Thursday, November 30, 2017

Scrambled Thoughts XXVII (Catch Up Post)

1. This is what your front door might look like if you're getting a new sister and she'll be coming up the walkway any minute.

We didn't know much about her, but we knew that her name was Daniela and that she was from Colombia. And that her previous home wasn't working out for her. I'd never actually considered hosting a foreign exchange student before, but somehow when the foreign exchange director called me one Tuesday to tell me about Daniela and to ask if we would be willing to take her in for the next six months, I listened to her story. And found myself ending the conversation with, "Well... It's not a no..."

Of course, I couldn't make a final decision then and there. For one, that's not my style; my style is to agonize first and weigh all the options and feel like I'm about to explode from the stress of it all. For two, I hadn't talked to Brian about it, so obviously that needed to be done. Time was of the essence, however, so Mary asked if she could start running the background checks 'just in case things worked out'.

Well. Sure, I guess. I don't see why not.

So while she started running the background checks I called Brian. "Hey, love..." I started. It hit me in that moment just how lucky I felt to have Brian be the husband on the other end of the line. Here I was, about to open up a conversation about something that would completely change the dynamic of our family and I had nothing but confidence that he would listen respectfully and open his heart to the option. "So, I just had a really interesting conversation... How would you feel about hosting a foreign exchange daughter? Like, starting next week? ..."

We had a lot to talk about.

For one, I have five other children, one of whom is a baby. And if we're being honest here, I didn't feel like I had very much of myself left over to give. But even from the very first conversation, I somehow knew (and Brian did, too) that the end decision was going to be 'yes' and we just needed to work through all the details and convince ourselves of it. Thankfully, the foreign exchange director, Mary, knew Daniela personally as Daniela had been spending a lot of time at her house since things weren't going well at the current host family's house. I made it very clear to Mary that I wasn't going to be able to give much, that Daniela was going to have to share my time and attention with five other children, and that if she was going to come to our home I needed to be sure that she wasn't going to be high maintenance. I needed to know that she could be responsible for getting herself to the places she needed to be, and that she wouldn't push too many boundaries. Mary reassured me over and over and over again, "Lindsay," she would say, "Daniela is absolutely wonderful. Sweet, quiet, obedient, you will love her."

So within a week it was all arranged and Daniela was on her way to our house.

The children (you can see from the picture above) were filled with only excitement, and while they stood there with their noses pressed up against the glass, I paced the floors behind them, nervous and praying that I would be able to be enough for this new daughter coming into our home.

And then she came.

She walked through the front door with a smile and hugs and gratitude for taking her in. She laughed easily and when I looked into her eyes I felt like I could see straight into her heart. No walls. No barriers. Just love. And I knew from that moment that we were all going to be just fine and that Daniela would become a true daughter and a friend.

2. Plus, she gave us presents.

These bracelets are all the way from Columbia - and she had one for each of us. I don't even think she realized that she was wrapping us up with a little bit of that love.

3. Sometimes church feels like a crumpled up, ripped up, colored up, piece of paper.

But we still go. Because we believe the Lord when he says he blesses those who 'endure to the end'.

4. With so many siblings around, this little lady has the world figured out. 

It's all about protecting the head and keeping the smiles.

5. Almost every picture I take of her these days has that tongue making a special appearance.

And I couldn't be more delighted about it. She's a heart winner, this one.

6. I don't even care if the children color on themselves during church anymore.

Just look at all of that letter practice going on all over that hand! Plus, it kept him super quiet for a while because he felt like he was 'getting away' with something. Score.

7. Also, I don't care what the children eat for breakfast anymore, apparently. 

Paper towel rolls seem to be below my breakfast standards still, but judging from the amount of saliva all over that thing I'd say you'd have a pretty good argument against me.

Eventually she decided to get on with her day and explore the rest of her world the kitchen.

And I'll tell you, every time she crawls past me I get a big sappy smile all over my face.

8. It's pomegranate time!

Our tree gave us a bunch of pomegranates again this season, and this year we got to teach Daniela the art of gathering the seeds from them. It's not easy, you know... nothing about the pomegranates seem easy, actually. It's difficult to know when to pick the things, first of all. Sometime in the window of After They're Ripe Enough and Before They're Eaten by Birds.
And then once you pick them, they're a little possessive of their seeds and need some time and effort and coaxing to get them out. But once you do, the explosive taste of those seeds is worth it all.

Thanksgiving Festivities and Getting Ready for Christmas (Catch Up Post)

This year the Aldriches came to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. I'm not sure if there's any such thing as friends feeling like family more than the Aldriches do for us. All those years in North Carolina when we were all separated from our families during the holidays could be painful - but we had each other to help soothe those pains and as the years progressed we started realizing that celebrating Thanksgiving together as friends has beautiful benefits.

The day before Thanksgiving, I realized that I was going to need more butter, so we sent the men out to do some shopping.

And they came back with gobs of butter. We laughed and made it work when my recipe called for 2 little tablespoons from that chunk.

Daniela was a big help this Thanksgiving. She jumped right into the kitchen and tried her hand at a homemade blueberry pie. It ended up so, so delicious!

Thanksgiving day, we got to work setting the tables and the little ones got to work coloring pictures and writing little messages on post it notes that ended up running down the center of the table.

And Brian is a fantastic kitchen helper. Sometimes I catch him in the kitchen juggling several dishes spread over the stove, in the oven, on the counters, in the fridge... he whips in and out of their needs like a pro, smiling all the while, and I think to myself, 'This man should cook for us more often.'

Finally after two days of prep, it was time to eat. I know it's probably pretty sacrilegious to snap a picture during a prayer, but that little Timothy praying with the picture of Christ in the background made my heart burst a bit.

After the first round of food, we went outside to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and to play under the pastel sunset.

The kids played round after round after round of basketball, and Daniela found her joy on the razor.

It was a most magical night filled with happy feelings of love and friendship.

And then after we had sufficiently digested our food, we went back in to snag a little piece of every pie.

These children are so beautiful. You know how sometimes you come across a picture and can't stop staring at it? This one does that for me.

Later that night, we all hopped into the car and traveled into Henderson to score some Black Friday Deals. Mostly it was for Daniela to experience something new and weird.

And then we went to the new Pixar movie, Coco. Delightful and so thought provoking! It made me want to learn all about my ancestors and spend some real time with them.

The Thanksgiving festivities finally came to an end and we turned our attention to Christmas. One of my favorite things to do is to make a hot chocolate bar with several different kinds of hot chocolate, turn on the Christmas music, and decorate.

This year we introduced Daniela into those traditions. Her heart was tender as she thought about her own family and the traditions they were all celebrating without her. I wrapped her in hug after hug and soon she started to embrace the evening.

The last night in November, we pulled out all the candy and made candy chains to help the kids count down the days until Christmas. We let Daniela stay up and help us make them and it was the first night we saw some true 'Dani'. She hopped and skipped and danced through the kitchen and I realized that this was all going to work out for her after all.

We love her so much and are so happy to have her with us.

Happy December!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Family Pictures (Catch Up Post)

Every year we take an evening (or two (or three in this case)) to get a new family picture for our Christmas card. I wouldn't say that I particularly enjoy these outings... really they're quite stressful to think about, plan, and execute, but when I come back with a camera full of beautiful pictures of my favorite people on the planet, my heart sings and I'm so, so glad we did it.

Let's talk about the experience this year from oldest to youngest, shall we?

Isn't she lovely? I took my brand new reflector with us this time and used it for the first time. I'll admit that I had no idea what I was doing, and I also had no idea how to edit some of the pictures when I got them back, but I think the colors in this one above turned out absolutely beautifully. And her beautiful face makes me all choked up inside.

She is such a happy person and it is a delight to take pictures of her. She has finally grown out of her I-Can't-Figure-Out-How-To-Give-You-A-Real-Smile-Because-This-Fake-One-Looks-So-Good phase (remember when she decided the best way to smile for pictures was to curl her top lip and rest them on top of her braces because "that way I don't even have to smile and it still looks like I'm smiling!"?) She is comfortable in front of the camera now, cooperative, obedient, and sweet. Such a beautiful person.

Carson, however, has not grown out of that phase yet and is a little trickier.


It's a good thing he's so handsome anyway. You almost don't even realize that the smiles aren't real. And anyway, he's just so helpful the whole time we're taking pictures that I can't help but feel like I'm staring at an angel every time I see his face. He is such a good kid.

Miles, for some reason, has never gone through an awkward picture phase. He has a camera sense about him and intuitively knows how to hold the muscles in his face and be relaxed and fun. Even when his smiles aren't 'real' his face still looks so 'real'. He is a delight to photograph and always has been. It will be interesting to see if he goes through an awkward phase coming up here in the next couple of years like the older two have...

Timothy is a cheeser. 

He can't give me a real smile on demand. Ever. So we play a ton with silly faces until we get a real laugh in there.

The trick with the real laugh is getting the laugh with the eyes open. Tricky. But eventually we come away with something that is passable, and I absolutely love the way the lighting turned out in these pictures below. Such a handsome kid.

Eliza. There's no tricking her into smiling when she doesn't want to sit on the sand.

So we lose.

But thankfully we can try another day and come back with a blanket so the offending sand doesn't have to touch any of her precious skin.

And we win.

Also, I'd like for you all to meet our new daughter: Daniela. She has come to live with us for the rest of the school year as our new foreign exchange daughter! Oh how we love her already. She is caring and kind, soft spoken and gentle, smart and brave... we can't wait to get to know her more over the next six months.

It must be so difficult to come to the United States without knowing a soul and trust that you will land in a home with a family who loves and cares for you. She came here three months ago and that was not her story. So she came to us feeling broken and homesick and we hope to help turn her experience around and send her back home to Colombia feeling that her time in the United States was wonderful. She was such a good sport to jump into the pictures. Unfortunately we'd already taken the family picture the week before we found out she was coming to live with us, so she wasn't in that one, but she came with me and the kids to get the individual shots and to jump into the kids picture, and that was a blessing for all of us. Even though Miles is kind of stealing her thunder...

Whew. Another family picture session in the books. Good job, team!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bubble Run Fun (Catch Up Post)

These ladies are fun. We get together for everyone's birthday and celebrate the day (or night) away with a theme. This theme? Bubbles! We arrived at Laurie's house early in the morning, put on masks, and kidnapped her right out of her bed to take her to the Bubble Run - a 5K run through colorful bubbles.

She was such a good sport being woken up straight out of bed! I'm not sure I would have been so kind. She followed our orders (put on black leggings, this T-shirt, this tutu, this headband, and sunglasses) and we were on our way!

We ran walked together, and every so often we'd run through a crazy ton of bubbles in all different colors to keep our energy alive!

At one point they noticed me lagging behind to take a picture of my shadow, and they all jumped in to join.

It's pretty amazing how fun it can be to run through bubbles!

At times the bubbles soared way over our heads and we had to feel our way through the bubble-darkness to get through to the other side.

Our tutus collected the bubbles like magnets, and our shoes were full of color by the end.

And at the end of the race, they had cannons of bubbles shooting off and loud, happy music playing. It was the perfect place to celebrate a Happy Birthday for Laurie!

Afterwards, we went all sweaty and colorfully to the Sweet Bubble Bath Confections and browsed all sorts of fancy bath soaps and additives.

A fun day for sure!