I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First world problem

After a week with basically no internet, I learned a few things:
1. I am way more productive when I don't have internet.
2. I can't do several crucial things without internet (which means #1 is really only partially true).
3. I spend way too much time on Facebook and reading blogs and articles.
4. I am going to change the way I use the internet, just focus on the vital stuff, and spend less time online.
5. I am going to change tomorrow.   Today I am going to bask in faster browsing speeds.  Thank goodness the technician came right before naptime. ;)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fifteen years ago today

I love my life and I am very happy, but I still miss him.  We were married for less than five years.  He has been gone for more than ten.  Today we will leave an American flag at his headstone to honor the most patriotic man I have ever known.  

I may shed a tear or two, but mostly I will enjoy my day with his children plus the two wonderful kiddos I have added since he died.  Being happy and enjoying my life doesn't mean I don't miss him with all of my heart.  It does mean that I live in the land of the living and look forward instead of backward most of the time.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two traumatic true stories

We have had a great weekend, but there were two brief episodes that were ummm...interesting....  Sorry I didn't get pictures of either event as they were both spontaneous and, well, rather traumatic in the moment.

Last night Baby Girl was last in the bath.  That fact is important because it means that the bar of soap had been water logged by both Super-T and Little Pud and was a soft squishy version of its former self.  For unknown reasons, Baby Girl decided to take a HUGE bite of soap.  This is the same Baby Girl who is completely tube-fed and refuses to let any food or beverage down her gullet, but non-edible things?  Yes!  Let's gnosh tissues and sand and now SOAP!  The crying didn't start right away.  In fact she didn't seem fazed until I, realizing she had a huge wad of soap stuck to the roof of her mouth, decided to get it out.  Girlfriend has mad tongue skills when it comes to getting something unwanted out of her mouth, but apparently the soap was just so soft and sticky that she couldn't move it and it had become attached to her palate.  Enter my finger (OUCH!) then a spoon, and finally a toothbrush.  It took several minutes and LOTS of crying and foaming at the mouth (literally) before Baby Girl was finally soap free.  The residual crying and sob-breathing lasted a long time.  I tried to sympathize, but I wasn't so successful and confess to laughing.  But don't worry, I was paid back, because the next traumatic experience was just for me.

This morning I loaded up three kiddos and headed to church.  The Philosopher has been at a living history event all weekend so he wasn't with us (if he had been, this story would most likely be quite different.)  When we were nearly to church I saw a big turtle right in the middle of the road.  The road was completely deserted, but I knew there would soon be lots of traffic with first service letting out and second service starting, so I stopped, flipped on the hazards, and told the kids, "I'll be right back."  I hopped out to rescue the nice turtle.  I love all animals and hated to think of someone running over this guy.  I picked him up and immediately was rewarded with cold "water" splashing all over my feet.  Yes, Mr. Turtle peed on me.  Shocked, but remembering my mission, I ran him to the grass by the side of the road and jumped back in the car where Little Pud needed confirmation that the gallons of "water" were in fact what she suspected.  Fortunately the minivan is well-stocked with wipes, Mr. Turtle mostly got my feet, and I was wearing easily-cleaned flip flops.  There was no time to go home.  Just time to laugh and have the kids laugh at me while I wiped off.  So, if you saw me at church this morning, I had turtle toes.  I cringe to think about it.  On the other hand, I see a homeschool science lesson:  cold-blooded animals have cold urine and apparently can hold more than the actual volume of their body.  Who knew?

How was your weekend?

Sunday, May 5, 2013


I need help.  Accepting help takes vulnerability.  I first learned how to really accept help ten years ago when my husband died.  Up until that time I preferred to be the helper rather than the helpee.  I think most people prefer that.  But Michael died when I was eight months pregnant with our daughter, had a two and a half year old little boy running around, was DEEP in debt and moved within weeks...I had to have help.  It was humbling, but since I really had no choice, I allowed it.  I even began to realize the blessing it is to allow others to help me.

Fast forward ten years.  I am much more often in a position to help others now, but still have specific areas that are weaknesses, not to mention specific times when I need help (e.g. adoption transition!)   I have found that accepting help from friends who have strengths in my areas of weakness is a huge boost to my whole life.

One major area of weakness in my life:  organization, specifically home organization.  I do okay in small segments.  I kept my adoption paperwork pretty organized up until the last bit where it got a wacky.  I have little pockets of organization in my home, but overall I really have a tough time keeping stuff under control.  I have tried Flylady (which works, by the way, if you actually do it, which I did for several months back in 2004, but not so much if you just delete the emails and never do them) and several other systems, but mostly no system at all and just trying to tread water.  The special bane to my existence is PAPER.  Why is there so much paper?!?   (The below picture is of my garage, not my paper piles.)


Over the last few years I have been more and more open to having friends come help me with organization.   It started with my wonderful college roommate.  She and I would get together annually and do a sorting/organizing project, alternating houses every year.  This was lovely and helpful, but unfortunately my roommate (who has many many incredible qualities) has only somewhat better organizational skills to my own.  The good part was that this eased me in gently because I knew she could relate to my struggle, plus we had lived together for four years in college (she was the neat one) so she had already seen me at my worst (hello, mountain of college clothes piled high on my desk chair until it tipped over).  Besides, once every two years combined with my pathetic solo efforts wasn't really making a dent considering the constant influx of stuff brought by the mailman and by my kids.

Last summer another good friend from college who is stellar at organizing came in to town and spent two days whipping my pantry, kitchen, dining room, and various piles of paper into shape.  She set up a simple "even Justine can do it" filing system and did it all with great respect and encouragement. It was incredible and even fun!  But I wouldn't even let her touch my closet. 

That experience opened the door to my seeing how valuable it is to let others into our lives to help us out in our areas of weakness.  Much to my own surprise I allowed a newer friend with a talent for organization, (who had never even been to my house!) come over to help me organize a room before Baby Girl came home.  It seemed to snowball from there.  I have now had three or four organizationally gifted friends help me with bits and pieces of my house.  One wonderful friend came over earlier this spring and together we cleaned out and organized my entire garage!  Her church even provided the storage shelf and totes we used!  What a gift! 

AFTER (the giant pile o' stuff on the left is our soon-to-be-set-up pool)

This past week was the most amazing, humbling, exhausting, and enlightening experience.  My good-at-organizing college friend was back in town for a conference.   After spending two days "conferencing" and getting too little sleep, plus another day running errands around town and getting too little sleep, my Friend With Boundless Energy And Mad Organizing Skilz (FWBEAMOS) decided it was time to tackle my closet.  This time I let her.  My role was to stand by and give the occasional opinion in between running out-of-place items to their places.  Mostly I tried not to hyperventilate (not really) or cry (really).  Although my FWBEAMOS was very gentle in her approach, there was no denying that it was painful to be that vulnerable, to let her go through my "stash and dash" boxes that had been in my closet for years and watch her throw away 95% of the contents.  It was painful to see her make short work of piles that had mentally tortured me for years.  It was painful because it made me face a glaring weakness in my life.  I am good at a lot of things and mostly have my act together.  I can dish out a lot of encouragement and advice, much of it good.  But I am not perfect.  I do not have ALL strengths.  None of us do.  That is why we need each other. 
That is why the American ideal of "rugged individualism" is actually against the gospel.  First Corinthians 12 is one of my favorite Bible passages.  It talks about gifts and needing each other.  It includes possibly the best (and funniest) analogy in the Bible, comparing the members of the church (universal) to the parts of the body:
 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.  If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?  - I Cor. 12:14-17

Can't you just see a giant eyeball?  Or a giant ear?  It wouldn't be much of a person if it was just a giant eye.   I highly recommend reading the whole chapter.

We need each other.  We each have a purpose.  We each have gifts.  And we need to be vulnerable and open enough to allow others to help us in our areas of weakness.  The rewards are great.  Really great.  I am thankful.

One reward of a clean garage: a workbench for The Philosopher.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I think spring may finally have arrived!  I am ready to start a new season!  So thankful!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Have kids. Will travel.


My love for road trips began when my folks took my brother and I to copper mines and old growth forests, waterfalls and caves, sand dunes and the S.S. Badger.  We didn't often travel far, but made the most of beautiful northern Michigan and the few long road trips we did go on.  In high school I was privileged to broaden my horizons by going to Hawaii with my family and Washington D.C. with my classmates and teachers.  My first international venture was at the age of twenty when I went on a 5 1/2 week missions trip to Scotland, where we stayed in a castle (yes, really!)  During college there were many road trips with friends; and after college, I traveled to Hong Kong (while it was still in the hands of the British...I first fell in love with the people of HK back then), China, England, Greece, and Paris.   When newly married, Michael and I lived near Baltimore Maryland and loved taking in the historic sites in the area.  After he died, I was determined that my "single mom" status wasn't going to prevent travel.  I took my first huge road trip with the kids when The Philosopher was six and Little Pud was three.  And by huge, I mean nearly three thousand miles.  It was a wonderful adventure!  Since that time, we have taken many road trips, some large and some small.  And of course we have taken two special trips to Hong Kong to add to our family.

Super-T has been a pretty good traveler since he came home, joining us on our first big road trip after being home for six months.  He has his quirks, but over all is pretty good about it.  Unfortunately he has very few things he actually enjoys doing, but fortunately riding in the car is one of them and swimming is another, so if we can get a hotel with a pool after a long drive, we are golden.

Super-T hanging out in front of The Philosopher's tent. 

I have been eager to see how Baby Girl would do on a road trip.  She has two attributes that could make travel difficult:  she is completely tube-fed and she is a TODDLER.  We took our first little "test" road trip this weekend to The Philosopher's Civil War reenactment, and I learned that my sweet and spunky girl is a fabulous traveler!  We drove less than three hours away, so if it was horrible, we could get home relatively quickly, but there was no need.  The tube-feeding went off without a hitch (just took a bit of planning ahead since I am feeding her a diet of blenderized food rather than formula) and even the toddlerness wasn't much of an issue.  Best of all, Baby Girl had fun, slept great, and LOVED the water just as much as Super-T. 

BRRR!!!  It was a COLD weekend!  So cold they canceled the final day.

Although I was very pleased with the success of our little endeavor, I did learn a few things.

Here are my top five lessons learned:

1.  When you are a single mom of four kids, getting everyone ready will take you a full hour longer than you think it will (even when two of the four kids are excellent helpers and the other two are not terrible anti-helpers.)  This proved true both going and coming and getting to an event on Saturday.

2.  Five people need a LOT of stuff, even for just two nights (especially when one of said people is a toddler tubie and another is a Civil War reenactor who doesn't believe in leaving his civilian clothes behind).  Corollary to #2 is that five people make a lot of laundry in a weekend. 

3.  Electronics are your friend, especially when used strategically rather than indiscriminately.  I am so thankful that my mom suggested that I bring my laptop so Super-T and Baby Girl could watch their The Wiggles DVD (a mutual favorite).  They only watched it once each day, but it bought me precious minutes each time.  And I doubt if we could have made it happily through the weekend without Super-T's iPod for his music.  It kept him content while we hung out in the car while I fed Baby Girl.

4.  Get a suite.  Seriously.  With a door that closes.  That way you can have a moment to yourself while the kids sleep in the other room.  And everyone doesn't have to sneak around trying not to wake the baby in the morning.   Bonus if your suite has a full kitchen (ours didn't this time). 

5.  I need to get in shape.  After two days of carrying 25 pounds of toddler around for hours up and down hills and across fields during the day and then swimming with the kids in the evenings, I am sore.  Thank goodness for my Ergo.  No stroller could have gone where we did this weekend, Baby Girl had good bonding time, and there is no way I could have carried her in my arms all those hours.  My back feels fine, but various muscles are really feeling it.

The benefit of having the last day cancelled:  The Philosopher got to stay with us and SWIM!

Bonus lesson:  A trip is not a vacation for mom.  It is fun.  It is educational.  It makes memories.  It builds family bonds.  It is not a break.  I plan to schedule some down time this week to get recharged.  To me it is so worth it to make memories and learn in a fun and interesting way.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

First snow!

Today Baby Girl experienced her first snow!   She wasn't quite sure what to think of it all, but by the end of our time outside she was smiling and saying "hooray!"

What is this cold white stuff?

The sandbox bulldozer became a snowplow.

It was our cat Luthien's first snow, too.
The Philosopher and Little Pud enjoyed sledding.

Sleds are even fun on flat ground!  (Notice my daffodils coming up in the background.)
Luthien followed us around like a puppy dog.  Both snow first-timers later took long naps in the warm house.

Baby Girl was so bundled up, she could barely stand.
The Philosopher built her a tiny snow wall and lobbed tiny snowballs at her so she could experience her first "snowball fight."  He then helped her throw snowballs.

My only regret was that I had already taken Super-T to school by the time the snow started accumulating.  One benefit of homeschooling is the ability to take the morning for a snow day (it was really wet and rather warm so we knew it wouldn't stay long) and still get school done in the afternoon.  Unfortunately this afternoon Super-T had to be happy with just a short walk through the slushy snow.  His first snow experience was one to remember, though.  It happened just days after he got home.  Jet-lagged and stunned, he still enjoyed the white stuff.  Below are a couple of pictures since I wasn't blogging then.
What is that stuff falling from the sky?

January 29, 2010   Super-T had been home for two days. 

And now I am ready for SPRING!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Two months home...

Please forgive my lack of posting.  Life with four children is busy.  Life with four children including a newly adopted toddler is super-busy!

I am not allowed to post pictures of Baby Girl's cute face until her adoption in finalized, so you'll have to be content with looking at the back of her head for a while.

Baby Girl has been home for two months now.  I wish I could say that everything has been completely rosy and that the transition was seamless, but I can't.  What I can say is that things are really good now and we are getting into a routine and I think the hardest parts of the transition are behind us.

The reality is that adoption is HARD.  Even when things go better than expected it is hard.  After all, you are bringing a new person into your family.  A new person that you love in pictures, but who you don't really know.  A new person that has no clue who you are or if they should trust you.  A new person who has experienced complete loss of everything familiar.

We had a lovely two week "honeymoon" with Baby Girl.  That was fortunate because we all got sick with a cold and it was Christmas and I was on a steep tube-feeding learning curve, so that two week period was pretty stressful even while "honeymooning."

Little Pud helped Baby Girl open her gifts on Christmas morning.

During that time Baby Girl thought life was a party.  She was funny, silly, slept like a champ, and I thought we had it made in the shade.  I knew she wasn't really bonding to me yet, but she liked me and didn't resist physical affection, in fact, she welcomed it.

Baby Girl and Super-T enjoyed their mega-blocks on Christmas.  It was the first time they played together.

Then the rug was pulled out.  Baby Girl got a low-grade fever and her cold got worse.  All of a sudden it was like she realized that she wasn't in her familiar surroundings and she cried and she Cried and she CRIED.  And she slept and she Slept and she SLEPT.  The sleeping was fortunate because it gave a break in the crying.  I did my best trying to help her feel better and trying to comfort her, but she would not be comforted much of the time.  After a few days I knew she was feeling better but she was still crying.  Finally I realized that it was grief.

If you have never seen a two year old grieve from the depths of her soul, be thankful.  It is a very painful experience.  On the other hand, if you have adopted a two year old, you want them to grieve.  As painful as it was, it was very good that she deal with her emotions.  I ended up making a stressed-out after-hours call to our adoption worker.  She was able to see us the next day and gave me great advice about facilitating Baby Girl's grief.  That day was the turning point.  We ended up watching Baby Girl's life video and the video that was made to introduce her to us after final matching approval several times.  The first time Baby Girl sobbed and SOBBED and reached out to her caregivers and friends in the video.  Absolutely heartrending.  By the third day we watched the video, Baby Girl smiled while watching and reached out as if to hug her caregiver, but there were no more tears.

Since that time, Baby Girl has been crying appropriately, but not incessantly.  She also has been sleeping appropriately (11-12 hours at night and usually a 1.5-2 hour nap) instead of sleeping 13 hours at night and taking two to three naps during the day.  It turns out, sleeping was a coping mechanism for her (one that likely saved my sanity...I have a new respect for moms of colicky babies).  Most of all, Baby Girl is BONDING with me, actually with all of us.  Her attachment (the single most important thing in adoption) is going really well and I am THRILLED!

We have now begun to discover the nuances of Baby Girl's personality and are really getting to know her. And we are learning to love each other.

She is funny and smart.  She loves books, music, and tickling.
We have LOTS of books!

She can be oppositional but is a fast learner.  She loves the sandbox, the great outdoors, and all of our pets.

Yippee for a warm day to play outside!

 Baby Girl is a perfect fit for our family and I am so thankful! 

Failed attempts at family pictures can be good ones for the blog.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy and sad...

Happy because my sweet Suzanne has a family that wants her.  Sad because of the Russian adoption situation.  Please read my friend Stori's blog post linked below and pray for Suzanne and Daphne's family and for all the other families facing similar situations.  And please pray especially for the children affected.   Oh, I just can't tell you how this child has my heart.  I have often prayed and asked if she is my child, but I knew the answer was no, and now to have her this close to having a family and it being thwarted by politics...ugh!  It hits so close to home.  I cannot imagine having been told that I couldn't make Baby Girl a part of our family.


Please pray for Suzanne!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year--New Books!

On January first of every year, each of my children receive a new book.  Sometimes these are special books like The Hobbit or Roxaboxen or Blueberries for Sal; other times they are just cool books that happened to be on sale.  This year I went with the "on sale" theory (or, more accurately, "on-sale-plus-free-shipping-from-Amazon") and ended up with hits all around.  This is a great tradition (if I do say so myself).  One that I started when I discovered that books didn't really pack a huge bang for a Christmas gift, but I still wanted to give them, and the kids really do like them long-term.  Besides what other gift do you get to write a sappy inscription on for posterity to see?  Well, they may not pack much bang on Christmas, but they are appreciated on New Year's Day, when everyone is ready to snuggle down and take it easy.