Saturday, September 29, 2012


Last year, we went to a super cute Tutu party for a sweet little friend, and today, we got to celebrate with that same friend with a princess party at the pumpkin patch.  It was adorable, and the girls had so much fun.  They do not want to take off their dresses, so I think at this rate, they will be princesses all day.

We got to the party just in time to ride the cow train.  "What is a cow train?" you may ask.  Let me show you.


It took a while to get all the little princesses loaded.  They can be a bit high maintenance, and once it took off, Bella was wailing and crouched down hidden in her cow.  John had to rescue her off the cow train.  Maybe next time.  Lily loved it.

Next up on the party agenda, feeding the animals.  This is always a hit with the girls.


The goats love it, too.  The pig races were at 11:00, and it was quite the spectacle.  Lily and Bella were both transfixed by pigs with colors painted on their sides running around a ring.


The treats and cake came next, always a favorite party experience.


Everyone got to enjoy themselves on the "Hay Play" area.


Bella had to finish her cookie before being willing to play.  I like her priorities.


Happy Birthday, Allee!  We left her with a Spenst Cinderella sandwich.  Almost too much cuteness for one picture.


This was the best smile I got out of Lily all morning - she loves this game!


Thanks, Kelly, for inviting us to one of the cutest and most fun parties ever!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Well, we got our first wait-list number today from our agency, because our dossier officially landed in Ethiopia early today.  Amazing.  We are number . . .


It is about where we expected to be, based on what I've been able to gather from the Facebook group, which I am so thankful to be able to stalk.  I think we are probably around number 10 on the special needs list, but I don't know exactly.  When I talked to our agency today, she explained that it is one long list, and as kids come up for referral, the agency goes down the list to the first family that would be a good fit for that child, based on the specifications given by the family.  So, we are all waiting together, though people may be waiting for slightly different things.

I am learning a lot through all of this about how everything works, and I am amazed at how different it is for each country and even within each agency.  It is so incredibly complicated.  There were almost no referrals through our agency this month, partially because the courts in Ethiopia were closed for rainy season.  I am realizing that I am going to become quite acquainted with the seasons of Ethiopia and how they pertain to random closures.  Africa is such a different world.

It has also hit me during this entire process that you cannot special order orphans to fit your family.  I am excited to see what God brings us, and I pray that we are flexible to what he wants for us and maybe not precisely what I would choose.

In the last week alone, I have seen more of God's heart for orphans.  Someone we know through CFA is in the Congo picking up their two children, and it has been an amazing story to watch.  And, someone I know here in the Rock just got a referral through the State for a baby boy!  So exciting to see God moving on behalf of these families to work out his story of redemption in their lives.

And now we wait for our turn.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Has this ever happened to you?  You're sitting there, minding your own biz-nazz, and before you know it, your child is awake from nap and angry about it.  That anger doesn't stop, and it turns into a 2.5 hour battle of wills.  The battle of wills leads to dinner in one's room.  The toddler finally capitulates, and you can celebrate - for a moment.  After that sweet, brief moment of victory, you realize that your older child has lied to you earlier in the day and was not discovered sooner because of the aforementioned will battle going on with Thing 2.

Here's a list of helpful tips if your afternoon and evening ever go something like that.

1.  Do not think that just because you have one strong willed child that your second one will be compliant or that you deserve to have an easy kid after all the hard work with Thing 1.  That is a mistake, and in our case, simply not reality.

2.  Pick your battles.  I am glad that I picked this one, because it needed to happen, but it reminded me that battles can go on for much longer than I could ever imagine, and I better be committed or else my daughters will walk all over my lifeless, defeated body as I lay curled in the fetal position.

3.  Call or text for back-up and rejoice when it arrives.  Oh, I was so thankful to hear the garage door go up today.  It did not signal immediate retreat from my little enemy, but it did mean that reinforcements were coming for me.

4.  Do not lament the family frozen yogurt run that was not to be.  Get over it.

5.  Cuddle and tickle and laugh when it is all said and done to remind yourself that you really do love your children and are thankful for the privilege to parent them.  Then take a picture.  Aww, aren't they cute?


6.  Make yourself an overdone dessert to compensate for the drama that your evening contained that you did not anticipate, and be grateful that because of the hijacking, you ate Fruit Loops for dinner, so you have calories to spare in your My Fitness Pal day.

7.  Shoot annoyed looks at your pets as if to tell them, "How dare you be asking for me to feed you at this moment?  Can't you see I've had enough?"

8.  Remind yourself that this is a stage.  This is a stage.  This is a stage.  As you say this, click your ruby slippers together, and a hot air balloon will pick you up to take you to the next stage where rainbows and unicorns exist to make your children happy all the time.  I'm holding out for that stage.

9.  Write a blog post about your night, using sarcasm as a coping mechanism.  It may help a little.

10.  Round out your evening by reading a bit of The Honest Toddler blog.  Last night, I laughed so hard while reading this that I woke John up, much to his delight.

That's all I've got.  Maybe when I'm older and hopefully wiser, I will be brimming over with tidbits of wisdom gleaned from these tough parenting moments.  It will only be by God's grace, and I clearly need that in abundance.  As I was looking into the Potomus's eyes throughout the evening, I was struck by how stubborn she is.

And how stubborn I am.

It is humbling, this parenting gig.  It is not for the faint of heart, and though it can sometimes feel like we are falling flat on our faces, I believe this hard stuff is worth it and where the refining comes in for all of us.  And, oh my, if I didn't know it by know, I would never know it - I am prideful, and I needed a good strong dose of hard-headed children to teach me that I do not know half of what I think I know.  Apparently, I need to learn so much that I am getting a second helping of the strong-willed child bit.

In all seriousness, I am thankful for the God who loves me when I act like a beast and for the discipline that he has provided in my life.  "For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines" Hebrews 12:6a.  Maybe, just maybe, we can show a little bit of that to our children.  By his grace.


I know that I am posting a recipe right at the beginning of fall that has no pumpkin, which is probably criminal.  However, this bread is cozy and will fit into your life any time of year.  That's what I think, anyway.  This recipe is from my MIL, and I added the chocolate chips.  At first John thought that was really weird, but after eating the bread, he became a believer.

So, when your bananas look like this, as mine too often do -  (actually, often they look even worse than this)


This is what you can do with them.  You need -

1 2/3 cup of sugar
2/3 cup of shortening
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup of mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/8 cups of flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup chocolate chips

I like this recipe, because it is straight-forward, easy to throw together and, above all other things, tasty. Follow these instructions.

Cream sugar and shortening together, add eggs and beat until it is well-blended and light.  Add banana and vanilla and mix well.  I decided to skip any mashing of my own and threw whole bananas in, which worked fine.


Mix all of your dry ingredients in a separate bowl.


Add the dry mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.  Add your chocolate chips.  Yum.

Pour into greased pans and bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.  I baked mine in this nifty pan, so I baked for a slightly shorter amount of time.


Then, you will have delicious banana bread for you all to munch on when the craving calls.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The past several days have found me ruminating.  Ruminating sounds deeper than thinking, which is why I chose that particular verb.  Life can bring so many things that are hard to understand, and I think I often willfully make them harder.  I try to fix them myself.  I try to figure things out.

In my Bible study group yesterday, the speaker talked about the Holy Spirit and the role that he plays in our lives and marriages.  It was a powerful message, with poignant and practical examples of the ways he had shown himself more than faithful in her life.  I sat in tears through most of her talk, because it began to hit me that I often short change the Holy Spirit.  I expect far too little, when he has promised us so much.  I try to do things on my own.  Oh, how I want to tap into that power more.

We've been reading the book The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, and it is excellent.  It is actually based on a sermon series that he preached in 1991 that our community group listened to this summer that was really good.  Some of it is pretty deep, giving a broad overview of God's plan for marriage, and I have enjoyed digging in and the ruminating that has accompanied that.

The other crux of what I got out the book and Bloom this week is that self-centeredness is the main problem in every marriage, including my own, and fighting that is no small task.  Keller encourages us to

"determine to see your own selfishness as a fundamental problem and to treat it more seriously than you do your spouse's.  Why?  Only you have complete access to your own selfishness, and only you have complete responsibility for it."

Well, that is no joke.  What if I don't feel like taking responsibility for my own selfishness, as I usually don't?  It sure gives me more to ruminate over and ask for the Holy Spirit's help on.  Only by his power - certainly not my own.

So those are my current thoughts.  Glad I get to think them even on a day when I am caring for two extra kids.  They were all at MDO this morning and napping this afternoon, so it has gone pretty smoothly.  Bella has been the hardest, and I have gotten tiny glimpses of what life will be like with 4 children some day.


The other task on my plate - one that I dread this time of year - is the changing over of the closets for the season.  It is just not very straight forward as it seems it should be.  Then, I catch myself thinking, "I should be so grateful to have so much stuff."  And, I truly am.  But then I think, "Why do we have so much?  Is this too much?  How much is too much?  Some people in the world have nothing, and I have nothing but piles of everything."  So, I end up ruminating on all of that.  Another place I need more Holy Spirit and less Carol Spenst.


Here's to hoping that I can get it all sorted out and figure out what we still "need" before it gets real cold.  Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 24, 2012


Today was a pretty run-of-the-mill kind of a Monday.  It was the kind of a Monday that took snippets of my life and put them all together.  I did some fun parenting, and I did some hard parenting.  I tried to get some things done and succeeded wildly, and I failed miserably at others.  I saw friends and stayed at home.  I had a meeting for the event I'm helping to organize, and I got a tiny little bit of craft time in, too.

It felt all over the place, and it seemed a good representation of my mash-up of a life right now.

One of my most favorite blogs, Flower Patch Farmgirl, is hosting a link-up with posts that celebrate something about the day.  As I reflected over the routine and unremarkable quality of my own day, I thought I would have nothing to offer.  Which is never the case.  Upon reflection, several celebrate-able things come to light.

-  I did get a notable email saying that our dossier is headed to Ethiopia right now.  God-Speed to you, little Dossier!  Can't wait to hear that it's there and get our first wait list number at the beginning of October.

-  It was chilly this morning.  C.H.I.L.L.Y.  I think I will pull out all the pumpkin paraphernalia this week in honor of the chill.  I am welcoming fall with open arms and a sloppy wet kiss.  Or two.  Or three.

-  While my trip to the grocery store was a total disaster with a Bella-beast who loudly insisted on being held and would not let any part of her body touch the cart without extreme protest, I didn't need much in the way of food and was able to keep the trip short.  The humiliation of a screaming child in the check-out line at least got to happen in the Express lane.

-  We got invited to dinner by best friends, so I didn't have to cook anything after all - even better after the aforementioned catastrophic shopping expedition, with the bonus of seeing and enjoying friends.

-  I did get to craft a bit, which warms the very cockles of my crafty little heart.  And, the crafting included painting tone on tone colors.  Fave.

-  Watching Lily at gymnastics is truly a joy, and she picks up her post "nap-time/Lily Comedy Hour" room so much more quickly in anticipation of it.

-  Lily got hurt tonight, and to help her be okay with washing her toe off, John put his feet in the water too.  It didn't make Lily feel much better at the time, but in many years, she will be so thankful to have this kind of a daddy.  And, I am heart glad to have him right now.


-  When our cat crawled onto John's lap tonight, he grinned and pulled out his "Cat Piano App" and played Happy Birthday in meows to get her off.  It worked.  I only learned that he knew how to play Happy Birthday after hearing it in meows.  And you think you know a guy.

Those are the Money-Shots in my Monday.  Other days may offer a lot more or less than this one did, but I am thankful for today, and I am thankful for the many gifts in it.  I always have a choice about the way I view it, and I am definitely grateful for that.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


We have never gone camping as a family, and after a rather long week, we decided to get on out of town and into the great outdoors.  The weather was supposed to be perfect.  We sent out an email to our community group to see if anyone wanted to join us last minute and had a family of takers.  All in all, it was great fun.  Here's the high low run down.

Low:  It takes a long time to pack everything to go camping.  It just straight up does.

Low:  I left my wallet on the back of our car after lunch in Hot Springs Village.  We got a call and had to go back for it.  On the very bright side of this is that a police officer found it, and I got it back safe and sound.  That was a sweet gift from the Lord, because it sure could have been a lot worse.

High:  Having friends come with us.  We love the Helmicks, and it made everything more fun to have them along, especially for the kids' sakes.  They had a great time playing together.

Grilling acorns.


Chilling in the camp chairs.


Making their own fire.


High:  Enjoying the beautiful weather and quick camp set-up - the guys did such a great job.  Playing in the woods when it is nice out is such fun. (This is the daddy/daughter photo mash-up)


Low: Realizing that even in the great outdoors, kids still want to watch movies.  We found Bella in the car like this.  After we got her out, she really did enjoy the woods.


High:  Canoeing on Lake Ouachita.  Gorgeous - though a little hot in the heat of the day.


High:  Bella crashed in my arms, in the canoe.  I laid her down in the bow of the boat, where she napped the rest of our ride.  That is the life.


High:  Playing on the playground while we took turns canoeing.


High:  Heading back to camp for dinner.  Grilling out always tastes so good.  The hot dogs were more jumbo than I imagined.


High:  Seeing how happy fire makes John.


Love him.


High:  Hearing the girls in the tent after we put them to bed, but before they fell asleep.  Lily especially had some awesome lines like, "Bella, I am just trying to get some rest, and you are not respecting me."  To which Bella giggled and said, "Ickle, ickle, ickle" trying to tickle Lily.  They giggled and laughed a lot, and when we went in to bed ourselves, we found them asleep, face to face, with their hands touching each other's face.  Precious.

Low:  Sleeping in a tent with our kids.  Actually, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been, but it was not a great night of sleep (not that we were expecting one).  Bella was so delighted when she discovered us in there at the middle of the night that she started laughing, and them pounced on our faces and tried to stay laying there.


Plus, our tent was on the small side, so if we were to do this much in the future, we might need to upgrade tent sizes.

Low:  Poor Drew-man, our friends' son, had a rough night of sleep.  Thankfully all the little girls slept through it, but the adults were not as fortunate.  However - isn't he a cutie?  Every time you take his picture, he says, "Cheese" and makes this face.


High:  The girls wanted to wear head lamps in the morning.  I love groggy, head-lamped little girls in matching pjs.


Low:  It started raining while we were making breakfast, which had not been forecasted at all.  In the middle of that drama, Bella got upset and purposefully fell backward while standing on the bench seat of the picnic table.  She was stunned and on the ground getting rained on when I got to her.  Thankfully, she was just fine - I am so thankful for God's grace is keeping this child alive and well during this phase of her life.


Low:  That rain turned into a massive and rather scary thunderstorm, especially since we were camping on a ridge and hanging out under a tent with metal poles.  As it picked up, we made the call to abandon the rest of our plans for fun and head home.  This meant the guys got soaked as everything got packed up, and we watched as lightning lit up the sky.  It felt quite dramatic.


Though it ended sort of crazily, we had a wonderful time, and it has left time for rest and getting stuff done today that we wouldn't have otherwise.  I think there will be more camping in our future, especially if we get a larger tent and always camp near bathrooms.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Right now, we are in the waiting phase of our adoption.  Historically, as in, for my entire life, waiting has not been my strong suit.  Let me give you some examples from this week where I have waited less than patiently.

I am standing in line at Hobby Lobby.  I am in a hurry, because I am always in a hurry, which is my own perpetual problem, and I need to go pick up my girls.  The lady in front of me is writing a check, and I am thinking, "What planet do we live on?  Does anyone write checks at stores anymore?  Why does Hobby Lobby even accept checks?  This is taking forever.  Does she really have to give over every single piece of personal information to be hand-written by the cashier while I am waiting behind her, just needing to buy one roll of tulle?"  Then, a manager comes over and starts pulling cash out of the drawer, while I wait, impatiently.  I try to keep from glaring at them all, because really, it did not take that long.

Next day, I am standing in line at Sam's.  Still in a hurry, always.  Just needing to pick up one thing.  Since Sam's is a buy in bulk kind of place, people are often doing just that and have their carts piled to the heavens.  I think psycho thoughts like, "Doesn't anyone see that I just have one item?  Why are they not letting me go in front of them?  I am so fast - why can't other people at least load their stuff onto the belt more quickly?"

So, as people have recently asked me how I feel about the waiting right now, I have been surprised to say that I feel fine.  Let's keep in mind that we have not been waiting long at all.  I totally get that.  We are at the very beginning of what we are expecting to be a long process.  I know there will be times in the waiting where I will get discouraged or frustrated, but right now, I have the privilege of just being hopeful and expectant, knowing that our lives will be forever changed through this process and looking forward to what God brings.

There are hard things in the unknowns.  How long will we wait?  With pregnancy, you get a pretty stereotypical time-line, and with adoption, it is all over the board.  What children will we get?  We have given some parameters and have some built in with how young Bella is, but there will be several mysteries until we get our actual referral.  What should we do in the meantime?  Now that we are done with all of the paperwork, I am trying to use my time and energy well.  It has been exciting to be planning a banquet, and even just today, I had the fun of talking with another mom who is interested in Ethiopian adoption.  It is a joy to be encouraging in this way.  And, we can pray.  Pray for our boys.  Pray for their birth family.  Pray for God to prepare us all for one another.

Our dossier is done, and right now, we are waiting for it to land in Ethiopia after it gets shipped around and authenticated in the US.  We are hoping that it will arrive sometime in September, because at the beginning of each month, our agency gives out a number of where we are on the waiting list.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that there is a Facebook page for people with our agency that many have joined, and people share their wait list numbers each month, as well as what they are waiting for, so you have an idea of who is really in front of you.  This has been a fascinating and great group to be apart of, because I can follow along with the journeys of other people who are walking in front of us.  It has given me more respect for our agency, and I have a greater understanding of what the process will be when we finally go to get our children.

The other reality that I am facing right now is that the girls are at exhausting ages, especially combined. Last night I felt wrung out just from parenting them, and I know (or at least, I hope) it will not always feel exactly like this. I know that adding two more children is what God has for us, and that the girls will grow out of some of the issues we face right now.  But I know that as we wait in this adoption process, I am waiting and hoping for more of God's grace as I parent.  I need it.  I need to know how to better lean into him with my children, because it does not come naturally to me.  I need to be wrung out and brought to my end where I see God more clearly, and my need for him is inescapable.

So we are waiting.  We talk about our brothers a lot.  Where they will sleep.  How we will go and get them and bring them home on an airplane.  Lily is just starting to ask questions about why they will not have their own mommy and daddy, and I am getting to explain that we will be that for them.  She doesn't understand yet, but she is starting to ask the right questions.


Waiting and hoping for brothers.