landed the role in Hannah Montana....and the rest is history.

I tell you that story just because it sets up the next part of this post.  It would take way too long to tell the whole story, and I'm not even sure I would, but starting about four years ago, someone began trying very hard to drive a wedge between me and Tish.  It was a very difficult season for me, but I just kept reminding myself (and wonderful friends kept reminding me) that "truth and time walk hand in hand".  Tish and I have always remained friends, but it was just a bit different - a bit unsure - both of us being fed false information, but neither of us knowing it.  Anyway, the timing was pretty wild because one day, after two years, the truth was known by all involved and the veil was lifted.  Tish called and we discussed the series of events.  The air was cleared.  Things resolved.

A short while after that, Tish called to ask me to pray about a decision that Billy Ray was making regarding a possible job.  They weren't sure whether he should accept the role or not so she was wanting me to pray about it with her.  We talked for about 30 minutes and then at the very end of that conversation, I told her that we were considering adopting a sibling set of three and I asked her to pray about that for/with me.  The words she spoke next still blow me away to this day.  She told me that they wanted to help us pay for the adoption.  I assured her that that wasn't the reason I told her about it, but she knew that.  She told me to keep her posted on what we decided and if we decided to do it, she was there to help us.

AND, to make this very long story a little bit shorter, we did and she did.  (:   They ended up paying for a large chunk of our adoption expenses.  Without their financial blessing, I just don't know how we could have done it.  We raised the rest of the money and had help from so many amazing friends, but the amount that Tish gave us was above and beyond anything we could have ever imagined, and we will forever be grateful.  I knew I wanted to do something special as a thank you and thought that it would be great if I could give one of the kids a middle name from their family to honor them.  I began going through African girl's names that meant "joy" because that was what I saw when I saw Bennet's face in the first picture I ever saw of her.  And guess what, there it was, right there on the African-girl's-names that-mean-joy list - Leticia.  THAT is Tish's name!  It means "joy".  It's African.  What??  Come on!!  That is SO GOD.   And from that moment, Bennet became Bennet Leticia.

So, on Tuesday, we spent time with Bennet's namesake and the rest of them there Cyrus people.  We hung out at their home just talking and taking pictures.  We all had a wonderful time, but Tish and Bennet have a special connection.  Tish lit up talking to Bennet and you could just see a love for her that was sweet and special.  Tish said to me, "I want to be a big part of her life".  I am praying that God will arrange moments for them to spend some time together and get to know each other a little bit.  Oh, one little funny thing, Tish says Leticia, LeTISHa....but Bennet says it in this most beautiful African accent - it's Le-tea-c-ah.  It's so sweet.  So, Tish in her country accent said, "Yes!  That's how it's supposed to be said, ya'll".  Too cute!

After our time with them, we took Cooper and Gatlin over to take their head shots with Deihdra and the rest of us grabbed lunch.  We got to say a quick hello to my sweet friend, Jonna, and it was great to see her.  After our lunch, we picked Coop and Gat up and headed to the kid's agency to say hi to everyone there.  It was great to see everyone at CESD and to introduce them to the new kids.  The twins were "on" and it was hysterical.  Bennet was a little shy, which was also hysterical.  

We were late getting home so just spent the night packing to leave the next morning.  Cooper ended up having an audition the next day so we didn't pull out of Los Angeles until about 3:00.   We headed for Albuquerque.  Stayed the night there and then it was on to Oklahoma to be with my family for a few days!  

To be continued (but it'll be the last one, I promise!)...

The Crazy Days of Summer (part 4)...

First, I feel the need to promise you that I'm almost done with the summer post!  Geez...I need to learn how to make a long story short!!   But, this blog will become the new kids "life book" of sorts, so I definitely don't want to leave anything out.  I found out about this place that takes your blog posts and makes them into a book -- how cool is that?!  Gonna do that, for sure.  Ok, back to the post...

We ended up sleeping in on Sunday and skipping church since Cooper had Strep.  All of us were tired from the beach and the dinner party the night before, so we just enjoyed sleeping in and taking it easy before heading to Orange County on Sunday afternoon.  Thankfully, when Cooper woke up, he was starting to feel much better.

We headed to Santa Ana, which is where I grew up.  I had told the new kiddos that I'd lived there when I was little and they really wanted to see my house.  So, just like we had done with Cooper and Gatlin a few years ago, we went to my old house, took pictures out front, and then walked the path to my old elementary school.  I always cry on this nostalgic outing.  It gets me every time.  I guess because it was a time of such innocence and the memories come flooding back.  My parents were together - that's a biggy that turns on the faucet.  Anyway, we walked across the bridge and down the street to the school and I told them all about Brad Fartenessy, the boy who liked to chase me home from school and scare me.  His last name was actually, Fautenessy, but we always called him Fartenessy.  They laughed.

After that little side trip, we headed over to my Aunt Sharon's house for dinner with some of my family.  I love my Aunt Sharon so much.  She and my Uncle Steve live in a sweet, simple home in Placentia, and there is just something about being with them that is so safe and comforting for me.  Interestingly, Gatlin said the same thing this trip.  I don't mean this to sound weird (if you're reading this Aunt Sharon, this is meant as a compliment), but they don't have as much "stuff" as we do and I think that the simplification is comforting.  Does that make sense?  It's nice to go there and sit outside and sip tea and talk.  Brian, Cooper, Bennet, Kaleb and Kali played soccer in the backyard and Gatlin played in the kid's room the whole time.  No TV was on.  No Wii or XBox were set up.  Maybe they have all those things and they just don't get them out when we're there -- and for that, I'm thankful.  (If you do, keep hiding them when we're there, Aunt Sharon!  ha!!).  Aunt Sharon always makes us feel so welcome and loved.  We enjoyed dinner with the family and then had to scoot out early to see my friend, Sheri.

Sheri Rose Shepherd is one of my very favorite people.  Some of you may know her from her books or speaking engagements.  She's one of the most wonderful people I know and I was so thankful that we got to spend a little time with her and her family that night.  We hung out in their lovely home and she served us beautiful, healthy desserts.  The kids loved her little puppy and we had a really nice visit before we headed out to the hotel for the night.  Across the street from Disneyland!

A huge blessing given to us this trip was tickets to Disneyland.  A friend of ours (who we met through my Aunt Sharon), Matt Davis, hooked us up with them through a friend of his who works there.  We would not have been able to go had we had to pay for tickets - it's just more than we can spend right now on something that's not a necessity.  But, what a treat it was to get to take the kids there because of the kindness of others!  It was crazy hot and the lines were long, but we had a wonderful time and were so grateful we got to be there.  I can't remember everyone's favorite rides, but I do know that the California Screaming roller coaster was definitely a "go out with a bang" ending!   They all LOVED that!  It was a great day and we walked out of the park as the fireworks were lighting up the sky over our heads.

Growing up, I could see the Disneyland fireworks from my bathroom window.  I loved watching them each and every time I was allowed to stay up that late.  To this day, watching fireworks is one of my very favorite things!

On Tuesday, we had planned to spend a little time with the Cyrus family.  I'll start a new post with this part of the story, cause it's a bit of a story in itself.

To be continued...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Crazy Days of Summer (part 3)...

And so, bright and early Monday morning, the 7 of us loaded into our 8 passenger SUV (the small kind) and started singing, "California, here I come...".  Actually, there was no singing...most of us aren't morning people. ha!   But, we did squeeze into the car (luggage rack on top) and we did start the long day's drive.  The seating arrangement for pretty much the entire trip was, Brian and Cooper in the front (height won over age), Gatlin and Bennet in the middle (with one seat down in that middle row so that the computer could be there for movie watching, and so I could stretch out my legs onto that seat, when needed, as I've had four knee operations and can't have them bent for long periods of time - yes, insert sad violin music here).   We made a hotel reservation in Amarillo for the night, and drove the 15ish hours to get there.  Honestly, not too bad.  I find the car to be relaxing - it's just really nice not to be able to do anything but sit there and fall in and out of sleep.  We got to Amarillo at 11:00.  Went to sleep and got up early the next morning to do the same thing again.

However, I thought that both days were going to be 15ish hours of driving...lo and behold, the second day was 17ish hours.  Fun stuff right there.  So, after 17ish hours of driving that day, we made it to California.  People asked me why we didn't divide it into three days, but honestly, we just wanted to kick it out and get there.  I have family in Oklahoma so we could have stayed there, but then it would have been getting it all out of the car and putting it all back...nope, just decided to suck it up and go for it.   Cooper help Brian a little with the driving, so it just really wasn't that bad.

**inserting an important note** As soon as we found the first In-n-Out burger on our journey, we stopped and ate there!  We absolutely LOVE In-n-Out and thank the Lord, the new kids do, too.  It would have been tragic had they not.  ha!!   Crisis averted.

Now, I have to tell you that we had THREE people offer to let us stay with them so that we didn't have to incur hotel expenses.  Isn't that amazing!  Friends that offer to let SEVEN of you stay in their home are true friends, indeed!  Our awesome friend, Laura, actually moved out of her house and into another friend's house so that we could have her place to ourselves and nobody would have to sleep on the floor.  Can you believe how wonderful my friends are!!!  

We hit the ground running in CA and it was first things first - a trip to the salon to get hair cuts for everyone.  We have a great guy in Tennessee that we use, but we also adore our girl, Ivonne, out there, so we wanted to not only stop in and see her, but also let her make us all beautiful for our time there.  We rotated in and out of her place and figured out which of our favorite eateries we would hit first.  We decided on Philippe's in downtown Los Angeles, which is famous for their dipped beef sandwiches.  They are SO good and I crave them often.  Our friends, the Shada family, joined us for lunch and it was wonderful to see them AND have a delicious lunch!

It was really great cause we were there on a Wednesday and Cooper was very excited to go to Wednesday night youth group.  We are so blessed to have fabulous churches both here and there and the kids are active at both.  Cooper has often led worship for the youth group out there and was thankful to get to hang with his buddies that night.  On one of the days (I just can't remember which one) we had lunch with the Roberts family.  Dave is the pastor of our church out there (Montrose Church) and his wife, Cyndi, is a sweet friend of mine, and their two youngest daughters, Sunni and Brandi, are friends with Cooper and Gatlin.  They treated us to a delicious Chinese lunch and I was so glad that we got to spend a little time with them and that they got to meet the new kiddos!

Thursday was a busy day because we were blessed by a professional photographer named, Deidhra Fahey, who offered to take pictures of our family for FREE.  This one brought me to tears because I have been wanting new pictures so badly, but just haven't been able to spend the money on it right now.  So, when my friend told me that Deidhra wanted to gift us with a photo session, I was just blown out of the water.  A true blessing from God.  Honestly, I'm not making enough of this....I had been thinking about this pretty much every day for a long time cause we just don't have very many pictures of the new kids in our house.  Honestly, we don't have a lot of pictures of anyone, but we do have a couple large pictures of Cooper and Gatlin from when they were younger and I've been wanting to replace those with a family picture and then individual pictures of each of the kids.  But, like I said, that costs money, and when you've just adopted three kids, there's not much (if any!) left, we just haven't been able to look into getting pictures made.  Deidhra blessed our socks off.  She took individual pictures of each of the kids, and then the five of them together and then our family.  THEN, to top it off, she asked if Cooper and Gatlin could come back another day so that she could take head shots of them for their acting!!   The pictures she took are AWESOME!   I will admit to breaking down like a baby and crying in her den when I saw them.  It blows me away when people do stuff like that as a blessing for me.  It is just so humbling.  I can't express the gratitude I have for Deihdra and the blessing of the pictures.

From there we went straight over to a studio taping of the Disney XD show, "Pair of Kings".  My friend, Kathy Musso, got tickets for us to see the taping and meet the entire cast.  Honestly, could I be anymore blessed by my friends, I don't think so!!  What a BLAST!   We've been to a few show tapings and it is always such a fun time, but this was extra special since Bennet, Kaleb and Kali had no idea what to expect, and they just love the show.  We got to take pictures with everyone and it will be something they will never forget.  I owe Kathy a world of thanks for making it happen!!  I hope my friends know how truly grateful I am for their acts of kindness towards us.

Ok, I can't remember what we did on Friday (maybe that was the day we ate with the Roberts?) ha!   But, on Friday night we went to one of our favorite little restaurants called, Sharkey's.  It's nothing fancy, but their nachos are SO yummy and I knew Bennet would love that.  We let our friends know that we would be there from 7:00-9:00 and asked for anyone who wanted to, to come by and hang out with us.  It was so fun to gather there with so many people who have prayed for us during our adoption journey and so many who have given so much to us.  Loved getting to visit and catch up with these precious friends that we just don't get to see often enough.

On Saturday we headed to the beach.  It was a gorgeous 85 degrees inland, but when we got to Malibu, it was only about 70.  Oh my!  I should have worn sweats!!  It was chilly, folks!!   The kids didn't care one bit.  They LOVED the beach.  They ran around like crazy people - in and out of the water - in the sand, under the sand....they were in heaven.  It was so much fun to watch.  Courtney Hitchcok and her daughter, Bryce, joined us, as did the Charles and Shada families.  OH, but poor Cooper woke up feeling really sick and Brian had to take him to the CVS clinic, where he was diagnosed with Strep.  It was such a bummer.  He stayed home all day Saturday to rest and get better.  We stayed at the beach for a couple hours (and did I mention we had In-n-Out for lunch!!) and then home to get ready for our dinner at the Shada's house.

Our friends, Dean and Linda Shada, let me invite a group of people over to their home for dinner Saturday night.  I just love them.  I love knowing that they wouldn't mind at all if we invaded their home.  True friends!   I made White BBQ chicken and Dean grilled it for us and then everyone else brought a side dish.  In addition to the peeps at the beach, the Gipson family joined us and it was so great  getting to spend a little time with them!   We all had such a nice time visiting and catching up and, of course, eating!!   Man, I love my friends.

And, the blessings from friends just kept on coming.

To be continued...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Crazy Days of Summer (part 2)...

So, yeah, we decided that it would be smart to go ahead and move Cooper down to the basement and make that his bedroom.  We thought about this prior to the new kids coming home, but I really wanted him to be upstairs with all of us cause I thought that would help with the bonding process.  I just didn't want Cooper to always be down in the basement and we never see his sweet face.  So, it was decided at that point that Gatlin and Bennet would share a room and Kaleb and Kali would share a room, and Cooper would keep the room upstairs by himself.  This was all great, in theory, but then the kids got here.  The, "It'll be fine for me and Bennet to share a room" wore off 15 minutes after they were home.  LOL   Actually, the room, itself, was never really a problem.  BUT, whenever there was a problem, which, in truth, has been somewhat often, the room became an issue - somehow separating them and putting Gatlin back in her own room was always the answer to any and every problem (from Gatlin's perspective).   For Bennet, she wanted to "be in the room with Gatlin for forever", but couldn't quite change the behaviors that were causing Gatlin to not want that.  In truth, there is a significant maturity level difference between pubescent, 11-year-old Bennet, and hormone-crazed, 14-year-old Gatlin.  So, after 5 months, in order to make the transition as easy as possible on everyone, we decided to change the rooms.

In truth, by the 5th month, Bennet, too, was ready to change rooms, but she wanted her OWN room.  Oh, it's always something.  ha!!   But, somewhat reluctantly, she finally unlocked the door and let Kali into their new shared bedroom.  LOL   We took Gatlin's name off the wall and put Kali's up there - and Bennet moved to the bigger, bottom bed, and Kali went to the top bunk (which was a fun change from the bunk she shared with Kaleb where he was on top).  And, lo and behold, Kaleb ended up with his own room.  We just figured it made the most sense to go ahead and separate the boy/girl room sharing and give Kaleb the room with its own bathroom, thus leaving the three girls to share the other bathroom with all their girl stuff.  Kaleb didn't actually love the idea of a room by himself, but he is trusting me that, at some point in the near future, he'll be very happy about it!  (:    And, can I just say, that moving Kali and Bennet in together has been so great.  They are much better roommates because they are both very nice and neat, unlike Gatlin, who is just a wee bit messy (like her mother was at that age - so she comes by it naturally).   They also both get ready for school very quickly and therefore, wake up at the same time in the morning.  Gatlin takes a wee bit longer (and no, she didn't get that from me, I'm fast!) so wakes up earlier and doesn't have to tip-toe around, which she is thankful for.

BUT, in order to make the room changes, we had to change some things in the basement, which, when we first moved into this house 14 years ago, was Brian's studio (now he has a free-standing studio next to the house).  The vocal booth in the back of the basement has been a music room of sorts (guitars and drums in there) and then the rest of the room was a game room, with a pool table in the middle.  So, first things first, we had to sell the pool table, not only to make room, but also to pay for the new shower we were adding to the bathroom down there.  A friend of ours lined up the plumber to put the shower in and we started the process.

Oh, but I haven't yet mentioned that we were anticipating company and were trying to get the shower done before they got here since they'd stay in the basement while here.  But, pretty much everything that could have gone wrong with the bathroom renovation, went wrong.  It wasn't our friend's fault, it was just a comedy of errors.  Like, the shower didn't fit through the door - had to take the door off.  Then, they had given him the wrong size shower and it had to be returned.  The flooring was taken up and was supposed to go right back in after the shower installation, but when they tried to put it back in, it no longer fit the new flooring had to be purchased.  Things weren't drying and therefore couldn't be completed.  And the hot and cold water were backwards (which still has to be fixed!).  So, it was just kind of funny since we were trying to hurry and quickly get it done, which, of course, we should have realized jinxed the whole thing.  ha!!   So, I let our friends know that, yes, they would have a shower, but, no, it would NOT be pretty.  Thankfully, these sweet friends couldn't have cared less about such things.

We had an awesome visit with Nick and Ann Tunheim (our precious friends that we went to Ethiopia with for court and then, Brian and Gatlin went back again with them for the Embassy appointment).   They were here for three days, but OH, did I mention that my best friend, Angela, and her four boys, were in Atlanta shooting a movie and she called two days before Nick and Ann were arriving and said that she and the boys were done with the movie and were headed our way for a week long visit!  HA!!  I loved the fact that we were going to get to see them (cause they live in California), but the timing was hysterical.  SO, they got to our house the next day.  They ended up staying in a hotel though cause the basement really was too much of a disaster area at the point they got here.  So, we spent a couple awesome days hanging out with them and then Nick and Ann got here.  That weekend was our awesome adoption agency's reunion so we spent Saturday and Sunday with our amazing friends that we've met on this incredible journey.  And I'm telling you, it is really quite a miracle how God weaves our hearts together with others so quickly.  Dan and Tara Quinn brought their kids over for a swim on Friday afternoon and we just had a blast hanging out with them.  Nick and Ann stayed for that, too, and then at the end our time with them, Angela and the boys came back to our house to stay with us for one night before they headed back to California (so yes, Nick and Ann out, Angela and the boys, in - it was so funny, but you probably had to be here).   And oh, it was such a huge blessing that one of the Chick-fil-A stores in town had their large nugget trays on sale for half price cause I, seriously, took advantage of that FIVE times!!!  SO perfect for the large groups we had over in July - and so very yummy!

I was doing laundry and packing suitcases that entire weekend as company was coming and going, because on Monday morning we jumped in the car and drove THIRTY TWO HOURS to California.

To be continued....

PS.  I want to touch briefly on the Bennet/Gatlin relationship.  I don't want anyone to think that we're having any extreme issues over here - but I do want to be honest with everyone cause it's not always peachy, either.  The girls are sisters, and as sisters, they bicker.  Ok, they fight.  ha!   They both have areas they need to work on - and they are.  Bennet needs to work on not purposefully "pushing Gatlin's buttons" and Gatlin needs to work on not reacting so strongly when she does.  It is a process and we are working on it.  But, one thing I do realize is that I'm grateful that they both feel so bonded to each other that they are comfortable arguing.  Yes, at times it's a lot of drama.  Ok, a LOT of times it's a LOT of drama, but we just happen to have two very dramatic girls - and it's that high drama that makes me know that they are not in our family by mistake, God knew they belonged with me.  He knew I could handle it (oh, please, God, help me handle it - LOL) and He knew that I could understand their ways, since I, too, loved looking at myself in the mirror when I would cry...oh wait, that's another story!   Anyway, I believe that the issues we have are just normal sibling issues that every family has.  We are blessed beyond measure.

The Crazy Days of Summer (part 1)...

I immediately put "Part 1" in the title because I just know this is going to be WAY too long if I don't divide it up.  This is my own bad fault since I haven't posted for so long.  I know many of you are just crushed over that hard reality.  ha ha ha ha ha (and the ha's could go on and on - ha!)   So, I'll start writing and at some point, I shall decide that it is a good place to stop, as not to bore you to tears.  You can thank me later.

Honestly, this has been the busiest summer I can ever remember (um, yeah, probably because we have five kids now instead of two, I know).  It doesn't really feel like we had much break at all.  In fact, we barely did.  From the day regular school got out, the three new kiddos went directly into their ESL summer school.  They did that for one week, then went to Vacation Bible School for a week, and then back to the ESL school for two weeks.  Then, the twins went straight into their Princess/Warrior church camp the following week and Gatlin headed to basketball camp.  After that, we were already into July.  What in the world!!  

In the midst of that, we also sent Cooper and Gatlin to their church camp.  We had kids all over the place and, to be honest, this mother hen prefers for all her little chicks to stay in the chicken coop.  I know there are moms out there who can't wait for their kids to go off to camp, or for school to start back up, or whatever, and it's to each her own on that....but I'm just not one of those moms.  I love being with my kids pretty much all the time.  I just think they're great people and I really enjoy being around them.  I've home schooled Cooper and Gatlin for their entire education and I'm just used to them being here - it's what I like.  So, for all of them to be coming and going takes a little adjusting for me.  And, there are a few tears every now and then as the days drag on til they come back home.  But, I know that this is all preparation for the day that they will actually fly the coop and have their own families, blah blah blah blah blah - I can't even type that!!   LOL

In July we celebrated Gatlin's 14th birthday.  She just cracks me up - oh, the teenage drama.  So, on her actual birthday we didn't do anything - well, if I remember right, I got a little cake from Publix and stuck a candle in it for her and we ate that after dinner - but as I tucked her into bed, there were tears.  It was the "worst birthday, ever!"  Oh my.  Now, mind you, there were plans to have a bunch of her friends over for an informal party the following night, but apparently we really needed to "fuss" over her a little more that day, and we failed.  Well, particularly me.  I failed.  I should know by now that these "fussings" are very important to Gatlin.  The "fussings" are apparently her love language.  So, after many tears and much soothing from me (I seriously had to pull out her baby book to remind her how many wonderful birthday parties I had planned for her over the years - there were pictures to prove it so it couldn't be disputed!) - she finally went to sleep and was hopeful that the next day would be better.

The next day, 10 of her most awesome friends came over to celebrate her.  They swam, ate Chick-fil-A (now, how can I not get the 'Best Mother' award for that!!), laughed, ate some cake (TWO different ice cream cakes from Baskin Robbins - hello!!), swam some more, played video games and then four girls slept over.  As I tucked Gatlin into bed, her exact words were, "Mom, this was the BEST BIRTHDAY, EVER".  LOL   Oh, what a difference a day makes.  I sure do love that precious, dramatic, beautiful, crazy, dramatic, silly, funny, dramatic, 14-year-old girl.  So thankful that she's mine. (And yes, I took lots of pictures of her and her friends, in case I need them next year to remind her what a great Mom I am.  LOL)

The next week we were blessed big time by a visit from my sister, Jenni and her kids, Jon Mark and Hannah.  Jenni is a missionary in Thailand so it was awesome that while she was in the states for a very short time, she and the kids came to Nashville to see us and meet Bennet, Kaleb and Kali for the first time.  (She was staying in Oklahoma to be with my mom during her cancer treatments).  We loved having them here and just did a whole lot of nothing.  As always, it was sad to say goodbye, knowing we won't see them for at least a year.

That same week, Cooper went on a mission trip to West Virginia to work on some construction projects for people in need there and to also spend time with some inner-city kids.  He also led worship with the band, so you know he absolutely loved that.  The Lord is really developing him into a confident worship leader.  His guitar skills are fantastic and his voice is beautiful, but his leadership is becoming the thing that I am most excited about.  Can't wait to see what the Lord is going to do in and through him.  

And, we started a "small" construction project and room rearranging.

But with that I shall be continued....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Twins Tribute...

This past week, our precious Kaleb and Kali turned seven!  Woo hoo.  They were so excited about their birthday and couldn't wait to celebrate.  For a little over a week, every night as I was tucking them into bed, they asked how many more days it was until the big day!   The very sweet!

I never thought about having didn't run in our family or anything, so it never crossed my mind.  But now, I'm so happy I have them -- it is SO MUCH FUN!!   Who knew?   And I love the way they are with each other.  Kaleb is very protective of Kali and Kali is very patient with him -- more so (for both) than with any of the other kids.  It's endearing.  Even if they get mad at each other, they are so quick to apologize and equally as quick to forgive.  I love their relationship.

So, we celebrated their birth at Chuck E. Cheese's.  I had forgotten how fun that place is.  Seriously, we had a blast!!   They both invited two friends and then we had some extra family and friends there as well.  It was a Thursday night and it wasn't crowded at all.  They loved playing all the games - Kaleb especially loved the shooting ones, and Kali loved climbing in the tubes with her friend, Dakota.   We all managed to fly through our tokens and work up a bit of a sweat.  ha!   We had just enough pizza and just enough cake and it worked out perfectly.

Both kids got in the Ticket Blaster at the end of the night - and that was hysterical.  It looks so easy from the outside, but it boggled Kaleb's mind.  ha!!   Every time he'd catch a ticket, he'd then open up his hand to catch another one and lose the one in his hand.  I think he made it out with one ticket.  LOL   But the manager guy was super sweet and gave him a few.  (:    However, Kali had been given a tutu from Ms. Lana, which she put on immediately, and good thing, too, cause it came in VERY handy in the blaster.   There were tons of tickets getting stuck in the tutu -- we were cracking up.  But then, as she was coming out the door at the end, she was dusting herself off and knocking all the tickets back down to the blaster floor. ha!!!  Ok, so some of the objective of the blaster was lost in translation.  LOL    But, that girl walked away with a TON of tickets -- and you guessed it, she gave about half of them to her brother.  Did I mention I love them!!  (:

They were given so many wonderful gifts (thank you, friends!).   I'd have to say that Kaleb's favorite thing is the big Nerf gun he got from the Hetrick family and Kali's favorite thing is the little baby doll she got from Gatlin (that pee pees, thank you very much), followed closely by the tutu.  BUT, they love ALL the gifts they got and have been busy playing with them.   OH, Kaleb did have to fight for the Nerf guns when we got home because Brian, Cooper and Jon Mark (cousin/nephew) were in a heated battle.  I guess I know what to get Brian and Cooper for Christmas.  LOL

It was super sweet to have my sister, Jenni, here all the way from Thailand.  She and her daughter, Hannah, and her son, Jon Mark, spent a few days with us and it was wonderful.  Hannah had met the new kids before (cause she's in the states for college) but this was the first time for Jenni and Jon Mark to meet them.  They left early this morning to head over to Oklahoma to spend more time with my Mom and my sister, Debbi's, family there.

SO - that's about it for this post...oh, but I always have to leave with some thought-provoking here's this one.  Did you know that in some parts of Ethiopia it is considered such bad luck to have twins that the children are actually killed right after birth?  That is the sad reality.  It's called Mingi.  Can I tell you how extremely thankful I am that my sweet babies were not born in a region of Ethiopia that practices Mingi.   Let's remember to pray for all the children of the, yellow, black and white...   I am forever grateful that God brought these precious, amazing, wonderful, beautiful twins to me.

Ok, wait...I MUST tell you this Kali story.  So, she was wearing a Hello Kitty t-shirt the other day and she pointed to the word "Hello" and said, "Mom, what is this?" and I said, "Hello Kitty."  She replied, "Well, I need to get a bra for my Hello Kitties".  ba ha ha ha ha ha ha   So, yes, the word "Hello" was right across her chest -- thus, I just thought she was talking about the word.  LOL    Oh my gosh....I laughed my head off!!!    Ya know, we have some good stories that involve Hello Kitty.  Just sayin'.   (:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

These are the Moments...

We've had quite a few really sweet things happen around here in these almost four months that the new kids have been with us, but I'll tell ya, what happened last week at Vacation Bible School is right up there with the best of the best.  So I'll start this post with this Kaleb story.

You know that our kids didn't come to us with anything but the clothes on their backs, and those weren't really "theirs" - they were worn by every other kid their size (or close) in the orphanage - they were worn out, and too small, and went straight to GoodWill when they got here, so to own something of their own has been a pretty big deal.  And to have MONEY, well, that's just icing on the cake - and they likey!  Kaleb especially likes money.   Others can walk right past a dime lying on the floor or a quarter on top of the clothes dryer, but Kaleb stops, picks it up and asks if he can have it - every time!   At first, he just put his money in his sock drawer, but then decided he needed a better banking system, so he got a little plastic medical bag from a Build-a-Bear Bear and made that his bank bag -- pretty darn adorable.  He got money from the tooth fairy twice (and promptly counted up all the teeth he lost in Ethiopia and gave me the count in case I could get word to the TF of his "failure to pay" - LOL), he got money in his Easter basket and he has scoured the house and found a good amount of loose change.  Then a couple weeks ago he was the pool cabana boy and rubbed suntan lotion on Gatlin, her friend, Jessie, and me,  and it was so sweet that I paid him $1.00 and Gatlin and Jessie paid him $3.00 (which they took from ME).   So, at that point he had a grand total of $17.   He said he was saving for a remote-controlled car.

Cut to the beginning of last week and the start of VBS.  During the first session, Ms. Amy told the kids about Malawi, Africa, and how the kids at VBS could bring in money every day and it would go to build a library there.  It was also a fun contest between the girls and the boys, which is always exciting for the kids.  (;    So, at the end of the day as we were riding home, Kaleb told me he wanted to give money to the kids in Africa.  I told him I thought that was great and that I would give him a dollar to take the next day, but he said, "NO, I want to give all my money!"   Ok, you know this totally tore me up.  That sweet boy has been saving that money for over three months - it has been VERY important to him - and he is ready to give it all away, just like that.  So, I made sure he understood - I said, "Kaleb, you've been saving that money to buy a car and if you give it away, you won't be able to buy a car."   He said, "I don't care about the car, I just want to give them my money."   And the next day, that precious boy carried his little medical bag, filled with his $17, into the church and dumped it into the big trash can on the boys side.  (:   And the tears streamed down this proud mamma's face.

Now, his birthday is coming up on the 23rd and you know I had every intention of buying him a remote-controlled car!  (:    BUT, then something amazing happened.  On Wednesday, I told the story of Kaleb giving his money away to my 5th grade VBS class, and on Friday, three of the kids came to me and told me that they had a present for Kaleb.  Their mom then told me that they had asked their parents if they could use their own money to go buy a car for Kaleb since he gave his money away to the African kids.  Hello!!!   And there it was, this HUGE gift bag for Kaleb - wow!!  So, I brought Kaleb into our class and let the kids give him that gift - and it was the coolest green car -- it's awesome.  Kaleb didn't know what to do or say, it was just so sweet.  I have it on video - precious!

A simple Bible verse that we learned on Wednesday of VBS week was, "We love because He first loved us".   These kids demonstrated love in a BIG way and I was so proud of all of them.  And by the way, at the end of the week, the VBS kids gave over $8000 to the Malawi Library project.  Can you believe that!!   AMAZING!   That's good stuff, people.

On a side note, Kaleb also won the Crazy Hair contest - which is such a funny story since he wasn't really supposed to be in the final four, but he heard Ms. Amy say, "I love Kaleb's hair" and so he thought he was supposed to stay on the stage.  Then when the kids did the "applause/scream" vote, they went nuts for Kaleb.  It was hysterical.  And, of course, I cried, cause I'm sitting there thinking of this little boy in an orphanage four months ago and now, there he was, standing up in front of 600 or so kids and he's getting screamed for -- and I mean SCREAMED FOR -- and winning a contest.  Oh my.  It's just too much sometimes.

The weekend before VBS my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew came to visit.  It's the first time anyone on Brian's side of the family has met the kids so it was a really special weekend.  Aunt Lora brought lots of goodies and we have enough books to read for a year.  LOL    But really, I LOVE how much thought she put into the kids and bringing special things for them.  Then, one day, she and Gatlin spent four hours - yes, FOUR HOURS - at Michael's shopping for artsy crafty stuff.  They came home with a plethora of fun things - the kids were in heaven.  We had such a great weekend and it was filled to the brim.  It was hard to say goodbye and on Tuesday morning when the kids woke up and their Aunt, Uncle and cousin were gone, there were tears.  ):  

This week, Gatlin is at basketball camp.  It's just up the road in Nashville, but I miss her.  She wasn't feeling great last night or this morning so I went up to see her on her lunch break.  We ended up lying in her bed for a short power nap and she read her journal entry from last night to me, and she read me a Bible verse that she'd written down.  These are special moments that I treasure!!   She is having to be brave right now and I'm proud of her for hanging in there.  She's going to a new school next year so doesn't know any of the girls well yet, and she's playing basketball for the first time really (she played for  the YMCA when she was little, but I'm pretty sure Cooper would say it didn't count - ha!).  She's out of her element and is being tested.  It's good for her, but it's hard for the Momma to know that she's struggling a little.  But, as we all know too well, life is full of struggles and you have to learn how to get through them.

On the way to camp, she and I took turns saying Bible verses that we have memorized.  I pray that God will bring those verses to her mind, not only these few days that she's at camp, but for the rest of her life.  One in particular that I have asked her to memorize and meditate on is, "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind".  This verse is a "must memorize" verse.  Life is hard and fear can be debilitating, but through Christ, we can do all things.  Amen and amen!!

PS.  Can you lift up a prayer for my sweet Mom who is in the middle of chemo treatments.  She's had a hard week and isn't feeling great - not all because of the chemo but more because of a stinkin' tooth infection which ended in a root canal, which is gonna end next week when they just pull the tooth out.  Not fun, especially when you're already dealing with chemo -- ugh.  So, prayers for her are much appreciated!  Thanks, friends!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Birthday, Mother's Day, Royalty and a little poo...

It's pretty cool the way that God arranges things.   I just don't think it's a coincidence that the birthday Bennet was given by the Ethiopian government was May 8, and that it fell on Mother's Day her first year here in America.  That's pretty special.  And trust me when I tell ya, Bennet likes special.  (:

Did I mention that Bennet is royalty?   She has informed us that she is a queen.  She has told us this more than once when we've asked her to do a couple "chores" that are "below" her.  But, never have we gotten quite the fired-up response as we did a few days ago when I asked her to pick up a small piece of dog poo that was on the floor in her room.  Oh.My.Gosh.  Ya'll, it was hysterical.  She had a conniption fit.  Full out.  Oh the drama.  There were tears.  There were screams.  There was stomping of feet.  Ey yi yi.  She said, "I DO NOT PICK UP POOP".   I was laughing like a hyena.  Sorry, I know some of you will think I'm traumatizing the poor child by making her pick up the poop, but that's how it is in our family, if you see it, you pick it up...and since she's in our family now, she's a poop-picker-upper, just like the rest of us.  So, after begging me for gloves, and then trying to sneak paper towels into the room (which would have ended up in the toilet and caused quite a mess), she finally succumbed to picking the less than one inch long piece of poo poo off the floor and flushing it.  Somehow she survived.  

Flash forward to last night when Bennet began screaming from the bathroom and both Brian and I went running to see what the emergency was -- cause they were "emergency" screams.  Sure enough, the toilet was overflowing all over the floor, and unfortunately, it was a number TWO situation so it wasn't a pretty site.  Brian took care of the plunging and I grabbed towels and paper towels and was in charge of getting the "stuff" off the floor.  Yep, I know its graphic, but it's gonna be a good story, so just stick with me.  Poor Bennet was humiliated.  And I understand exactly how she feels cause when I was 8 months pregnant with Gatlin, I was at a stranger's home for a funeral reception and went number two in the pot, only to have the whole thing come up and over -- in a STRANGER'S house.  Oh my gosh!  So, humiliating.  So, anyway, Bennet felt terrible, but we assured her that those things happen and it was ok and she didn't have to be embarrassed.  But, when we were all done cleaning up, there was a lesson to be taught about picking up poo.   Yep, a poo parable.  I got to explain to Bennet how her Daddy and I graciously cleaned up after her without complaint and that the next time...except I didn't have to finish my sentence because she said, "I can pick up a little dog poo without complaining".   Yep.  She is so smart!!  I love that kid.

Parenting isn't always easy - doesn't matter if they're adopted or biological - sometimes you just have to deal with poo.  It's part of it.  You have to learn how to bring down the drama and just clean up the mess.  You have to remember that the poo is just part of being a kid and you just have to do your best to parent in a balanced way -- discipline PLUS love.  Kids are gonna push the are gonna say, "no" are gonna have hissy are gonna do what kids are gonna do.   But how are we going to respond as parents?   Do we say, "Oh, yes, you are a queen, do whatever makes you happy"?  Well, not in my house we don't.  LOL    

So, back to Bennet's birthday and Mother's Day so we can wrap this post up and get away from all the "dirty" talk.   Bennet had a great birthday party on Saturday at the bowling alley with about 12 friends and family members.  She ate pizza and cake and played tons of games.  She loved every minute of it and looked adorable in her pink Justin Bieber shirt (or course).   Bright and early Sunday morning she came to my room to give me the FOUR cards/letters she had made for me.   All week she made it clear that nobody was to look in her back pack cause she was hiding important things in there - and she pulled them out for me on Mother's Day.  Sweet notes about how I was the "best Mother" and about how much she loved me.  I loved how important Mother's Day was to her and I thought of how many years it had been since she'd had a mother.  Sigh.  

I will add that Kali said I was her "faber" mom and Kaleb concurred.  (:   However, yesterday Kaleb said that he needs my help catching a cicada to put in a jar to take to school for show-n-tell on Friday.  Um, my ranking may go way down, people, cause I DO NOT PICK UP CICADAS!!!   I would much rather pick up...well, you know.   

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rainy Days and Tuesdays...

Yeah, I know, the title's not right, but it's not Monday, so it is what it is.   I have the blues.  Sigh.

Ya see, Gatlin has been talking a lot about going to "regular" school for high school.  We've home schooled Cooper and Gatlin their entire schooling years.  This has been a great joy for me - all three of us have loved it.  But, Gatlin is a very creative, dramatic, social child and some time spent in a more structured environment might actually be really good for her, so when she brought up the whole "going to school" thing, I didn't say no.  I agreed that we should check into it.

There's a small private Christian school very close to our house and that's the school she has been interested in.  We have gone to the school and met the faculty and they have interviewed Gatlin.  Both of those things we did together.   Today, she is at the school all day shadowing another student.  And I, the momma who has always had Gatlin here with me, is sitting in my bed listening to it rain outside and fighting the urge to bawl like a baby.  Yep, I know it's silly.  But, I've just never been a mom who looked forward to my kids being out the door.  I love having them here - on the same side of the door as me.  I LOVE it.

We're also considering this school for Bennet.  Bennet is doing great in school, but I just can't imagine putting her in public middle school right now.  I think middle school is a hard place, especially for girls.  I'm not sure that Bennet has the discretion to pick good friends (because of a lack of maturity, not any type of rebellion).  I think she'd be drawn to whomever picks her, and that's not always safe.  The 5th and 6th graders are in a class together and that will be perfect for Bennet.  So, we will pray for a little financial aid and send both girls to this small private school.

Speaking of Bennet and Gatlin, they are doing better.  It's not perfect, but it's much better.  And, of course, we're not expecting perfection....they are sisters, after all.  I grew up in the middle of three girls, I know how sisters can fight.  Boy, do I.  LOL    To be honest, Gatlin is really improving in the area of grace, so we are hearing less bickering, but Bennet is still needing to improve in the area of kindness.  I am now sensing that there's definitely jealousy playing in to her behavior.  For instance, last night we went to Moe's for dinner (because on Monday night kids eat free!).   Walking from the car to the restaurant, I was holding hands with Gatlin.  Well, we got in the door and Bennet squeezed in up next to me and basically pushed Gatlin aside.  Gatlin gave me "the look" and I continued to reach out and touch Gatlin to stay connected to them both, but Bennet would pull my hand back, away from Gatlin.  I had to tell Bennet that she couldn't do that and had to get stern with her when she began talking ugly to Gatlin.

Later, Gatlin let Bennet know that it was really hurting her feelings that Bennet kept being so mean to her, and then she said, "Bennet, I will always love you, I want you to know that, but when you are mean to me, I sure don't like you very much".

So, last night while I was tucking Bennet in, she said her prayers and said, "God, please help me not be mean, help me be nice to my sister, Gatlin".   Progress.

And speaking of prayers....on Easter night as I was tucking the twins in, I was telling them (again) about the cross and Jesus dying for our sins and how He rose from the dead.  I asked them if they understood what sin was, and we talked about that.  Then I told them that one day when they were ready, they could pray a prayer asking Jesus to live in their hearts and be their Savior.  Then I proceeded to say a "regular" bedtime prayer with them.  But, when I finished, Kaleb said, "I want to pray the other prayer" and Kali said, "Me, too!".  I said, "Well, can you tell Mommy what you know about that prayer and what Jesus did for us".   Kali said, "He made my heart clean."  Um, precious.  I hadn't used the word, "clean", so I loved that she had that understanding.   They asked me to pray for them, so I told them I would pray a line and they would repeat, and I prayed a prayer of salvation and those precious kids repeated line by line and accepted Jesus as their Savior.  Hallelujah.

We believe in baptism as a symbol of our salvation so when we feel like they are ready, and can really explain and understand what they believe, they will be baptized in front of our church family.

So, HAPPY EASTER.  Isn't that just AMAZING!!  And I know this post is long, but let me share one more thing.  I have always prayed that my kids would come to know Jesus as their Savior before they were seven years old.  I have no idea why that was the age, it just always was.  Cooper accepted Christ as a three year old (seriously!!).  He was so smart for a little guy and his intelligence was well above his age level.  Gatlin accepted Christ when she was six.  Both of them were baptized when they were seven.  Bennet says she already accepted Christ (and we will get more information from her about that as we continue to talk about her life experiences).  And now Kaleb and Kali accepted Christ.  I am BEYOND blessed!

And you know I have to end this by asking you -- can you see the eternal perspective thing going on here?  I know it's not necessarily convenient to bring an orphan into your home.  But my goodness, wouldn't you, couldn't you do it in order to save their life, not only physically, but spiritually?  Oh, please think about it.  Don't convince yourself that you're not called to it.  (:    Come spend some time with our twins and then think about them never having this Easter experience.   Never having a Mommy or Daddy pray with them before bed and tell them about how much Jesus loves them.  DYING physically from starvation or disease and DYING spiritually because nobody brought them into a loving, Christian FAMILY!   Jesus DIED so that WE could be ADOPTED as the children of God.  Can't you and I die a little to ourselves to save a life?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And So it Goes...

Bennet, Kaleb and Kali have been home with us now for two months.  Isn't that amazing?!   Can you believe from the very first time I laid eyes on their picture to right now, it's only been 7 1/2 months.  That's just really crazy.  And ya know what, it's actually pretty "normal" already, whatever that is.  LOL

The kids are doing great in school and their English is fantastic.  Bennet already spoke really good English when she got here, but she is understanding better now.  Kaleb and Kali only spoke a tiny bit of English when they got here, but they are all over it now.  They rarely speak Amharic at all anymore, which I know some people will think is sad, but to us, it just shows how happy they are here and how much they are loving being a part of things the way our family does them.  We never have any instances anymore where we need Bennet to speak Amharic to them to make sure they understand -- they get it.  (:  

Gatlin and Bennet are doing SO much better.  We definitely have moments of sibling rivalry, but it is much fewer and farther between.  Praise God.   It's an interesting thing to see how much more grace and compassion a teenage girl has for an orphan BEFORE they are living in their house, sharing their room, and often, being a bit of a pill bug.   LOL

And, it's an interesting thing to watch an orphan come into a new house and be very purposefully mean to someone who they so desperately wanted to become sisters with.  There were some pretty rough days between the two girls and we had to take things away (iPod, Bennet and computer/phone, Gatlin) and force the girls to really stop and think about how Jesus would want them to treat each other.  So funny, cause they are SO much alike.  We now call them twins - the black and white twins.  They laugh about this now, but, for a couple weeks, there wasn't much laughing between them.  I share this with you to let you know that it hasn't just been smooth sailing around here.  I just don't want anyone to get a false impression.  The transition can be difficult.  Ours has had difficult, challenging moments, but we have been triumphant, by the grace of God!

If you were to come over right now, we just have a normal, 5 kid, house going on.  It's a little chaotic, a little messy, there's some laundry that isn't put away (speaking of laundry, I really do think that has been the biggest adjustment -- it's just never-ending!!)  I know that all siblings argue.  All 6-year-olds fuss sometimes.  All big sisters get a little bossy (or maybe a lot).  All little sisters want to be the one in charge and don't like it that they're not, all oldest kids - no wait, Cooper is perfect, got nothing there.  ha ha ha ha ha

Brian and I tell each other all the time that these kids BELONG in our family.  We are a creative, performance, dramatic, musical family.  All three of these kids love to sing, dance, play instruments and perform.  Sunday night they were all in the church choir musical.  They had been to choir rehearsals all of six times and they got on that stage and sang out with confidence.  It was amazing to me.  There were probably 500 people in the audience and they weren't fazed one bit.  They see me and Brian and Cooper and Gatlin up on stage and I guess it just seems normal to them.  Bennet said to me a couple days ago, "Mom, I want to be an actress....not today, but when I am 11".    Of course she does!  I love it!!

And that's it right now, just pretty much routine stuff.  Busy, busy life filled with a lot of laundry and a lot of love!  (;

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For Pete's Sake, Finish the Week...

Oh my word, some of you are mad at me (in love).   I'm sorry I haven't written in a while - it has been a little nuts around here with my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer, a trip to Tulsa for my sister's adoption fundraiser dinner, my grandma having a mild heart attack and Brian having to go to the hospital for a kidney stone - oh, and did I mention we just adopted THREE kids.  ha ha ha    But, other than all of that, we're doing great!

So, not gonna go back to a play-by-play but I'll just finish up that first week by telling you that there were some REALLY hard moments and lots of really great ones.   I was very overwhelmed for the first three days, but then began to function somewhat normally by the fourth day.  I don't want to throw any particular child under the bus, but one of them was definitely being much more difficult than the others.  (:   BUT, that's to be expected when a child's entire world has been turned upside down.

As the weeks have gone on (they've been home five weeks now) things have become "normal".  We definitely have moments of siblings fighting - but who doesn't?   We still have one child who brings more "excitement" to the table than the others.  We have a biological child who needs to work on having grace with the adopted one who is struggling the most.  We have typical stuff going on around here.  Brian and I have said so many times that there are many non-adoptive families we know who have a LOT more drama going on in their homes on any given day.  We are really doing great and are SO blessed to have these children to love.

Our friends, Lana Reed, Mary Anne Locke and Kenda Benward blessed us with a sweet "Welcome Home Shower" on Monday, the 28th.  It was wonderful to have friends come out and meet the kids for the first time.  We were so grateful for the many gift cards we received and the kids absolutely LOVED the cake and kept begging for more.   On the way home they were talking in Amharic and I'm positive they were saying, "I had FOUR pieces of cake, how many did you have?"  LOL    And so funny cause the next day, Kenda took the left over cake to Bennet's school and she got ANOTHER piece.  Ha!!

We have been slammed with so many doctor and dentist appointments.  Our insurance company has not approved us yet so this has been a bit of a hit financially.  We are going to a wonderful doctor's office called, Mercy Clinic, and they work on a sliding scale so that has been a blessing.  We had to bite the bullet and go to the Health Department for the dental work cause we just couldn't wait.  Even after we get approved, our insurance company makes you wait 90 days for a cleaning.  UGH.  So, even though the Health Department also works on a sliding scale, it has been quite pricey since both girls have had to go twice and Kaleb has had to go FOUR times.

Bennet has a suspicious lump behind her ear.  The clinic sent her to a specialist and he prescribed a strong antibiotic to see if that would affect it, but it didn't.  While we were in Oklahoma for my sister's fundraiser, we had blood work done (because her father-in-law is a doctor and did it for us as a gift - so thankful), and those results came back fine.   So, we go back to the ENT doctor here next week and find out what the next step is.  They may biopsy it - ouch!   Please keep Bennet in your prayers as we try to get to the bottom of this.

Like I said, we spent last week in Oklahoma for spring break.  The kids were AMAZING during the 9 1/2 hour drive.  So proud of them.   My grandma ended up having a mild heart attack the day we got there so the kids met her for the first time in the hospital.  Bennet said, "Oh my goodness, she is SO cute".   Grandma Dot is 90, and in Ethiopia, you don't see old people very often.  The average life span is 45 years, I believe.

My sister's family is adopting a darling little boy named, Crew Dawit, and the fundraiser they had for him raised over $7000 for their adoption expenses.  Woo hoo!!   I sang a song I wrote called, "This is Religion" - it's a song that "Sierra" recorded on our very first album.  Brian and I wrote it over 20 years ago.  I warned him back then that I wanted to adopt some day!!  LOL    It was an awesome night and our sweet kids were so well-behaved and just loved being there with their relatives and new friends.  They didn't want to leave on Saturday to come home.

They also got to meet my dad for the first time - Grandpa Foy.  We had lunch with him at The Cracker Barrell and they loved spending time with him there and then getting to see him again at the fundraiser.  Everyone in my family is so loving and kind and supportive towards our adoption and we are BLESSED by it.  Oh, I will say that we noticed we were being "looked at" a LOT more in Oklahoma than we are here.  I've never felt like we were being watched here in Tennessee, but we definitely felt it there.  Very interesting.

So, I think that catches us up and I'll try to do better about writing and letting you know how we're doing for those of you who are praying for us and want to know how your prayers are being answered.  Please, please, please keep praying for us.  We need it.  Everything is great, but it's still an adjustment and there are good moments and difficult moments.  These kids are amazing and every day we are confirmed that they belong with us.  You just have to laugh when Kali and Kaleb do "a show" and start singing their guts our for anybody and everybody who comes over.  LOL    There is no doubt whatsoever that God knew exactly what He was doing by putting the seven of us together.  

There are MANY more of these precious children out should take a look.  (;  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And Here We Are (almost done!)...

On Wednesday morning we headed over to Hunter's Bend Elementary School to check it out.  I've only home schooled Cooper and Gatlin so this was our first experience at a "real" school.  Everyone was extremely nice and seemed genuinely excited to meet the kids.  I was given all the necessary paperwork and was told that they could start as early as the next day.   Wow.

I had been thinking long and hard about school.  When Cooper first started Kindergarten, I was still traveling with "Sierra" and I wanted him to be able to go with me as much as possible, so we home schooled.  We absolutely loved it and continued it from that day to now.  It ended up being a huge blessing when the kids began acting and we began traveling to California so often for their auditions and work.  I have always been so happy with our home school choice.  On a Spiritual level, it has been very important to me as well.  I want my kids to learn from a Christian worldview.  So, when I was debating school for the new kids I will admit to some guilt over that aspect of it.  But, in the end, I had to let go of that guilt and do what I thought was best for everyone.  They needed that time with other kids and those of us who would remain at home needed a little breather.

I then began to debate whether to start them on Thursday or wait until Monday.  I had had a great night's sleep (thanks to the Tylenol PM that Lana gave me) and so when I woke up Wednesday morning I was feeling a MILLION times better.  The knots in my stomach were basically gone and as of that day, I felt like I was going to be ok.  Thank you, God!!   So, I was thinking that I'd just wait and start them in school on Monday.  But then I started thinking that it might be nice for them to get a feel for it for two days before they went for an entire week - and my gut feeling was that that was the best decision.  Turned out to be a real God-thing.

A sweet gal from church named, Rhonda Rose, brought us a wonderful dinner that night and once again, we all went to sleep fat and happy.  (:

Thursday morning we got up early (for us) and started getting kids ready for school.  I'm so thankful that Brian is here helping -  we've got a nice little routine going.  We were at the school by 8:20.  Dianne, the school secretary, walked us to their classes and made sure we knew where they were supposed to be.  They were very excited to meet their teachers and all three kids went straight into their rooms without any trouble at all.  Yipee.

When I got home, Gatlin and I had a really important conversation.  We talked about life before the kids and life as it would be from now on.  There were deep issues discussed and we both cried a bit (ok, maybe a lot).   It was a talk that needed to happen and it resolved very well.   But it was heavy and we were both emotionally tired.   Right when we wiped away the last tear, my phone rang.  It was my mom.

Gatlin and I were sitting side by side, I was about to answer an email and she had just started her school work.  I said hello to my mom and she immediately said that she had some not so great news to share with me.  She then told me that she'd gotten the results of her biopsy back and that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.   Unfortunately, Gatlin was sitting so close to me that she heard her Nana say those words and she just started bawling.  She was crying out, "No, she's the only grandma I see, I don't want her to be sick, I love her, please don't let her die".   It.Was.Awful.   I lost it.  I HATE that my mom is having to walk through this.  She is already a cancer survivor - she had Hodgkin's Disease when I was 16-years-old.  I don't want her to go through all this again.  My head was spinning as I realized that if we hadn't just adopted three kids that I could have jumped in the car and driven to Oklahoma to be with her right that minute.  I wanted to be able to go spend time with her, and the realization that I wouldn't be able to was painful.  We said we would talk later that day and we hung up.  I put my head in my hands and sobbed.

It was pouring rain outside.  God's tears?   I know it hurts Him that His children hurt.  I always say to my kids, "Did we trust God before this (particular event occurred)?"   "Do we still trust Him now?"   And yes,  we do trust Him.   We are praying for my mom's complete healing.  I'm praying that when she goes in for her MRI tomorrow that the whole darn lump will just be gone.  But, if that's not how God chooses to heal her, than we will continue to trust Him.   Please pray for her as she walks this journey.  She is an amazing Mom, Nana and friend.

It turned out to be a perfect day to have started the kids in school (the God-thing).  I picked them up at 3:30 and they were all very happy.  Everyone had had a great day and they all loved school.  Yipee again!!   That night our friends, the Trouts, AND our sweet friend, Dana Carter, both brought food over to us for dinner.  We were feeling quite blessed and quite spoiled.  And again, we went to bed fat and happy.

To be continued (I'll try to squeeze the rest of the week into the next/last post)...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And Here We Are (con't)...

We were at the doctor by 9:30 Monday morning.  I took Bennet and Kali together and then Kaleb was scheduled for 1:30.  The girl's appointment took THREE hours.  Oh my word.  They were very good, but by 11:30 they were so ready to leave (as was I).   They had to have shots and Kali cried and cried, even before the needle touched her arm (Gatlin always did the same thing!).   That girl can SCREAM.  Wow!  Bennet almost started crying for Kali - she was much more bothered by Kali having to get shots than she was getting her shots.  When it was her turn, she sat in my lap, burrowed into my chest and never let out a cry or scream.  She was very brave and I was so proud of her.   When we left, we made our first trek to McDonald's.  I got cheeseburger Happy Meals (a little healthy eating) and we headed home to eat and drop them off and get Kaleb.

My sweet friend, Gina Payne, offered to let Bennet and Kali go to her house to play with her son, Mamo, who they know from the orphanage.  They were so excited to do that and I appreciated Gina so much for making that offer.   Remember, this was still the time that my stomach was in complete knots.  At one point during the girl's doctor appointment I started crying.  Just overwhelmed way too easily by all the paperwork and keeping the girls somewhat settled down in that little room for three hours.  I knew it wasn't a good idea to leave Bennet and Kali at home with Gatlin and Cooper because Brian was working on a deadline and couldn't be interrupted.   So, Gina was a life-saver and the kids loved playing at her house.

Kaleb and I got to the doctor at 1:30 and we left there at 4:00.  It was a LONG day, but the kids really were good.  Kaleb was as brave as Bennet and never cried or screamed during the shots.  He did the biggest belly laugh when the doctor had to look at his privates - it was hysterical.   After his appointment we headed over to Gina's house to pick up Bennet and Kali.  The bummer about this was that as soon as Kaleb saw Mamo, he wanted to stay and play, but we couldn't cause we had people bringing dinner to our house and we had to get home.  He was pretty frustrated and unlocked his seatbelt and refused to put it back on.  I pulled the car over, put it back on and told him he would go to time out when we got home if he did that again.  He was very familiar with time out at this point, and chose to obey.  Good boy.  He was learning fast.  Yay!!

Our awesome friends, Deb and Rob Solberg (and Sami and Maggie) came over and brought us the biggest pan of pasta ever.  They got to talk to the kids for just a bit, but the kids were starving and were ready to jump into that pasta pit.  LOL    It's so funny cause for the first few days, when we put anything new in front of them, they would just say, "No!"  We would tell them that they had to take two bites.  They would take one bite and then it was, "MMmmmm".   And they'd eat it all and want more.  These kids can EAT!!   So, they devoured that yummy pasta and asked for it for lunch the next day.

On Tuesday, sweet Stephanie Younger, asked if she could take the kids swimming after her kids got out of school.   That was a huge blessing cause I needed a break, and truthfully, so did Gatlin.  I told you in the last post that they knew they weren't supposed to get out of their beds before 7:00.  Two out of three kids were doing great with this, but the third was really struggling with obeying that rule.  I continued to get woken up very early in the morning with, "Oh, hey mom....I'm so sorry, Mom (shake me, kiss me, grab my face)."  The child knew they were doing wrong, but continued to make that choice.  I had only slept about four hours Monday night (just really having trouble sleeping and eating cause of the stomach issue), so this early wake up testing was pretty frustrating.  Gatlin was still very jet lagged and was having trouble having grace towards this behavior.  I was proud of Gatlin because she did get up and make the whole gang breakfast.  Very sweet.

We played outside and then ate lunch and then had rest time.  When they woke up, it was time to get ready to go to the Younger's house, so I loaded them into the car and we headed out.  The Youngers live down in Spring Hill - wish they were closer cause Bennet loves hanging out with their daughter, Kristyn.   Marshal went way above and beyond when he brought them home and didn't even allow us to meet them half way.  Sometimes your friends bless you beyond measure - this was one of those times!!

We were also blessed on that day by the Trout family who brought us a delicious dinner!!  The kids love rice and were very happy to see it included in the entrees.  They had already had McDonald's with the Younger family, but that didn't stop them.  They dug into their second dinner when they got home.  (:   Everybody went to bed stuffed and happy!

My wonderful friend, Lana, brought over Tylenol PM and made me promise to take it before bed.

The next day we decided to check out the school.  

To be continued.

Monday, February 28, 2011

And Here We Are (con't)....

Like I said, the kids did great in church but I just couldn't shake my nervousness.  I was praying and asking God to help me shake it off, but the pit just continued to sit really hard in my stomach.

After church, we headed to Genghis Grill for lunch.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was so crowded and the line was really long and the kids were getting very tired.  Ended up with some fussy kids. Nothing terrible at all, but just the reality that what you have been told a zillion times about adoption is are kids and they don't look at you and say, "Oh, thank you so much for saving me from the orphanage".  Nope, they look at you and say, "I am hungry and you need to feed me now or I'm going to be a real pill bug at this lunch table".  (;  

I couldn't really eat too much lunch and I was on the verge of tears the entire day (and for the next two days).   My family and my sweet friend, Lana, were with us and I was just trying to keep it together so as not to fall apart at the lunch table.  I didn't want anyone to think that I was regretting our decision, because I wasn't, I was just completely overwhelmed, which surprised and frustrated me.  I wanted to be able to snap out of it, and I just kept continually asking God to make my stomach settle down, cause that was the thing that was making everything worse.  We finished lunch and headed home.

Looking back, I should have put the kids down for naps, but at the time, I thought that we should stay up so that everyone would be super tired and sleep really late and not wake up at 6:00 like they had that morning.  Brian and Jim (my mom's husband and the kid's "Papa", whom they adore) took the kids outside to ride bikes and jump on the trampoline (the neighbor's trampoline is their favorite thing and we are grateful that they share it with us).  We all just hung out and if I remember right it was pretty uneventful.  I let Gatlin have her friend, Jessie, come over so that she could have a little of her "normal" around her.

My sweet family picked up Zaxby's for dinner and then by about 7:30 everyone was falling asleep.  I made sure that the kids knew where the clocks were in their rooms and I told them that they were not allowed to get out of their beds until 7:00 (this is something we did with Coop and Gat when they were little and it worked very well).  They all seemed to understand that.   We said our prayers and our goodnights and gave our kisses.

The next morning, one of the kids (who will remain nameless) decided to get out of the bed before 7:00. This was done with lots of, "I'm sorry, Mommy" attached to it, but that made it more frustrating.  I had probably only slept about four hours because of my stomach and I knew that the child knew that what they were doing was wrong, but they just wanted to test us.  So, the morning started out a little rough.  We survived it, and started getting ready for the doctor's appointments that were scheduled for the day.

I'll speak to the disobedience a little here.  When Brian was in Ethiopia with them,  there wasn't much he could do by way of discipline.  I mean, in a foreign country, stuck in a hotel room, what are you supposed to do?  You just kind of have to get through it.  So, coming home to mom and the strictness that awaited them has been a very eye-opening experience.  We are utilizing time outs and it is working very well.  We are being very strict with "first time obedience" and are not allowing whining and begging (it was constant the first couple days).   We are not allowing anyone to tell us "no", or anyone to say, "I love you, NO".  Those are not allowed here and there is discipline given when those things are spoken (yelled) to/at us.

We also give a lot of love.  We are hugging and kissing constantly.  We are assuring them that they are safe with us and will not be taken back to the orphanage.  I will tell anyone who has kids (whether natural or adopted) that the very best thing you can do is stand your ground with consistent discipline.  Consequences for behavior.  It is hard and it is tiring, but there is no better way to get the results you want, and no better way for your kids to feel safe and secure and loved.  If you could see how much faster the turnarounds are now, you'd be amazed.  

My sweet friend, Beth Krehbiel, also brought over cute little jars with colored ribbons on them (each child has their favorite color) that we are filling with marbles when they do a good thing like obey first time, or help clear the table, or whatever.  Then marbles get taken away when they disobey.  When the jars are full, they get a treat.  They like the marble system and definitely respond to it.  (Thanks, Beth!)

Ok - this seems long and boring.  LOL   Just giving you the play by play.  I'll stop here and pick back up with the doctor visits on the next post.