Saturday, April 29, 2017

I Can't Afford That!

How many times have we heard that come out of our mouths?  And how many times have we heard it from others?  I don't say it anymore, and not because I can afford everything I want, but because I've learned it's often about choice.  I tired of hearing the same sentiments from acquaintances over the years, especially the words, "You're so lucky!  I wish I could afford to stay home with my kids," or the age-old "I wish we could afford to adopt."  It's a rare family that has money laying around to adopt.  It usually takes creativity and sacrifice.

We're a lot more comfortable now, but I also know what it's like to be scrounging for loose change on the floor of the car to buy a gallon of milk.  I remember the worry of living in Georgia, with nothing in savings, living in a cockroach infested apartment, and wondering how we would make rent (we found a couple to move in with us). When we lived in snowy Munich, I had no boots.  And we couldn't afford to use the air conditioning in our apartment when we lived in sweltering Washington DC. In Arizona it was a big deal to eat out, usually only for a birthday.  My Bigs still joke that they didn't even know what a Happy Meal was when they were little--it was the Family Meal of 20 piece McNuggets, 1 large fry, and 5 cups of water!  And our first adoption was funded by selling a car, doing daycare, and getting most of the kids' Christmas presents from garage sales.

And you know what?  It was hard.  But in the end it was fine!  

I do remember one particularly drastic day when James and Joe were little  I was driving home from playgroup in Maryland.  Oh, how many wonderful playgroups we've had over the years. LOVE!

Don't be jealous of those overalls!  Anyhoo, I was driving and Joe started crying in the backseat.  I thought he was just hot, even though I had the windows down as far as they would go.  James was trying to tell me something, but I could only figure out it had something to do with a shoe.  Well, before long I discovered Joe was crying because he had accidentally dropped his brand new shoe out the window!  Brand New I tell you!  And shoes were something we saved up for.  It was a BIG DEAL when the kids got shoes.  I took the next exit and drove back up the freeway, then back the same way, desperately searching for a red leather shoe.  Until that day, I never noticed how many red things are on the side of the road.  But no shoe.  Oh man!  I cried.

You will be happy to know that I do still have the remaining red, size 7 Weebok. Memories.

Yes, times were tight.  And I'm sure I often said that I wished I could afford something or other.  But we learned to find what was free, like the zoo in Washington DC.  And we relished the chance to go to special events at the White House. I especially remember the Christmas party and when Gorbachev visited.

Trust me, I wore the same dress to every event.  But you know what I know now?  It was okay!  And it was ultimately our choice to live on a small budget.  I could have worked. We both could have worked a second job.  We could have robbed a bank (wait, bad idea).  But we could have rented out a room or lived without a car. Actually, come to think of it, we didn't have a car for two years.  BUT, guess what?  Even though it was hard, it was okay!  We survived!  And again, it was about choice, and I will forever be grateful to have a car now.  And I will forever be grateful to have a washing machine after all the years of laundry mats!

We made choices.  And I fully recognize that not everyone who is struggling has choices.  But we did.  We chose to have a bunch of kids with a stay-at-home mom, on a shoestring budget.  At first we were poor college students, and then a low-income military family.  We didn't have a lot of things, but I have no regrets.   We chose to adopt a bunch more kids, even when we didn't know where the money would come from.  We pinched and squeezed and made it work.

I made my dress and Lizzy is wearing the baptismal gown I made for James when he was born.  Unfortunately, I used cheap fabric for the gown.  Trust me.  Spend the money for good fabric when sewing something to be treasured! 

Now, life is a lot easier, at least economically. We both work.  And you know my part-time social work position is bringing in the big bucks.  Ha!  But Hubby's hard work has given him a solid management position.  And our kids are growing up and becoming independent adults.  Of course, having a houseful of teenagers isn't cheap, and there are still things I would like to buy, or have, or do, but instead of saying, "I can't afford that," I try to say, "I am choosing to spend my money in a different way."  Because really, that's the truth.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Be Fearless And Journey

 Every morning I come downstairs and make a pot of coffee.  I love grasping hold of my mother-in-law's sugar bowl.  How many days did she do the same?  I usually pick a Destination mug, but today I needed some inspiration from the never-ending grey that has fogged my brain.  I reached in the back and pulled out this treasure from Kelly Rae Roberts.  Years ago I bought matching for each of my sisters, and today I thought of each precious sibling as I sipped my morning love and drank in fresh inspiration.    

Embrace Possibility ~ Wear More Skirts ~ Be Fearless ~ Surprise Yourself And Do The Things You Didn't Think You Could Do ~ Believe In Healing ~ Speak Of Your Gratitude ~ Ask Questions ~ Explore The Night Sky ~ Seek Joy ~ Take The Journey Back To Your Self ~ Be Quirky Be Yourself ~ Begin ~ Share Your Story ~ Dance In Your Livingroom ~ Acknowledge Your Talents ~ Surround Yourself With Beauty ~

Monday, April 24, 2017

Quite Possibly The Cutest Post Ever

Meet our newest family member, an adorable, playful, and very sweet kitten named Mojo.  We haven't had a cat for a loooong time, because of Patrick's asthma, but Patrick seems to have outgrown his allergies so we are now proud owners of this sweet little ball of fur.  

I've always considered myself more of a dog person, but Mojo has converted me, and I am now a full-fledged cat lover.  I even missed a day of work because I was worried he would be lonely in his new home.  Is there such a thing as bonding leave with pets?  And does this question put me on the trajectory for becoming a crazy cat lady???

Saturday, April 22, 2017

He Is Risen Indeed!

Easter is the promise of new beginnings and new hope.  Ours was especially meaningful this year because Mei Mei was baptized in a beautiful candlelit Easter Eve service, followed by Easter brunch the next morning.  Happy Easter!  The Lord is risen indeed!

Congratulations Mei Mei on officially becoming a member of our family of faith.  You are surrounded by love, and always will be.  You have such a precious heart for God and goodness. The priest was right when she said you are one of the most joy-filled people to ever be baptized. We are blessed to have you in our family and WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!  

Friday, April 14, 2017

Grief and Good Friday

After returning from California I experienced exhaustion and the blues.  At first I thought it was just getting back in the groove after too little sleep and so much excitement.  Later, I thought it was probably just returning to the real life of work, school, and catch-up.  I mean, really, it's not fun to come home to filing taxes (hello procrastination!) and homeschool (was Brutus a betrayer or a patriot when he killed Julius Caesar?).

But as the days wore on I knew it was something more.  Something I couldn't put my fingers on.  As I was looking through old photo albums I kept coming across the same images that had popped into my mind in California.

Joe at Disneyland.  Joe at the White House.  Joe laughing with siblings.

Our visit to Reagan's Library brought back so many memories.  It was fun to see the youngest kiddos in front of the Presidential helicopter that we used to watch take-off from the White House lawn.

Hubby worked at the White House so we had some awesome privileges.  Back then they allowed a lot more access so we were allowed to be up-close-and-personal, and being two kids from the sticks we were awed by it all.  As well we should have been.  Many special and very cool memories.

There are certain parts of Disney that can only flash back.

Grief's claws come out and rip unexpectedly.

Vacations will never be the same.  Life will never be the same.  We are missing a piece to our puzzle, which makes the whole scene look incomplete.  And the only way to walk through grief is to acknowledge it, allow it to be, and keep walking through it.

Just before we went to California I had been cleaning the bookshelf in the boys' bedroom.  Sigh. There are so many I will keep forever simply because they were Joe's favorites.  We don't have a lot of Joe's things.  He had moved out before we lost him and he was a non-materialistic kind of guy. Most of what we have are his toys and books from childhood.  Joe was this unusual combination of high intelligence, athlete, yet kid-at-heart.  He played with toys forever!  His favorites: Transformers, Beast Wars, Star Wars, Nerf, Matchbox, and made-up-games with baseball cards.  He also loved to read, especially non-fiction, science fiction, adventure, and books with animals.

Some of his belongings had been packed away for safekeeping.  I decided it's time to bring them out. Let's enjoy them, not hide them away.

It's Good Friday. I can understand a bit of what Mary felt.

But Easter is coming.  New life. New hope.  New memories mixing with the old, bringing thankfulness for all that we had together, in the short time we shared.

Until we meet again.  Thank you Jesus.

Friday, April 7, 2017

California Life!

Someone was in her element!

This is about all I saw of my older kids--they love the big rides!

Big crowds, long lines, broken rides (including waiting 90 minutes for the raft ride which broke 30 seconds in!), but many happy memories.

At least for most of us.  Patrick got food poisoning and was violently ill.  My Mickey ears off to all the Disney employees at the first aid who helped him!  He was so sick he couldn't walk, so they helped us get him to the car.  If Patrick has an aversion to Disney for the rest of his life, we will all know why!

It took him three days to recover!

Before Patrick's demise we went to Ronald Reagan's Library.  Super cool!  Each child wanted their photo behind the podium.

Wish we could have had those options for President!

Swimming and beach time too--the sunset was amazing!

Afterwards we went to a mall, and our last day we met up with a very special friend and hit a glow-in-the-dark indoor fun arena.

California.  Oh how I love thee!