Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I've Been A Little Sidetracked and Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours! I pray you have a blessed and the most amazing Thanksgiving yet!
      I've been a little (ok, a lot) sidetracked….mostly with a head cold that ended up giving me laryngitis for the better part of a week. I had to cry Uncle and just get by. Ugh. Blogging has had to go by the wayside which I hate to do….but had to nonetheless. Thankfully I'm on the mend just in time to ring in the holiday. Does it seem to you that yesterday was the start of school and all of a sudden Thanksgiving is here??! Yikes! Christmas is less than a month away y'all!! That's super crazy and to be frank….I'm a little panicked. I'm not sure how to get it all done in between working a lot in December but alas….it will happen. I may will definitely have to kick it up a notch but that's not unheard of around here:)

On that note we are off to yet another great adventure!! This time we are going somewhere we have never been and are VERY excited about! Check back in soon to see where the Princess Collection ended up this Thanksgiving holiday! It's either going to be loads of fun or we're totally crazy for doing what we're doing. We think it's the former….but hey. Why just the little ladies with us this time? We have the big kids every other holiday, so this year we aren't with them for Thanksgiving. (Insert sad face here from me….) We will ALL be together for a gigantic Christmas which is going to be spectacular. So for now….off we go! Gobble gobble! (Hint: Be sure to follow us on Instagram and/or FB because we won't have internet where we are going for blogging….but there just may be some hints posted on FB or Instagram from our phones! Yep, we're going off grid….smile!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

These Hands

These hands that could've very well been recipients of a shoe box themselves……are now packing them for others.

These hands that once knew want……are now being salt and light to those they don't even know…or even speak the same language.

These hands that have no idea what lies beyond our country's borders……are sending hope into war-torn, poverty-stricken lands where other little hands live out their everyday.

These hands are being trained…..that it's not all about them. This world is a mission field... this life is short, and people matter…for eternity.

These hands fold and pray…..for those little girls, the same age as them….that will soon hold this very shoebox, read the letter, see the picture, hold the toys, ….and know someone just like them very far away….is their friend and is praying for them.

These hands….joined with thousands all across our country can make a difference. It's national collection week. It's not to late to make your shoebox(es). Be the hands. www.operationchristmaschild.org

We don't do a gazillion boxes. Each girl does one….personalized from them. They each pick out every item, write a personal letter and include a pic. Maybe one day we'll do volume….but not now. We want them to own this….and they are.

Each girl praying specifically for the girl that will receive her box. Last year ours went to Lebanon, Africa and the Caribbean. Where will they go this year?


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Marion, You Changed Me

     Our lives lately have been cray. You know that mad rush to get everything done….projects, lessons, school, volunteering at school and church. I love it all but sometimes you've gotta get off the train.
     This past Thursday our cute little 3rd graders had a field trip. I'm ashamed to say that I almost didn't go on this field trip because I have been just too busy. Something tugged at me though and I went.
      One of our mom's has started a non-profit called 'Bags of Blessings' at the hospital nearest us. Each child gets a canvas bag and in it goes items to benefit each of the 5 senses of someone during a hospital stay…..add a Bible with unique bookmark made by cute child and you have a gift bag guaranteed to 'bless the socks off' a patient. It's an awesome idea started and sustained by our awesome friends. Our Lil Mei Mei had her bag poised over her tiny shoulders as she entered our local hospital's Cancer Ward. Yep. We were entering the lives of those whose lives had been forever changed by C. I was expectant but yet not really knowing what was yet to come.
     I gotta admit….I was giddy with excitement. There's nothing I love more than blessing others who aren't expecting it….AND to make it even better, teaching children to do the same. There's something about taking your daughter whom herself was brought out of abject poverty to minister to someone else experiencing their own degree of lack. You can just 'feel' God at work. But ……we weren't expecting Marion.
     The hospital chaplain guided us each into a room….mother with child…or in our case Mother, Mei Mei and her beloved 3rd grade teacher….and we came face to face with Marion. Marion has cancer. She's 80. She's absolutely a precious, humble lady. We introduced ourselves and I encouraged my uber-shy all-of-a-sudden-little-bit-of-a-girl to give her Blessing Bag to Marion. She did. We dissected it to show Marion each gift she could use during her hospital stay. There was perfume, breath mints, granola bars, a blanket. Marion seemed pleased. Mei Mei presented her with the Bible….opened it up to Jeremiah 29:11 which had been highlighted. There in the fold was a bookmark decorated by Mei with yet another scripture to encourage.  Then Marion looked at us.
      "I've been waiting for you to come all day. I'm so excited you are here, " she stated. She told us a little about herself, her children, her life. She came to Florida from Pennsylvania. Her children are all grown and live in other states. She asked about us. We found out her husband is not well and unable to visit her. He's under home-health care in their retirement community.
     "Who is coming to be with you here if your husband can't?" I asked her. Then Marion dropped the bomb.
     "No one," she stated simply. "I'm here alone. You have been the first visitors I've had since I've been here. There is no one else. Today,  I've been waiting all day for you."
     I was undone. Imagine having cancer…being forced to make decisions about your health, not feeling well already, eating, sleeping and existing in hospital setting and being ALL ALONE. I asked her if she was able to read.
     "Not much" she said, "Only a little at a time. But I will read this Bible."
     "Then you are a  person of faith?" I asked her. (We were given boundaries about which we could talk about before we went in.)
     "Yes, I am. I sit here each day and wait. I wait with God." was her answer.
     I asked her permission to pray for her….I knew we had already passed our time allotment and the rest of our group would be waiting. It was hard to leave Marion.
     "Oh yes," she said. "Please pray that God will help me. The pain, there is so much pain. I'm not sure how much I can endure. I need God's help."
     We bowed our heads….the four of us. By now I was a puddle. Somehow I got through a prayer…..crying the entire time. Our sweet teacher prayed….in her own puddle. Then…the icing on the cake was when my little Mei Mei layed her hands on this old woman…..and prayed out loud for her. This little daughter whom herself has had to fight for so much. This little girl who was left in a box at the gate of an orphanage……was now praying for an old woman who was more than likely not going to live much longer. Would she die alone? Bold, clear, words based on scripture came from Mei Mei's  mouth. Holy, holy ground. God's presence was evident. How do you get up and walk away from this?
      "Thank you for coming," said Marion, "Mei Mei, Do you mind if I hug you?"
     They hugged. We all hugged one last pausing moment... and walked out the door…..forever changed.
     I know Marion is only one. One of millions of orphans and elderly that have no one that go through each day of sickness with no one to help them. I cannot get Marion off my mind. We will be seeing her again….I know it.
     Thank you Marion for slowing me down…..for helping me refocus this week on that which is important…….and for helping me see Jesus through you. Thank you Marion for helping me 'get off the train' and redirect my attention to that which enforces my job here on this earth. I am forever changed.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Run Like A Mother

     Several months ago.....over 6 to be exact the Doc and I made a decision.....to run a half-marathon together. There were several reasons for this. No, we aren't total idiots (or are we??!) because I had done one before .....lets just say a VERY long time ago....and since then I have done sprint triathlons, 5k's, 10k's but to date nothing longer than that first half-marathon. Since we have adopted the girls I have been really sporatic about running/exercising because of 1. time, 2. time, 3. time., 4. who would I leave the girls with? 5. time. 6. adoption issues. 7. Did I say time? Since the littles are not in a 5 day a week all day school where I drop them off and go (none of our kiddos have been educated that way)....time to train has been spotty.
     This year...it was time. (Cue Rocky music here.) You see, I had a rather big birthday this year. I am determined not to age 'old' nor age with 'plastic' but to age fit. It is an incredible amount of work. I also think it's important to challenge yourself with hard both mentally and physically as we continue to 'run our races' until our last day on this planet. I want my life to not be wasted....I don't want to grow old and 'soft'. Retirement is simply not an option. Whether in my 50's, 60's or 70's in order to be able to serve unhindered in His Kingdom you must stay fit on the inside and outside. I just don't see it as an option. Also, I want to set an example for my children to follow....and to leave a legacy they would want to emulate. I want my children to not be afraid of hard….even when the challenge seems insurmountable. I (We) felt it was important to show them this. This race was a bucket list thing for me and one I want to continue...... So I put on my running shoes and started going....hot flashes and all. 
     The Doc and I have been training. He is also training for his 3rd Ironman next year so I knew he was in better shape than me. However.....he has not done any kind of formal race for time since he was hit by a car while riding his bike a few years ago in a near fatal accident. (Cue crickets here.) It has been a rough road for this guy. He knows suffering. He doesn't complain. I've watched it all. He's healed. I fell apart but came back even stronger. Yep, Team Mama and the Doc are a force.
     We both knew we had similar, yet different points to prove by completing this Half-Marathon.( For you non-runners....it's 13.1 miles of trudging.... one.foot.in.front.of.the.other.) Yes, it's a physical test of endurance but for me.....it's proving that I can overcome.....that I can commit to a challenge and win....that I don't have to accept aging without a fight..because it IS a fight...and that if you put your mind to something hard and do the sweating, toiling work....it can and will reap a dividend. Women...it's ok to sweat. In fact it will inspire your children to work hard and do the same.
     We chose Disney's Wine and Dine Half-Marathon to complete for several reasons. You can probably guess the first two....you get to Wine....and you get to Dine because the end of  this race stops at the entrance to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival that takes place each year at this time. It's one of our fav events to attend to so win, win, win, win. The catch for this race was that it started at ahem.....10pm. Oh, and that's the elite runners only. (Sorry to say that's not us…heh.) Over 14,000 runners ran this race this year. The waves of progressively slower runners are started at regular intervals up until 10:40. So basically.....when you are supposed to be sleeping, you make your body get up and run 13.1 miles for HOURS then tell it to eat and drink wine afterward. Yep, we did that. Disney places Dj's, characters and lots of entertainment all along the race route making it a giant party as the course loops through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
That's over 14,000 people right there at the start. It was crazy organized. Hats off to Disney. They run amazing events.
I wear compression socks for my plantar fasciitis.  They are fine and schmancy.
      The last words from Blondie as we headed out to the race were, "Mom, run like a mother!" I was ready. The Doc was more than. I knew that if I could do this.....that mental toughness so needed in life, in the mission field, raising adopted kids was terra firma. I had no doubts.
Crossing the finish line. I couldn't feel my foot. I was nauseous. It was 1:40 am. We did it….thank Jesus!
      By mile 10 my right foot was completely numb. I ran the last 3 miles not feeling anything on my right foot....I kept going. I could do hard. I had learned how. I got nauseated and stayed that way most of the race. We passed people throwing up. I kept going.. I had to. Most of this battle was mental. Hard. But I knew I could do hard….I was doing hard. I felt sick. My back went into spasm. I ran a fever the whole next day. I never once thought about quitting. I told the Doc to go on ahead because he was way faster than me but he wouldn't. He stayed by my side.
     It took 3 hours....but we did it. Yes, we ran for 3 flipping hours. Smile. We crossed the finish line together. This was a spiritual, mental and physical victory for both of us as we threw off old baggage that lay behind and are now running poised, ready and sharp for what's ahead. Symbolic victories are the bomb. We're excited and I hope you are inspired…..if we can do it you can too!!! Go! Climb your mountain!
Our shirts and medals.
The big finish! On to the Food and Wine Festival to party till 4am (oh yes we did!)
Would I do this again? Uhm, yes. Full marathon? Heck to the no.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Please Pray For Those Hurting

Today I had the opportunity to hear the precious voices of our 3rd graders at school…..asking our heavenly Father to help those affected in the Phillippines by the typhoon. It was a slice of heaven on earth (bringing me to tears) to hear the honesty, compassion and faith these children brought to their prayers. Oh that we as adults would be this innocent and transparent as we come to the Father with our requests. I know God heard them…Could, would you please stop and pray now for our brothers and sisters hurting in the aftermath of this storm? Pray for clean water sources, the ability of rescue networks to get through non-existent infrastructures…..and for those hurting to continue to put their hope in our Faithful God. Prayer moves mountains and the promises of God ring ever true…..even in the face of indescribable disaster. Now is the time church…..Pray, give, be part of the solution.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Forest of Doors: Book Review

     It's rare I grab a book up and read it straight through....but I did just that this week with "A Forest of Doors: An Orphan's Quest." It intrigued me after seeing it reviewed by a national magazine so I ordered it (thank you Amazon Prime.) The author writes her own journey through her childhood when both mother and father abandon her and her siblings after years of abuse and neglect. She then is placed in a state-run orphanage (1960's America) and was then placed in foster care. It's a haunting story of craving to be loved by the mother and father that didn't want you to begin with. Tragic. It ends with the author's understanding of a sinless Savior who mercifully ransomed all of us and coming to terms with unconditional love.....no matter your beginnings. She is also reunited with her 4 other siblings whom she was separated from for decades.
     This book is relatively short...only 97 pages. I read it in 2 hours (which explains my ability to sit and read it straight through...smile.) I don't feel like the author developed her story enough. I would've liked to have seen and heard more, and instead there are giant gaps and holes for many years. I am also aware that this is her story from the memory she knew. With neglect and trauma there is often 'blockout' memory in which the brain completely erases or 'turns off' periods of time...or even years. It's as if that time period never happened in that person's life. In this case I wonder how much of her story is completely accurate and how much is her perception of what happened. It's hard to say. Nonetheless it's a haunting story that hits close to home for me. One of our daughters came from some pretty serious abuse and neglect. We have a daughter from foster care who lived in 6 different home over an 8 month time period. Two of those homes were shut down for abuse and neglect. She's thriving now but it has been a battle. We have a daughter who lived her first year in an an orphanage. I can identify with alot of L.A. Muse's descriptions yet her story is hers and hers alone.
     I do recommend this story because it's so like many we heard and continue to hear about through our own adoptions. I recommend it to raise awareness that the USA has some clear problems within their own systems to protect and advocate for children in domestic abuse situations. This is just one example where children fell through the cracks and lives were affected as a result. I am fully aware that as we fill our bellies and sleep in comfortable beds there are those even in our own neighborhoods that don't have just that.  I'm extremely grateful the author has found her hope in Jesus and lives today as an advocate for children in the court system where with one decision by a judge lives can be forever changed....for good. Hope and justice is the goal.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Did You Know?

November is National Adoption Month. I will be blogging on various topics relating to this all month but wanted to start by sharing the latest statistics concerning Orphans and Orphan care globally. I think some of these might just surprise you. I love statistics and made straight A's in each stat class I took in college. To me, you can't argue with the numbers….they speak the facts….straight and simple. I loved it.  Only these numbers are not so simple. Picture each one of these stats as your son or daughter. It creates a cavernous pit in my very core and is why I cannot and will not stay silent.  I have 3 living under my roof that used to be part of these statistics. As I type these….I am realizing 3 is not enough. If you are reading this you (and me) are part of the solution. There has got to be more we can do. There has to be.

*There are an estimated 153 MILLION orphans worldwide….right now. This does not include those who were abandoned as well as sold/trafficked children.

*Every 14 seconds an AIDS death leaves behind an orphaned child….

*Asia is the home to the largest number of orphaned children in the world. Over 60 million. (unicef)

*In Sub-Saharan Africa 1 out of 9 children will die before the age of 5. (unicef)

*19,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from preventable diseases and care

*67 MILLION children of primary school age worldwide….do not go to school. (sos-usa.org)

*There are over 120,000 orphan children in AMERICA while another 400,000 children live without permanent families. (HHS, AFCARS)

*Over 7 million children live in institutionalized care worldwide….including America.

*Over 1 billion children suffer from some sort of severe deprivation of basic needs every day such as water, food, and sanitation.

*Children in foster care in the US…..399,546

*Children in US system eligible for adoption right now…..101,719

*Children aging out of US foster care system currently…..23,439.    25% of these age out with no high school diploma…..40% of them homeless. (christian alliance for orphans)

*Each year 14,505,000 children age out of institutions and foster care worldwide.

*This is 38,493 PER DAY (see above).

* Of these (above) 10-15% will commit suicide, 60% of girls will become prostitutes and 70% of the boys will become hardened criminals. (orphan int'l)

*EVERY SINGLE DAY 5,760 children worldwide become orphans. Every. day.

*Every 2.2 SECONDS another orphan ages out with no family to belong to…..and no place to call home….ever.

How many caring adults does it take to make a lifelong difference for a child  = 1.

Will you be one?

Friday, November 1, 2013

It Was A Fun Time

Cause I know you've been inundated with pumpkin and cute kiddos in Halloween costumes. Cause I know you've had your fill of Florida Fake Fall (uhm, 88 degrees here today), and candy crazed ads. Not enough you say? Cause I know you were holding your breath (ha) wondering what all our people dressed up as for Halloween. We had quite the party with our excellent friends who brought our favorite TWINS to trick or treat with us along with Jay, Mel, Mom Jo and kiddos…..we munched on Jack o Lantern shaped pizzas and had libations for those that felt so inclined. The kids were their usual adorable selves….well, make that extra adorable this night. As always, I will let the photos tell the story. This night The Doc was in charge of the camera which always lends a different view than mine. Halloween sneaks up on me every.time,  and I have to be careful not to get crazy in the head in the midst of a crazed school/work season. This was fun. We let our kids (and adults) be wild, crazy…totally themselves. Love.
No costume needed.

She was kind of Juliet-meets-Turtle-Man-Crocodile-Hunter. In other words, the usual:) And beautiful!

Pop-star gymnast who flips more than she stands (here in mid-flip).

Cleopatra….cleaned out her mom's make-up supply and now wants to start a career as a make-up artist. 

Cuter than the real Tinkerbell for sure.

Baby owl.


Soccer phenom.

Poised. Ready.

Getting a pic of all 8 kids. Such an easy task…..said no one ever.

Bedazzled with glowsticks. We could see them bobbing all over the neighborhood that way.

Get this party started!

Bobbing glowsticks is how we knew where they were. Awesome.

My friend is Wonder Woman. No really. She really, truly is.

Precious. They were so polite. The kids too:)

Mei Mei and her friend Marissa counting…..

Tink loves her "Kitty Cat" bar!

Can you see what this is? It's Merida from Brave. Blondie and Mei Mei carved it themselves. Quite remarkable I think. Quite.

Beautiful Bella.

Can y'all read his hat? No? Probably better that way.

It's my Twix….and you can't have it! No! Stay away! I will protect it until the death! Get back I tell you!  Grrrrrrrr……..