Thursday, July 31, 2008

Extreme Makeover: Asian Edition

Today, Bri handed me a picture she had just colored of me, her sister, and herself. This isn't unusual, but I should mention that there is always a very clear difference in Bri's drawings between the way she draws herself, and the way she draws the rest of her family. There's no mistaking which person in the drawing is supposed to be Bri. Here's one of her "normal" drawings of us, as we would usually look:But the picture she drew for me today was different. Very different. We're all Chinese. I said, "Oh, that's neat. We all look alike in this picture! Do you ever kinda wish we all looked alike?"

She said, "Yeah. I knew you guys would rather be Chinese, instead of just... you know... plain. So I just decided to make you that way."

I guess this shows I'm either really succeeding or seriously failing at making her feel positive about the way she looks and about our differences- I'm not sure which! But it sure was funny the way she said it. She really emphasized the word plain! lol!!

So, here's our new and improved Chinese makeover (I think Bri looks exactly like a Chinese Charlie Brown!):

Monday, July 28, 2008

No Regrets

I've been tagged by Tracy and Heather to list six words that describe me. The six words I'm choosing are taken from the post below:
"Constantly in awe of God's goodness."
I think a lot of people have been tagged already, so if you're reading this post and haven't been picked yet, consider yourself tagged. YOU'RE IT!!! Leave me a comment if you choose to play, so I can go read yours.

Now, on with today's post. This is going to be a long one, and probably rambly. Some of it is a repeat of things I've said in the past- but some things apparently need to be repeated. Grab a coke and prop up your feet.

We went out to eat the other day after church. Even though two of my sons weren't with us, we still occupied the largest table in the place. Other families were there with their one or two children, while we ate with only four of ours. As I looked around the restaurant and then around the table at each member of my family, I started thinking about the path we've chosen to take- how we got to where we are right now in our lives. I've been doing a lot of reflecting since then- considering both the things that have happened in our life by choice, as well as the things that were beyond our control. Ruminating in the past has made me realize there are a few things I should finally say out loud, once and for all.

I know there are several people with 4 or more kids who read this blog, but larger families are not "the norm" in this country. People just don't understand us. Everything in life is set up to cater to smaller families. Vacation packages are usually for families of four. Recipes are written for no more than six servings. Heck, even minivans only have seven seats. We don't fit in with anyone's idea of the common family. We are a novelty, an oddity, an anomaly.

People tend to judge, and even ridicule what they do not understand. We have been dealing with that now for our entire marriage.

I chose, at the age of 22, to marry a freshly divorced father of three young children who had no money and ruined credit. That's when the comments started. Mostly from family and close friends, but some were from co-workers, or people I hardly interacted with. Everyone had an opinion. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" "Gosh, I just hate to see you throw your life away." "You're so young. You should be out having fun." "Wouldn't you rather wait and have your own (kids)?" One horrible woman even had the nerve to tell me she had a good friend who was a family therapist, so "when it doesn't work out, let me know and I'll help get you an appointment." One of my closest friends at the time, refused to attend my wedding because she thought I was making a mistake. I rarely got the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one gets married.

It was true that married life wasn't easy. There is no manual for new 22-year-old stepmoms to teach them how to be a mother overnight. I was clueless. Each of us made mistakes as we struggled to find our way through it, of course. We struggled in every way- financially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. We probably would have wound up like most other second marriages with children involved and not made it, except for something that happened very early on in the marriage to cement us together...

Alex was born exactly 9 months and 2 weeks after we got married. Needless to say, he was a surprise. We weren't prepared to add another person into the mix yet. We were still trying to figure out this new family of ours. It wasn't easy. The comments got louder. Mostly along the lines of, "How are you going to afford another one?" And mostly from family. We rarely got the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

When Alex turned one year old, I found out I was pregnant with Mike. Another surprise. The comments not only got louder, but started getting just plain mean: "Can't you guys figure out what's causing that?" Each person who said it seemed to believe they were being funny, and that they were the very first one to think up such a witty remark. If you said it, trust me- you were not funny, and you were not the first.

I don't mind telling you- We were scared. Times were tough financially, and Darrell's job was looking shaky. While I was pregnant with Michael, Darrell took a job with his father in the town where we currently live. It was two and a half hours away from where we lived then. He was gone all week, and came home only on weekends. I was at home with his three kids, my toddler, and one on the way. I was working full-time, out of necessity. I was exhausted. I was stressed. Darrell's kids didn't like being there with me without their dad. Neither did his ex-wife. Neither did I. I was doing the best I could do. It was a very difficult time. We were struggling to have faith and believe everything would be okay. But instead of supportive comments, like "Don't worry, you'll see- everything will work out," "You can do this," etc., we got: "What are you guys thinking?" "How will you afford this?" "Have you considered giving this baby up for adoption?" We didn't get the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

Evan came along when Mike was two. I remember how excited I was to call people and tell them I was pregnant. I don't know what I was thinking. I just got more of the same old crap. One person started in on me with the "How are you going to afford this?" stuff. I was hurt, but responded by telling her that God has always taken care of our needs and I had no doubt He'd do it again. That wasn't good enough. This person said, "Well I don't see how He can possibly keep taking care of you when you keep having all these kids." Oh, really? God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, is not big enough to handle one more kid of mine? Sure- Floods, famine, disease, He can handle. But my childbearing renders Him helpless, apparently. I must have one powerful uterus.

Another kind and considerate family member went into graphic detail (I'll spare you her exact words) about the surgical procedures she was going to perform with her own hands on Darrell and I to prevent any more babies. Guess what? We most definitely did not get the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

When Evan was a baby, we went through rocky times with Darrell's kids and his ex, as most people in blended families would understand. Times were tough. People made mistakes on all sides and feelings were hurt. Again, every outsider on the planet had an opinion, either about my stepkids, Darrell, his ex, or me. Very few people knew the whole truth of our family situation, but that didn't stop them from sharing their opinions with us and making their judgments on our choices and our parenting. So many folks coming out of the woodwork to "help" us with their wisdom. Oy. I heard several "I told you so's," and "What did you think was going to happen when you married him?" or "I knew this is how it would turn out." There were a lot of "You should/shouldn't have's" or "You need to _____." I was also acutely aware of what wasn't being said to my face, but was being discussed behind my back.

After several years of heartache and very trying circumstances, we were ready for the joy of a new baby when Tucker came along. But our families weren't. We got the same old comments again when our pregnancy was announced. In fact, we put off telling a lot of people that time, just because we knew they'd try to snuff out our happiness. Surprise, surprise- We did not get the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

And so it went with each new addition to our family. Olivia and Bri were no different. Honestly, it wasn't until we adopted Bri that people finally realized we WANTED to have all these kids. "Oh my gosh, they're adopting? So then, they're not just idiots who don't understand how conception works? They're doing this on purpose????" Yes. Even though God blessed us with a couple surprise conceptions, we have this large family ON PURPOSE. But even that realization didn't mean people understood or agreed with us. The comments continued: "How are you going to be able to send any of these kids to college?" "You're not getting any younger. What if something happens to Darrell?" Blah, blah, blah. Same old crap.

So here is what I'd like to say to all of you who have shared your "concerns" with us over the years:

I have no regrets about having a large family. Not one. I really don't care how many people may believe we've had "enough" or too many kids. In fact, there's room in my heart and home for one more and my heart is crushed over the thought that it isn't going to happen. Crushed. I was looking forward to this next adoption with all my heart, and I'm completely heartbroken that it may not happen.

Yes, our life has been hard. So? Show me a person whose had an easy life, and I'll show you a spoiled, self-centered brat.

Yes, we have had times when we've struggled financially. And times when we haven't. So? In addition to our six kids, we also support six more kids through Compassion International. What you may not know (and this little tidbit will probably make some of your toes curl) is that we have had times when we've chosen to give away thousands of dollars at a time to families in need or to a worthwhile cause. Thousands that could have paid for some extravagant vacation, or been put away in a college fund. Instead, we wanted to be a blessing to someone else in a crisis, because we've been there and we know how hard it is. I don't say this to boast, honestly I don't. I say it to be absolutely clear that we could have had more money than we do if money was our goal.

And speaking of money, I'll tell you something else. I don't especially like wealthy people, and considering the way most of them behave, I have no desire to be one. I'm sure there are good ones out there, but a lot of people with money are just not my cup of tea. I don't understand them. They are often materialistic, self-involved, selfish and snooty. They look down on others, as if money somehow makes them better people. It's my opinion that money usually makes for crappier people, not better. The most generous people I've met are usually ones who barely have enough money for themselves. The stingiest people I've met are ones who have more than enough and then some. Still, they can't seem to part with any of it to help someone else. Their priorities are usually goofy. They are brats trapped in adult bodies. They spawn bratty kids. Their focus is on their money- making it, keeping it, hoarding it... I don't ever want to be like them, and I don't want any of my children to be like them. Money is not necessary for happiness, and is not conducive to happiness. Money is merely a tool God uses to take care of our needs. It is not, in and of itself, a need. God is our need. He supplies everything else. And He does it quite well.

Yes, my kids have done without some things- expensive tennis shoes, designer clothes, certain recreational activities, yearly vacations to expensive places... Yes, at times they have felt deprived and disappointed. So what? They have also gotten lots of things that many other big families do without, so I don't exactly feel sorry for them. I'm sorry if you do, but that's really not my problem. They have never, ever, ever gone without something they really needed. God has always made a way. Always. In fact, He has increased our income with each and every child He's given us.

Yes, they go to school at home. The poor things. Yes, we realize some of you believe we are overprotecting them, sheltering them, and depriving them of wonderful childhood experiences by keeping them at home. Again, it really isn't necessary to pity my kids. They are fine. In fact they are each turning out to be wonderful people, in spite of their crappy parents, and this cruel and unusual punishment of homeschooling them. They continue to flourish, and we continue to believe that homeschool is God's plan and choice for our family. And for the doubters, Evan just finished taking standardized tests since he's starting high school in August, and most of his scores were "PHS," which means Post High School. He's 14 and just finished 8th grade, and his scores are better than most high school graduates. I know I'm bragging, but it's not just to defend my choices- he deserves a pat on the back. He's a great kid! He's bright, sweet, helpful, generous, and the funniest person I know. I guess homeschool hasn't messed him up too badly. All six of them are really great kids and I'm proud to know them.

And, by the way, Alex IS starting college this fall, so your concerns over how we'll send them to college are not necessary. At least not yet. God will see to those needs just as surely as He sees to everything else.

Most importantly- my kids are LOVED. They are treasured. And they are TOLD so every day. So, again, they are getting what they need the most.

Yes, my home is never as clean as I'd like it to be. So? My kids are not sitting on the floor eating cockroaches, but if you come over unannounced my house will look as if eight people live here. There's a good reason for that: Eight people live here. There's a very good chance you'll see dirty dishes in the sink, fingerprints all over the TV screen, and a full laundry basket on the couch. There will probably be dust on the tables and shelves. There will definitely be dog hair all over everything, including you once you've spent 5 minutes inside. During the school year, books will be all over the place, and a pencil may poke you in the butt when you try to sit down. If you're very lucky, and come at just the right moment, the dog may even come lay at your feet with a pair of my underwear hanging from his mouth. SO WHAT? That's my problem, not yours. If it really bothers you, I guess maybe you should call first.

We are busy, scattered, disorganized, overwhelmed, stressed, and tired. We are also unbelievably blessed. I am constantly in awe of God's goodness to me, and to us as a family. How He decided I should get to have such a full, rich life just astounds me. I'm proud of my children, and not only do I love them, but I truly LIKE them. Each one is a blessing, and I'm glad they're here. I wouldn't wish away a single one, nor would I marry someone else if I could go back and do it all differently.

So... Yes, we could have listened to our critics and made different choices. We could have had less kids, and more money. More time. More opportunities. More vacations. More security. We could have been less tired, less worried, less stressed.

Of course, if we'd listened to some of you, we also would have been far less happy. Less fulfilled. Less blessed. Our choices are not the ones you would have made for us, but we are so thankful we made them. And we are so thankful we didn't listen to all of those "helpful" comments. We heard them. And they hurt us. But we didn't let them affect our decisions. Thank God for that. You were wrong. We love our life and are grateful for the choices and circumstances that have brought us to this point. We are good parents, with good kids. We made it in spite of you. We made it without your support, although your support sure would have been nice. We made it. And we will continue to make it.

Thank you for not believing we could make it. You helped make us dig in our heels and try harder. Thank you for not sharing and encouraging our faith in God's abilities to see us through difficult times. By making us defend our faith, you helped to increase it. You helped set the stage for God to prove Himself, which He did over and over again and, no doubt, will continue to do.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Spook Light

There is an unexplained phenomenon in our area referred to by locals simply as "Spook Light" (Hornet Spook Light, Joplin Spook Light). If you live in the four state area of KS, MO, OK and AR, you've probably heard of it, or spent an evening sitting in the country, hoping to see it. For years, teenagers have gone out there, especially on Halloween, to scare themselves silly (among other things) and come back telling their slightly embellished, dramatic tales of how the light came right up to them or chased them, or some such load of frap. Even though there are plenty of tall tales attached to it, it is a real thing- not just folklore. No one knows what it is, but plenty of people have seen it. We think we saw it once, but we were not in the usual area where it's found, so we can't be sure. Since that night, I've always hoped to see it again and know for sure I'd really seen it.

There have been experts of all kinds that have come out to study this thing, and it was even featured once on that old show, "Unsolved Mysteries." Basically, it's a light with no apparent, explainable source, that appears out of nowhere then hovers and bounces, advancing and receding, sometimes splitting into two or three, along a dark country road. It randomly appears and disappears with no rhyme or reason. Of course, everyone has their own explanations of what it really is- some are solid-sounding scientific ones, and some that are just plain goofy- ghost stories, space ships, etc. In addition to the links above, you can get more specific information about Spook Light and read some of the folklore surrounding it by clicking here, here, here, or see a few pics here. It's also briefly mentioned here on Wiki, if you're really into this kind of stuff.

Anyhoo... The other night, out of boredom, Darrell and Evan headed out to see if they could spot it. I didn't stay up waiting for them- the little ones and I went to bed. The next morning, before he walked out the door, Darrell told me to be sure to look at the video Evan took of it on his phone. I was pretty surprised they'd actually seen it, and was kind of excited to see his video of this thing I've been curious about since we moved here 16 yrs. ago.

Let me tell you, the video was amazing! It was similar to other videos I've seen around here or on TV or YouTube, but better- because it was taken by my son. My own kid had gotten that close. Awesome! The light was all over the place, bouncing, swirling, and came up very close to the camera. Ev said it was right there in front of their faces. WOW! I was in awe and a little jealous that they had seen such a cool display without me. Evan told me how awesome it was, and pointed out that you can even hear Darrell locking the door to the truck at the beginning of the video because it was so scary. Well, that was all I needed to hear. If it made Darrell lock the doors, it must have been pretty freaky. I had to see it.

I called Darrell to ask if we could go out there for our date night instead of our original plan of going to a movie. While most men would probably be thrilled if a woman asked to drive out to a dark country road for a date, Darrell acted kind of funny. That's when I found out just how gullible I really am. I'm usually pretty cynical and distrusting. I'm not easily convinced of things like this, but unfortunately it didn't occur to me to be suspicious of my own son and husband. I'll know better next time. The LIARS! Darrell confessed their video was fake. It's just a light on his truck and they swirled the phone around, zooming in and out. It looks pretty darn believable.

Ev did an excellent job pulling off the lie, which scares me quite a bit. Not only did I totally believe him, but he continued to LET me totally believe him. He didn't even want to come clean after I told him I knew the truth.

It's official, I am The Stupidest Woman On Earth. And the mother of a future used car salesman. Do I at least get some kind of prize?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anna Quindlen: On Mothering

I saw this recently on a Yahoo group and thought other mamas might appreciate it too, especially moms with a kid or two already grown. If I were any kind of *real* writer, I could have written many of these sentiments myself. Hope you enjoy it.

Written by Anna Quindlen

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, have all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever- shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.

Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub- quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the 'Remember-When- Mom-Did Hall of Fame.' The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barrelling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, 'What did you get wrong?'. (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top.

And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Zoo and Swimming Pictures

Took the kids to the zoo Friday. Didn't get many pics there- it was too hot and we left early. The rest of the pictures are from their swimming lessons last week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Short post... for once

This won't be long, because my computer is still broken and I don't like using Darrell's. It makes my fingers type goofy things. Plus, I'm sick and feel like poop.

Just a few random things to pass along...

We heard that our agency finally (FINALLY!!!!!!) received a referral from Vietnam!! Yeah for that blessed family! It still doesn't mean much in the way of good news for us- highly unlikely enough referrals would come in before the deadline to get down to us, but at least someone is getting good news!

Speaking of referrals, Lina got hers- Congratulations! I'm so happy for you, hon. I'm a tiny bit late acknowledging the good news- I'm behind in my blog reading. I feel like I'm missing out on everything.

Also, Alex and Mike left today for a canoe/camping trip with their youth group. Keep them in your prayers. They will be doing all kinds of fun stuff- cliff jumping, river rapids, etc. You know how stupid teenage boys are, don't you? They're stupid enough to think nothing bad can ever happen to them. I really, really need them to return alive... If anything is going to kill them, I think it should be me. I've earned the right.

Lastly, thanks to the FEW (ah-hem...) of you who have responded to my photography post with advice and suggestions! I sincerely appreciate it!! But, where are all the other photographers? They either have (gasp) actual lives that do not allow for time wasted on my blog, OR they don't want to pass on their secrets, fearing I will become as good as they are. I think it's the second one.

If I don't catch you again before the weekend, have a good one! Don't forget to pray for my idiotic sons' safe return.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

I need help...

And, no- it's not the exciting kind of help, like mental help, or some kind of intervention, although I'm sure I could use that, too. Really, I just need camera advice. If you have no interest in photography, this will be a boring post for you.

Before I start on my long-winded tangent, have you seen the great news over at My Minivan Rocks ( If not go check it out and give Tracy and Christian a huge Congrats! I'm so happy for them!!! He's gorgeous, you guys!

Anyway- I would someday like to get a *real,* big-girl camera (not today, but someday as in "God only knows when."), but the choosing/purchasing a better camera has me stumped. I don't even know where to begin, because all the photography talk is gibberish to me- i.e.: aperture, ISO, shutter speed, focal length, blah blah blah. In other words, if you give me advice, take my stupidity into consideration, please. Talk to me like a little kid. One that eats paste.

This is the camera that haunts my dreams and makes me stalk It is a Nikon D80. It's way more camera than I need, but I figure if you're going to wish for something, wish BIG or forget it. If only I could afford it and/or knew how to work it:
I would be perfectly happy with a D40, considering I will be just as clueless trying to operate that one, too.

And, unfortunately, this is the camera I have- a Casio Exilim EX-Z60 6MP digital with 3x optical zoom. It was designed and manufactured by the Anti-Christ:
It helps me capture the awesomest shots, like these:

Too blurry.

Or, lighting problems like these...
Some are caused by me trying to get the picture with the sun in the wrong place. I have figured out through much experimentation that this happens most often because I'm an idiot.

Some are exposure problems that I will blame on my camera.Too dark (and blurry).
Too light (and blurry. And if you're wondering what this is a shot of...
click here for the explanation. Yes, it is a squirrel.)

But the saddest thing is that most of my pictures look like this... Staged. Still. Posed. Frozen smiles. Fake:This happens because it's so hard to get my camera to take a picture that isn't blurry. Everyone has to stand verrrry still, making any kind of action shot- or real life pictures- almost impossible.

Even when I try to catch a spontaneous moment, my kids have been brainwashed into giving the dreaded, frozen "Picture Face." It never fails when they see a camera come out, they stop whatever cute thing they're doing and give me this: The pictures themselves aren't that terrible, and the subject is cute, but these were not the expressions I was hoping to capture in those moments.

There is also a little bit of a delay between pushing the button and getting the shot. So, I either have to anticipate the exact moment that something fun and spontaneous will occur, and be ready to push the button one second before it happens, OR- I wind up with shots that were taken one second after the fun and spontaneous moment- which means I get a lot of the backs of kids' heads, or blurry profiles, like this:Some of you are amazing picture-takers. In fact, some of you don't just take pictures- you take photographs. So, I'm hoping I can get some advice from the photographers out there.

Just a few of the bloggers with the skills I so desperately desire can be seen at: With Arms Wide Open , Pho For Five, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Ladybugs and Dragonflies, and of course, Nicki at Stepping On Legos and Stepping on Legos: Behind the Lens, who is ridiculously talented and both inspires me to become better and makes me hang my head in shame at the same time. I also love the tutorials at Pioneer Woman Photography, although I don't understand what they mean most of the time. They show a lot of stuff that can be done with Photoshop, which is awesome, but I don't have the full-blown version of Photoshop. I do have Photoshop Elements, but don't have that figured out either. Why does this hobby have to be so complicated?

If you're a lurker who happens to take great pictures, now is your chance to come out of hiding. Speak up! Basically, tell me everything you know that made you good, so I can become good, too- :P. Is that asking for too much? If you would PLEASE leave me a comment with your suggestions, advice, or condolences (I'll take whatever ya got), or direct me to your own posts where you've already discussed similar things, I would hugely appreciate it.

I'd love to hear suggestions from any and all of you (if you're even still reading by now) on what cameras you love, hate, what to buy, what not to buy, etc. I'm also interested in your opinions on how much of your picture-taking success is natural talent (as in- it's something that can't be learned- you either have the artistic talent, or you don't), how much is a learned skill, and how much of it is equipment (a really good camera, lenses, etc.). Have you taken photography classes, and did you feel they were helpful? One of my other questions for you would be: What one item, other than your camera, do you feel is a must-have for getting good pictures (i.e.- Photoshop, a certain lens, etc.)? I'm tired of missing all the precious moments in my kids' lives. Help me. Please.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Response From Member of Congress

I received the following email Wed. afternoon from Nancy Boyda, one of the members of Congress I contacted regarding A Child’s Right Campaign for Vietnam. I'm sure some of you got something similar, but I thought I'd share it for those who aren't directly involved in all of this and still don't fully understand what's going on.

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office about the situation of adoption in Vietnam. I believe that all children have the right to live with a family that loves and supports them, and I am taking action to make sure that we can make this a reality.

Because of the implementation of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, we are beginning to see changes around the world in international adoption policies. Currently, the Vietnamese government and some adoption agencies within Vietnam are not on track to comply with the Hague standards. As I am sure you are aware, Secretary Condoleezza Rice has justified her reluctance to extend a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Vietnam about adoption because of their inability to create a Hague-Compliant system.

Secretary Rice's refusal to sign an extension of our current MOU with Vietnam, which is set to expire on September 1, 2008, would create serious problems for those trying to adopt children from Vietnam. Contrary to Secretary Rice's belief, there are countless legitimate and ethical adoption agencies within Vietnam and if she does not renew our current MOU with Vietnam, many Vietnamese children will not be able to join loving families in the U.S. Further, I have heard heartbreaking stories from Kansans who want to adopt and provide children with a loving home, but are being prevented from moving forward - this is both a financial and emotional burden for them.

As a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I am committed to working towards a solution. I have joined with my colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary Rice urging her to support an extension of our MOU with Vietnam. I believe that intercountry adoptions must meet the highest standards, like those put forth by the Hague Convention. We must also find a temporary compromise that honors the original intent of the Hague standards - to make sure that all children can grow up in a loving environment.

I've enclosed below the text of the letter that will be sent to Secretary Rice and I am hopeful that she will move forward on this path. If you are experiencing problems with the adoption process, you can contact my office in Topeka (785.234.8111) to receive assistance.

Thank you again for taking the time to make your voice heard about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to keep in contact with me about this or any other issue.


Nancy Boyda
Member of Congress

The letter she's referring to, that's being sent to Sec. Rice, can be seen here, complete with all the signatures. It's on the JCICS website. Check to see if your Senators and Congressmen (women, persons, whatever) signed it. I was happy to see the signatures of each of the people I contacted (yeah, like it was my personal influence alone that did it). Please pray this letter has a positive impact and brings about a miracle. There's still time to turn things around!! Keep hoping!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It finally happened

Last night I was watching TV with Tuck, Olivia, and Brianna, when a commercial came on for, um... certain personal Ladies Products. The kind that are needed every 30 days, or so... Are we all on the same page?

In all my years of parenting boys, I have never, ever had one of them ask me about those commercials. Never. When they help unload groceries, they have never, ever asked what certain boxes and packages are for. They just leave those items in the Walmart sack for me to deal with as I see fit. It's as if God instills in every male an innate desire not to know certain things about the complicated workings of the female body. They seem to just know that some questions are better left unasked. But not Tucker. No, sir.

During the commercial last night, Tuck said, "So what are those things for, anyway?"
Caught off guard and trying to deflect the bullet to the best of my abilities, I calmly answered, "Oh, those are just for grown-up women. You wouldn't have any interest in them."

Not good enough, people.

Tuck replied with, "Yeah, but I mean, what do they do?"

Aw, geez.

I, with years and years of parenting wisdom to guide me, carefully said, "Ummm. Well. They, uhhhhh..."
Tuck interrupts with, "Are they for your feet? Because they look kind of like those Dr. Scholl's things."
"No," I say. "They're not for feet. They're... um....uhhhhhh..."
"Oh, look! I want to see this movie," Tuck said.

Thank God. Another commercial came on.

But I'm still trying to figure out what Tampax and Dr. Scholl's products have in common.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Another Random Post

So, how was everybody's Fourth? I can't find my camera anywhere, so we didn't get any pics of the kiddos with their fireworks. Our holiday was pretty boring this year anyway, so I didn't miss much. We were originally supposed to go to a friend's cookout and shoot fireworks, but a few of us weren't feeling well (including me). We ended up just being lazy and hanging out at home. Then later, Darrell took the little kids to the town's firework display while I stayed home and went to bed early.

I'm not really a big 4th of July person anyway. I hate all the noise- I'm too jumpy. Even when I see the fuse being lit and know the noise is coming, I will still jump and almost wet my pants. Occasionally, if the noise is loud enough to really startle me, a very mild expletive might be muttered. I've also made an unintentional tradition out of ruining the kids' fun by tossing out a barrage of warnings and cautionary tales. I'm one of those "You're going to put someone's eye out with that thing" kind of moms. Darrell is like, "Geez- it's a sparkler! Would you just please relax?"

Suffice it to say, the whole family is happier if I leave Darrell in charge and just stay inside, blissfully unaware of how many digits my kids may be losing. I only decide we had a happy Fourth of July after we make it all the way through with no fingers or limbs blown off and no trips to the emergency room. Call me crazy, but I would like for my kids to make it into adulthood with no major burn scars and all original appendages intact. Gee, I'm mean.

Bad Transition #1: The little kids start swimming lessons on Monday morning. Hopefully my camera will turn up and I can post some cute pictures of them this week.

Bad Transition #2: My big project this week will be making a Dr. appt. for myself. I hate going to a doctor. H*A*T*E it. Detest. Abhor. Despise. Loathe. It's like dragging a wild horse to make me go. I do not like it, is what I'm saying. I find every excuse on earth not to go: We don't have insurance on me, I'm just to busy this week to squeeze it in, I've been sick so long that surely I'll be better soon, etc., etc... I wait until I'm unbelievably miserable, and that moment usually occurs at 4:49 on a Friday afternoon, which always means I'll be waiting at least until Monday.

And Bad Transition #3: I can't believe how fast the summer is flying by. School will be just around the corner, and I'm not ready. We had such a crazy May and June that it doesn't seem like we've had any time to just STOP. With two graduations, my mini-breakdown, my mom's visit, Tuck's surgery, our vacation, the wedding... my other, bigger, mini-breakdown... It's just been a lot of go, go, go. Now I'm ready to STOP and I have to start planning and getting ready for school in just a couple weeks. I was going to use this summer to:

  1. Get the house organized once and for all, including closets : (, so we wouldn't go through another school year flying by the seat of our pants. Or more accurately- with our heads up our... you-know-whats.
  2. Get Brianna's Lifebook done. It's completely written, kind of, but only half the pages are scrapped and done. She's only been home for six years, you know.
  3. Develop a more fair and efficient chore system for the kids and allow them time to get used to it before school.
  4. Spend lots of time having fun outside with the kids, enjoying the summer.
  5. Put all of the pictures on my computer onto discs, and backup all my important stuff.
  6. Squeeze in one more mini-breakdown- 'cause they're so darn fun.
  7. Paint my laundry room and bathroom.

Now, if you were guessing... How many of those would you say I can cross off my list?

Tha's right. Zippity.

Although, I have a feeling #6 will find a way of getting done.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Christian the Lion

You may have already seen this, but I thought it was worth posting for those who haven't. Take a second to give it a look. Please forgive the cheesy Whitney Houston background music- I had nothing to do with it... Whether or not you're an animal lover, it's such a sweet story and one that will hopefully bless your heart.

One of the reasons I love this video so much is because of the spiritual parallel you can draw between the love this lion had for his friends, and his obvious joy at seeing them again, and the love and joy God (The Lion of Judah) feels when one who was lost returns. There is no such thing as being forgotten by God. No matter how far you've wandered, or what you've done- He remembers you with love and eagerly awaits your return. He rejoices at the very thought of holding you close to Him again. He forgives.

"...If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost." Matt. 18:12-14

Click to get cool Animations for your MySpace profile
Hope you all are enjoying a safe and happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Sometimes you come across something (or someone) so magnificently brainless and blatantly offensive, that it's funny. Our local newspaper ran a story the other day about an "Adult" store that recently opened. People aren't happy about it, especially the county commissioner. Regarding the store, he told reporters (I kid you not- this is a direct quote... get ready...), "It's time to bring the Klan back, and put black, yellow and red people in those white suits."
Huh??? ???

He said that to the newspaper!! Muuwaaahahaahhaaa. Whoooo-hooooo. Heee, hee. That's good stuff. Good stuff. But what the heck does it even mean?

Apparently, the meaning of his comment, particularly as it applied to a porn shop, was a little vague to everyone else too, because he was asked to explain it. He said that people used to "take care of their own neighborhoods" without needing the government's intervention. He went on to say (Hee, hee- I just love this part!) he meant nothing racial by his comment (oh, really???) , and didn't intend to offend anyone, he just longed for the days when "people did their own housecleaning."

Gee, buddy. Stupid much?

Now, let me see... What was it I was saying recently about having concerns over adopting an AA baby into this community? Hmmmmm.

It's such an odd and offensive thing to say, you can't help but laugh. What a dufus. Little tip for you, Mr. Commissioner- if you don't intend to offend people, and don't want your words to be construed as being racist, you may want to rethink using terms like, oh- I don't know... "Klan," and "white suits." Especially together in the same sentence. I'm not one hundred per cent sure about this, but it makes the black, yellow and red people slightly nervous, I'm thinking.

Actually, I do understand what the poor schmuck was trying to say, so I shouldn't give him such a hard time. He's suggesting that we come together, as a unified community, regardless of race... and torch the porn store. Right? Is that what you got out of it, too?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stand Up For What's Right... Like Good Hygiene

I love getting those precious opportunites to peer into the minds of my children, and hear what they really spend their time thinking about. They either amaze, confuse, frighten or amuse me. It's always such a treat to get a glimpse into how their little heads process everything.

We had VBS last week, and a church revival each night this week, so with Olivia there's been much discussion over The Choosing of the Outfits. She's such a girly girl and it's a total hoot to see how much importance she's placing on the selection process. It makes me question my hopes of her going to Harvard, but it's cute just the same. We have to discuss all the different scenarios like, "this shirt with these shorts means I can't wear these shoes, and I really wanted to wear these shoes, so should I switch to another pair of shorts?" I try to temper her wardrobe enthusiasm with an understanding that there are more important things in life, but what can I say? I just can't seem to get her interested in Tibet, Darfur, Obama vs. McCain, or the price of oil right now. Go figure.

I also enjoyed a funny chat with Bri the other day. She wanted me to help her remove the earrings she had worn in the wedding, so that "she could put them up to save them for her little girl to be the flower girl in her wedding someday." This opened up the box of explaining that her little girl would not be there for her wedding (one can only hope), because the wedding comes first, then the babies. I'm hoping I made that quite clear. LOL. She then went on to say that she is saving her flower basket from the wedding to pass on as well, but she can only have one flower girl instead of two since she only has one basket, and she doesn't want to ask to borrow Sissy's, because Sissy may need hers, and she's afraid buying a second basket "will pobbly be too 'spensive, cuz weddings cost lots and lots of money and she doesn't have any cuz she spent it and she only has pennies left in her bank and pennies aren't like real money." I told her that her dad and I would probably be willing to spring for a second basket. She seemed happy about that. Another crisis averted.

I think these kinds of talks are always fun with Bri because she will inevitably start talking about the man she's going to marry. She's adamant that she's going to marry a "Chinese boy and not a white boy." When she was smaller, she used to draw pictures of our family that always had one extra Asian person in them who was much smaller than she was (this was before the days of discussing the adoption of a baby brother). I always suspected it was her way of working through her feelings of being the "odd man out" in the family... You know? Since she didn't have someone to look like her, she just added one in who did. But whenever we asked who the other person was, she would always say he was her "tiny Chinese husband." He would always be half her size, so clearly we can see who plans to rule the roost.

Tuck tagged along with me recently to run a few errands. We had a good time hanging out and, as always, the conversation was interesting.

Tuck: Hey, Mom? You know what I really, really love?

Me: No, buddy. What? (she said with great trepidation, fully expecting the conversation to quickly devolve into a very detailed discussion of Spiderman or Indiana Jones.)

Tuck: People who take a stand. You know? They see something wrong going on, and they say that's it! I'm going to make that right! I just love that. I think that's awesome. That's the kind of person I'm going to be when I grow up. I'm going to stand up for what's right and put a stop to bad things going on.

Me: Wow... That's great, Hon! What kinds of things will you take a stand on? Do you know yet?

Tuck: Yeah. Well, I know of one. First, I'm going to put a stop to burglars being able to sue people for shooting them if they break into your house. That's not right. I think that's ridiculous.

Me: Oh... Well... Yes, it is. What else? Is there anything else you will take a stand on?

Tuck: Um... I had another one earlier but I can't remember it now.

Me: Oh, okay. Well, maybe you'll think of it later.


Tuck: I thought of the other thing I would take a stand on, Mama.

Me: Oh, good. What is it, bud?

Tuck: People who don't wash their hands after they go to the bathroom. That's disgusting. I always wash.

Me: Me, too. And you're absolutely right. Something horrible should happen to those people.

Tuck: Yes! Like they should get a ticket. Or not be allowed to leave the bathroom at all until they've used water AND soap on their hands. Some people use water, but no soap. That's not good enough. Why do they even do that? Just to make people think they have clean hands when they don't? Then they're gonna sit down and eat with those hands? That's so sick. It's just not right.

Amen to that, buddy. Amen!!

A few pics to keep the grandmas happy...

I tell Evan I want to take his picture, and this is what I get. No cooperation. So, I tell him I'm going to put these pics on the blog, and...
THIS is what I get. Even less cooperation. Evan asked me, "How come you don't ever show any normal pictures of me on your blog?" Well, sweetheart, there aren't any.

Heading out the door for a special "Girls Day Out." Bri is laughing here. When she laughs, she gives it everything she's got