Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CFA CANOE TRIP

It was high time for us to have another canoe adventure, and we wisely chose to leave our precious little kidlets behind.  When we told Lily what we were doing, she asked, "Is everything going to turn out okay?"  She is still a bit scarred from our last Buffalo River experience, and we will need to take them out again soon to give them a better, newer memory.

But this day was for some of our CFA Team Leaders.  We took a small group, which turned out quite nicely.  None of them had ever canoed before, so we had quite a time of it!  Everyone was so excited to get started.  The group that came was mostly from one large family.  Many of them have worked for us since our restaurant opened over seven years ago, and they are like our own family now.

One really funny story is that when we interviewed one of these women, she kept thinking that we were the boss's children, and that soon she would meet the real boss.  It took a couple of months for her to realize that we were the ones in charge.  We were such babies then, and we regularly laugh over this story!

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John had told everyone that I used to teach canoeing at camp and could be their instructor.  Ha!  I did try to give them the basics before we all got into our boats, but at the end of the day, you just kind of have to do it and figure out what works for you.  We had a very funny first 30 minutes where one boat kept spinning its way down the river.

The weather was truly amazing for mid-July in Arkansas, and the water was at a perfect level from all the rain we've had this summer.  It made for delightful floating conditions.

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John got to cliff jump and rope swing, and though he was disappointed that no one wanted to join him, he had a great time making big splashes, and we had a great time watching.

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We all packed lunches to eat along the way.  John and I left ours at home and had to grab leftover salads at CFA.  Not a bad river lunch at all.

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One boat did tip three times, but there was a lot of laughter that went along with it, and in the end, everyone had a great time.  It is so very beautiful at the Buffalo River.

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We split off from the group after canoeing and drove around to enjoy the scenery and silence.  I never knew to appreciate the silence until I had all the children with me most of the time.  John and I treasured our time being able to talk and laugh and be quiet.  And the view.  Spectacular.

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We forded a river in our 4-wheel drive vehicle that had a canoe on top.  John loves when we get to use the 4-wheel drive.

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On the way home we stopped for a dinner date.  This day was the gift that kept on giving.  I love a good Chocolate Mess.

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This day was a wonderful respite from our norm, and we desperately needed it.  Now we are back at the grind, which is also good - just a lot more work.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

THINGS I WANT MY KIDS TO KNOW: BE A LEARNER

Continuing my little series of things I want my kids to know - here's the next installment.

Hey Kiddos,

I want you all to be life-long learners.  I really pray and hope for it with all of my heart.  I do believe in absolute truths.  I believe that God is who he says he is - the great God on high, maker of heavens and earth.  I believe that Jesus died on the cross, and that his word is true.  I believe that he asks us to love him and love others.

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Other than that - I still have a lot to learn about life.  In fact, I am learning and discovering new things each day, especially on the days when I am humble enough to recognize that I am broken and fallen and need to be more teachable than I am naturally wired.

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I've been cruising through audio books this summer.  They have served as a wonderful buffer against the mundane of laundry and sweeping, because I can go to another world and have my mind occupied whilst banishing crumbs from every corner of my physical existence.  Or not, as things usually go.  Several of the books have been infinitely sadder than I hoped - for example - I feel like I should have gotten more warning about The Book Thief.  It was an excellent book, but I sobbed through the ending.  We can all pay attention to the fact that it is narrated by Death himself.

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A couple of the books have featured teenaged protagonists, who have been amusing and smart and who have reminded me of my own teenager-hood.  It is becoming a more and more distant past all the time, which is wild to believe.  I vividly remember the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school.  Though I was 16, I did not find a job, because I knew I wouldn't work during the school year and most places didn't want to hire for just the summer.  This meant that I had an extraordinary amount of free time.  Thinking back - it sounds so glorious.  One of my best friends and I would spend the night at one of our houses.  We would stay up late watching movies or having "deep" talks, and then we would sleep even later.  We would hit up Sonic for a drink and head to the pool to lay out.

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Those were the days.  Sunshine and slushies and seriously believing that we knew about life.  It seemed so easy to boil life down to platitudes and simplicity, which were easily served up in our little corner of the world where things mostly made sense.  I really thought I understood how life worked and that somehow, I was blessed with enlightened insight to the universe.

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Now, more than ever, I have come to the conclusion that I have so much to learn.  And I'm not talking just skills - though there are certainly a great number of skills that I would love to acquire.  I love taking classes and learning.

No - I'm talking about life stuff.  About how life and people work.  About the nitty gritty and the hard, the beautiful and the simple and the ways those things swirl about each other in a hypnotizing pattern that makes up our everyday existence.  It's all there, and there are usually far more layers than I had any idea about as a teenager.

A couple of years ago, your dad had a life coach who had him go through several personality evaluations.  His coach was shocked by the unusual results - one of which showed that your dad has what the coach labeled as a "me/me conflict."  He can so fully see both sides of a situation that he faces a very real conflict inside himself of what to think about things.  While we do regularly joke about his "me/me" complex, it is one of the things I love about him.  He leads with questions before passing any judgement.  He strives to understand, before he strives to be understood.  I have learned so much from his example.

So, kiddos - please pay attention as you go through life.  Ask questions.  Be slow to speak.  Recognize that you have no idea where someone is coming from until you take the time to get to know them.  Know that God created a vast mass of humanity in his image, and parts of God are reflected and refracted in different ways each day as you interact with others.

Be a learner.  Ask God what he wants for you to see in each situation.  He's always working behind the scenes - though it can often be hard to make out exactly what it will look like.  We can trust his goodness.  It lead us to each of you.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A DAY IN THE SUMMER LIFE: 13 ON 15

I thought I might do one of these once a month, but I haven't exactly kept it up.  (Since the last one was last September!)  However, I did want to capture what one random summer day looked like around here.  This summer has had some really fun times, but a lot of days have been pretty ho-hum.  Not bad, but just not a lot exciting.  Here's a little glimpse.

9:00ish a.m. - I roll out of bed.  I am not kidding.  This is abnormally late.  All kiddos entertained themselves until this time, so it should be noted that most mornings - especially if we don't have to be anywhere at a certain time - are usually pretty chill.  I'm thankful for good sleepers/self-players.

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10:00ish a.m. - I'm trying to get these yay-hoos all dressed and out of the house.  This is always a challenge, but - it's a cute challenge.  People always ask me how the girls feel about having the babies, and the truth is, this picture sums it up - they adore them.


11:00ish a.m. - A quick library trip before we head to William's first hair cut.


12:00ish p.m. - Hair cut done and onto lunch at CFA.  I love the Asian salad and eat it several times a week.



1:00ish p.m. - Arrive home with two sleeping babes.  This transition from two naps to one is a bit hit or miss.  They are really tired by late morning, and by early afternoon, they are out for the count.


2:00ish p.m. - Everyone is down for "Nap"time.  I sit down to write the blog post about the hair cut and organize pictures and surf the web.  Sitting feels good.  It's not that quiet, because the girls keep up a constant chatter from their "nap" locales, but at least I can sit on the couch.



3:00ish p.m. - Trying to finish this project that has seemed to lag on.  Thankfully I really like to look at the pretty fabrics, and I love completion.  I did finish them last night, so it feels good to have that crossed off the list.



4:00ish p.m. -  Those are the breakfast dishes that I still need to finish.  Truthfully, I didn't finish them at this moment.  I had a mild headache, took some ibuprofen and sat back down on the couch.



5:00ish p.m. - Both babies are up from nap time.  Sweet boy with his grown up short hair.



6:00ish p.m. - In a delightful twist of fate, we are given tickets to the new Chipotle premiere night.  It saved me from meal prep and clean up - something I am always grateful for.



7:00ish p.m. - After dinner, as we wait for John to get home to help with bedtime, the girls ride bikes in the garage - a favorite pastime of theirs.



8:00ish p.m. - Kids are all in bed.  John and I have been mostly watching the Tour de France this month, but last night, we took a break to watch the MLB All Star game.  I also enjoyed ice cream and shopping online.  I did decide on and order Halloween costumes yesterday.  I fully recognize that this is a bit crazy.  Sometimes in the dead of summer I find myself working ahead on all the hectic things that the fall and holiday seasons will bring.  Bella's birthday party is also in the works.


The last picture is from around 11:00ish p.m., because really, our evening was not too note or picture worthy.  John has had a wild month with work, and it will be continuing on for a while, so he had me proofread a couple of things.  Then, he got into bed before me, which happens almost every night.  I try to go to bed close to when he does, but I rarely get there at the same time.



This day is fairly representative of what this summer feels like - though it doesn't show that I often meet friends out and about.  I woke up with no actual plans to speak of and four little friends to spend the day entertaining.  The saying, "The days are long, while the years are short" really does put our life into perspective right now.

Hope that your summer is full of fun and mostly God's grace - because we certainly need that every moment around here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WILLIAM'S FIRST HAIRCUT & BEGINNING OUR CHOCOLATE HAIR JOURNEY

The day we got the call that these two were born, we were in for a surprise.  Instead of the two boys we thought were coming, we got a boy and a beautiful bonus girl.

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(Bonus girl was very sleepy during lunch yesterday!)

We were thrilled that they were healthy and in the world, and I turned to John and said, "Now I am going to have to learn a lot about how to do her hair."  When we got to the hospital and met Gran Gran for the first time, one of the first things she said was about Violet's hair.  "We will help you figure it out."

I started reading the blog Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care - a fantastic resource for adoptive parents.  I figured out that I pretty much got a bye for much of the first year, but that around 12 months, I should start putting some routines into place that will help us in this journey.  So, a couple of weeks ago, I ordered several of the products she recommends and also ventured into the "Natural" hair care section  of our local Wal-Mart.  It's my understanding that this section has boomed in recent years, and I am so thankful to have so many options readily available.

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I also have had Violet start wearing a sleep cap to help protect her hair at night and naps and to get her used to it.  She doesn't really need it yet, but I figure I would rather start it now so that it is just part of her norm.  And, it is super cute on her.

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Her hair is actually quite easy to detangle so far, and she tolerates the process fairly well, so I am hoping that continues.  I want her to really enjoy the hair that God has given her and to never make it seem like a burden.  I avidly watch for other little African American girls her age to see what their mothers are doing with their hair, and I have realized that already, many of the babies have their hair in tiny little puffs.  I still have a lot to learn about styling her hair, and I am sure I will do some mixture of styling it myself and having it styled professionally.  I've attempted some little twists so far, but she pulls on her hair a lot, so they haven't lasted very long.

For several weeks I have been meaning to get William's first hair cut, but we haven't made it a priority.  His hair is thicker than Violet's, and it was quite uneven on the sides.  I have gotten several barber recommendations, and today I finally called one, which resulted in quite a humorous conversation.

Me: "Do you have any late morning or afternoon appointments today?"
Godsey: "Do you need to get your hair cut?"
Me: "It's not me - my son needs a hair cut."
Godsey: "Is his hair long or short?"
Me: "It's pretty short.  He's a baby and needs his first hair cut.  I just want it to be cleaned up and shaped."
Godsey: "Do you mind me asking - is your son Afro-American?"
Me: "Yes."
Godsey: "Well, okay!  I will roll up my sleeves and be able to get to work!  Can you come at 11:30?  Do you need directions?"

I explained to him that I got his name from another adoptive mom, and that seemed to help everything make more sense.  I clearly did not sound like most of his clients over the phone.  When we arrived, he cheerfully welcomed our whole clan into his shop where the walls were literally lined with photographs in every corner.  Every photograph was a story he wanted to tell us, and we listened with rapt attention, because it was fascinating.

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William was getting pretty sleepy, because we are transitioning from two naps a day to just the afternoon nap.  Still, he did not protest much, and he really enjoyed playing with Porky.

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Godsey regaled us with story after story about everyone from his wife and children to famous boxers to the man who had taught him to cut hair to his great grandfather who was born a slave and then became free and worked as a porter in Chicago.  He doted on William and told us what a good-looking man he will be, which is a great way to win over any parents.  He also showed us the picture of himself getting baptized at age 12 and how knowing Jesus is the best way to live.  John and I nodded and laughed a lot, and before we knew it, William's hair looked dramatically better than it had when we arrived.

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They rang the spoon bell when it was all done.

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All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and Godsey told me to never let anyone with a name like "Sheniqua" or even a "Heather" tell me that I didn't know what to do with my kids' hair.  He said, "You will figure it out and do a great job."  I almost teared up, because it is really encouraging to have someone tell you something kind like that.  Especially in an area like this where I am a fish out of water.

So - this is us, starting to figure out chocolate hair.  It is totally worth it.