I just realized that 13 years ago today I gave birth to my first child.
That sounds so very odd to say because celebrating your first born entering their teenage years is typically a pretty big deal.

I guess it's just not when that 13 year old has been missing for 13 of those years.

He's not here to remind us with his adolescent boy presence.  I'm not reminding him to go shower and to hang up his towel when he's finished.  I'm not wondering how on earth I'm going to keep him fed during his growth spurts. I'm not wondering how my little boy got taller than me so quickly, or assuring him no one notices when his voice cracks, or begin to see glimpses of the man he would become.

I don't do those things.   So when this day roles around, it doesn't come with a birthday morning hug, it doesn't come with cake and candles, it doesn't come with me tucking him in the night before thinking "this will be the last time I see him as a 12 year old".

Rather, it generally sneaks up on me.  There is an awareness every Spring that this is indeed his month, that Memorial Day long weekend was memorialised for me 13 years ago....but then life goes on.  The days clip by, life is lived, five children are tucked into beds every night, and fed breakfast each morning.   His birthday came as a quick check on the date on my watch after everyone had gone to bed... and a sudden realization that this is his birthday.  The. Day.  The day he was born.  The day he died.  The day I held him.  The day I said my final goodbye.  One day.  It's been 13 years since that day.

I've been a Mother for 13 years...but I'm pretty sure I was a Mommy before he was actually born, and continued to be a Mommy even when I ceased to have a child.  I first felt that fierce mother's heart when I realized that I would die to save the baby kicking inside me.  But I couldn't.  I lived and he died.

I carried in my body a child who I knew would not be mine for long.  His life was short, but I have no doubts that the ripples of that in tiny life continue far beyond my view.   His feet may have been small, but they left a print on this world.

The One who knit him together in my womb was not asleep the day he was born, He wasn't powerless while half my sons heart wasn't forming, and He didn't make a mistake when his chromosomes included one extra.   There is not a rogue atom in this universe that escapes the view of God.  I am confident of this, and rest completely in that assurance.

At the same time the sting of death, the complete and utter sorrow that is a mother burying her child reminds us that this is not what was once declared "good".  There's no way to escape the wrongness of it. There is no "silver lining" when one of my children is missing from the dinner table for 13 years.   When you hold your own dead child there is no pretending that death is just a "natural" part of life.  There is no white washing the sorrows that this sin corrupted, fallen world brings ...but there is hope beyond it...and our Hope came down into it.  "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; (Isaiah 53:4) ", and he has victory over it (Isaiah 25:8).  Death does not have the final word.  The sorrows of this world may not be good, but He is.

"Therefore we do not lost heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Cor. 4:16-18

In the weight of all eternity.... affliction now will seem so light and momentary.
In his faithfulness, 13 years ago, He afflicted me with a grief I thought I couldn't bear...and I discovered I didn't have to.

Thirteen years later, I thank God for it, and for bringing so much beauty from ashes.

So today, there may not have been a brand new teenager blowing out his candles...but there was celebration of life.

There was sunshine, laughter, and playing.
We ate our lunch next to dear friends out on fresh new green grass.
There was a clown and balloons and a big walking sun.
We even ate cake, and ice cream.

(and ribbons won for potato sack races)

We may not have taken the time to specifically celebrate or solemnly remember Samuel...or ended up anywhere near a cemetery....
but maybe a day spent enjoying life, soaking up the sweetest things, worshipping together with friends, and loving deeply is the best way to remember my first born.

Happy 13th Birthday precious one.   Right now, as I remember the weight of you in my arms and looking into your eyes,  I wish could give you a big hug around your neck and tell you that in person.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not pus to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been give to us." Romans 5:1-5

Sli Deo Gloria,


Recycling poo and planting seeds

Despite working long days in a much bigger tractor putting seeds into fields, my hubby made time to prepare my garden for seeding.  I'm so thankful for that because my garden is getting in a few weeks later than usual..and time was running out. We had such a late winter here.  

He brought over a truck load of manure from the farm yard, which up until several years ago, always housed a lot of cattle.  The cattle are long gone, but their poopy bedding was left behind.  Lucky for me, the straw and manure has now decomposed into a beautiful dirt filled with lovely organic matter, without even a hint of manure smell.  I plant my garden quite aggressively  using up every square inch of space and our natural soil isn't very good.  Last year the dirt was like cement, it was so hard I couldn't even dig the carrots..it was also very nutrient depleted and nothing grew very well.  I knew that this year the soil needed some TLP if it was expected to grow anything.

Elijah was delighted to be my "helper" this year.

He did a great job of planting Popsicle sticks.

He also discovered the water hose.

The rest of the kids were off raiding the kitchen or making mischief somewhere else.  My helper and I got most of the garden planted but we didn't finish the task until after I bought some more seed packets a couple days later. 

Gardening day number two included many more "helpers"

As sweet as it appears to have five kids planting a garden, I can assure you that it is not. 
Slightly controlled chaos that included a lot of dirt, water, and seed packets being spilled. All I know is that there are seeds in that dirt.  Beyond that, it's going to be one big surprise. 

Elijah wasn't so happy the second time around.  Mostly because the other kids, and mom, kept using his garden hose (which now has a fancy spray gun on the end that is fun to soak people with)

Eventually I packed the kids indoors, washed muddy hands and feet, changed muddy clothes, served a snack and put on a movie.   Then I returned to my quiet garden to finish the job.  Oh the serenity of gardening alone.  

I reminded myself that it's good for them to dig in dirt, and poke kernels of corn into the ground, and to know where their food comes from.   I also reminded myself that I like gardening alone. 

I'm already looking forward to seeing my little plants pushing up through the soil, and producing a yummy summer harvest of crunchy goodness.  


Progress and Perspective.

{I took these pictures one morning when he was working really hard at walking.  He was overheating during his workout and taken off his shirt. Karate Kid and Rocky have nothing on this kid}

We've had this boy in our arms for nearly four months now.  Hard to believe it's been that long, and yet  I struggle to remember life before all the changes.   Honestly sometimes I try to remember and resurrect a glimpse of the longing and waiting feelings, so I don't take for granted the reality that he's here. 

 I try to remember the "me" that couldn't wait to kiss these chubby cheeks, the "me" that soaked up all the newness and beautiful fulfilment of those first few weeks. 

 I try to remember that child we knew for those first few weeks that seemed to "good" to be true, the child that never fussed, deceived  demanded, or defied...but I know that was just the surface facade of self preservation, and now we're mucking through the layers of hurt that are hiding underneath.  
Now it's just life.  
The daily grind.

I'm having a hard time stepping back and having perspective sometimes.  Maybe like that saying "I can't see the forest through the trees".  Some days I feel one of the trees has actually fallen on me (or maybe five or six of them), which makes it even harder to step back and appreciate the beauty.  Mostly I'm too tired to crawl out from underneath, so I strain my vision to catch a glimpse of the tiny, easily missed beautiful things down here in the dirt under the trees.  

I know the beauty is there though, and I trust that even in the hard moments, this is the gritty work of redemption.   As his muscles and tendons are being stretched, pulled, and strained....my own heart is being stretched, pulled and strained.  Like he does when I stretch him physically  I find myself resisting the internal work, wishing for comfort and familiarity.   This work of progress is hard stuff. 

It's not always pretty.   The progress is not at all linear. 

 Some days I still see that side of Elijah that I  did at the beginning, the quiet perseverance, the tenacity, the cooperative eagerness to please.   Other days we begin the day with whining, tantrums, and tears and carry it on through until bedtime.  Some days he wants to put his own socks on and some days he cries and tells me I'm mean and throws his socks.  

Every day he swings wildly between being terrified he will be sent away, or abandoned, and then telling me, with a cold glint in his eye, that he wants to leave and go to China (or anywhere)....then he's back to crying " no bye-bye" and clinging and telling me that he doesn't want to go on an airplane.  

It's heart breaking to see his turmoil.  I have to be his rock, the steady one, I do my best to remain calm, to let my love be consistent, to reach out and draw in the rage, and hold it in my arms.  Taking his hurt into myself. 

...but on the inside I just don't feel like that rock.  Sometimes I feel like I'm close to being the child in response.  There are moments I think he deserved better.  A mom with more patience, more strength, less selfishness, and someone who knows a heck of a lot more about parenting a child with a difficult past and about cerebral palsy than I do.  I remind myself that God placed him here, this was his idea, and he is sufficient to carry this through to completion.  

Gotcha day, and arriving home at the airport is a beautiful completion to all the work it took to make a child our own.  An orphan became a son, but in reality, gotcha day is just the beginning of a journey we won't be finished on this side of eternity. 

 The Lord uses the flawed and the weak, to show his grace and strength

..thank goodness for that because that's the only way that anything good can come out of crazy household.  

I've been really conflicted on how honest to be on this blog about our adoption and experiences.  While I want to be vulnerable and real I also don't want to moan, or whine, or somehow paint adoption as anything less than awesome.   It is awesome...and hard...and beautiful...and ugly...and rewarding...and demanding.    Each situation is so different, and I know from what I read about the experiences of others things could be a LOT harder.  

He really is a sweet boy, he loves to be loved, and he has adjusted well in SO many ways.   I think anytime an older child is adopted there will be challenges though.  You bring home, with that child, their whole history full of hurts, abandonment, loss, grief, memories, fears, and survival techniques.  They are little survivors...and sometimes what helped them survive in an institution, doesn't blend in seemlessly into a family setting.  It's a learning curve wrought with failures along the way.  For each of us.

I share these things because I need to be able to look back four months from now, or one year from now, or ten years from now and thank God for how far we've come.  Like a little map through the forest. 

Things that are sometimes a challenge with Elijah are:

-extreme insecurity and hyper-vigilance.
-still missing his foster grandparents (although less intense as time goes by)
-extreme jealousy (mainly of mom's affections and full undivided attention)
-entitlement/ demanding
-hoarding, stashing, sneaking, hiding things (especially in little bags by the back door...just in case)
- relentless clinging and whining.
-fear of all animals.
-indiscriminate affection.
-requires a lot of lifting, carrying, and assisting for daily activities (we're hoping that before he gets much bigger that his mobility will increase as well as our accommodations) 
- he gets very frustrated when his speech is not understood.
- Sharing.  Someone getting something that he doesn't have is a guaranteed anger trigger (and in his mind solid proof they are loved more than he is).  
-A general lack of content independent activity (which I know he has the capacity for)
 - Spitting when mad.

Some of the success and things we're very thankful for are:

-He, for the most part, accepts our love and his role as our son. (which is huge)
-He understands and uses basic manners, please and thankyou etc. (although being a 6yr old boy still forgets sometimes)
-We see the results of some loving parenting/ training that he has had in foster care (basic boundaries, self care, relational skills)
-He is fully potty trained day and night. 
-He sleeps all night independently
-His English vocabulary is increasing (although his pronunciation has not yet caught up)
- His walking is really starting to take off. 
-He doesn't have scoliosis yet, and he doesn't need hip surgery.
-He doesn't generally lash out physically when he's upset (only on one occasion of extreme duress did has he resorted to trying to bite and pinch my arms).
- I've discovered he loves to sit on the deck and blow bubbles.  It's the only thing he'll happily do independently  and clearly we will be going through a LOT of bubble solution this summer. 
- he's been healthy, growing, and has a good appetite for a variety of nutritious foods. 

We just got approved for funding to get him an adapted bike!

I would say that any older child adoption is a "special needs" adoption for those reasons, but then when you add a new realm of parenting through particular disabilities or medical needs....that's a whole new learning curve added in there too.   One "special need" doesn't cancel the other out.  

My challenge is figuring out how to balance it all, parenting this child who needs so much time and attention without neglecting the various needs of the other four kids, schooling, household, and husband. Someday's I feel like I've got the hang of this...and someday's it feels like there isn't quite enough of me to go around....and I start to resent anyone asking anything of me at all.   At that point the focus shifts from the One who can sustain and back onto "me".  There in lies the biggest problem.

He didn't choose to have cerebral palsy.  He didn't choose to be an orphan.  He didn't choose to be put on a plane and flown to his new home across the world.  He didn't choose to have to learn a new language and not be understood by his new family.  He didn't choose to be dealing with any of the struggles he has to work through.  He isn't choosing to be difficult.    I have to remind myself of that sometimes....as ridiculous as that might seem.   

So many of the issues he's struggling with are just symptoms of deep fear and insecurity.   I'm praying that the longer he's home, the more safe and secure he will feel.  Once that assurance of our love starts to take root those other things will start to fall away.  

I see the boy that's hiding beneath the fear and he's a pretty amazing little guy. 

"Elijah strong"

"good good"

This little guy truly is a blessing, and he is so very loved.  He is extremely generous with affection, and soaks it up from us as well.  That truly is a gift.  

Look at that posture! 

Life is full of light and shadow
O the joy and O the sorrow
O the sorrow

And yet will He bring
Dark to light
And yet will He bring
Day from night

When shadows fall on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When all seems lost
When we're thrown and we're tossed
We'll remember the cost
We're resting in the
Shadow of the cross

With every breath I take, every heart beat
Sunrise and the moon lights in the dark street
Every glance, every dance, every note of a song
All a gift undeserved that I shouldn't have known
Every moment I lie, Every moment I covet
I'm deserving to die, I'm earning your judgment
I, without the cross there's only condemnation
If Jesus wasn't executed there's no celebration
So in times that are good, in times that are bad
For any time I've had it all I will be glad
And I will boast in the cross, I boast in His name
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in His reign 
What's my life if it's not praising You
Another dollar in my bank account of vain pursuit, I do
That count my life as any value or precious at all
Let me finish my race, let me answer Your call


Farm Boy

It's seeding time again on the farm.   
Our life here is marked by the seasons. 

This is Elijah's first seeding time, his first Spring on the Canadian prairie.

We went out to the field today to take Daddy his supper.   It was good for Elijah to see where Daddy is.  Now he'll have a picture in his mind when we answer "Daddy's driving the tractor" or "Daddy's working" in response to the question "whew is Daddy?" asked a thousand times a day.

This is where Daddy spends his days and evenings lately.

Farm kids are used to the ebb and flow of the seasons, and understanding that sometimes Daddy is home a lot and sometimes he's very scarce. 

Change is a little harder on this guy, who very much appreciates ritual and routine, but he's been a trooper...and he does LOVE tractors.

God knew what he was doing when he matched these two up.

"Look mommy, I'm a farmer girl!"

"As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night,
           will never cease."  Genesis 8:22

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord".... 
...My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high
My mouth boasts over my enemies, 
  for I delight in your deliverance."  
1 Samuel 1:27,28- 2:4


Planting Stuff

This past Saturday I had big plans that included getting caught up on housecleaning, kids happily doing chores, and a to-do list being neatly checked off.  
After a few hours of frustration and working hard accomplishing nothing I decided to call it quits and go do something with my kids outside.  The clean house just wasn't happening no matter how much I tried. 

I decided to recycle a drawer from a cabinet my husband had built years ago that we recently disposed of.  We upgraded our 12 year old tv to a new flatscreen hanging on our wall so our "entertainment cabinet" was not longer needed.  It was pretty beat up and we have no space left in our house to put it so we chucked it...but not before I snatched out a couple of the drawers to use as planters.   This one used to house CD's...back before we discovered itunes. 

My little garden plot hasn't been worked up and made ready for planting yet but we thought we'd get a start on planting some herbs.  

First we drilled some drainage holes.

Then we added a mix of compost and potting soil.

Then mommy got kind of possessive with the teeny herb seeds refusing to share them, after being annoyed that the kids were tearing open packages, spilling seeds, and putting them in the wrong places...then she reminded herself that this was supposed to be a "fun" activity for them.

Finally we added some water to our little pots and drawer full of potential herbalicious goodness.

It's also seeding time again on the farm.  Which equates to long days in the field for the hubby, and parenting sola season for me.  

In other news: 
Silas got his mowhawk.   The doo he's been begging for. 
I was sad to see his shaggy hair go again, but I am surprised at how much I like this new look.   

As it turns out my handsome little guy looks adorable even with a mowhawk.