Sunday, December 28, 2008

Goin' to the Playoffs


The Vikings are NFC North champions!!!!! They are goin' to the playoffs!!!!!

My uncle was kind enough to give DH and I his tickets for today's big game, and we were able to witness the Vikings win their game over the New York Giants and (honorably) secure their spot in the playoffs.

It was a very up and d0wn game. The Vikes started out ahead, but the Giants soon gained on us. In addition to our own game, the fans in the stands were trying to keep track of the score for the Houston/Chicago game, because a loss for the Bears would also have given us a play-off spot. The Viking's coaches had asked for that score to not be posted, so every so often someone in the stands would get a text with the score and yell it out to anyone within hearing distance (which if you've been to a Vikings game, you know is not really all that far - we have the reputation for being some of the loudest fans in the NFL!). It looked like the Bears were going to lose, but they too inched close at times.

Finally, in a very exciting last 5 seconds of the game, #8 (my hero) Ryan Longwell did as his name suggests and kicked the ball long and well for a 50 yard field goal, putting the Vikes ahead 20-19! It was a exciting game, and Seely has been invited to the playoff game next week!

A Tribute to My Husband, and the Men who are Like Him

Someone passed just passed this on to me yesterday, and it is certainly worth the read.

The Men Who Brought the Children Safely Home - A Christmas tribute to adoptive fathers
Author Unknown

"My son Christian was searching the bookshelves yesterday, apparently frustrated by the dearth he saw there. Since we have well over 1,000 titles at his disposal, I wondered what was missing.

"There's hardly anything on Joseph here! I understand why we need so many Mary books, but nobody says much about Joseph, you know? And he was a hero … " he trailed off.

A hero indeed. Though I hadn't spoken it, I had been meditating lately about the heroic good of Joseph and the Nativity. Commonly, we look at the story of Christmas as a birth story: We have a round- bellied Madonna riding on a donkey until she gets to a cave where animals joyfully welcome a lovely baby. As a mother who has been nine months pregnant during Advent and a mother with a newborn on Christmas Day, it is easy for me to identify with the birth story.

But the Nativity story is also a story of adoption. A strong man heard the call of a God to take into his heart and home a baby that was not his biological child. Against the raised eyebrows of those around him, but because he dearly loved his wife and the God they served, he traveled a great distance. He wasn't sure what he'd find there; to say that the accommodations were less than what he was used to is to understate the case. And then, almost immediately, it was his job to rescue the baby, to save him from grave danger.

Once they were safely at home, he raised the child as his own. He shared the faith of his fathers; he taught him the family trade. Certainly, there were challenges in this family that related to the adoption. This child, at 12, left his adoptive father for three days to return to the home of his Father. How many children of adoption have experienced that same restlessness and caused the parents who have rescued them the grief that Mary and Joseph felt while they searched for their child?

Joseph was faithful. Perhaps he recognized that we are all children of adoption. We are all broken, disenfranchised, wounded and in grave danger. Our Savior makes us brothers and sisters, heirs to His throne. We become one family of faith, like that little family in Nazareth so many years ago.

When I look at the fathers in adoptive families, I am struck by their courage. Adoptive moms assure me that adoption is rarely ever a man's idea. And it is almost always an idea born in a woman's heart. The longing heart of a mother meets the sorrowful heart of a child and together they begin a new life. But how do they get to "together?" They become a family through the courageous actions of a man who sees the heart of his wife and listens to her as she tells him about the pain of the child. Rarely, do these women beg and plead. Rather, like Mary, they trust God. They pour out their hearts in prayer and God convicts their husbands. The program director for a Catholic adoption agency assures me that this is not the case of weak, badgered men who cave to whining women. Rather, they are tender, brave men who recognize the need and hear a distinct call.

The father who adopts is strong and faithful. He travels to places like Kazakhstan, Russia, China, Guatemala and even hostile Africa. He saves the baby — often from abject poverty, illness or death. He is the Joseph of our times.

There are literally millions of children in this world who need rescuing. We are called in James 1:27 to care for the widows and the orphans. What does that mean exactly? Do we toss a few coins in the poor box or wrap an extra gift at Christmastime or do we take a risk? Are there brave men out there with the heart of Joseph who will travel great distances to difficult places to rescue a baby and give it a home all because it's the will of God? It is the will of God. These are the weakest of us, the poorest, the most defenseless. In this country, we cannot fathom children who scurry along the murky puddles in Haiti scavenging for a few slender fish, only to come up without anything. These children are so malnourished that their hair turns orange and falls out in clumps. There are "dying rooms" in China where children who have cerebral palsy or missing hands or missing ears are left in the dark to starve to death.

And what will become of the children who grow up orphans if we do not have men like Joseph in our midst? According to Shaohannah's Hope, a foundation begun by Christian music legend Steven Curtis Chapman, who has adopted three daughters, "Statistics regarding the future prospects for children who emancipate from orphanages, the foster care system, or who grow up as street children are profoundly bleak … . Theft, prostitution, homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration and suicide affect the lives of the vast majority of those children who grow up as orphans and never find permanent, loving homes. In short, orphans by definition are children who for whatever reason have found themselves in need of permanent, safe, and loving families. And for such children, being taken in by a family through the "spirit of adoption" is their greatest need"(http://www.howtoadopt.org/).

They were going to stone the mother of God. Joseph knew the baby was not conceived by him. He didn't understand it. How could this baby be his to raise? How could he be asked to overcome the opinions of his community, the misgivings of his own mind, and listen to the call upon his soul? Where would he find the courage? How could he possibly provide for the childhood of the child of God Himself? Why couldn't this be simple? Why couldn't he marry Mary and just conceive a baby? Instead, he must set off on a two-year odyssey to distant and hostile lands to bring home a baby that didn't even look like him. And what of the future? This was an extraordinary way to build a family; how could he know what the future held, particularly with a beginning like this?

A hero? He was a hero. He was a strong, courageous, man of faith. And there are men like him today. They are Paul, and Joe, and Mark, and Chuck, and Scott, and Kevin, and Ed. They are ordinary men who are called to extraordinary measures for a humble, helpless child and the love of the woman who becomes the child's mother. They are the men of the Christmas story. God bless them!"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning 2008

Merry Christmas! If you want a beautiful reminder of what today is really all about, click here for an awesome video clip. It's about 4 minutes long, but is definately worth seeing.
Here are a few more pictures from our gift opening this morning. We will soon be leaving here again to spend the rest of the day with family.

Monkey before and after opening the Space Chimps DVD...



Mango reading that she can now get her ears pierced....


Random with his new stash of reading, viewing, and listening materials...


Lily opening her Crammer, which has, amoung other things, the MP3 player she has been REALLY wanting.

Seely got a jersey with his name on it (Funny how we paid money to have it put on, only to have to edit it out for the blog photo!).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Photos

We headed out to my parents house for dinner and to exchange gifts. We had an extra special surprise as two of my cousins who we hadn't seen in awhile were able to join us, including a new baby boy born to one of them just under a month ago. It was a great evening! Here are a few glimpses into our time together:











A Merry Christmas Homecoming

Three years ago today, we arrived home with Mango and Monkey, just in time for Christmas Eve. All of us being together that day was the best Christmas present I've ever received, and we are truly grateful for the two little lives that joined our family that year.

May all of you have a very blessed, and merry Christmas this year. Wherever you end up celebrating and whoever you celebrate with, may you take a moment to focus on the true reason for Christmas - Jesus.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Of All the Stupid Things

Last Wednesday night, I managed to tear a ligament at the base of my left thumb. The "how" is so incredibly stupid and unbelievable that I asked the people at the clinic if they wouldn't prefer to hear some exciting story like how I saved all five of my children single-handed, rather than the boring truth - that I was simply pulling up the many blankets on our bed when I felt the "pop" and knew that it probably wasn't good. So I will be splinted for the next four weeks while it heals, and it is already annoying. My kids are now calling me "Hitchhiker".

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Visit to Santa

So it finally occured to me today that we hadn't yet made our annual trek to the local mall to see Santa. When Seely and Random were very small, we would go to the mall on Santa's very first day, and watch him arrive on a fire truck, complete with sirens and lights. As we've added more children, and as they've gotten older, we've kind of abandoned (ie. forgotten) that tradition, and make our Santa visit when the crowds are smaller. The kids all finished up their school work quickly today, so shortly after lunch, all but Seely loaded up and headed off to the mall.
Santa was "napping" when we arrived, so we did some window shopping in the pet store, and then went to get in line. Finally, we caught a glimpse of the jolly old man himself walking down the hallway, and were able to take our turn. All of the kids actually seemed very underwhelmed with the whole experience, and it made me wonder just how many more trips to see Santa we will be taking before they all lose interest.


You'll notice that Santa is not even looking at the camera. In fact, Santa very deliberately did NOT look at my camera. Apparently, he is not allowed to do so unless you are purchasing the (very expensive) photographs that they sell there. And I thought getting four kids to look the same direction at the same time was difficult!?!?!??!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Cold Here

It's about this time every year when we start to wonder once again why we live here. It's COLD out! For those of you who have not ever experienced it, stepping outside at -9 degrees F actually hurts. The dog has to be forced off the deck to take care of her "needs", because she doesn't want to be outside a moment longer than she has too (and apparently running down the steps to take care of business takes too long). Last night, she wouldn't even scratch at the door to be let in, because she was too busy picking up one paw and then the other from the cold deck surface! But it's also the time of year where we get an unexpected chance to toss in a favorite old movie, or to curl up under a blanket with a good book because activities were cancelled due to the weather. Or to savor the smell of dinner in the crockpot all day, because it's just too cold to go out unless we have too. So we will take and try to enjoy the days where winter forces us to slow down. We're warm, safe, have plenty to eat, and plenty of loved ones to spend the time with, and those are all wonderful reasons to remain at home on the really chilly days that are always a part of winter in Minnesota.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Coleman Christmas Party

Just over three years ago, we made a desperate call to Senator Norm Coleman's office when our immigration paperwork for Mango and Monkey hit a big snag. The embassy in Manila had misplaced some of the kids' paperwork, we were concerned about Mango's skull condition, and we desperately wanted our children home for Christmas. His office was wonderful to us, and after a fax or two on our behalf, the kids' visa paperwork was processed quickly, and we were able to travel just in time for Christmas.

Every year since, we have been invited to the "Home for the Holidays" party that Senator Coleman throws just before Christmas. All of the adoptive families his office has helped in the past are invited to come. It's a wonderful chance for him and his staff to see, in person, the children they have helped, and we enjoy the chance to thank them, with the hope that seeing the beautiful faces of our kids will give them the desire to continue to do this important work. He truly is a kind and caring man, and we are very grateful for what he and his office did for our family.

Enjoy the pictures of the party!

Snacking on some treats while waiting for the senator...


Senator Coleman, and the entire group sing "Happy Birthday", to Random.


Story time with the Senator.....

Monkey got an especially close view!These family pictures are hung in his office.

Duel Birthdays and Super Barks


This has been a weekend of celebrations. Yesterday was DH's birthday. (I will leave you to guess how old he is!) We went out to one of his favorite Chinese buffets for dinner, and then the big boys watched the movie The Pink Panther after the youngest three kids were in bed. I couldn't tell you a thing about the movie, other than the fact all three of them were laughing and out-right guffawing through much of it.
Today is Random's 13th (and golden) birthday. It is hard to believe that that tiny baby, who struggled so much to grow and stay healthy as an infant, is now a teenager! He opened one of his presents this morning, and then we all headed off to a very special Christmas party (more on that later). We had lunch out at the restaurant of his choice, then picked up a friend of his, before heading out to see the movie Bolt. We are back at home now, and the boys (ours and a couple of neighbor kids who are here about as often as they are at home) are downstairs playing Lego Batman on the Wii. It has been declared one of the best games ever by more than one of our gaming aficionados.
I honestly did not expect to enjoy the movie Bolt, but it really did have it's funny parts, and even a moment near the end where I caught myself wiping my eye just a bit. There were a couple of wonderful messages in it too - Bolt discovers that it is not super powers that makes him special and important, but his being loved, and that any home is special when it is yours. These were wonderful messages for our kids to hear, and were especially timely for one of them.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Mango


Last Tuesday night, Mango and I went out to her favorite place for dinner and did a little bit of shopping afterwards. She is a very enjoyable companion who is quick to giggle and smile. She also has a style that is all her own, and picked out some shiny, black Hello Kitty boots to wear on dress-up occassions. They certainly aren't what I would've picked (for me OR for her), but they are her, she loves them, and with that fabulous smile and her innate sense of confidence, she's likely to only hear compliments about them anyways.
I'm so very blessed to be her mom. Isn't she beautiful?

A Cold Winter's Morning

We woke up this morning to no heat. Our furnace had stopped working sometime during the night, and it was a chilly 59 degrees Fahrenheit upstairs, several degrees cooler downstairs, and 9 degrees outside. DH called a repairman, we started up our space heaters, and threw an extra blanket on each of the kids' beds. The repairman was here by 8:45, took a look, and told us he will need to get a part. He hopes to be back with it between 11 and 1, but we won't have heat until then.
Despite the cooler temps, it has been a cozy morning. The kids are snuggled up in blankets doing their schoolwork at the table, we've baked some muffins for breakfast, and slippers and sweatshirts are the dress of the day.
And it's already warmed up to 68 degrees upstairs!


Seely says he's cool all of the time, and remains unfazed by the chilly temperatures.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Week of Lasts

This week is the last week of this year for many of our activities.
Monday night was the last night of the Bible Study Fellowship group the girls and I participate in. This year the study is on the life of Moses. It has been a great study, and though I can't honestly say I'm thrilled that we'll soon be reading through Leviticus (which Random has just declared to be the most boring book of the Bible), I am excited to see what lessons can be found there. (There must be some, right????) The girls really enjoyed bringing small presents to their teachers, and chowed on their candy canes the whole way home.
Tuesday was Seely's last day of classes at the homeschool co-op that he's been attending. He took American Government and Spanish I there each week, and really seemed to enjoy going. Next semester, he will be participating in the Student Senate, as well as finishing up his Spanish credit.
And today was the "last day" for little Monkey's AWANA Cubbies book. Apparently, when he was getting in the car to go to church tonight, he didn't manage to get his bag all of the way in before closing the door. When they arrived at church, DH found Monkey's bag hanging outside the car, with the bag and book pretty much ripped to shreds after having drug on snowy, wet pavement for many minutes. Monkey is very proud of his book, so I was a little worried he'd be upset about it's destruction, but DH said he was okay about it, and the leaders did give him another one (after having a good chuckle at it's appearance and the story of how it got that way).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Dancing Preview

Today, the girls had dress rehearsal for their part of the Christmas program at church. They have truly enjoyed being part of the worship dance ministry at our church. The high school and college aged young women who run it are not only great dancers, but even more importantly are wonderful mentors and "big sisters" for the younger girls. It is fun to watch them all interacting together. Rehearsals hold lots of giggling, spinning, missed steps, and even a few things not usually associated with a bunch of graceful girls, but when they get it right, the beauty of them performing together in worship always brings tears to my eyes. Here is just a short clip of the beginning of their dance. Hope you enjoy it!

video

Peef the Christmas Bear


Every Christmas season, we always try to take in a Christmas play or performance together. Last night we attended a play called Peef the Christmas Bear. It is a story by a (fairly) local author, about a multi-colored bear, made by Santa, who gets and grants a very special Christmas wish. A friend from the church youth group did a great job as one of the elves, so that made it even more fun to see! Her family joined us, and we all went out for snacks, sodas, and a time of fun and laughter afterwards. (You rock, Cora!)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fun With Playdough

I hate playdough, and the mess that always seems to come with playdough, but the littles love it. So this afternoon, when they were through with their school work and looking for something fun to do, I found myself stirring up a batch of green playdough. And then the fun began!

This is not a poorly timed picture of Mango....she just doesn't like how the playdough smells!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Holiday Get to Know You

Someone passed this holiday questionnaire along. Feel free to cut and paste the questions for your own blog or an e-mail! Be sure to send me back your answers!

Here's the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both. I'd prefer bags, but the kids prefer having wrapping to rip off, so we wrap most of our gifts.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial. With several asthmatics in the house, we've been told to not get a real one.
3. When do you put up the tree? Weekend after Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down? New Year's Day (we need the space back!)
5. Do you like eggnog? No. Yuck.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Hmm.....the one I remember most was the year I got the toy truck I asked for!
7. Hardest person to buy for? Don't really know!
8. Easiest person to buy for? Random, Mango and DH's mom
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. It is not up, because the kids and the cats run off with the pieces.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Neither - though we usually intend to mail. :-)
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Socks.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I really haven't seen most of the famous ones.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Between HalloweItalicen and Thankgiving, with the serious shopping usually taking place after Thanksgiving.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, but only as a joke. Remember that ugly fruit statue thingy, Mom??????
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? French silk pie.
16. Lights on the tree? Color or White? Colored, on a pre-lit tree.
17. Favorite Christmas song? Silent Night.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Home. We are lucky enough to have much of our extended family close by.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donor and Blitzen, and of course Rudolf.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Neither. Our tree topper is unique every year.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Eve with extended family, Christmas morning with our immediate family
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? People who take the Christ out of Christmas and replace it with an X; grumpy shoppers and sales people.
23. Ornament theme or color? Neither. Our tree is mostly decorated with ornaments that my mom has bought each of the kids each year.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Ham and cheesy potatoes on Christmas Eve, then crackers and cheese on Christmas Day.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Nothing really (but if you are desperate for ideas Caribou gift cards, or Amazon gift cards so I can buy more books for my Kindle!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

"I Can Read It!"

Today, I heard these words come out of the mouth of my four year old son, as he finished his very first "Bob book"! Realizing each of my kids was actually reading the words for the very first time and getting pleasure from it, never has failed to bring tears of pleasure to my eyes. And being this is my baby - hearing him read for the first time was a bit bittersweet.