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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Unexpected Trip

Last Friday morning, my niece's 35 year old husband passed away very suddenly following surgery. Thirty-five. He left behind not only our niece and her 3 daughters, but 5 children from previous marriages. He was a part of a large, blended family and many people are grieving this very sudden loss. Many people's lives will never be the same.
Life is short, people. Love hard.

We left for Wyoming early Tuesday morning, stopping for one night. Wyoming is beautiful. It makes you feel small and I think we all need to feel small once in awhile. It helps keep things in perspective.
We also did some of this... Uncle D and Aunty C's church had a "Big Toys" night for their AWANA kids, so our three youngest had a chance to run off all of the energy they'd stored up traveling that far in 2 days. Here is Lily with her second- cousin E. Monkey ran straight for 2 hours on all of the inflatables, only stopping to eat when we made him!The funeral was held on Thursday. I was so proud of my niece and how she was able to not only remain standing, but support her children and all of her step-children through such a heart-breaking loss. The grief was tough to watch, but her family and his family are circling the wagons, and she will have plenty of help and support in the days ahead. Please pray for them whenever they come to mind.

Friday morning, we spent a couple of hours with family there and then headed back over the Big Horn mountains. It was a beautiful winter wonderland...even for someone who is pretty sick of winter!

We got snowed on for quite some time on our way back over. On our first trip, it had gone from rain to hail to snow to blue, sunny skies in literally five minutes. It was pretty amazing. I think the Big Horns are quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Minnesota Sealife Visit

Today we spent the morning at Minnesota Sealife(formerly Underwater Adventures). For those of you who have been here before, not a whole lot has changed with the name, except you now go through "backwards" and of course they have you walk through the very expensive gift shop at the end. This picture was taken in one of the tunnels. This is part of the Jellyfish Kingdom. I think Mango and Monkey could've stood there quite happily for a very long time watching the jellyfish swim.
This stingray pond is now at the beginning. It has a couple of underwater viewing windows that the kids enjoyed.
This was at the end of one of the tunnels. We went through twice and this shark was sitting in that same spot both times.

Monkey Turns Seven!

Monkey's 7th birthday was last week. He was very excited, of course. As the time drew closer for Dad to get home from work, it got harder and harder to wait. He curled up with big brother Random and learned how to text while he was waiting! Here were a couple of our less successful attempts to get pictures with his birthday gifts.

By the time we got the nicer one, I think the back end of every animal in the house had made it into one photo or another. Never a dull moment here!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monkey's Haircut!

This is Monkey's new haircut. He's now almost 7 years old. He doesn't really care much about his hair - it was actually quite long and shaggy before today - he only cares about the lollipop he gets after the haircut is over. Today, however, he did request spikey hair and that is what he got! He looks so much older now!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The End of Winter?

It has been a looonnnngggg winter for us in more ways than one. Being I've been such a horrible blogger through it, I decided I'd try to catch you all up. So here we go!

December was a busy month and covered just about every emotion. Our 9 year old great niece lost her very heroic battle with cancer. Random turned 15 and Lily had another surgery.
A very special box from Japan arrived for the kids with the instructions that they had to wait until Christmas to open it! Inside was a gift for each of them from our exchange student Tianyu. Here, the girls model their gifts!

Anyone who lives in Minnesota can tell you that this has been the winter of snow. There was so much of it and it was so heavy that the Metrodome deflated. It looks quite sad whenever we drive by!

January brought a celebration of our great niece's life and a fundraiser for her family. As you can see, the kids had a wonderful time!

February brought Mango's 10th birthday. She is getting so tall, but has retained all of the joy, friendless, and silliness that she came to us with. (Ignore the laundry baskets in the background - they are clean!)

This is Cooper. He doesn't normally sit still. You know that saying about "it would be like herding cats"? Well, this dog does herd cats - especially when they manage to escape outside. The cats do not appreciate it at all, but the humans find in hysterical every single time!

March brought Lily's 13th birthday, so we are now a three teenager household. All prayers are appreciated.
We are hoping March will also bring the end of the snow. We are supposed to have temperatures in the 50's this week. Mango and Monkey spent some time outside this evening building what (we hope) are the last snowmen of the year.

As you know, March also brought news of the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The morning we woke to the news, we talked with Tianyu on Facebook. She was home alone, riding out the frequent aftershocks, and waiting for her father to return. I wanted so badly to be able to give her a hug and make it better. (Actually what I wanted was to somehow magically just transport her back here.) By the next morning, we had heard from each of our recent students to know that they and their families are okay, but feeling very devastated. Please do not grow weary of praying for these people and their country. It is not just a far-away place, it is a place full of very real and very hurting people.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Too Funny to Not Share

Tonight was crazy hair night at AWANA. The kids all put several different colored gels in their hair, meaning they had to have showers once we got home. Monkey had a very quick bath and came out announcing that he was wearing his long underwear.

With as straight of a face as I could manage, I answered "You sure are, Monkey. You sure are."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Pray in the Bathroom

So the secret is out....I pray when I'm in the bathroom. I'm not really sure how the habit got its start, but I know that it has to do with the fact that the bathroom is one of the few places in my life where I get to be alone. It's hard to quiet my mind and heart to listen to God in the middle of teaching Mango the finer points of long division, listening to Monkey read about Snuff the Snail, or helping Lily deal with her ever flucuating emotions. As goofy as it sounds, the bathroom is one of the few places where I am still and quiet long enough to really pray from the heart and to listen to what God wants to say to me. There are prayers for my husband, my children, the children and villages around the world that we sponsor, and for 2 young pregnant women in Haiti that I have the privilege of being a "prayer doula" for. There are prayers for a friend with cancer, for a niece who lost her daughter to cancer, and for a young pregnant mom at our church whose husband was recently deployed. There likely have been prayers spoken in that room for each of you at one time or another. I know it seems like a crazy place to pray, but I'm sure God simply overlooks my location and meets with me there.