Sunday, February 19, 2017

Christmas 2016...Finally! :)

I had plans to post about our Christmas at the beginning of January.  But! 

Then this morning (Saturday) one of my littles looked at me and asked, "Mama, how come you're so happy today?"

I hung my head in shame!  It really is that obvious that I've been stressed.  Yesterday I got to take a few of my kids skiing and we finally had a day of laughing, fun, and treats! No yelling, no snarking, no drama, no trauma, no hours of working with a child to achieve success.  And what a balm it was to my weary heart! I know self care is extremely important, but most of the time self care is not even an option.  Self care involves having people in our life that really know our kids at a deep level and are committed to being in our life for the long haul.  We have some amazing people in our life, but most of them are as maxed out as we are.  That's called life and I wish it was different, but it's we do the best we can!
It's been awful around here lately.  Stress and emotions have been at an all time high.  I'm convinced we had at least 10 full moons in the month of January! It's been a time of going to bed weary, beaten and defeated...and waking up knowing it will still be the same.  Many days I'm just super glad that I don't have to redo the day.  I used to wish I could redo some days.  Lately I've been glad that's impossible!  I don't even want a redo!  I know I did my best and yet still feel like I failed.  Adios January 2017!

This place of hard has a way of making my faith grow, and a way of making me realize how much I need my God for every step I take!  This hard has a way of opening my eyes and giving me a glimpse of the hard that those around me are going through.  It's made me realize the concept of "stress", of "tired", of "hard" is all relative.  I used to think my life was so stressful and hard!  Hah!  And now I sometimes think I get what that means...but I'm pretty sure I don't!  To all you mamas and papas out there dealing with the really hard...hang in there!  Lean on Him!  Every moment of every day! I'm praying for you as I pray for myself.  May you find this song by Matt Maher as encouraging and comforting as I do!
We're still in a hard place, but we're beginning to figure out what was/is going least in part.  Thankfully, it's something we can work at.  And it's quite simple! Vitamins and other supplements! 
If you've read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, you know there's a chapter that talks about the importance of nutrition and supplements, and how it can affect a child's ability to cope.  We've figured out a combination of vitamins and supplements that work well for our kids. (Side note:  be sure to talk to a professional before you begin pumping all kinds of good things into your kids' systems.  Each kid is different and needs a professional to guide you through figuring that out.  I have yet to meet a physician that understands what Dr. Purvis is talking about.  So far I've only ever had blank looks when I mention all that Karyn Purvis mentions.  We work with a very talented naturopath in BC.  She's a godly woman, has adopted, and understands!  And best of all...she's not a quack job!  lol!)  With the hustle and bustle of being gone over Christmas and settling into a new routine in January, we forgot about our daily supplements. Needless to say, we are back on track and are beginning to see calmer kids able to better handle the trauma of their lives.
Anyhow... Due to a very generous offer, we were finally able to have the much dreamt of and often talked about vacation with my sweet sis and her family in the USA.  It's something we've talked about for at least 5 years.  I was beginning to think it would never happen.  It seems that every year one of our families was adopting, fostering, or adjusting/bonding with a new arrival, and that simply doesn't provide the opportunity to visit each other. 
With this generous offer we were able to fly to NC and meet at a spectacular vacation rental near Corolla.  It was just what we needed!  There's something especially sweet in spending Christmas with family that gets us.  They understand why we parent the way we do.  They understand our hearts.  They understand trauma.  They understand the toll it takes on a family.

And at this very moment, we interrupt this post to deal with life!  Morgun fell on his wrist yesterday, and as I've been writing he's been applying ice, and we've been trying to decide whether we should have it x-rayed.  I don't really think it's broken.  Most likely it's badly sprained.  The ice isn't offering much pain I guess it's off to minor emergency! Adios to a "work free" Saturday!  Hahaha! I'm actually sitting her laughing because our life is hilarious!!  So grateful I can laugh about it all!! 

Anyhow...I'm off to the city...

It's Sunday night and I'm finally back!  Morgun's wrist appears to be badly sprained.  However, he is still in a lot of pain and the Advil, Tylenol, and ice are doing very little for the pain.  There is a chance it could be cracked, so if the pain continues for a week we were told to go back to the doctor.  Here's to hoping it's not broken! 

And back to our Christmas....I want to remember the good, the sweet moments, the beautiful moments.  If I don't take the time to record them, to remember them...I'm afraid I'll get swallowed up by the awful and the hard....and I'm not about to let that happen!!

We had a wonderful Christmas!  The oldest 4 played pool, video games...and slept!!

And ate!  A lot!

This home had 7 bedrooms and bathrooms, and an elevator!!  The little kids loved it!!  This is their excitement on Christmas morning!
Kathy and I snuck out one evening to find a tree. We found this Charlie Brown tree that was literally missing half it's needles!  And being the good, thrifty Mennonite girls that we are...we got it for free!!!  :)  It may have involved some negotiating, some walking away...and some cart surfing!  Well sort of!! Bahaha! 
 A string of lights and some homemade ornaments and a paper chain made it just perfect!

We toured the Wright Brothers museum.  It was pretty amazing and informative! 
The ocean was a favourite for us!  So, so very beautiful!  There aren't  too many things that calm the spirit like a walk along the beach!



I love this picture!  It's so depicts our life!  The waves were so stormy and big, and the clouds so dark and full.  But oh so beautiful!!

And then this at the end of the day!  A reminder of how life may be stressful and crazy and overwhelming now...but in the end we will enjoy such peace and joy...even if that peace and joy is sometimes hard to grasp on this side of heaven!


Our kids!  All 11 of them! How cool is that?!?!  Two families that originally had planned to have small families.  I think God must smile about that every day!  I know it sure makes me smile! 

I can't share too many pics cause so many of them include 2 littles that will hopefully soon officially be family!  If you happen to think of these two, please pray for them as they adjust to having a stable and loving family.  Pray their adoption happens soon!  And pray for their parents and siblings as they go through the hard of adjusting.  Thanks!

How do you get 11 kids to all look at the camera?  Like this!!  Haha!  Thanks Mark!!

I'm so incredibly proud of my men.  Here they worked together to carry Wren and her chair up and down the stairs to the beach! 

And how cool is this?!?  Gotta love having a big strong cousin to carry you!


We spent some time at the park.  We all loved this "horse"!  Wish we had one of our own!  Perhaps an Industrial Arts class for the boys?


One day we took a tour to see the wild horses.  We loved, loved it!  How cool to search for the horses and see them in and among the brush and houses in 4x4 only country!
This is one of the "roads" we took while searching for the horses. 

Our driver got super close to this horse!  I could have almost reached out and touched him! 

And that about wraps up our Christmas! 
I hope you all had a great Christmas too and that even though you may be in the middle of the really hard stuff  that you can take some time to search for and find the beauty in your life.  It's there...sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it! I'd highly recommend buying a journal and recording all the good, all the wonderful, and all the little things!  Writing it down helps us remember!  And really, that's what we remember the wonderful and beautiful things in life no matter how small!
I'd have totally forgotten about this cute incident if I hadn't written it down as one of the things I'm grateful for.
A while ago, the kids were all tucked into bed and finally sleeping.  It had been another REALLY hard day! And then we heard the pitter patter of little feet making their way downstairs. Jackson, with heavy, sleepy eyes...the eyes of sleepwalking...mumbled, "I'm thinking I want to go play outside."  We couldn't help but smile!  How cute is that?!?
And to think #wecouldhavemissedthis!






Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wren's One Year Anniversary!

It's been just over a year since Wren joined our family!  It's been an exceptionally busy year filled with indescribable moments of wonderful!
This kid has an incredibly deep joy.  A joy that at times simply radiates.  She has a gently spirit...well, most of the time!  lol!  Except when she gets in the mood to be naughty!  She has a stubborn and tenacious streak.  I know it is something she needed to have to survive...physically, mentally, and emotionally...but sometimes I wish she knew it was ok to be a little less stubborn and tenacious! 
This picture was taken while we were still in China and it remains one of my favourites!
And this!  Our arrival home!  I totally forgot that I never did post more than one picture of the fantastic photos Chantal took.  You can check out more of her photos from that day here..
These photos...emotion!  Just lots of emotions!  But mostly I keep thinking "taste and see that the Lord is good!"

 Wren has grown in so many ways!  This thing of being a part of a family is hard.  Very hard!  Families have expectations.  Families have rules. Families have odd customs. Families get upset and angry...but they still love fiercely.  And the effort it takes to figure all of that out is immense!  Not to mention confusing, upsetting, frustrating, and annoying!  Slowly, very slowly Wren is learning to express her thoughts, emotions, and feelings.  And that is hard for those of us that love do we meet her needs and address her deepest fears, when we don't even know what they are?

But these moments of worth it!!

Wren is learning to read and write. She is learning how to add and subtract.   I am so amazed that this girl who was considered stupid, and unable to attend school, is learning so much!!

Wren loves her siblings and is especially bonded with the youngest four.  They do everything for her with very little complaining.  And the big's been hard to adjust to having another bratty sister, but they too do so very much for Wren.  I know it's only been a year, but I can't wait till everyone feels like we're a solid family unit again.


Wren hates her standing frame most days.  Except when it's time to bake or do a craft!

This Christmas season is particularly difficult for Wren.  She's incredibly insecure.  I've no idea why. I do know that not knowing what to expect is a factor, so we have told her what gifts she is getting and that seemed to help.  Hopefully, todays' explanation that THIS IS Christmas (as in our daily Christmas activities) will alleviate some fears.

I must say that in some ways Wren's adoption has been the "easiest".  Overall, we adjusted much more quickly than normal.  It feels like Wren has been a part of our family for much longer than a year.  And that is certainly a God thing! 
I can not imagine our life without Wren!  She certainly is a perfect fit for our family!  And that makes this mama very grateful and happy!!
To Him be the Glory!!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

What Belong Summit 2016 Meant to Us!

Last weekend we packed up our youngest 4 and headed to Winnipeg for Canada's very first Belong Summit.  It was an amazing weekend filled with so much truth, so much encouragement, and so many challenges.  If you haven't heard about the Belong Summit here's a bit of a description....
The Belong Summit was hosted by Forever Families of Canada is a relatively new organization that has seen the need for Canadian churches, Canadian Jesus followers to step up to the task that God our Father calls us care for the least of these...vulnerable kids and vulnerable families.  It's incredibly exciting to see the body of believers begin to take action!
Anyhow, my brain and heart have been a mess this past week. I feel like an incredible failure because I can't be all my kids need.  We do what we can to foster self worth in our teach them their worth not only in our eyes but in God's eyes.
Our girls take therapeutic riding lessons.  They love it!  And most importantly, we've seen some amazing growth in all 3 girls.  They are gaining confidence.  They are learning to deal with their emotions.  They are learning to deal with the hurt from their past.

We got a dog for our kids.  Pepper is what only a dog can be to kids.  She is their faithful companion who never has any expectations of them, but just lets them be who they are.  She recently had pups and what these pups do for our kids is amazing!

We're working hard to be all we can for our kids.  But as you all know, kids need so much more than just the love and support of their parents and siblings.  They need a community.
I didn't realize how much that is lacking in their lives until this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, we do have some fantastic people in our life...but they are few and far between.  Partly it's our own "fault".  We're that weird family that's hard to connect with.  We look different.  We act different.  Our heads are out to lunch most days. We miss church a lot!  It's hard to attend regularly when one is dealing with trauma, bonding, and all kinds of other issues. And in the process we slip into isolation. It's not my kids' fault.  It's not our fault.  In fact, I'm not sure that it is anyone's fault.  It's just how it is.
...this past weekend we were blown away!  I mean really blown away!  We had registered our kids in the children's program at the Belong Summit and didn't really know what to expect.  Would one of us be required to stay with Wren?  Would we even be able to enjoy the Summit?  Would we get the much needed encouragement and challenges we needed?  Would transferring Wren in and out of her chair mean that we would be running more than sitting?  Would our kids fit in?  Would our kids have fun?  Would they feel accepted?
You may think these are odd questions to worry about.  They're not!  We've experienced enough rejection from the body of Christ to know that our kids are not welcome in some settings.  Wren's needs are too complicated.  Her "disability" is too severe.  Quite honestly, I think she scares some people.  Oh the hilarity of that!!  The action of far too many people is to simply ignore our the point that in leaving an event where we know a lot of people, my 6 year old, with such a hurt look in her eyes, asked, "Mama, how come no body talks to me?"
Now before you go and get all upset about how my kids are treated, here's a question I have for you...are you certain that whatever organization you think is the greatest, the best, or the most welcoming...would they really welcome my kids with open arms?  Or would there be all kinds of policies or rules that trump love?  Best way to find out?  Go ask the leadership of that may be surprised by the answers you'll get!
Anyhow...on to what blew us away.
This group right here!!
That beautiful teen in the bottom right...she organized and facilitated the kids' program.  She welcomed our kids with open arms...and most importantly a kind and loving face.  We're so afraid of being a burden to the I left my number and offered to help Wren in and out of her chair as needed.  And to take her to the washroom.  I was fully expecting one of two things...Wren would spend the day in her chair (a chair that is awful for her functioning ability), or I would be running all day to transfer her in and out of her chair. 
That didn't happen!
I checked on the kids and would you believe it!?!  Wren was NOT in her chair!  Can I get a "HALLELUJAH?!"  Long story short...this sweet teen and her team transferred Wren in and out of her chair all weekend long without so much as a hesitation!
And the beauty of leadership being loving and welcoming is snowballs!!  Our kids connected with some of the other kids!  (That rarely happens!...remember we're that odd family!) I wish I had taken a picture of sweet Ruby who took it upon herself to push Wren's chair everywhere!  Sweet Ruby treated our girl for the valuable girl she is!  She treated her as God our Father treats us...with upmost value and love! I can't wait to help Wren write her first letter to Ruby!!  Yes!  You've got that right!  Ruby wants to be penpals with Wren!  Be still my heart!
Our kids had a blast!  They couldn't wait to go back!  They came home and were literally the point where even the riding instructor noticed!! 
We saw something in our kids that weekend that we don't get to see very they glow when they are surrounded by a community that really gets the importance of caring for vulnerable kids and their families! 
So to Forever Families of Canada, to the Belong Summit team, to those of you that get it and love us....THANK YOU!!
You are an inspiration and we pray that your faithfulness to God's call to care for the vulnerable will snowball into much more than you can ever dream!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An Unusual Anniversary Post

It's our 25th wedding anniversary and I've got to write what's on my heart.  If I don't, the enormity of it will make my broken, tearful heart burst at it's seams.  I'm raw.  Not because of me, or my story.  But because I carry the story of the one's I've welcomed into my heart, my family, and my home.
Twenty-five years ago I was a naïve, barely turned 20 year old, with the world at my fingertips. I had dreams.  Dreams Marty and I shared.  Dreams of careers.  Dreams of using our money wisely.  Dreams of saving for that big trip.  Just the two of us. In fact, we chose to have a simple one week honeymoon to Vancouver Island, so that at year 10, or 15 we could go on that big vacation. 
As the date of this anniversary approached, I struggled with feeling sorry for myself.  That big vacation just wasn't going to happen. Like it didn't happen for our 10th or 15th anniversary.  I tried to console myself by thinking about the short trip we took to Quebec City for our 20th anniversary.  It wasn't the trip to Europe that I had long dreamt about, but it was the closest thing to it right here in Canada.
By this morning, I'd determined to make the best of it.  The snow was falling.  It was downright miserable, but in my cozy house it was warm and comfortable.  To top it off, the inexpensive, low quality used hot tub we bought felt amazing!!  There's nothing quite like sitting in a steaming hot tub while the snow falls!
We proceeded with our day as usual....and then the sorrow began to ooze.  Not from me, but from one of my kids.  I won't go into detail about what happened, but for those of you that know anything about know it wasn't pretty!  It was downright frustrating!  Downright annoying!  I struggled to keep my cool. ( and that's exhausting!!!) 
And then...Marty finally figured out what was happening.  This morning he showed the kids some pictures of our last trip to China.
We looked at one picture in particular and saw the deep, deep sorrow in the depths of her eyes.  We know she saw that sorrow too.  And not only did she see it...she felt it as if it were today!  We may never know what she was/is feeling.  Perhaps it's not having a voice for so many years.  Perhaps it's the years of sitting on a bench watching the other kids run and jump.  Perhaps it's the memory of being told she's ugly.  Perhaps it's the memory of being told she's stupid.  Perhaps it's the memory of being physically hurt. Perhaps it's knowing what she has all lost.
And in the bedtime tears we tried to vocalize for her what she may be feeling.  Reaffirmed we are hers forever!  And prayed without words...just pure emotion!  Prayed like our lives depended on it!  And honestly, it does!  We could not love, could not show compassion if it wasn't for the One who loved us first.  The One that holds us and gives us strength that we know we don't have.
And in it all, I realized that a trip to my dreamed Italy has nothing on my life with my kids! It's such a selfish sorrow that I felt.  It makes me realize that I want to be more like my kids...with all the awful life has dealt them...they keep smiling...they keep loving...they keep living life to the fullest!   
So.....If life has handed you a whole lot of ugly, a whole lot of sorrow...I'd recommend you find someone to lavish your love on...someone that life has dealt a whole lot more awful than you ever experienced. Cause in that, you will find your life is pretty darn near perfect!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Squash Recipes

Ahh!  Fall is officially here and although I really wasn't ready for it, I'm embracing it now!  There's nothing like fall to make one slow down, smell the crisp air, and stop to notice the ever changing leaves.  Thanks to the lovely gift I got from hubby, I've even been able to enjoy a few of my most favourite drink...Pumpkin Spice Latte! 
Fall is also the time to use up all the various squash that grew in my garden.  Here are a few of our favourite recipes!
Zucchini Pizza
I love this recipe because it's so super simple and it's perfect for those super size zucchini that aren't good for anything else (other than relish)!  Simply grab all your favourite pizza toppings.  Wash the zucchini and scoop out all the seeds. I like to peel the zucchini first as a few of our kids have such difficulty chewing the tough skin.  I then sprinkle the zucchini with a bit of salt and some Epicure Pizza seasoning and place it on a tin foil lined baking sheet and bake at 375 F for about 20 mins. 
Then I add all of our favourite toppings and bake for an additional 20 mins or until the zucchini is cooked.  The time will vary, depending on the size of the zucchini.

This next recipe is my own creation.  The inspiration was a typical Ratatouille dish.  It's supper easy!
Simply slice and layer zucchini, other squash, peppers of any color, and tomatoes.  After each layer of zucchini, sprinkle on a little salt and Epicure's Balsamic Dressing spice. Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 350 F for about 30-45 mins.  Enjoy! 


Monday, September 12, 2016

Wren's 12th Birthday!

It's been a month since Wren's 12th birthday and I'm finally writing about it!  I really did have the best of intentions of posting the day after her birthday...but then real life happened! 
Like tonight during bath time the girls managed to use so much soap, that it filled the bathroom sink after they drained the tub!  :0
But I'm here now!  And it's not because there aren't a million things that need to be done.  Like processing the piles of tomatoes, or squash, or pumpkins; or doing laundry.  But alas, I've been instructed to put my feet up.  Literally!  Doctors orders!
I broke my little toe yesterday!  You may think I must have been doing some sort of physical activity like playing soccer.  But no!  It was the silliest of incidences!  I broke it stepping into the tub!  Bahahaha!  After the initial yelp of pain as I heard a snap, I took one look at my distorted toe and burst out laughing!  Marty and the kids took one look at my toe and their eyes popped.  But my hysterical laughing soon had them in a fit too!  Honestly!  Who breaks their toe stepping into the tub?!?!  And not only breaks it, but in such a freakishly ugly way too!?!  I couldn't stop giggling!  Not even at minor emergency!  I'm sure the doctors and nurses thought I had lost my mind!  It still makes me laugh! 
Anyhow...on to Wren's birthday!
Planning this sweet girls birthday was hard.  Fun, but hard.  Initially we struggled to know how to celebrate.  On the one hand we wanted to celebrate for all the lost birthdays...all 11 of them!  But on the other hand, we knew it would be overwhelming and it would set a precedent that we could never repeat.  We also wanted Wren to know how very valued and loved she is.  So we settled for a happy medium.  We did all the things we normally would do, and added a few extras.  For example, our kids get helium balloons and a piñata once in their early years.  So we did both.
Wren's day started with breakfast in bed.  She about burst at the seams when presented with her very ordinary (for the most part) breakfast of  strawberries, toast with butter, and hot chocolate. Yes, she enjoys hot chocolate with marshmallows!  Something she wouldn't have seen as a treat when she first arrived at home.
Wren couldn't decide what kind of cake she wanted.  A princess one?  Yes!  A flower one? Yes!  A butterfly one? Yes!  A tinkerbell one? Yes!  We finally settled on a simple ombre flower cake.

We decorated the night before her big day so that she awoke to balloons and a birthday banner.  Of coarse by the time supper rolled around and the real celebrations began, we had to blow up more balloons as the helium had escaped most of the balloons!

We set out our finest china, added some candles, "diamonds" and flowers! I forgot to add the pretty pink napkins before I snapped the pics.  Oops!

 We added a China candle to the cake and sang happy birthday!  She loved this candle.  It pops open and a plays the "Happy Birthday" song.
I LOVE this pic! Such a silly goose!


And then we added a sparkly candle.  She kinda freaked at first but then giggled and giggled!

The kids each picked out a small gift for Wren.

Alex will hate me for posting this pic!  I think he had inhaled too much helium and couldn't stop smiling!  We had soooo much fun sucking in helium!  Oh the things we do for entertainment!

And Wren's very favourite gift! The one she kept begging for!  A horse of her own just like the other girls have!

There's so much I want to say about Wren.   She's about 4' 5", and weighs roughly 62 lbs. She's hit a plateau in physical growth.
In other aspects, she has grown in leaps and bounds!  Her language is amazing!  She still doesn't hear all the words correctly, but she's easier to understand and has more confidence in putting words into sentences.  She's learning about rules, what's appropriate, and what's not.  She's learning that when mom and dad say something...they mean it!  Like every 12 year old, she does constantly test the boundaries! And like any 12 year old, she can be super annoying and demanding.  Some days you'd think the first years of her life were rather high class!  She has an eye for beautiful things and popular things and wants all of the items! 
Wren is also incredibly sweet!  I know I use that word a lot to describe her, but it really is who she is!  She'll annoy us and then melt our hearts with her big grin, her constant "thank you mama!", "thank you daddy!" for every little thing we do! 
Wren loves the colors purple and pink.  She loves horse back riding and horses.  She loves coloring and cuddles.  She loves pretty dresses and her long hair.  She loves being outside and spends hours with our dog Pepper.  She absolutely LOVES swimming! She has learned to put her face in the water AND blow bubbles.  She has learned to move about quite efficiently in the water.  She plays with all 3 of her younger siblings.  Wren is beginning to connect more with Malia and slowly they are becoming very good friends.  Wren is currently in grade one and is doing well.  She has a very good sense of numbers, but struggles more with language related tasks.  I think it's more of a confidence/ESL issue than a cognitive delay.  Her goals are to walk and be like her mama!  (What a freaky thought! lol!)
I stand amazed at where we are today.  How God has brought this incredibly beautiful child into our lives, when it really was not in our plans.  How He is helping us deal with all the hard.  How He is slowly helping us bond and become family in more than just the legal form.  Trust me, one does not simply "fall in love" with a child.  Nor does a child simply "fall in love" with you.  Sure a part of you does, but love is so complicated in so many ways, even though it so super simple.  We continue to consciously work hard to bond and grow as a family.  Often that means missing out on things, and taking a step back from our normal activities.  But experience has taught us it will be well worth it in the long run!  There are so many incredible moments.  Moments where Marty and I look at each other and wonder "how did we get so lucky?!?"  Moments where I want to shout for joy that "my cup runneth over!"
I am so very grateful to call Wren my daughter!  And we couldn't be prouder of her!  I can't wait to see where we will be a year from now!