Monday, March 31, 2014

Thankfullness - 1000 Gifts March II

16. 3 Hard Eucharisteos
  • Having parents who are missionaries--living across the world, so far away--and yet doing as they are called by the Lord.
  • Having given up living near family, following the pattern of most of my life, in order to follow in obedience to the Lord. Working a job that is a ministry and a gift.
  • The pangs of labor, resulting in a gift from the Lord.

17.  A Gift Turned, Folded, Hung
  • Turned: the three year old who, storming away from me in an angry fit at being told no, stops, turns of her own decision, and returns to me to me to "talk about it"
  • Folded:
  • Hung: two gorgeous skirts, free of cost, exactly the style I've been wanting
18. 3 Gifts Red
  • Roses, given by my love, in full bloom full of sweetness and promise.
  • Crisp apples, sweet and tasty
  • A velvety Christmas dress, hanging in the wardrobe, waiting for the next time of celebration.
 19.  3 Gifts Eaten
  • fresh baked bread with honey on top
  • granola and yoghurt first thing in the  morning
  • roast chicken that stretches into a meal of chicken tacos and then stretches further into chicken veggie soup
20. 3 Gifts That Make You Laugh
  • Baby Q leaning forward to give a slobbery, wet, open-mouth kiss
  • Silly girls all talking at once to share a story about school, running into each other with their words and giggling over nothing in the end
  • My Blueberry informing me we are playing "I'm the mommy doggy, doggy is the baby doggy, and you're the grandma doggy. Daddy can be grandpa."
21. A Gift Salty, Sweet, Just Right
  • Salty caramel chocolate
22. 3 Gifts Found in His Word
  • Hope
  • A Future
  • Savior
23.  3 Gifts found in Women Today
  • Motherhood - a continuation of the role from the beginning of time
  • Compassion for others
  • Leadership in the church--mentoring to other women. 
24.  3 Gifts Spoken
  • "I love you"
  • An encouraging phone call on a tired day.
  • "You're beautiful."
25. A Gift Sung, Written, Painted
  • "Let it Go" sung by a goat. Because it made me laugh.
  • Madeline L'Engle - Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art  Such a continual source of inspiration--both spiritually and in my arts.
  • Rainbow colors of a freshly painted picture by my three year old.
26. 3 Gifts Almost Gone
  • A plate of sticky rice and somtam. A taste of home.
  • Another month in 2014. So quickly they pass, so precious each day, even the ones that seem to drag on.
  • A TV show that has made me laugh and given me times of distance from sometimes stressful days.
27. 3 Gifts Redeemed
  • My parents, missionaries to a nation in desperate need of a Savior.
  • My brother and his wife--serving those who are so often considered lesser.
  • My sister and her husband--teaching children; reaching out to friends; love and laughter.
 28. 3 Gifts Entwined
  • baby arms and mommy arms--held together
  • Hands with my husband, sleeping in the night.
  • Matching mommy and toddler toes, rosy red, bonded in paint.
 29. 3 Gifts of His Promise
  • A future in heaven
  • Purification, even from the times I just flat out fail.
  • "I have called you friends" John 15:15
30. 3 Gifts Uncovered
  • Baby toes wiggling in the grass
  • Lost socks buried underneath a bookshelf when we need more socks or be forced to buy more.
  • Toes, free in sandals, rejoicing in heat after the cold of bitter winter.
31. A gift heard, held, hoped
  • A longed for baby cry in the dark, arms wrapped around my neck for comfort and love.

    Sunday, March 30, 2014


    As of today, all references to Baby Q will now be Z. Because really that's what I use as his written nickname more than anything else any ways, and he's growing up so quickly, Z will be easier to refer to. Just an FYI for those who are confused as to where this new child suddenly sprang from.

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    Daybook - March 29, 2014

    Outside my window...rain just started bucketing down. It's been raining off and on all day, but this still took me a little bit by surprise. I've found rain tends to be very fierce around here at times.

    I am thinking...all my girls (and my one little boy) tucked in their beds and saying a prayer for each of them tonight.

    I am thankful for...a compliment we received a few days ago from a mom of one of our cottage girls. She was commenting about how much she wants her daughter to be here because of the marked changes she has seen in her in just two months. That was encouragement I needed after a rough few weeks.

    I am also thankful for how generously my children are included in all the activities of this campus. That is not always the case at children's homes, and the staff children sometimes get ignored and left out. Not here--not by a long shot. I cannot begin to express how much that means to me.

    From the learning rooms...[or in our case--the learning brain]...for Blueberry, she just continues to constantly grow in her vocabulary and understanding of things. We had to get on to some of the older girls the other day for talking in front of her about her like she wouldn't understand!

    For Baby Q, he's added please to his repertoire of sign language and the work "ook" (look) is his favorite one to use...all day long. "Ook" at the tree. "Ook" at the birds. "Ook" at my big sister. "Ook at the rice you're cooking and not yet feeding me (followed by a tantrum to get some rice.).

    From the kitchen...came a blessedly easy day for me. Cereal for breakfast. Lunch provided by a group who came to tour and hang out with the kids. Dinner for most of the girls provided by one of their mom's. Whenever they come to visit, they tend to bring huge dishes of African food that we freeze and eat up slowly (well, the girls who like it eat it up). Which simplifies cooking for me as that's about half the cottage taken care of for at least one or two meals when we do those!

    I am wearing...pajamas--because it's that time of night folks.

    I am creating...plans on sleeping some day for a whole six or seven hours in a row. Perhaps just wishful thinking. We were doing good until Baby Q got sick and then he decided to add to his already copious amounts of teeth for a 13 month old (seriously, the kid has 10 or 11 teeth already and he's working on another 3 or 4--he's only 13 months old. What possessed him to think he needs that many teeth!!!?).

    I am church tomorrow. At least I hope I am (praying against any sickness falling on anyone else despite some warning signs--see my "I am hearing" post).

    In my mailbox today.. .nothing I'm assuming, as the mailman doesn't deliver to us on Saturdays. However, I did receive a much wanted package the other day full of leggings for Blueberry to put under her skirts and dresses. Very happy with these. Not the long leggings that will make her hot in the summer, but not the short skimpy shorts either. These come just above her knees and will make this whole learning-to-tumble-playing-outside-with-boys business a lot better.

    I am reading.. .Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card. Book three in the Bean saga which follows Ender's Game. Such good writing.

    I am hearing...coughing from various people including me. Praying it doesn't worsen for anyone else. Blueberry had a fever last weekend (and severe cough) followed by Baby Q followed by me. Not fun.

    Around the house...I've done pretty well with keeping up with our personal apartment these last few weeks, but it's definitely needing a good clean/tidy. And I have to get the bills and TAXES done. Yuck. Things to look forward to on my week off--not.

    One of my favorite things...watching my daughter blossom socially. Today she made friends with a five year old and I had to laugh as they carefully sat and painted each other's nails. Too cute for words.

    A few plans for the rest of the week: survive. We are heading into our last week of a four week shift. I'm tired. Lots of events have happened. Lots of people taking trips. Lots of changes. And the state inspector is coming week after next so we're all double checking that we have everything in order for that--which of course is a lot of extra work.

    Here is picture (or more) for thought I am sharing...

    Squirrel whom we discovered eating a nut while sitting directly outside the kitchen window. Completely ignoring the fact that 11 people were all fascinatedly staring at him eat his dinner. Baby Q was mesmerized. Such cute!

    Want to join in? Go check out The Simple Woman's Daybook.

    Sunday, March 16, 2014

    Thankfulness: 1000 Gifts - March

    1. 3 Gifts at 3pm:
    • a slumbering child
    • a six year old learning to talk and share her thoughts and needs instead of just wailing at shutting down
    • sorting household supplies and finding free Puffs tissues (because I'm a tissue snob but I'm also cheap--so getting my soft tissues for free makes my day a little brighter)
    2.  3 Gifts Green:
    • asparagus, because really lightly sautéed asparagus is one of the natural wonders of this world
    •  a new-to-us raincoat of mint for my Blueberry who loves to jump in the puddles in the rain
    • Wild onions releasing their scent to the air, promising spring is coming
    3.  3 Gifts Hard to Give Thanks For:
    • Nursing moments at 1am--because even though I'm tired and I don't want to be awake, feeling soft chubby arms clinging to my neck makes it all better. 
    • My former place of employment. I might not be a houseparent now if I hadn't started out there, and even though I don't want to go back, I have to be grateful for the opening to this pathway we are now on.
    • My snoring husband--because even though it's an annoying sound at times, I have a great man in my life who chooses to sleep next to me every night because that's where he wants to be
    4.  3 Gifts Wore:
    • a sparkling ring on my finger that even after 13 years of use still brings a smile to my face
    • Comfy shoes that don't leave my feet aching at the end of a busy day
    • earrings--because every time I put them on, I can't help but remember a gracious boss who gave me money for my birthday one year with strict instructions that I had to spend it on something completely frivolous and entirely for me. As we were newlyweds and definitely not making much, she allowed me to do something I had wanted to do for many years and not feel guilty for spending money on such a frivolity  
    5. 3 Gifts Found:
    • a second toddler shoe hiding underneath a chair so that she could quickly go out and play
    • a voice message from a friend for no other reason than that she cared
    • blueberries, hiding in a grocery bag, because my husband knew they would make me happy
    6. A Gift Bent, Broken, Beautiful
    • a poorly folded piece of paper, handed to me by my daughter, with scribbles and wrinkles and dots and lines all mixed up together to tell me a “story” of love
    7. 3 Gifts in the Kitchen
    • a full refrigerator on a slim budget
    • black and white aprons and mini-girl aprons too
    • hot and toast bread fresh out of the oven, ready to be smeared with honey  and devoured
    8. 3 Gifts Loud
    • a houseful of rambunctious girls, all wanting to talk to me at once 
    • shrieks of laughter from the playground 
    • a chattering voice of a 3 year old who truly wants to share every thought with me—all day long
    9. 3 Gifts Carved
    • a 30 minute nap for me, wrapped in love, carved out by my husband
    • my Cradle to the Cross wreath
    • 5 minutes of solitude and peace and a prayer breathed, carved from a busy dinner hour
    10. 3 Gifts in Christ
    • forgiveness 
    • hope 
    •  future
    11. 3 Gifts Read
    • a birthday card from loving grandparents far away 
    • a note with a thank you in it from a girl often trying and proud 
    • blog posts showing the walk in Christ of a new believer, a beloved author
    12. A Gift in Wind, in Water, in White
    • wind: The awe inspiring roar that swooped around the cottage this evening, blowing in a storm in the brilliance of sunshine 
    • water: the cleansing taste of my favorite drink 
    • white: memories of a winter’s day of snow dogs and snow angels and snow ball fights on a three year old level
    13. 3 Gifts Round
    • blueberry goodness to burst in my mouth
    • full little baby bellies, today full with blueberries (apparently he's thankful for them as well)
    • the succulent look of a bottle of Kombucha ready to be savored. 
    14. 3 Gifts Found in Silence
    •  sleeping babies, sleeping husband, sleeping children....time to stretch and contemplate and pray without distraction.
    • breathing time, concentration on the act of slowing down, resting in the peace
    • bird song heard across the expanse of lawn
     15. 3 Gifts Given Away
    •  a hug at 2am to help a bad dream
    • time from a friend who was willing to put off her shopping trip so we could talk
    • a quick prayer in a time of stress

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    7 Quick Takes (vol. 33)

    #1 - Not to jinx it, but the last few nights have been luxurious. Baby Q has only woken up once in the night to be nursed and then has slept until 7 or later in the morning. Even though I still have to be up at 5:30 6:00 to wake the girls up for school, that's still a longer, more solid chunk of sleep than I have experienced in quite awhile. It's amazing how much easier the brain can function on even half-way decent amounts of sleep.

    #2 - Our latest work project in the cottage has been finishing off the one room in the cottage we were using as our staging grounds for our boxes, etc. I'm pleased with the result. We're calling it the Ladybug room (although there is not one single decoration of a ladybug in the room--but many live variants seem to believe it is their personal room in the cottage....), and it is intended to be a craft/toy staging area for the girls. They seemed pretty pumped about it when they saw it yesterday.

    #3 - Our next projects are to finish hanging up the last few decorations in the cottage and to give it a severe spring cleaning (state inspectors coming in a few weeks--gulp! Actually it shouldn't be too bad as we keep up with it pretty well, but it's getting the nooks and crannies that sometimes get missed in the day to day business of living--that's the key). The decorations are thanks to an amazing sponsor of the children's home. For our cottage Christmas present, she handed me a substantial gift card to Hobby Lobby. FINALLY made it there this week and had fun picking up pictures and the last few items we needed to really get the cottage completed. Took me several hours to figure out the best deals, but thanks to the wonderful discounts of Hobby Lobby, I think I spent our gift rather well!


    #4 - Continuing on the vein of cottage news for this Quick Takes, we're going to have an unusual few days around here. We've got a bunch of girls going on family visits for the weekend, and then another set of girls going to a school trip the first part of next week. Might actually be quiet for once! I'll take what I can get this shift as we've still got three weeks left (for a total of four weeks on).


    #5 - It's funny how my life is now broken up into three week thought patterns. Because of the length of our shifts, we get one full week off at a time when we are off. Which is great. You can take a mini vacation just about every month! With no stopping in-between or course. Back in December, my parents purchased tickets to come visit us in May. That seemed like ages away, and in some ways still seems quite a ways away, except for the part that I really only have one more off-time between now and when they come and visit us. That really changes my perspective of time! So close!


    #6 - When we first started working here, I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle these long shifts well. Truth is, I really love them. There is a sense of regularity and rhythm that is a part of our day to day lives here that was often missing where we were before when we worked for six days and were off for three. Its definitely easier on the kids, and feels less fractured for us. And even though, in many ways, we're responsible for more things here (we do all the cooking for one), I never feel as overwhelmed as I used to, partially because of not feeling like you're either just back on duty and trying to get back into rhythm or prepping to go off duty and getting ready to pass everything on to another individual. Of course, it's somewhat limiting in our timing ability, but that's okay. It feels better overall.


    #7 - Mind you, the flip side of working so many days in a row, is that if you have a rough patch of time, you can't look forward to being off or catching up on sleep any time soon. You have to just work through it. Which is really more like a regular family, I suppose.

    For example, we have a little one in the cottage who has been fighting going to sleep at night. Last night, just for a change of pace in solving this issue, we went ahead and got her out of bed and had her sit and write sentences until she was ready to go sleep. Very boring and sleep inducing activity--even for a stubborn one! Problem being, by the time we actually got her to go to bed quietly (as opposed to wailing and waking up the whole house--the alternative), it was late. I hadn't had any down time for almost the whole day, and I still desperately needed my unwinding time. Which means that even with Baby Q being obliging in his sleep patterns the last few days (knock on wood), I still am up and feeling sleep deprived! Grrrrr... Oh well, one step at a time.

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    On Giving Thanks in the Lenten Season

    For the last few years I have been a faithful reader of Ann at A Holy Experience, taking solace in her failures, triumphs, and attitude towards her walk with the Lord.

    While I have never read her actual book One Thousand Gifts, I have read enough of her to understand her ideas and concept behind it. And because she is generous in creating her Joy Dare and challenge of finding the gifts of the every day, I am finally actually utilizing what she has offered.

    Really it started as I prayed for a way to bring a change of thought and attitude to some of our "other children." All too often in this line of work--at least here in American it seems--a pervasive attitude of entitlement creeps into the thought patterns of these children. Ironically because there are so many incredibly generous people pouring into their lives, they begin to lose the sense of thankfulness and instead begin to expect the generosity.

    In the last few weeks in particular, I really heard a negative spirit of "me" creeping into some voices in the cottage, and as we were moving into the Lent season, I felt God prompting me to put the challenge to them to start looking for all the things to be thankful for in their lives.

    Loath to ask them to do something I do not do myself, I will be posting my own Thanksgivings. Probably in chunks because while searching them out in my life is not so hard, sitting down and stealing enough time every day to write about them doesn't always happen (enter realism).

    Monday, March 10, 2014

    Daybook - March 8, 2014

    Outside my window...the weather has been its usual crazy self this week. We went from 60s and 70s to rainy and slight ice of the 30s/40s, and back up to nearly 70 today with blazing sunshine. I have an atmospheric headache.

    I am thinking..of turning 33 this year. And other slight depressed thoughts.

    I am thankful for...lemon meringue pie for my birthday. Even if I did have to make it myself.

    From the learning rooms...[or in our case--the learning brain]...
    Baby Q is finally using sign language. More and Food and an argument could be made for diaper, but we'll see. He's also been making a distinct effort at stating "thank you."

    Blueberry and I have been making a concerted effort at learning a bunch of nursery rhymes. Nana gave her a fantastic sticker/activity book with beautiful illustrations quite awhile ago. We've been deliberately working through the book, one page at a time, learning the rhymes as we go along. Many of them are ones we've sung before, but there's been quite a few in there that were new to her and even a few I've had to look up to remember how they go!

    From the kitchen...came Blueberry Cinnamon French Toast. This is a variation of my mother's recipe, Apple Cinnamon French Toast--which is a great favorite of the cottage girls. My rather brilliant husband brought home blueberry's the other day and suggested I make a blueberry version of it (was already going to make the apple version for the girl's). Um, amazing. Need to try it with strawberries sometimes because I think that'll be even better.

    I am creating...plans for some intentional learning on my Blueberry's part. After some thinking and reading and idea seeking, I've finally settled on starting to do something called Before Five in a Row. Essentially it's a program in which you read through a book five times, combined with activities to enhance learning etc.

    Why am I doing this? Well, a large part of it is that, as we already plan on homeschooling our children, I want to start intentionally building into our schedule and lives "schooling" time while it isn't as important. Get into the habit now, so that it is easier later kind of idea. That and it gives me some focused time with our kid(s). Any ways, more about this at a later point, but I'm excited to get into this in the near future.

    I am the consignment store sometime in the next few weeks.

    In my mailbox today.. .I have absolutely no idea because we failed to pick up the post on Friday and now I have to wait until Monday. Sigh. I should have a few packages though!

    I am reading.. .Ender's Game. Because I went to go see the new movie a few months ago, and it had been so long since I read the book, that it's been bugging me ever since. So reading i am.

    I am hoping...that this stomach ache/body ache will stop soon. Tried out a new restaurant this week with a supposed GF menu. But as I've been sick feeling ever since, not as GF as I was hoping. Sigh.

    I am hearing...the delightful tunes of Pentatonix. My birthday present from my husband because I truly love their sound.

    Around the house...I did a bit of rearranging while we were off. Contents of one cupboard got shifted to another place and those contents got shifted to a third place while the contents of the third place went to the first place kind of business. We'll see if it was worth it in the end. 900 square feet is surprisingly tricky to organize!

    One of my favorite things...Lemon Meringue pie. Don't even need the pie crust. Just the custard and the meringue will do it.

    A few plans for the rest of the week: Go to Hobby Lobby. Finish the craft/toy room we're working on for the cottage. Deep clean my carpet.

    Here is picture (or more) for thought I am sharing...
    Baby Q eyeing his big sister to see what he should be doing next. Because he adores her. For more adorable pictures, see my other blogs: Blueberry Bits, All in the Z, and My Life in Scraps

    Want to join in? Go check out The Simple Woman's Daybook.

    Saturday, March 8, 2014

    On Turning 33

    I turned 33 this week.

    It's funny, birthdays never really emotionally bother me a whole lot. Turning 21--fun but no huge deal. Turning 30, I barely noticed. It's amusing to laugh about it, but really, they never impact me much. But for some reason, turning 33 this year has been a little rough on me.

    Why is this, I wonder? Is it just the thought that I'm realistically moving into my mid-30s? Or is there some biological/emotional point people hit at this age?

    I'm in a good place in my life, or so I feel. I mean, there are always areas that I'm striving to change and improve upon. But realistically, I have a loving husband, two beautiful, healthy children, a house full of other children to care for as well, stable work, food, shelter, a loving family, and experiences in my life that I know are more than some people have in their whole lifetimes.

    I have everything to be grateful for. Little to complain about. 

    And yet I feel this deep sadness this week for my birthday this year.

    I turn to the Scriptures, as ever, for my comfort. And on a whim, I turned to the Psalms of the 3s. What I found was a good reminder of what to turn to:

    Psalm 33:3
    "Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy."

    Psalm 3:33
    "But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high."

    And so I start my 33rd year seeking to give thanks to the Lord and to rest in the security of the Lord as my shield and the up-lifter of my life. 

    One Year Ago Today

    On this day, one year ago, we completely changed our lives. We drove away from jobs and home and loved ones to a new adventure of the very m...