Saturday, December 1, 2012

Preparing for Christmas 2012

Today we set up our Christmas tree.  It seems like the years are passing faster and faster, and the kids now pretty much take care of the tree themselves.  
 It never takes Squeakers long to get into trouble by hiding in the tree or tipping it over.   We have to be careful where we set the tree up, so that we can tie it to something if we need to, because he will just not stay out of it and we get tired of re-decorating every time he tips it over! 

 However, Monkey is trying something new this year to solve the "Squeakers" problem:  

 Every year we pick a different, and often unusual, topper for our tree.  The discussion usually begins mid-November as to what it should be for this year.  It becomes a fun time of remembering what we have done this past year and trying to narrow it down to one event or item.  

Monkey's idea won out this year...and it was a great one!  He chose (and then made) the world to top our tree.    Last May we traveled to the Creation Museum and we are studying Genesis in BSF this year, so the creation of the world has been a very common and deep topic around here.

But it also reminds us of all of the friends and family that we love who are far away from us this Christmas - aunts, uncles, sisters, brother-in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews, and all of the exchange students who have spent time in our home. 

It is also a reminder that our family is an international one.   We came from many different places, but somehow God saw fit to make us one family.  For some of our kids, this can be a painful time of year as they think about their birth families who are far away and to wonder if they are being thought of too. 

And it reminds us of how a tiny baby came to this world many, many years ago to save us from our sins, but also to save us to something better than just mere existence.  

 The ornament of Santa bowing to the manger always hangs near the top of our tree as a reminder that the gifts and the decor and the parties are all second (or 80th) to the fact that we celebrate Jesus' coming. When our kids were young, we always helped them hang this ornament and reminded them that Jesus is the real reason for the season. They now hunt for this ornament themselves and make sure it goes on first and at the top.

As we took this picture, I had to wonder just how many more years (if any) we will all be in it.  Seely now is 19, has graduated from college, and is working full time.  He also feels a deep call to the mission field and this mama's heart knows that my Christmas' with him are going to be numbered.

Mango is holding her turtle Franklin, just in case you were wondering!  Squeakers didn't make it into the picture because he doesn't sit nice when the dogs are around (and they don't sit nice when he's around either!).

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  May you see Jesus!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bad, Bad Blogger :)

Here it is, end of July again and I have not blogged in ages.  Life has been busy, but relatively drama free and that is always a good thing.   Here's a quick update on our family:
In May, we took a trip down to the Cinci area.  We spent time at the Creation Museum, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Freedom Center, the Newport Aquarium, and with friends and relatives.   Feeding the birds at the zoo was one of the favorite things for the kids.
The night before we left on vacation, Seely graduated from college.   Because of a state program allowing junior and seniors to attend college for free, he graduated with his two year degree just weeks after turning 19.  He began working full time the end of April as an Applications Developer.

Random is now 16.   He will be starting the college program this fall.   He attended Worldview Academy in June and absolutely loved it.  It was an exhausting week with over 30 hours of lecture time learning about some pretty heavy topics, but he loves talking about those things and made a lot of great friends there.  

After getting home from vacation, Lily began a therapeutic riding program.  I cannot recommend this enough for any of you who have kids with disabilities.  The staff there has been wonderful with her and she has gained both confidence and new abilities.   And it is actually therapy!  They challenge her in her weaker areas and are lavish with the praise.   Horses make wonderful therapy partners and there is something beautiful about watching a horse care for her.   She is with Buck in the picture on the left and Poco on the right.  Both of these horses are blind in one eye and have sweet and gentle spirits making them the perfect partners for a therapeutic riding program. 

Mango went to camp in June and has spent much of her summer playing outside, bowling, and drawing.   She is as delightful as ever!  Cooking has become a new love and I have a very reliable and capable helper in the kitchen now.

Monkey also attended camp for 3 days in June.  He loved it and is looking forward to being able to attend the full week next year.  Monkeys are still his favorite animals and he has been working hard learning to draw them and reading about them.  

Our school year will start the second week in August here.  We normally start earlier than that, but I'll be speaking to Japanese students about adoption the week before and it's best we start when we can get a full first week under our belts.  This year we will be studying Ancient History, atoms and molecules, birds, magnetism, insects, and the human body, in addition to the usual reading, language arts, math, art, etc.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Fun and Sadness

July has been a full month for us! We've done a lot of running around, playing outside, and meeting with friends, new and old. Monkey has a new friend named "J" who loves P**emon as much as he does and they've been having a great time getting to know each other!

Mango and Monkey had been asked to be "practice kids" to help train new play therapists, so we spent every day last week running to the therapy clinic for their sessions. In between, we hung out at Caribou and the Mall of America. We have a membership so once again visited "Sealife", the walk through aquarium.

This is Mango's favorite fish. His name is Bubba. He is a Goliath Gorami and is much, MUCH larger than what he appears to be in this picture. I'm pretty sure he weighs as much as she does!
Legoland has completely changed it's look! This picture is for all of the students we've hosted, so they can see a bit of what it looks like now!

During our busy days last week, it became obvious that our oldest dog Chloe was entering the last days of her life. We'd been told the month before that she had cancer and knew our time with her was running short. When she would not get up and would not eat last Monday morning, we knew it was time. The sad and difficult good-bye was said. She was nearly 14 1/2 years old and had lived all but one year of her life with us. Four of the five kids never remember life without her. Our house seemed pretty quiet without her.

Even with two cats and Cooper...

We had talked many times in the past month about what everyone wanted to do when Chloe died - did we want to get another dog, did we want to do it right away or wait? Even shortly after Chloe's death, most were in agreement that it was okay to start looking. The one who was hesitant agreed when pictures were shown of the dogs we wanted to look at and a promise that we would not come home with a dog unless everyone agreed and felt ready.

So we headed off to the Humane Society and came home with.....

Bella. Bella is a two year old beagle/rat terrior mix and is about 30 pounds. She was originally from Oklahoma and we believe she is one of the "storm dogs" lost or abandoned after all of the tornadoes there. We also believe she has been mistreated. There are a lot of valuable lessons this little dog will help us teach - that it's not your fault when you've been abandoned; that when you've been hurt, it can take time to trust a new home is safe and forever; and that love, attention, and gentle discipline can help something heal, but ultimately she is the one who must decide to trust. She has a very gentle, loving, calm temperament and can't seem to get quite enough petting. She does not seem to know how to play or to be very familiar with treats, but we are determined to teach her and to help her have a good doggy life (even if she never leaves the cats alone)!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Catching Up

We've had a very busy past few weeks as a family.
Seely had a 9 day mission's trip with the youth group to Miami, FL where they served in a Haitian church clearing the fields and running a VBS program for kids. Most people who went said it was one of the most difficult missions trips they'd ever been on, but lives were changed and the youth rose well to the occassion, doing what needed to be done with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts.
Before he arrived back home, we took Mango to camp. Her cabin was the very last cabin I counseled in when I worked there, so that was kind of cool! I love that she loves camp! She's already counting down the years until she can work there!

Little Monkey also spent a couple of days at camp. He had such a great time and his counselors were fantastic! I think we may also have a budding future staff member in him!

The day after we picked both of them up from camp, we had a graduation open house for Seely. I can well remember his first day of kindergarten, as well as the first day of home-schooling him. The bus went by and he turned to me and said, "So what do we do, now?" As a first-time home-educator, I asked myself that same thing, but that was really the first and last time I've questioned our decision to keep our kids at home. I'm so proud of the person he has become and wonder how he did that in spite of us! Next year, he'll be finishing his 2 year degree in Computer Science.

The next week, we had VBS at church. Lily and I worked in the nursery caring for several toddlers while their mothers helped with VBS. Random and Mango helped with the pre-schoolers. Seely helped with the elementary crews and Monkey was a student. I love VBS week - it's crazy and exhausting, but also a lot of fun!

That Friday night (I told you it was a busy month), we got a call from my parents that the storm had taken off their roof and water was running in everywhere. We loaded up buckets and boys, and headed out to help them get the roof covered before more rain arrived. Seely and Random happily climbed up onto the roof to pound nails and staple gun tarps down, working along side their grandfather and many other relatives and neighbors to get the job done. This is a picture of the roof on the ground. It was pretty much down to plywood up there.

This week, we've celebrated the 4th of July, attended a picnic, made new friends, and tomorrow a good friend of Random's arrives to spend 5 days with us. This has been the summer of the revolving door, but I don't think we'd have it any other way!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pond Therapy

It's one of my favorite places....a quiet little corner of our backyard, separated off by a large pine tree.

My little fish pond
Last week, we filled it with water and after a couple of days, put in our water lillies. For Mother's Day, I asked for the decorative rock to surround it (so my kids are taking great pleasure in telling people they gave me rocks for Mother's Day), and those also went up.

Last night, we added the one remaining feeder goldfish from our first "pond year", and today we added two small koi. We'll see how long they stay small, but for right now all of the fish are about the same size. The koi are named Avery and Ava, while Mango named the goldfish Purple. Monkey is requesting a black fish, so he can name it Batman. We'll see.

There's nothing like ending a busy day, curled up with my Kindle on one of those chairs, DH in the other, listening to the sound of running water, watching the fish happily swim around, and hearing the kids playing happily on the other side of the tree. It is pure therapy.