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When Finley lived in Russia

Even though we are two full years in, each day still feels like an undeserved victory.  It could be how soon after we brought them home that Russia closed, or having to travel there three times to know well the extent of their living situations, but still, even now, seeing their progress never gets old, a fresh gift each day, exciting, new.  It’s hard to describe, to be living it, in your own home–a gift God planned, must have been from the beginning.  There are hard parts, or tired parts and all that you’d assume, but so much more that you wouldn’t expect, all the good stuff.  Like, we were really built to experience life in a more selfless way than we allow ourselves normally.  I don’t think of myself as a particularly selfless person, sometimes I feel like my faith has me in constant rehab from selfishness and the lack of passion, and zeal and satisfaction it brings.  Andrew and I sometimes think, “Thank goodness we just ended up listening to God in those moments, when it made no sense at the time.”

So close to not following through, it’s almost embarrassing.  Finances, unknown, travel, fear, all of which we could just laugh about now, all fears the are erased with how it played out.  I mean, if you’ve followed our journey, it must just be easy to see how good it is now, but oh my gosh, it was scary.  I hope that’s an encouragement for you.  It’s ok to be scared.  So ok.  Whatever the ‘thing’ is, it’s ok to be scared when you know it’s the right ‘thing.’

Andrew and I just found this message we wrote to each other on messenger while he was at work back from June ’11.  Maria’s Reece’s Rainbow name was Maya, this is when we were messaging each other about the thought of adoption, we only had two bedrooms at the time and a baby Finley.

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We had just about counted it out, and moved on.



I heard Elijah tell me brightly.

“Yes baby?”

“Finley say I can lay on him.”  I went to investigate, and the two were snuggling on the couch.

“Mama?” Finley asked me.

“Yes, honey?”

“When I was in Russia, I saw a big, big duck.”

“You did?  When were you in Russia?” I asked as he looked at me amused and quizzically, taking care to answer such an obvious question tenderly as to not hurt my feelings, “Mama,” he smiled, “back before when I was in your tummy.”

“Ohhh, I see…. how did you like it there?”

“Not that good, and cool!”



The boys did such an awesome job at gymnastics, that I decided to forgo any early home payments to get them these special, seasonal cookies.  We did it up right because the teacher sought me out to tell me how stellar they did.  (I told him I used Vetiver oil on them)

I asked the boys who wanted to share with me, Finley grinned and shook his head no, while Elijah immediately broke me a big, generous piece, “Me mama!  I share with you!  One for you, one fo’ Finley and one fo’ Maria!” breaking little pieces for people who weren’t there, and for someone who had his own cookies, a little for everyone.

The most eager sharer this side of the Mississippi, joyful giver.



Sometimes, when I am telling Elijah encouraging words, and how much I love him, it’s still too much for him.  He covers his eyes, buries his head or makes loud sounds so he can’t hear me.

“EYES the whole time!” I tell him to get eye contact, “This is so important, more important than Ballerinas and Lightning McQueen (his two strange obsessions) which wakes him up, and he’ll catch my eyes for a moment, you can tell it takes him some courage as he forces his eyes to meet mine.

“You sir….are special.”

He struggles to keep his gaze, starting to waver.

“I like you so much, I like spending time with you.  I like your heart and your cute face….I love you Elijah….”

He flings his tongue out and shakes his head, too much, trying to drown it all out, so I tickle him as he doubles over in my arms.  It was a little longer this time than last time, success :)

We celebrate every small success, even the ones other people wouldn’t see.  So we celebrate often.  It makes for a fun life.

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Have you read the book Chalk?  Three children draw in chalk and their drawings pop-out and come to life in delightful and terrifying ways.  We often imagine our pictures are popping out, too.IMG_8130 IMG_8138



We made so many little cookies.  Sugar cookies are so forgiving, they can be no more than a toddler smash, and they round out just right under the forgiving heat of the oven.  Sprinkles, nasty white frosting galore.  I love having kids, loving these stages so much.  I love allowing them to see themselves do everything with their own hands, when they thought they couldn’t before, embracing the mistakes, cause who cares, our chickens ate many of them anyways.



We believe in giving our kids responsibility.  Not the pretend kind, but real things, that adults would do, too, but on their level.  We want them to be proud of themselves, and appreciate  their playtime after putting good effort into their work.  They love it, they live for it.  Recently in the mornings, I have been asking Finley to help Elijah get ready by taking off his jammies, and helping him get dressed.  I notice a better bond between the two of them during playtime on the mornings when it’s Finley’s job to take care of Elijah’s clothes.






Shhh, don’t tell–she’s going to FLIP!  It’s the new one :) :)


My boys, equal parts mud and squishy love hugs.




Two days ago we got into a minor ‘collision’ with a man, there was no dent or damage, but he screamed at us, at me with the kids in the car.  I felt sorry for anyone in his family, and told him he was rude and didn’t need to talk to me that way.  Finley is so sensitive and took it all in from the back seat, he was so upset.  He didn’t want to hug Andrew when he came to meet us, or talk to Santa that night, but clung to me in fear.  I feel upset just thinking about it now.

I was upset too, but I held his two little arms in my hands and told him, “Honey, let’s just pray for him, God says to do that.”


“God says to pray for people who are mean to us and persecute us, I think it will make you feel better.”  I didn’t want to either.

“God…please help that man be good….amen.”  He lifted his head, and he was smiling.  He joined Elijah who was playing in the shrubs in the parking lot, he looked happy again, his precious carefree self again.  I was telling my friend Savannah about it, “I’m so thankful for the Bible to tell me to do things I would never think of or want to do to restore everything…”  Thank you, Lord.  For everything.






All the Latvian kids are here for hosting, I’ve been seeing the sweetest pictures, hearing awesome stories.  S is here, too :) :)

SO, my question to you reading right now is this, and I will respond to each person who shares, WHAT do you think your big thing is, or if you had one, what was it and the current outcome.  Is there something you know, deep down in that quiet place in your soul that you only hear when you aren’t busy and hurrying, when you feel fearless and have a flicker for justice and right-ing wrongs.  What is on your heart, whether you think you can be a part of it or not, what stirs a warm flame in your soul?  I would be SO amazed to hear, so stoked to hear about that little flicker of your heart.





When they first found him, curled onto himself uncovered in the dirt, warm under the bark in fresh, fragrant soil, the milky translucent skin of his back caused them to recoil. “Ew!” they grabbed each other, until they drew closer. He was small and immobile, so they brought their eyes near, finding reverence to the small life curled before them. The curved, white grub started to become beautiful to their eyes when they took the time to examine him, uncovered by their sticks, resting between cabbage and papaya. His lowliness now a virtue, “He’s my baby,” said the big brother, as he gently scooped him up into his palm. They named him Gworm and carried him around the yard, carefully in their hands. They loved without bias, and found beauty in the plain, changing their minds when they drew closer to see.




Christmas in a Chicken Coop

Christmas can be so fun, but it can also be too much.  Just thinking about getting all my kids going to see Santa somewhere sounds like way too much work than it’s worth.  I am trying to rely on the fact that Christmas is intrinsically magical, and that the best memories that will remain in the hearts of my children will be our focused, undistracted time together.

I still feel my focus off sometimes, and I am trying to change it, and what’s interesting to me, it’s that it’s not easy.  We pulled out Maria’s manger scene, I was explaining how Jesus was a King, “Where should Kings be born and live?” I asked them.

“A Castle!  Elsa’s Castle!”

“Right, but he was actually born in…” they wouldn’t understand what a stable is, “kind of like a chicken coop.”

“What!?” they looked at me, their eyes wide, not sure if I was serious, because chicken coops are kind of gross, caked in poop and feathers and flappy, pecky animals–no place for any baby.

“Yeah, kind of a big chicken coop because bigger animals lived there, too,” as I held the plastic cow in my fingers, making him hop walk on his immobile legs.

Andrew and I see the irony of the most humble, meager day, of service and love  being born, and how we blow it up, and have to run to malls and fill out do-to list that circles more around things and random activities than the real purpose of it, of that day.  I mean, really, that’s the thought every year right?  We’ve heard it before, slow down, focus on the meaning, but it’s harder than it sounds sometimes, I know.
So far, we’ve done a couple things, have a few more planned, and honestly, even from a non-spiritual, selfish stand point, although they weren’t really easy, so far they have been the best parts of our December season, so I thought I’d share.  Really, measurably better than any normal Christmassy things.

1. Service

This week our growth group from church did a service project at Downs Town.  It is a home for adults living with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.  Before we had kids, or even when we just had Finley, Andrew and I loved service, it’s one of our favorite ways to connect with God and serve Him.  But as we drove there this week, we felt like, “Oh geeeez, I just want to stay home tonight…” it was you know, dark, and late-ish, like 6:30….our heart didn’t feel into it.  But we went, and met our friends, we started with a game of Bingo.  And it wasn’t long until we were into it, it was fun.  It was light hearted.  It was connecting and not only took our minds off the things we wanted to dwell on at home, we seriously had the most fun night.  Not ‘just put on a smile’ fun, but kind of like–a real blast!  Dare I saw–Christmas magic?  And not the fake kind.


Larry, a friend we met who lives there told us over bingo, “I’m engaged….”

“WOW!  You are!?  That’s so cool, how did you ask her?”

“Oh….I didn’t ask her yet….she doesn’t know.”

“Oh yeah, why not?”

“Well, cause her mom would be my mother in law, you know?”

“Ohhhhh, gotcha!”

He is the manager of the local Goodwill, a couple of the resident work there.  He told us exactly how much he made there.  He’s saving up to go to Hawaii.
Then we played Uno–so FUN!  The children that came did such an amazing job, they were silent and nervous when they arrived, but not long later, they were helping each resident play their hand, they drew cards for them, made up jokes with them.  Kids and service, just yes.



“YES!!!!” I told him and gave him a high five.  He told Andrew and our other friend we could all get donuts if we won–which, by the way, we did, no big deal. (HUGE DEAL!!!)

We left feeling so happy and uplifted, these were just the nicest people who told us just what they thought and were feeling, for instance, “Make sure you bring prizes for Bingo next time, k?”

“Ok” :)


2. Truth in the Tinsel

We want to our family to be reading the word and learning about what is Christmas, where was it prophesied about in the Old Testiment, what does it say? But anyways, we don’t usually have time, which is so lame, I need help.   So we got the Truth in the Tinsel eBook, and we loved it!  Honestly, between doing a Truth in the Tinsel night, and making gingerbread houses, the kids showed more enthusiasm, cheering, excitement, and obviously learning in the Truth in the Tinsel activity than the candy houses.  And it’s cheaper!  WIN!  Really, so fun!

There are 30 days, each day has a CLUE!  The first one is light, and as Andrew read the passage in Isaiah, we told the kids to listen for the clue, “LIGHT!”

“CLUE CLUE CLUE!!!! LIGHT!!! I HEAR IT!  YEAHH!”  They were grinning and shaking and engaged and excited listening to the words.  The passage was deep and meaningful, it put Andrew and I into an awed moment.  Then, there is a craft, which was really fun, and good for sensory skills and fine motor, and just fun.

There are 30 days, but we may only do 6 or 7 this season, and so we’ll have more for years to come.  It was so fun for us to sit together, talk together, good conversations.

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I am not a real mom, what mom only has one piece of tissue paper in the entire house….me.  I am not a supplies stocking type of mom.  Which is fine, they had fun.

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Then we turned off the lights, and flicked a flame behind their craft, light.  And read this passage written long before Jesus was born.


The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.

Isaiah 9: 2-7


“A CLUE!!!!!!!!”

A light, that would change our world.


We buy one piece of Christmas decor a year, and that’s it!  IT!  We usually try to buy second hand, a decision supported even more so after reading this about the “Red Factories” in China where they make all our western ‘needed’ Christmas decor.

The boys and I found this illuminating red barn at our local thrift store yesterday.  I love that thrift store, they are a Catholic Charity that give bread and food to families, creating a line for free.

Our barn, it is so cute, and when Andrew came home, he said it was the perfect Christmas decor.  The kids love looking in the windows, and ringing the small, brass bell.  I think for the same price, I could have gotten one strand of plastic garland at Target.



Maria and I went to our annual Christmas tea, in the Christmas dress we bought at Alex and Yana’s garage sale for $2, it’s the cutest dress.  We had biscotti and tea, and sipped with our pinkies up.  Two years ago we went, and she was scared, nervous, rocking, and this year she was fancy and sophisticated, declined hot cocoa for peppermint tea.  :)




Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  Take our bad attiitudes about getting back to the basics, and see that we were pleasently surprised.  You children will thrive while serving, reading from the bible about Christmas.  More fun than standing in line with screaming children waiting to sit on a stranger’s red, velvet lap.




Visiting Downs Town made me thinking of the kids waiting on Reece’s Rainbow.  A real, big, forever kind of gift would be to bring a child home and experience the magic of Christmas with your family, instead of being alone.  (And yay, we’re still celebrating over Kathleen!!)  Now that, that is a joy like you’d never had known.  Look at my friend Heather’s beautiful daughter.

10849077_10204420545487387_8186344162366380868_oI think what God continues to reveal to me, is that He is the one who gives–it’s his character.  Even when I, or we are ‘giving,’ it’s just His way for us to receive His gifts that are better than anything we could purchase–seriously, I am not just echoing a sentiment, it’s true.  When we do what he says, focus on Him and on loving others, it makes the world better, yes, but it’s good for our hearts, too.


“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.

It not natural to human nature, it takes thought, or planning, or doing despite feeling, but I gotta say, it’s better, the best, peace and meaning, rest and humble joy.

(We have a couple more special Christmas things planned, but I can’t share, sensitive material ;) :) :) :)

Help me out, what does your family do to make Christmas meaningful and less selfish.  With more truth and service and less credit cards and stress?  Please share, I am such a novice!  If you are a legit, organized homeschooling mama, go easy on me, I am none of those things, give me something easy :)