365 Days, Happy Birthday my Darling girl.

One  year.

It's been a year since you left your mothers womb and were welcomed into this big scary outside world.  The circumstances surrounding that day are mostly fuzzy to me, and even if they weren't, I wouldn't share those sacred details here. What I do know is that you were a tiny very vulnerable little girl, not quite ready for this hostile world, but yet God's plan for your life began to unfold.

Despite being born from and into less than ideal circumstances your life was preserved and protected. Your life has value and purpose and is not an accident.  When I think about the day of your birth I ache for the woman who carried you.

 When I laid eyes on you at just one week old, weighing just a little over 4 lbs and hooked to various tubes, wires, and monitors I fell in love. I will never forget that moment when we first met.  I was instructed to wear a paper gown and gloves, an uncomfortable barrier between your skin and mine, and was encouraged to take you into my arms.

You astonished me with your strength, trying so hard to hold up your own little head and look around.  I spent the next week either sitting and holding you while you slept, or longing to be at the hospital sitting and holding that tiny raven haired girl.  You needed to know that you weren't alone in the world.  You weren't alone in this world.  You have never been alone.

At two weeks old a case worker drove you out to your new home, and you arrived looking so hilariously tiny in your baby carseat.  All your siblings were so obnoxiously eager to meet you. You have been fiercely loved by each one of them every moment since.

Every day, since the moment we first met, you have been our delight.  I can't even express what an incredible privilege it has been to be your family these past 12 months.  We are technically "just" your foster family, but in every way that matters we have been a family. A real family.

There was a time when I grieved over the fact that we wouldn't get to witness this birthday milestone and know your little toddler personality.  Now I revel in each moment of it.

Your 1st Birthday is such a sweet celebration.  A celebration of this amazing little girl that was so wonderfully created.

I don't know what our future holds my Darling but I do know that we have poured as much love and nurture into each day as is humanly possible.  You deserved nothing less from us.  It has been our absolute joy.

My sweet girl, we have today...and 364 yesterdays.
God holds tomorrow.

Even if I don't know what sorts of joys or sorrows tomorrow will bring I trust that He is good and that He has a loving purpose in it all.

So we continue to trust and pray and sing -

 "Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong"

At 12 months old you are full of life and and mischief.  You have a nearly constant smile on your face and a quick bubbling giggle. I don't think I've ever known a baby to have such a well developed sense of humour.  You love to play games and make us laugh.  You are joy, sweetness and innocence in one squishy little bundle.  Your curiosity and feisty tenacity keep me on my toes, and keep us all cheering as you try out new things with that "check this out" grin. 

At 12 months old your hobbies include pulling books off the book shelf, running water out of the drinking water jug onto the floor,  snatching (and using) the ipod or phones where ever they are carelessly set down, splashing in the toilet, taking baths, searching for tasty Legos, and emptying kitchen cupboards. 

Mostly you like to play with and soak up attention from anyone in the room.  

At 12 months old you have 6 adorable little teeth and are a good eater.  You weigh 20 lbs and have the sweetest little squishy legs. 

You aren't walking yet but you cruise along the furniture like a pro, and crawl like you're trying to win a race. You are adventurous and ambitious but have a sensible cautious streak.  You have just begun to stand alone...holding both hands up in the air, with a huge smile on your face and an expression that says "Hey guys, look what I can do!"

You love to give hugs, snuggles, and smushy kisses.  We are all eager recipients of your generous affection.  Your happy place is still curled up in my arms with a bottle.  This happy place usually puts you to sleep.  In fact you enjoy this so much you wake at least a couple times a night for a midnight snuggle (last night it was six times ...which reminds me that we need to renegotiate this whole night time snuggle thing).  As exhausting as our midnight rendezvous have become, I will remember them fondly in the years to come.  That quiet house has belonged to just us.   We have brought up a years worth of sunrises together.  It is a bit ironic that one of my biggest apprehensions in taking a newborn was lost sleep (I'm really quite attached to sleeping through the night), but here we are 1 later and you've slept through the night about 3 times.  That makes me laugh, and cry...because I wouldn't trade you for all the peaceful nights and late mornings in the world. 

You and Daddy have your own sweet relationship too.  You have him all wrapped up around your finger.  He would do anything for you.  You get so happy when he comes home from work, and burst out in a breathy excited laugh anytime the phone rings because you expect his voice to come out of it.

Precious Annie, you are loved.  Endlessly loved.

You are loved as much as any parent has ever loved a child, even if we have no actual right to call your ours.

When you strip away all the titles, qualifiers, prefixes, and legalities we are just "Mommy" and "Daddy".  We are family, not born of blood or even legal documents, but because we are in this together.

We are so thankful to be a part of your life and to watch you grow.

Love Mommy


When a killer isn't charged with murder.

I'm sure most of you have heard {this news story} out of Colorado by now.  It's a horrifying crime that makes us collectively appalled and disturbed, because it is appalling and disturbing.  It's a vile and heinous sort of crime.  I think there is still something in our collective consciences (maybe called common grace) that realizes this was wrong and horrible and that this baby was a helpless victim.

However, the woman who savagely cut this child (named Aurora) from the safety and warmth of her mothers womb and left her and her mother to die, will not be charged with murder.

Let that sink in a moment.

An intentional, premeditated, violent act that directly resulted in a death will not be considered a homicide. Why?

Because the victim is not considered a person by law.  

It comes down to the issue of personhood.  We have never learned from atrocities in history.  We still think that we have a right to pick and choose which human beings can be classified as people, and which will be denied all their most basic human rights.

It makes me more angry than I can even express.  It makes me sick to my stomach and puts tears in my eyes.  I grieve for that woman, for her child, and for us as a depraved and deranged society. I feel this as a mother who has nurtured life within my womb, and who has held tiny fragile life in my hands. I feel this as a mother who has buried a baby.  I feel it as a foster mom who has witnessed and seen the amazing value in children that are inconvenient and unwanted.

It all comes crashing together into a frustrated longing for justice.  A groaning with all of creation, like the pangs of childbirth, for this broken world with all it's pain, wickedness, and coldness to be made new.

This seriously ticks me off...and makes me sick.  

At least the culture of death is being consistent with their twisted ideology.

With all the disgust and outrage we feel at this incident, the only difference between this baby who was ripped from it's mothers womb and an aborted baby ripped from it's mothers womb is that this child was wanted by it's mother.  Why do we all feel horrified by the one, yet the other is simply a "choice" or "healthcare".

Legally, your humanity and right to be considered a person comes down to two things. Your location, and what someone else thinks about you.  How horrifying is that in any other context?

But why would someone else's feelings about us make us less of a human? Why would our location change a biological fact? I am either human, and deserving of human rights, or I am not.
The courts have decided that if you have not fully exited the birth canal and someone thinks you are inconvenient then your humanity will be ignored. That is the game we play.

Things get a bit muddy though when we come face to face with the humanity of the unborn. When a child is violently killed but yet was wanted we are forced to face the absurdity of our own justifications.
We flop around like idiots not knowing what to make of it all.  

This woman's child was killed. Someone irreplaceable and infinitely valuable was taken and destroyed.

That baby girl was either a human deserving of protection and justice, or she wasn't.  

That is why the abortion industry fights so strongly to dehumanize it's victims. Like so many other groups of victims who have been stripped of their dignity, rights, and lives throughout history. It begins with dehumanizing with words and laws that don't recognize their personhood.

I pray someday our decedents look back at us with horror and disgust...baffled at our blindness.

Once you strip away the rhetoric it comes down to this: you either have a society that protects vulnerable innocent life or you have a society that considers inconvenient people disposable.  

That's the bottom line. 

We have created the second.  

We have intentionally created a culture that can hear about a child brutally cut from it's mothers womb and do nothing. 

This is what we have become.  

This is what "pro-choice" lies have created.  We are so desensitized to baby murder, that we consider this child as simply an unfortunate price to pay for the "greater good" of women's reproductive freedom. A supposed "freedom" and "empowerment" that relies entirely on our ability to legally kill our own children. That's pretty pathetic empowerment. We are never made stronger by oppressing the weaker. We are not made a more compassionate and just society by denying justice to voiceless victims.

In 2013, Colorado Democrats stopped a bill that would have provided justice and protection for pregnant women and unborn children
.  Similar laws have passed in 25 other states. 

Amendment 67 wouldn't have saved this babies life but it would have given this baby justice. A murderer would be charged with murder. Had this personhood amendment passed, the child would have been viewed as a victim instead of just some lost property.  

Can you imagine any other context in which an innocent human being can be intentionally targeted and viciously murdered and yet not be considered a victim of a crime? 

Maybe a slave that had been beaten to death by his owner?....just some property to do with as you wish, after all. We recoil at the memory of slaves being treated at subhuman and being denied personhood but yet we continue to do it to others segments of our population. Our own children.

We live in a society where everyone wants to play the victim. It's like a new sort of twisted narcissistic game of elitism. Whoever can whine the loudest about their own need to be coddled and validated, whoever can cry with the most theatrics about being offended or having their feelings hurt wins. 

Where there is no crime, one will be invented. Where there should be no offense one will be imagined. Where there is nothing to direct our outrage at we will find something ridiculously insignificant on which to pour out our wrath.  We live in a hyper-sensitive age of "MY RIGHTS!" but yet everyone wants to completely close their eyes, shut off their minds, and harden their hearts to our societies most vulnerable, innocent, voiceless and brutalized victims. 

Pre-born children deserve to be treated with dignity, compassion, and have the right to exist. Women deserve to have their unborn children protected from violent crime.  
So, why is Canada and so many States  opposed to personhood and fetal homicide laws?  Because it exposes the lie that an entire industry is based on.

If unborn victims of violence were protected by law it would force us to ask "what's the difference?"  We would have to face uncomfortable truths.

The entire abortion industry is founded on the unscientific lie that the unborn child is not human.

Some more bolder pro-abortion activists are honest enough to acknowledge that it is in fact a human being but they simply don't care.  It's just the cost of doing business. They don't think the unborn child deserves personhood, simply because some people have more worth than others.  That is the more honest ideology that abortion is founded on.  Some lives matter, and are worth more than others. It's a heinous sort of hierarchy of death. Depending on your ability level, your gender, your location, or how someone else feels about you....you will either be considered worthy of protection or you will not.

I don't think any of us would deny that this mother lost a child.  It would be a special kind of deranged person who would console this mother with "don't worry, it was only a clump of cells anyway".

By the way do you know who the biggest opponents to Colorado's amendment 67 was? Any guesses? 

Planned parenthood and NARAL of course.   It makes sense that they would oppose laws (and spend a lot of money doing it) that would prosecute those who violently kill unborn babies....since they are in the business of baby murder and all.  That might cramp their style a bit. 

This is what we have become.  This is what the culture of death has created.  A world in which a baby can be brutally cut out of his mother, killed, and yet not be considered a victim.  

Oh, Lord have mercy.


Annie - 11 Months

Sweet baby girl is 11 months now. 

I pulled out my camera to do a little photo shoot. Although my photography skills are sorely lacking, I've been trying to take pictures each month to mark each precious milestone.

As you can see she's a delightful bundle of energy.  She's clever, curious and full of personality. Annie has a quick smile, a contagious giggle and a surprisingly well developed sense of humour.  She is an absolute doll and I enjoy each and every day we have with her. 

She is very relational and affectionate.  Her hugs and kisses are the sweetest thing ever.  She has a special relationship with each one of her siblings and they absolutely adore her. 

She is a very quick crawler and cruises along the furniture on her feet.  At 11 months she has six cute little teeth.  She is also starting to climb.  This girl has always been strong and agile but as she enters the toddler stage that physical ability and ambition is really keeping me on my toes!

I seriously can't believe she is at this point already.  We really didn't think we'd get to celebrate these milestones with her.  

It's nearly been a year since that tiny 4 lb girl came into our home. 

Oh, how dearly we love her.  What a privilege it has been to be her family and her home during this first year of her life.  We don't know yet what the future will hold for her or us, but we thank God for each month that she's been a part of our lives. 

Annie, you are such a precious little girl.  You constantly amaze us and keep us laughing. 
You are so loved. 


A Rant a Day Keeps the Straight Jacket Away - ADHD edition.

Have you ever heard the saying "A rant a day keeps the straight jacket away"?  No?
That's because I just made it up now.

You know how, in my previous post, I suggested that exhausted mom's find something they enjoy doing and make time for it?  It turns out that my new hobby is ranting about stuff that threatens to steal my last shred of sanity.

I'm only kidding.  Sort of.

Today's rant is about crap we find on the internet and spread around as if it's actually real information.  I find the biggest culprits of this sort of thing are supposed natural health websites that are often simply PR for selling "natural" products.  It's a racket.  What I despise about it other than the quackery peddled is the constant fear mongering.  Big Pharma, vaccinations, GM food...the list goes on and on. If you can create a big bad enemy to fear and disdain, people will open their wallets to the alternatives that you are peddling.  Rather than getting into all the specifics of various positions on the above issues...which could end with my being chased by an internet lynch mob,  I 'm going to focus on one particular issue that keeps popping up all over the internet.

ADHD and how "fictitious" it is.  Often mixed together with obscure and confusing claims about "big pharma" and how it's all just a money grab (even though these very same sites are peddling their own products marketed to fear and desperation).  Too often I see the claim that ALL mood disorders and psychiatric conditions are made up.  Tell that to someone with clinical depression, OCD, or bipolar disorder. I don't think it's very helpful to suggest to someone who has schizophrenia or some other very serious and complex psychiatric condition that "big pharma" is just trying to take their money and they should go off their meds.  In fact that's just plain ludicrous and dangerous.  In fact it makes me wonder who is sponsoring and creating these web sites.  So much of the "psychiatric conditions are all fictitious" nonsense sounds an awful lot like the whack cult of Scientology.  If not directly linked there is similar ignorant and dangerous information being spread.

Can we please, PLEASE, stop stigmatizing people? Their parents? and the families of these kids? So much of this stuff merely heaps suspicion, and scorn upon parents who decide to use medication to help their child.  This is sometimes literally a matter of life and death. It's the difference between seeing your child suffer and slip away, and seeing them thrive.  Can we please stop alienating and guilting parents who are in the trenches and dealing with stuff that most other parents have absolutely no clue about?

There are people who live with invisible disabilities, disorders, and conditions that most of the population knows nothing about.  I would suggest that unless you live with one of these conditions yourself, or live in a home filled with an alphabet soup of quirks and disorders, that you proceed with humility and gentleness when it comes to judging the validity of these disorders and coming up with your own theories as to what causes them.

I can assure you that ADHD is not caused by my imagination, lack of parenting structure and effort, lack of discipline, or a poor diet (although without a doubt those things can aggravate what is already there).

 I would guarantee that most every parent that uses medication for a child with ADHD has tried EVERYTHING else, every behaviour modification technique, every fad diet, every nutritional supplement, every form of discipline, read many books, talked to professionals....and are at the end of their rope.  We are not imagining something that consumes every aspect of our daily life.

 If I was going to imagine something I would imagine myself on the beach alone with a good book.

I get it.  I get that people are skeptical because "back when we were kids no one was diagnosed with ADHD".  It's true.  You just called them stupid, retard, imbecile, incorrigible, space cadet and trouble maker.  Instead of understanding how that child is wired, seeking to appreciate their uniqueness and gifts and trying to better equip that child to thrive and function in a one size fits all society...kid were given up on, ridiculed, kicked out of school, and pushed to the edges of society.  The same thing goes for kids now known to be on the Autism spectrum.  A few decades ago they were just called weird and antisocial.  Kids on the lower functioning end of the spectrum were hidden away in institutions.

So is the "label" of ADHD any worse that what we have historically used to label these children?  We categorize and label anyway...why not do it with some accuracy and understanding? I honestly care very little about the label or ever term ADHD, it's the understanding, equipping, resources, and support that come with that diagnosis that is helpful a life line to a parent.

I don't have the time or patience to describe what actually goes on inside the brain of a child with ADHD, or the specifics of behaviour, but I will say that it is not "made up".   I could go into how it's almost always genetically linked and runs in families along with other closely linked psychiatric and mood disorders (as does ASD)....but I wont' because this is a simple rant and not a scientific essay on the topic. Its easy enough to research.

I get that it's over diagnosed by some family doctors who likely aren't qualified to diagnose the disorder or who are in fact getting kick backs by drug companies.  I get that "drugging" our kid shouldn't be the first line of action or response to every behavioural issue.  Those things seem fairly obvious.  Trust me when I say scrutinizing, self doubt, and questioning everything you are told is just standard procedure when it comes to parenting a child with any...quirks.  You are not enlightening parents because we have already gone over every possible cause, possible misdiagnosis, remedy, cure, technique, and diet change with a fine toothed comb.

ADHD is not a disease.  I don't even like the term "disorder".  It's just an acronym of words that is used to categorize kids that all have similar traits and struggles.  It's part of their wiring and sometimes that wiring makes parts of their life really really difficult.  These are also kids who have extraordinary personalities, gifts and creativity.   They are unique, vivacious, bright and curious kids who don't fit the mould our society tries to shove them into.  That doesn't mean that they don't have some very real struggles that other kids don't have.  When we minimize and invalidate those struggles we also invalidate and hold in a sort of contempt the very people who need our understanding and compassion.

My advice is to be careful not to judge kids and parents, because you never know what is going on behind the scenes.  Be careful what you read on the internet and instead of taking it as gospel truth, seek out some actual families who deal with invisible challenges like ADHD, OCD , FASD, RAD, PTSD, ASD or SPD and ask them about it.  If you don't know what those acronyms are you probably don't have the expertise to be deciding what you think of them. It's too easy to make quick judgements about things we don't understand and have no personal experience with.  I know I did exactly that regarding things like ADHD before I plummeted neck deep into parenting it.

Now, if you have shared, believed, liked and proclaimed some of the stuff I've just ranted about please don't think I'm singling you out, or picking on you.  I am not offended by goofy ignorant internet websites and articles...simply because I'm thick skinned and my feelings on the topic don't actually matter.   What matters is the whether what's being written about has merit or not.  At best silly articles can open a discussion and maybe just maybe someone in the trenches will poke their head up and say "hey, wait a minute...that's total crap.  Come and live in my house for a few days."


An Exhausted Mom's Survival Guide

Self Care is a topic I have very little natural interest in.  In all honesty any time I hear people talking about "self care" I think about Oprah type motivational speakers, or ladies ministry groups painting flower pots and I want to gag.

I realize it may seem odd to make that assertion and then proceed to write about the topic.

I find in our culture today we are inundated with "self".  We are implored to love ourselves more, to exult ourselves higher,  and to put our own needs ahead of those around us.  It's everywhere, even drilled into every child via innocent cartoon characters.   "Just follow your heart" and "Believe in yourself" are the theme of most every children's program I overhear my little one's watching.  After a while I just find it nauseating.   Self love, self esteem, self preservation, self glory self...self...self...me..me...me...blah...blah...blah.

We are raising generations of completely delusional, hyper-sensitive, narcissistic nut balls who expect the world to validate and celebrate their every whim, desire or thought.  Social media has only poured fuel on the fire of self worship.

Biblically speaking we are commanded to love others as we love ourselves.  This is making the assumption that we already naturally love ourselves. We generally don't need to make it a goal or put any effort into it.  We are selfish by nature. Even when we serve others we are tainted by self serving motives and hopes.  If anything our problem is not a lack of self love but a distracting preoccupation with it.  The command is to love others and love God.

Because I need regular reminders to set aside my own bent toward selfishness and self preoccupation I avoid most topics of "self" altogether.  Simply because they often wander down that trail.
I'm convinced that my own joy has little to do with how much comfort, luxury, and ease my life contains. I'm also convinced that rather than seek to focus on ourselves more, we are far more content when we get over ourselves.

That being said as a caregiver to many small people, including children with various health considerations and special needs, I can't ignore the topic of self care altogether or lump it together with all the other nonsense.  I've been trying to figure out what does a healthy concept of "self care" look like for me, while also being committed to caring for others?

I'm going to back up a little and let you in on what started me thinking about this topic.

In about November of last year I hit a wall.

I'm naturally a push through, tough it out, do the next thing, and take the next step kind of a person. I'm really great at ignoring flashing warning lights, making another cup of coffee, and muscling through.  Tired is just a normal state of being when you have six children but cumulative months and years of stress, demands, sleep deprivation, and constant busyness had started to take their toll.  I entered a new state of exhaustion that I could no longer afford to ignore and I had nothing left to push through with.  I guess burning the candle at both ends only works until it melts and you burn your fingers on two flames.  Then you have no choice but to drop what's left.

It's hard to explain unless you've been there.  Completely drained to the dregs. I became so overwhelmed with the energy it took to just muddle through the day that anything extra expected of me was next to impossible. Just the thought of getting the kids out the door and into the car took more than I had to give, and anyone with kids knows there is always somewhere to go and something that needs to be done.   I seriously felt like the gravity pull had increased exponentially and like I was walking knee deep in mud.

My mind was a fog, my spirit was dull, and my body was weak.
Totally done.

So, that began my self assessment.  I've always viewed my body as a sort of a functional machine. Something of value that was given to me as a gift and that I need to steward well.  Clearly I wasn't doing a very good job.

In Hebrew there is a word "Nephesh".  {soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion}.  It encompasses what it is to be human. Our "nephesh" makes up our whole person. When any of those components of who we are is undernourished or wounded the others parts suffer as well.  When multiple facets of who we are become drained we're in trouble.  A downward spiral can happen relatively quickly and the more exhausted you become the less strength you have to pull up out of the nose dive.  Sometimes all you've got left is a weak cry for help to a God who hears and knows. Weakness is not something that should be feared, in fact in understanding our own weakness we are made strong.  My problem is remembering to stay connected to the one who will continually fill me as I pour myself out.  I unwittingly cut myself off from the Creator of "nephesh" and the source of life.  Before anything else I must nurture my affections for Him and remind myself of who I am.

I should clarify that I am naturally a very low maintenance girl.  My idea of a manicure is using a pair of nail clippers when my nails start to get in the way.  I have had a pedicure once in my 38 years of life.  I get my hair cut and highlighted twice a year. I absolutely hate shopping. I'm not much for fashion, or dressing up, or beauty products, or going out on the town.  I'm a home body who enjoys very simple pleasures. I think it's harder for people like me, those who don't require or expect much pampering to take care of themselves.  My idea of "Self Care" may look very basic and unspectacular.  But it's the basics that are essential.

Here are a few very simple things that can help pull us out of that nose dive of exhaustion and complete burnout.  These may seem painfully obvious but sometimes the obvious needs to be said. I know I will need to review and assess on a regular basis.

1.  Rest.  This seems the most obvious but at the same time can feel the most impossible.  There is a difference between getting much needed sleep and soul satisfying rest and rejuvenation.  Sometimes we  just desperately need alone time like lungs need oxygen, particularly if you're an introvert surrounded by hyperactive extroverts like I am. It's hard for my husband to understand this need since he is energized by being around other people.  I need silence and peace.  I need to wander and slide around in my own thoughts.  I need to sit in silence and pray. I need to not be needed or beckoned by anybody every once in a while. I occasionally need to drink a cup of tea or coffee right to the bottom without having to warm it up in the microwave.  To me that is restful. Maybe that's why I enjoy late evening when the house has gone quiet.  Sadly this need for quiet aloneness competes with my even greater physical need for sleep.

2.  Sleep.   I generally feel guilty if I take a nap and consider it a waste of time but sometimes making a nap a priority is a necessity not a luxury.  I'm horrible for putting myself to bed on time.  Mainly because of #1.  I so cherish that hour or two between when the kids are tucked away and when I drift off to sleep.  Self discipline is helpful in this area, and too often self discipline is something I lack.  As mothers we cannot control what our nights will be like because we are on call 24 hrs a day.  That may mean waking with a baby every two hours for months on end.  That may mean unexpected sickness, nightmares, wet beds, or children crawling into my bed and sticking their little feet in my face.  Sleep is a precious commodity.  It must be carefully guarded and sought after.  Every once in a while us night owls need to force ourselves to go to bed early.  Without sleep everything else starts to fall apart.

2. Take care of the machine.  Basically, don't neglect basic maintenance. Go to the dentist.  Get a physical and some blood work done if you chronically feel horrible and exhausted.  Make (and keep) that chiropractor appointment if you are living with chronic back and neck pain.  These are all things I added to my calendar this winter. I have had some health issues lingering for years that I have just never bothered to get to the bottom of. This advice can seem so obvious but I think it had been years since I had gone and got a check-up for only myself. It can be such an logistical inconvenience, if not next to impossible, to make appointments like these that they just get put off indefinitely.  Too often it just doesn't seem worth it unless it's an emergency situation, but I can't take care of others very well if I don't take care of my own health. So much of our health is completely out of our control, but we should do what we can to maintain the gift of health we have been given. That leads into my next point.

3. Nutrition.  It's a fact that a person who is chronically sleep deprived and exhausted will crave sugar and empty calories.  The body is desperately trying to find fuel to keep moving.  I can attest to this.  When I'm feeling my most depleted my natural tendency is to reach for simple carb filled calories and caffeine in an attempt to soothe emotionally and find energy.  This is part of the downward spiral that I have to resist.  I now try to begin the day with a smoothie packed with nutrition rather than a quick piece of toast, bowl of cereal, or just a cup of coffee. It's a quick and easy way to sneak in stuff my body needs. Good nutrition doesn't need to be fancy, gimmicky, or expensive,  Get some protein, even if it's a simple boiled egg at breakfast.  Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  Make sure you get some healthy oils in your diet. Take some extra supplements if you feel you're lacking in certain nutrients (for example Calcium).  Vitamin B supplements make a difference for me as far as energy goes.  Make sure you're getting some iron rich foods.  All of these little things can take a few extra minutes or some planning but you will feel better if your diet doesn't consist entirely of scraps off your preschoolers plate and chocolate stashes in your closet.

4.  Fresh air and movement.  For some reason this one is hard to do.  Maybe it's because for several months out of the year I live cooped up in a house inside a giant dark freezer.  Going out for "fresh air" is not that fun, and I hate the cold.  Maybe it's because the thought of bundling a gaggle of little people up to go with me is overwhelming. Now that the weather has turned toward Spring I am trying to get out and go for a walk (usually pushing a stroller and corralling a five year old on a bike).  It's not exactly a work out routine but it's a baby step toward feeling more alive.  Now that the daylight is starting to stick around longer my goal is to go out after the Little's are in bed and start jogging again. Since my Junior High years I have been an on again off again runner.  The "off" has mostly lasted for the past several years.  I've always had good intentions to start up again but it wasn't until I broke my leg a year and a half ago that I really realized I had been taking my legs for granted and hadn't been using them to their best potential.  Recovering from that injury forced me to become even more sedentary and then I kind of got used to not seeking out physical activity like I used to.  It's a cycle I hope to break this Spring and I'm really hoping my formerly injured leg can keep up!  If I can't run I at least want to do some brisk walking.  Oh good Heavens, I sound old! Maybe I should take up shuffle board or horse shoes.

5.  Take time for something that you enjoy.  Something that recharges your batteries, something that makes you feel like more than just a "mom, something that relaxes, inspires or challenges you.  The concept of an actual hobby actually illicits chortles of laughter inside me.  It's right up there with sleeping in.  It seems like a ridiculously wild and unrealistic dream but it doesn't have to be extravagant.  What floats your boat?  Take an art class, join a sports team, or go to a movie alone. Try doing crafts (that is SO not my idea of fun...but to each his own), writing, hiking, gardening, blogging, scrap booking (ACK! even writing that stresses me out), taking photos, visiting with friends, reading....it could be anything really.  Find something that will make you feel like you, and make some guilt free time for it.  Totally easier said than done though. With this one I really have to resist developing an attitude of entitlement or demand "me-time" when I need to be giving others my time. That attitude of entitlement to "me-time" can create life sucking resentment, impatience, and general grouchiness. That attitude doesn't foster peace, gratitude and generosity.  So, we do need to carve out some time for simple pleasure and fun, but not at the expense of letting the truth of the gospel fill and refresh us as we continue to give of ourselves. That is a much stronger and less fleeting foundation. I find that the more I focus on "me-time" the more I resent anything that gets in the way of my little kingdom of self.

6. Feed your mind and soul.  Keep learning, keep growing, and keep pushing forward into the grace fuelled sanctification process.  Stretch your mind, learn to listen and discover new perspectives on various topics of interest.  I'll be honest with you.  Parenting turns my brain to mush.  Maybe even literally.  Some days I can't even remember my own phone number. We need to put something into our minds that will push out the Frozen song lyrics, and mind numbing chatter, and remind us that we are in fact adults.  Read, study, and pray.  When you don't have any moments to be still and quit, play music that will feed your soul or put on your headphones and listen to podcasts that will stretch your mind and nurture your affections for Christ.  What we put into our hearts and minds is as important as what we put into our bodies.  Guard it and feed it well.

7. Accomplish something.  I know that adding something else to the forever looming unfinished "to-do" list doesn't sound like self care but after the previous things are taken care of, venturing into this goal can actually make a difference.  Something small and doable.  Something that has been hanging over your head, or something that you have never made time to do but would either enjoy doing or feel satisfied having done it.  I'm not talking about the giant looming mountain of laundry that you never see the bottom of, or the endless rounds of dishes, or any other routinely mind numbing chore.  Something outside of the usual.  Something that actually has a start and a finish (unlike most other things we spend their time doing).  Being a full time at home mom (which I realize is a rare thing these days) can leave me feeling like I accomplish nothing while at the same time always being busy.  It can be psychologically draining and defeating after a while.  So, whether it's refinishing a piece of antique furniture, planting some flowers, or cleaning out a closet, the feeling of accomplishment and a job well done might just put a spring in your step.  This shouldn't be something to add to the weight of your oppressive list of things you failed to get done...if possible it should be something that you can escape into for a while and feel good about doing.  An example of this is I recently took the time to put a few of our trips to Baja Mexico into My Publisher photo books. Precious family memories and digital photos were tucked away in an external hard drive and had never been put into any hard copy format that could be enjoyed.  It was a bit tedious and time consuming but this was something I have been wanting to do for years.  I thoroughly enjoyed sifting through old photos and creating something that would help preserve some great family memories.

8. Change the scenery.  This will admittedly take some physical energy to pull off.  Whether it's trading the sweat pants and T-shirt streaked with kid snot for some "I get to leave my house today" clothes and just going out for a cup of coffee, or going on a little family vacation, sometimes a change is as good as a break.  Even if you have all your kids in tow. So often we just need to get away from the looming mess that is our house, the distraction of internet and phone calls, and the stress that our "to-do" list holds.  We need to see new things, experience new places, and be reminded of so much beauty around us.  We need to be reminded that we actually enjoy our children. Sometimes a change of location and scenery helps to clear our cloudy vision and mirky attitude.

9.  Make some changes.  Living in a constant state of stressed out exhaustion is not sustainable.  It's not healthy or helpful.  You may think you're pulling it off but the ulcer, high blood pressure, or weight fluctuation will expose our self deception.  I believe we can live lives that are graciously poured out, used to their fullest, and filled with beautiful life giving sacrifices without being overwhelmed to the point of burn out. I'm not sure I have that equation figured out.  Sometimes we just need to say "no" to more non essentials.  We need to let go of some "good" things for something that is much better.  Our kids don't need to be in every activity, sport, or lesson under the sun.  Limiting  extra curricular activities and commitments is an easy way to reclaim family time and some sanity.  Be careful what you choose to volunteer for.  We need to be willing to serve and minister to others but we need to be intentional and focused in how we use our time.  I cannot be on every committee, attend every meeting, or join every club.  This year we made some changes to our daily family dynamic and for the first time in 5 years we have all our school aged kids attending public school.  It may be only for a year or two and we may have more home based educating in our future but this was a change we all needed. This isn't a post about homeschooling so I won't get into the details of that but after weighing some pros and cons the scales tipped into the favour getting some of the kids out of the house and into a respite school. So far it has been a positive year for everybody, and has made me thankful for the years we were able to spend investing into our kids at home.  When it comes right down to it, you may just need to adjust your expections and standards.  I love a clean and organized home, however I am outnumbered by 7 people who do not have that standard as their goal and, in fact, try their very hardest to create the opposite.  Someday my house will be tidy and quiet.  Until then, I won't waste my time and energy fretting over it all the time.

10.  Ask for help and accept offers of it.  I just plain suck at this one.  Not gonna lie.  That's why I put it the very last.  What I know to be true, and what my pride allows are often two different things. We were created to live in genuine, grace saturated, vulnerable, community with others. We can't do this thing alone.  As Christians we were not saved to live solitary lives but rather into a body of other sisters and brothers who will help to shoulder our load and speak truth into our dull and weary hearts.  When you are faced with more unique parenting challenges like parenting a child with a disability, learning disorder, or some other special need seek out others who can relate and who can help equip you for the daily grind.  Encouragement, experience, humour, understanding...these are all life lines when you are in the trenches of parenting a child with special needs or navigating the crazy world of adoption and fostering.  All parents need encouragement and support regardless of the specifics of each family dynamic.   It doesn't matter if you're a brand new mom learning how to parent your first child, or an older seasoned mom with a house full of teenagers.  Parenting is tough stuff.

Carry on soldiers.

Now I must go finish the supper dishes and go to bed.


Miss Cece turns 5!

Because her party last year was super lamo, I decided to step it up a notch.  Fortunately because the bar has been set so low I didn't take much to pull of a spectacular event. 

Ta-da!  A make it up as you go along Minion cake.  

My glorious mess is in full view as a back drop.  Keeping it real friends.  Actually I'm just not that aware of what I'm doing when I'm snapping pictures.   If you look closely you can see that we still have no backsplash (from last years kitchen reno) and we have begun a new renovation project which will be massive as far as mess and destruction goes.  The chaos is only in it's infant stages right now but by summer will have morphed into a full fledged raging reno adolescent.  This old house needs some major work, including all new windows.  But more on that later. 

That smile.  
It melts me into a puddle. 

I actually planned ahead this year and bought some dollar store Minion theme decorations.  
I'm super original and creative like that.

As as per Cece's request I slaved all day to make corn dogs.  Naw, I just pulled the Pogo's right out of a box and threw them in the oven.  Corn dogs seem to be the kids favourite birthday treat.  Since we never eat them at any other point in the year they shall remain "special".  A delicacy if you will. 

Our own crew is enough to more than fill a table and create all kinds of loud party atmosphere.  We added a Despicable Me sound track to the "atmosphere" just to make it more fun.

The silly was running strong in most of them.

Her gifts consisted of some art and craft supplies including this strange little monkey that she can decorate herself.  
This girl LOVES to paint, draw, and "decorate" stuff.  Even our walls and furniture.  But we're working on that...for like 4 years. 

"I'm an artist Mom"

I didn't place the candles.  I guess the Minion is a liar liar pants of fire.  

She has the bestest laugh in the whole wide world.  Seriously. 

Happy Birthday Sunshine Girl!
We love you so very much.


2 Weeks in Belize

This February we went on what feels like a trip of a lifetime, although I sincerely hope that is isn't the last or only time I visit Belize.  I enjoyed it too much.

This year we were unable to take our usual road trip down to Baja Mexico for various reasons that include most of my kids returning to boring old public school and having a foster baby.  We really wanted to get away from the cold and needed to have a break from the stresses of normal life.   We could only be away for two weeks so spending two weeks driving somewhere was out of the question. 

My parents recently bought a home in Belize.  They are semi-retired and leave my husband to keep track of things on the farm while they are away for the winter.  So with some money scrimped and saved, lots of airmiles points, and cheap seats we flew our crew all the way to Belize.   Other than Aili, this was the first time our kids have flown.

We bought our tickets and planned our trip when we thought our foster baby would be leaving us by January.  Basically we thought we would need the distraction when the time came. When we realized that she would be staying with us longer, we hoped that she could come along with us since she's under two and can share a plane ticket.  We were unable to get the necessary paperwork for her to travel so we made arrangements for her to stay with friends (who recently completed their foster training and are waiting for their first placement).  We were nervous leaving her but in hindsight it worked out great for everyone involved.  She adjusted beautifully, and was well loved during those two weeks.  We were able to facetime with her while we were away, and I had made up a little laminated booklet with all our photos for her to keep and play with. 

It was an amazing trip.  For the first time we travelled as a family simply for the purpose of vacation.  Although visiting family and seeing their new house was part of it too. 

Hauling five kids around is never actually a "break", but a change of scenery is nearly the same thing.  It was restful, and peaceful.

It is such a small country that we were able to stay with my parents and yet do short day trips to all sorts of fun locations. 

The kids really enjoyed the Belize Zoo.

Tons of fresh fruit and orange juice with breakfast was one of my favorite things about Belize. 

We did some snorkelling with sharks and sting rays at Caye Caulker.

We climbed some Mayan Ruins.  These ones are Xunantunich. 

Cece and Elijah climbed up part way and then waited at the bottom with Grandma.  
It was scary having even the big kids up there!  
Skippy, impulsive, Silas was nearly giving me a heart attack.  It was so high and as you can see there was no railing...just a drop off. The view was incredible though. 

We spent a couple nights in a little cabin right on a beach in Placencia.  
It gave my parents a break from the noise and mess, and gave us some time at the ocean.  We soaked up sun until we were all thoroughly toasted. 

It was absolutely stunning.
The hotel let us use paddle boards and the kids played happily for two days.   As long as they weren't disrupting anyone else on the beach (even though it was virtually empty) we pretty much gave them free run of the place and a lot of independence to experience things. They played on the long dock, kayaked, paddle boarded, swam and snorkelled.  

Me and my camera at 5:30 am.  Yes, one of my kids woke me up that early while on vacation.  I did get to see the sun come up though. 

My parents front yard.  Its so great to see them so happy and active.  One thing about Belize and it's gorgeous climate is that you can practically live outside. Even the misquotes weren't nearly as bad as Saskatchewan in the summer.  I only saw a few of them in the evenings or if we were out hiking in the jungle. 

It's so easy and fun to be physically active there.  There's so much to do and the scenery is always beautiful. My Dad goes running every morning and he just completed a 4 day canoe race called Rute Maya, with two Guatemalan friends.  

I'm so happy for my parents to have this little farm (They have a turkey, goats, chickens, and fruit trees so I guess that qualifies) away from the farm.  It's perfect for them. 

 Poinsettia's growing outside! 

One of my parent's dogs had puppies.  

Silas and Roman helped Grandpa plant rows of orange trees. 

We hiked to a "blue hole" for a swim.

Behind Grandma and Grandpa's house is a small river.  The boys enjoyed playing there.  I was forced to get over my fears of slithering reptiles and jungle creatures and let them. 

After months of seeing nothing but snow I thoroughly enjoyed the flowers and plants. 

My pictures loaded out of order and all mixed up.
Here we are back up on Xunantunich. 

And on the beach in Placencia. 

To each his own. 

One morning we helped with some projects.  My folks have done a lot of minor renovations, and sprucing up of the place. 

Where my laundry goes to dry. 

Colour.  Wonderful colour.

 Roman's river catch.  He ate him for supper.  The lobster, not Roman.

"Look Dad, I have a moustache" 

I really enjoyed driving around (or rather sitting shot gun enjoying the scenery while my husband watch the pot holed road). Most of the houses are up on stilts like this one.  I fantasized about building my own little wooden stilt house. Because in my personal alternate reality we all move to Belize, clear a little spot in the jungle, (but also close to the beach) and build a tree house or a house on stilts.

Here is our first attempt at a GoPro video.  I wish all of you could come along for the ride, and experience Belize, but making a video for you to see is as close as I can get.  There was a few other little day adventures we went on that I only got video of and no photos.   Enjoy! 

We are so thankful that we were able to have this experience as a family, give our kids some great memories, experience another country and culture, and see more of God's beautiful creation.

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