Thursday, November 5, 2009

And yet...

I have something to share with you all this morning... a deep and profound thought that occured to me as I went about my morning... an insider tip that not just anyone will tell you. Are you ready? Here it is: Depression sucks.

In fact, let's go a little deeper. Depression sucks when everything is going well. When everyone is happy and relaxed, time is a luxury, and money is no object, depression is frustrating.

When time is tight, money is tight, important relationships are taking a back seat, kids aren't sleeping, viruses are making their rounds, and commitments are tugging at your heart and body... well, then it's hard to know what is depression and what is just life.

And when all of those things are true AND you're pregnant and hormonal, well, you might as well just throw in the towel!

At least that's the way it seems sometimes.

And yet...

Depression sucks. But God is good.

I don't know where you are this morning. I don't know if you're rejoicing in a new day or stumbling bleary-eyed out the door. I don't know if you're having a stressful morning or day or week... if you're feeling overinvolved in life or completely disconnected from life... if circumstances are bringing you down or if you're just not sure what the weight is on your shoulders... if you're overwhelmed by frustrations or even by an overabundance of good things happening (hey, that can be stressful too!)... but whatever you are feeling right now, happy, sad, or in-between, I wanted to share a few verses that jumped out at me this morning. I hope they speak to you as well.

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." --Psalm 68:19

"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." --Psalm 16:8

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." --Psalm 62:1

"You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light." --Psalm 18:28

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." --John 14:1

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." --Matthew 11:28

And yes, I know I already wrote this one, but it is really speaking to me this morning, so I am going to write it again:
"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." --Psalm 68:19

What more can I say? His Word says it all.

Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrating & Refreshing


 

Greetings from Tennessee! We are having an absolutely fantastic time down here, just getting to hang out as a family. So far the highlights have been going to the zoo in the rain and having a "celebration" here in our condo. The latter was an idea that Grace had a few days before we left for vacation, and I promised her we would do it. Actually, the conversation went something like this…

Grace: "Mommy, I have a great idea!!!!"
Me: "What's that, Honey?"
Grace: "While we're on our trip, we should have a CELEBRATION!"
Me: "A celebration?"
Grace: "YEAH! With balloons and cake and EVERYTHING!"
Me: "What should we celebrate?"
Grace: "That we all love each other so much."

Well, that was all it took for me! I agreed, and we sat down our first day here and planned it all out. Matt wanted to eat at a restaurant and NOT here in the condo, so we had dinner at the Rainforest Café. Grace wanted a Lady & the Tramp cake, so Jon found this super-cute dog-shaped cake at Kroger. Also on his shopping trip, Jon found a back of "twisty" balloons, so during naptime he, my mother-in-law, and I experimented with balloon animals and other balloon shapes. Some of them actually turned out quite cute! And after our dinner and cake (and ice cream!), I turned on some Go Fish songs and we danced and played with balloons. It was great fun, and I actually still have two sleeping kids this morning at 7:15, a feat that is just unheard of in our house.

Yes, it has been a fun trip. And I am both sad & excited to see my family time coming to an end tomorrow, as MOPS Convention gets going. I am ready to be fed and encouraged and uplifted and… oh so many other things that MOPS Convention always does for me.

Speaking of being fed and encouraged and uplifted…

I woke up early this morning. As much as I wanted to sleep in with everyone else, it is nice to have a quiet house to myself… so I dragged myself out of bed and came here to the living room. My intentions were good: I wanted to finish reading the current chapter for my Bible study (We're doing Powerful Promises for Every Woman by Elizabeth George.) and spend some time in prayer and Bible reading. But when I sat down, I just didn't feel like it. Instead I grabbed my laptop and pulled up Facebook. Then I played a game online.

Finally I put the computer down and started praying, just out of a feeling of pure obligation. So here comes some honesty, friends. That feeling of peace that I wrote about in my earlier post about the concerns with the pregnancy, that was very real. But it was a small oasis in a vast desert. Lately I've been feeling so BLAH inside. It seems like the very things that typically bring me joy and purpose and excitement have become weights on my heart. Theoretically I want to draw closer to God, but when the time comes to spend time with Him I avoid it. I have been blessed by Him with a passion and love for the ministry of MOPS, but lately—oh, this is hard for me to say—I actually dread the idea of leading again this year. I want to teach my children about the Lord and not just leave that to the church, I want to delve into this Bible study, I want to get more involved in our church, to share Christ with those around me… theoretically. But the joy in those things, the very desire to do them… it hasn't been there. Instead I escape into something meaningless, whether TV or Facebook or even naps or whatever other meaningless pursuit is most convenient.

And so this morning, rather than pretend that those feelings weren't there and try to "pray through them", I made them the focus of my prayer. "God, why is it so hard to do the things that I want to love doing?" I asked. I prayed for joy—and in the meantime, for discipline. I prayed for answers.

And answer He did.

This morning was not the first time that I have felt that God was directly addressing the things on my heart… but it never ceases to amaze me. I opened up my Elizabeth George book and began to read about God's warning us not to become involved in things that do not exalt Him. I thought that seemed obvious enough—of course things like drugs and… you know, other sins… distract us from God. Of course. OK, let's move on. But then she shared a story from her family, which I will not attempt to recount here… but at the end, she shared this quote from Susanna Wesley (mother of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism), "I will tell you what rule I observed… when I was young, and too much addicted to childish diversions, which was this—Never to spend more time in mere recreation in one day than I spend in private religious devotions." A few paragraphs later, Mrs. George writes, "My friend, is there a situation you need to 'remedy'? Are you feeding on foolishness or rooting through ashes or merely sniffing the wind?" (See Proverbs 15:14, Isaiah 44:20, and Ezekiel 34:16 to understand those references.) Wow. No wonder I feel so empty inside—I'm feeding on foolishness. I'm devoting my time to pursuits that have no substance, no purpose. It's like… like eating nothing but candy bars day and night, and then wondering why you don't feel good enough to go work out or do something good for you.

I think the most humbling realization is that it isn't the first time God has tried to teach me a lesson like this. Several years ago, a friend and I led high school girls in our church's youth group through a book called Every Young Woman's Battle. In it was a quote that really spoke to both my friend and me: "In the battle between flesh and spirit do you know who will eventually win? The one you feed the most." Does that sound familiar? God has brought those words to mind many times when I have started to invest my time in things that don't feed my spirit.

So friends, this morning I come to you with hope. God didn't magically take away my… spiritual lethargy. I can't say I feel completely renewed and on fire. But I hear Him speaking, and it is a wonderful sound. I know what I need to do, and for the first time in a while, I want to do it.

And now I ask you, "My friend, is there a situation you need to 'remedy'? Are you feeding on foolishness or rooting through ashes or merely sniffing the wind?" As Elizabeth George concludes, "[D]elight yourself in the Lord, in His provision, in His Word. Faithfully feed on the things which possess true substance and real meaning." There is nothing wrong with recreation… but allow that to be the candy bar of your life, not the main course.

God bless & have a great week.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A very quick update

Hey friends! I only have a moment--my kids are napping, I'm trying to get ready for vacation, and it's just all-around crazy. BUT I had to pop in to thank you all tremendously for your prayers and support since I posted about my pregnancy. I have really been at peace with the whole situation, but it always, always nice to be covered in prayer!

And today I had a midwife appointment, so I thought I would take a minute to let you all know... everything is fine! In fact, the midwife I saw today is not the one I saw before (She is new to the practice since Matt was born, so we hadn't met.), and she originally told me she thought it would be too early to hear a heartbeat today. She said she wanted me to come back in two weeks. I thought, "Um, lady, you are NOT sending me on vacation without some answers!" :-) (That sounds like I was upset, but I really wasn't. I REALLY like this lady, and I knew that she couldn't know EVERYTHING that was communicated to me just by looking at my chart.) So I explained that the other midwife had scheduled me for today specifically so that we COULD hear the heartbeat, and that she had suggested that we do a quick ultrasound if we couldn't hear it via doppler. This midwife agreed and got out the listener thingy (Yep, I went to med school to learn terms like that.), and there was no need for an ultrasound! We could hear that little heartbeat loud and strong. She remarked that we must have an overachiever on our hands. Ahhhhhh... if she only knew the kind of genes that run in this family..............

Anyway, it is wonderful news. Praise God! They have decided to push my due date back a bit, so I am now "officially" due on April 19. No word yet on how they plan to tell the baby of the change.

So have a great weekend, and I am off to celebrate with a week of relaxation & family time! (Those two AREN'T mutually exclusive, are they?)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hellooooooo Applebee’s!

When was the last time you went to Applebee's? With children? Well, apparently it had been a while for me, because today I was introduced to a promotion that the manager said has been around for about 7 months now: DVD players.

No, they are not giving away DVD players. But it's almost as good. When you come in with children, they ask you if it's OK to bring them a DVD player and some movies. The choices were all nice and short—"Blue's Clues", "Max & Ruby", etc (There were some others that I didn't recognize, and I'm assuming those were for slightly older children.)—so I didn't have to worry about dragging them out kicking & screaming halfway through "Cars" or something. It was great!

It would have been absolutely perfect if I had gone to lunch with a friend. As it was, once my kids were absorbed
engrossed
in a zombie-like state paying more attention to Joe & Blue than me, I was a little bit lonely… that is, until I remembered that I had a book stuck in the recesses of the giant pit I call a purse. Yay for literacy! J My book club is reading The Great Gatsby this month, so I dug it out and started to read. It was the most peaceful lunch I've had in weeks! OK, granted, it's not something I want to do every day—I actually do enjoy talking to my kids at meal times (and other times!). But it was a nice little change of pace, and I think a very cute idea.

Now if I could only find something to eat that didn't make me want to puke. Halfway through lunch I almost had to abandon my children because the mere sight of them eating hot dogs made me want to lose my lunch. Oy vey. Just a few more weeks of this stage, hopefully.

So Applebee's, my children and I thank you for a fun discovery!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Change of plans...

My poor husband can't catch a break. For the last two days he has worked 7 AM - 10 PM or later, trying to get caught up on some things before we go on vacation later this month. Today he was back in at 7, worked until about 4:30, then went on a bike ride with a couple of friends. It was a nice reward after some long days, and a chance to get out of the office and get some exercise as well.

And then we planned to have a nice evening. We met for dinner at Cracker Barrel, after which we planned to go to an apartment showing (for a place that we are renting out--we're not moving!) and then go test drive some minivans. (We're not going to fit three kids across the back seat of my Prius...!)

BUT... it didn't happen. We had a nice dinner, and then got in our separate cars, heading for home so that we could drop one off and ride together. Jon put his truck in reverse... at the same time that the lady parked behind him put her car in reverse. They back right into each other. Oy.

No one was hurt, and it was a "no fault" accident, but our big evening out (work and picking out a minivan... but still...) was not to be. I came home to relieve my mother-in-law--she was babysitting, but she also works for Jon and knows more about the apartments than I do--and she went to do the showing. Jon, of course, stayed there with his truck to wait for the police.

Oh well. The minivan will wait, I guess. And I am extremely grateful that everyone was fine. Tonight I'll thank God for a healthy family and minimal damage.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yummmm!

So I logged on to my blog today to see if there was anything new… and there wasn't! Those darn blog fairies have apparently gone on strike—I hear that they are striking in conjunction with their union "cousins", the laundry fairies and dish-washing fairies. So apparently it's up to me to pick up the slack. Aye, aye, aye.

OK, so I sat down to write this really serious post filled with Deep Thoughts About Life and other important things. But I just can't do it yet.

So for now I have to tell you about my new favorite recipe. I made it tonight by special request from my mom. (It's her birthday today. Happy birthday, Mom! J)

Are you ready for this? It is… Peanut Butter French Toast with Carmelized Bananas.

YES, it tastes just as good as it sounds. And here's the thing: It's not really a recipe per se, it's just a few quick tips to make your French Toast extra special.

First, I use white bread with this. Supposedly, this is the best choice of bread for this recipe. Why, I have no idea—but the recipe that inspired me to try this recommended white bread, so that's what I use.

Mix up your eggs, milk, cinnamon, whatever you use to dip your bread before cooking it. Then, before you dip the bread, spread peanut butter on one side of the bread. Cook as normal—but start with the non-peanut butter side. The PB gets a little goopy on the pan, so it makes a bit of a mess.

For the carmelized bananas, just slice bananas diagonally into circles/chips and place in a skillet. Put some sugar on them (seriously, I just dump some on… maybe ¼ C per 2 bananas… maybe not quite that much…?) and cook over med-low to medium heat until heated through and sugar is dissolved.

Top toast with bananas, and voila. It's awesome. Oh, and I like to add chocolate syrup to mine. And sometimes caramel.

No, it's not health food. But it has bananas in it, so how bad can it be?

So have you tried anything new lately that you'd like to share? I'm always up for new recipes!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trust is a lot easier when you don’t have any choice

So I woke up at 5:30 this morning (Nothing like just jumping back in after an absence, right? I'll get back to that later. For now just go with me on this…) and could tell that the Lord wanted to talk. So I did what any normal person would do. I said, "Lord, let's talk at 7:00. That's a much more spiritual hour." And I rolled over to go back to sleep.

Except that I DIDN'T go back to sleep. As I lay in bed, all of the things that God wanted to discuss kept running through my mind, until finally, at 5:50, I said, "OK, Lord, let's talk. I'll meet you in the bathtub."

I grabbed my Bible and devotional book and started a hot bath. Then I sat down, opened my devotional, and laughed out loud when the title of my devotion for this morning was, "I am washed by God." J

The devotional didn't really tell me anything I didn't know, but it provided a much-needed reminder: God has washed me whiter than snow. He has taken the stains in my life and cleansed them. He has given me a fresh start.

A fresh start, I thought. I could really use one of those. Lord, if You're willing to give me one, then maybe I could give one to myself. So here I am, starting fresh. No looking back, no promises for tomorrow, just starting with a clean slate for today.

As a standard part of his routine, comedian Mike Birbiglia does something that he calls "My Secret Public Journal." To me, that's sort of what this blog is. It's a way for me to journal—which, as much as I like to write, has never been a strength for me. This is where I can express my thoughts and feelings and talk about everything that is going on in my life, things that I may be reluctant to share with people face-to-face so I write them down because it feels a little more private… and yet I am sharing it all with all of you in the hope that what is ministering to me may also speak to your heart.

So with that in mind, here is an update on what's happening here:

  • I know that I have shared with you all that I am going to counseling now, and some of the crazy emotional roller coaster that I have been on. During the course of my counseling, my counselor recommended a book called How to Handle Your Emotions by June Hunt. If you are struggling with the emotions covered in the book—anger, depression, fear, grief, rejection, and/or self-worth—it is a book that I highly recommend. It is all at once clinical, spiritual, practical, and easy to read. It was exactly what I needed to help me understand what I have been feeling and start to heal a little. I also bought a devotional by the same author called Seeing Yourself through God's Eyes, another book that I am thoroughly enjoying—and the book that brought me here this morning. These books have also helped me to learn some other things, but… even with my "Secret Public Journal" there are some things that I like to mull over before I lay them out there for all to see, you know?
  • After four years of… searching, of going to churches and getting connected to people but not really feeling "at home", of wondering when God was going to just finally speak audibly so we would know where He wanted us, we have found a new church home. And aaaaahhhhhhh, it feels good. We are getting settled into the Chapel in Akron, where we have found a great ABF (Adult Bible Fellowship—basically like a Sunday School), fantastic ministries, and a real sense of belonging. We have regularly attended two other churches in the past 4 hours, and hear me say this: they are wonderful churches with fantastic people. We loved many things about each of those churches—we just knew that they weren't the place that God had intended for us. And so now we are starting the process of developing relationships and getting involved and all of those things that are both exciting and overwhelming at first.
  • The MOPS year will be starting again next month, and I am again the Coordinator for our group. It's going to be interesting this year, as we used to attend the church where MOPS is held, and I think that is a huge advantage. But I am excited to have the same four women (myself included) come back to the Steering Team—I know that we can all be more effective now that we have a feel for our roles and the dynamics of the group. And it feels like the theme, which focuses on relationships, was hand-picked by God for Rootstown MOPS. Thank you, Lord!

And I guess that's about it. Oh… except for maybe one little thing…

I'm pregnant!

That's right, friends and readers, our family is about to grow again. This was an unexpected but very welcome surprise for us. So far I've been feeling pretty "blah", but haven't really been too sick. I have discovered that there are certain "trigger foods" that I need to avoid… like grapes, yogurt, and turkey sandwiches. Yep, those wild and crazy foods. Unfortunately, onion rings seem to go down just fine.

It's not been all smiles and excitement, though. Because of some things that were discovered during our infertility journey, I am at an increased risk for a tubal pregnancy. In order to be safe, we always have an ultrasound at about 6 weeks, just to be sure that the baby is in the right spot. So I went to my first appointment, and we scheduled the ultrasound for this past Monday.

In the meantime, I started spotting, the Friday before the ultrasound. I never had that with my first two, so even though I had heard that it was a semi-normal thing to occur, I called my midwife. She told me not to worry, but to take it easy—no heavy-lifting, etc. The spotting continued through the weekend (It's still going on now, actually.), and on Sunday was bad enough that I called the OB/GYN's office and talked to the doctor on-call. She again told me to take it easy and just to wait and see what the ultrasound said, especially since I wasn't having any cramps. I asked her, "Let's say that it gets worse, and I do start having cramps. Is there any reason to go to the emergency room, or… not?"

"You mean, can we do anything to help?" she asked. "No, this is really something your body has to take care of on its own, one way or another."

So we went to the ultrasound the next day, got the picture going, and there was our beautiful little blip. J The baby was right in the uterus—yay!—and had a heartbeat—double-yay! The EDD based on the ultrasound was about 8 days later than the original one based on my last period, but that didn't bother me at all.

After the ultrasound we saw the doctor. (We see a midwife, but apparently they are not allowed to "interpret" ultrasounds, so we had to see the doctor that day.) This man is not exactly oozing with emotional connections and bedside manner. So it took me quite by surprise when he said, rather matter-of-factly, "Well, it looks like we've got some concerns here." We do? Apparently the combination of spotting and a small baby can be an indicator that things aren't going well. He even said that the heartbeat could be a "false positive"—that sometimes the ultrasound shows something that looks like "cardiac activity" but is actually something else.

At the same time, the dates just could be off, and I could just be having some normal spotting.

So now we wait. We go back in three weeks, and see if we can still hear a heartbeat. If we can, then everything should be fine. If not, then… well, not.

But here's the thing. It all sounds very scary to me to say it out loud, to see it in print. I read what I just wrote and think, "That mom is probably worried out of her mind." But I'm not.

Do you know why? There is not one single thing that ANYONE can do to change what is happening inside my better, for better or worse. If we had an ultrasound EVERY SINGLE DAY from now through the end of the first trimester, it wouldn't change anything. The treatment wouldn't change. The pregnancy wouldn't change.

I have never felt so completely out of control in my entire life. And it is extremely freeing.

God is in complete control of this situation. Man can do nothing. It also means that I don't need to be constantly watching for some sign that I need to call my doctor or rush to the hospital. There is nothing they can do—it is in God's hands. And yes, I am hoping for a happy ending. I am praying for it. And really, I truly believe that we will get it. But even if we don't, I know that whatever happens is exactly what God has planned.

A couple I know lost a baby when she was just weeks old. They talk about the impact that they unknowingly had on the people around them—family, friends, hospital staff, etc. People have come to them years later to say, "We were astounded by your complete faith and trust in God." And the couple will tell you, they didn't trust in God so that they could be an example to others. They weren't putting on a show or even necessarily working at it—they trusted God because there was nothing else to do.

I can't even begin to compare my situation to theirs. But I understand that kind of trust. To be very honest, at no point in this situation have I said, "God, I have to put this in Your hands and trust You with this." I didn't have to start trusting Him… I just did it.

So why do I have to work so hard to trust God with other things in my life? With the parenting decisions that I make, with my relationships, with my ministry? Sometimes, friends, it's easier to trust when you don't have any choice.

So Lord, thanks for another lesson on trust—apparently I have a hard head when it comes to that. Thanks for being trustworthy. Thanks for watching after us—all of us, even those we can't see yet.

And to you, thanks for listening. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement in my absence, now, and always. I look forward to sharing this pregnancy and the many other aspects of this crazy thing I call life with you. J

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hello, Bloggy Friends! I've missed you--again. Trust me, you really didn't want to hear much from me for the past two weeks anyway! But now I would like to catch you up on the latest in the Land of Crazy. :-)

I have mentioned before that I have been struggling emotionally off-and-on for about 2 years--since Matt was born, basically. Fortunately, it has been decreasing lately--thanks in part to my wonderful husband and in part to some counseling--but then about 2 weeks ago, it hit with a vengance! I spent about 10 days straight feeling just... not myself. And at least 4 of those 10 days, I struggled to do much more than get out of bed in the mornings. So if I have failed to call or e-mail or otherwise respond to you in the past two weeks, I am very sorry. It is baffling to me how those feelings hit so hard and are so incapacitating. Can I tell you all something? One day last week, I stopped in the middle of Giant Eagle--with both kids in the cart--and cried because they were out of chicken pot pie. Really. And no, I'm not pregnant. Really.

Fortunately, I am feeling much better now and am looking forward to several days of good weather and good moods. :-) And by the way, I went grocery shopping this morning and couldn't help but grab myself a chicken pot pie for lunch. ;-)

So that's really where I have been for the past two weeks--that and sitting out at our garage sale that took place over the weekend. That was the second garage sale I have ever held... and I'm not sure yet if there will be a third. It was OK, but my neighbor has a fantabulous one every year, and I'm tempted to just take my stuff to her house from now on. :-)

There are a few photos I want to share with you, but my USB cable for my camera seems to have disappeared. This is especially frustrating because I need to list some stuff on Ebay and don't want to do it without pictures. Hmmmm. Maybe I should be spending my time looking for that cable instead of blogging....... NAH.

The biggest news here is that my hubby is in the midst of planning a GREAT party to ring in my 30s! Woo-hoo! Yes, I will be turning 30 in a few short weeks. I can't say that it bothers me at all, although I have been THOROUGHLY enjoying the remainder of my 20s. :-) To me, turning 30 is just a fun excuse to throw a big ol' party and hang out with friends.

As I was thinking about posting earlier, I had some oh-so-cute kiddo anecdotes to share with you all... but they seem to have slipped my mind at the moment. (Old age, I guess. ;-) ) So now you're just going to have to wait to hear more about how wonderfully cute and witty my children are.

For now, I bid you adieu. I just wanted to pop in and tell you that I'm here! I do have at least one more "Family Forest" post that I will be sharing soon.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bye-Bye Baby

It's the end of an era here in our home. I no longer have a baby in the house.

Grace was born in June of 2005, and was still in diapers and sleeping in a crib when Matt was born just 20 months later. So in some form or another, I've had a baby for the past 4 years. But no more.

Now I have twin bedding for Matt, and I am getting ready to buy a twin bed to go with it. :-) (Yes, I am THAT mom--the one with a 2 1/2-year-old still in a crib. But even though his nickname is Destruct-O-Matt, he hasn't ever climbed out of his crib, so I have been enjoying the fact that I know where he is when it is nap time or bed time. :-) ) I am collecting paint swatches to repaint his room. I am planning to sell the crib at our garage sale next weekend. (Don't worry, we have another crib, so we haven't completely ruled out the possibility of a third child. ;-) ) No longer will we have a nursery in our home. This is especially sad for me because we were trying to get pregnant when we moved into the house, so we chose carpet and paint with a baby's room in mind.

And as if that weren't enough, Matt woke up yesterday and decided he was ready to use the potty! He sat on it 3 or 4 times yesterday, then several times again today--with a moderate amount of success! I even bought him "Thomas the Tank Engine" underwear at Wal-Mart today. Yes, this is GREAT news. I can't imagine being a diaper-free home! But it's also another sign that we are moving out of the baby phase.

And you know what else? I have stopped buying baby wash! At the aforementioned Wal-Mart trip, I bought plain old Suave shampoo, conditioner, and body wash for my kids. No longer will they come out of the tub with that Johnson's scent. (Of course, now they'll smell like strawberries--that's not too shabby either.)

I miss having a baby. I miss snuggling (neither of my kids are snugglers) and feeding them cereal and the little baby rompers and baby giggles and teeny toes.

But you know what? I love having a toddler and a preschooler. I love watching my kids really play together. I am thoroughly enjoying Matt's verbal development as he has moved from signing to single words to two-word combos and now full sentences. Grace's preschool jokes crac me up. Her reading amazes me. Their conversations and questions and comments touch my heart.

So bye-bye, Baby. It's been fun, but now it's time to look forward to new days and phases--to a "big boy bed" and swimming lessons, to preschool and soccer, to lots more growing for all of us. :-) And maybe, just maybe, there will be another baby phase in my future, but for tonight, I'm enjoying the end of an era.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Check me out!

Sorry I'm not posting much--my quiet summer has been a little "noisier" than I expected. Well, that and the stuff that God has been laying on my heart lately has been hitting a little close to home and I've been arguing with Him about whether or not I actually want to write it. Do you wonder who will win...? ;-)

But for now, I just wanted to tell you that I am guest blogging now and then at Hearts at Home. Here is one of my posts--if you've been reading my blog for a while, you may have read this before. But it's still one of my favorites, and there are lots of other great bloggers and posts on there, so check them out!

I promise to be back soon, even if it means I have to be all introspective and stuff. ;-)

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Surrender Some

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love & trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all.
I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

I sang these words in the shower this morning. As I did, a vivid picture came to mind: I was handing things over to God—concerns, situations, people—and as He took hold of them, I pulled them back. I kept telling myself to let go, but I just couldn't—wouldn't. I didn't want to completely take them back… I wanted God's Hands on them, but I wanted mine on them too. Even as I sang, "I surrender all", I couldn't make myself—even just in my little daydream—let go of what I needed to give to Him.

So today I've been pondering surrender, and what makes it so difficult. Here are my thoughts:

  1. Is it just my imagination…?
    Imagination is a fun tool, an amazing gift from God. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, and every blessing from God can be easily twisted in our brokenness. We use our imaginations to dwell in the past and to worry about the future. The scenarios we imagine cause us to fear surrender to God, but there is an inherent flaw in that thinking. You see, when we imagine something, we are in control, not God. So God is not the one whose control we should be fearing—it's our own control that is scary! J
  2. Is God good?
    One of my favorite bloggers, Angie Smith, writes about the day her world turned upside-down—the day she found out that her precious little Audrey Caroline would likely never see life outside of the womb. Angie's first response was, "I think that my Jesus is the same as He was before I walked into this room." Sometimes our circumstances are bad—sometimes they are unbearable—but God remains good through it all. In fact, He alone is good: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Why would you—why would I—want anyone who falls short to be the person making the calls?
  3. It's all about me… right?
    Are you a parent? How hard is it to surrender your children to God? Many times I have told God, "I give my children over to You", only to immediately imagine (hmmmm… there's that word again!) something bad happening to them, just to teach me a lesson or test my level of "surrenderedness". What a selfish view! To think that God would allow harm to my children only to test me assumes that I am more important to God than my children are. Even though I may learn something from a difficult situation that happens with my children, husband, or others that I love, to assume that it is happening solely for my benefit (or punishment) is unrealistic and shows a rather warped view of God and the world.

    In Genesis, we learn about a boy named Joseph who is sold into slavery by his own brothers. In fact, they originally intended to kill him—out of jealousy—but were convinced by their youngest brother to merely sell him. Joseph's life goes through a series of twists and turns before he finally ends up predicting a famine, then helping Pharaoh to prepare for it so that the people of the nation do not starve. He is given a position of honor in Pharaoh's court. He is essentially put in charge of the entire nation of Egypt! And before long, Joseph's brothers are among the many who come looking for food. (To find out Joseph's full story, read Genesis 37-48.) When Joseph finally tells his brothers who he is, look at how he comforts them: "And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you." (Genesis 45:5) He doesn't say, "Don't be distressed, because look at how successful I am now!" It wasn't all about him—God had a plan to use this man in great ways for the whole nation, but it had to start with a young boy being thrown into an empty well.

And after I spent so long thinking of why I struggle with surrender, I realized how ironic it is to struggle at all. Surrender isn't a duty—it's a gift. I hold on to my worries, thinking "What if something happens to Jon? To the kids?" I think, "What if the economy doesn't get better and we lose our house or the business—or both?" I worry about relationships, about money, about plans for the future. But does refusing to give those things over to God mean that they're not going to happen? Of course not. As Jesus says, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:27) God allows us to surrender, so that we can be free from worrying about things that are not in our control.

Surrender isn't really about giving up control—because we don't really have control anyway. Surrender doesn't mean that bad things are less likely—or more likely—to happen. Surrender is about taking a deep breath, giving up our worries, and trusting the One who is in control, the One who is good, the One who sees the big picture.

I surrender all.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Castle Cake!

Just a minute to post here while Jon puts Grace to bed, but I wanted to update you all on my Castle Cake that I made for Grace's birthday party today. I have definitely NOT missed my calling as a professional cake decorator :-) but it turned out cute, nonetheless. I got the recipe/decorating instructions at Family Fun's web site.





And now, without further ado... here it is....................


Yes, it is leaning to one side. Yes, there are some spots that don't seem to be covered in icing... But when Gracie saw it, she gasped and said, "Oh, MOMMY--You made it so beautiful, just like I wanted it!" And that is all that really matters. :-)

Have a great weekend, all. :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weekend Roundup (a little belated)

I have been wanting to post this since Monday, but it has been a busy week. Cleaning, running errands, getting ready for Grace's birthday party on Saturday—and let's not forget cleaning puke out of clothes, car seats, and car upholstery. That was fun. But here is a little list I've been excited to post for days now…

My Top 10 Favorite Things About Our Weekend:

  1. Planting our vegetable garden.
  2. Watching the kids spray each other down with the hose.
  3. Riding our bikes to the Memorial Day parade with the kids in the trailer.
  4. Watching the parade with the kids (and seeing many of our friends in the procession).
  5. Signing Grace up for soccer. (She has been asking DAILY about playing, and she was THRILLED to sign her own name on the form. Now I just have to convince her that practices don't even start until August…)
  6. Having an entire afternoon to myself while the rest of the family slept.
  7. This picture:

  8. Jon didn't work on Saturday.
  9. Jon didn't work on Sunday.
  10. Jon didn't work on Monday.
Yes, it was really a wonderful weekend, filled with lots of much-needed family time. I think sometimes I don't realize how much my stress level and my attitude are affected by Jon's work schedule. Having him home for three days was really the icing on the cake for… well, the whole month of May, to be honest! It made for a fun weekend and also put me in a better mood to start the week. J
And now we're gearing up for another fun weekend, filled with castle cake and princess slippers and even a little sleepover with Grace's big cousin. I can't wait to tell you all about it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Links, Links, Everywhere!

Alright, folks. Today is a light day, because... well, just because. I'm taking a "Mental Health Day" today, and spending naptime working on last year's scrapbook. I am NOT going to write anything deep or introspective, nor am I deep-cleaning my kitchen cabinets.

OK, so now that we've got that straight, let's get back to what we're doing here. I have been coming across some fun links lately, and I would like to share them with you.
  • Highlights Magazine - I never really thought to check their site, but they have lots of fun stuff, including Hidden Pictures puzzles that your kids can do online.
  • Getting Boys to Read - I just discovered this one a few minutes ago, but am already really liking it. If you have boys of any age, this is a good site to check out.
  • First School - For the "home preschool" that Grace and I have been doing faithfully at least one day a month (ha ha), I have found this site extremely helpful. It's got great worksheets and activity ideas.
  • Preschool Express - WOW. Jean Warren has TONS of great craft and activity ideas to do with your preschooler. She has many different "stations", so you can search in whatever way best suits your needs. This site has been absolutely INVALUABLE to me.
  • And since I mentioned doing preschool with Grace, let me also list Letter of the Week, which is a fabulous resource for parents of kids from infants - probably age 11 or so, although I haven't looked much beyond the preschool stuff. She has several different curriculums, including a whole line of ideas for babies and toddlers. While I have been less than consistent with carrying out the whole preschool-at-home thing, I have found this site to be unbelievably helpful, and have even been able to e-mail back and forth with Katrina, the site's creator, and she has been generous and kind in her advice to a non-teacher. :-)

OK, in case you didn't notice the theme, I'm thinking a lot today about sites that help me be a beter parent. :-) So hopefully this will help you too. Good luck, and have a fabulous Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hello, old friend, hello

Yes, I have missed you all... but the friend I had lost and who has now returned to me is none other than... my laptop. Oh, dear Laptop, how I have missed you!

You see, Internet Friends, my laptop went into cardiac arrest last week, and I had to rush it to computer ER. It has now been given a new pacemaker, and is back with us. (OK, maybe I stretched that metaphor a bit too far. It totally bit the dust on me last week, and it turns out that the power adapter on the machine was bad. The wonderful gentleman at our local computer repair store fixed it for me, and now we're back in business. Unfortunately, the power adapter was bad for so long that it eventually killed the battery, so now I have to work with it plugged in until I get a new battery. But I can live with that for now.)

If you think that I am making too much of a big deal out of my computer, maybe you don't know me that well. Let me put it this way: My husband says he doesn't worry about another man ever coming between us, but my laptop--well, that's a different story. :-) I tell him that the problem is with his perception: He should stop looking at the laptop as a third party and start seeing it as I do--as an extension of myself! :-)

So now I am back and can't wait to start posting more. I have all sorts of thoughts rolling around in this little brain of mine, and I am excited to share them with you!

For now, a little catch up on what's happening in the Land of Katy:
  • My Mother's Day present from Jon was a couples' cooking class, which we took with about 20 friends. It was a blast! He and I had done another class at this same school, so that's where he got the idea. Each couple works on one dish, and you come together at the end with a fabulous dinner, including an appetizer, soup, salad, main course with a side dish, and dessert. I would love to make this a semi-regular occurrence--it's tons of fun and the food is awesome!
  • My wonderful friend Erin recently welcomed her first baby, Levi, to the world. YAY!!! I am going out to see her and her beautiful family next month, and I can't wait! I am thrilled to see her, and I am in desperate need of a baby fix. :-)
  • I am going to be contributing to the Hearts at Home blog, and am super excited to be part of something so great. Start looking for my contributions to show up in June--but don't wait until then to check out the blog. There is some great stuff on there!
  • West Branch State Park has a fun little beach area... but it doesn't open until Memorial Day. You know, just in case someone might get the idea that it would be fun to take their kids to the beach to play in the sand on a nice 80 degree day... It's not open yet. But the picnic area, fortunately, IS open. And to the nice couple who gave my kids a frisbee, THANK YOU. You definitely saved the day!
  • A new animal has taken up residence in our mulch beds. A snake. Yep, a snake. Can you take a guess as to who is NOT going to be pulling weeds any time soon????? The kids, though, think this is SUPER cool, and we have to keep a close eye on them so that they don't touch it. UGH!
  • Jillian Michaels is NOT my BFF. I have started the "30 Day Shred", and it is a killer. But it's working, so I'm going to keep doing it!
  • Has anyone heard of this show out there called "American Idol"? Anyone? I hear a few people watch it here & there. I was amazed at the talent this year, and even though I'm bummed that Danny Gokey didn't make it to the finale, I am very happy for Kris Allen! And now I can breathe a deep sigh of relief because I no longer have to be SURE I am home on Wednesday nights so that I don't hear about the results before I get to watch them. Freedom! :-)
  • And last but not least, GUESS who I talked to last week....! Are you ready? My half-sister! My birth father had a daughter who is about 18 months older than I am, and she e-mailed me last week, and then we had a chance to talk on the phone a few days ago. Yes, I know, you're thinking that I should have saved that for a Family Forest post, but I don't want her to feel like she's just part of a saga... but I DID want to share it with you all because I think it's really cool! :-)

So now you're all caught up. And I'm exhausted because Jon and I have been getting up at 5:00ish all week as part of a new work schedule he's trying--into the office by 6:00 AM, home at 4:00 PM. It's working great--I'm getting more done by 8:00 AM than I sometimes get done all day--except for the 4:00 PM part. He started this on Tuesday, and on Wednesday and Thursday he got held at the office until after 8:00 PM! Those are some long work days. Poor guy. Anyway, getting up early, working out hard, and staying up late to watch Idol on DVR is all starting to catch up with me. So I'm going to curl up with my cat and some NCIS reruns. I'll catch you all later.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Katy’s Family Forest, part 26

***Edited because I changed my mind about some of my wording...***

You all have me a little nervous. We're drawing near to the end of the story, and I am afraid you won't come back! So maybe I should just keep you hanging a little longer… ;-)

Just kidding. But seriously, I hope you'll keep reading after the story is "finished"—you know, as much as anything that's an ongoing part of my life can be finished. That being said, this is not the last installment of "Katy's Family Forest." There will be at least one more after this. OK, so now let's get to it.

So there I was, sitting in the parking lot of the restaurant, wondering if I really wanted to go through with it after all. And really, I think I felt about that meeting similar to how I feel about writing the end of the story: That's it? It's over? After so many years of this continuing real live soap opera, was it all really drawing to a close? But two things got me out of the car: First, I was there. It seemed silly to turn around and go home at that point. And second, I still kept thinking that I would someday regret if I missed this opportunity. So Jon and I got out and started up the hill to the entrance.

Der Dutchman is well-known in that area, and there is always a line. As in, out the door, down the length of the building (which is huge). Today was no exception. Fortunately, we knew that Frank and Janet had arrived before us and had already gotten a spot in line for us. So we started scanning the crowd.

And then it happened. We saw him—both of them. They recognized us right away, and we recognized them. And it was so… odd. Surreal and yet anti-climactic at the same time. After all, we're standing in the middle of a crowded line of strangers… And even though I was strangely connected to them both, I hardly thought of him as my "long-lost daddy" or anything, so it wasn't all that emotional. Just surreal. And strangely anti-climactic. Did I say that already?

And then we still had to wait in line. Ummm… The only word I have for that is "surreal." Again. We didn't really feel like we could talk standing there in line, so we just chatted… How do you chat with your biological father and his wife, neither of whom you've ever met?

Der Dutchman is popular, and it is also very, very big. So even though the lines are typically long, they keep it moving at a good pace. We probably weren't in line for more than 15-20 minutes before we had a table. Finally, it was just the four of us.

I feel like so much has built up to this moment in the story, and now I'm just not sure I can do it justice.

Frank was… nothing like I imagined. As I mentioned before, I expected him to be hard and gruff, a heartless jerk. He was friendly and a little soft-spoken. I couldn't figure it out, it didn't compute with what I knew of him. They brought pictures of them, of Frank when he was in the military, of Frank's granddaughter. (Did I mention that Frank has another daughter close to my age? She had recently had her first baby.)

We placed our orders, and then Jon and I headed to the salad bar. I think it was a good opportunity for both couples to have time to discuss our initial impressions. We were both a little… I don't know… I hate to say we were surprised that they were friendly, but… he was just so different than I thought he would be.

And again, I started to worry: What were we going to talk about this whole time? It seemed logical that we would talk about him and Jan, and why he didn't stick around, etc, etc, etc… but I didn't really need—or especially want—to. I knew that he and Jan hadn't been in a serious relationship at the time—and not only that, he was married! And again, it hadn't happened to me, it had happened to Jan. I had definitely gotten the best end of the deal, since I got placed in my family! J

So instead, we just talked. Not much about my adoption or my family, but just talked. We talked about our kids, Janet's kids, Frank's grandbaby. We did talk a little about Frank and Janet's remarriage—I think they felt a little uncomfortable about that, since I had expressed disapproval at Janet's leaving her husband (and children) for Frank. But honestly, it was all said and done at that point, and while I am sad to see any marriage end like that, it was their lives and their choice, not mine. So I think that wasn't as much of an issue as they were concerned it would be. So more than anything, we just got to know each other. And they were nice… and friendly… and easy to talk to.

So in some ways, it was anti-climactic, because there were no big… emotional moments. No breakdowns or apologies or… whatever else one might expect when first meeting your "father" after 28 years. But again, he wasn't really my father, just the man who had helped to conceive me.

But it has also become an important day in my life for a few reasons. First, I learned who Frank really is. While I can't speak for how he acted 28 years ago, deep down I don't really think that he was heartless… I think he was more… afraid of conflict, and that he tended to avoid it... strongly. That explained why he had reacted the way he did when I had tried to contact him before—it had caused a problem between him and his wife at the time, so the easiest thing was just to do away with the conflict. It also explained his history with women (multiple wives and affairs).

Second, I learned that my connection to Frank—and to Janet—is stronger than I would have thought. During lunch, they expressed interest in someday meeting the kids. On the ride home, Jon said he had no real desire to maintain contact with them… and three hours earlier, I probably would have said the same thing. But after I met them, I knew that I needed them to meet the kids. I needed them to be part of my life—not a major part, not talking every week or even every month… but I needed that connection, even if it was just Christmas cards and an annual e-mail or something.

And to be honest, the idea of a relationship that was more than the occasional card or e-mail was quite scary to me. As we sat at lunch and I came to realize that this was not just going to be a one-time meeting, I simultaneously started to worry that they were going to want to truly become part of the family… and I wasn't prepared for that.

And that's where God's Hand once again became clear. They were moving. Years ago, Frank bought a house or townhome or something in North Carolina. He rented it out, and planned to use it as his retirement home. And now (at the time we were having lunch) his job in Columbus, which was a contract position, would soon be coming to an end. He and Janet planned to move after his contract was finished. What an amazing God, who could orchestrate our meeting when he lived just two hours away, but just a few short months before he would be moving much farther. We met just in time, but also didn't have to worry about how often to visit or how often they would want to make the trip up. Whew!

And so… there it is. After 28—almost 29—years, I met my biological father. And I met the woman who had helped me to find him, who had been my connection to the past when I wasn't quite sure what my past was. And I shook the whole way home… I shook because it had finally happened… I shook because it was over… I shook because I did want a continuing relationship of sorts with them, and I wasn't sure why… I shook because—well, have I mentioned the word "surreal" yet in the last sentence?

Before we left, Jan had the foresight to ask someone to document our visit with a photo. And so, friends, here you are. Here's a little peek into a day I never thought would come, and certainly never thought I would be sitting here writing down for all to see… Meet my biological father…

Well, I guess I've gotten over the "short post" thing, eh? J Honestly, there is more that I want to share with you, so I hope that you will come back. But that's enough for one post.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wordless Wednesday--sort of...

The first bon fire of the season...

It's important to always accessorize appropriately.
This would be a pretty cool picture without the trash can there... Oh well, live & learn...
How's that for some yummy goodness?!?
That's what we did last night. What's new with you?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Randomness


I have started about 5 different posts in the past 2 days, but haven't been able to finish them. Why? SLEEP DEPRIVATION. In the middle of last week, I was struck with insomnia—ugh! That lasted for a couple of nights… Then on Friday night, I was up all night with a really bad UTI, which means that I then spent Saturday morning at an urgent care center so that I wouldn't be miserable for the whole weekend. I napped a little on Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night wasn't too bad, but I didn't sleep again last night. I say all of that not to complain—honestly—but just to explain why my sentences may not make sense, and why I am not able to create a single coherent post. I apologize in advance.


Here are a few things I wanted to share:



  • I have been given the opportunity to speak at a few upcoming events, and I am so excited! I will be basing my talks on my adoption story, partly talking about adoption and my story, and partly focusing on identity and who we are in Christ. I will share more as things get firmed up, etc. And if you or someone you know is looking for a speaker, I would be honored if you thought of me. J

  • I am trying to plan Grace's party for her upcoming FOURTH BIRTHDAY. This has led me to seriously ponder two big questions: 1-How did my baby get to be four years old already? And 2-How is it possible that she has more friends than I do?

  • Last week Jon brought home one of those big letter/number foam floor puzzles for the kids, and they LOVE it! Here is one of my favorite snapshots of them right after we put it together:

  • This week is absolutely NUTS NUTS NUTS for me, so please bear with me if I don't post much. After Saturday, my life will be MUCH calmer. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

  • I am working on a great study about knowing God better, so I want to leave you with the words of Simon Peter:
    "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (1 Peter 1:2-3, emphasis mine) Please remember, God's grace and peace become ours as we grow in our knowledge of Him. May you seek to know Him better today.

Have a blessed week.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Katy’s Family Forest, part 25

Let me back up here for just a moment. (This is the danger with the post-as-you-go style of writing a story like this, I guess!) About two weeks before that fateful drive, Frank had sent me pictures. Nothing of "historical" significance, just two snapshots of him and Janet on a vacation they had recently taken. I had always had an image of Frank in my head, based partly on the one photograph I had seen of him (taken in approx. 1980) and partly on what I knew of him—a former Air Force officer, a heartbreaker and womanizer, a man with several failed marriages (and other relationships) under his belt. I pictured him as a hard man, gruff, stubborn, physically fit, and mostly unsmiling.

This image did not fit with the pictures he sent me. In fact, as soon as I opened them, I said, "Jon, look! He looks just like your Uncle Larry!" OK, so that probably doesn't mean much to you, since you likely don't know Jon's uncle Larry. But trust me… the characteristics that I listed above are pretty much the exact OPPOSITE of Uncle Larry. The man in the picture was relaxed, friendly-looking, and decidedly not… well… military-looking. I just couldn't make it fit with who I had always thought Frank to be.

So I went to our meeting that day with a very confused image of who this man really was—but at least with a more accurate idea of what he looked like. J

We had decided to meet at Der Dutchman, a great Amish restaurant about 1.5 hours from where we live, in the heart of Amish country. No, it was not anywhere near a half-way point, but Frank and Janet had wanted to visit Amish country, and were also on the way to visit some of his (and my, I guess) relatives in Pennsylvania. And it's such an idyllic area, it seemed like a good fit—like it would be hard to be stressed there. (But not impossible, I assure you.)

On the drive down, I had a lot of time to think. And talk. And talk. And think. I looked back over the events of the past several years and saw God's Hand leading to this day. I saw how far He had brought me in my maturity, how much more able I was to handle this day, no matter how it turned out. I was also able to sort out a lot of my feelings toward him, which was good. In fact, I'm not sure if I can really put down on paper the things I sorted out in my head that day, but I'll try… I hadn't heard a lot of good things about Frank at that point. I'd heard about his failed marriages, his affair with Jan, his unwillingness to have anything to do with her pregnancy/baby and his reluctance to accept responsibility for his "part" in the pregnancy, his walking out on Janet… well, you get the picture. It doesn't really plant a great impression in your head, does it? But none of those things happened to me. I wasn't angry at him for those things, I was just aware of them. Yes, his refusal to be part of Jan's life when she was pregnant affected me—I think she was planning to keep me if he had wanted to be around and involved in my life—but I was far from angry with him for that. In fact, I was quite grateful—I love my family and am so thankful that I was given to them.

So really, when it was all laid out on the table, that stuff didn't really bother me. My real hurt was wrapped up in his rejection of me when I had tried to contact him earlier. For that hurt and anger, I felt justified. The rest… well, the rest just went to character. It showed that his response to me was fitting for the patterns I saw in his life: When life gets tough, shut the door.

Yep, it was a deep ride down. ;-)

And just when I thought I had it all under control, we pulled into the parking lot. And that's when it really hit me: maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Why had I built this up so much in my head, the idea of meeting this man who had no real claim to my life, no real title to me? Why did I care about seeing someone who had (I told myself) no significance to me?

And once we got beyond the "Hellos" and the "OK, that's who you are, nice to meet you" stuff… What would we talk about???

Ha! You thought this was going to be "it", didn't you? OK, so did I when I sat down to write. But I didn't know all this stuff was going to come out! J So now you're going to have to wait just a little longer.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ummmm… She’s HOW old?

Those who know me and my family also know that I have a three-going-on-thirteen-year-old in my house. She's got the attitude all ready to go, she just needs the puberty to go with it. But even I was unprepared for our conversation last night.

I had planned to put her to bed at 7:00 because she didn't sleep at naptime yesterday, and that's our typical routine. (Nap = 8:00 bed time, laying down quietly with no sleep = 7:00, up and playing during naptime = 6:00-6:30. Yeah, I really can't complain!) But I was feeling lazy generous, and decided not to start the battle bed time until closer to 7:30.

Finally, I told her it was time to get her PJs. She heard, "Gracie, would you please turn your music up louder?" I told her again, and she did it… eventually.

I told her to go sit on the potty. She heard, "Gracie, I would love to see you play with your balloon a little more!" I told her again, and she decided to look out the window.

I told her a third time (rather firmly), and she ran out of the room muttering something with a word that sounded distinctly like "hate."

I thought maybe we should talk about that.

I called her back into the room and asked her what she just said. She looked me in the eye with no hesitation and said, "I said, 'I love you.'"

I took a deep breath and tried to stop seeing red before proceeding.

I explained to her that there would be consequences for what she said, but it would be worse if she were to add lying to the list.

She did then come clean… but HELLO! Where does she GET this? She's not even FOUR, people!

She DID start reading the "Bob Books" this week, so who knows—maybe she's reading Seventeen magazine behind my back…

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I could sure use a little definition…

…and not just in my muscles. Although that would be good, too.

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend MOPS Convention in Texas. It was my third year going to convention, and every bit as worthwhile as my first two. MOPS International does such a fantastic job of growing great women, mothers, and leaders. It is an amazing experience, and I look forward to heading to Nashville this fall for another great convention experience.

But I digress.

One of the keynote speakers last year was a man named Patrick Lencioni. Mr. Lencioni actually works in the corporate world, "helping organizations, and the people who work within them, become 'healthier' and more effective", according to the "About Us" section of his company's web site. He has quite an impressive resume. Patrick is also a family man. If I remember correctly, he and his wife have 4 or 5 children, and a life every bit as hectic as the rest of us. And somewhere along the line, he realized that a lot of the principles he was teaching to corporations could also be applied to family life as well.

OK, I know what you're thinking, because that's what I thought, too. "Yeah. This guy should meet my husband. Why do men think that families can be run like businesses? That's just not reality!" And no, they can't. But he's not asking us to run our families like a business. He's just trying to help us find some focus.

Now, before I get in trouble for any kind of copyright infringement, let me point you to his book, The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family. You can also download the model that is explained in his book here. If you are going to do that, it may be worthwhile to check out the other links on that page as well—I'm not sure how much sense that model will make without some context. But I do recommend the book and his concepts in general.

Anyway, Jon and I have been talking a lot lately about Mr. Lencioni's system (for lack of a better word) and how it applies to our family. One of the big things that we have been trying to determine is who we are as a family. In other words, what makes our family unique from anyone else? What defines us? And then we even drilled down farther: What defines us as individuals?

So here I am to ask you: How do you want to be defined? When people talk about you, how do you want to be described or remembered? How do you want your family to see you? Your friends? Your children?

And more importantly: Are the things that you want to be your defining characteristics the things that other people currently see?

It was quite eye-opening for me to consider the things that I feel are important for me to live by… and then realize that I'm not sure they are really being demonstrated in my life. So Jon and I both sat down and picked two characteristics/behaviors that we felt were important to us individually. Then we came up with specific goals that will help us to become those people we want to be. And then we agreed to talk about our goals and progress once a week—not any major meeting, just 5-10 minutes of "How's it going?"

And here's the ultimate goal: to not have these characteristics be goals anymore. I want these things to become so second nature that I don't have to put so much thought into them—yes, they may still require intention and effort, but they will just become a part of everyday life… like brushing my teeth.

So I challenge you this week. Take a hard look at who you want to be… and who you are right now. I, of course, think that you are all wonderful. J But I'm guessing that you have one or two things that you would really like to display in your character that you don't feel you're doing right now. Pray about it. Write it down. Set some goals—but limit them to just one or two, so you are not overwhelmed. And become that person that you want others to see.

Have a blessed week.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Katy’s Family Forest, part 24

Even though I felt confident that I could "handle" meeting Frank—that my happiness or sense of identity did not hinge on what he thought of me—I still saw some value in protecting my heart a little. So as we arranged to meet, I set some ground rules. First, we would meet at a neutral location. Frank and Janet had volunteered to come to our house, but that was a little too… personal for me. Instead, we chose a restaurant in Amish country, which somehow seemed like the perfect place. It was a warm, friendly environment, where there would be lots of food to fill any voids in conversation. J It was also far enough from either of our homes so that it felt… safe. I don't mean physically safe—that was never a concern for me—I just wanted to meet him somewhere that was not part of my normal life. Somewhere that I wouldn't run into other people I knew, somewhere that I wouldn't associate with him every time I drove by (if things went badly). Does that make sense at all?

Anyway, second on my list were the kids: They wouldn't be there. This was actually for multiple reasons. Not only was I protecting a little bit of my heart and privacy, it's also quite difficult to have any type of prolonged conversation with a 1-year-old and almost-2-year-old hanging around. Frank and Janet were very understanding about this, and we set a date and time for the four of us to sit down together for lunch.

Even now I'm shaking my head in disbelief. It is somewhat surreal to go from this… theory of being adopted and having a biological father out there, to basically going on a double-date with him and his wife… who just happens to be the woman who helped me to locate him in the first place… and also a woman with whom I had developed some sort of strange family bond over the past several years. How had it come to this?

And then the day came. On May 24, 2008, Jon and I dropped the kids off at my parents' house, then headed south to meet my biological father. Wow. (And no, I didn't remember the date—I had to look it up on my calendar.) On the way down, they called for some reason or another—maybe to check and see how close we were, I can't quite remember—but it went to my voicemail. I checked the message, and it was just so odd to hear Janet's voice after so many years of exchanging e-mails. Then I called back to answer whatever question they had asked… and Frank answered. It was the first time I had ever heard his voice, either. And it was so weird that our first conversation would be something like, "Yeah, we'll be there in about 15 minutes……….. Oh, you're in line? OK, we'll see you there." Not anything of significance.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot, my façade of confidence was gone. I was shaking like a leaf.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Deal of the Century that Wasn’t. And other stuff on my brain…



This may shock some of you, because I know that many of my friends are really into this… but I'm not much of a garage sale shopper. Nope, I've just never gotten into it. I understand why other people like them, but I don't know… I just don't find that I have the patience for them. (OK, to be honest, I kind of take this approach to "regular" shopping, too… although I could shop for baby clothes all the live-long day.)


But last year I decided I was going to turn over a new leaf. I was going to start shopping at garage sales, and I was going to like it, by golly. A development close to me was having a neighborhood sale weekend, so I thought I'd start there. (By the way, if I'm going to go to garage sales, this is the kind I like. I can put the kids in the stroller and see lots of different sales without loading and unloading my kids, and I can get a nice walk out of the deal too.) I picked up a few things here and there… and then I found "it." THE deal of the day. A woman in the neighborhood was selling a Power Wheels truck. It was identical to one my kids had ridden—and loved—at a friend's house. It came with 2—count 'em, 2—batteries. The only thing missing was the charger, which had gotten lost when they moved to their house. And it was $35.

I only had $20. "Ummmm… OK," she said, "I honestly just want it out of my garage."

I couldn't fit it in the trunk of my Altima. "That's OK," she said, "we can hold onto it until you can pick it up."

Perfect!

20 minutes later, Jon came with his big pick-up truck, and he and another guy loaded it in. My kids were ECSTATIC. When we got home, we decided to try it with the batteries that she gave us, even though we knew that they were likely depleted. They were.

So we called our friends who had the same Power Wheels truck and asked to borrow their battery charger. We charged them up and threw one in.

At this point I realized I should have asked just how long ago that family had moved and lost the charger. The batteries had been sitting for so long that they wouldn't even charge. The kids loved sitting in the truck, but the term "Power Wheels" was starting to seem like a misnomer.

Just to be sure, we then borrowed a battery from those same friends who had loaned us their charger. It worked just fine, and our kids thoroughly enjoyed one day of riding around in their truck.

And then it was up to me to order a new battery AND charger. Sooooooo… 10 months later… I did. (Yes, it really took me TEN MONTHS to click a few buttons on my computer and order this stuff. It doesn't make my 2-month blogging hiatus seem so bad now, does it???) And $80 later, we got our battery and charger.

So here's the bottom line: I just spent $100 on an old Power Wheels that only cost $150 when it was new. Yeah. THIS is why I should not be allowed to shop at garage sales.

But it was so worth every penny yesterday. Check out these photos:

Also, while I'm showing off my beautiful children, Nana & Papa (that's my parents) brought the kids a fun surprise on Wednesday, and Matt LOVES it. In fact, that photo of the two kids above is one of the few times I actually got him in the truck. He was more interested in this:

By the way, he absolutely INSISTS that it is an airplane. Also, my kids like to take toys with them in the car when we run errands, and he now asks to take this.

(I apologize for the lack of cropping/editing to the photos, but I don't have a photo editor on my laptop, and I am too lazy to find an online one, crop the photos, and then reinsert them into the post. As it is, I have an almost-4-year-old asking me about every key that I press, and it is taking everything in me not to run screaming from the room! :-) )

And before I let you go, I have to tell you all this… I was rereading some of my Family Forest posts last night, and I feel like I owe you an apology. I realized that my earlier "chapters" were much longer than the more recent ones. I'm sorry, I have no idea how or why I started making them so much shorter—maybe because more stuff started happening closer together. Anyway, the next installment is already written, so you're just going to have to deal with it. ;-) But I at least wanted to let you know that I noticed! J

Also, if you live close by, I would love to invite you to join me on Saturday night to celebrate the release of my friend Leigh-Ann's book My True Reflection. You can learn more about Leigh-Ann and her ministry at http://www.leighannbrisbin.com/. If you're interested in learning more about what we're doing tomorrow night, leave me a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Have a wonderful weekend, all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Katy’s Family Forest, part 23

Yes—I have escaped! I didn't think I would make it out, but I finally am freed from the aliens that captured me two months ago! What—you don't believe me? They said you wouldn't. Oh well. Anyway, I knew it had been a while since I last posted, but TWO MONTHS? Geez, somebody needs to keep better tabs on me or something. ;-) Actually, I'm quite surprised at how difficult these last few pieces to the puzzle are to write. I have thought about it and talked about it many times, but putting it in writing has been something different altogether. I think, as I have told a couple of you in person over the past few weeks, that it's because the events I'm writing about now are still so recent. To actually write about them really stirs up emotions in ways that talking about them doesn't. It's very odd. So I apologize yet again, and hope that you will accept my apology along with the next installment of my story…………

It's actually somewhat fitting that it took me a while to write this chapter of the story, because it also took me a while to write back to Frank. When I received his e-mail and told Jon that I didn't know quite what to do with it, he immediately said, "Don't write him back right now. It took him years to make the effort to contact you. It is perfectly acceptable—and probably necessary—for you to take a few days or weeks to think about things before you write him back." So that's what I did.

During those days, as I thought and prayed about this whole crazy situation, I was amazed at how disconnected I felt from it all. I knew that whether or not I met Frank, whether or not he liked me, it really didn't matter. (OK, let's be honest. If I had decided to meet the guy, gotten myself all psyched up for it, and then he looked me in the eye and said, "I'm only here to tell you face-to-face to leave me alone and never bother me again!", I probably wouldn't have handled it well. But it would only have affected me in the short term—I would have gotten over it and then just thought he was a jerk. ;-) )

I also realized that this was truly my decision. No one would be surprised if I wanted to meet him, but no one would judge me if I didn't. It was very freeing and allowed me to process everything much more objectively.

And throughout those days, one statement that my mom had made just kept rolling around in my head: "I'd just hate to see you miss this chance, then regret it down the road when it's too late." That sort of summed it up for me. My dilemma wasn't really about whether or not I wanted to meet him right then—it was about whether or not I wanted to meet him ever. Because if I turned him down, who knows what might happen. Maybe he'd be so angry that he humbled himself and I'd shut the door in his face that he wouldn't ever be open to the possibility again. Or maybe he'd move far away and meeting would be too difficult. Or maybe he'd even pass away before we had this opportunity again.

And so, six weeks later, I e-mailed him back and told him that Jon and I would like to meet him and Janet.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Katy’s Family Forest, part 22

Time for another apology, eh? The truth is, I'm working on another project now, and it has been keeping me quite busy. But I don't want to leave you all hanging! If you've been patiently waiting to hear more, I apologize for taking so long. And if you have given up on me because it has been so long… well, then you're not reading this anyway—but I'm still sorry. Here's the next installment…

Life went on from there, as it tends to do when you are married with two small children and have church commitments and family commitments and… well, you get the picture. The whole situation with Frank and Janet getting back together was weird to me, but didn't really affect my life.

It was several months later that it came… out of the blue, I had an e-mail in my inbox. From Frank. My first reaction was that Janet had probably gotten onto his e-mail account and sent it for him, but it quickly became apparent that the message was truly from him. It was much longer than I expected, and he explained—as Janet had done earlier—that he had just been shocked when I had first contacted him. He had thought that the adoption was closed—which it was, he just didn't know the rest of the story—and hadn't ever expected to hear from me. He wasn't ashamed of me, but of his behavior at the time of my conception/birth. And he knew he hadn't reacted well when I contacted him.

And then he said it. "I don't know how you feel now about us being able to at least meet and talk about things, but it's something I would like to do if you agree."

I don't know what I thought I would feel if/when my biological father said those words, but I hadn't expected what I did feel: nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. How could something that had seemed so important just a few years before be so inconsequential now?

Actually, I knew the answer to that. I wasn't the same girl who had sent him that letter, who had stopped by his house. I was much stronger, emotionally and spiritually. I was a married woman, a mother to two beautiful children. I was serving in my MOPS group and my church and loving it. I was certain of who I was, not only in my parents' eyes, not only in Jon's eyes or my children's eyes, but who I was in God's eyes. This man, even though I was thankful to him in a strange way for giving me life, meant nothing to me. I didn't fear his rejection or desire his approval.

It was odd… I couldn't quite process my own feelings—or lack of feelings, I guess I should say. And even though I knew that I had originally pursued him and basically guilt-tripped him into asking to me… I was no longer sure that I wanted to go through with it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Catching Up & Moving Forward

I have a confession to make: I'm having a "Catch-up Day" today. Earlier this week I wasn't feeling up to par and didn't get much done, and then yesterday I essentially had a "day off" as much as a mom with two little ones can—I loaded my kids into the car (yes, in the horrible weather that we had, for those of you who live around here) and drove out to my parents' house for a much-needed day of playing with my kids and talking to other grownups. And playing Wii while the kids were sleeping. J

So today I woke up, looked around the house, and thought, "Who fired the maid?" Unfolded laundry was blasphemously trying to reach the heavens. My children were apparently trying to help me improve my fitness and coordination by creating an obstacle course of toys strewn throughout the first floor. And the dishes—well, let's not talk about the dishes. You get the picture.

And so this is my catch-up day. It's time to buckle down and get things back in order. And you know what? I kind of like catch-up days. Yes, it can be overwhelming to see the things that need to be done. But it's encouraging to me to know that it IS noticeable when I don't do the things that I usually do on a daily basis. And I like that I can accomplish just a few small things and notice a big difference. I also like that I have plenty to do, but that the tasks are not complicated. I can let my mind wander or talk to my kids while I work—and I can enlist their help, too. J

So as my mind has been wandering, I've realized that I need a spiritual catch-up day, too. Have you ever felt that way? You let it go for a day… or two… or more… and suddenly the dirty laundry is piling up and it is just too overwhelming to think about, so you just close the door. It happens so easily. But you know what? It just takes a few small steps to notice a big difference. God has got one heck of a washing machine, and it takes Him no time at all to wash us white as snow. It just takes a few minutes—while you're driving, when you first get up in the morning, even while you're straightening up the house and letting your mind wander—to spend time with Him, and before you know it, you feel like your spiritual house is back in order.

There is a downside to catch-up days, though, both the physical and the spiritual kind. They don't really let you make progress. At the end of the day today, my laundry will be folded, my dishes will be clean, and the toys will be put away, just like they are on most nights when I go to bed. (OK, I use the term "most" loosely… but I'm making a point here, so just go with it.) But I'm not accomplishing anything beyond the basics. I'm not cleaning out my fridge or reorganizing my pantry. (You laugh, but you have NO IDEA how badly this needs to be done!) I'm not making crafts with Grace or playing trains with Matt. If all I ever do is let things go and then hectically try to catch up, I'm never getting ahead.

That's true spiritually, too. If I've missed my time with the Lord for a week, and then one morning I get up early and spend 45 minutes reading and praying, I feel great! Just like I'll feel great tonight when I go to bed and my house is nice and clean. But you know what? Tomorrow my kids are going to get their toys back out; I'm going to cook, creating dirty dishes and counter tops; we're going to play and do crafts and create all sorts of mess, and I'm going to have to do all of this same stuff again—although hopefully it won't take as much time as it does on a "catch-up day"—to have a clean house before I go to bed. And tomorrow I'm going to have frustrations, concerns, sins, and all sorts of things that I need to present to the Lord if I want to continue to feel close to Him. That's just daily maintenance. If I only do it when I really start to feel bogged down by the mess inside of me, that's all the further I ever get. But if I do maintain my relationship with Him daily, then I can also spend time getting ahead. I can take a few minutes to read a Bible study. I can talk to Him about some deeper concerns than I may come up with on a "catch-up day." I can get more out of my Bible reading, sermons that I hear, even conversations that I have with others.

So yay for catch-up days! I hope that you can get your house—both physical and spiritual—straightened today! And I hope that tomorrow, you and I can both make some progress. J

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Katy’s Family Forest, part 21

You have all been waiting very patiently for this next installment—thank you. We're really starting to get to recent events here, and even though these are what inspired me to start writing my adoption story, they're still a little awkward for me to actually put down "on paper", so to speak.

So. I sent the e-mail to Janet oh-so-smugly. Frank had turned his back on Jan when she was pregnant with me, then turned his back on me 20 years later when I tried to make contact. He was a military man who had left a trail of ex-wives and girlfriends and a few children behind. I had no doubt that he had been, and would always be, a hard-hearted jerk and a master manipulator. Why on earth would she leave her husband and children for him? (Keep in mind that I was thinking this—it's not what I wrote.)

It didn't take her long to e-mail me back. She had talked to Frank, and they wanted to meet me. I hadn't been certain that this e-mail would come, but it was far from a surprise. Honestly, Janet had talked about coming to meet me before—back when we were talking regularly—and it had never materialized, so I thought that she would make the offer again. I appreciated it, but didn't take it too seriously. So I answered in the one way that I knew would completely take the responsibility off of me…

I told her that I wanted to hear it from Frank.

I hit "send" and I waited. I waited the rest of the day. The rest of the week. The rest of the month. And then I wrote it off. I knew he hadn't changed. I marked that off the list and moved on. The story, as far as I was concerned, was done.

(Incidentally, it's not done… so keep reading! There will be more! J)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Because I said so!

I did it. I didn't know what else to say, and it just popped out. Grace was trying to run over Matt with her baby doll stroller (You know, just another day...!), and he was trying to go down the stairs. I gave her the look, and she just pushed the stroller into the back of his legs and stared right back at me. I finally told her to put the stroller away and leave it upstairs. (We were heading downstairs to watch a movie--it's a bundle-up-under-the-covers-and-drink-hot-chocolate kinda day.) "But I don't want to," she reasoned.

"I didn't ask if you wanted to," I explained. "I told you to put it away."

She pulled it back and then shoved it into the back of Matt's legs again for effect. "But why?" she asked innocently.

Are you kidding? Is there really any chance on earth that she didn't know WHY? I tried to give her a full explanation, but I just couldn't bring myself to explain what she already knew. "Because... because I said so!"

Darn it. I have tried so hard not to use this phrase. Actually, I have to say that I am pretty proud of myself for making it 3 1/2 years before it slipped out. I'll try not to make a habit out of it, but I have to say... It worked! She left the stroller upstairs and came down without incident.

By the way, my kids have been an absolute riot lately. Here are a couple of highlights...
  • A few mornings ago, I was getting dressed, doing my hair, etc. Gracie decided to play in our tub, which is a corner tub with a little shelf area on the back (it was dry, she was dressed--she just wanted to sit in there and play). She was playing with some toys on the shelf, where we have a big 4-wick candle. I went into the next room, and Grace called me back, "Mommy! Come here--I want to show you something!" So I walked back into the room and she said, "Look! Oh. Wait a minute. If I tell you I broke the black things on the candle, will you be angry or not angry?" (The wicks.) I burst out laughing, since I could GUESS what she had done, and I said, "It's no big deal, honey." To which she replies, "OK. I broke the black things on the candle." :-)
  • Yesterday I told Grace that she needed to appreciate something (I don't remember what). She said, "Mommy, 'appreciate' means when Mommy tells you what to think." :-)
  • Matt has taken to calling his poop "boogers." It cracks me up every single time he runs up to me with his hand on his backside saying, "Boogers! Boogers!"

OK, just wanted to share a few smiles with you all this morning. I need to get back to watching "Cars" now because it has been a full 24 hours since the last time I saw it! I hope you're all keeping warm, and I'll be talking to you again soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Post-Vacation Randomness

Greetings! We are officially home from vacation and ready to start 2009. :-) I have a few hours of free time, which I plan to spend e-mailing, reading (more on that later), and blogging, so you should have more to read in the near future. But for today I just wanted to give you all a few updates on the things that are spinning around in my head.
  • First, "spinning" was not a random word choice--my head is quite literally spinning these days. I just started on a new perscription, and it is making me VERY dizzy. My doctor assures me that it will only last a few days. For now, though, it's kinda like being tipsy and sober at the same time--not entirely without merit. ;-)
  • Our trip was wonderful! The four of us went, along with my mother-in-law and her best friend, and two other of our employees. We actually went on a cruise that left out of Miami and then made 3 stops in the Bahamas. The weather was wonderful, the ship was very nice, and we had a great time all around. I was thankful to have a port of call every day, because the time that we were trying to keep the kids occupied on the ship was a little bit stressful. This was mainly because it was an older ship (The newer ones have all kinds of cool stuff for kids, even little ones like ours), so it wouldn't prevent me from taking them in the future.
  • The absolute highlight of the trip for me (and for Jon) was taking Grace dancing. Our room and his mom's room were adjoining, so at night we would put the kids to bed and then go to her room (with a monitor)--and most nights she came back for the night before 9PM and stayed there with the kids while we went out. (It was awesome!) Anyway, one night we decided to put Matt to bed and then let Grace stay up with us. We took her to see a live band, and she had a BLAST dancing the night away. It was without a doubt one of the cutest things I have ever seen.
  • I would love to be able to share more of our trip with you all... but I have no photographic evidence of our vacation. No, I did not suddenly lost interest in photos and scrapbooking--I actually took TONS of photos. But they did not make it home with me. My camera disappeared on our last day of the trip. I have shed many tears over my lost photos. I am not totally giving up--I plan to call the cruise line today to see if it happened to turn up.
  • We came home from our trip to the news that my uncle--my dad's brother--had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He and my aunt live in California, but they had just been home to visit shortly before Christmas, and we had them over for brunch one morning. This was completely out of the blue for everyone. Please keep his wife and family (two grown children and two grandchildren) in your prayers.
  • I have a new guilty pleasure: the Twilight series. Jon got me the first book for Christmas, and I read it in 2 days on our trip! I thought I was going to lose my mind when I couldn't get the next book on the ship or in port--in fact, I just picked it up at Target today. And I'm already over 50 pages into it.
  • If you are one of the many people I have been neglecting for the past several weeks or months... I'm sorry. Please bear with me. In addition to the actual crazy schedule/circumstances that we've had, my emotions have also been overloaded. This has actually been going on for about 2 years now (since Matt was born), but it had started to get worse again in the past few months. I am finally getting help, so I promise to be a better friend and person now. :-)
  • I have resolved that 2009 will not be as crazy busy as 2008, but so far that's not working out so well for me. I think that every weekend in January and February are already jammed!
  • I am taking some steps to actually make some money this year. I am writing this here not so much because you all care if I am making money or not, but because writing it down makes me accountable--more likely to actually follow through!

OK, I am starting to bore myself here, so if you are still with me, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate! :-) I look forward to sharing more with you soon!