Returning to the Words

by Camille on August 2, 2015

A year ago long, long time ago, in a galaxy one zip code over far, far away, there was a girl semi-regularly sending her thoughts out into the universe, occasionally raising her nouns and verbs against the dark forces of evil….but mostly documenting the misadventures of her ridiculously adorable kids. 

Then life, as its prone to do, changed trajectory, and the girl found herself fully occupied navigating through the meteor showers of a new baby and changing family needs. All energies required for hyper-survival-drive, she took her potential blog thoughts and shoved them into the carbonite-frozen corner of her brain. 

But today, she returns…..<cue impressive theme hopefully penned by John Williams>

Hello dear readers! It has been too long. Except for a few brief adoption fund-raising posts, I haven’t visited this blog since April 2014, and the longer I’ve stayed away, the more awkward and intimidating I’ve found the return journey.

Life has been so full, so rich over the past year, but it’s also been painfully heart-rending in ways I wasn’t brave enough or talented enough to share in words. Silence seemed easier and more honest.

But I need this outlet. This thing that is mine alone. This intentional time to reflect and attempt to order the scattered parts of life into a meaningful narrative. So here is my toe for you, dipping tentatively back into the water and attempting a return to the words.

To begin, I thought I’d share with you some of the posts I might have written over the past year if I’d kept blogging.

Welcome Baby Micah!

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IMG_3216Alternates:

Sleep Deprivation Comes in Deceptively Precious Packages

Paper, Rock, Scissors and a Dozen Other Creative Ways to Delay Facing the Poop

 

Get Your Kids a Kid! Promoting Unity Through Bovidae Bonding

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Alternates:

Goats in Pajamas: Facing Relentless Peer Pressure to Clothe Your Livestock

Farm-life Parenting: Swollen Teats and 101 Other Fun Conversations to Have With Your Toddler

 

Official Adoptions #3 and #4

Alternates:

Can We Just Have Our Own Room Now, Please?

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A Frozen Birthday

How We Let It Go

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Dear Disney, I Love You

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Alternates:

Indulging Your Inner Child While Making Your Kids Think This Vacation is Actually About Them

Move Over Kiddos; Mama Wants Her Wand

The #Adopt2GetHer Fundraising Yard Sale

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Alternates:

The Worst Sunburn I’ve Ever Had in My Life

Junk PTSD: Is That What I Think It Is?!?

The One in Which Charlie May Have Considered Divorce

Feeling All the Feels: Gratitude, Exhaustion, Frustration, Exhilaration. ALL the Feels.

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My Chubby Monkey Turns One

(Thanks to Cindy Meisch Photography for some lovely birthday pics!)

Micah in Chair

Alternates:

Wait, what?

The One in Which I Ugly Cry

Pass the Poutine! Why I Adore the “Eh” Team

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Alternates:

Legit Maple Syrup Doesn’t Come From a Log Cabin

Land of a Million Lakes; See You at the Cottage!

Hey, Girl, Ryan Gosling is 100% Canadian; They Win!

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Of course, the year had some challenging times too, such as: 

Inflammatory Drama: Chronic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, and Plantar’s Fasciitis

In Our House, the Little Mermaid Wears a Life Jacket or That Time Herdest Almost Drowned

Dear Childhood Trauma, I’d Like to Punch You in the Face

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From LISC Chicago. The outcomes of Adverse Childhood Experiences

 

And a few more random thoughts, for instance:

What the HECK Happened to My Little Ponies?

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But hey, I can’t cover 15+ months in one blog post, so I’ll call it a day for now. I hope to find more time to write soon. Love to you all!

 

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WIN A QUILT; MAKE A FAMILY!

by Camille on March 16, 2015

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Imagine yourself snuggled under this stunning quilt…perhaps in a hammock rocked gently by the breeze….a good book in one hand and a glass of lemonade in the other as you welcome the approaching spring.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

For only $25, you can be one of the few who gets a chance to bring home this gorgeous work of art.

BEST OF ALL, your money will go directly to support bringing home a precious girl from Central America to her forever family in Memphis, TN.

Adoption Fundraiser

As you may already be aware, I’m attempting to help raise funds for my sweet friend, Kellie Maske.

Kellie and Ana

She adopted her 10-year-old daughter, Ana, from Guatemala in 2005, and after years of waiting to grow her family, she was unexpectedly matched with a 9-year-old daughter. Kellie is a single mom, and with the rapid nature of this special-needs adoption opportunity, she needs you, the body of Christ, to rally around her financially. Kellie has made one of the three required trips to her daughter’s country, but she needs help raising funds to cover the remaining travel and adoption expenses.

Thus, we are currently hosting an Easter basket fundraiser to

BRING ANA’S SISTER HOME!!!

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For every $5 donated, your name is written on an Easter egg and placed into a basket. On Saturday, April 4, Ana will draw a name, and that person will receive a $100 Amazon giftcard. 

Win the Quilt! 

But NOW, for every $25 you donate, you will ALSO be entered in a chance to win this beautiful quilt, hand-crafted by the talented and creative Janet Middlekauf of Simply Pieced.  Check out her blog to see more of her fabulous creations.

Janet says this quilt is a collection of celebrations all sewn together. Each piece of fabric was originally chosen for a quilt given to celebrate a newborn, an adoption, a marriage, or a graduation. As quilts are completed, the remnants are collected and stored for future projects, Over time, these remnants become part of a new story. Our prayer is that this story is one of hope. A story of a new family being created.

The quilt, in a flying geese pattern, was pieced and quilted on a domestic machine and the binding finished by hand. The finished quilt measures 68 x 60 inches, and would make a perfectly unique Easter, Mother’s Day, birthday, or baby gift.

Oh, and Janet also happens to be my best friend, so I can personally attest to the elaborate and intricate detail and generous love she pours into every stitch. (And hey, unless you become her BFF and get married or birth or adopt a child, you are probably not getting one of these quilts anytime soon. This is the easier path, folks. May the odds be ever in your favor!)

And for those of you who have already stepped up with generous donations, don’t worry! We’ll make sure to add your names to the quilt drawing the appropriate number of times.

How to Give

There are two options for giving. Click this button:

Make a Donation Button

Or visit Kellie’s You Caring page and use your credit card to donate there.

Of course, if you’re feeling exceedingly generous (or just really have a thing for quilts), please feel free to contact me at cclebel@gmail.com for details on how to make a larger, tax-deductible donation.

Every tiny bit helps to bring Ana’s sister home. Every donation stretches one more mile on the journey to make this family. We pray Easter blessings on you as your family enters this special season, and we offer our most sincere thanks for taking the time to support Kellie and Ana.

 

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Bring Ana’s Sister Home!

by Camille on March 1, 2015

Hello dear friends.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Kellie Maske and her 10-year-old daughter, Ana.

Kellie and Ana

I met Kellie through a local adoption support group, and she has become a dear friend. Kellie, a single mom, adopted Ana from Guatemala in 2005. With a desire to build her family, she started the process to bring home another child from Central America a few years later. However, due to endless delays and disappointments beyond her control, the process slowed to a painful crawl.  She’d almost given up hope. But then, late last year, a call came, and her agency offered Kellie the opportunity to adopt a 9-year-old girl.

She and Ana are THRILLED to bring home another member to their family, but this special needs adoption opportunity was an unexpected blessing. Kellie has made one of the three required trips to her daughter’s home country, but she needs help to raise $12,000 to cover the remaining travel and adoption expenses. This is where WE NEED YOU!

Please help us to FILL ANA’S EASTER BASKET to bring her sister home!

Easter Basket

For every $5 donated, we’ll put your name on an Easter egg.

Easter Eggs

The day before Easter, Ana will draw a name, and if you win, we’ll send you a $100 Amazon gift card. That’s a LOT of Cadbury bunnies folks. Peeps galore!

Peeps

But best of all, with every donation, you’re helping to make possible a new future for a little girl who has waited her entire life for a forever family.

There are several easy options for giving. If you have a PayPal account, just click the link below.

Make a Donation Button

You can also go to Kellie’s You Caring page and donate using your credit card.

Or, if you’re feeling uniquely generous and want to make a more sizable, tax-deductible donation, please contact me at cclebel@gmail.com for details.

We pray hope, joy, peace, and all the blessings of the Easter season surround your family, and we thank you for your gifts!

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Dear Ellie: Happy 3rd Birthday!

by Camille on April 15, 2014

So last year, I wrote you this lengthy post full of sappy love and discussed in detail how you’re just really an overachiever on this whole growing up thing. I must report that this year has seen no improvement. You seem bound and determined to skip from 3 to 30 at light speed, and we’re just trying to keep up. So here’s a peek into your interpretation of THREE:

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Weight: 32 lbs (A gain of 4 lbs)

Height: 38 inches (A gain of 4 inches)

Your growth seems to be leveling off a bit, but you are still one of the tallest among your peers. Dr. Benaim reports that despite your slight weight gain, you are on a normal growth curve. She also remarked on your obvious intelligence, which I’m sure she does not say to all the parents.

TALKING

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You have grown exponentially in this area, and as an educator and language lover, watching your development here has been one of my greatest joys as a parent. Seemingly overnight, you moved from naming objects with one word and a pointing, chubby finger to your current lexicon. Thus, I present a little peak into a day spent chatting with you.

“Mama! I up. I wanna watch Daniel Tiguh. I wan cottage cheese! Big cottage cheese. Blow my nose mama. Hehp me peese! I needta go pee pee. Come wid me! I wan waater. I want my COTTAGE CHEESE! It’s YUMMY in my tummy! Just a minute? Okay! I needa napkin! Gimme a napkin! ……I sorree. Peese gimme a napkin. And I want some, I want some, some ceeeweal. And yogut. And cheese! I want BIG cheese! “

“Mama! I wanna go to the chiwen’s moosem. We go the chiwen’s moosem? We go the zoo?  I wanna go to the zoo and see the aminals! The bears not seeping. The ewephants not seeping! Let’s go the zoo! Mama! I wanna go somewhere NOW. We see my fwens? I see Natawie and Bwandon? Noah? Baby Hannah? Sam? I wanna, I wanna, I wanna go play at the pahk and go down the swide weel fast! I wanna see Nana. I go to the camp and see the woostuh? Where Daddy? Daddy not here? Daddy at work? I wanna wide the twactor with Daddy! I wide it all day!”

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 I don’t wanna do my hair. No, no, NO! I get candy you do my hair? I wanna sucker. A big sucker. So pwetty! I so pwetty Mama!”

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“I wanna wear my jammies. Okay! I wear my pwincess dwess. Not those shoes!

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“Mama! Shhhh! Baby (doll) is seeping. That not your room. Baby SEEPING in there! Turn the light off! Shhhhh. I put baby to bed.”

“Chapsdick! Where is my chapsdick? I can’t find my chapsdick. Wipstick? I want your wipstick.” (In a pinch, you’ll settle for mascara, paint, ointment, or anything else that can be smeared on your face.)

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“Mama! The doctor is IN! You sick. Lay down now. You reawy sick. I make you awww better!”

“Mama! I no take a nap! No west! I not sweepy! NO!!!”

“Mama! I hehp you cook dinner! I hehp. I stir da food, and I taste. Just a wiiiiddle bite, okay? It’s okay Mama, I just take a widdle bite. Just one, three bites….all done!”

“Mama! Sit by me! You my fwen. You my best fwen. I wuv you THIIIIIS MUCH! I wuv you to the sky.”

Yes, pretty much all  your words start with a loud and abrupt noun of address to ensure you’ve got my complete attention, and much of the day is filled with commands and endless requests. However, you’re already a champion at knowing which words melt mama’s heart, and in my mind, one widdle “I wuv you” rivals the most intricately crafted love poems ever written.

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Your Favorites

Television/Movies: Daniel Tiger, Doc McStuffins, Thomas the Train, and Frozen (Obviously.)

Songs (favorites as in, you know all the words and sing them all day long. Loudly): “Let It Go”, from Frozen, which I hear no less than a dozen times a day. Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee, Old McDonald, ABCs, the Barney song, and most other traditional toddler selections.

Of course, you spend a lot of time listening to music with your older sister, who was kind enough to create an “Ellie-approved” playlist  on her phone. And honestly, Mama can only take so much of Old McDonald. Thus, you’re also well-versed in P!nk, Fun, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift among others. Listening to you belt “Truhble, truhble, truhble…” from the backseat is kinda hilarious.

Toys: You’re still really into baby dolls, and as I noted above, you have no issues with kicking me out of my bedroom because your babies are napping in my bed. You’ve also added dress-up clothes/shoes/jewelry, play-doh, and a variety of riding toys to your favorites this year. Of course, being outside trumps all else, and you especially love your new playhouse.

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Technology: Ah, my little narcissist. You like nothing more than scrolling through videos and pictures of yourself, over and over and over. You also have regular conversations with Talking Carl on the iPad; it’s just precious when you provide that high-pitched scream for him to repeat. You also have started showing a lot of interest in the Interactive Alphabet and Park Math.

Foods: In case you missed it, cottage cheese! Also, spinach, carrots, kale, squash—wait, what? Sorry. I started fantasizing again.  Really, it’s ice cream, suckers, cupcakes, chips, cookies, noodles, chicken tenders, hot wings, and Ketchup. So yeah, you’re a typical American kid there. Of course, we try to limit these things and push the fruits and veggies, but you are becoming more and more talented at picking out the tiniest particles containing actual nutritional value and replacing them with ketchup. Or a request for more cheese. Mama is having to get really creative and approach dinner in a super-stealth mode. <Cue Mission Impossible theme here.>

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Obsessions

Chapstick: In the past few months, we have purchased enough Chapstick to ensure smooth lips for the entire population of Iceland in winter. There are empty Chapstick tubes wedged your carseat, behind the crib, under the couch, in random drawers…everywhere. Night or day, there’s rarely a moment where your fist isn’t closed around a tube, and you reapply liberally. We took away your pacifier last year, and you promptly replaced it. You showed us. I actually asked the doctor if you’d get sick from ingesting so much of the cherry-flavored wax, but she assures me you’ll grow out of it. As it’s not really hurting anything, we’ve decided to let you keep the lip balm for now as it seems to help you calm down in times of stress. In the meantime, you give extremely moisturized kisses.

The Cat: For Christmas, your big sister got a cat, Bipsy. You spend much of your day LOVING the cat. You show your unparalleled adoration by hauling the cat around like a rag doll, putting her in your baby stroller, wrestling her, checking her teeth, chasing her, dragging her from under furniture by a paw or tail, and throwing her in the toilet. As you might imagine, she completely adores you. Or something like that. In any case, Mama is extremely grateful for the cat, for as any other self-respecting member of the feline community likely would have rearranged your face by now, Bipsy meets you with stolid resignation rather than gnashing (or sinking) of teeth.

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And really, you don’t discriminate. You adore all cats equally.

Changing clothes: Too much! Enough with the fifteen daily wardrobe changes. Every time I turn around, you have stripped off one outfit in exchange for another, leaving your room in a clothing-covered state of disaster. It’s as though you’ve decided not to hurt the feelings of any of your clothes by making sure to wear ALL of them for at least five minutes a day. Your favorites remain a purple princess dress, and of course, pajamas.

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Painting your nails and putting on makeup. 

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Free hair: You used to let me experiment with your hair, and we did things like this:

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Then one day (about the time you started singing “Let It Go”…hmmm…) you decided that hair bows, clips, and rubber bands were like hot coals on your head and can no longer be tolerated. You actually scream, “I WANT my hair IN my face!”

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And by God, hair with that much sheer awesomeness should be allowed freedom! Sadly, keeping those curls appropriately conditioned and combed was nearing the 45-minute mark, and since you allow me about 45 seconds to do your hair, we needed a solution.

Thus, I took you to get your hair cut.

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Your hair is free, but also NOT in your face. (Mom for the win!)

Activities

Of course, you’re still a HUGE fan of

the Zoo

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the Children’s Museum (which added a splash park this year)

Playdates 

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Swimming!

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And recently, you’ve added to your “coolest thing EVER” list: 

Your new cousin, Baby Kinley:

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Riding the tractor with your daddy: He hops on the tractor, and you literally bolt toward him. 20 degrees? No problem. Raining? Bring it on. You are a true farm girl, and rather than a white steed, your prince will no doubt need to show up on a bright orange Kubota. Maybe a John Deere.

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Going Potty: Without a doubt, we are insanely blessed in this area. You are a potty champion. We tried just after you turned two, but after a little incident, we decided you were not quite ready. However, by late summer of last year, you were again showing interest. Honestly, I was hesitating a bit, but your Nana decided it was time, and you came home from a weekend visit from her house determined to use the potty. Unfortunately, we left on an 8-hour drive to the beach the next day, which complicated things a bit.

In any case, by the end of a week, you had it down. When you figured out that we’d give you cookies or jelly beans for going to the potty, you were sold. Since that initial week or two, you’ve had exactly one accident, and that was while sleeping. We kept you in pull-ups for a few weeks, but since you always woke up dry, we moved to panties by late August. Now, I never even remember to ask you if you need to go to the potty as you always tell me when you need to go.

Gymnastics: When I observed you flipping onto the couch like this,

I decided we’d better provide some structured focus for your talents. Thus, we enrolled you in classes at RiverCity Gymnastics. You are a natural! Completely fearless, you’re showing an impressive affinity for the balance beam and tumbling. And of course, you adore the “costume.”

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Sure, you’ve had some challenges this year as well. You smacked your head into the dog’s porcelain bowl, resulting in a trip to the emergency room and your first stitches.

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You’ve also decided that you’re too old for a regular nap, and it’s just precious. We remain in rather tense negotiations about this one.

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As you get older, you also want more and more independence, which leaves your father and me struggling to keep you safe while allowing you to explore and learn. We want desperately to be the best parents we can possibly be to you, but no doubt, we make mistakes every day. We lose our patience. We grow weary. Sometimes, we choose easy fixes over the more time-consuming requirements of true connection. (This very morning, we may or may not have chunked an iPhone into your bed to buy 10 more minutes of sleep.)

But no matter our mistakes, we know that God is sovereign in your life and that He has amazing plans for you. We love you more than we knew it was possible to love, and we will continue to strive to learn and grow as your parents. Thank you for helping us notice the beauty in small things. Thank you for an excuse to sit and cuddle. Sweet girl, we’re in awe each day of how quickly you learn. We watch in wonder as your personality develops depth and intricacy.  With pride, we watch you tackle life with determination, vigor, and laughter.

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We LOVE you, and we can’t wait for every moment of the coming year with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By now, you’re most likely aware of the World Vision hiring practice controversy. But just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, here’s a recap:

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March 24: Christianity Today publishes an article detailing how World Vision’s American branch, one of the world’s largest Christian charities, will now allow for the hiring of gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages.

– World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns explains the decision isn’t an endorsement of gay marriage or a renouncing of traditional marriage, but a recognition of the different beliefs and practices within the Christian community and an attempt at unity in serving the poor.

“In short, World Vision hopes to dodge the division currently “tearing churches apart” over same-sex relationships by solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.”

– March 24-25: Evangelical Christians unite in losing their collective shit and transform into menacing playground bullies reminiscent of this guy.

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– Thousands of “Christians” cancel sponsorships to needy children in third-world countries, because apparently God is much more disturbed by a gay secretary working at World Vision than he is about starving, sick, or trafficked children.

– March 26: World Vision, pummeled into submission in the corner of the playground, revokes their decision, begs forgiveness, and promises to walk the evangelical party-line.

– LGBT folks and their supporters go punch pillows, pour glasses of wine, and cry out to God in frustration and sadness.

I have a whole mess of thoughts, so in no particular order, here ya go:

To LGBT folks: 

I’m so sorry. When World Vision made the initial decision, I know many of you were encouraged. It seemed like a tiny but positive step in the right direction from the Christian culture that so often seems hell-bent on keeping you out. You got invited to the table, and then promptly had the door slammed in your face. Some of you, excited at the invitation, even put in applications to work. Now, you feel hurt and betrayed, and you have every right. I pray at times like this that you can separate Christ from the often hateful actions of Christians. I pray you know the God who created you continues to crazy love you, value you, and find joy in you….just as you are. Please don’t stop fighting for change, and let those of us who love you know how to help.

To World Vision: 

My first thoughts were something along the lines of “Where are your balls?!” Sorry. Unproductive, I know. But surely after the controversies resulting from Oreos, Chick-fil-a, scouts, and more, you had to expect some serious backlash. Did you adequately prepare your public relations department? Did you plan financially for the almost guaranteed repercussions? I admire your attempt, but so many have been deeply hurt by your quick reversal…your unwillingness to stand behind your initial convictions in the face of controversy. It’s not that I don’t understand; another blogger said you basically had a gun held to your head, and I’m sure as thousands of sponsorship cancellations poured in, you decided to admit defeat with your overarching goal being to fight poverty and injustice. I don’t doubt your commitment to the world’s poor and making a positive difference, but guys, you let the bullies win this one, and the thing about bullies is that they just keep coming. What will the battle be next time?

Also, maybe you could have had just a little more faith here? I’m going to assume you didn’t make the decision on policy change lightly. I’m going to assume there were numerous discussions and prayers, and no doubt, many on your board supported the decision. Thus, if you moved forward believing you were doing the right thing, why not have the faith to see it through? Do you think the God who watches the sparrows cannot handle replacing a few thousand sponsorships? Dozens of renowned bloggers rallied to your defense and took to Twitter to recruit new sponsors.

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She surpassed her goal. You couldn’t hang on for another few days? FAITH people. Try it!

To People Who Cancelled Sponsorships: 

So many words that I should probably avoid typing here. <Inserts head into pillow and screams>. You made a commitment to a child. One, particular child with a specific name, story, and needs. That child wrote you letters and drew you pictures and prayed for you at night with his or her family. Do you honestly feel like Jesus is rejoicing that you decided to break your commitment to that child because you disagree with an organization’s hiring practices? If you can abandon your commitment to a child that easily, than perhaps you should reexamine your motives in sponsorship. If any cute kid will do to put on the refrigerator, then maybe it’s more about you feeling good about yourself than about serving others, because that money you took back to make a point….there’s a real person you’re hurting on the other end.

Also, there’s just a little hypocrisy here. So as an evangelical Christian, you don’t want to support a charity that employs married gay people. Would it not then make sense that you would not wish to support other businesses or organizations that employ such persons? I mean, if you can cut off support to a non-profit busy feeding hungry kids to satisfy your moral objections, then certainly you shouldn’t be buying clothes, food, gas, or other material things from organizations employing sinners, right? I mean, some of these companies even pay for benefits for same-sex partners and host community support groups or other services. For instance…

Apple

Nike

Ford Motor

Google

Chevron

eBay

Disney

Johnson & Johnson

General Mills

So where are you doing your shopping these days? Just curious. (No Cheerios for you!)

Oh, and let’s pretend for argument’s sake that I agree with you that gay marriage is a sin.Why should World Vision have policies against hiring persons with that one particular sin and not others? Are they still allowed to hire unrepentant gluttons? Divorced and remarried persons?

Oh, isn’t being legalistic with Biblical interpretation just so interesting!

To Evangelical Christians:

I love so many of you dearly. I owe much of my own journey with God to your patient guidance and faithful lives. You have been the body of Christ to me on many occasions.

But guys, you are breaking my heart with the way you’re treating my LGBT brothers and sisters. I spend a lot of time with young people these days, and you are succeeding in driving away future generations from the Jesus you proclaim to want them to know. They look at you and see hatred, hypocrisy, judgment, and a self-serving interpretation of who is “in” and who is “out.” Your angry words drown out the whispers of grace and mercy. Your shadow freezes the warmth offered by a loving community of believers. Your actions bind the hands and feet of Christ.

Do you think all those cancelled sponsorships won hearts for the kingdom? Do you think a single LGBT person read the judgmental blog posts and hateful comments and felt the love of Jesus? Do you think a single non-believer thought, “Gee. These Christians sure showed World Vision by taking money from those needy kids. Man! They’re awesome. I’m totally gonna go get baptized now.”

I’m thinking not. I’m thinking that yesterday, right-winged believers patted one another on the back and returned to life behind their carefully monitored walls while those on the fringes took another step away from the Church. The bullies won, but the Kingdom lost.

And as one who has experienced amazing grace, that breaks my heart.

So please, pray about this with an open mind. Read Torn, by Justin Lee, and pray some more. And before joining in the next anti-gay campaign, ask yourself these questions:

Are my words or actions going to invite someone closer to Jesus?

If the answer is no, then please just go stuff your head in a pillow and scream.

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Daniel Tiger is the Cat’s Meow

by Camille on March 12, 2014

If you are one of the parents who strictly follows the regulations for technology use/screen time for your kids in order to avoid delayed development, mental illness, sleep deprivation, aggression, digital dementia and a host of other ills….kudos! You are awesome. Way to not screw up your kids.

But umm….this post isn’t really for you.

On the other hand, if you’re a parent who may or may not occasionally give your two-year-old an iPhone to prevent total, apocalyptic meltdown in the middle of Kroger or put on just one more episode of <insert mind-numbing, brightly-colored, shrilly discordant vehicle of episodic childhood glee here> in order to eat/shower/defecate all by yourself…..then you may keep reading, my friend.

Of course, I don’t advocate using the television as a babysitter. (Much.) But sometimes….y’all know Mama needs a break. Fortunately for mamas today, there’s an increasingly wide range of children’s programming options that are guilt-free innovative, educational, and inspiring! Thus, instead of watching the “Single Ladies” video ten times in a row (hypothetically), your toddler can work on his or her social-emotional development.

Today, I’d like to give a shout-out to our absolute favorite in children’s programming, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. 

 Daniel Tiger

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From PBS, Daniel Tiger is based on the puppet in the original Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Geared toward ages 2-4, the show focuses on one emotional or developmental challenge in each episode and then follows a character as he or she practices strategies to overcome that issue in different situations.

The show covers childhood basics such as sharing, safety, toilet training, helping friends, etc., but recent episodes have branched into more complicated emotional lessons such as fostering empathy, handling jealousy, and taming frustration.

For parents focused on connective parenting and helping our children “name” their feelings or relate better to their own emotions, episodes can provide wonderful conversation starters.

“Hey Ellie, when you hurled your bowl of cereal across the room, were you frustrated? 

“Yeah Mommy. I fwustwated. I mad. SO mad. I want cheese. Big cheese!” 

I mean, you still have to clean up the cereal, but at least you know why, right?

The best part is that each episode features a simple, catchy song that reinforces the lesson and is easy for parents to practice with toddlers for use in a heated moment. For instance, in this clip, Daniel is upset because his birthday cake gets squished inside the box, and the lesson focuses on dealing with disappointment.

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Y’all, it’s cheesy I know, but it works. Without any input from us, Ellie has started singing these songs to herself, her friends, and us, and the amazing thing is that thus far, she always applies an applicable song to each situation.

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For instance, the other day, Ellie had a friend over to play, and the girls were sharing toys in the driveway. (Yes. I let her go outside in her pajamas. What about it?) When her friend got upset about getting out of a car for Ellie’s turn, Ellie put her hands on her hips and started singing, “Take something bad; make something good! Make it good Sawah!” Preferable to just yanking her out or throwing a tantrum, right?

Likewise, on more than one occasion, she’s been initially a little clingy when we’ve dropped her at new places; however, after a minute or two, she sings “Grooooownups come back” and then kisses us goodbye with a grin.

That’s why I LOVE this show. Daniel Tiger models problem-solving skills in ways that empower very young children and gives them tools to attempt to solve conflict and regulate emotions on their own.

And you better believe we pull out some Daniel Tiger when it benefits us. That chubby little feline is our go-to strategy these days. Frustrated about lacing up shoes? Trouble remembering your bedtime routine? So angry that you want to ROAR?!

There’s a song for that.

Just show me a little grace when I break out into song in public. It happens.

What television shows do your kids enjoy? 

 

 

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MUST-READ: Torn, by Justin Lee

by Camille on March 9, 2014

Hello wonderful people! It’s Spring Break, and I’m in Orange Beach with two teenagers, a toddler, and the hubs. Best thing? We won this condo week through a friend’s adoption raffle months ago, so it’s a highly economical get-away. Anyway, with a pool and the ocean to entertain Miss Ellie and blessed MILES and MILES between us and anything on the to-do list, my plans for this week include coffee, sleeping, reading, and spending some time with this much-missed little blog.

On that note….

I just finished this book.

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 Image Source

It’s by this guy, Justin Lee. He’s the founder of the Gay Christian Network, a non-profit organization seeking to improve communication and build bridges between Christians and gays. He also blogs at Crumbs from the Communion Table. 

JustinLee

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And I cannot encourage you enough to go read it. Right NOW. Especially if you are….

– A straight or gay single person

– A gay person in a committed sexual relationship.

– A gay person practicing celibacy.

– An evangelical Christian who “loves the sinner but hates the sin.”

– A progressive Christian growing seriously weary with the way the Church treats your gay friends and family.

– A Christian who knows a gay person, wants to know a gay person, or might encounter a gay person in the future.

– A person who seeks to understand another viewpoint and better learn how to love gay people.

– A person who does or does not think the Bible condemns gay people and/or gay relationships.

– Just a little bit over the culture wars and wondering what fast food chain or cookie or television show is going to clutter your social media feed tomorrow.

– Incredibly concerned that the gay-vs-Christian debate is damaging relationships, ostracizing an entire generation, and actively pushing gay people away from knowing God.

Okay. I’m assuming you have an Amazon tab open now. No? Okay, HERE ya go. There are much better reviews than I could ever write…you know, from people who wrote them over a year ago when the book was first released. Here is one of my favorites:

From Rachel Held Evans:

“This is the most important book I’ve read in years, and it will be the first I recommend to anyone interested in bridging the divide between the LGBT community and the church. Justin has given us a precious gift with this story. May we receive it with the same courage and faith with which it was delivered.” 

Justin, raised Southern Baptist and known as “God Boy” in his youth, realized around puberty that he was gay. He tried ignoring it as a phase he’d pass through. He dated girls. He explored ex-gay ministries to become straight. He remained celibate.

And for years, he struggled with loneliness, misunderstanding, mental anguish, and depression while trying to reconcile his faith with his sexuality.

Through it all, he never turned from God, and after much soul-searching and study, he found peace through God….and the Bible. Yeah. The same one most Christians use to condemn gay people. Now, he strives to provide a safe place for gay Christians to learn and grow from one another and to foster dialogue within the Christian community on how to better love gay people.

He offers practical tips and well-explained Biblical reasoning for his conclusions, but I think what makes this book most effective is that Justin simply shares his story. Vulnerable and honest, he narrates his journey in such a way that no matter your personal beliefs, you’re forced to put aside labels and come to know him as a person. An imperfect but beautiful child of God.

Christians, studies have shown that a vast majority of both believers and non-believers classify the church as “antihomosexual.” If you are a Christian, this should break your heart. God is not “anti-” people. Because as Justin writes, “Jesus wasn’t known for his disdain for people; he was known for his unconditional love for everyone…”

Again, I urge you to read this book. Especially if just reading this post made you uncomfortable. 😉 Feel free to come back and share your thoughts here.

 

 

 

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Dear eMeals: I Love You

by Camille on February 27, 2014

Okay, so there are a dozen or so “deep” posts I probably should force myself to write about the chaotic kiddos, spiritual warfare, family drama, etc., but I’m feeling light today, so I’m opting to share a quick “check this out!” instead.

Today, I want to talk about …..eMeals.

I would like to pledge my undying, passionate, puppy-snuggle, chocolate-kissed, sunset-laden, Shakespearean-sonnet-ish, Nicholas Sparks-level sappy LOVE to E-meals. We are tasting real food again, and we are finding it GOOD.

For the past few months, we have lived on cereal, pb&j, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Subway, and a plethora of other completely wholesome and healthy dietary choices.

Apparently, I need near-perfect life circumstances to effectively plan, shop for, and prepare actual meals each night. Hah! So obviously, December, with all that holiday insanity, was completely non-negotiable. Kids, you can have presents and a tree or dinner. Not both.

In January, we packed the entire contents of our lives into boxes and moved to a not-yet-finished new house. When boxes labeled “kitchen” end up buried in the back of the attic for weeks, that is a perfectly acceptable excuse not to cook. Also, cardboard obstacle courses really mess up my culinary mojo. As do mice barbecuing themselves on heating vents. Or construction dust so thick it would flavor the food anyway. So yeah….excuses abounded. Not that I really, um, need an excuse. 

However, near the end of January, with my digestive system system plotting revolt and Ellie no longer recognizing most vegetables, I begrudgingly committed to making a change, and taking the recommendation of a friend, I enrolled in eMeals, an on-line meal-planning service that “takes the stress out of dinner.” First, you pick from 13 different plans including:

  • Classic
  • Clean-Eating
  • Paleo
  • Portion Control
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Carb
  • Slow-Cooker
  • Gluten-free
  • Natural and Organic
  • Simple Gourmet
  • Mediterranean
  • Vegetarian

I mean, if you can’t find a plan to fit your needs here, you’re probably a vampire. I chose the Classic plan, billed as “meals like Mom used to make – only a bit simpler and more healthy.” I then chose the Family Size (3-6 servings) and picked my grocery store, Kroger. Immediately, I received my first plan, and sparks began to fly.

Here’s a few of the reasons I’m in love:

PLANNING PERFECTION

Turns out, I don’t really hate cooking. I do, however, loathe planning. I mean, you’re supposed to consider food costs, health, preparation and cook time, what’s in season, what’s on sale, what that one kid might actually eat, and for the LOVE, it’s just easier to grab that box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese and go hide under the covers in meal-planning shame. Sister, eMeals can save you from this mental drudgery. They speak organization, one of my primary love languages. A lovely .pdf contains one sheet with seven recipes, including an entree and a side dish.

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The second sheet contains a shopping list organized by section and matched with weekly specials and sales at your particular store. If you only need four recipes for the week or know someone won’t eat a certain thing, no sweat. You just cross off that number from your shopping list.

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 PLEASING PRACTICALITY

Most recipes take 15-20 minutes of preparation, and each week contains slow cooker options. In my experience thus far, each week generally contains a similar grouping of recipes including a Mexican-themed dish, some variation of baked chicken, a pasta, and a pot roast or pork loin. My absolute favorites thus far have included a ham and corn chowder, enchilada casserole, and a spicy spinach and sausage pasta. The recipes all contain familiar ingredients, and I don’t feel the need to consult Julia Childs in interpreting the directions. Furthermore, eMeals seems to pay special attention to coordinating meals with the season, with lots of warm, hearty stews frequenting my January/February menus. And most importantly, the majority of recipes seem to be both kid and husband-approved, with both going back for seconds on several occasions.

PALATABLE PLENTY

The recipes are supposedly designed for 3-6, but I’m finding portions extremely generous. In most cases, especially with the crock pot stews and casseroles, I’ve had enough for 3-4 adults and a toddler to have ample helpings with plenty remaining for at least one more meal. I’m not even cooking the side dishes (I usually just warm a bag of frozen veggies), and really, with cooking only 3-4 recipes a week, I’ve got enough meals.

Once I fully get back into the swing of this regular cooking thing, I might even try a healthier plan. I mean, unless they come up with a “mostly cheese, chocolate, and red wine option that’s magically also the healthiest thing you can eat” plan.

Do you use eMeals or another meal-planning service? What do you like? What changes would you make? 

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More than a month has passed since I’ve last been able to visit this blog, and honestly, on more than one occasion, the title of any post would have been “Dear 2014: You Still Suck.”

But I can’t even say “suck” anymore because my now three-year-old repeats everything, and she’s absconded with some of the most necessary members of my lexicon. Happy euphemisms be … darned? Just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

I’ve longed to write…to pour forth the mess like a jumble of puzzle pieces and start sorting through to find the edges. I ache to move the colors and shapes around into piles until they begin to form something recognizable.

As a blogger, I try not to shy away from the ugly realities of life, but as a foster and adoptive mom, my own reality is often so intertwined with another’s that it’s difficult to tell where my story ends and my child’s begins. Most heartache isn’t fully mine to share.

Over the past few weeks, there has been pain, worry, and jumbled pieces. I can’t yet make out the image. I can’t wrap up our story in some nice little bow with a Hallmark-approved ending.

We’re in the middle of the story, and it’s messy, exhausting, complicated, confusing, and hard. Sometimes, middles just, ahem, you know the word.

But God whispers that He is in the middle with us, and that the story isn’t over yet.

Last weekend, I attended Created for Care, an adoptive moms’ retreat outside of Atlanta, and the speaker Beth Guckenberger, reminded us that our stories don’t require the “happily ever after” before they’re worthy of sharing.  Testimonies “in-process” are just as meaningful as those who have found the Disney ending. God is not finished, and there is beauty in the journey.

In her first words to us, Beth read Matthew 11:28-30 from The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace….”

And all the mamas said amen!

Created for Care reminded me that God is in the business of “extracting the precious from the worthless.” Order from chaos. Light from darkness. Joy does come in the morning.

It comes in reuniting with old friends as we fight off sleep for one more minute of real conversation.

Carrie and Me

It comes in the raw honesty of amazing new friends trusting one another with their own stories.

Riding Buddies2

It comes in healing laughter at the antics of tireless and creative women strapping glow lights to their bodies for the evolution of dance. It comes in some early 90s music encouraging us to “Hold on for one more day…” It comes in blackout curtains allowing sleep until 8:15! It comes in some rockin’ new t-shirts.

Adoption is for Lovers

It comes in the openness of women navigating their own “middles” and their willingness to share lessons learned along the way. It comes in the tears of 450 mothers, parenting more than 1500 children, joined in song, prayer, and worship.

Such joy!

Of course, Sunday night, we all had to return home, and we found ourselves once again firmly planted in the mess. Our happy hearts and encouraged souls were greeted with dripping noses, spilled juice, crushed crackers, unfinished coffee, misplaced shoes, dirty dishes, and a toddler determined to teach the cat to fly by hurling it off the stairs.

Or something like that.

Many moms returned home to kids still in hard places. They returned to minds still traumatized. Bodies still suffering. Hearts still broken.

And because we are their mamas, we must dive into those hard places with them. But we are not alone.

So ladies, my prayer this week is that as we all return to the middle of our messes, we remember that God is there with us. I pray that we make strong connections and find comfort in knowing that hundreds of sisters walk this road with us. I pray that we find strength to be more open and honest with one another in the scary parts of our journeys. And most of all, I pray that we all fervently seek God as we work toward bringing His kingdom, His perfect shalom, to this earth.

 

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Dear 2014: I Want to Punch You in the Face

by Camille on January 11, 2014

So in the first 11 days of the year, I’ve seen the usual Susie Sunshine posts coming across my feed. So much optimism! So much hope! This will be the year that we all finally do the right eating, regular exercising, money managing, better living, universe mastering things.

Or not.

Look, kudos to those of you who are bravely plowing through all life has thrown your way, turning your lemons into extra-sweet lemonade as you offer joy, encouragement, and 10-step lists to the rest of us. This will not be one of those posts. This will be a self-indulgent, whiny, blatantly #firstworldproblems rant about why I pretty much want to punch 2014 in the face. Hard.

You’ve been warned.

1. Moving Mayhem: This year, we built a house. I may blog about this eventually…..after years of therapy. People say it’s one of the most stressful things you can do. Preach it, dear people. Anyway, we’re in the home stretch, and first thing this month, my insane silly husband decided it was time to move. As in….immediately. He believed, by the sheer force of his will, that the approximately 692 little things that were yet to be done in the new house would magically resolve themselves. He gave me about a week’s notice, and so I packed about 90% of our belongings into boxes at light speed and without much planning. (Did I mention we’ve added four people, three animals, and a whole mess of junk since the last time we did this?) Ellie brought great enthusiasm to the process—unpacking as I packed, grabbing my labeling Sharpie to create her own tattoos, snatching my scissors to wave as a banner while running wildly through the house, and using my packing tape to connect various toys, furniture, and the dogs.

But you know those little things? They did not in fact get done quite so quickly, and as it turns out, housing inspectors are rather nit-picky. Thus, we’ve moved our move date three times. But hey, no biggie. It’s like an indoor camping adventure!

2. The Renting Dance: Two days after the above husband set me to the task of packing, he informed me that he put our current house on Craigslist and already had two calls! So, in the middle of packing, could I please make sure the house was clean and orderly enough to show to potential renters by Jan. 5?

Living Room

Sure! Of course. I mean, by this point I only had about 40 boxes stacked in the living room, with laundry, dishes, and other general household duties completely ignored. So, sweet Herdest (bless him) moved all the boxes to the garage, and we stopped packing for an entire day for cleaning, drywall repair, stain removal, yard work, etc.

Garage

One potential renter showed. We have not yet rented our current house.

3. Hell Freezes Over: Okay, I can really only verify temperatures for a large majority of the United States, but I think there’s a pretty good chance.

Weather

Anyway, somewhere in the packing, cleaning madness, two college-educated people completely forgot that freezing temperatures and copper pipes don’t mix and failed to take precautionary measures.

So this happened.

Copper Pipe

Of course, I didn’t know this until Tuesday morning, when Ellie came to me and announced excitedly, “Mama! It’s wainin’ in my woom!” Indeed, it was. A torrential downpour falling from the vent in her ceiling right onto the rocking chair. My favorite chair in the house.

While I hollered for the boys and frantically called Charlie, Ellie splashed gleefully through the foyer and dining room, thrilled with her indoor water park.

We finally got the water turned off, and were left with a pond spanning three rooms. And remember those boxes? Yeah, most of my towels were used to cradle pictures and vases. Thus, I haphazardly threw bath robes, blankets, table clothes, and clothes onto the floor until the neighbor brought a Shop-Vac. But hey, what’s 10 extra loads of laundry?

So, we spent most of a day ripping out insolation and carpet padding, cutting holes in drywall, and rotating space heaters.

At the end of the day, her room looked like this:

Ellie's Room

 Ceiling2

Thus, she’s been sleeping on a cot in our closet all week. Her crib is nestled snuggly in my bathroom while we used the rest of her furniture to create our own little maze in the living room. She’s only averaging 2.5 tantrums daily involving the refrain, “I wan my woom back! I seep in my woom!”

Crib

4. Showers of Doom: When the pipe burst, the hot water heater that feeds our master bathroom apparently felt left out of the festivities and so decided to die. Consequently, Charlie and I were forced to brave the bathroom inhabited by our teenagers. Y’all, I can’t even find words. Okay, two words: shower shoes.

5. Some Like It Hot: Thursday, I took Ellie to Kids Day Out. Her Daddy picked her up and took her to the Children’s Museum, and since our moving date moved, I claimed a few of the quiet hours and gave myself a blessed reprieve from the fray. I stopped for donuts. I drank coffee while reading a book. I watched the Call the Midwife holiday special while folding laundry and cried sappy, warm-fuzzy tears. I breathed, and it felt good. That night, we went to our first session of Empowered to Connect, an intensive parenting class geared toward adoptive families. Encouraged and excited, we picked up Ellie, who chattered happily about playing with her “frens” in their childcare program.

But when I removed Ellie from her car seat half an hour later, she was burning up with a 102 fever.

Seriously?! Ellie has a tendency to develop febrile seizures when her fever gets very high, so I spent the night getting up every few hours to dispense Tylenol, Motrin, and a whole bunch of Mama worry. On Friday, the doctor said she doesn’t have the flu (praise God) but some random adenovirus. We should expect a sore throat and possible digestive tract involvement about the time of our next scheduled move. Awesome. Let’s throw in some diarrhea because moving just isn’t challenging enough.

Thus far, we’ve just been battling the crazy fever, and our lives are controlled by a switch existing at 101.9 degrees. Below this number, and Ellie is a whirlwind of never-ending, cat-chasing, dog-wrestling, paint-smearing, water-splashing, food-demanding destruction. In her Tylenol-infused manic state, she has no tolerance for this staying home thing and wants to know WHY we can’t go to the zoo, museum, park, etc. She asks me about 4,000 times an hour just in case I change my mind.

However, the moment her fever hits 102, she transforms into a pitiful little ball of clingy neediness, crying, “I’m siiiick.” Then, we sit on the couch and watch Glee music videos on YouTube for hours. (Actually, I sort of rock this part. This mama loves an excuse to cuddle.)

Here we are cuddling. :-)

Cuddle

But yeah, with all the wee-hour fever checking and medicine dispensing, there’s not so much of the sleep thing happening here.

6. Show Me the Money! And of course, fixing all this stuff hasn’t been cheap. Sigh.

$369: Broken pipe repair

$80: Hot-water heater repair

$350: Drywall and ceiling replacement/repair

And we haven’t received an estimate on new carpet yet, so there’s that.

 

Okay, I’m done. For now. If you’re still with me, please excuse the excessive complaining. In all seriousness, I know I’m completely blessed in a thousand ways; I just thought y’all could help me find some humor in a crazy couple of weeks. Help me laugh people! (Or you know, invite me over for a glass of wine. That would work too.) 

Here’s hoping your 2014 is going smoothly and is full of joy.

 

 

 

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