Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Keepin' It Real Wednesday

The other day I was taking the kids to school in the morning.  When they hopped out, some stuff fell out too and had to be picked up and put back in by one of the kids.  Have you ever had that happen?  Like we aren't conspicuous enough, with six kids dashing out, while I wave my arms in a circle saying "Go go go!" like a chubby drill sergeant in a dress and barefeet.*  Today when I dropped my kids off, the teacher in carpool, remarked, "Wow.  It's like a clown car.  They just keep coming."

So, I decided to clean my van out, to try to deflect a little of the embarrassment (at least the mivi-van related embarrassment.)  This was the pile of stuff that was in the van but didn't belong there, after the trash was thrown away. Amazing, I know.  I would like to highlight a few of these items. Besides the library book in the front, which has cost me at least $20 in twenty-five cents a day late fees (so worth it for the random facts Oliver can now spout when he is supposed to be doing "more important things" like homework or finding a pair of socks for school), there are a number of note-worthy items.

Note the title, and then note the teeth marks on the bottom right corner.  Lemon Sugar does not approve.

See these comforters?  They were left at my Dad's house in JUNE during a cousin sleepover.  They were just retrieved last week.  What have Gabe and Oliver been using for blankets in the meantime? I dunno, dirty towels or something.  Who knows. 

And one of my favorites.  An RC car that has been broken for YEARS.  The perfect toy to bring in the van. 

Not noted:
Dozens of markers and broken pencils
Every scrap of paper used at church
Church shoes
Amazon packages that were supposed to be returned
A neck pillow that was brought for relief on a strenuous 2 hr drive across the border to Virginia 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Safi and Sifa come home!

June 8, 2016.  After over three years of waiting, we finally went to the airport to greet our daughters Sifa and Safi.  

A day of the greatest joy imaginable but also fear and anxiety. I look at these pictures and I see it all and I grieve for Safi and Sifa.  It is a very hard thing for a five and six year old to leave the only life they know and join a already-made family who doesn't even speak their language.  Can you imagine asking your child to do that? It is heartbreaking, and you can see it on their faces in these pictures. 

 I debated in my mind for a long time about whether to invite other people to the airport.  I knew it would be overwhelming for the girls no matter what, so I decided to go for it.  I wanted them to be able to look back on these pictures and see a tiny portion of the people who prayed for them and celebrated with us.

I  felt like I was going to pass-out or throw-up at this point.I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.  I felt so happy they were home but so sad for them and so scared about helping them through it. Add in three years of off-the-chart stress and the lingering sadness of my mom's death six weeks before this, and my body was a mess.

Oh, Sifa.  I can barely recognize you here.  I am so glad we know each other better now. You tried to put those gold shoes on last week and could not for the life of you squeeze into them.

Coming home to find our home had been secretly decorated buoyed me up more than I could ever describe.  I knew it had been done by some women who had prayed long and hard for us.

It was a day none of us will ever forget.  We talk about it often with Simone and Safi.  They laugh at how much Sifa (Simone) hated me then. I am glad we are were we are and I know time will only bond us closer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Am I Going to Tell My Kids Today?

I went to bed at 9 pm last night.  I woke up to Trump's victory and dozens of my friends asking,

"What am I going to tell my kids today?"

I understand.  Besides my feelings about Trump, which are probably pretty similar to those who are asking that question, I understand the looming and sometimes overwhelming sense of responsibility that parents everywhere feel about raising kids.

One day in late summer I felt that responsibility pressing down on my heart like an anvil.  I have six kids. Six.  My mind is like a constant loop of CONCERN. It plays their unique challenges through it, over and over, one after another.  It is never ending - my concern for them and their individual success, whatever that maybe look like.

And that constant loop very often brings on the thought,

"You will never be enough."

It's true.  I will fail them.  I will lose my temper. I have be selfish and inconsiderate and a bad example.

This realization, on this summer day, when I felt that they deserved better than me, was met by this scripture.  It brought me more hope than any parenting book or Mother's Day card ever could.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

I will never be enough, but our Savior always will be.  Was I trying to fill them up with me and my love more than Him and His love?  It was a humbling thought and one I needed to allow me to change the way I parent.

It also brought to mind another scripture that became meaningful to me during Mitt Romney's attempt at presidency.  I remember being so disturbed by a poll that confirmed what I had been faced with my whole life: an overwhelming amount of people still don't consider me, because I am LDS, to be a Christian.  Shortly after I read that poll I read this scripture:

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

....and I had to ask myself....... do I do that?  Talk of, rejoice in, preach of and turn my children to Christ?

I knew then that the best thing I could do to give my kids stability and a rock-solid future was point them towards Jesus Christ.  He is the one person who is a sure foundation for them.  Their parents, teachers, leaders, and friends will all fail them in life at one point or another, but He never will.

If you aren't a Christian (and are somehow still reading this), can you stop for a minute and imagine what it would actually mean if all of this is true? If there really was this amazing being, with intelligence far beyond our comprehension, who created this earth and everything on it.  Who set a perfect example of how we should treat each other in order for everyone to have eternal happiness.  Who spread that knowledge through commandments that are laughed at now.  What if this man died for all of us, even those who killed Him?  Wow. And He rose and is coming again! Wouldn't that bring you incredible joy coupled with humility?

If you are Christian, doesn't that bring you incredible joy coupled with humility?

So what will I tell my kids?  I will recommit to the decisions I made that summer day. I will keep working on memorizing The Living Christ with them.  I will sing them songs about Christ.  I will read them scriptures during breakfast.  I will pray with them.  I will keep taking them to three hours of church every Sunday.  I will teach them to keep trying to be like Christ, no matter how many times they fail, and to turn to Him when they do.  I will teach them to make covenants with Him, because His power is greater than Trump's or Clinton's and amazingly, we can have access to it through those covenants!

When the whirlwinds come (and they will!), I don't want them hanging onto me, I want them hanging onto HIM.

Today, and tomorrow, and the eternities are bright.  Not because of me, or Trump, but because of their Savior and Redeemer.

That is what I will tell my kids today.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Mom's Eulogy

Given on April 30,2016

I have been assigned  the super easy and simple task of  capturing my mother’s 60 years in a way to that does complete justice to the memories of her eight very unique children and 30 grandchildren.  I hope you are all comfortable, because this is going to take hours.  Just kidding - for the sake of the 27 grandkids that are sitting in the audience, I will have to do my best to keep it relatively short.

Since my mom loved the stage, I have divided her life into three acts.

Act. I
Daughter, Sister, Wife
I have a family here on earth
They are so good to me
I want to share my life with them through all eternity

Linda Sue Parkins was born on September 15, 1955, the same year that Disneyland opened, and not far from it, in Long Beach California.  Her parents, Raymond and Joanne Parkins, celebrated this birth of their fourth daughter.  Her sisters Kathy, Diana and Pat came in the three years before and her sister Rhonda joined 5 yrs later.  With five girls in the house, it was full of laughter, pranks and games. Walking the foggy streets to school, they made up names for their imaginary pixie friends, who came up from the manholes and walked with them.  Among the sisters, my mom was the baby of the big girls, known as the dreamer and the artist.  To her little sister, she was a shining star - the popular girl who was always surrounded by friends.

There are two stories that I remember most from my mother’s childhood.  The first happened when she was 13 yrs old.  She was walking home from school one day with her next door neighbor Christie Nuttall.  My mom asked Christie if she wanted to come over.  Christie told my mom that she couldn’t because she needed to help babysit her siblings while her mom and dad went to the temple.  My mom asked her what a temple was, and Christie told her.  She said that because of temples, families could be together forever, even after death.  When my mom’s interest was evident, Christie asked my mom if she wanted to learn more and missionaries were soon knocking at her mom’s door.  I am sure that when those missionaries later baptized this bright-eyed 13 yr old and ordained her a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they had no idea the eternal impact it would have on not only her, but countless others.

The second story I remember most from my mom’s childhood happened 2 or 3 yrs later.  My mom loved to dance.  So much so that she went to not only her stake dances, but hopped around to other stake dances as well.  One summer night she looked across the cultural hall and saw a kind looking, blonde-haired, tanned surfer boy.  When a girls' choice song was announced she made a beeline straight for him and before the evening was over, they had a date planned.  Now, I have always heard the story from my mom, so I have heard about how she felt, but looking it from my Dad’s perspective, you can imagine how lucky he felt.  If you have seen pictures of my mom as a teenager, she wasn’t far off from the pixies she and her sisters talked about, with her big green eyes, beaming smile, and exuberant personality. She was just downright adorable. When they went out on that first date, my mom and the surfer boy both had a surprise for each other.  She confessed that she was not quite 16 yet, and he told her that he was leaving on a mission in a little more than a month.  They made the most of that time, seeing each other as often as possible, and when she went to school in the fall, all her friends heard about Bob Jeppson.  

In the two years he was gone, she finished high school.  Her creativity shined and she had a favorite art teacher who encouraged her talent.  She was a part of a singing group, The Sound of Youth, who traveled and performed throughout southern California.  She worked at Knott’s Berry Farm, where dressed in an old miner’s costume and once met John Wayne.

And when Bob Jeppson came home, her dream came true.  They were married on January 11, 1974 in the Los Angeles Temple for time and all eternity.  The idea that had drawn her to the church was now a reality for her.  She would have her own eternal family.

Act II
Mother and Leader
No other success can compensate for failure in the home.

Linda’s dream was further fulfilled on August 20, 1975 when she became a mother at age 19.  She and my Dad named their daughter Christie Sue, after the dear friend who had first taught my mom about eternal families.  My dad continued working and going to college in the  Long Beach area and Robert Charles Jr was born to them there in 1977.  When my dad got his first job teaching school in a little town called Blythe, California they moved their little family there, four whole hours away from their families, the beach, and all enjoyable summer temperatures.  When my mom was expecting their third child in 1978, she decided she going to use a midwife.  The midwife had to go out of town unexpectedly very close to my mom’s due date so my parents followed her.  My brother Levi was born in an apartment in Mesa AZ and weighed in a grocery store on a produce scale.  He was given the middle name Owen after the last name of the midwife.  If you haven’t caught on yet, my mom was brave, strong and adventurous, even though I am sure she never would have described herself that way.  All those traits served her well on their next adventure to Idaho, where they lived on a farm while my dad taught high school.  I was born in there in 1981.  After a few years in Idaho, my parents decided that maybe Blythe wasn’t so bad afterall, and they moved back.  It was there that the second half of the Jeppson clan was born. Ashley Rae came in 1983.  Aaron Parkins in 1985.  In 1987, my mom served as an auctioneer for a March of Dimes auction, while she was in labor, and then went to the hosptial and had Lindsay Kay.  In 1989, she was delighted when she got with the red-head she had always wanted with Bryce Alan. He was the red caboose at the end of the Jeppson train.. 8 kids in 14 years. All of us learned to say Christie Bobby Levi Katie Ashley Aaron Lindsey Bryce...and sometimes it seemed like my mom went through each of those names before calling the right one.  

My mom got a lot of comments about how many kids she had, but she was proud to be different.  She was proud that she stayed at home as much as possible and that the work she did there was her pride and joy.  She sewed most of our clothes when I was young and they were AWESOME. I am pretty sure we have pictures of Bishop Jeppson wearing handmade hammer pants.  We can all remember hours spent in discount fabric stores during trips out of town. Not the best memories and I can only imagine how much whining my mom endured for those trips, from the both kids and my dad.  My mom went beyond sewing to artistry, modifying evening gown patterns to create modest prom dresses and sewing my sister Christie her perfect renaissance wedding dress.  The creativity that her high school teacher recognized was put to practical use in caring for her kids in every way she knew how.  

Our family vacations usually centered around visiting family members and camping.  I can still remember the massive amounts of preparation my mom put into hauling a family of ten to the mountains in Southeast Utah.  Bins of food, clothes, games, and even our own porta potty that she would set up with a tarp around it in the woods.  I told you she was a brave woman.  She didn’t think twice about nursing a baby to sleep in the tent and then hopping out to cook a full dutch oven meal.

With 8 kids in the house, my mom was always coming up with new discipline techniques that evolved right along with her parenting level.  We had job charts and time outs and groundings and FHE charts and scripture challenges and nothing was ever adhered to perfectly, but most of the time what needed to happen did happen. Family prayer, on our knees, in a circle, was always a regular event.  More than once it was interrupted by giggling, and more than once that giggling came from my mom, who could never stop laughing once she really started.

  My mom used to say that all she wanted for Mother’s Day was a clean house and happy kids.  Maybe, just maybe,  by the time it was just Lindsey and Bryce in the house she got her wish.  

The gospel of Jesus Christ was never a separate little compartment of her life.  It was in every detail and every hour.  She taught all of us that if you had a talent, you used that talent to bless others and bring them closer to God.  She served as Young Women’s President with a baby on her hip, and brought her nursing babies to girls camp.  My mom showed up early to teach seminary to moody and obnoxious teenagers for years - I would know - I was one of them, and she often had to physically drag me out of bed.  She served as Relief Society President even when her plate was full and trusted that she had divine help to help her through.   The church building was our second home. When I was 12, they combined the 2 wards in Blythe into 1 and called my Dad as bishop.It was a big change for this small town.  Someone in the ward started leaving treats on people’s doorsteps, with a poem about joining together and flying in a V, following the the lead goose. The poem then asked you to make a treat and pass it along to someone else in the new ward.  I never told my mom this, but one day I was snooping around in her drawers and I found the original copy and discovered that my mom had once again used her creativity to try to bless the lives of others.

Our family table hosted every new family that moved in, along with many people who broke down onthe freeway, or even just truckers who were driving through.  My mom welcomed everyone, and sometimes......... that welcome included a planned water ambush.  What mom tells their kids to stand on the roof of the house  with squirt guns, to throw water balloons at their dinner guests?  Our mom, that’s who.  

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mom had a lot of gall.  She unasbashedly demanded you maintain a high level of humor and hilarity while hanging with her.  Which is why the missionaries once showed up to dinner at our house wearing black trash bags with holes cut out for their head and arms - because the time before my mom had “accidentally” started a food fight with them.

My mom also served as a second mom to many a teenager.  She wanted every child to have every opportunity for growth.  Once a year, from the time Christie was in high school on,  she hauled a van full of kids to BYU at the end of August for Education Week..  Most years she rented an apartment for week, and everyone who came along knew that you got to campus for the first class and didn’t leave until after the last.  By the end of the week, everyone was giddy with physical exhaustion and spiritual rejuvenation.  My mom always came home bursting full of quotes and ideas. Her soul loved to learn and grow.  

One of the best lessons my mom taught us, that she never really even talked about, was how to treat your spouse.  None of us ever doubted her love and dedication for my father.  She supported him through all the stress and busyness of life and always spoke of him with a profound respect.  Their marriage was always solid and the security it gave us can’t be underestimated.  

My mom would probably roll her eyes if she were here and I called her a saint of a mother, but she just that. Nelson Madela said, ““I’m no saint—that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”
That was my mom.  She often saw her imperfections staring her in her face. But she kept trying, and she did it in a beautiful partnership with my Dad and with her Heavenly Father.

Granny and Daughter of God
I am a child of God.
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure

In the summer of 2002, my mom became a grandma.  This was a really big deal.  I remember my sister-in-law Audra saying that when my mom  saw her first grandson Nolan, she just could not stop talking about how cute he was.  Could not.  I hope you can all picture her in your head saying, “He’s so cute.”  She loved her children, but she LOOOOOVED her grandchildren and she unabashedly bragged about them.  Oh, you have three grandkids? I have 6...then 10, and on and on.   Every single time she went out of town, she bought a postcard for each grandkid and wrote a cute little note in her cute artistic handwriting, all about what she did and how she was thinking of them.  Each child had their own label that she created for them and printed out.   When I had Gabe, she came to help out, and when she went home she promptly created him a label, and sent him a postcard from her trip to Charlotte, telling him to be a good boy for his mommy.

Some of the best memories that my sisters and I have are of having our mom care for us after having babies.  She was so thoughtful - feeding you before you even realized you were hungry. Helping you learn how to breastfeed.Taking care of the older sibling.  Reassuring you that you were doing a wonderful job and that you could do it. Cleaning your garage, making meals, sewing blessing outfits.  The beautiful thing about it was that you knew that she wanted to do it just as much as you needed her to do it.  

Just like she did with her own kids, my mom always tried to point her grandkids towards their Savior.  She made reverent toys for sacrament meeting, and stuffed nativity sets for every family.  She sent postcards from temples and talked about getting married there.  I think one of her most precious days as a granny was being able to go to the temple to see her adopted grandkids be sealed into our eternal family.  

My mom’s two main goals for when all her kids were all grown was to be an incredible granny and to serve a mission or two or three with my dad.  She accomplished the first, but the Lord had different plans for her with the second.  Before she even had an empty house, she started to notice some problems with her speech.  Sometimes she would know exactly what she wanted to say but wouldn’t be able to find the words to say it. It was baffling, and frustrating, and depressing.  She told me that during this time, as she knew that something was going on, but didn’t know what, she went to Stake Conference.  The stake president had some open time in the program and starting calling some people on the spot to come up and say a few words.   She panicked as she realized it was all the stake auxiliary presidents.  She was the Stake Primary President at the time.  My mom, who was an incredible public speaker, was petrified that he would call on her and she would not be able to get the words out.  But she also knew that God knew how she felt, and she immediately prayed a silent prayer that she would not be called upon and knew that prayer would be answered, and it was.  This was so representative of mom: she knew God knew her by name and knew her needs.

In 2007, my mom was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia.  Her future suddenly looked very different.  We all knew at that point that she would lose her ability to speak, but it was hard to really take in the enormity of her diagnosis.  She had to slowly mourn the loss of her dreams, and we all had to slowly mourn the loss of our mother and granny.  

My mom had her moments of sadness and frustration, but she tried oh so hard to stay positive. She even started a blog called Joy in the Journey, as a reflection on her valiant effort to look for the beauty in what was left of her life.

My parents moved here to Charlotte to be close to family and every week she came to my house and we sat at my computer typing out her email to her red-headed missionary. It was hard for her, and humbling, but she just had to be a missionary mom to her baby boy.  

She sewed for as long as she could.  She flew across the country for babies and baptisms as long as she could.  She served in the temple as long as she could. She planted flowers and painted. She decorated her house with her typical artistry and every year asked each of us for a new family picture for her family wall so that she could keep bragging about her grandkids, even if it was done through a beaming smile and pointing.

She still continued to use her talents to bless others.  She and my Dad served in the nursery at church, and her smile was bestowed on a huge group of little toddlers.  I am sure many of you can still picture her with a big bag full of sippy cups, or in the kitchen getting the snacks ready.  That is what Linda Jeppson did.  She served in every way she knew how and even without speaking continued to bless the lives of others.  For nine years, she did just that.

Sometimes you hear someone describing their priorities in such a way as:  God First, Then your spouse and then your kids.  When I was writing this I wondered to myself if I could describe my mom’s priorities in that way, and I can’t.  All three were so intertwined to her. They were all a part of her eternal family.  There is a scripture that I learned in seminary from my mom in Moses 1:39, that says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of Man.”  It is the Lord speaking, saying that all of this - the earth, this plan, the atonement, the scriptures, the prophets - all of it is for one purpose - the immortality and eternal life of man.  I think it is safe to say “For behold, this is Linda’s work and her glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of her husband, her sisters, her children, and her grandchildren.” She loved all of you so much. All of this - all her efforts, had one purpose.   There is nothing she wanted more than to bring you all back to your Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.

I have no idea if my mom made a choice before she came to earth to bear the burden of PPA, but I do think that if she thought that it would help us draw close to God in a way that nothing else could, she would chose to carry it in a heartbeat.  So I hope we all will allow this sorrow and this trial to do that.  Use this to draw closer to God. She has already taught us compassion and patience through PPA.  I hope we all take our broken hearts to the only one who can truly heal them - our Savior.  

I know that my mom is with Him, and her greatest desire is to greet us all again, with a perfect body and a perfect mind, able to talk and talk and talk and talk some more.  

Remember who you are.
Return with Honor.

I say these things In the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ Amen.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A mother's heart

School today was canceled for snow before we even went to bed last night.  My alarm usually goes off at 5 am every morning, so I still wasn't able to convince my body to sleep past 6:30.

Colin made pancakes. Chad worked.  The kids had chores, homework, and piano practice, but with the whole day stretched before them, there was plenty of time for piling on the redneck snow gear.  The door must have gotten opened a hundred times today as all four kids went in and out, never managing more than fifteen minutes at a time.

I now have four kids that can dress themselves completely for snow. Coats, boots, everything.  It makes life less stressful but I am not used to it, so I have to remind myself that I don't need freak out about how often they take the clothes on and off and leave them soaking wet on the ground.  I even have a kid who knows how to use the dryer.

Sadly, I did not use this newly found freedom wisely.  Despite my irritation with Facebook today, I found myself picking my phone up over and over again. And over and over I told myself to focus on the areas of my life I could actually influence instead of the things I can't control.

So I put the phone down and went outside to play with Carina and Colin.  I made the kids healthy tacos for lunch.  I laughed with Gabe when he told me about the X-box game he played where he deliberately made the Cardinals lose to the Panthers by 150 points.  Carina brought me her reading lesson and cheerfully sounded out "This is a seed."  And Oliver found me every half hour or so for squirmy cuddles.

As soon as Chad finished with work, he put dinner on the stove. I used the last of the bath bombs he gave me for Christmas as I soaked and read for an hour.

The night ended with a crackling fire in the living room, which turned into an impromptu dance party. The kind you only see in movie montages, where everyone is laughing and glowing. Oliver and Carina did their best ballroom moves.  I taught Colin how you dance at church dances. Chad did his two step. And best of all, Gabe, my most reserved child, busted out huge smile as he lip synched to Sam Smith.

It turns out, I didn't even need to influence my life for good.  I just needed to let the good in my life influence me.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

This summer

We are in a drought here in Charlotte.  Since we moved into our lake house a month ago, the lake has been steadily edging further and further away.  We took the kids kayaking on Friday and it was so hard to get through the knee-high mud to the bathwater-warm water, that it is hard to feel like that venture is worth it right now.

We are happy here in this house.  It has felt like home since the first night I feel asleep next to my huge pane window.  Tonight I sat with Gabe on the back porch, cutting his hair as the sun set and the crickets chirped.  He has had a hard time falling asleep in this new house, even though he loves it too.  So I snipped at his shaggy summer hair and told him about how I grew up somewhere with hardly any trees, and how what trees we had were barely as tall as a one story house.  I always thought that lots of tall trees was the epitome of scenic beauty.  Now I feel so at peace surrounded by our oaks and sweetgums.

It has been an odd summer. Besides the complete upheaval of moving, it was also my first year to send one of my kids off for a week to camp - in the middle of the move actually.  The shift to the teenage years that will bring more camps and youth conferences instead of weeks to schedule out and control as a mom.  

Also in the midst of moving, a shift in my mom's condition. Far beyond not understanding speech, she and my Dad are navigating through the dementia stage of her Primary Progressive Aphasia.  Every day starts afresh with new difficulties and challenges and there very often are no answers.

Then just shortly after, the death of Chad's sweet Grandma Libbie.

Between that, the move, the heartache of intimately watching my mom and dad go through this stage, and the looming adoption questions, I feel off-kilter.  There has been no deliberate and thought-out schedule for the kids like most summers and many things that I have decided to just let go.  It has been the summer of eating out and "Shut Up and Dance with Me." And kid fighting.  Lots of kid fighting.

Sometimes I look out at the lake disappearing and wonder if I should be a little more worried about it.

  It will come back, right?

 I believe it will.  I believe it is just a season.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

10,000 Dollars

On Sunday night, after our succesful dinner, I was sitting with the kids on the couch watching Chopped when Carina suddenly presented me a mini muffin liner.  Inside of it was what looked like itsome dried up apple skin and a Cheerio.  With her usual sparkle in her bright blue eyes, she said, "Here ya go. I made this for you!"

"What is it?"

"Apple and Cheerio."

I got up to see that she had these little appetizers lined up for everyone in the family,

right next to the apple she used,

with bite marks all over it.

I guess she knew she wasn't  allowed to use a knife? Good for her, I guess?

Carina, you've been chopped.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Dinner

My kids have really loved watching cooking shows lately. They often ask me to name an ingredient so they can make their own "Chopped" dish for lunch on the weekends.  I decided to take advantage of their enthusiasm, and couple it with my own desire to get our family back on track with healthful eating.  

 I sat Oliver down the other day in front of my laptop, searched "vegan recipes" on Pinterest, and had him look for something to make with me.

He very quickly decided he wanted to make Avocado Hummus Taquitos (we just left the cheese off). He decided he wanted a rice dish for the side, so we found this recipe for Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.  He also wanted to a do a drink, so we decided on recipe for a delicious Watermelon Breeze, which I will not be posting a link to, because it also brought up a naughty video (Happy Sabbath!).  It was 6 cups of watermelon, a 17 oz can of coconut water, fresh lime juice, lime juice, ice and a sprig of mint, all blended together.

Oliver helped cook the rice, rolled almost all the taquitos, and helped with the dressing for the rice. He never lost enthusiasm and Colin jumped in to help quite a bit.  We had my parents over for dinner to share his creations. 

I also decided that Sunday would be a good day to let them have a homemade vegan treat, so I had Gabe search on Pinterest for a recipe to make. He very quickly decided on The Easiest 3-Ingredient Fudge bites. 

How did the food rate with the kids? 
  •  3 out of 4 loved the taquitos. I liked them - they were very simple and way more filling than I expected.
  • All of the kids ate the rice without complaining.  We used brown rice, which also made it very filling and they didn't eat as much as I expected them to.  As much as I have tried, none of them will eat green onions or peppers, so they picked around those.
  • 3 out of 4 loved the drink.
  • All of them like the fudge.  It was very rich and very dark chocolate. We halfed the recipe, which was plenty.

And then the boys played balloon volleyball while we chatted with my Dad, and Carina did her best to engage Granny with her silly charm.

All in all, it was a very successful Sunday afternoon and dinner, and the kids are already talking about who gets a turn next week.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sifa's birthday

Our little Sifa turned 4.  Our baby.  This is the third birthday she has had since we were matched together.  There are many ways to look at this:

We have missed all the toddler years. We have watched her baby cheeks disappear through pics, longing to kiss them.


We have had the privilege of making sure this child of God is watched over and fed.  Because we were allowed to adopt her, she is healthy and strong. We are incredibly blessed that we have always had the extra money this adoption has required as it has extended over a year past the date we expected.

The first part hurts so much, but I can't forget the second part.

We sent Sifa's foster mom a little extra money this month to throw her a celebration, and decided on some ways to celebrate her here at home.

First I took Carina and her girl cousins that live here shopping for a dress for her.  A summer dress, so she can wear it THIS summer :)  When they get home, there will be five girl cousins here in Charlotte who are within a year and a half of each other.  It will be so fun.

We also picked up some rotisserie chicken, which we paired with bread from the Farmer's Market.  These were Sifa's two favorite things to eat when I visited her last fall, so we had them for dinner in her honor.  Then we topped it off with Elsa cupcakes and a candle for each year.

The first day I met Sifa, I showed them Frozen in French. I was shocked when it started and Sifa blurted out, clear as day, "SVEN!" and then gave me the first twinkly eyed, eyebrow-raised smile that I would come to love over the next week.

So it turns out that they had a much grander feast for Sifa's birthday in Kinshasa.  Look at that delicious chicken, beans, rice, and plantains.  Topped off with Fanta, of course.  And look at our adorable girls!  I am so thankful that Sifa got this special day.  She deserves it, and so much more.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Field trip to the Farmer's Market

Every year the first graders from Waddell Language Academy go on a field trip to the Farmer's Market the Saturday before Mother's Day so they can learn how to use money and buy their mom something sweet.  I have been lucky enough to chaperone for all three boys, and today was Oliver's turn.

It was the best field trip experience I have ever had.  Oliver's teacher - let me just break in and say this woman has my heart forever.  She is so warm and full of happiness.  She is the first teacher my kids have ever had who has NO color-change system in place, and the kids listen to her anyway. Anyway, Oliver's teacher put him in a group with his cousin Liam and their two other very close buds (one more reason to love her).  She told me that the four of them are always together, and they never ever fight.  Do you know how awesome it is to see four little 6 and 7 year old boys group-hugging on a field trip?  All four of them listened so well to me, with no talk-back and no whining.  Rare thing, I am tellin' ya.

Oliver and Liam have grown up together and have been very best friends from a young age.  I think I have heard them get angry with each other maybe three times.  They are both the youngest of three boys and they just get each other.  They all go to Waddell in the Chinese immerson program but they are the only cousins in the same grade.  There are only two Chinese classes for each grade and they were not in the same class last year.  This year when we found out they were going to be separated again, we requested to have them put in the same class. I am so glad we did.  

Oliver bought me three red tulips and we shared a a bacon, brie and apple croissant.  It was the perfect way to start Mother's Day weekend.  I am so thankful I get to be a mom to this brown-eyed sweetheart who is always good for a smile and a snuggle.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tender and small

I have had a hard time blogging for the last two years.  When we started our adoption, I was determined that I wouldn't be an adoption blogger.  I had been blogging for years about everything else and I wasn't going to change that.  But I think in trying not to post too much about that, I stopped posting at all because my mind has kinda turned to mush.  And then every once in awhile I would just HAVE to post some things I needed to say and of course it was always about adoption. So there you have it.  Now?  I am determined to just blog again, whatever that may entail.

We have not heard any news yet. In pregnancy terms, it has been over a month of painful contractions but no baby.  The worst kind of waiting.  We have been told we might hear something this week but I am not really letting myself believe it because just waiting is easier than anxiously waiting.

Yesterday I substitute taught a Primary class of 8 and 9 yr olds.  We were learning about Jesus healing the sick.  We talked about the faith of the woman with the blood issue, and the man with palsy.  I told them that I used to think faith was just a feeling.  Sometimes you felt it, sometimes you didn't.  But now I have learned that faith is often times a choice.  You choose to believe even when you don't feel it.  You literally stop the fearful thoughts that are crowding your mind and focus on the Savior.

We also talked about the many many times that Jesus doesn't perform the ultimate miracle that you would love to have.  I told them about my mom, that she has this disease that has robbed her of her speech and her understanding and how hard it has been on her and our whole family .  I told them that Jesus has not taken this sickness away but instead has comforted her and us through it.

As we were ending the lesson, I had them write down miracles that they have seen in their life, and I remembered one in my own that related so closely to that.

Over two years ago, when Chad and I decided to adopt from the DR Congo, we kept our decision within our immediate family for awhile.  It had been a decision 10 years in the making and it still felt very personal and raw.

Shortly after that, I was thinking about my mom, wondering what I could do to be a part of her life and bring her any joy.  I spontaneously stopped by when my dad was at work and asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. She was already having a very hard time understanding words at that point, but I probably motioned enough that she got my point.  It was a nice day - I had Carina in the stroller and my Mom had their dog Cici on the leash. She seemed happy, which made me happy.  I had this huge and very sudden feeling that I should tell her that we had decided to adopt.  I had not really told her anything that was going on in my life for a very long time before this, because it always just led to her being frustrated that she couldn't understand, and me feeling bad that I frustrated her. Plus Chad and I had agreed not to tell anyone.  But the feeling was strong and felt right.

So I did.

"Mom, Chad and I decided to adopt."

Her face lit up with a huge smile and she gave a little celebration noise with her shoulders scrunched up. She completely understood.

Holding up two fingers, "Siblings, from the DR Congo."

More happy noises and a little victory dance.

She understood so well that later that night my Dad called and said, "What's this I hear about you adopting from the Congo?"  She had gotten enough words out to him to share the happy news and, if I remember correctly, had even pointed it out on a map. I was astounded.

This was the last easily-understood conversation I had with my mom.  It may be a small thing, but it was still a miracle.

My mom hasn't been healed and my girls are still not home.  But every time I seek my Savior, He comforts me.  And I am learning what "exercising" faith really means.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Two weeks ago, Bill McGinty of WCNC aired a story about our adoption.  He filmed it two weeks before, and it was a great experience.  He really took time to cover everything and make sure that he got it right.  The story that aired was just the first part - he expects to cover the situation more clearly over a few different episodes.

I knew when it ran that we would get negative comments online from viewers.  I have seen it on my blog and I have seen it with every news article that has been written about other families in our situation. I am so familiar with these comments that I could have written them myself.

So when NBC Charlotte posted a few links to the story, and the haters showed up, it really didn't bother me or surprise me.

What did surprise me was the outpouring of love from perfect strangers.  Perfect strangers were standing up for us, defending us, letting us know that they were praying for us.

"Beautiful ... Praying for a speedy home coming for these young ladies .."

"Pressing in with prayer! God bless you all~"

"Rest assured.this is in God's hands !"

"Sending love, hugs and lots of prayers that you will be united with your beautiful daughters very soon!"

Over 2,000 likes on one post and 175 shares, lots of love and so many prayers.  I love my city.

If I did not believe in the power of prayer, I would have had to after that day.  I felt those prayers so strongly.

Just the day before our story aired, we heard that President Obama called President Kabila.    Then later that week, we started hearing, for the first time in a long time, very good rumors about the exit letter suspension possibly coming to an end soon.

The wheels are in motion.

 We have higher hopes than we have had in a very long time.

We hope to hear something, one way or the other, soon.

 It is joyful but also so so stressful.  We could still really use your prayers.  That is really the whole point of this blog post.  Please pray for the officials in the DRC that they can find a speedy solution so that these children can finally have families.  Please pray for us as parents that we can withstand the ups and downs and keep our faith.  Please pray for us to stay strong so that when the children finally do come home we are ready to love them and show them all the patience they deserve.  Please pray that the children will feel God's love for them through all of this and that they can know their worth.

Thank you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Holding our breath - #500DaysWaiting

Last night, I flew home from a trip to California with my brother.  I was happy to glide down into my city and eager to get home to my family and all the responsibilities that come with it.

As soon as we exited the terminal and headed down the escalator, I felt my eyes begin to water and my jaw tighten with anxiety.  The baggage claim area has become a trigger for me.  

When you start the adoption process, which for us was two years ago, you imagine your airport scene - the moment you come off the plane with your spouse and children and you are finally home.  

You hold your children tightly in your arms, down the escalator, knowing that friends and family are at the bottom with signs and bursting hearts.  You glimpse your other children and they come rushing at you, eager to meet their shy new siblings. Your adopted children are in shock and you know there are tough times ahead, but the wait is behind you and you are ready drive home together to focus in on your newly formed family. You can breathe again. 

Over and over again, you conjure this image with watery eyes when the times are tough.

When that scene constantly eludes you, the airport just reminds you of what should have been - of your uncertain future as a family. You are still holding your breath and it hurts.

Last night I pushed right through it, like I am used to doing. 

The airport is just one trigger.  I am sure that other Congo moms can give you a list of theirs, but here are some more of mine:

The little girls' section at Target
The post office
The UPS store
The intro song to Parenthood
The letters USCIS or DoS
Conference calls with the DoS

Maybe that list makes me sound weak or melodramatic, but I have maintained for the last year and will still declare it:  this is a form of torture  It is truly traumatic for us and our kids, in the truest sense of the word.

The suspension was originally supposed to last "up to" a year, and then the verbiage was changed to "at least" a year, and now we are almost 5 months past a year and there is no timeline whatsoever.

We have been told that the DRC needs to reform their adoption laws and then they can lift the suspension.  Last summer we were told that the new laws would be addressed during their fall session of Parliament.  That didn't happen.  They reconvene in March and we are again being told that maybe the laws will be addressed, and then maybe they will lift the exit letter suspension. There is also talk of again reviewing the less-than thirty cases that were supposed to be grandfathered in way back at fall of 2013. Let that sink in. It is February 2015 and these children were promised exit letters in Oct. 2013 and they are still waiting.  At this rate, it will take many more years to get my children home.

I don't hold much hope in any of that actually happening anyway and I don't want to wait one day longer for meetings that might possibly take place.

Congress has been very helpful, the Department of State is very involved at this point, but we have been told over and over again that President Obama's involvement could be the key in getting this solved.  We have tried over and over again to get that involvement with no success, but we are still trying.  We are hoping that this crisis has reached a time and point when enough people will say "enough" and ask for his involvement.  

If you are willing to spend a few minutes respectfully asking our President to get involved, please click here to sign this petition.  Then confirm your signature through your email.  Anyone over the age of 13 can sign it.  If you feel so included, please share it through twitter or Facebook.  If you know anyone will a large online following who might be willing to pass it along with a few words, please reach out to them. If we get 100,000 signatures before March 12, we are guaranteed some sort of response from the White House.  

I know I have asked for your help before, and I hate to ask again, but I have to.  I just do. Thank you.