Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bright Spots--Elizabeth



Yesterday was one of those difficult days of parenting in our house. I had a lot of errands to run and swimming lessons for yhe boys and also wait times in between, hurry up and wait ... just not a good combination with 2 boys and a baby and it didn't help that it was seriously 96 degrees outside (not taking into account also that it was WAY HUMID! making it feel more like 106 I think they said.)

Similar to the temperature outside things escalated throughout the day with the boys pushing my buttons and not listening and picking on each other and me getting more and more frazzled ... and when I went to bed at the end of the day I felt defeated and humbled and really like a failure as a parent and a person. (It really wasn't that bad in retrospect, but at the time I was just worn out and tired.) Thankfully it was the end of the day and this morning we all got to start anew and off on a better foot of listening to each other and making clear our expectations and opportunities.

Also during the night while I slept and recharged my energy and asked God for some help doing a better job tomorrow, I received a wonderful email from half way around the world from New Day telling me that our care package had arrived! You may remember this post about the P*ttery B*rn K*ds sheets that were SO cute and on super sale. A friend from church chipped in with me and we were able to send 13 adorable crib sheets to New Day. Thanks Angie and Family! Also, you may remember this post about Elizabeth. In the package I included the apron that I made for her and a doll that I really wanted her to have too. (And a matching apron for the doll.)

Elizabeth is an adorable 8 year old girl that came to New Day this Spring and is recovering from heart surgery. She has stolen my heart, and I think about everyone else's who reads about her as well. I thought I'd share the photos of her opening her gifts so you all can enjoy them too. It was truly a blessing for me to see her beautiful smile and a reminder to me that God sees me in my low points and knows just when I need encouragement to keep me going and reassurance that He walks with me always, leading me through the good and strengthening me through the bad.






Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lei and the Red Dress


(Yes, that is a tear)

When does the indescrible depth found in a child's eyes leave? I'm not sure ... but there is something in the eyes of a child that is so trusting, so true, so purely close to heaven. And then as we become older ... it's somewhat harder to see it seems, at least when we are in less vulerable states. Maybe this is because we become good at hiding our needs or get overwhelmed by our wants or because we become able to provide and protect ourselves (or so we think.) But there is something so pulling and so honest about the look from a child and the return pull that radiates from another heart in response.

I know I have a tender heart when hearing stories about children who are in this world alone. I'd like to believe that God put this ache in my heart for a reason, that maybe it is a small sliver of a speck of something of Him and the ache that He feels ... But I cannot imagine ... and really I don't want to imagine, the lonliness of not having a family ... because no one should be in such a position.

Isn't this little girl absolutely precious? I'd like you to pray for her in the hope that she is on her way to getting a family and that she would not have to spend a second more than absolutely necessary in an orphanage. Her name is Lei and she received a cleft lip surgery in April during a Medical Exchange in Shanghai. Two incredible doctors from MN were a part of the 7th Annual Medical Mission there to preform life-changing miracles for over 20 children over the course of 6 days.

Some day I hope to share more of this story with you all, but for now I'd like you to just pray for Lei who is from Fujian Province. I really don't know much about her except that she was brought to my attention out of the seas of this world because of her medical need and now she's melted back into the tide--but I still keep her in my heart in prayer. If you are in the process of adoption I pray that you would consider a Special Needs Child. Lei's "special need" is so mild, perhaps her greater special need is simply needing a family.
Here are some more photos of her:

Lei's post on LWB website asking for donations so she could be a part of the Medical Surgery in Shanghai in April:



Her photo upon arrival:


Lei following surgery:


Lei at discharge ... back to her orphanage:


I was SO thrilled to hear that Lei received her surgery and that her lip was corrected and looked so awesome! But, my heart sank when I read the words, "she was discharged and returned to her orphanage ..." I hope it is a good one with loving caregivers and adequate food and love. And I hope she gets adopted by a family who will lead her to know her Heavenly Father who will never leave her--ever.

And the Red Dress?
I remember sometime in the last couple of months seeing a photo of a little girl somewhere in Africa, an AIDS orphan ... alone, scared, hungry ... but not really alone ... there was a mass of children in the not so very far distance who unfortunately were in the same place as she was, orphaned.

My instant thought that came across my mind as I saw this photo (while my kids were pulling at my arm to get going to play soccer with them and to step away from the computer) was, "Someone should help her--someone should do something,that is just not right ... isn't there an adult who is charge of this? And then it struck me who the adult was in this scenario ... wow. What a reality check.

I know that I am not supposed to fly to Africa and look for this specific girl or adopt 35 kids. No, there was a reason that my kids were there pulling on my arm, and also a reason why that little girl was there pulling on my heart. Because of both of these polarities pulling on me, my mind was drawn to thinking of who could help her. What would that person look like? What position would they be in? I saw the situation from the vantange point of a child, maybe my own, maybe others and what they all would say. And oddly enough I thought of a mom, just an average mom, who was probably in her 30's or 40's and just as busy with her own kids ... and I'm sure that this moment was not the result of chance because I don't believe in chance much anymore. I really think that God was getting my attention because it was one of those instances that had an almost irridescent clarity apart from the day-to-day kind of things ... and I can recall the passion, emotion and resolve that I felt at that moment as if it had just happened. I can still feel the red color of the dress I saw her wearing ... yes feel the color in my eyes.

And yet here I am still not knowing what I can do. I know that God was getting my attention ... and I am left so overwhelmed by it all I know the only solution possible is to leave it at the feet of someone who IS ABLE to do something. Not just one, not just a person, but someone so much greater, so much larger. I am trying to practice what the one thing I know I can do. That I can afford. That I know deep down is the only answer, the only help. And that is to pray. And I'm left asking why is this so hard? It is so easy and yet so hard to trust that is the answer. I don't know why. But I hope with practice that it becomes easier and more of an instant response instead of trying to DO things myself.
PRAY.
Pray for Lei.
Pray for the little girl in the red dress.
Pray.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do you have room in your heart?

If you have the heart and call to adopt ... yes you ... not the family sitting next to you, but YOU--or if you know someone who is considering adoption, please go HERE to see an adorable little boy named Adam who is looking for a forever family. Could it be yours?

Adam lives at New Day Foster Home which is an extraordinary place for children in China--children who for varying reasons, have special needs of different kinds. I have only been following New Day Foster Home since February but it has been such a blessing in my life to know the work that is being done there through the lives of those who work and volunteer by showing HIS love through their lives and their service and their love to these kids. As I mentioned, the children at ND are all "Special Needs" children--but be careful, you'll fall in love with them and realize that their special need is just that, a condition--sometimes cured, but always addressed. These kids almost seem like extended family to me--I love checking in with their photos on the NDFH blog (see button on the side bar to the right) and reading about their milestones and especially when their forever family is found for them.

Within the Adam blogspot you can click on a link that takes you to "Small World Adoptions" where you will read a most moving description about Adam--God has made him so wonderfully and I am sure he will soon find his forever family. (I love the part about the thumb-sucking, oh my goodness how precious!)

If you're not already familiar with New Day, I encourage you to check it out. I notice so many people click over to our Almy blogsite and I never know who you-all are since I don't hear many comments--but hey, it's still cool to see where everyone is checking in from and to know that somebody checks in to see what we're up to.

Please lift up Adam in your prayers to find that very perfect family of his very own!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Don't Mess With Texas


We were headed into town to do some errands last week when Easton had a dilemma. He had worn his tennis shoes into the swimming pool (okay, it was only one shoe and let me make sure that you understand our definition of a "pool" ... it is a plastic wading pool--nothing grand or fancy.) We only have one pair of tennis shoes each for the kids right now since they outgrow them so fast it seems ... so he either had to wear his rubber farm boots or his cowboy boots on our trip. Of course we discovered this problem when I was already a few minutes behind and we were scurrying to get into the van to go. (I'm sure this never happens to anyone else.)

It was a hot day and so of course he had shorts on, luckily fashion faux pas did not throw him into a tizzy (thank heaven for little boys who do not think of such things!) Normally he would have loved the idea of shorts with boots ... but he was upset that his shoe was wet since I think his older brother actually had something to do with its sogginess. Naps were overdue and he just really had had enough ... and he said so saying so adamantly, "I am SO angry!"-- (which I had to try really hard not to crack a smile at when he said it because he was so solemn and serious about his feelings ... but it was a precious moment of him declaring his feelings while in his shorts and boots. (haha)

The moment reminds me of Jeff's favorite coffee cup that I bought for him a few years ago while I was still working outside the home and I was traveling in Houston. It had printed on it, "Don't Mess With Texas." He loved that cup ... unfortunately it took a heroic dive off a fence post one autumn morning and is no longer a part of our family cupboard collection. However, its memory remains and comes to mind especially on occasions like this. It was definitely a "Don't mess with Tex-Easton" moment.

(Note Nolan's smiley grin from his car-seat just beyond the serious cowboy. Click on the photo to see it larger)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nolan turns one



Nolan turned one this week--wow--it is so amazing what a little man he has become during the last year! I know, I know ... everyone says this. But it is just SO amazing to think that last year he was a bundle in a blanket and now he's all over the house. Oh and he said "Bye" for the first time today--and it was actually used to say goodbye!
It's one of those happy-sad moments of mommy-dom when my baby just isn't such a baby anymore.

We haven't really celebrated his birthday yet, although I have a jello poke-cake in the fridge (lime green jello) and I plan to frost it with CoolWhip and decorate it with a zamboni for tomorrow. Nolan LOVES to watch the zamboni at the ice arena. If anyone gets in his way to watch it clean the ENTIRE ice he will move into whatever position necessary to watch its every move! I'm not sure how I'm going to accomplish this wih the cake ... but something is bound to come to me.

Today we enjoyed the pleasant weather and had a picnic and play-time at the park. Here's a photo of the boys ... sweet aren't they?!



And just so you know that these are real kids and that we're not the Cleaver family (sorry to shatter anybody's dream about that) here's the next second after the previous photo ... oh my ... not so sweet ...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Planting a forest



My husband spent his Saturday planting trees.
Not one or two ... or three or four ... but 100. Yes, one hundred little pine trees are now spreading out their roots and getting used to their new home here on our little acreage. (Notice in the photo all the tiny white flags in a row, each one marks a tree ... and the rows continue up and over the hill double the distance shown here!) But this is not the first time we've done this ... but more like the fourth or fifth, if you count the 80+ bushes we planted in 1998 around a Pioneer Cemetary that is supposedly located in the middle of our hay field (but that's a different story with several painful twists that I will have to share another day.)

But getting back to the trees. We/He first started out with the plan to do 50 new trees to replace those in our current wind breaks that we've been working on over the past 6 years and to also begin a new wind break half way through the field. It seems like when we usually plant these in April-June I'm 9 months pregnant and painfully helping (barely able to bend over my giant pregnant belly--and yet, we only have 3 children ... so apparently our planting schedule is spaced exactly with our children, hmmm) so he's gotten used to doing much of this on his own (or at least increasingly on his own.) In fact, I think he enjoys the time with the land and quiet time communing with God (at least that's what I'd like to believe so I don't feel quite so bad for not being there 100 percent, although I gotta say I have definitely gotten elbow deep in it plenty.) In fact, by the time Jeff retires I am imagining there being a forest out my window and not so much of a field!

You see Jeff is such a hard worker and so very passionate for the things he sets his mind to doing. I guess one of the things I admire most about him is his vision... and his ability to not only think big, but to carry through. This appreciation does sometimes take some time to grasp though ... When I picked up the seedlings last week from a friend who ordered them for us I commented, "why do our husbands not share the same passions as we do?" We chuckled ... but I kept thinking of this and I can now appreciate more how God weaves us together in our differences as well as our likenesses. We are not all the same in our purpose, our passions or in our interests ... but in a greater way we are doing our part to be His children, uniquely and specifically made for His purpose. And as for my husband,I may not always have my heart in exactly the same passions as his, but I am along side him and I'm always amazed at his dream and I know that we both do share the same passion as the greater HIM ... and along side HIM we will continue to be amazed at HIS dream and HIS purpose for us all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Little girl things

I made the opportunity to work on a project this week that was just so me. It was something that I don't often (if ever ... okay never) get the chance to work on ... I love to sew stuff, especially little girl stuff. And I think it's been percalating deep down inside for a long time because once I got the idea in my head things just took off like no tomorrow. Most of the time I simply do not have time to work on this kind of thing ... and when I might, I talk myself out of it reminding myself that my focus should be on BOYS. That's what we have, that's what I should put my energy toward. But there is a part of me that sometimes oozes over and I cannot contain the girl-ness that is within me. This week I was inspired by a story that I recently read on a friend's blog page.

You may be familiar with the story of this sweet little girl Elizabeth. I have been praying for her and thinking of her so often and this day, seeing her and her beautiful smile just melted the little girl in me and I just thought ... ya know ... I think if she's gonna bake, she needs an apron. Maybe I just needed an excuse to make something girly, maybe it's just fun to give gifts, maybe it's an outlet for my creativity or maybe it's a call back to my childhood when I had my own apron and I used to bake with my own mom. But I really had so much fun making this and it went SO well it was worth it already.

My boys humored me by helping pick out the material (which was remarkable that they were okay with helping me do this ... I mean come on! They're boys ... ALL boy in fact ... and a fabric store is NOT a fun place for them!) I was leaning toward a different color when Brayden really insisted that the red and black would be best. (He was really against the pink and flowers! LOL) And as I was making it I thought it needed a little pizazz in the center area and was able to find a piece of black and white material in my stash that I've had for a long time (we're talking over a decade) that I'm not even sure why I bought other than I liked the pattern of it. It has an Asian calligraphy feel to it and I've never used any of it until now and it really made the whole project come together.

You can find the sewing instructions and pattern here.
It is such a good tutorial and turned out to be the perfect pattern for what I had in mind. Not too frilly, not too grown up ... something that could be used for baking or for art projects or to dress up in over regular clothes.

But here's the kicker ... when I finished the little girl version, (And keep in mind that this entire project at this point had taken about 3-4 hours WHILE entertaining 3 boys, making lunch and playing some soccer games in between sewing and pinning so it went together incredibly smoothly) I got the idea that this was not a done deal. Once again, I'm thinking the little girl in me got loose ... and if I were the wearer of this apron, I would want a little one just like it for my doll. Well, I put this idea off ... because the logical part of me tried very hard to talk me out of it. But unfortunately sometimes when I get an idea in my head and it's already too late to stop the creative process. I remembered this really cool doll that my 8 year old nieces got for Christmas this year that they absolutely love. It has eyes that close when she lays down, arms and legs that move, a soft body, and long lovely comb-able hair and I remembered how reasonably priced my sister said it was. She was SO surprised in fact because it was such a beautiful doll. (The store I bought it at is a BIG craft store that starts with the letters "Mich***s". I wish she was a little less American looking ... but she does have darker hair and brown eyes.

Well I have no idea if this little girl likes dolls or not, but the little apron that goes with the doll only took an hour to put together and it really is cute! So, I have my fingers crossed that she enjoys it at least half as much as I enjoyed making it. If anyone would like the dimensions for the 18" doll apron I'd be happy to post them (you'll need the child apron instructions as a sewing reference as I just have measurement numbers not a fancy tutorial), just let me know. Maybe I'll just have to make one for myself next. (haha)

Enjoy the photos :-)
And if you want to send the little gal some more clothes for her wardrobe you can get them at the aforementioned store ... or make them yourself for an 18" doll!



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Llamas for loving




Do you like a bargain? I do.

I came across a great sale at P*tteryB*rnK*ds this week that was just TOO good to pass up. They have these crib sheets on sale for 4.99! I've been keeping my eye on them for a couple of months wishing that I could budget for a few of them to send to New Day Foster Care. Originally priced at 19.00 that was certainly out of the ballpark, then they went on sale and slowly slipped downward until they reached 6.99--where I thought they would remain ... I still wasn't sure if this was something that I should be budgeting for. But this week they went to 4.99 and I felt very compelled to act.

I am simply a mom with a heart for children--especially children who have been given so little and yet still cherish things that they can call their own--and what's one thing that all children love?! ... their bed! Just imagine their little noses snuggling down into these little llamas, butterflies and bunnies.

If anyone would like to join me in fulfilling this or another need off the NDFC wish list this would be a great opportunity!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Way Up North



We just returned from a family trip over the Memorial Week and I'm glad to report that since I last blogged the stitches in Brayden's head have dissolved and the wounds are well on their way to healing and just being a birthday to remember (see Birthday Blues below to read about that story.) Now, my youngest will turn ONE next week ... and we will have a quiet celebration at home--I hope! :-)

I thought I'd post some photos of the boys on their fishing trip last week. This post will mostly be a photographic essay. We had all three boys along with Jeff and myself and Grandma on our first day out on the lake. Wow. That was a busy day. Easton was a bit disappointed in the lack of fish immediately taking his bobber (how funny 3.5 year olds are!) It was no wonder he liked the second day we took the family out on another lake for a few evening hours of Sunny and Crappie fishing with another family. It was fish after fish and so fun just watching for the bobber to go under! And it was exciting enough that Nolan was just content watching the boys excitedly haul in the fish and Jeff getting them off the hook and me ... well ... trying my hardest. Man they are slippery fellows! I did get better at it each time.








Inspired by the nice weather and the opportunity to take a half hour to myself, I started running again while on our vacation. Which is good since our health insurance will give us a break if we complete a fitness program in the next month. It is humbling to start up again where I left off 1 son ago! (How's that for a way to mark time ... by children ... it's definitely a mom thing!) Not easy, but I'm hoping for perserverence and strong will to stick with it. I'll keep ya posted on that. It's hard to believe that 7 years ago I was able to do sprint distance triathlons. I guess that's something to shoot for once again.

And our trip was not to Alaska as the song might lead you to believe ... but it was up North from here.

Check These Out! --Wild Olive Tees

If you haven't seen these before, you gotta check these shirts out! They are so cool!
wildolivetees.com
Not only are the T-shirts way-cool ... they donate a portion of their proceeds to charity ... their current chosen charity is Love Without Boundaries, a charity dedicated to helping impoverished children receive life saving surgeries. You may remember the quilt that I made for their auction earlier this Spring. In case you are curious the winning bid took it home for around $132 dollars! And the auction in total raised enough money to fund life saving surgeries for 5 precious children!

Wild Olive has SO many neat shirts I think I'd like to clean out my wardrobe and start fresh with just theirs :-) But that may be a bit too bold of a step for my pocketbook all at once, but it would be a great statement! My favorite is Beloved (red) and I happen to wear a 10/12 (Jeff if you're shopping for a birthday present for me.)

Go check it out, you won't be disappointed!

The family

The family