Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Boy

This boy. I love this boy so dearly. There are times that are difficult. Sure. In fact, I wondered a few times this week if it was too late for me to take up drinking! After a few crazy days, I very clearly understood why moms have a nice drink of wine at the end of the day. Holy smokes. He has been screaming and throwing tantrums. Were limbs being cut off? No. Hair pulled out? No. But I'm confident our neighbors may have had those suspicious with how loud he was. He's been hitting, throwing items across the room. Just good 'ole two year old emotions running wild. I know that's what it is, and by the end of the day...I'm wiped out.

But this boy. This boy melts my heart. He gives the best hugs. Says the funniest things. Yesterday I had to wake him up from his nap. What did he tell me? "My eyes are falling out." He must have still been half dreaming because when I repeated, "Your eyes are falling out?" He confirmed, "Yes, my eyes are falling out." He's funny. He's determined. He's smart. He's pure love.

It's amazing the amount of joy that one person can add. Every little ounce of him, every little word...every hug, kiss, a kiss from heaven.

This boy. He has smitten so many it's hard to keep track. But how blessed I feel that he was placed in our arms the day he was born. I give prayers of gratitude every day that he is in our home...for the light he brings...and the love he shares. I'm in awe of how this little boy has brought together two families ~ his birth family and our own. His story continues to unfold day to day, but it surely began with a poetic bang. I love this boy with all my heart.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Callie participated in her school's annual walkathon this year. We didn't participate last year. There was something else going on that weekend and I didn't want to squeeze extra stuff in, especially since she was in 1/2 day kindergarten. But now, as a first grader, I was excited to have her be a part of it. It was a terribly busy day, but it was fun. Can't you see by the look on her face? She was excited to go. Marcus took her while I stayed with a napping Micah. And, what topped off the walkathon? A fish. That's right. Callie won a free fish again. Unfortunately we don't have any pictures because it died almost immediately. But ya know...she was excited for a short while.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Close Call

I realize this could have been WAY worse, but it did get a little messier before I could get it cleaned up when he noticed jumping in the baby powder made it poof up in the air!  Could have been waaaaay worse! I consider this a very close call.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween 2014...Stage One

Halloween is a ridiculously fun time! Seriously love it. When I was young, I threw together my costumes and that was a huge part of the fun actually. I was a punk rocker I don't know how many times. Fortune Teller. Siamese Twin with my friend Meaghan...yes, we fell a couple times when our walking wasn't coordinated...but it was awesome!

It seems like Halloween is bigger now than it was when I was younger. But maybe not. Maybe it's just being on the Mom-end instead of being the kid. For my kids, we have Trunk or Treating at the church, the school Halloween party, and then the real deal...the official Halloween.

Today, we capture Stage One of Halloween. The ward Trunk or Treat and party!

Callie was soooo excited to be Elsa. She's been planning it for months now. But I didn't pull out the costume and have her put it on until Friday after school! That may have been mean of me, but boy did it make for an excited girl for her first Halloween party!

"Me be Olaf!" 

Marcus, yep, he's Sven.

And I was Kristoff, because as Callie said, I "have the hair for him."
(Callie took the picture.)

See what I mean? Halloween is ridiculously fun!

Callie looked great, and Sammy looked so adorable all night. She was just as beautiful as her Elsa sister.

Frozen Sisters

Our family at the party.
Micah won Cutest Costume with Danica who was also Olaf. I wish I had gotten a picture of the two of them together. They were pretty adorable.

I think we made a pretty good Frozen Family...Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven.
Yay for Halloween!

The Danger of Shaming Our Personalities

I had a short conversation with a friend today. Her daughter is a shy and doesn't seem to have the desire to participate in a program we are doing at church. I asked my friend if she was ok with letting her daughter just not speak if she decided not to. I wanted to make sure she, as the mom, was ok with how I was handling it. Otherwise, I would do what I could to get her daughter up to the microphone. I was happy that she agreed. Let her daughter decide on her own what her comfort level is. Don't we all kind of wish people would do that for us?

We began a conversation that got disrupted, but I've been thinking a lot about this topic over the past year or so. Alex mentioned that extroverts are accepted. They are gregarious, fun, louder, and people are drawn to that. So naturally, we kind of parent our kids...or tend want to mimic those characteristics. We encourage and coach them towards that mold. But what if your child is an introvert? If we are constantly pushing them into a direction that is uncomfortable for them, what are we telling that child? That who they are isn't good enough. But you know what? Introverts have a lot of great qualities we want our kids to have: full of restraint, self-control, reflective, thoughtful. I think those characteristics should be just as celebrated. Those characteristics create quiet leaders who shape the world.

My daughter happens to be loud. Really loud. As she is getting older, she seems to be mellowing out a little bit. I always knew she had tenderness and kindness in her, but what often came out were passionate screams of frustration! I had the privilege of cuddling with her and being with her throughout the day, but it's not what many other family members saw. She is so full of energy and very physical. She's extremely passionate and feels deeply. She's not a "drama queen" necessarily, but she can appear to make things a bigger deal than they are. She's sensitive, but others don't realize just how sensitive she is and how much she internalizes what others say because she covers it up with this louder, more energetic part of her personality. I'm the one who sees her tilt her head, cast her eyes downward, or quietly cry. I see it because I'm with her all the time. But others don't see that as often. And for a long time, I think she was understanding that she needed to change. That was the message.

A couple years ago, after reading a book, I realized that I was often trying to change Callie. I didn't see it that way at first, but I was. I was trying to streamline her...calm her down...just relax. It kind of made me sick to my stomach to realize that I, as her mother, was shaming her, in a sense...and in the meantime missing out on her complete awesomeness. Sure, I'm her mom, so I want to guide her to understand how to get along with others, work with others, express her opinions in a way that others will listen, etc. But her passion will translate to passion for LIFE. She has the potential to change the world with that passion. Why would I ever want to shut that down? Teach her how to use it, but not get angry and make her embarrassed for feeling deeply.

I was our class president throughout high school. I worked closely with our Student Council Advisor, Mr. Chandler...even babysat his adorable kids. I felt more comfortable sharing my opinions and thoughts with him than other teachers, probably because it was the nature of my "job" as Class President. A lot of brainstorming, working through problems, creating opportunities, etc. One day, I had a bone to pick with Mr. Chandler. We were headed to a National Leadership Conference in Arizona and there would only be a couple of us attending and presenting. This decision he made directly affected how my presentation would go. As I expressed why I felt his decision was...well...wrong, he started to smile. I was annoyed.

"What?" I asked. The smile was getting increasingly larger. This wasn't funny to me.
"Why are you smiling?"
"Jenny. You are a very passionate person."
Though I was annoyed that he was off topic, I appreciated his truthful remark. And somehow, my frustration melted away as I said, "What do you mean?"
"You have strong opinions and you feel deeply. That will serve you well."  He thanked me for sharing my thoughts and informed me that he felt like what he had done was the right thing to do, even though it didn't appear to be fair. I was satisfied about the situation. But no one had ever told me that I was a passionate person. Yet, he was right.

I credit my parents for not trying to bridle me while I was too young. I grew up feeling confident in who I was...high energy and all. I was always on the go when I was little. Of course, we had an acre of land and I think the community where I grew up was much more conducive to helping my type of personality flourish. Here Callie doesn't have some of the things I had that helped my creativity and energy. I think a huge yard and some freedom would do her well, yet we are not in an environment which allows for the same type of freedoms I had. It makes me sad. But...back on parents celebrated who I was. Sure I got in trouble. A lot, in fact. Just like Callie, I always had to have the last word, push my mom's buttons, etc. But they really did make me feel like I was good enough. They must have taught me somehow to use my passion for life appropriately, because I look at my life and feel like it's very full. I'm really happy. But it wasn't until Mr. Chandler labeled me as passionate that I realized he was so right. And that passion was a really good thing.

I guess all I'm saying is that I find we tend to like what's mainstream. Anything sitting on either edge is uncomfortable for us, so we either try to change it or ignore it all together. Isn't that what the popularity contests of middle school and high school are all about? Those who don't quite fit the mold are ignored...or far worse. Introverts, extreme introverts...extreme extroverts...whoever we are, my goal is to help my children, and all around me, to realize that who they are is children of God. I would think He embodies ALL the positive characteristics of personalities, so we have greatness in us. Even if we don't like to be the center of attention. Even if we crave the attention. Even if we act out because we haven't quite yet figured out how to express ourselves. We're His. We're great.

Accept that.

I am so grateful for that revelation I had a couple years ago that completely altered my way of thinking and changed my direction. Since embracing who Callie is...her fiery, passionate, loud, and extremely energetic self...we have such a deeper love than we did before. And I honestly think it's because she feels completely loved. She knows that who she who she is supposed to be. And that's completely lovable.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

I loved this book. Loved. This. Book. Go out, right now, and somehow get this book in your hands because it's phenomenal. I couldn't put it down and am ready to read the next book, Forge, as Chains ended with a cliff hanger!

Chains is about a young girl, Isabella, who is a slave during the Revolutionary War. I've read about slavery during the Civil War, so this intrigued me. Right in the beginning, she is being sent/sold to a new household. You can read about the plot on Laurie Halse Anderson's website. See those awards on the book cover? They are there for a reason. It's an excellent excellent book.

What I want to share is why I found myself crying on the treadmill at the gym as I read Chains. I fell so in love with Isabella. I've always been drawn to books that held these themes and plots. In fact, if I had not gone the English teaching route, I would have just done English with African American Lit emphasis. But Isabella spoke to me in a way that other characters haven't yet. And I think it's because of my own family. I couldn't help but imagine Callie during some of these scenes. No, luckily she was not born during slavery. But I think of her family history. Chances are extremely high that slavery was a part of her biological line. And that breaks my heart, deeply. I thought of Callie being treated in some of the ways Isabella was and it made me weep. Isabella also has a sister, Ruth, who she tries to watch over...the best she can anyway while she's doing all her work. We find that Ruth has epilepsy and the seizures hit randomly. And I thought of Sammy, naturally. Just as Isabella is the protector of her sister, Callie is the same for Sammy in many ways. And the book became very personal.

It is so well written. Anderson shares a fantastic story while introducing beautiful characters. I loved it. I may just have to buy this book to have on our bookshelves.

Read it. Have your children read it. Then talk about it together.

Friday, October 24, 2014

as a child

We carved pumpkins on Monday for family night. It was fun. Priscilla and Alex came over and brought some pumpkins to carve up as well. I didn't get pictures of us with the pumpkins. In fact, we really didn't document the night at all. But, this is what did happen...

Pumpkins were carved as per tradition
We laughed
We ate tortilla chips and bean dip
Alex and Callie jumped on the trampoline
Micah joined in
Sammy finally made it over there as well
Callie drew the jack o lanterns and pulled out the pumpkin guts
Priscilla spent the evening slowly carving her pumpkin while we talked
We talked a lot
And we watched while we spent TIME together

We also caught Micah being so kind with Sammy. As she sat by the table close to us, she watched as we carved. Micah ate chips and must have noticed Sammy there. He walked over and began to feed her some chips. He was right. She wanted some.

He was gentle. Kind. Patient.

He was being a brother.

I was reminded that it's the small things we do everyday that make who we are. The big things are...big...and noticeable. There is value to those big things. But what forms our character are the daily acts we perform. It's what we become.

I feel so blessed to have perfect examples surround me everyday. Their tenderness and love teaches me to be better...teaches me to become as a child.

“I have found that it is the small things, every day deeds from ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”
The Hobbit

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Uesugi Farm 2014

As tradition would have it, we spent a Monday night family night at the pumpkin patch.  We went down to San Martin and went to Uesugi Farm.  For some reason I thought it was the one we went to last year. It wasn't. It was ok, but I preferred the one we went to last year. I need to look that up and see where that was. But, I'd say Pumpkin Patch 2014 was a success nonetheless.

Callie kindly led Micah around.

Possibly my a favorite picture of the night.

Callie and Micah waited with much anticipation to get on the train!

Or, this could be my favorite picture.

The train was a huge hit! Sammy loved it. Callie and Micah felt all grown up in their own seat.

I have this love for sunflowers lately...well, over the past year or so. They aren't my favorite flower in terms of beauty necessarily. Don't get me wrong. There is a lot of pizazz in a sunflower and I love the vibrant color. But the sunflower has become so symbolic to they always face the sun.I loved the sunflowers at the farm so was taking a couple shots when this bee started working. And the symbolism became richer. So I took a picture hoping to capture the memory and thoughts I had during the visit at the farm.

Rows of fall flowers that Micah loved running through.

 I thought the carousel would be a fan favorite...for sure. Callie and Sammy loved it. But Micah was terrified. He would NOT let me get him on his own horse ~ or any animal for that matter! He and I ended up sitting on a bench and just going around and around. He held tight and put his head down. It wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be for him, but at least it wasn't traumatic.

I'm not sure what's funnier...Sammy's toothy grin or Callie in the background!


Playin' the pumpkin drum. What a goof.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sweet Dreams

Once a week I go to a park with my friends and their kids. We don’t always stay long, but we try to make it as often as we can. Today we talked about the rigors of bedtime. My friend mentioned that it was the worst part of her day! I think many mommies would agree.

I thought about how bedtime has changed a lot for our kids over the years. It once used to be, what I considered, horrendous. But it’s changed as our kids have grown and matured. It seems that their little minds and bodies now understand that sleep is actually a good thing. Phew!

And I got to thinking about our bedtime routine last night. It came to my mind in snapshots, and it was a beautiful picture.


An evening out with the family.
Train ride.
Smiles and snapshots.

Walk in the door. Commence bedtime routine.

Change into jammies.
One last cookie…pleeeease?”
Pick out clothes for tomorrow.
Brush teeth.
Change diaper #1.
Change diaper #2.
What? Go brush your teeth again. No more cookies. Seriously.”
Make lunches for school.
Potty for child #3.
Another cookie is missing. (Um, yep, that was me.)

Family Prayer
Family Hug


Callie went into her room to read some books while I laid Sammy down for bed. Sammy was pretty wired after a fun evening, but quickly molded into my body as I sat on her chair in the corner of her room. She wiggled and squirmed at first, but the Sandman accepted the invitation and came in as I brushed her hair to the side. She was quiet almost instantly and her breathing was heavy and deep. I held her longer than necessary so I could just capture the moment and relish her beautiful spirit.

Afterwards, I went into Callie’s room. We talked about the day, laughed a little, and I softly scratched her back before kissing her head and walking out the door. My heart was overflowing with love for her. See, no matter how rough our day has been, bedtime has become one of my favorite times of day. It wasn't always that way, but it is now. And actually, our days are filled with a lot more peace than they used to be as well. So it's nice to cap the day off with a beautiful reminder of the day and how much I love my little girl.

I put Micah to bed about an hour later. He’s two and still my baby. After brushing his teeth, we give Daddy a bedtime salute and walk down the dark hallway to his room where I sing a song of his choosing and kiss his forehead. I then use the spray bottle containing lavender oil onto his bed and over his head. He giggles. He loves being sprayed with the lavender and will ask for it if I forget. I shut the curtains, lay him down, and quietly say “I love you” as I walk out. Just before I shut the door, I hear “I love you” in a soft whisper. And I melt. He’s two. He’s crazy busy during the day. But bedtime is always calm and precious with this boy. It always has been. 

I remember when bedtime was frustrating. When kids got out of bed. When kids would cry. When it seemed there were endless trips to the bathroom. And endless need for a drink of water! When I dreaded bedtime because it tested my patience when my patience was already spent. And now…now it’s one of the highlights of my day because after the busy-ness of getting ready for bed, there is a tenderness that kisses our cheeks goodnight.

After that, my sleep is rewarding and sweet. 

I've thought about how certain trials can often feel like, well…the bedtime routine. It’s hard. Sometimes tortuous! We don’t look forward to it. We dread it. We want it to just end already. But there is hope. It will change. When? We don’t know. But after the struggle is over, there is a layer of frustration/despair/anger/hurt that is removed and we are filled with even more love and compassion and beauty than was previously there.

Maybe it’s a weak comparison, especially depending on the trial that is being faced. But hey, some people have REALLY challenging bedtimes!

I think of Samantha's disabilities. I think of my worries about some of Callie's struggles. I think of working through the adoption process again...glad we're on the path, but in a constant state of mild anxiety over not knowing. Some of the trials we have may never end in this lifetime. But the pain of them can end when we learn to hand them over to the Lord. It takes practice, because sometimes, I've been known to hand pain and sadness over to Him, and then take it back! How dumb is that?! But I'm learning. And when it's passed off, I am filled with a tenderness and light that fills my entire body and spirit. I feel lighter.

And at the end of the day, my sleep is rewarding and sweet.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

She Had a Fish

Most likely, we will never have a dog (unless I can wear Marcus down).  Truth be told, on paper, I don't want a dog.  They are expensive, take a lot of work...I'd rather devote to energy to another child...not a dog.  But, deep deep down, I really really really want a dog.  Not only would I love it, but I see how Callie is with her cousin's dogs.  She adores them.  And I see how those dogs are with Sammy.  It melts my heart.  Gus sits by Sammy on the couch, just cuddles up to her, and she likes it.  I can tell.  Gus patiently sits as she "pets" his back -- ok, it's more like plucking the hairs out of his back, but it's soft.  She's trying.  I love it.  But, again, on looks like a headache.  Right?

Well, I can't let Callie know my secret desire for a dog because she REALLY wants one.  Since she' knows it's not in the forecast for, well, anytime soon, she's been wanting a fish.  A harmless little fish.  She used to pray for it even.

A couple weeks ago, her fish was granted.  Prayers were answered.  There was a street fair at church and she won a fish.  Oh boy was this girl ecstatic! 

 She appropriately named him Fishy.  Or her?  I can't remember what we decided.  But it was a real, living fish.

 She did a good job taking care of him.  She fed him and we changed the water...once.
Marcus and I decided that if Fishy lived past a week, we'd invest money and buy a bigger bowl.

At the week mark, Fishy didn't look his/her/its vibrant self.  Nope.  See Fishy in this picture?  He was alive then.  One week.  She was sad, but not devastated.  But she's ready for another one, this time ready to change the water more than once.  (I actually think that was the problem, maybe?  Who knows?)

Though we didn't expect him to live long, he lived longer than I expected.  I was sad when he died.  I mean, Fishy was a living thing.  And it died.  It's just sad.  And I feel bad if I was somehow involved in his death.  Seriously.  

Last week Marcus asked Callie what she wants to ask Santa for Christmas?
A fish.


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