Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Eve plans.....

My sister Marlita and her husband and two kids are coming over for pizza (take-out, of course) tonight. We are going to eat, play games, enjoy the kid chaos, maybe watch a movie, and stay up late.

What is everyone else doing?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A drainage pipe in my living room

Last week at therapy I asked Ava's Physical Therapist for some ideas for what we could do at home to help strengthen her legs to start bearing more weight and eventually being able to walk. Pictured below is a device used at her therapy place for this very purpose, so the therapist took a polaroid picture of it so I could try to duplicate it at home.

Someone asked me if Ava is anywhere close to being able to walk, and the short answer is "no". The long answer is, she has several things working against her. Tiny little feet, extremely flat arches, wobbly ankles, low tone, a tendency to step on her toes instead of her heels, delayed reflexes, poor balance, and an upper body that is twice as big as her lower body. She also has weak quad muscles, therefore when she does have the opportunity to stand up, she wants to lean way forward and hold onto something instead of standing up straight on her legs. It is very cute but very awkward.

I had been searching on Ebay, Craigslist, at Toys R Us, Petsmart (looking for a giant cat scratching device) and I had no luck finding anything remotely close to this big sturdy tunnel looking thing.

So over the Christmas holidays we had the opportunity to spend some time with John's engingeering-minded uncle. He and his wife just moved into a new house that they recently built, and he happened to have this giant PVC pipe-looking thing in his storage barn. With a foam mattress from the attic tucked inside, it is absolutely perfect! She can stand in it upright, and she even, for the first time, attempted to move her feet around to play peek-a-boo with me hiding behind her last night. This is a little game we are playing, called, hit-the-kitty-cat. It's fun to swat it on the floor and make mom go chasing after it.

Of course, this drainage pipe is quite an eye-sore in the middle of my living room all by itself, but with this cute little toddler inside it suddenly it looks very beautiful and seems to go with the decor very well. Don't you think?

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Brutally Honest Post

In the few weeks before Christmas I asked each of my kids for some ideas of what they would like for Christmas, and every one of them (except for Ava of course), asked for another brother or sister to adopt. They wouldn't mind getting a couple of extra things too, of course, but first and foremost on their list was to help out a child in need, and give them a forever family.

They get it. They understand God's heart and the true meaning of giving at Christmas.

I, on the other hand, went out and spent $700 on a bunch of crap that is now laying around cluttering the house, being tripped over and not being played with. Sure, the colorful green and red presents looked pretty lying under the tree, and the anticipation of wondering what was inside them was sort of fun, but when it is all said and done, it is still just a bunch of junk, temporal, wasteful, and having no eternal value.....cluttering our house and our hearts. My kids got that and I missed it.

I am ashamed that I went out the day after Christmas to see what kind of deals I could find, and I am disgusted remembering the long lines of people I saw that day, people buying more junk, and exchanging the stuff they received for the stuff they wanted.

It makes me sick that we live in a society where breast implants, fancy houses, fake nails have become the norm. We don't lack anything, we cannot even fathom what suffering is. And even in an "economic crisis", the lines at Walmart the night before Christmas are a mile long.

I hate that we try to measure success by the kind of car we drive, the size of our house, the brand of purse we carry. I hate that.

Last night I watched this video and cried the whole way through it. (Thank you Christine and Christina for sharing it). I found myself being critical of those people who could do so much and yet do so little to help. I found myself wanting to scoop these children up out of the dirt and feed them, clothe them and love them. And then how quickly my own selfishness and greed were revealed as I realized the thoughts that were going through my mind....... I'd have to give up so much...... There are too many comforts here I couldn't live without..... My family might suffer....... It might be dangerous....... Surely God wants us to stay right here and enjoy the freedom and blessings of being American. Instead I'll just stay here and watch some YouTube videos about the suffering of the world, maybe send a few dollars for someone else to do the dirty work.

Once I read about a human behavior/social experiment that was conducted and I was so surprised at the results that I am still thinking about it years later. In a crowd of people, a person pretended to be having a seizure, or a heart attack or something like that. I was shocked to learn that nobody, not one person offered their help. Everybody stood around staring but nobody helped. Surely I would help, surely I would, I thought to myself. I would go against peer pressure and offer my help. Wouldn't I? But then again, how many times have I heard about a shortage of clean water in third world countries. Did I rush in to help? I have read all about countries and people facing famines and starvation, little children being sold as child prostitutes. What have I done to ease their pain and suffering?

I am turning over a new leaf this year. Instead of the usual reaction of "How sad", "How tragic", or "What a shame", I am going to start asking myself what I can sacrifice to help bring hope to a dying and hopeless world. I may not be rich, and you may not be either, but we all have something to share, and we can make a difference. I heard a pastor share that if Americans just gave a portion of what we spend on Christmas alone, the world's water shortage could be completely eradicated.

I am going to be thinking and praying about what I can do. I hope you will too. Let's make our New Year's resolutions not about us, our weight, our pant size, our finances, our accomplishments or status, but about what we can give and how we can make someone else's world a better place. In a couple of days I will post my ideas and I hope you all will give me your ideas too. Please, please join me!!!

James 4:17 "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." Please watch the video, even if you have to come back later to do it, and tell me how you were impacted. Please.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas at our house

We were blessed to have Christmas here at our house this year. It was particularly special to have John's mom here. She has never been away from her little town in New Mexico for Christmas in her WHOLE LIFE until this year. It was a little bittersweet, as Papaw wasn't here to celebrate with us.

The plan was to open most of the presents Christmas Eve. Everybody gathered around Ava, who was sitting in her little chair pulled up to the ottoman, giving her full attention as it was her first Christmas ever. I had the camera rolling and everyone watching as she opened her very first Christmas present. We set the first present in front of her and she turned her nose and pushed the present away. The kids tried to help her and she got mad, kicked the ottoman, pushed herself over backwards and hit the back of her head, turning pale and screaming hysterically until I was able to console her. Meanwhile I was running back and forth helping Liesel who was in bed with the stomach flu, holding the bucket and pulling hair back for her. Liesel didn't want to spoil everyone else's Christmas and she insisted everyone open presents without her. Sweetheart. These things never quite turn out the way you expect them to.

Needless to say, there was still plenty of time the next morning for presents, so we tried again. I searched high and low for a toy involving two of Ava's favorite items......

A Banana.........

And a yellow school bus.......

Everyone is feeling fine now, the kids are all playing with their cousins, no concussions, and apparently nobody else got the flu. It was a great Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Urban Family!

Look how we've changed in a year......

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Christmas I received this ornament from my sweet friend Tina, who knew how desperately I wanted Ava home with us. It was such a sweet reminder that while she could not be with us for the holidays, she was with us in our hearts, and hanging on our tree. For those adoptive mommies who are longing to have your babies home for Christmas, I know all to well how hard that can be.

This year, hanging next to that ornament is this ornament that my homeschool buddy Delahne helped the kids make for our homeschool Christmas party. I feel slightly sentimental when I see the two ornaments hanging next to each other. The little snowmen are made from Ava's fingerprints. Her wonderful, chubby little fingers, here in my house this Christmas. What a wonderful thing we have to celebrate this year.

And I just had to throw this in here as well. I have a grandmother who lives in California. She is 90 years old, has battled breast cancer, injuries from a terrible car accident, and arthritis to mention a few. Yet she still managed to make and bake this bread wreath and mail it to us for Christmas. What an amazing woman she is. I hope I will be doing the same thing for my great-grandkids when I am 90. (Don't tell Grandma, but we all picked off the red and green "candies" just as I used to do when I was a kid).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Picture Tag

Amy tagged me to post the 4th picture of my 4th photo folder and tell a story about it. To be honest, I don't really have folders, per se, just thumbnail pictures. So I cheated a little, and instead I went back to the very first pictures ever taken with our digital camera, and I picked one of my favorite stories to tell about.

Here are Jude, Liesel, and Simeon. They are in the front yard of our old house, painting with sidewalk chalk/paint.

While they painted the sidewalk outside, I was inside, with some help from John, working on a special surprise for them. The babysitters brought them inside, fed them and cleaned them up. The surprise was not quite ready. So they put their pajamas on, started a movie, and waited some more.

They stayed up quite late that night. Finally, halfway through The Little Rascals, Daddy called the kids downstairs. The surprise was ready.

Scroll to the bottom to see the surprise!

This is really is a fun tag, and I don't remember who I tagged last time. So I tag anyone who wants to play.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I just finished crying happy tears after watching little Sam's adoption video, who recently came home from Armenia to his forever family. Click here to see it. (Make sure you grab some Kleenex first!)

Then I cried sad tears over this little orphaned boy to the left, Aleksey. He has spina bifida. If nobody adopts him within the next few months he will be sent to the institution. I asked permission to link to Sam's mom's blog, hoping to get the word out about Aleksey. He looks too precious to pass up. Just think how sweet he would look, dressed in BOY clothes, in the arms of his forever family.

If you know someone considering adoption, please spread the word about this sweet little boy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ava and Hope meet Santa Claus

Here are the little girls getting ready to see Santa Claus. I curled their hair and dressed them in matching dresses, ribbons, and everything.

As you can see, neither Santa nor Mrs. Claus were a big hit with Ava. She grabbed ahold of Mrs. Claus' hair so tight and wouldn't let go. John had to pry her fingers off. I can say with all certainty that Mrs. Claus does not wear a wig.

Hope was so excited about seeing Santa. And in case anyone is wondering, she DID ask for an orphan for Christmas, she really did. No mention of the watch or the swimming pool. I'm not sure Santa heard her, it was so loud in that room but I sure heard her loud and clear.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A crafty day

What is it about cold and snowy days that make moms feel so craft-y? From the blogs of the local moms I read today, I take it we all had the same idea! When I called my sister today she was making cinnamon rolls with her kids. Here is what we were doing during while it snowed and sleeted.

These are little homemade bird feeders which are now hanging on my front porch. You take a slice of bread, cut it with a cookie cutter, leaving the bread inside. Pour melted peanut butter, then sprinkle nuts, seeds, rice, raisins, whatever you have. This was so fun, and now we get to hopefully enjoy watching our hungry visitors eat!

We also made a little nativity scene out of toilet paper tubes (we have plenty of those around!). I saw this in a magazine but I couldn't remember exactly how it was done so we made up our own version of it. Don't Mary and Joseph look happy staring down at their little peanut wrapped in swaddling cloths? If you look closely you'll see Mary is shedding a hot glue gun tear.

Let There Be Peace On Earth - Down syndrome

Friday, December 12, 2008

Santa's Tall Order

Rumor has it that Santa Claus is supposed to show up at the Down Syndrome Christmas party tomorrow morning. When I told this to Hope, she ran around looking for a piece of paper and pencil, then sat down to write him a 'note' that she wants to hand-deliver to him.

Pencil in hand, she asked, "Mommy, how do you spell 'watch'?"

"Mommy, how do you spell 'swimming pool'?"

"Mommy, how do you spell 'orphan'?"


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas in Africa

I love projects like this at Christmas time, because it is like killing two birds with one stone. One person gets a Christmas CD or ornament, and another gets an adoptive family, food, clean water, mentorship, or the gospel message.

We have been privileged to know the Koen family for the past three years. We are very excited for them as they obey the calling God has placed on their hearts. They will soon be returning to their home country, South Africa, to launch a wonderful ministry....bringing hope to the hopeless by connecting those who have with those who do not...for His namesake.

After volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club of America, they will be launching a similar project, a first for Africa. There will be youth centers, mentorship programs, investment fund programs to help individuals start businesses, AIDS education, and opportunities to share Jesus with every person who comes through their doors.

The ministry area that I am particularly excited about is called Hope House. Homes are donated to AIDS orphans, and house parents and orphans live together in homes as forever families where adoption is not possible.

As they are spreading the word about this ministry, they are selling Christmas CDs to raise funds for this project. What makes these CDs special is that the Christmas songs are sung by the orphans themselves.

Please take a look at their short video clip, their website, and for that person that is always so hard to buy for....Please consider an orphan music CD! We bought several, because we believe in this project so much.

Guess what else everyone is getting for Christmas this year? :)

A couple of days ago, after taking 5 children to the Walmart Supercenter, I drove by Bath and Body Works and saw the sign in the window: Buy 3, Get 2 Free.

Reasoning that I could keep two and give three away as Christmas gifts, yet feeling slightly guilty about indulging myself, but also missing the Blackberry Amber scent (which, sadly they don't even carry anymore) that I loved so much and ran out of a couple of weeks ago, and also not wanting to pass up a good deal, yet not wanting to bother John at work with a phone call to ask his blessing to spend money on unnecessary purchases, I justified a stop, and dragged everyone into Bath and Body Works, coming out with 5 products for less than $30.

I ended up forgetting something at Wal-mart, and asked John to stop by on his way home from work that day for me. When he walked in the door, guess what surprise he had? Yes, he was carrying a Bath and Body Works bag, containing 5-for-the-price-of-3, lotions and gels, one for each of his daughters, and two for his wife. I now have 10 Bath and Body Works products for the price of 6! Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year?

So last night Hope came out of the bathroom, smelling like Sweet Pea scented body lotion. She runs to her daddy and gives him a hug. He says, "Mmmm, Hope, you smell like Sweet Pea."

To which she replied, "That's because I just went to the bathroom."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sisters and friends

If I could have seen these pictures a year ago, maybe I wouldn't have worried so much about Hope. Remember this post? I worried and worried and worried for nothing. I was sure we'd be dealing with some jealousy, anger, having conversations about sending the baby back to the orphanage. Acting out, aggression, withdrawal. I really expected something!

Instead, these two little girls are becoming the best of friends. Hope is Ava's biggest teacher, encourager, cheerleader, peer model, and friend. She (still) is the first to tell me when Ava wakes up, so I can bring her out to play, wants to help me change the diapers, mix up the food, pick out the clothes. She sings to her, fixes her hair, strokes her cheek, reads books to her, plays peek-a-boo, baby dolls, and blocks, carries her around, pushes her in the stroller. She tells complete strangers, "I'm 4 now, just like my baby sister!" And tonight she told me that what she loves best about Ava is how she grinds her teeth and does the splits like Elasti-girl. :)

For some reason blogger put these pictures in backward order, but here are a few sweet photos that I have of the two of them.

Here they are, waiting for Ava's school bus a few weeks ago.

One night I left the two of them on the bed snuggling and singing songs together. When I came back, this is what I found.
Going for a walk.....
Playing pat-a-cake
Being silly....
And the sweetest of all, the first day they met at the airport 10 months ago. I think it was love at first sight.

Monday, December 8, 2008

This little girl never ceases to amaze me! Just look what she did today.

Her brother was doing his school work on the floor beside her, and she grabbed the pencil away from him and started scribbling on his book. And look how she's holding the pencil! Is that not an almost perfect pencil grip? And is she a lefty after all? I've been trying to make her use her right hand this whole time. She continues to surprise us every day. To think that only a few short months ago, she couldn't even hold her own bottle! Amazing girl.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I just want to say a real quick thank you to everyone who left comments for my kids. They were so excited! Thanks!!!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Two of my children decided a while back that they wanted their own blogs too. Jude posted, I think, one blog entry several weeks ago, and has been checking every day since to see if he's had any comments on that entry. :)

Liesel also has a blog that she would love for you to read. She is quite the blogging pro, actually. Tonight I heard her ask her dad how to make a line through words. She also asked me how to spell "lamborgini" (to which I replied-I have no idea).

Please check out their blogs, and if you really want to make their day, leave them both a comment or two!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This is what was going on in my living room last night......

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yesterday Delahne and I got a babysitter for the day for the little ones and took the older kids to the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, MO. I found myself wishing that I could have known this wonderful man in person. His life demonstrated such wisdom, kindness, humility, and godliness and he had an incredibly intimate relationship with his Creator. Did you know he was born to a slave woman, and adopted by her masters when he was orphaned as a baby? I was touched to realize the impact that his adoptive family had on who he became and what he did with his life. It is such a beautiful and inspiring story. If you don't know about him, you should definitely read about his life and his amazing accomplishments.

In the university, he saw his students as his own children, and was just as concerned with their character development as he was their intellectual advancement. He compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues for his students to strive towards. I loved these. I hope they mean something to you too:
1. Be clean both inside and out.
2. Neither look up to the rich or down on the poor.
3. Lose, if need be, without squealing.
4. Win without bragging.
5. Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
6. Be too brave to lie.
7. Be too generous to cheat.
8. Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


NEVER, EVER tell four kids, "Why don't you bring down the Christmas decorations from the attic while I lay down for a little rest", while casually asking a football-watching husband to supervise....

Here are the 'after' photos, although I think the 'after nap' photos would have made a more interesting blog entry. Too bad I wasn't in a mood to take pictures. :)

Oh yeah....we have 5 kids. Looks like we need another stocking on that fireplace.
And this last picture has nothing to do with Christmas decorations, but I think Jude looks so cute with his shorts and cowboy boots.
Reminds me of somebody else I know.