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First Week of Middle School

Maria started school on Monday.  It was a big day for her because it was a new school, and because this year will be the first year she is ready and able to participate fully in her school day.

She has come a long way in two years, worked very hard, especially this sumer, but more than the facts she has learned, the connections in her mind–layer building upon layer, a drip sandcastle on the shore, each brown orb precariously gripping the last, the skills of processing building over time, the overarching ability we see playing the biggest role is her confidence, hard fought, hard won, and still very new in it’s early completeness.

Early on, she would greet a new task with a smile, maybe splintered, but soon,

I can’t, I can’t!!”  And the couldn’t.

She would realize and the only word I can use to describe her frame of mind is a dark spiral.  She spiraled down into a shadowy place, “I can’t, I can’t…and if I don’t I won’t be good enough, and if I am not good enough… they won’t like me anymore, and if they don’t like me anymore, I won’t survive.”

For most of her life, she was never a daughter.  Someone loved just for being.  Just for existing.  She was a servant, “If I work hard enough, please long enough, I will survive this day.”  Her life depended on it, and she came to us an emaciated, small, shaking child who sucked her thumb at night to calm herself down after a day of surviving.  Failure and mistakes weighed on her, ropes deep within the sea grabbing her and sinking her into the depths where she was sure she couldn’t breath, water just above her mouth in waves.

Primarily for our job as parents, sometimes we felt wise and confident in what to to, until we didn’t, which was often.  Looking back, so many times trying to build her confidence felt like emptying the ocean with a thimble, and she often looked more disheveled than before we tried.

“Time,” we told ourselves, “just give it time…or maybe not…” we wondered as we sometimes contemplated building an apartment on top of the garage one day in the future.   Our faith seemed pretty feeble at times, “Grace!” we would declare.  It worked for God, right?  “It’s ok, everything is ok…”  then wondered, “But….maybe something better is needed here, or what?  I don’t know, someone tell me…”

“You can,” we told her.

“It’s ok to make mistakes.”

“Did you know we learn the best when we make mistakes?”

No–yes to grace.  Yes, grace would it be, over and over again, that actually would be the answer.  Grace, we know, both of us, meets us right where we are, in our fear and mess, and that is what moves us to the next stage.  It really is grace.  Just what we don’t deserve is exactly the only thing that ever works.  Or maybe we are nuts.

“Maria, did you know, even if you did something really, really bad, and really wrong, we would still really love you.  No matter what.”  She laughed wildly at the thought.  We laughed too, “Even if you called us dumb, or broken everything, or went to jail.  We’d still just love you, and then come visit you.”  Trying to cut the ropes, toughened and thick, calcified over time, 10 full years within an orphanage.  She grew solemn and didn’t say much else.  Tossed the thimble, threw out the round, buoyant life-saver again, Grace.  Grace can be water wings, the thing that gets us free, and moving, unstuck.  You can’t solve everyone’s problems with your skills, you can really only just love people.  What an incredible, life changing, humbling bummer.  I mean, I went to school to be a teacher of all things.

This summer we did a lot of homeschool, reading and art, writing and math.  We focused on reading carefully and thinking things through, taking the time to think, and then proceed.  She sort of became a different person.  Holding her life saver, she allowed her mind to shift towards the process of thought from debilitating fear. We hold up her two pieces of art, one she scribbled out to please us, “DONE!”   The next after we explained thinking, pausing, contemplating, enjoyment, noticing detail and responding.  The two images stared back at us, the one where she tried shocking us all, it was beyond incredible.

One day, towards the end of August, she approached me and told me, “You know, it actually kind of hurts my feelings when you _____” and told me about how daddy wakes her up kindly, and I shout through the door.  I had never been so proud of her in my life.  I then looked at her with new eyes, this young lady, confidence in waves to write an essay, to try new math, to bring up feelings to one of the people on whom she depends.  Did she realize this was a life changing day.  She had no fear when she told me.

“Thank you for telling me,” I told her, almost giddy, “I’ll try to wake you more quietly.”

“Thank you!” she told me, and went about her business.

This week she has her first day of school.

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Did I mention about the school?  How it’s amazing and it’s totally random how we found it?  Last year for growth group, my prayer was to find the right middle school for Maria, my kind friend said, “AGAIN!?” since it was my request for a few weeks, but I mean, the local middle school is rough, I was hearing.   But those ingrates prayed anyways, and the next day we got an unprompted call from a friend who we became connected with because they were hosting an orphan that summer, and she told me all about the school which sounded too good to be true, so I wasn’t sure, but she had made an appointment with the principal for us that Monday, which we learned was also the last day to register for the next year, and Andrew and Maria did, and the more we learned about it, the more we fell in love.  Then we found out that our actual real friends were going to be there too, Maria’s friends from church, and they learn an instrument and wear uniforms and take school seriously, and every child is gifted, they say.

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So, after the first day, we picked her up and she burst in, “I loved it.  My teacher is so nice, and she is nice to everybody.  And all the kids have good manners.  And….”

She looked at me, knowing this next one was big.

“There were two girls sitting at lunch and I went up to them and said, ‘Hi, I’m Maria can I sit with you,’ and I did!”

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“WHAT!?!?!” I asked.  We had worked all summer on making friends, social skills, she had found a book about making friends and made question flash cards all on her own on how to initiate conversation,  not being shy or afraid (Which made me proud and broke my heart in the same instant).   And she did it.  She tells me of all the friends who talk to her, the ones from camp, or orphan hosting BBQs, our friends’ kind neighbor.  She beams each day home from school, it’s contagious)

Now the school is all batty with waiting lists and all.  I was thinking how cool it is our boys will be able to go there because big sis is there.  Turns out adopting out of birth order isn’t the worst thing.  I digress…

***

The boys have been taking full advantage of Maria’s school days.  They have claimed her bitty baby I got for her at our thrift store a couple weeks ago as their own.  Who would have thought that would be the thing.

I’m not sure if I am much help as far as privacy of possessions go since I helped fasten the baby carrier with her scarf too while she was gone.  Note: How could I not?

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This kid.  Needs his own personal growth post one day.  What a tender love.  I feel like every word out of my mouth is to praise him in such a flagrant manner.  I can’t help myself, he is everything you’d just like.

So anyways, we played like baby was trapped in a fiery house, and only big strong fire fighters could save her.  Which they did every time.  So brave.

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Made to be a nurturer

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What a hero, helping those in trouble

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Maria has been so in love with school, busy with piano and homework to notice too much that Mae Amelia, as she named her after her favorite book, is much dustier than normal.

***

The other day I was ‘brave’ and invited people over to talk about oils.  Andrew and I woke up early and cleaned up the tools from the yard since a bunch of kids were coming that hadn’t been here before.

What has started as a fundraiser to help us pay the bills for our littlest to come home, has turned into something I feel happy and eager and excited to share with people because it helps them so much.  They help us so much.  As parents, we want no harm for our kids, we want to help them in a way that is safe and natural and more effective and less expensive than the synthetic stuff we buy at stores.  That we can’t overdose on or get addicted to.

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So we had a mommy play date where we talked oils, dusted off my lone white table cloth, and we shared and they tried them and tired mamas came with their little ones and Kelly and I told them everything we knew.  “This gets our kids to sleep.  And when my littlest finally started really sleeping and resting, his behavior was better, and he has a huge burst in his language, because he was resting,” I told them all my stuff, all our stories with the oils I knew.  Kelly is a doula and knew all the tricks to help the tiniest infants and the mamas who want them feeling good.

The most popular oils from yesterday were Serenity for sleep, because…

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Elevation for moods, Balance for tantrums and wild emotions, it’s a grounding blend and brings a lot of peace, Breathe for sickness (Which people have been telling me they have used to treat severe asthma and even Cystic Fibrosis!  See my instagram), OnGuard and Peppermint for sickness, and DigestZen for tummy problems and reflux.  Nothing beats helping mommies and babies and children feel their best, what an amazing morning it was–that also smelled fantastic.

If you are an oils person, will you share your story with me?  I want to share with others the power in their simplicity.  I know there is interest and people wanting to try them for themselves.  One thing that I always think about is how products often advertise, “Made with real grape and ginger extract,” and then because of that people buy it and think it must work because of that.  Like deep down we know natural properties are the most useful and best for you, even if those products only have less than 1% of the actual natural components in them.  With oils, it’s all of it, 100%.  All the synthetic drugs are only effective because they try to mimic the natural components in nature, then add fillers, and it’s those fillers our bodies don’t recognize and have the bad reactions too.

I email with people each evening about their children, themselves, what they have going on and help them pick oils from the sea of oil selections, I would love to chat with you too.  Email me anytime: amy@tinygreenelephants.com  And you can shop for them here: http://www.mydoterra.com/tinygreenelephants/  Although I initially wrote and share them as a fundraiser, my focus is less on that aspect and more on connecting families with the oils that will suit them and change their lives.

***

Now it’s night, this afternoon Andrew and Maria rode bikes to piano lessons for the first time.  Came back for dinner just in time for dinner huffing, puffing, smiling, Maria talking about stickers on her songs.

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Meanwhile

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Oh, and don’t think I forgot about the boys while we were at the thrift store.  We were just dropping things off and happened upon these babies.  Thrift store success.

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Some Things Don’t Matter.

I wanted to take a moment, to send out an encouragement.  Maybe you dove into adoption,  just hosted a child, just brought an orphan home, got called to something big.  Listen, you are amazing, but more than that, you know your journey.  You.

You are doing a big, ultimate, real life, good thing.  You are a life changer, a warrior for the good and change in the world.  Most people sit back, and complain, but not you.

People won’t understand, but here is the truth in that– that is kind of awesome.  People will question you, spout out anxiety ridden questions about costs, and your future life, but listen, it’s their anxiety, not yours.  As the great writer Tina Fey wrote;

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” 

Do it.  Do your thing.  Keep going.

We got lots of crazy, crazy off the wall comments when we started adopting, we knew no one who had done it from our same situation–and you know, what?  It was not just fine, but good.  I would smile real big, no teeth, sometimes snake my arm around their necks, look at them and answer their anxiety ridden questions bluntly.  Because you know what they were teaching me?  That maybe it was actually right now, this moment, we were actually living life if it caused them this much grief about stuff.  Messy and real life.  And honestly, most of the best parts of my life, and my own person and character have come from those messiest times.

Jesus does not call me to be comfortable.  He wants lots of things for me, like, abundant living, to act fearless while being gripped with it, to serve others and see them when everyone else in the whole dang world turns a blind eye to this precious person, but comfort from this world?  No.  And that’s ok.  Because what I have learned is, is that all the stuff he talks about, he planned, is so much harder, so much better, so much more abundant and filled with real life, that comfort is a joke compared, a real joke.  I can’t even…  (And just between you and I, I think clutching onto our comfort and stuff out of fears produces much more anxieties than the peace God gives when you decide to just go for it, follow Him–that’s some big lesson I have learned.)

And so when one day, you are at the park, and your precious children are playing out in the sunshine, for the first time being filled up with love and laughter, stretching their bent legs and a woman, shocked, eye brows at the top of her head, alarm in her voice asks, “Why would you do such a thing!!?!” when she finds out about ‘adoption’–

You can smile at her, real easy, gaze into her petrified eyes, and tell her the truth, the truth for your life, but also the truth that will get her to leave you alone, and it’s just one word, “Jesus,” you smile at her, calmly into her face, as she feels sorry for you and walks away in a huff.  Just right ending to that encounter.

When people don’t understand, embrace it, love it.  It may be totally shocking to them.  If someone asks you about ‘your own children,’ you can even kindly remind them that ‘your own children,’ live in the richest country in the richest time frame of human history, and less than I want their happiness I want their hearts to be compassionate with enough room for love, real love which is sacrifice, as they do about the color of plate they have in the morning.  So they can open their lives to others just trying to survive, children just as precious, just as worthy.  Perhaps, I mean, I don’t want to sound too crazy, but maybe it will be good for your little cherubs, it was for mine…. x100.

It’s ok to live life differently, in fact, to quote a man who has changed my life, in every single way, who has brought more abundance and healing and life  into our lives than any other thing,

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.   John 10: 6-10

Listen, this guy is it.  He knows.  There has never been one time that we have jumped into a situation where he was clearly leading that He didn’t have us, and everything else, and then better.  Life Abundant.

The best/worst news of all?  That his big plan to help those hurting and those in need?  It’s us.

You.  And me.  And anyone willing to take those words literally.  You aren’t on your own, it’s all Him with us just showing up.

Don’t be discouraged.  Vacations will fade, the new furniture won’t keep its sheen.  Dinner parties are soon forgotten, paint your walls bold, then cover it stark white when trends change, new clothes will end up in the thrift store shorty.  Don’t miss out on this.  The thing is God, and His thing is people.  And it’s service, and it’s humility and it’s going forward despite fear.  The fear part is ok, but keep going.  I’d say, “You’ve got this,” but you don’t.  He does, which is all that matters, now and later.

I’m not saying don’t be terrified–in these times joy and fear are real.  But it’s the moments with the hurt and the broken, seeking and loving them despite all that, that we find Him.

“Don’t be afraid,” he says, because it’s him on the other side of that fear.  There he is, waiting for you.

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you.

 “So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.
    I’ll round up all your scattered children,
    pull them in from east and west.
I’ll send orders north and south:
    ‘Send them back.
Return my sons from distant lands,
    my daughters from faraway places.
I want them back, every last one who bears my name,
    every man, woman, and child
Whom I created for my glory,
    yes, personally formed and made each one.’”

Isaiah 43: 2-7   Read it, again

And so my friend, my prayer for you, wherever you are, whatever God has placed before you, whatever feels scary–don’t cope with busyness or things of less worth in the scope of time, but go, in obedience to Him.  You are His, and he is with you.  Go to the ends of the earth, you can trust in him.  He is good, in more than we can even see or experience here and now.  “When you are in over your head, I’ll be there with you.”  It’s perfect.

And if people give you a hard time, it’s not your job to convince them otherwise.  Maybe one day they’ll see what God had on the other side of that and marvel, “Oh my goodness, the world is big, and people are important!”   And maybe they won’t.  Who cares, that end of it doesn’t matter.

Lots of things don’t matter.

And some things do.  Even if they don’t even know it.

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And He is with you when you find it.  Don’t be afraid.

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.” 

-Tina Fey

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:18

What were your feelings like while you obeyed God?  Were people encouraging or no, how did you feel about that?

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Our Special Gummy Vitamins :)


When I had the opportunity to shoot a video to talk about the kids going back to school and L’il Critters™ Gummy Vites™  Complete, I jumped at the chance.  We’re mega fans–give me a foam finger, that would be us.  We love these things.  We have been eating them for 2 years or more.  They are easily a highlight of our morning, other than the full blown hot breakfast we make each morning including eggs from our own chickens…but somehow, the kids go batty over these vitamins.

 

Kids flinging food?  Not eating the food lovingly created and prepared for them?  Use what I do: “When you’re done you can have your vitamins!” and the good food I lovingly cooked and served is FINISHED!  And voila, here is a vitamin for you, yes, a vitamin.  It fits for us, cause if it’s food they eat, we want it to nourish them.  I mean, obviously, right?  Once, I saw a food logo for chips that read, “Food–just for fun!” and I thought (Picture Grumpy Cat frowning at the behavior altering additives and coloring): “No.”  Why not put into our bodies what makes our bodies feel and do well?  Now that’s food for fun (Happy Cat face).

 

We love that L’il Critters™ is flavored naturally.  We see such a difference for them, say after a good day of good food, verses a day at a party or somewhere where they are eating things that aren’t good for their little bodies (they become wrecks).  Kiss ‘em goodday.

 

We think that if we feed them well now, early and regularly, their little bodies will develop to the best of their abilities, to their fullest potentials and they will develop a taste for good healthy food for the long term.  Making healthy eating just ‘normal eating.’

So, specifically about L’il Critters™, they are easy for my kids to eat. They can’t swallow pills but can chew gummies and these vitamins are sold at the places we shop at (like Target). They are made in the USA and they make nutrition taste good in a gummy.  It’s a small part of our day (the end of breakfast), but it’s a little healthy sweet spot.  

 

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What good habits do you try to teach your kids? Leave an answer in the comments below and you will be entered for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card! For more information about L’il Critters™ you can visit their website

 *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

I received free product and payment for this sponsored post. All opinions are 100% mine.

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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