Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Take Time To Breathe

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Hands down.  There is something magical about the lights, the decorations, the yards of colored ribbon and wrapping paper, the giving.

This morning, the eve of Christmas, when I woke up, I was completely overwhelmed, not with a list of " to do's" but with  peace.  Those of you that know me, may wonder how a mom of so many can not have a list a mile long of to do's and don't forgets the day before Christmas.  Simply put, if it is not done now, it will not get done!  I refuse to rush through this day, in a effort to accomplish a list of things that no one but me will notice going un-done, knowing that in doing so, striving for perfection in my mind,  I would sabotage my all time favorite thing about Christmas, Candlelight service tonight.  

"What?," you may ask, "is so special about tonight's candle light service?"  Honestly, part of it is tradition.  Growing up we always made the trek to church on Christmas Eve.  Special clothing, and shoes, heading out in the dark, holding a candle with a real flame... I remember far more Christmas Eve's attending than not over the years.   When my kids were younger we went, and most eve's did not get through the entire service without a crying baby, a meltdown, snoring children, vomiting children or a burnt finger because of dripping wax, but tradition, over the years has morphed for me to a time of reflection and respite from the busyness of the season.

As I herd the family into the church, I feel a great sense of pride in the fact that these, straggling, sometimes hostile beings call me; "mom".  That they look to me for guidance and direction, for love and for grace.  No matter their ages or stages in life, as I look at each of them, perfectly trimmed out in their Christmas best, sitting in a LONG row, I grow warm inside, feeling that this moment in time, they are perfection in the dim  candle light, angelic looking, sweet, tender beings that are being molded and formed by the Prince and I into men and women that love the Lord and one another. (We do not always succeed, but we do strive to lead them in this way.) Despite the fact that I will have to say at least three times, "back to the back, crack to the crack, seat to the seat", to get those teen age boys into proper seated posture, I know that in my heart I am blessed. 

I love the words of the carols that will be sung.  Even though Sleepy has been singing all these years  "Haste, Haste to bring Him lard," instead of  "Haste, Haste to bring Him laud", which we now share a giggle over, I will be transported over 2000 years to the glorious time of Christ's birth.  Considering the star that guided them, is the same sky that I look at every day, mesmerizes me.  Considering my Savior's lowly start, born in a manger, I count my blessings.  I praise the Lord for his provisions, just as the babe was provided for, so are my family and our household, those that I love. The voices of the choir and the congregation will blend in harmony which will give me pause to consider if this is what the heavenly hosts sound like...

The words of the pastor will encourage, will challenge and will recharge me.  If my focus is out of line tonight, then this will be the time to refocus my perspective and focus on Christ.  The reason that I celebrate this season, this holiday. 

The flickering lights of the candles, while alone would generate little light, as an entire congregation, lights the church with a soft glow.  Reminding me that alone, my light does shines, but when combined with the light of my family, friends and other believers, there is the ability to impact an entire community with the light and truth of God's word. 

The actions of the corporate structure of the church will bless others less fortunate than my family, as we always conclude the Christmas Eve service with a benevolence offering.  Serving to remind me that once again, my gift may be small, but combined can be the difference to a person or family in need. 

By this point in the service, the dwarfs will be getting antsy. I will be sending the "hairy" eye to more than a few, indicating that they need to hold it together for another few moments.  We will then conclude with a couple annual photos by the church's large decorated Christmas tree before heading home for the evening's festivities.  But in our going, I will be prepared for what tomorrow will bring. Great joy, anticipations recognized, joy that comes from within, not based on my circumstances, but laced in the truth of God's word and the promises that He has made to each of us in his Word. 

Isaiah 9:6-7
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

A very warm and heartfelt greeting to you and yours on this the eve of Christmas.  Our family of many, wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It is not a problem.

There have been years that we were gifted trees, and there have been years that we have only decorated with live trees, and some years where we only decorated with artificial trees.  There were some years that we never put up a single tree, however somewhere over the last 24 Christmas's I have accidentally acquired a bundle of trees. 

Now you wonder how does one accidentally acquire so many trees?  I can't say that I really have an answer to that.  Not all of the trees are large, as a matter of fact there is a good portion of the them that are tall skinny pencil trees and another portion of them that are under two feet in height. However the end result is the same, the halls are all decked and there are,when I count them all up, 16 Christmas trees decorating my house. 

Here is the run down of the trees:
2 tall thin lighted trees flanking my Christmas carolers with
2 one foot shrub like trees by their feet,
2 gold lighted trees standing at attention at the charging/docking station in the kitchen,
2 small trees on the table as center pieces, (mind you it is a 12 foot table)
1 three foot gingerbread/cookie cutter themed tree in the kitchen window,
1 music themed tree in the music room,
1 live family room tree, with all the sentimental/family ornaments,
1 silver tree in the middle female dwarfs room,
1 hunting themed tree in the male dwarfs room,
1 Steeler's themed tree in another male dwarf,
1 tall skinny tree in another female dwarfs room,
1 small tree in a pot, in the master bedroom. 

Double check my math, because any friend of mine knows that math is not my strong suit, but I get 16. Counting from upstairs to down or down to up the number I arrive at is 16.

While most people would say that 16 trees is indicative of some sort of ailment or illness.  I would like to go on the record and say simply, I love trees! It is not a problem.  I actually love Christmas and decorating for it.  I have many Nativity scenes, tons of angels, several antique Santa pieces, a pile of gingerbread items and a host of reindeer, rolls of ribbon, piles of wreaths, yards of fabric and tons of twinkling lights!. 

My most favorite thing about decorating for Christmas is that I find great joy in it.  It is relaxing.  Yes, I recognize that many it seems excessive and over the top, and to be honest there have been years when I have done hardly any decorating because of the stage of life that I was in, but the joy that it brings to me is the reason that more years than not,  I go all out for the season.   I enjoy removing my normal household decorations and boxing them up to replace them with the themed items for each room.  I enjoy unpacking the items that have been collected over the last 24 years, and reliving the memories that go with the decorations and the ornaments.  I love sharing the stories with the children, so that some day when I am gone, and they separate all my things seven ways,  they can share the stories with their children, my grandchildren.

Do I think that everyone should go all out for Christmas decorating - No.  However I think that if it brings you joy, not stress, and helps you focus on the wonderful memories of holidays past, and is part of creating good memories for the current day, then YES,  by all means go all out! Decorate until your heart is filled to overflowing!

There are no rules for the holidays.  We are the ones that impose these crazy traditions on ourselves and implement to do lists that are unreasonable, as we try to be all things to all people.  It is okay to let things drop.  This year I am not sending out a family Christmas card.  I was becoming crabby and stressed over trying to organize 8 kids, 2 adults, matching outfits (or at least coordinating)  and a photographer for that "perfect" holiday shot.  I caught myself mid rant about this impossible task, and realized, that indeed this year, with so many of the kids working, playing basketball, and other outside responsibilities, a family photograph this holiday was impossible, or at least not possible without a significant portion of my Christmas joy being sapped,  so I scrapped the whole idea.  No card.

I know this is common sense, but I think it bears repeating, the problem becomes when this activity or any other, causes you to lose your focus. If you get stressed out because your can't get it all done, or because your children or spouse are in the way, or just the thought of the prospects of doing this project brings a grimace to your face not a smile, then perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the situation.

Really 16 trees, and I don't make this stuff up!

Monday, November 25, 2013

I Quit!

Look, I am done! Over it! Finished!  I QUIT.  But before I do, here are my parting thoughts ...

When you have to move jackets to hang up your backpack or purse, know that those same jackets when placed on your body before your backpack will not only yield an empty hook upon your return home, on which your backpack can hang, but it will provide you with protection from the cold. When returning home at the end of your long hard day, the hook will be empty.  You can, with ease place your back pack or purse on said hook, and then top it off with your jacket. In doing so you will be set up for success every cold morning from here til spring, with the correct sequence for dressing for the weather, outerwear first, then backpack.

Bins of plenty overflow with offerings of gloves, hats, ear muffs and scarves. These selections, in my humble opinion, will match just about EVERYTHING you are own or are wearing.  I do believe that every color is represented in those selections. While I can not vouch for every glove having a match, why should your hands be boring - spice it up with two gloves, one of a different color for each hand.  This is not a foreign concept, you already do this with your socks...

When you walk into the garage and have to step around a mountain of snow boots, remember there is a pair that will fit you. When the flakes start to fly, bypass your open toed shoes and slides for the protective covering of fleece and weather resistant leather to keep your feet happy and warm.

However, should YOU decide to bypass all the efforts that the Prince and I have made to set you up for successful outdoor living in Central PA from now until spring, please know this...

I do NOT want to see you shivering, shaking or curling yourself up like a turtle inside your hoodie because you are too COOL for outerwear.  I will not listen to you complain about having cold feet, or hands.  I do not want to hear that your ears are cold and that the wind is blow straight through you. 
Friends, neighbors and family, when you see my dwarfs, dressed for the cold improperly, please know, they all have the proper equipment to prevent the chills, shivering, teeth rattling, blue lipped hypothermia that it seems they are experiencing.  They just made a choice NOT to utilize the tools provided.  I do wonder however, when did coats, hats and gloves become so un-cool? 

Clearly, I wish I were making this up.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How do you decide who to marry?


 "No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with."– Kristen, age 10
Hum... how many times have I told my children, " Don't worry about dating.  God has this all worked out.  Trust Him to bring you that special someone.  He knows the details about your life and cares so much for you that He has already selected a spouse for you, if that is His will for your life.  In the meantime, Daddy and I pray for your future, with or without a spouse, and we are certain that you will know when the right person comes along for you, and if you have doubts, ask us, we will let you know!" 
I would guess this dear ten year old, has also heard that same refrain a time or two in her home.  But I pray that her parents, while laying out the expectations, are clearly showing her each day that a relationship with the spouse that God has selected for you doesn't mean that you are "stuck" with them.  
This off the cuff statement from a 10 year old has given me some thing to ponder today.  It is hard in the day to day,  to love your spouse unconditionally, to not be irritated, or aggravated or in some way rubbed wrong by your well meaning, loving life mate.  However it is how we respond to those moments of being rubbed, that define for our children if we really believe that this is the spouse we are supposed to spend our life with as ordained by God, or if it is just who we are "stuck" with. 
As a parent, what do my daily actions and responses to my spouse say to our children, who hear and pay attention to far more than we give them credit for,  about my belief and trust in God that He has provided the "perfect" one/spouse for me to grow old with? 
Romans 5:8 "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" 

Even at my worst, God loves me unconditionally.  Oh boy!  You may not see the worst in me as my casual acquaintance or my coworker or even as an extended family member, but boy God sure does and so does my spouse and children!  I have come to accept and trust God at his word, which clearly says that when I am ugly, when I am at my worst, when I am a sinner(which I am everyday) Christ died for me, that is how much God loves me...So why then would I not be prepared to grace this gift of unconditional love to the Prince. Not just when it makes me feel good, or when it is easy for me, but and especially, when he is at his worst too?  What gives me the right to loose my patience, lash out and hold grudges towards him, if the model that I strive to emulate in life is God, then the answer is I have no right.    Ouch...
Now stick with me here.  Perhaps those of you reading this, have no problems in unconditional love, giving or receiving it, or in trusting that God loves us enough to be concerned about who we marry, or even if we marry. However, if I am adamant about this with my kids, telling them over and over to trust that God's got this area of their life, am I emulating a loving Christ like relationship with their father, the Prince, in the day to day that would inspire them to take me at my word. To trust me as the tangible example, that maybe there is something to this trust thing, something to the faithful praying for a spouse that would cause them to believe that I do trust God in all this and much more. Or am I living an example in which they hear that I trust, but I shows that I feel stuck...

I can not for certain say how my children would respond to the same question:  How do you decide who to marry?   I can imagine some of them responding with things like, "If they are as tall as me or taller, I would marry them." or "If they make a lot of money I would marry them."  "Maybe if they like the same things that I do, I would marry them."

I know how I guide them and direct them in my words, but it really is my desire to lead them by example.  So I will spend a little time this week pondering if my actions indicate that I feel stuck with the Prince, or if I feel blessed to be married to such a wonderful loving and caring man who I can plainly see God has provided for me to do life with. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I've been doing it wrong all along!

Look closely.  It is what you think it is.  One pair of pants, on a shirt hanger.  Who would have thought that all these years, I have been doing this simple task wrong!   This is clearly an example of out of the box thinking!  This dwarf will not be pigeon holed into thinking that things have to be done a certain way,  that there is only one way to perform  a common household task. 

Clearly this dwarf, only knows that it is "wrong" in our home to have your clothing lying on the floor of your room or your closet.  Score one for the parents: message heard and  received, and in Bashful's mind,  task mastered!  

Never let it be said that Bashful is shy in the creative ways to get a task done.  Look in this random hanging, Bashful has shown, creativity, obedience, and a get 'er done attitude as he strives to please us by keeping his clothing off the floor of his closet and room.

Have you ever tried to hang your pants on a shirt hanger? I would say that it took more time and energy to do the above, than to put the pants right side out, fold them on the seams, and stick the small end of the pant let through a hanger bar, and pull them to even, as to not fall from said pants hanger.  Or to straighten them out and clip them to a pant hanger with clips from the waist.... My guess is that this dwarf, used anywhere from 15 -20 minutes trying to establish his authority over these pants.  One could guess from the haphazardness of these pants and their precarious balancing act on the shirt hanger that they did not go there, or staying there willingly or with ease. 

This shows moxie, this shows intense thought and problem solving skills.  The problem, the pants needed hung,  and using what I would consider the wrong tool, the dwarf still got the job done.  (I pulled this hanger with pants out of the closet, hung it on the angle, photographed it and returned it to the designated space in the closet and the pants never fell from the hanger.)  Persistence is what it took to find the balancing act that has kept the pants on the hanger since Sunday after church...last week. I think I may have underestimated the complexity of the mind of Bashful. Who knew I was really working with a genius.  An out of the box thinker.  Let this be a lesson to us all, where there is a will, there is always a way! 

You really can't make this stuff up, and this made me laugh out loud!!  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ahhhh... (insert eyes filled with hearts here)

When cupid strikes, he strikes fast and with a fury.  However where teenagers are concerned, it is often not the arrow of cupid that has caused them to see the opposite sex in a new unique and appealing way, it is hormones, the teasing of others, and the need to fill in a gap that society says you have, if you have no one to love, or no one to love you. 

How then does a parent in today's day and age manage to fight the world, the hormones and the friends?  I wish I had the answer to that.  Combine the above items with any "normal" functioning teen, and you could probably assume to have some reasonable conversations with them about how you do not need someone else in your life to be complete, or that they should focus on athletics, studies and building relationships at home and with friends, since these are the people that will be forever in their life. Perhaps in just sharing the biggest truth of the matter, the one you think the moon sets around today will not be the one the sun rises around tomorrow, will be enough to jar them back to their senses.  Perhaps not. 

However, throw in a hormonal, socially awkward, trust in nothing, and believe no one adolescent, and the scenario changes drastically.  Sadly, the one that suffers the most is the one on the receiving end of such intentions, good bad or otherwise. 

Currently we have a dwarf that will remain anonymous, who has tried to bribe, purchase, beg, coerce, finagle, brow beat, in an attempt to wear down, a member of the opposite sex in an effort to win their attention and affection.  Which, if I can be permitted a side trail here, how would one adolescent  with no job, no life experience, no ability to go places without adult transportation, ever even consider that a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship would be possible within the confines of school?  What are they envisioning? Sitting across from one another staring lovingly into each others eyes at the lunch table, for 20 minutes a day, sharing a PB&J that their momma packed?  Insert head shake here... Never mind that the house rule is no dating until you are 18, and yes, that is a thing at our house.

Back to the situation that is currently unfolding.  Enter stage right, smart devises that allow us to be stupid.  If you are socially awkward, then you can remain faceless, and declare your undying love to an unsuspecting soul via a text message, or an email, or instant message.  In doing so, you catch the other party off guard, and unaware that this attack is coming, especially if as the recipient you have never given your number to said intruder.  While the messages are heartfelt I am sure on the part of the dwarf, they are inappropriate, and when it is clear to the average person (the mom reviewing the smart device for just such things) that the person on the other side of the blue cloud is trying to get out of the conversation gracefully, to this particular dwarf, it seems even the clear message, "stop texting me", and "I don't want to talk to you anymore", are not clear enough to penetrate this euphoria of love. 

Mentally and emotionally this dwarf is now in significant turmoil, because they have created a problem, on SO many levels.  In steps we, the parentals, and in our wisdom and love for the dwarf, try to steer them through the situation.  What the appropriate thing to do at the onset of these love sick feelings would have been, the correct way to talk (the old fashioned way, face to face) with the person they are interested in, how much of your true feelings to indicate upfront, how to handle relationships in a way that is honoring to the other person, themselves (as now you seem a bit mental) all while honoring the Lord with your words and actions, finishing the conversation with strict instructions to STOP communicating with this person as it is making life hard, when it doesn't have to be!

Oh, but the lure of fixing what we have screwed up, even to a hot mess, is an underlying and an all consuming thought process. It is like having a sore that is starting to scab over.  Given time it will heal, but if you keep picking it, healing will take longer and potentially become more painful if you get an infection. 

Now back to the dwarf. While they may have made points with their friends for taking a dare, and professing their undying love, the consequence is a heavy heart because just the opposite has happened. By not trusting that perhaps the older and wiser advice of the parents was spot on, they now have pushed this person of interest farther away from them, and this person no longer even wants to have a casual conversation with our dwarf because of all the awkwardness and  their persistence in not being able to let things drop.  Where there were conversations, albeit stilted and uncomfortable,(because they are after all teenagers) there is now tension, where there once was an easy ebb and flow to the classroom setting and life outside the classroom, there is now strain, and incredibly painstaking thoughts to process about how far away from said person to be, or what or how to talk or not talk to them.  Over analysis is now taxing an all ready over strained brain, which now is making life with said dwarf, difficult emotionally and physically because they are so wrapped up and exhausted in how to fix something that should have never been broken in the first place. 

Now I am going to go out on a limb here, and it may be that I end up standing alone, however with a little life experience behind me, and a lot of time to grow wise with the passing days, I can say in all honesty, I wish my parents had this stance on dating.  NO!  No you may not have a boyfriend or girlfriend until you are married!   Okay that is a bit much, but you get the idea.  Fighting the society's notion that love is all you need is hard. At 12, 14, 16 , 18 and even in our 20's "love" by societies standards is not what we need. 

What as parents, I feel we need to do is continue to build confidence in our children so that they know that God loves them the most and then we as their parents love them second to that.  In line from there, siblings and extended family and forming those relationships should be the priority during the middle school and high school years.  At the end of the day, when your friendships grow apart, love interest falls apart, or you face any other trial, disappointment or failure, you will want the support of your family and their unconditional love to make that transition easier. 

If you are secure in who you are, you will not need others to determine your worth or your value.  Instead, you will be busy sharing your  abundance of love and confidence with others, by being a good friend, a trustworthy employee, a stellar student, a respectful son or daughter, a compassionate neighbor, even a dedicated athlete.  You will find joy in making an impact in others lives, not looking to others to make an impact in yours.  There is always the distinct possibility that you will not find a forever mate, and instead of shopping for one starting at the age of 13 or 14, build confidence in yourself, work on relationships that you know will be around for life, shift your focus to being the best that you can be.

I believe when you least expect it, that arrow, shot from Cupid's bow, will make it's mark on you, and there will be no "shopping" around.  The man or woman (note, not boy or girl ) will be the one for you for the rest of your days, at just the right time and the right season in your life.  If we spend our time and energy with the wrong focus, we end up with a trail of tears, distress, broken heartedness.  While I know that life is hard, and relationships are hard, and there are no guarantees in life or love,  as parents we need to be more intentional in helping our children focus on the important things for appropriate stages of development and trust that God will handle the rest. 

So alas, as a family we are still struggling through the moodiness, and distractions of young "love" gone wrong...but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I think we have made a corrective dent in the thinking of said dwarf, as they can now clearly see a better way to have handled the situation.  Will that deter them from repeating this heart ache?  I can only hope. 

There are days when I really wish I did make this stuff up. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I knew the day would come...

I knew it was just a matter of time, I knew the day would come.  I have been waiting for this day since this past June.  In June we took three working Lingle dwarfs to the Verizon store to purchase their own cell phones.  Of course these particular dwarfs were not about to be seen with outdated technology, so the three of them, Happy, Dopey and Sneezy purchased the latest and greatest of the moment phones, paid for the activation fees, the insurance the started on their journey of being the proud owners of technology that had unlimited, texting, internet, calling, gaming, etc. 

Now not a single one of these three dwarfs are what I would call incredibly organized or focused.  However the girl dwarfs have some what of a life line between their phones and their beings.  It is most always on them or beside them, never more than a hand snatch away. 

The boy however, while he has it on him most all the time, never answers it when it rings (it is always on silent except for his blaring alarm in the mornings) claims he never got the text and has yet to set up his voice mail, and is most often found playing games, or reading on his device. 

Today the call came while I was driving home from work. "Mom, I have to tell you that I left my phone on the bus.  I think.  But I already handled it.  The bus driver is going to keep it til tomorrow.  So you will get the phone back on the am bus tomorrow?", I ask.  "No, I mean the afternoon bus driver. I don't need it until then any way. "  I think to myself, he seems pretty calm about this, but I am not so sure that I agree with the plan.  " Dopey, I say, please call back to the depot, and ask them if I can come over now for it, I will come the long way home so that I can run past and get it from their office.  "Okay, mom, I will call right now."  Perfect... 

The phone rings again.  "Mom, they are just now going out to look for it. I gave them your number and they are going to go get it and call you." 

My phone rings, oh I don't know for the 3rd time... "Hi this is the bus depot.  We do not have your dwarf's phone on the bus, I just checked the entire bus.  The driver was there, and he showed me where your dwarf sits, and the phone is not there."  I say as kindly as I can, as the feeling of dread runs through me, knowing the price tag of said phone,  if there is any possible way that the phone slipped between  the seats or between the seat and the side of the bus.  She agrees to go out and look again, all the while I am quickly approaching the location of the depot. 

As I am pulling in to the depot my cell phone rings again, and the kind and helpful employee says that the phone is not on the bus. It is not in the seats, she ran her hands all over the seats, it is just not there.   I tell her I am in the lot and will be in to the office in a second. 

Upon entering the depot my dwarf and I have clearly been the topic of conversation for the last 20 minutes or so.  I encounter a line of drivers, all talking and when the helpful woman arrives from behind the counter and introduces herself, she once again indicates that the phone is not on the bus. I say, well his siblings have checked his back pack, and pockets, they have checked the drive way and the road where they get off the bus and there is no phone.  He clearly got on the bus with the phone and got off without it and it is not like he was up walking around, or getting off or on at other stops, he was sleeping. He fell asleep with it in his hand, woke up got off the bus, and upon entering the house realized it was not on his person.

As much as I want to believe her, I don't.  I say, "okay, while I am here may I look on the bus for the phone?"  She does a double take and says, "No...you can't go on the bus, your not allowed.  I told you it is not there. "  In my gut I feel like it is there, that if I could just check myself, even if I did not find it at least then I could trust that I had looked everywhere for it.  At this point another driver, says to wait a minute.  She goes over to the table and puts down her belongings, and says to me, "I'll go look for you sweetie. Use your phone and start calling his phone."  So I start to dial.  In the meantime, the other drivers are all giving me their idea about what has happened to the dwarfs, phone, it goes something like this:

"You say he fell asleep on the bus? Then his phone, has done been stole, he wont never see that again."
"I had a kid on my ride lose their phone, and I stopped the bus and asked if it was any one's and no one claimed it, can you believe that?  A lost phone and nobody claims it, like they just don't care or something, and I bet their mom and dad will buy them a new one."
"You wont ever see that phone again. I wouldn't dial his number from your phone, cuz it will come up "mom" on his screen and the kid that stole it , he aint gonna answer it, no way."

I tried to explain that my dwarf went to private school rode a bus with very few other riders and those that were on this route were mostly siblings and a neighbor, but alas they thought that we would never see it again!

All this in about 90 seconds of time, until wide mouthed they all look out the door and say in unison, "She found dat phone! " 

In this particular instance, I am glad that I was persistent.  I am glad that I followed the prompting inside me that said, do not wait until tomorrow night for the driver to return the phone to the dwarf, too many things can go wrong between now and then.    I was so over joyed that I hugged that kind driver that went out of her way to assist me in my search.  My faith is restored in people and their kindness towards strangers.  I and my dwarf are grateful!  My dwarf is so grateful that he is drafting a thank you letter tonight as per my strong suggestion that he do so,  as I some how feel the need to prove to the bus staff that my dwarf is heads and tails above a hoodlum who would steal a sleeping child's cell phone and that the other children the dwarf's bus also have character, morals, and sound judgment. 

You really can't make this stuff up!

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's a Calling

Let me start off by saying that every day is a new day, and today I wish my new day were already here!  I would love to close my eyes, and open them and it would, like magic, be tomorrow.  While I am not prone to feelings of sadness, or being overwhelmed, today my heart breaks.  Each time I think about the overall big picture, my eyes tear up.  On the rare occasion that I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, sadness or discouragement, I can usually shake it by engaging with others, sharing the moment, making light of the situation, or even just mentally stepping over it without a glance backwards again. 

Many times people misconstrue my ability to shake things off, for being un attached emotionally, or lacking in mercy or compassion.  Most times I would tend to agree that I am not overly compassionate, I have a low tolerance for stupid, and I often forget to filter things through my lens of mercy and grace.  (If you know me well your not surprised by this.)  If you don't know me, you then know someone like me.  I just do not like to get bogged down in the day to day drama of life.  Things happen, consequences ensue, and life goes on, reliving it, rehashing it typically changes nothing, so learn your lesson, and move on, is typically my motto.

But today, I am stuck in a rut.  This rut is not new.  According to the Prince, I am inflicting this rut upon my self for not heeding his wisdom, and for not being able to disengage from the situation.  He feels that I am taking things personally, and am not separating myself from my emotions.  I agree.  I do take this personally because I think that in life there are prompts from the Lord, that encourage us to be invested in something or someone, to step out on a ledge, and to push for a desired result or return on our investment.  However, in this there has to be a balance.  There are in all situations life lessons to be learnt, and while you can lead a horse to water, whether he drinks or not is his choice.  But just because your horse is too stubborn or prideful to drink, do you stop trying? 

In this particular instance I have committed years of my life to journeying beside these particular horses.  This horse has drug me to the bottom or my emotional well, sapped my finances, sapped my energy, sapped my disposition, even has sapped my joy for the moment and has inflicted on me pain so deep that I can not with ease put words to why I even feel this way.  The totality of where I am today emotionally has not happened because of one ill spoken phrase, one out burst of uncontrolled anger, or a justifiable argument, but out of a pent up, built up, preverbal elephant in the room.  My frustration is out of my concern that we are not assisting the horse in learning life lessons that are true, that we are enabling the horse to get a perspective that is viewed through their lens of laziness, anger, resentment and lack of trust.  By not leading said horse to the water of accountability and forcing structure and social graces on them, am I not setting them up for as much failure as if they were to go alone down the road of life without input and knowledge shared because of the love that we have for them?

Or in all this is the Prince right. (Just a side note on this, the Prince's profession as a counselor makes it most probable that he is right, again...)  Are my personal views of the situation just mudding the drinking water.  Clearly in walking away, I will feel like I have failed. I know that is my pride, but the lingering nagging inner voice says while pride would be patting its self on it's back if the situation were miraculously fixed, I know in my heart that if the situation changed, I would give praise to the Lord for stepping in and fixing the cracks in my broken pot and I would thank Him for selecting me to be part of the restoration process. 

In stepping back and disengaging, I feel useless. Like watching an accident unfold in front of you and knowing that you can not get there fast enough to be part of the solution, or to keep the accident from happening.  In the back of my mind I am struggling with the reality of,  if I can, after the accident happens, and the horse is ready to drink,  have the heart and the courage and the strength to go back out on the same limb again. 

As a young woman, I never wanted children so I know that the Lord has called me to be a mom of many, and many of them with special needs. Needs that require more skills, more grace, more mercy, more compassion than I have. Hence, why the Prince and I make such a great pair... the helplessness that I feel today in the task ahead is substantially overwhelming, heartbreaking and frustrating. 

Prayers are welcome on behalf of our horses that won't drink, and for their parents that struggle with the right way to guide them, for their success or their failure(which I can not own as my own), as we attempt to set them up for life on their own, outside the comfort and protection of our home.  I would be foolish to think that this will go away, ever.  In the midst of this particular moment in time, in my head I know that grace and mercy will prevail. In my heart I hurt. In my hurt I am rejoicing that it has taken so many years to get to this low point. I also trust that it is a small blip on the radar, this is not a camp that I desire to stay in.  I know that I must dig deep, set aside my inadequacies, continue to trust that God's got all this and so much more. His desire is ultimately for them to drink from the water, to be refreshed, renewed, and restored. His plans for them are even bigger than the ones that I envision for them. For which I am grateful.   Even now, tears still are brimming, but peace is blossoming. 

Some days, I wish I could make this stuff up...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rooting for the Underdog

Underdog - n- dark horse, little chance of winning, succeeding.

One thing about the underdog in this particular story is that he doesn't see himself as such.  In his mind he is the top of his class, the top of his game, the top of the dog pile.  In some regards that is true, he will work at those things that come easy to him, such as athletics.  Confidence is a great asset when it is asserted humbly and with grace.  However, challenge him to work hard in academics, social skills, athletics, common sense, or relationships and it is all over!  He has no preserved problems in these areas.  Because of this his response to any help at all is negative, hostile and out rightly ungrateful. 

In the midst of this lives Sleepy, and she is proof, that even when faced with negativity and with unkindness, she shows a continued love for her dwarf sibling that has the most going against him.  She is his loudest advocate, she is his protector, she is his director, she is showing unconditional love to him every day in every way she can.  While sometimes her methods are perceived as bossy, nosey, rude, and otherwise not appreciated, she is not deterred.   In her heart, she just wants what is best for him. Success. This is the same attitude that she has for all underdogs, but when directed at a relation, often the encouragement comes back bitter and hurtful.  It seems like a no brainer that this dwarf would welcome, the chance to lap up the wisdom and council of a loving, caring, delightful sibling, right?  No way.  He pushes her away, talks about her behind her back, he is rude to her face in front of common acquaintances. When confronted on these issues he clearly articulates to me that he does/says these things, because they make him feel like he is better than her.  When encouraged to make things right with her, he states that it is too hard.  That he knows that he hurts her, but he just can't stop himself. 

“He who throws dirt always loses ground.” Chinese Proverb 

Someday it is my prayer that this dwarf will understand that clearly it would be beneficial for him to repair and develop relationship with Sleepy.   It is also my prayer that Sleepy will not grow frustrated in her efforts to love him unconditionally. 

As her mother, I see her frustration as he responds to her in the negative.  As I work to encouraged her that she can not own his responses, and that she is not responsible for his success or failure, I am challenged to remember that myself.  Most often people fail because they have no one in their life that is advocating for them.  If this dwarf fails, he will have no one but himself to blame as he continues to stand at a distance from a community that is out on the tree limb cheering him on towards success.

If I could encourage Sleepy at all in these days of struggle it would be as follows: Stand tall.  Stand firm, and do not grow weary of doing good, there are lots of underdogs out there and each one will  respond to you differently.  Continue to be bold, to live out loud, and to share your love of life with those around you.  The Prince and I are proud of you, and applaud your efforts in loving the unlovely. 

“There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity.” Nathaniel Branden 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

While the Prince is Away...

Today is the day that the Prince returns to our home.  He has been gone for 4 days and 8 hours... roughly.  While I would love to say, "While the Prince was away, the mice they did play", I would be completely lying to make a rhyme.

While the Prince was away, this working mom of many, kept up with the crazy schedule of teenage children, their work schedules, their sports activities, their laundry.  I made sure that they had food and drink at the appropriate times of the day, and evening snacks as well.  They bathed, they did homework (a lot of that was PAINFUL) as I feel like I have been in the 8th grade 6 times now if you count my personal stint there in 1983... We watered the lawn, checked the garden, took the trash to the curb.  We gathered the mail, we kept up with the dishes, we kept up with the dogs. We shared a few laughs, we shared a few shouts of frustration.  We exchanged text messages and phone calls, to make sure that we knew the whereabouts of one another at all times.  At the end of each day we all fell into bed exhausted.  (okay them probably not so much) But for sure I was...

At times like this, I am reminded to pray for all the single parents out there.  This parenting job is not for cowards.  It is not for the faint of heart, or for the timid.  Doing it alone, (even for as short of a time as I just endured) is hard work, it is like doing double time.  When you have a prince or a queen by your side, your burden is eased, your load lighter.  You have a helper.  I do not ever want to take my laundry doing, errand running, chauffeuring children, meal maker, boo-boo fixing, helper for granted.  I am blessed!  SO, single parents everywhere, hats off to you.  I pray that some day your children will see your sacrifices, and your commitment to them, however until then "Do not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  Galatians 6:9

Welcome home to the Prince.  We purposefully left some crumbs on the counter, some leftover food residue on the stove top, the trash may or may not need emptied and the laundry switched over, all in an effort to make him feel like we can't manage without him...no really it was on purpose (wink, wink). 


Saturday, September 14, 2013

I love my front door!

This morning here at the orphanage, even though it is only a little past 7, life has been moving and shaking for over an hour and a half.  The Prince has already been up and out, depositing a dwarf to the morning shift for a 6 am start time, and the dogs have been in and out probably about 5 times, a dwarf lies on the couch with the TV quietly playing in the back ground, and there has already been another dwarf, down the stairs looking for some breakfast. (Which, mom points for me, is in the oven baking as I type.)

What I appreciate about the calm of the morning is that it is a great opportunity to enjoy the relative quiet at my house.  I can reflect and ponder the goodness of the Lord, His blessings on our family and I can make a plan for later in the day when the house is not so calm.

I am enjoying today the coolness of the morning, and the stillness of the house. Yes, I know I indicated that already there is much movement, but the movement is NOT the same at 7am as it is at 7pm. Nor is the movement as fast or as loud! 

I love to look at my home in the early hours of the day and reflect on how great my home is and how much I love it.  It is a great reminder in the still, that my home is not a museum, it is not an institution (even though I jokingly refer to it as the orphanage).  It is a place filled with laughter and joy, with loud and large footfalls, it is filled with barking and crying, yelling and shouting.  Frustration and anxiety live here.  Fear sometime resides here.  Pride and joy, humility and love also fill these four walls. 

The best part about my house I think, is the entrance hall. Why you may ask? Well at the end of the hall is the front door.  The front door is one of my favorite parts of my house. For me it is a visual reminder to me of all those that enter these four walls.  All that have been here over the years. Some have come for a season, some stay with us for life, some for just a brief visit. Often we joke that it should just be a revolving door like at the big department stores, since more often than not there are "extras" here.   However, regardless of the length of one's stay,  the frequency of the visits, there is always an impact made on our lives when someone walks through the front door.   Today, I thank the Lord for each and every person that has entered our front door over the years.  Not just physically through this front door, it could be side door,  the sliding door, it could be the garage door,  the door at our first house, it could be the back yard gate, the sentiment is still the same.  I am grateful to each of you, for your love and support, your friendship, your companionship, for your contribution to making my house a home.  A haven.  A safe place.    

I know that today will break quickly here, the calm will soon disappear.  But each time I walk past the front door today I am committed to remembering and praying for you each.  May you each find time today to reflect on the wonders of your home, and the love that makes up your four walls. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Putting our Best Foot Forward...

As I watch my darling dwarfs head out the door for various activities, I wonder how I have failed them.  I wonder why it is that they can not see the wrinkles in their clothing, the stains, or the small holes.  Why it is that they are insistent in wearing non matching colors, non matching socks, and not doing their hair.  When did covering up bra straps and wearing slips become a thing of the past.  How is it that the dingy gray is preferred over the clean bright whites? When did perfume/body spray become a cover up for needing a shower, and brushing one's teeth is a chore, not a gift to those that we will communicate with during the day....

Is it that there are just too many of them and I no longer find these hills, to be hills that require me to die on?  Not really.  If I could have a penny for every time in the last 20 years of child rearing that I have had to tell/remind the dwarfs to bathe, well I would not be a millionaire, but a thoushandaire for sure... If I had a penny for each dwarf that has had to re-brush their teeth each morning, sometimes two or three times until they get it right, well again, another thousand or so.  I believe that the Prince and I strive to set an great example for them. The Prince and I match our clothing, press out the wrinkles, brush our teeth several times a day, and I even do my hair with regularity, and on the occasion that I do not - I pull it back and throw on a hat. 

So the question still remains, how is it easier to wet the toothbrush, place toothpaste on it, swirl it around your mouth swiftly, and then having to repeat those steps at least one time, LESS of a frustration than just doing it right the first time?  How is it hard to take five minutes to return your clean and folded laundry to the appropriate spots so that when you remove them for wearing they are fresh and clean smelling AND looking?  How difficult is it when you look in the mirror to see that your hair is suffering from a life of it's own that it needs a brush or a hair tie or a squirt of water (or all three) to calm it down.  When staring in the same mirror, how is it that you can't see sleepies in the corners of your eyes or the dried toothpaste shmutz in the corner of your mouth? Why do we hold on to pieces of clothing that have long ago expired, yet not only are they being held on to, they are still be worn? Why is anger the first response when they are asked to change? How is it that wearing to work a uniform that has not been laundered since the last shift worked passes for acceptable.  How do you not make your eyes water and your stomach sick smelling the overwhelming scent of body sprays that you are intending to do the job of a shower and deodorant in covering up yesterday's scent? 

I feel that I am fighting an uphill battle. While I try not to put importance on beauty and outward appearance, I still think that these above mentioned items are  part of  healthy successful hygiene and set the tone for their day.  I suppose that is why I am such an advocate of school and work uniforms. The standard is set clearly before them, and there is little wiggle room.  I honestly believe that dressing for the situation,  is in part the key to success.  Thankfully, it is not every child, every day, but it can be multiple children on one day.  Are they lazy, or confused about what "looks" good?  Or are they trying to find themselves? Could they be trying to blend in?  I just can not seem to figure out how to motivate, or instruct them in the affects of putting your best foot forward at all times.  Your first impression, your continued impression, on coworkers, classmates, society; right, wrong or indifferent, is often formed initially on these first impressions.

I am exceedingly grateful that their hearts are kind and that the Lord does not judge me/them/others by our outward appearances. (1 Sam 16:7)   I have been after this pile of dwarfs for so long, and they say that repetition is the key, but there are days when I just look at them and shake my head and say a prayer that sometime VERY soon, they will feel motivated to put their best foot forward to start each day.  Until then, we keep reminding them, keep instructing them. Never wavering.  I am grateful that they do not ALL roll out of the house looking like street urchins at the same time! 

I wish I could make this stuff up.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Birthday Party Madness

My dwarfs are spoiled.  Not in the sense that they get whatever they want, when they want it, spoiled... nonetheless they are spoiled.  I have no doubt in my mind that if you were to ask any of the dwarfs, with the exception perhaps of the Doc, who has been "living on her own" for a while now, they would all say that they are most certainly NOT spoiled, at least in the ways that matter to pre teen and teenagers today. However as a mom I try to "spoil" them in ways that they will always remember.  Electronics, the latest fashion, and giving into every whim in the store is not going to be remembered tomorrow or even years from now.  I believe it is the things we do, the efforts that we take to make the regular, extraordinary that spoils them. 

As far as birthday parties go, our dwarfs have had more parties (or so it seems to me) than most of the children in the world, or at least Central PA.  Yet, birthday celebrations are simple, and relatively inexpensive ways to celebrate them.  Now we do not host 8 separate parties a year, and typically they are small with the exception of the milestone years 13 and 16, with boys and girls on alternating years.  Still that is between 2-4 celebrations a year. For the record, all dwarfs, and the Prince, have the honor of having a meal of their request for dinner on their day of birth as well as a birthday placemat at the table and a birthday pillowcase.( I even try, although in the busy day to day, often forget or miss it, to call them, text them or even wake them at the exact moment of their birth)even if they don't have the privilege of a party that year, they are still honored on their special day. 

This year Dopey turned 16.  I having the esteemed reputation as a skilled party planner (with the dwarfs anyhow), and I find that using my creative skills over the years has helped to a)celebrate the uniqueness of each dwarf and b) allowed the Prince and I to "spoil" them with great memories of their special day. 

My experience has included, but is not limited to birthday parties ranging from 20 guests to 145 guests, at our home and in other venues.  I have created giant board games, with life size game pieces and questions all centered around the birthday dwarf, I have had mixed groups that had tons of fun playing minute to win it games,  pirate ships made of  cardboard, activities that included a fashion show of toilet paper clothing creations, crafts, cook offs, swimming, dramatic role playing while dressed in period garb.  Parties that involved makeup, pedicures, pampering of various kinds.  Parties with Chuck E. Cheese, at ball parks and at bowling allies.  But all of this has paled in comparison to this year's Zombie Apocalypse Party. 

Boys are harder to plan for than girls.  Boys do not desire to do anything in advance, they just want to show up for the party.  They have ideas but often times have no idea how unrealistic they are.

So a few months ago we started discussing Dopey's birthday and how it was the year of the party, 16.  At first I thought that perhaps he was going to pass on his celebration.  But as the time got closer the idea for a party took root in his mind.  Now because of one larger than life idea that I had, (remember the Lingle Moto : Go Big or Go Home) I spent a significant amount of time researching, and trying to find cost effective ways to pull off the major part of the party, and outdoor zombie movie... coupled with some traveling, and working, it was the Thursday before said party before I realize, opps I do not have food, drink or decorations ideas.  (Insert Pintrest here!) With a huge helping hand from my eldest dwarf, and sporadic appearances from other Lingle dwarfs,  Friday and Saturday turned into an all out Zombie planning session at the orphanage.  We made survival bags, we painted wooden pallets to board up the front door, we hung caution tape, we made signs that had tons of Zombie sayings like Zombie Crossing, or Toxic, we made Walking Dead Tacos, Zombie Snot, Graveyard Dirt, We even baked Brain Cakes - (with help from a Dwarf friend). 

All in all I say the party was a success - many attended, played basketball, ate, and seemingly enjoyed a Zombie themed party in our back yard.  The outdoor movie theater was brilliant, the food was yummy, and the boy will have a memory of growing up that few can say they have - a Zombie Apocalypse 16th Birthday Party.  Are my dwarfs spoiled... you bet ya!  Do they realize it yet, p
probably not.    But it was an evening that he will remember for a long, long time and will hopefully, if I am doing my job right, relive with his first child when they turn 16. 

... in hindsight the only way I could have topped this one was to have planned for about 6 or so adults from the neighborhood to dress up like zombies and come out of the woods about half way through the feature.... but perhaps I will save that idea for the next zombie party!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Repeating the same thing...DOES NOT yield different results !

This is proof.  Proof that our dishwasher will NOT eat a pizza.  Proof our dishwasher will never be a substitute for a gool old fashioned hand washing.  Proof our operators struggle to rinse first.  Proof that repeating the same thing looking for different results is insanity.

Okay so this could have just come from a boiling pot of pasta.  It did not.  This could have been my dwarf helpers being silly, and putting the pasta on the spoon. It was not.  This WAS a product of "cleanliness" coming out of the dishwasher. 

Now before you start thinking to yourself, these things happen, or maybe it was a fluke.  I assure you most whole heartily, this is not a random fluke. 

Our dishwasher runs, often 3 plus times a day. (with leftover dishes lingering in the sink for the next run)  Aside from our washing machine, this appliance is one of the most over used, and under appreciated machines in our home.   While we have repeated to the dwarfs, "rinse the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher", it seems that this message is not being understood nor is it being performed with any regularity. 

This is how it works at the orphanage.  Each day there is a different dwarf in charge of dishes.  This means that throughout the day they are responsible for emptying the dishwasher, reloading it and running it.   Often the Prince and I will step in and assist with a helping hand, which is how I came across this lovely pasta filled utensil. 

I figured that I would bless a dwarf and unload the dishwasher that ran over night so that the new day's helper would not have to unload they could just rinse and load the breakfast dishes. 

On this bright new day, not only did I pull out the above pictured pasta server, but I also pulled out a cup that had sludge in the bottom, and a pan that had dried eggs stuck to it.  I wonder to myself, how is it that this dishwasher is not cleaning my dishes?  Then I look to the chore chart and see with dwarf loaded the day before, and the fuzzy picture becomes a bit clearer. 

We have also instructed them that if you eat something and have dishes that you are putting into the sink for another to load, be kind and rinse the dish prior to walking away.  Ice cream is a great example of  a food that is harmless while in it's original form, but when pooling in the bottom of the bowl over night and hardening and then being thrown into the dishwasher, well there is no way that the machine - even on the HIGH temperature SANI rinse, HEAVY load cycle is going to be able to sandblast that out of the bottom. 

It is at times like these, if  I am overseeing the emptying of the dishwasher that the following conversation happens: "Mom, this is gross, this dish/pot is still dirty.  Yes it is, pull it out and place it on the counter your going to have to hand wash that piece.  Can't I just put it back in the dishwasher?  No, if the dishwasher did not get it clean the first time, what makes you think it will clean it the second time?  I don't know, it's almost clean..."

Now if there is not an adult present at the unloading stage and a dwarf happens to find a dirty something, we don't know this until we go to set the table, and there is a fork in the drawer covered in egg, or a cereal bowl covered with ice cream sludge in the cupboard. 

Stick with me, there is a life lesson here...

It baffles my mind, after this series of conversations and discoveries has taken place, 100's of times at our house, (remember at least three runs a day with the dishwasher, and at least 9 people eating 3 meals a day -7 days a week) that somewhere they would not start catching on to the fact that a little courtesy and common sense could go a long way in preventing the "ewww that's gross" conversation.

Now have there been times when it has been the dishwasher's fault (yes the machine) oh my yes,  after seven years in this house we are on our 4th dishwasher.  The house came with one - we have since purchased three more.  Likewise there are ample supplies located in or around or under our large farmers sink that can be used for scraping, scrubbing and pre rinsing dishes.  Not only do we have our trusty green scrubber, but our pampered chef brown scraper, and we have dish soap in a fancy dispenser attached to the sink, and a tall and regal looking spigot that has a shower option for the water as well as straight on stream, all at the push of a button.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that the hose comes out right from the faucet and moves all around the sink area with great ease. Yet no one seems inclined to utilize these tools on a regular basis.

All of this to say I want them to realize that not just in dish washing, but in all things in this life, there is a right way to do things and a short cut way to do things.  Often times we think that by just doing what we are required, we have full filled our obligation, we have checked items off our to do list.  Sadly, however just like in life, God knows when we half step things, and in the case of the dishwasher, so does your mom, your dad, any one that visits the house and gets the gross anything out of a drawer or cupboard, and the dwarf next in line for dish knows that you are (the previous days dwarf) was a slacker.   You may think you are getting away with something, but we never get away from the Lord, and often times jobs done in haste or half way require an additional amount of time to "fix".  Expressing to the dwarfs that if you just did things completely the first time, you would save time and energy in the long run, is also a train of thought and understanding that is lost on each of them.  After repeated occurrences of this from all the dwarfs, the question is how can anyone walk up to the sink and not think, "oh, I should rinse this" or as they are taking their turn loading, "oh this needs scrapped or I need to rinse this better" but alas, seemingly, we keep doing things exactly the same as we did before, thinking that somehow the results will be different. 

This is where the Prince steps in and says, " This is a marathon, not a sprint."  He insists that we should not grow weary, and that they will get it, eventually. That until they tire of getting dirty dishes from the cupboard, and tire of being embarrassed that they are handing a sleep over friend a dirty spoon, that we must remain steadfast and constant in their training.   I am not yet convinced, but will continue to repeat the conversations with them, make them hand wash the dirty, clean dishes, and remind them when dropping something in the sink to rinse it. 

If I had a nickle for every time the Prince or I repeated these phrases and expressed these thoughts, just in regards to dish, I think we could go out to eat for a week, three times a day, all 9 of us and let someone else worry about the dishes!

Really, you can't make this stuff up!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Missing Someone We Do Not Remember

Perhaps there is part of me that thought that in all of this adopting and raising of children a magic wand would be waved, and with a sprinkling of fairy dust, the world as these kids had known it before would just cease to exist.  I believe in my heart of hearts that because of the special needs of some of them, this is the case.  They have blocked out or pushed away the memories of old that cause them pain, or misunderstanding.  For that I am grateful.  Parenting older children that you did not birth is a challenge.  Parenting older children that you adopt is a bigger challenge.  With children that you gather to your side through combining families, at least one part of the family unit has a clear understanding of where those children have been and are going on their journey through life.  There is a clear picture of medical issues, special needs, an understanding of the "drama" factor, the normal for each of those children.  

Often you have probably heard me say, these kids carry a little black bag over their shoulders.  We have no idea what it is in it. It is the history, the reason that they are who and the way they are.  The black bag is unpacked not upon arrival in our home, but randomly, without any rhyme or reason, at sometimes very inappropriate times throughout their lives as trigger assaults them.  It can be play time, or nap time.  It can be a smell, a television show, or an observation while at the store.  A police car, an ambulance, a salad, or bed time.   Seemingly random to us, but clearly not to them. 

Fast forward to Bashful.  Bashful is the youngest of the sibling group that the Prince and I have adopted.  He was 18 months when removed from his biological home.  While we know that his older siblings endured much abuse while in that home, it is our belief that he was relatively unscathed in the process. He went from his biological home with his eldest sister to a loving consistent foster home, where he stayed until he came to be a part of our family.  In the early days of his life with us, we were potty training, playing ball, rocking to sleep, living the life of an excitable and happy toddler.  We had some hitches along the way and as he progressed to school age we were able to get some help with figuring out some of the things that made Bashful tick, or the triggers for his behavioral meltdowns.   

Along the way I felt that the best course of action for Bashful was to re-write his memories for him since he was so young.  For example, the first time I took him for shots at the doctors he was so afraid.  But as we sat and I soothed him as a mother tries to do, I told him what a big boy he was, and how the last time he got shots he was such a brave boy, and it would only hurt for a minute and then we could go home. (Clearly I had no idea how he would respond, but figured by planting the memories of bravery couldn't  hurt.)   Round one of shots successful.  Then at the next appointment where more shots were needed, we built on that memory.  Do you remember every time you get shots, you are scared and always end up being so brave.  We started "remembering" the first time he got shots.  How brave he was.  How quickly they were over. 

Or the time that he was talking about being a baby and being in my belly.  While I never pretended to have birthed the child, I had a great story or "memory" for him about my love for him growing in my heart until it was time for him to make his arrival in my life. How I have loved him since before I knew him, and that is how God prepares mothers for children.  He has the love for them grow in their hearts in advance of their arrival, so that when they come to their parents it is as if they have always been in their lives and part of the family, because that love was growing in our hearts before we knew them. 

How about the time when he wondered if when he was a baby he wanted to eat his vegetables?  Well Bashful, you know you have always loved your vegetables.  Your favorites are green beans, but you like peas and Lima beans too.  He would look at me sceptically and then try one, and agree that yes he had always loved Lima beans.

Fast forward to current day, really the past two to three weeks.  Bashful is really torn up about his biological mom.  He laments that she must not have liked him, she did not love him, that he can't remember her.  Clearly, new territory for me.  Because of the abuse and neglect none of the others ever want to discuss this part of their lives.  I have no idea what this woman looked like.  What she sounded like.  From paperwork we have a general idea that she was a tall as she was wide, that she had mental health issues, that she was unable to care for herself and her four children, but somehow I do not think that these are the things that my almost 11 year old dwarf is longing to know the details of.  He is remembering a blank space in his mind where there is nothing to draw from. No memory of her nor any sense of her. Just that he must be at fault some how to no longer be with her. 

So I am at a crossroad.  As an adult, I know and understand the ugly truth surrounding why these children are now mine.  I can see the hand of God's favor and protection in their young lives to get them from where they started out at, to home, here with us, their forever family.  So I sit and watch my youngest sob hysterically in the Prince's lap and then come to me for a cuddle, seeking comfort and a memory of someone that none of us knows and that he can't remember.

This is how the story goes... If your mother was sitting right here in front of us Bashful, she would say that she loves you so very much.  She loved you so much in fact that she gave you up for adoption because it was the best way for her to show you her unconditional love.  She knew in her heart that she could not care for you and your siblings.  It was hard for her to provide food and clothing and shelter for you.  It was hard for her to care for herself in these areas as well.  She knew she was too old to be adopted, but she knew that her children were not.  She wanted you to have everything that she could not provide for you.  A home, with toys, and running water, and food.  A place that you were safe from harm of people, diseases and pain.  She wanted you to be clean, and well fed.  She wanted you to be able to go to the doctors if you needed to, to go to school and learn and grow your mind.  She wanted you to be surrounded by people that made you their priority, not an after thought.  She loved you so much that she gave you up for adoption. 

In her giving you up, our family became complete.  God kept you safe the entire time you were in your biological home.  In the midst of not having clean clothing, running water, or food, in the midst of abuse and neglect (that part we will save til he is older) God kept you safe and secure and provided for your needs, because God knew that your forever family was waiting for you.  God knew that our family was not complete without you.  So while you are sad Bashful that you can not remember your biological mother, you do not have to worry about any of this being your fault.  She loved you so much that she did the most unselfish thing that she could for you.  When you try to remember her, you need to remember that she loved you enough to let you go.  That she had a dream for you to do more, to go further than she was ever able to go.  When you think of her, and can't remember her face, or her smell, or her voice... remember her heart.  Remember how much she loved you.  Remember the sacrifice she made for you to have what she could not provide for you.  Remember that God's plan all along was for you to be born to one mother, and raised and nurtured here in our home by another mother, surrounded by unconditional love and acceptance. 

When our hearts our heavy, or filled with joy, it is comforting to know, you just can't make this stuff up!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Danger... we have an identity crisis on our hands...

Please note the following blog is not intended to offend, or in any way make light of people groups, customs, fashion or personal style.  Growing up and currently living in middle/upper class America has given me strong opinions about tact, class, attitudes, behaviors and yes even dress.  Having said that if you think you may be offended, you should close out of this post and move on to another... maybe even outside of my blog.

We are in a dangerous teenage situation at the orphanage.  We have a dwarf with an identity crisis.  Grumpy comes from the backwoods, has been to the high woods and lives in middle America, but embraces the ghetto.  Why you ask should he be confused about who he is?  Well in addition to the redneck heritage, and the rugged outdoors mans life he has been living for the past two years, he feels that somehow God has made a mistake in creating him.  Being bounced from his biological home to foster homes to our home indeed caused him to feel a bit unsettled I am sure! However the lingering question that remains each time our clearly Caucasian son throws on his lid, and sports his too cool sunglasses, wearing his pants slouched down, and refuses to put on a shirt, because he is showing off his "12" pack,  is, "how did he/we get to this place".   (Yes fellow readers, this is not a typo, he thinks he's got him a 12 pack. You know that's a real thing..  because even as tried and true exercise fanatics have indicated that after 6 months of P90X they only own a four pack, Grumpy is not deterred.)  I will agree as his mother, that he has slimmed down and has a great head start on most boys his age in the area of being a physically fit male specimen, however he doesn't need to show that much skin.  No one wants to see that... not in my home, nor in middle class America.  When a shirt is adorned, it is preferred that it sport a cool logo like under armour or another equally high end expensive name brand.  (and while I am not opposed to high end clothing) I am opposed to wearing a white shirt with stains out in public because of it's brand/logo.  But the dwarf insists that my rules about wearing clean, non tattered clothing is stupid.  He should be able to wear what he wants when he wants.  (Me think that is a backwoods mentality.)

Yes there are some struggles of power going on here.  A power pull between myself, the momma of many, and in this case, my dwarf that is trying to find himself.  I am not willing to let my dwarfs look like they come from a real orphanage. I want them to know that one should always go out putting their best foot forward.  I want my dwarfs to all claim their own sense of fashion, find the style that is comfortable to them, however being a poser, is not a road that I want to see them go down.  Many a conversation have been had regarding being one thing, and trying to look and act like something that you are not, and how that will end with you not having any friends on either side, because you are pretending to be what you are not.  I am sure this conversation is falling on deaf  dwarf like ears.

Okay fast forward to today.  Grumpy is torn, in his heart of hearts he is a very white boy, from the back woods that, to coin a country song, wants to "chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco - spit"  So today's first adventure was wrestling with his inner redneck. He is chewing his grape Big League Chewing gum.  Of course his mouth is stuffed full, too full in my opinion, but he wants the budging cheek... while traveling 65 across the river today,  he figures that spitting is a fine way to get rid of the gum he is chewing that has lost it's flavor.  So he just hauls off and sucks in a big breath and spits out the window.  Lucky for him he clearly has had practice at this maneuver.  If Dopey had done this, we would still be picking the wad out of his hair.  Now in disgust, I react to his stupid move, by asking him "what the heck do you think you are doing?"  "Getting rid of my gum" comes the response in a voice that clearly indicates he thinks I am an idiot.  Well I say," did you not see me get rid of my gum less than 5 minutes ago?" "Yes", he says.  I ask him how I did it.  He reports that I searched for piece of trash paper to wrap it in then stuck it in the trash bag in the car.  So I respond, with a question that I thought was fair,  "why did you think littering, spitting your gum outside in the wind was a great idea?"  As if I am stupid he looks at me and says, "well everyone else does it."  Insert crazy raging face here...(mine of course) " EVERYONE ELSE does it? - I didn't do it less than 5 minutes ago - you should stop worrying about what you think everyone else does, and start paying attention to what we do.  Emulate us, not the world, as we are trying to set you up for success. You are no longer living in the woods, you can not spit, pee, or squat where ever and when ever you want." " Mom, I don't know what the problem is, gum is bio degradable.  NO son it is not, it is made of non biodegradable substances... (insert science lesson for the day here and social etiquette ) it is liter, and if you get caught littering there is a fine.  If gum were biodegradable it would not be called gum, it would be called breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. If gum were degradable you would not be able to chew it for hours on end,  it is made of latex and plastic... grrr...

Okay so you may be wondering what is the big deal.  Well frankly spitting is gross.  Am I a snob when it comes to how I view people that freely spit while walking across parking lots, YES.  Do I find it socially repulsive to watch a man shoot snot from his nose instead of using a tissue or other hand held devise to blow his nose? YES.  I do not feel that I should be subjected to these disgusting habits of those on the fringe of civilization that come to town on occasion.  I want more for my children.  I want them to be socially acceptable, well rounded, thoughtful people.  Spitters and snot blowers in my opinion are not those things. 

So the first struggle in Grumpy identifying himself, is part of him desires to be a redneck.  A redneck wearing a lid, sporting slouchy pants, and  too cool reflective sunglasses... are you starting to get a clear picture of the conflict?   

Here was my biggest mistake of the day.  I took Grumpy to Wall Mart ... where he was enthralled by the lid wearing, baggy pants sporting, homeboys... Some of whom I have no doubt were legitimate in their attire and were being true to their people group.  Sadly, my dwarf only saw in these folks what he wanted to see, and that was a mirror reflection of whom he thinks he should be.  He is sure that God has made a mistake, that he should be Hispanic or African American, and since he has spent some time in the sun this summer he claims his skin color is brown, and that gets him closer to the those that are what he wants to be. ( Replay the conversation about being true to who you are, who God made you and embracing your unique qualities instead of trying to be what you are not.)  Insert eye rolling at me for even bringing this up in conversation again.  Imagine me as I stroll through the store, with my hormonal 14 year old, who is clearly eavesdropping on conversations along the way, walking slowly and staring at those that he finds to really have the "look" that he wants, memorizing the angle of the lid, the way they speak to their homeys, and the slang that they use.  He bumps into displays, runs over the back of my foot with the cart, giggles, points and whispers to his other brother Happy,  slowly goes up behind people pretending to be engrossed in the green bean selection to catch the ring tone on their phone that are catchy rap ditty's, intensely observing the tattoos, and name brands and gold chains that adorn these men, some young, some not so much...  I swear if he asks for gold jewelry for his next holiday or birthday, I am going to loose my mind.   

Lesson learned today, I can not keep all the posers out of my son's life.  Are we not all a little like Grumpy? Oh we may clean up on the outside to be socially accepted by society, or not.  We may work hard on a regular basis to be someone that we are not.  We diet and exercise to be thinner, we color our hair to take out the gray, we have surgeries to alter our appearances, we shop and wear only trendy clothing to try and fit in.... all because we struggle with who we really are.  Sadly, until Grumpy (or any of us for that matter) gets comfortable in his (our) own skin, white (or tan in the summer), he(we) are going to always struggle to be something or someone that we are not. 

The Prince, he claims this is typical boy stuff.  I disagree, my eldest male dwarf has always been comfortable in his skin and has not to my knowledge wanted to be something that he is not.  Knowing that each dwarf is different, is not much comfort in this journey  as I watch him trying to find himself.  Do I want him to dress in button down shirts with a tie, wearing pressed dockers with a belt, with coordinating shoes?  Well, maybe for Christmas and Easter, but not as regular attire, unless he were to choose that for himself.  But the struggle seems to be that in his earnest search for whom he wants to be, what his style is, he seems to be clearly steering away from what is typical and acceptable in our middle class suburbia home, almost as if on purpose excluding himself from being one of us as well.

I am trying really hard to overlook the lid and the glasses, to remind him to put on a shirt,  to try not to flip out when he spits, leaves the lid up on the toilet. I am trying to be consistent in his quest to help him  learn to love who he is.  I try to find every opportunity to remind him that he has been created as is, no mistake,  a warm, compassionate, kind hearted and handsome young man.  A young man that is athletic, talented, and artistic.   A young man that is growing each day in wisdom and knowledge, and a young man that has face adversity and has grown through it.  I am praying each day that this is just like the Prince has indicated, "a phase, a boy thing".   I suppose if it were not this it could be something else, to coin a  favorite movie phrase, I guess he could "dress in drag and do the hula." 

Oh, at the end of this long challenging day I say, You really can't make this stuff up.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Start of the Scholar's Program

Doc and her youngest sib saying goodbye at Bucknell
To say the journey for Doc has been rocky would be an understatement, but today 6/6/13, we said goodbye to her for six weeks, as she begins the Scholars program at Bucknell University. 
As part of this program, that will result in a two year, paid in full scholarship, requires each student to apply for, interview and then participate if selected, in this 6 week summer session. 
Two years ago, her college course plotted, we were dropping her off to be a fighting bulldog, funny how the Lord's plans are bigger and better than those that we devise ourselves.  While the path to being a bison (and why are there so many animal mascots?) was not what we envisioned, nor did she, we are extrememly proud of her accomplishments.  She is a 4.0 student. She is driven, passionate about learning, thrives in stressful conditions with looming deadlines.  Clearly she impressed the HACC and Bucknell staff as she interviewed with 28 others for the 6 positions in this program, with her poise, charm, and social graces. While she may not admitt this out loud, she was being prepared for this journey the entire time, but had to wait for the Lord to show to her His plan.  We are proud of her for sustaining and staying on course and for having the courage to follow her heart and her dreams, while being flexible enough to seek alternative ways to make them a reality.
For each of you that has been following her journey, we say thank you for being faithful to pray for her, for her future and for us find the balance between parenting, guiding and loving our adult child. There have been many loud conversations about the future, many times of sorrow and joy, many uncertainties along the way, but one thing remained constant through it all, our faith in the Lord, knowing that His plans for her life were better than any we could have envisioned for her ourselves. 
Here's to a quick 6 weeks. We love you. We believe in you. 

A Chapter of this book is closed.

Two years ago, with a bit of anxiety we embarked on a chapter in the life of this family that was neither heartwarming, nor disheartening, but born from necessity and love for our son, Grumpy.  You see Grumpy at the age of 12 was struggling in ways that we as his parents were unable, though willing, to get him through alone. 

For those of you that may not know the story of this particular dwarf, suffice it to say that after being removed from his biological home(where he was abused) at the age of 4 under extreme stress (which to this day cause much fascination with sirens, police, etc) and then being shuttled to and from foster care homes until the age of 7 when we entered his life, this child has had less than a healthy physical, mental or spiritual head start in life.  Combine that with  RAD (reactive attachment disorder) FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) and ADHS (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) not to mention a host of social dysfunctions, well you can start to see how the deck is stacked against this young man. 

Now, believing that the Lord brought him to us, we knew that in order to give him the help that he needed we would have to search out any means available to us for his care that we could not provide. Oh, could we feed him, sure.  Could we clothe him, absolutely.  Did we love him unconditionally, for sure. However we quickly became tired.  The stress in our home became unbearable, and it seemed if he woke each day with the mission to fight with us, and against us and anyone else that was close to him.  Siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers. 

The first year that Grumpy lived with us was somewhat uneventful.  We went into the adoption with our eyes wide open (so we thought) about the issues that surrounded him, perceived and real, knowing that there would be a "honeymoon" period where he would do his best to impress us, wow us and make us think that we had selected the best kid in the world to add to our family.  Then, we knew, and like clock work it happened, the stage where they start to feel secure,  but they don't want to trust you,  so I am going to start pushing the envelope to see if I can make them love me less.  Push he did.  It started in the small stuff.  Irritation and refusal to do chores, to brush his teeth, to wear shoes, to make his bed, to do his homework. He would stomp a foot, or roll his eyes, or be a bit mouthy.  As the weeks and months wore on, the outburst became more and more often, violent, and required us to restrain him, to put him in his room, where he had nothing but a mattress and a sheet, because he would destroy all the things in his room in his anger.  When it seemed that we could take no more, or that there were not any more shocking things he could do, he took things to a new level.  Getting in trouble at school on the bus and even in the community.  He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it.  He did not like authority, being told what to do, nor did he have any concern or ability to reason in regards to his own safety. 

Anyone that knew him when, could see the moment he started down the path to a meltdown, and either stood back to watch the show, or took off to hide in the hills. Screaming rages, hitting, punching, trying to jump out of moving cars, running away, all became a burden that we could not longer ask our other children to bear, nor could we really keep up at the pace of attacks and abuse that he was spreading in our life. 

In a desperate plea to the Lord, after Grumpy had a serious meltdown that lead us to the hospital and on to a 9 day intake at Philhaven, I started searching the Internet for some thing or someone that could help us with our son. 

It soon became apparent that in the state of PA, at the age of 12 there is not much that you are able to get aside from the services that we were already receiving for him. ( He had a TSS, he had a team of therapists, he had private therapy, and a previous in patient stay on record.)  We had been utilizing these services for about 3 years at this point in one fashion or another and they were yielding nothing!   Further research showed many options in the US that required your child to be 14 before you could place them, and they were mostly organizations out west where the fees were astronomical.  The other issue that we were up against is that in PA at the age of 14 the minor must consent to any "medical" treatments.  They must agree to take meds, or agree to sign themselves into a program.  Well if we waited that long, chances were that Grumpy would not, out of spite agree to these suggestions for his care. 

In a last ditch effort, google showed me a site for Bald Eagle Boys Camp.  I had never heard of it, had no idea what they did there, but called to talk with them about getting information sent to us so that we could investigate the option.  I remember making the call, it was hard.  Chief Dan was kind and answered many of my questions and told me about the process, and for the first time in months, I felt as if there was hope.  I showed the details to the Prince.  He also was hopeful.  We prayed about the camp, we discussed it with others, (and no surprise we were once again blazing a new trail, no one had heard about it).  We filled out the extensive application and mailed it in and waited...

In May 2011 Chief Dan and his wife came to our home to "interview" us and to meet Joseph.  When they arrived, I believe that Grumpy was curious, but cautious.  I do not know if he fully understood the scope of what was about to happen, however it was not a long time until the chief was showing Grumpy photos from camp, and telling him about the activities that they do, and was extending an offer to him for a spot at camp.  He said that there was a waiting list, and if Grumpy agreed to go then he also had to agree to work hard to get better while he was there.  During that meeting Grumpy was in a good place, he was having a good day, and I think that in looking back and remembering the conversation it was one of the first times that he could see and hear how heartbroken we were, and how helpless we felt. It made for the perfect storm.  He agreed to be placed on the waiting list. 

We were told it could take up to three months to get him in.  It was 4.5 weeks.  We packed him and drove him to camp.  Took his belongings into the lodge, watched the staff sort and pack his foot locker, we met with the staff, set goals for Grumpy, we held our breath that he would still be agreeable to the program, because they ask one last time before you leave your son, if the boy is willing to do the hard work at camp and is still in agreement with the plan.  Holding our breath, he agreed. Silently I praised the Lord and with tear filled eyes I watched my 12 year old ride off on the back of a four wheeler with his foot locker into the woods praying that this would indeed make the impact on his life that was needed.  At the same time feeling relief because he was in someone else's capable hands and I could rest. Our family could heal. 

For six weeks we wrote letters, encouraged others to do the same. We worked hard to encourage him, and praise him for his willingness to go to camp and to get better. Our fist home visit was the weekend of Labor Day weekend 2011. 

To say that his first home visit was wonderful would be a lie!  (Every 6 weeks they come home for 4 days, and holidays, they get 5- 6 days home)  It was the worst of the worst, and because it was Labor Day weekend it was an additional day long.  His reports were that he was doing great at camp, staying out of trouble, working hard... But you do remember how I told you about the honeymoon period ? Well this was exactly what was going on, just in reverse.  He was honeymooning at camp and acting out as always with us.  I remember calling the chief and asking if they could come get him, (and to their credit, they said they would...) but we knew we had to endure, and it was hard.  With great joy on the day ending home visit, we drove him to the bus stop.  Happy he was going back, happy that we survived the visit, happy that he was at camp, and praying that he would start showing his true colors there as well.  Praying that he would be broken, so that he could start to heal.

With dread the next home visit came around, it was more of the same.  Alas, we repeated this cycle for some time, and somewhere between the 6th home visit and the 18th home visit we started seeing the shift.  Was it huge at first, no.  But did we start to enjoy having him home a bit more and more, you bet.  Did his siblings start to miss him, yes!  Did we start looking forward to his home visits, indeed we did.  Along with that we started to not like taking him to the bus stop, we started wanting him to stay home with us and return to the family.  Yet there was still much to be done on Grumpy's part.  Part of being ready to graduate, meant the home visits and camp visits had to look the same, having a good attitude, being responsible, being a leader, making wise decisions....

There have been walls broken down, relationships built up, there has been trust established, there has been new skills learned for communicating, for dealing with disappointments, for dealing with struggles and desires to have things our own way.  There have been memories made, hiking, fishing, canoe trips, living outdoors year round, cooking and planning his own meals and those of his tribe.  There have been lessons on longitude and latitude and attitude.  At the center of it all, Christ.  Surrounded by young men that give two years of their lives to live in the woods with these troubled young boys to mold them into young men that return home to be a blessing to their families, not a burden, to be productive in society, not a drain, with softer hearts for their loved ones, a new appreciation for life, and a clearer understanding of what motivates them. 

Last Thursday, June 6th we attended Grumpy's graduation.  We are so grateful to the camp, to the staff, to the Lord, for the work that has been done on Grumpy's behalf  and in his life. Is he fixed, nope.  But we did not send him there expecting that they would fix him.  We sent him there expecting that he would be changed, that his life would be altered.  It has been.  He has now been home a week.  There are some difficulties but for the most part the road has been smooth.  Is he "honeymooning" again?  Time will tell.  So as this chapter has closed a new one begins... you really can't make this stuff up.