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Maria is 17

It’s different when they come to you at ten.  Perhaps that’s obvious in it’s rarity.

Andrew and I wavered in extremes of over parenting and acting aloof in ‘not caring’ about minor infractions, for instance once I read on facebook that creating a checklist is good for children, so I did that, but then a counselor told me that subconsciously she may feel untrusted by being given one, “BUT!” I responded.

“BUT!  Do I remind about tooth brushing EVERYDAY to a teenager!?”

“Well, at this point, it’s really her problem…” she told me…

I had already spoken up loudly once in this session, anymore and it would be a waste of money.  Although this clearly couldn’t be true… although I felt part of me feeling like I should agree with this on some cosmic, peaceful level.  Teeth are just so permanent and ‘in your face’ (I apologize for how funny I think that it, but I also appreciate I can now laugh about this, good job me.)

I digress.

So then came the acting.  Like I was ‘acting’ when I told her she could throw the list away a few years ago and I was ‘acting’ when I told her I trusted she knew how to take care of herself.  I was ‘acting’ because I was believing that people do well with this kind of trust and pressure.

I was relying more on the pressure.

I was acting the first couple times I noticed fuzzy teeth by afternoon, and acted aloof.  But–overtime, things evened out, and I wasn’t overworking or overcompensating. Things got great in the self care dept.

Parenting has literally been guessing and acting and a ton of driving.

And she started taking great care of herself, and becoming her own person, and graduated from ELD class, and volunteering, and got her driving permit, and DOESN’T get cavities, so, in my face, I guess.  I guess we’re all doing great, or better.

Last night we played a card game with the older kids and grandparents with square cards with deeply personal or uniting questions, it’s made in the Netherlands, so you know it’s good.

“What are some habits your family has that makes them healthy?”  Maria answered that we have family dinners together and talk. Yes we talk and we get very real, and we think it’s normal, until we see it from the outside, like over the weekend when all Maria’s friends were here for her birthday party that they were still feeling new to the home and they were circled around our table munching BBQ chips to do something with their hands,  and Maria asked, “What’s your biggest fears?” so Andrew and I slowly slipped out of THAT room very quickly and questioned our parenting for a second,“Is that what she thinks in normal? Is that our default?” Then we shrugged, not our problem. Not acting.

Turns out all the girls are in the same church small group and very self aware so they loved it, and the party moved on swimmingly.  It was more of a reflection of their own ecosystem than anything else. Then we played Charades and let them alone to be cute, they all got her thoughtful presents and clapped for her, and encouraged her.  She opened another journal with a bible verse across it and starbucks card and Poppy yelled from her seat of a teen lap, “YOU’RE RICH!” The girls lingered, and everyone was happy and comfortable, and Finley declared he was inviting all the teens to his birthday party too, “Cause they’re SO NICE!”

We had wanted her to have real, good friends for years and years.  But it never happened, there were some hopes a few times, but nothing panned out.  I had my opinions why, married to solutions, I am an ‘aggressive problem solver’ as my enneagram tells me, but after a couple years, I left it alone. “Maybe she’s an introvert who truly likes just reading, crafts and family time…”  I had no response to this obvious falsehood same counselor told me… But I digressed. Either way, this time if someone questioned me, I had paid advise that I could point to. To question it would be like throwing away money.

Sitting around our living room with girls who wanted to spend time with her, and her family members and gave her wrapped framed photos of them together at winter camp and I literally didn’t know teens knew how to print pictures.

When I gave her a printer paper receipt (my go to when I order something last minute that hasn’t arrived yet) of “The LO Box” made by her Queen Sadie Robertson, a customized box of items to ‘host your own bible study’ Maria told me, and I didn’t tell her, ‘but you’re already in a bible study,’ I just bought it because then I wouldn’t need to go shopping.  And when she opened, well, I mean, unfolded the paper, and and yelled with delight about hosting her own bible study, all her friends raised their hands, “I WANT TO JOIN!” and “WHAT ARE THE DATES!?” and I thought, wow, these kids are so dang cute. And Maria excited, asked me “When is the box coming?” And I said, “SOON!” because I didn’t know, and I said it enthusiastically because it was her birthday.

The girls lingered and they were sad to see the younger siblings shuffled to bed, but not as sad as the siblings marching away from a PARTY TO THEIR BEDS of which there is no deeper injustice.  The girls made summer plans, and shared photos on some common photo location Andrew created for them and talked about their futures and wanting to do ministry, they all nodded to that one, and they spoke to me like composed, heartfelt young adults and I thought, “Wow, these girls are something special.”

If someone would have told me about this night during my check list days, perhaps I would have let it go without ripping it from my own fist.  And next year, Maria will be an adult, and technically responsible for her own teeth financially, but the fact that she doesn’t actually need any help in that area is a testament to both of our growth as people, as a family and as consumers of floss.

Happy 17th birthday Maria!  We love you, and you are very loved by many, many, many.IMG_20190413_193712 MVIMG_20190413_165325 MVIMG_20190413_173412 MVIMG_20190413_193644

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PAVEL for Christmas! *GIVEAWAY*


How have you been?

I want to introduce you to someone:


His name is Pavel, and he’s so sweet.  Look at those wrists, the red hair, the eager eyes.  “Do you see me?  Does someone see me?”  He craves attention on the hunt for the connection and love he wants so badly.  His poor head has slowly been filling with water, expanding his skull.  It’s a condition called Hydrocephalus.  The hydro meaning ‘water.’  If he were in America, it would be an easy fix, but he’s an orphan, so no one helped him.  BUT, someone fundraised $400 for him to receive a ‘shunt’ (which is inserted during surgery, and voila!  His head will stop filling! ) We donated a little bit, and he reached his goal!  Since we donated, we have watched his videos, how desperately he works with his limited mobility to interact with others, he’s desperate to receive love.  But unfortunately, he is bed ridden, and mostly alone.  The opportunity for surgery is amazing…but he will also be going through surgery without a mama or father by his side.

Can you imagine the fear an discomfort for a little baby like this?

My family and I have been praying for Pavel.  Praying and praying.  We have come to the conclusion that he needs more than a shunt surgery (although that is a good start).  We have come to the conclusion that this little baby needs a mama, and a papa.  Someone to love him each day, and when he wakes up, someone will scoop him up with love, the love that has always been just out of reach will then be in abundance, day after day, forever.

How?  Well, you can be a part of his life change.  Of Pavel’s miracle.  How?

  1.  There is a matching grant offered to Pavel for $1000.  If that amount is not donated, the matching grant cannot be donated to him.  His grant right now reads 445.50.  Once it reads 1445.50, an anonymous donor (YAYY!) will donate a FULL $1000 to Pavel.  As this baby is recovering from surgery alone this week, there may be people like you and me creating a last change for hope for him.  We can CHOOSE to sow tiny seeds into that final moment that his mama walks through the door, locks eyes with him, and for the first time, doesn’t walk away.  “Who…me!?” he’ll think.
  2.  For ANNNNNY size donation (As low as $5!!!!) you will be entered into a drawing for a $100 Amazon card.  So this Christmas, you can not only help to change the life of Pavel who could NOT need more help in his life, but also provide some awesome presents for people in your life who need them.  When you donate ANY amount, screen shot your receipt, and email it to: amy@tinygreenelephants.com to enter the drawing.  I promise you your odds will be good, but Pavel’s odds for coming out of darkness will be just as grand!
  3. My kiiiiiiiiids say that ANYONE who donates over $200….well, they will sing and choreograph any song of your choosing, create a video of it, and share it.  They are all budding musicians, so, be prepared for something *delightful!*  They say “Thank you for considering!”  Please screen shot your receipt for a donation like this, for an entry into the amazon give away, and for your song request.IMG_4508 IMG-8450


We have until the last day of December this year to qualify for the matching grant!  MATCHING GRANT!  One of the best parts of this, is that hopefully we can all be sharing this in hopes to raise our funding needs, BUT I bet–Pavel’s mama will see him in the process.  Drop everything and start the process.  “Adoption is SO expensive though,” she may think. But when she looks at the little grant next to his picture, she’ll know that a big chunk of the adoption costs will be covered, because of the efforts we do now!

So who wants to start us off?  $20?  $25?  $5?  Click here, donate, and send the receipt.  You could be walking away with an amazon card, and Pavel, the boy who loves, could be walking out of the darkness of an orphanage forever in his mama’s arms.

Donate HERE! : https://reecesrainbow.org/122701/pavel-2?fbclid=IwAR2IzV-Ak75Zw9Yw7yjP7birQZfbGFv5DxJ_lfjo289sLFEQ0p1HdikL9mM


Once you donate, share this link!  The more you share, the more will see his sweet face.  Please be praying for him, too!  We BELIEVE his mama is waiting for him right now too, but just doesn’t know his face yet.


THANK YOU!  Love you!


Amy & fam & Pavel



See a video of Pavel here


A Mexican Miracle

The last time we came across the border with donations, they made us leave them at the border and we couldn’t bring them to the orphanage.  We were crest fallen, how could this be?!  The kids really needed this stuff.  It was mostly second hand items in trash bags, but it still stung, and this was a few years back.  This year, we had hundreds of dollars worth of new toys that were donated by many people.  We wrapped most of them, we packed them in suitcases, we placed them at the bottom of our suitcase tower, but I was still nervous.  There was a zero percent chance that I would leave these items meant for the orphanage at the border.  What would we do?  We prayed together, we gave he kids a good little script that was still true to say to the border patrol agents if they were questioned.  I asked for prayers the closer we got to the border.  It was then I saw a sign of the Holy Spirit and I prayed that we would be ‘divinely concealed.’

We crossed the initial border and formed a queue where guards stood firmly along each side.  Should I wear my sunglasses?  Remove them?  Should I be smiling, or does that look like a psycho?  Should I be talking ‘casually’ to Andrew, or just chill the freak out?  Every single time we cross to border, even without donations which we did give up bringing after the last time, they point us over to the side.  They check our car, ask us where we’re going, why?  Sometimes take our stuff, good times.

Our distance to the double wall of guards shortened, my heart pumped all my blood, I couldn’t focus, we had been collecting these toys and gifts and books and bibles for a month.  We inched closed until it was our turn, I prepped my speech, removed and replaced my glasses a couple of times, and the female guard who I was prepared to pull us over, looked down and away from our car.  And we were still driving.  I stared at her.  The male guard on the right of us coming up next, also looked away.  We drove right past and merged onto the high way.  They didn’t look at us.

They didn’t see us.

They didn’t pull us over.

They didn’t take our donations.

We were in the car, driving, we didn’t have to fight or defend.

“What just happened?” Andrew asked.


“God was helpin’ up, guys” Poppy said smiling, stating the obvious that she saw they we obviously didn’t.

We sped down the freeway in shock and awe and thankfulness, feeling this freedom and guidance and joy we hadn’t expected to feel.

The first and only time we had not been pulled over?


We pulled into our Air Bnb and couldn’t quite believe the proximity to the beach.  We all went to bed and prepared to bring everything to the orphanage the next day.

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The next morning, we loaded the car, and told the kids we wanted them helping.  That we had had our gifts, and this was our day to help kids who hadn’t receive gifts and didn’t have families.  They all nodded their heads.  It always the hardest for Finley to understand kids without families.   We pulled up and our friends greeted us as they kept the kids inside for us to unload.  We carried everything in and placing it under the tree.   The each opened their Jesus Storybook Bible in Spanish, then moved onto the toys.  They were so calm and kind, and gentle and didn’t fight over the stuff, but were so sweet, and genuinely thankful.

Little girls silently unwrapped little baby dolls smiling up at them and gently touched their cheeks.  They were instantly the mama they never had, and cradled and cared for them with bottles and tuck ins.

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We thought it may be a fun, relaxing day enjoying our time playing with new toys with the kids, and it was–for me!  hah.   It was a sweatshop day for Andrew and Savannah who spent the entire day putting together cribs and  huge doll house and soccer goals, etc.  All.  Day. Long.  Haha!  But oh so worth it.

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“Hey Andrew, want to go play some games with us outside?  Oh, no?  Oh, maybe later” 😉

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“Hey Andrew…nevermind…” 😉

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I don’t pick favorites, but if I did, it may just be Valentina.  Beyond the most precious, gentle, kindest kid in the world, so it’s inevitable.


Michelle has contagious joy.

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Finley got in line with the rest of the kids at lunch time for his jaimaica, mole, beans and fresh chicken.

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Poppy had zero clue this was a time of serving, and instead thought this was the best play date ever with finally the appropriate amount of children to her liking, so thanks mom and dad.


THANK YOU!!!!  TO everyone who donated a toy, or a box of toys or money, etc.  It was an incredible day and these kids are going to be enjoying the toys for years to come.  Plus, play is just so therapeutic and fun and healthy for kids, so what a true gift.  Thank you for sewing seeds into children who have lost so much.






The rest of the 4 days we were there, we relaaaxed.  It was just after the holidays, we were living on the beach, and we were focusing on rest, connection and nothing really else.  It was nice for me to be away from home so I didn’t get caught up in tasks, it was amazing and so needed.  We had a few friends drive down to meet us, which was amazing and the kids caught a bunch of waves.

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Go girl!

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We had an almost empty beach to ourselves almost everyday!

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I wonder how Finley would feel if I framed this?

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We found the gem of the dinner place, Los Pelicanos and ended up going there two nights in a row.  “We’re BACCKKKK!”

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Popotla, this was an incredible place to visit, and also sort of freaked the kids out, which meant they were silent and wide eyed and glued to our sides.

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It was an amazing trip for so many reasons, a family time we’ll cherish forever, a time of God giving us a special miracle, and a chance to bless some of the sweetest kids on the planet.

Thank you again so much for donating, your donation lives on even right now months after giving.

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