About Me

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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.

Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

New beginnings again

Tomorrow we begin again, in so many ways.  It's another new year with many changes, though thankfully, not nearly as many changes to adjust to as last year.

No more adjusting to a new son, new big brother, new family. We are complete and have grown much closer as a family, especially over the summer.

No more adjusting to middle school life and school at an academy (for David). He's got the locker thing and switching class thing down. Now we just have to find a way to motivate the little guy a bit more than last year.  (He hinted that money speaks, so we'll see if the bribing will push him to put forth that A effort over the B effort he was content with last year. Hey, it worked for me, so we may have to give it a try.)

No more trying to figure out the mentality and ability level of a four year old. It was a huge shifting of gears for me, but I fell in love with my little munchkins. Knowing I got to be their first teacher really inspired me to find ways to inspire them.  My goal is to get them to love school and to love to learn. I'm armed and ready for the first week of school this year, which should make for an even more successful year than last year. I got to meet 40 of my new little ones on Thursday night, and most of them seemed ready and eager to finally be in school.

No more guessing as to how much more life costs with an extra person, specifically a teenager who eats a lot. I think I've got a budget finally figured out now after a year of trial and error.

No more constant translation at home.  Juan David speaks plenty of English and understands nearly everything. His grammar has quite a few gaps, but I figure those will fill in more quickly now that he'll be surrounded by English-speaking peers.

I've been blessed this summer by watching the boys bond by spending day after day together most of the summer.  I've also enjoyed watching the arrogance Juan David came to us with just melt over the last two months, as he finally let that little boy trapped inside of him come out to play. I will admit to living with a huge level of distrust when he first came home, mostly because I didn't have the chance to raise him and teach him. I just assumed the worst case scenarios. Yes, we struggled with a lot of things, but he's grown so much this year and really wants to be noticed for doing the right thing. We have had a year now to instill our family values in him, and he's had a year of consistently attending church, as well. He's a good kid who just needs constant guidance to make the right decisions. Having had a year to guide him and bond with him has really helped me to step back and trust him more.

The changes this year are mostly on him, Juan David. A brand new school, again. This time, he goes from a small setting of about 100 kids (mostly Spanish-speaking) to a high school of 2100 kids. He won't be with the same group of kids all day, plus he has never had to use a locker or switch classes all over the building multiple times a day. He will be expected to perform in English at a near equivalent level to his peers, and he will take all the same state testing as his peers. Lots of changes await him. The positives here are that he is courageous, he's not insecure, and he makes friends quickly and easily. He knows who he is and what his passions in life are.

In addition to school changes, he's part of the JV Football team.  Not only am I proud of him for sticking it out, but I really admire his courage to go out there and play a sport he's never played before and didn't even know anything about.  It's a culture he's never been a part of and doesn't really fit in to, but he let his coach know that he's there to learn. He wanted to quit after the first week of 5-6 hour daily practices, but he said, "I don't want to give up." The very next week, two coaches really started to notice his efforts and compliment him.  One of the coaches is the soccer coach, so hopefully this will open the door for him to slide right in to the high school soccer team as soon as the football season comes to an end.

I'm looking forward to the year ahead. Praying that we can get a grip on all of our athletic schedules so we can find a sense of routine at home very quickly.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Exciting conversation

Today's e-mail conversation with my friend who recently started a publishing company with her husband as a ministry:

How’s the book coming along?

Both books are done. I just need to add the footnotes. I wrote for hours on end throughout July, and I feel really good about both of them now. Much better writing. Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration.

Yay! I’m so excited for you! Let me know 
when you are ready to hand them over.

I agreed to be ready by September 6th. 
 I am ready to share the rest of our story. 
I felt like I drug my feet on this one, but I'm so glad I waited.  
God had greater things in store, as always.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Last minute thoughts (might be longer than normal)

I can hardly believe it.

Here I sit, typing away, on my very last morning of the summer I so desperately needed.

What else I can hardly believe is that I'm actually excited to step forward into tomorrow.  (Did I really just say that?) With a year of Pre-K under my belt, I'm filled with ideas and inspiration, knowing I get to watch kids grow by leaps and bounds over the next nine months.

I am also craving routine. The thing we love to let go of over the summer months so we can do all those things that don't fit into our school schedules. I like predictability, though, and I like to feel productive. Not having any sense of routine each day can so easily lead to laziness and idleness, meaning zero productivity.  A trait I have not liked watching develop in my boys this summer. 

Due to the extreme changes we've lived through the last few years, I held some pretty high expectations for this particular summer.  Did we reach those expectations? A few, yes. Many, no.

Did we enjoy family time? Yes. By camping, by having lunches together every day at home. By going to the gym together every day and enjoying the pool many evenings when all the kids got kicked out at sunset.

Did I bond more with my boys? Yes, by sending them each off to camp on their own, giving me one-on-one time with both of them. I will admit, though, that a part of me really missed the bonding that used to take place between David and I when it was just us.

Did I rest? Yes, to some extent. I tried sleeping in like most people do, but it actually made me feel worse.  When I slept in, (which my body doesn't do very naturally, anyway), I lost my precious morning time with God, along with routine. I also felt like I always needed a nap later in the day. When July came around, I got up between five and six again in the mornings so I could enjoy the long quiet mornings that I have always loved. Coffee and prayer time for awhile, then I focused on my writing for the next few hours until the boys got up. I realized that true rest comes when we are in God's presence, not necessarily with more sleep.

Did I accomplish my writing goals? No. I wanted to have my second book published by now. But I didn't have the inspiration to even work on it again until July. God held me off. I didn't have a peace about publishing it alone with a different publisher than my first book, but I knew I didn't want to use the first publisher again (nor could I afford to). God led me to a writer's conference where I connected with someone who had pulled their book from the same publisher, rewrote it, retitled it, and republished it with great success. They inspired me to do the same. I worked tirelessly throughout the month of July on both books, rewriting the first and heavily revising the second, making them fit together quite well as a pair. I take much more pride in both of them now. Plus I found a publisher to work with this fall, Lord-willing, that will also be translating them into Spanish!!!!  May our story speak loudly and cause many more to hear the voice of the orphan. That is my heart's desire.

Did I get healthy?  Well, I may have a long way to go, but I definitely got healthier. I am active daily and have energy to move. A summer membership to the gym did that for me. A year ago, my doctor noticed my cholesterol had gone way up (obviously, after a summer of eating unhealthy in Colombia). In December, I started having hormonal issues. In late winter, I struggled with my blood pressure. By the spring, I was diagnosed with PCOS after my doctor found my blood sugar levels elevated and my hormones unbalanced. I tried medication, but it made me worse.  I read a bunch of stories about Plexus, this natural pink drink that supposedly helps with these issues, so I gave it a try for two months (since there's a 60 day money back guarantee). I bought it from a friend who has used the money from her business to visit an orphanage in Vietnam every year because they are hoping to someday adopt a little girl they know there. The money went toward a good cause, so I justified the spending. :) Well, I went back to the doctor for my yearly blood work last week, and guess what? It worked! My blood pressure is great. My blood sugar levels are normal. My cholesterol is normal. My hormones are even balanced again. I also changed my eating habits quite a bit and now find myself craving fresh fruit and veggies more than ever.

Did we improve our home? Yes, and no. The boys' rooms underwent a makeover, so they look great. The carpet is gone, so the house smells and looks so much better. We ran out of money, time, and drive to finish everything, though, so we're waiting to get past all of the back-to-school and soccer expenses to spend any more money on the rest of the floors.  Honestly, between the camper getting smashed and then the AC leaking on the new floor in most of the hallway, we lost a lot of drive more than anything. (Mike fully accepted the camper's fate as something that God must have allowed for a purpose. I have struggled a lot more with the anxiety it caused in me, still praying my way through it every day.)

Did I reconnect with God? Yes. I crave my morning time with Him. My summer Bible study got me praying Scripture again, leading back to the intimate prayer life I had been missing. Not only did my own prayer life improve, but I watched other women develop their own. That, my friends, is awesome! 

Over all, it's been a good, fulfilling summer.  I have to daily accept that God allowed a few negative things happen in order to keep us dependent on Him rather than on ourselves or our own understanding. I trust they had purpose and still have purpose. We lost "stuff", and stuff can be replaced. So can money. I heard on the news just the other day about a family of four driving home from a family vacation, only to get hit head-on by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, taking all four of their lives.  We may have come home from our family vacation with our newest "thing" all smashed up and destroyed with no insurance money to replace it, but at least we came home. All four of us. Together. For that, I'm grateful.

Now I'm off to wake up the boys and intentionally enjoy our last day of summer together. (They still have another seven days off, but, unfortunately, teachers don't.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Let the chaos begin!

School hasn't even started yet, but we're already having to practice more flexibility to accommodate the boys' athletic schedules. Thankfully, David's team never took a break this summer.  They've continued with practices the same two evenings every week, and they played a game almost every weekend.  Juan David had the whole summer off, though, and kept himself in shape by working out at the gym.

His break officially ended on Monday. We noticed that his last school had not added Athletics to his schedule for this year, so we went to the high school to inquire about it a month ago.  They told me the computer system would be down for at least three weeks.  Exactly three weeks later, Juan David reminded me we needed to go back. The lady in the office sent me to the registrar, who sent me to the guidance counselor, who sent me to the football coach (since I hadn't heard back from the soccer coach). Juan David had expressed a desire to possibly play football in order to make the right connections and stay conditioned for high school soccer, but he didn't know much about the sport since they don't play football in his country.

We met the coach one day last week, and by that afternoon, Juan David had a locker assigned to him and all of his equipment stored in it.  He started practice on Monday of this week.  I'm now an official Football Mom, in addition to being a Soccer Mom.

My son is so brave, and I'm really proud of him.  He went to practice on Monday not knowing a soul, nor did he even know a thing about the game. This is his first year in a traditional high school, and he only knows a handful of kids that attend the same school. I asked if he was nervous about not knowing anybody, and he just said, "A little, but you know that I make friends easily."

I hoped we hadn't made a mistake by letting him join the team, not taking into consideration the challenges that his first year of "real" high school will bring this year.  But after attending the parent meeting last night, I know God led us to make this last minute choice.  The coach is brand new this year and is bringing a whole new academic mindset to the athletic department.  Not only does he work hard to teach these guys to be real men, but he is adding time to the football schedule to coach them through academics, as well. He's adding mandatory study hall for 30 minutes each day so any student struggling can get the help they need, plus he's adding mandatory tutorials one day each week.  I believe this might be exactly the extra help and support Juan David will need this year. Plus it will keep him from slipping through the cracks.

The first two days of practice were long and tough, and we're trying to find a new routine at home to manage both boys' schedules and still protect family time. But I think it will be worth the challenge.  I love the fact that my boys have great coaches who are positive male role models in their lives. Now Juan David will have two great coaches (since he's still playing for the same soccer team, too). For a boy who grew up with very few positive male role models, they are  vital to his development!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned in . . .

Kindergarten. Or these days, Pre-K.

I headed back in to my Pre-K classroom yesterday to take a few things I had around the house that I wanted to use for school. I also wanted to take advantage of the last few days I have my boys' extra hands to help. 

Honestly, I haven't even thought about school this summer. Not a bit. I am a firm believer in a teacher's need for a good, long mental break from the classroom. No summer school for this teacher.  (Well, except for the summer we volunteered in Colombia, and I definitely suffered the consequences the following year for not taking the break I needed to).

Yet it's funny how the school mode took over with just one step into my classroom. The boys carried in my stuff, I set it down in the room, and I came home with ideas pouring into my "Let's get this year started" notebook. (No, it doesn't really have that title. It's just a notebook.)

I will have to say that I am actually looking forward to this school year, despite the fact that I don't want summer to end. Last year held changes in every area of life for me, including school.  This year it seems I'm one of only a few teachers in my building who isn't going through an extreme change (either by teaching a new grade level or just moving into a new classroom or both). I get to repeat and improve upon what worked well last year for me, and I have a much better idea of how much my little ones can learn in a year's time.  

My kids will not only learn their letters and numbers and begin to count and spell, but they will learn how important it is to have structure in our lives.  Our first tasks include learning how to use a restroom independently and figuring out how and why we walk in a line.  Throughout the year I will teach them how to show respect for others and how to treat a friend. We learn together how to use our bodies more effectively by writing words, drawing pictures, cutting on a line, hopping on one foot, bouncing a ball, skipping, manipulating small objects, filling containers with sand, making eye contact, listening to stories, regulating our voice level, and sitting still when necessary. 

My kids will learn by doing things hands-on. They sing (a lot). They act out. They use motions. They touch the things we learn about. They copy and trace. They listen. They follow. They observe. They play. They make friends. They work with different partners all the time. They learn how to be nice. They learn how to share and take turns. They repeat new words every day. They problem-solve. They travel to other places via the stories we read together. They learn the joy of reading a book. They use their imagination. They take pride in themselves when they learn something new. And most importantly, they have fun. 

Yep, I think that covers it. Everything they'll ever need to know. 

And I get to teach them. :) 

Here goes to another school year!