Monday, November 28, 2011

My Blessings

Okay, so I know the official day of Thanksgiving is over! But since we supposed to be thankful everyday, I wanted to share just a few of my many blessings.

When I look around my home, I see everything I have ever wanted and so much more! I hate to admit that sometimes when I look at my house, I am anything but grateful. God has really been working on my heart lately, teaching me to be grateful for the here and now. So as I have been looking around my home lately, I can finally say that I am grateful for the roof over my head! God has been gracious and filled our home to the brim! Every bedroom has a family member and while we may be unconventional in that our formal dining room is actually a playroom - our home is perfect for us in the here and now! I am thankful for my home that gets cozier by the day :)

I am most thankful for my husband! He is by far the greatest blessing I have in my life! I cannot imagine having to live a day without him by my side. He is my rock and keeps our family going! he loves me and is faithful to me. He works hard and provides for our family so that I am able to stay at home with my children. I am thankful that we have a similar sense of humor and can joke and laugh with one another. We have both stayed committed to working hard to keep our marriage happy! And to get into the type of daddy he is - he is so loving with our boys and is ready to be on Dad duty from the second he walks in the door from work. He is a total hands-on Dad and someone I am so proud to have as a role model for my boys!

I am thankful for my Malachi. He adds a special spark and zest to our family! He is the easiest child ever to get a smile out of! He has a GREAT sense of humor and I can't wait to watch it develop further as he grows! He was our hard fought after child! Our family would truly be missing something without him! Malachi is the definition of JOY!

And then there is little Eli! The word that comes to mind when I think of Eli is tenderheart. He is a perfect combination of Peter and I. He was our little bird and I am so thankful that he has thrived since his rough start into this world. While I like to joke with Peter about certain personality traits of his that I see in Eli, in reality we would be very lucky if this little boy grows up to be just like his Daddy!

And then there is my precious little baby on the way! The one who loves to kick me and I can already sense is going to keep me on my toes! The child I had no idea my heart was missing. I think back to a few years ago when becoming a parent felt like an unattainable dream and here we are today, having been blessed not only once, or twice, but God has seen fit to bless us with a 3rd little one to add to our family! Wow! I fall deeper and deeper in love with this child as every day goes by - as I feel more and more kicks and my tummy continues to grow! Life is good!

These are just a few of the MANY blessings I have in my life. They are just the reminders I see as I look around my living room tonight!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Signs of the Season!

One of the first indications in our house that Christmas is soon approaching, is the arrival of Operation Christmas Child. Where we go out and pack a few shoe boxes to send to kids around the world. This is actually one of Peter and I's favorite Christmas traditions! We both agree that shopping for children who can truly use a little Christmas gift is so much more fun than any other shopping we do for Christmas!

With a male dominated home, we packed boxes this year for girls :) The shoe boxes are now out of our hands and on their way to a distribution center where they will be checked and packed in crates to send around the world! I am looking forward to finding out where our boxes go this year - last year they went to The Philippines!

Another really fun opportunity we were given this year was to pack a special Christmas gift for our 15 year old Project 61 Girl! I have made a commitment this year to try to invest more personal time into each of our sponsor children by writing them letters and when an opportunity as amazing as getting to send them a personal gift comes up - I jump at it!

So these gifts are off, and will hopefully make their way halfway around the world in time for Christmas!

Now I look so forward to the week ahead - eating lots of yummy food (doctors orders after all!) decorating the house for Christmas, and finally being allowed to listen to Christmas music (Peter's rule!)!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Life This Week!

Well, I guess some of this is more than a week old. I realized I never posted pictures of my adorable boys in their Halloween costumes. So I give you our adorable Peter Pan!

And Captain Hook!!!

Malachi has not been a fan of getting his hair done lately. When that happens we figure it is time for a week in the coils which help rejuvenate the hair. So Peter spent this weekend (Peter is better at it than I am) coiling his hair. I can't believe how much it has grown since the last time we did it! But it is no longer that long as a lot of the roots were in bad shape so he got a little bit of a trim while the hair was coiled!

I've been trying a lot harder to set aside special time for Malachi and doing bigger boy activities with him. It is really easy for me to be distracted in the day to day life things (taking care of two babies) and forget that he is growing and needs to be challenged. He is always pointing at his flash cards and the kid amazes me at how much he loves letters. He is getting pretty close to learning all the letters of the alphabet and even has started spelling out words when he see's them. Mr. Smarty pants!!!

I also thought that maybe he was old enough to join me in the kitchen for a simple little baking session. He wanted to stick his fingers in the bowl with the dry ingredients and convincing him to wait was a little bit of a challenge. But he was actually a really good boy and loved eating the beater (that was my favorite part as a kid). Daddy came in and was licking the spoons and he heard daddy say "mmm" so he started saying "mmmm" which I thought was funny because he had already licked his totally clean and wasn't eating anything!

Now my poor little boys are sick :( Malachi came down with his first cold since he came home last August. I am amazed at how healthy he has been. And as it is expected to happen, Elias started coming down with it today. Poor Eli's is complete with 102 fever :( But I got that down pretty easily with some tylenol but it will be a long night for mommy worrying about her babies.

Today I had my 16 week prenatal appointment. I cannot believe how quickly this pregnancy is progressing! I am really enjoying the increased movement I am feeling with this baby! Tonight the baby was wiggling around quite a bit. I think Eli was a very chill baby and never really went nuts in there but this baby already seems to be pretty active (at least for 16 weeks!) Everything is going well with the baby! Heart rate was holding steady at 147! My doctor commented on how I don't really look very big, which I thought was crazy because I feel HUGE compared to last time. She wanted to know if I am eating, which I assured her I was and had the weight gain to prove it. But she did give me permission to eat at Thanksgiving :) We scheduled our anatomy scan for December 7th and I can't wait to get a good look at our little baby! Again, I just can't believe that we are approaching the mid-point of this pregnancy already. Time needs to slow down :)

And that is our week so far in a nutshell!

Monday, November 7, 2011

9 Months Old!

Well, Elias is 9 months old now! And things are getting busier around our house! This is a typical scene in our house these days - Malachi running around, Elias chasing him (or Malachi's bowl of snacks!) I definitely have two very busy boys now!

Elias still remains the sweetest baby ever. Our pediatrician even commented at how adorable he is and how he has a face that you just can't refuse. He has earned the random nickname "Peaches and Cream". I don't know why I came up with that, but he is just too darn sweet and kissable!!!

He is still sleeping really good, so I try not to complain. I have actually got in the habit of when he wakes up at 6:30-7:30 to just hand him a bottle in his bed and he will drink it and then go back to sleep. This gives me a little bit more shut eye before Malachi wakes up around 8:30. Besides his short nap after drinking that bottle we also have him now on one nap a day. I know he is kind of young to make that switch, but I am ecstatic that the boys nap together now! They both take anywhere from 2-3 hour naps in the afternoon, giving me a little bit of free time!

My precious little guy fell asleep playing the other morning. He looked so sweet!

He is still a great eater. We actually call him the mooch because he is always right under the foot of anyone who is eating something. He loves people food! We have recently discovered, or are working on discovering the mystery of a sensitivity to the acidity in tomato sauce. That is our hypothesis right now. Not really an allergy to it, but just sensitive to it. A lot of the baby foods on the market have tomato sauce in them so he is kind of forcing us to feed him more people food at dinnertime!

At his pediatrician appointment today, he was weighing in at 19 lbs 3 ounces (10-25%) and 27.5" (10-25%). At this point in time, he is considered "made-up" for his prematurity so that isn't a part of why he remains a little peanut. We are just assuming that he is going to be a lil guy, at least for awhile still!

We still don't have any teeth and no other big milestones reached this month. He sometimes thinks of pulling himself up but doesn't quite have the confidence. He has gotten better at crawling and is getting around faster these days!

Even though he is discovering the world around him, he is still a very cuddly baby - and Mommy admits that she LOVES that cuddle time! Daddy can argue all he wants, but we all know that mommy is Eli's favorite ;)

A few other favorites of his right now are playing with bowls, his Sophie the Giraffe, Pillows, bugging his big brother in his "fort", and crawling around with links or toy gears!

We love you Mr. Elias and can't believe you are on the home stretch to the big first birthday!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Can I Do for the Orphan?

Tomorrow is Orphan Sunday. The one day a year that some churches set aside to remember and discuss the orphan crisis facing this world. A day where I am sure my Facebook feed will be covered in touching videos highlighting the orphans of this world that need our help.

Even as an adoptive parent, I have found myself asking, what can I do for the orphan? God calls us to care for the orphan (and widow - don't forget the widow!) in their distress. And certainly in my heart I know that adopting one child is not the end of my journey in orphan care. But what can I do right now? I mean, here we are expecting our 3rd child - no agency in their right mind would accept us to adopt again right now. Peter and I already know that God is calling us to bring more children into our home through adoption, but what do where we are right now, while we wait?

Adoption is awesome! Adoption is a great way for the orphan to be redeemed and to once again have a Father and a Mother who love them and a home to call their own! But I also do not think adoption is the right decision for everyone. Not everyone is equipped to handle everything that comes with adoption - and that is okay. I am also not one to believe that adoption is the ONLY answer to what God is telling us to do in James.

So while we wait for that day to come where we will once again adopt. I refuse to sit idle. I CARE about these orphaned children around this world. So I have been left to compile a list of ways we can help, without adopting:

Support an Adopting Family: This may feel a bit indirect, but in truth this is impacting adopting families in profound ways. We would have NEVER been able to complete our adoption of Malachi if we did not have an army of friends and family backing us up!

Our army helped us financially to pay the ransom to get Malachi home! From the anonymous $1500 cash sitting on a doorstep signed Keyser Baby to the pennies that people collected for us in baby bottles - it all added up to pay the ransom to bring our son home! Adoption is expensive, there is no way around that, and very few families called to adopt have the amount of money it takes in hand to pay for it! If you see an adoptive family selling t-shirts, buy a shirt! It doesn't have to be a huge cash donation but every little bit adds up and helps release the financial burden on an adoptive family! I will never forget all the people who came forward to help us in this way! They cared for the orphan in their own way!

Be encouraging! Walking through adoption is hard. It is hard financially, emotionally, physically - you name it. It is just plain hard! I honestly still cringe at the idea of going through the adoption process again. I HATED it! Give me childbirth 50 times over please, before making me got through the hell that is the adoption process!!! It's paperwork, and more paperwork, and oh redo that document even if it took you 2 weeks to get it done in the first place. And oh, resubmit these fingerprints please and that will cost you another 6 weeks! It's waiting and waiting and waiting and then more waiting and court dates and court dates and ugh! When you sign up to adopt, you may be given a rough timeline to follow but things can change at a moments notice and it is so unpredictable. At least with pregnancy, no matter how bad it can get - you have a date (give or take a few weeks) that it will be over! So be an encouragement for the family going through this! We may be irrational at times so try to be understanding when we are!

Cover them in Prayer! This is one that ANYONE can do! And it is the most important step! I was 10 weeks pregnant when we got on the airplane to pick Malachi up - and I was terrified! I had been so sick and did not see how I could survive 30 hours on an airplane. I have no other way to explain it but that I was covered in prayer while we were flying, but I didn't get sick ONCE while we were in Ethiopia! I know that may be a silly example, but prayer does matter! I wholeheartedly believe that choosing to adopt opens up a huge spiritual battle. Satan does not want to see the orphan redeemed! It is a battle to get these kids home! I have friends right now who are in the trenches battling government authority to get their children home. It is ugly and the battle has been raging for 3 months now! These families need our prayers!

I believe adoption is important and will always have its place, but I am going to go off in a different direction now. I think there is something deeper, down at the root of orphan care that I think could make the biggest impact - Child Sponsorship!

Having a heart for adoption and not necessarily being in a place to adopt right now is hard! But I fully trust that God has put us exactly where he wants us and has gifted us with a second biological child. Sometimes I really struggle with this desire to be doing more. When Eli was 3 months old, we really started researching adoption again - but that is clearly not God's plan for us right. At times I have struggled with guilt, like by having another biological child I am turning my back on a child who needs a home. I know it kind of sounds ridiculous.

But through it all, God reminds me that he is GIVING us this glorious gift by allowing me to carry our 3rd child. And through it all, he has shown me that there are OTHER ways that I can support the orphan. And my heart has taken off for child sponsorship! There are many children in this world, who find themselves living in an orphanage because (usually) their one living parent or their aunt or uncle or grandmother could not afford to care for them. That really bothers me! No child should be surrendered by their birth family solely because of poverty. But sometimes this feels like the only option for families. But what if, instead we stepped up child sponsorship, enabling this birth family or aunt or uncle to maintain care of these children! And this I believe, is truly the root of Caring for Orphans!

Right now Peter and I have 8 sponsor children. They range from $25 a month to send the child to school and provide basic medical care and basic food, all the way up to $750 a year to remove a little girl from the life she lived in the garbage dump to living in a boarding school, where she has her own bed and 3 meals a day and is getting an education! There are so many different organizations that offer child sponsorship and I feel that it is an awesome way to support Orphan care!

Another way in which I really feel like God is changing me, is in building personal relationships with these kids! I have heard so often lately, how these children ADORE getting letters from their sponsors, and how they truly treat us as part of their family. So my desire has been to start creating personal relationships with our sponsor children. When they send us a letter, I'm sending one back! My first opportunity with this was with our little boy in Uganda. I was given the opportunity to send him a personal care package. It was fun to shop for him! Then a few months later when I all but forgot about the package, I got pictures back of him with his ball in his hand, and wearing his new clothes we sent him and he was holding our picture! I don't know what he was thinking but we were told that he would not put our picture down! I have truly been missing out by not starting this relationship building earlier! This Christmas we have the opportunity to send a care package to another one of our sponsor kids and I can't wait!!! Through it all, I have discovered how much these kids are becoming a part of our family. I love these kids and know that there are opportunities for us to meet some of these kids and I really hope to take advantage of that someday!

Or how about looking around in our own hometown? Find a single mother, whos children have been "orphaned" by their non-existent father. Maybe provide free babysitting for her, or help her buy some of her groceries. Lend her a listening ear over a cup of coffee! Orphan care can truly look so different for each and every one of us!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Free Jacket!

As part of my continued membership to Crowdtap, I was asked to participate in a product sample from Old Navy. Now Old Navy is already one of my favorite places to shop for myself and the kids so this just felt like a huge bonus opportunity for me! This sample that I was asked to participate in was for something very awesome - a free outerwear item of my choice!

Since we have had to be very budget conscious lately, this felt like a very special treat because I could shop for exactly what I wanted without having to put any thought into the cost! I was also able to branch out just a little bit in my personal style and try something new! Another big plus for me is that my coat had a hood - something that every coat in Oregon must have because real Oregonians do not use umbrella's!

Here is the coat I chose to sample:

And a big bonus right now, is that all of Old Navy's Outerwear are on sale right now :) So check them out!

And if you haven't joined Crowdtap yet, I highly encourage you to do so! In addition to the opportunity to sample products and get freebies, you can also earn cash!

So check out Crowdtap (and if you do, please use my referral link posted below)


So a huge thanks to Old Navy and Crowdtap for my awesome new coat :)