"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011, A Year of Change

Today is New Year's Eve.  Can you even believe it?

The close of a year is always a nostalgic time for me as I think back on all that has happened in the previous 12 months.  I told Chad today that to me, 2011 was a year filled with change.   So many changes that at times I am still trying to wrap my brain around them all.

The biggest and very best change is in Joshua's relationship to his daddy.  He has become so attached to Chad.  Everything about their relationship has become relaxed and natural.  Chad had to be so very patient!  It took Joshua a loooooong time, but it was worth every minute.  The picture above was taken just last week.  Joshua had fallen asleep in my van on the way to my Grandma's pizza party.  He was snuggling sleepily on my shoulder a bit overwhelmed by the new location and all the people.  When his daddy arrived he quickly reached out to him.  He was happy to snuggle with him.  Even 2 months ago that would not have happened.  He would never have gone to Chad when he was not totally secure in a location. Once he was feeling a bit more comfortable, he would have gone to Chad before any other adult, but he would not have left my hip in that situation until very recently.  It is so, so good!

He also chooses to go places with Chad instead of with me at times.  He has asked to have Chad put him to bed once or twice when I am at home.  On the weekends when he comes into our room to wake us up, he never leaves our bed without hugging and kissing his daddy.  And in the last week when I have been off work and we have been sleeping later, his first words in the morning have been, "Where my daddy?"  When I tell him he is at work, Joshua responds, "OH, I wanted to take a bath with him! I want daddy time!"

We are now truly parenting Joshua just like we parented his siblings at the same age.  He is sleeping in his own bed!  He has no only very rare issues with separation.  I have not noticed any unusual or possibly adoption/trauma related issues in several months.  Joshua is now also confident and attached in his relationships as a grandson, nephew, and friend as well.  We have slowly transitioned from therapeutic parenting to typical parenting, and it feels so, so, so good!

Other changes this year, which may seem minor to you but feel MAJOR to me include:
  • Krissy getting her drivers license and beginning high school!  I am so thankful that driving has gone so well.  I was so worried!  In the end, I have really appreciated her being able (and willing) to run a few errands for me.  I can not believe that in 2 years we will be preparing for her graduation!  I am so proud of the young woman she is becoming.
  • Jamison is the same height as me.  That does not seem like such a big deal until it happens.  The little boy I rocked as a baby and tickled as a toddler now looks me in the eye.  Soon, I will be looking up at him.  He has a deep man-voice.  Watching my oldest son turn from boy to teenager has been incredible.  I am in awe at the man he is becoming.
  • In August we put our home for sale.  While it has still not sold (and we may decide to pull it off the market), choosing to let go and give even out biggest position to God was a huge decision.  In some ways we were "laying down our Isaac" and allowing God to take it or "regift" it to us.  As a woman who loves making our house THE place for our family to gather and feel safe and loved, letting it go without a plan of what was to come was a HUGE leap of trust.
  • I went back to work, and I sent my preschool child to day care.  That was THE HARDEST thing I have ever done as a mom.  Although I truly felt that God was calling me to take that step, I could NOT UNDERSTAND WHY!  I truly believe that the best place for a child to be is with their mother, and feeling that God was "forcing" me to leave Joshua just did not add up.  While I could see how I could be used for His glory in my job, I could not fathom how that gain would be worthy of (what I perceived as) Joshua's loss.  I did not doubt that I was operating under the umbrella of God's will, but I still struggled to trust and submit when it did not make sense to me.  In the past weeks, I have been very humbled as I am starting to catch a glimpse of how God was preparing and protecting Joshua for the future.  My constant prayer during this transition has been Jeremiah 29:11.  When I have been scared, doubting, and frustrated I have continually repeated, "Thank you God that You have a plan for my life.  Thank you that it is a plan to prosper me and my family.  Thank you that it is not a plan to harm me.  Thank you that it is a plan to give me hope and a beautiful future."  It is incredibly humbling to see that plan (which was so totally unknown to me) begin to unfold and realize how many things that I counted as loss were actually gain.
Although I will never remember 2011 as a simple, calm, "golden" year, I will remember it as a year that I learned much about blind trust and having faith even when "it" does not all add up. 

God really is good. . . all. the. time.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

Because I know you are all wondering. . .
Yep. I turned 37 today.
(Don't believe my teenagers when they tell you 38!  They are truly teasing.)

I am overwhelemed by the blessings I am surrounded by.
Truly. Overwhelmed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To Grandmother's House We Went

Yesterday my sister-in-law, Emily, and I loaded all 7 of our kids into my mega momma mobile to road trip to my Grandmother's house for her birthday.  There is just no place else in the world like your Grandma's house - especially at Christmas!  Being in my Grandma's house when it is decorated for Christmas just brings back so many memories!

As a child we always spent Christmas Eve at my Grandparent's house.  We went to church, took hours and hours of family pictures (or so it seemed), ate all sorts of yummy treats, opened gifts, laughed, tried to sleep so Santa would come, and eventually woke up and waited and waited and waited for Grandpa to come in from feeding the cows so we could open stockings Christmas morning.  The ONLY downside about marrying Chad was that our marriage ended Christmas at my Grandparent's house.  (I gained Christmas with my in-laws whom I love though!)

The last few years I have tried to get to my Grandma's house to see her on her birthday.  It is not quite the same as Christmas, but it has become a wonderful NEW tradition.

Most of the pictures below will not mean much to you, or to my kids - but for me they are dripping with memories.
 Here the teenagers are gathered around Grandma and Grandpa's kitchen table.  Their kitchen table is THE place where memories are made. That table is the center of all the action.  The majority of my memories from their home take place with that table in the center.
 The second most memory filled room is the "office."  Walking into my Grandpa's office and seeing my kids laughing just made my heart smile.

Emily, the kids, and I arrived at the farm about noon.  We had packed a simple lunch so Grandma would not have to cook on her birthday.  We chatted, drank coffee, and sampled Grandma's baking all afternoon.  Then we traveled to Pizza Corner to meet the rest of the clan for birthday supper.
 The pizza place had games.  Lucky for us, Joshua does not yet know the driving game is more fun if you feed it quarters.
 Silly Sierra bought this ridiculous super cool hat with Christmas money.  She loves it.
 Joshua, Caitlin, and Brenna strike a pose.
 The super-cool teen table - Jamison, Landon, Courtenay, and Krissy
 This is my grandparent's surrounded by all of their Great Grandchildren
(left to right) Jamison, Sierra, Joshua, Alexa, Brenna, Adrianna, and Krissy
 Here they are surrounded by all their Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren that were present.  There are 3 missing.
(back, left to right)Caitlin, myself, Jamison, Sierra, Joshua, Alexa, Brenna, Adrianna, my brother Chad, and Krissy
(front, left to right) Landon, Grandpa, Grandma, and Courtenay
 This is one of my favorite photos from the night.  It had been 18 years since I have seen my mom and her siblings pose for a photo together - but it was a yearly occurrence growing up.  Grandma insisted on many family groupings each Christmas Eve before any gifts were opened.  Each and every year, the siblings were called together for a photo.  Every year they goofed and giggled, pinched and wiggled.  It was so fun for me to see that some things never change!
 This is Joshua posing with his (and my) Auntie Robin. 

Unfortunately all good things come to an end!

We loaded back up in my mega momma mobile - but this time my parent's jumped in.
Guess what?

Even with my mom and dad riding along, we had 2 extra seatbelts!

I am learning to love my mega momma mobile!

Happy Birthday Grandma!  We loved spending the day with you!  It was so good to be at my Grandma's house for Christmas(ish).  I love you!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Creative Christmas Day 2011

Christmas day dawned very traditionally - with a little one climbing in our bed, ready to check out his stocking!  (Joshua is no longer terrified of Santa - but he does not think Santa is fun.  So at our house we just have stockings.  The gifts come from mom and dad.  No chubby guy with a beard gonna sneak into our house!)

I love snuggly, Christmas morning pictures!

 After stockings and breakfast (Thanks Chad!) we rushed off to church.

After church we joined my family at my parent's house.  We had lunch as usual, and then the creativity began.

Grandpa had decided that the grandkids should go out to the hay barn and re-enact the Christmas story.  It was an experience!
 Here is Mary (Lexie) riding the donkey (Sierra) to Bethlehem.
 Joseph (Joshua) kept a tight hold of the halter rope.

(Sierra was a "Shrek-like donkey." At one point she belched loudly.  She was not very sacred in her acting, but she was bust a gut hilarious!)
 Here are Mary and Joseph watching baby Jesus sleeping in the hay.
 Grandpa was the narrator and director.  He had his hands full trying to keep everyone focused (including the audience - we may have been a bit disruptive and giggly).
 Here is the angel (Brenna).
 And eventually Mary and Joseph were joined by a shepherd (my brother Chad) and a wise man (Adrianna).
 The whole cast
 Poor Jay was NOT impressed!  This precious play took place in the middle of the first Celtics game of the year.  He is an avid Celtics fan.  Good thing he could check the score on his cellphone.
 Krissy was not impressed being at the barn in her 5" heels.
 And Chad, well he is just a heckler, so the crowd was as funny as the actors.
 After the play, Grandma had a scavenger hunt planned.  She said that we needed to do something different so we would always remember the Christmas that it was 45* outside! 
(I told you she was creative!)

She gave the kids their clue, and they were
 Eventually we had a more traditional gift exchange.
 Mr. Serious Celtics Fan skipped his first turn to open a gift because the game was tied!

(NO! We do not usually tolerate this degree of sports mania, but it was the first game of the season.)
 Last year, Joshua was very hesitant about gifts.  We were careful to make sure he did not get overwhelmed and overstimulated.  We even took a break mid-day to go home for a rest and some quiet.  Those were all really good choices at the time.

However, it was NOT necessary this year!  This year he was a typical 4 year old in every single way.  He LOVED presents, he even pouted once when he was out of things to open.  He ran and played and hugged and giggled.  He was totally overstimulated, but he handled it so well.

We were so proud of him!
 Our boys roughhousing

Poor Jay!  Joshua loves to egg him on, but when Jay finally grabs him and wrestles and tickles Joshua loves to tattle.  Joshua picks and picks - but then when Jay grabs him he yells, "Mom!!!! Jay getting me!" We all giggle about it.  It is a really good thing Jamison is so patient!
 Here are Joshua and Grandpa playing rodeo.
Notice the brownie with the bite mark?

Mr. Joshua grabbed it off the plate and began to take a bite.
Then Lexie called for him to come and play.
He replaced it on the plate mid-bite so that he would not miss out on even a minute of fun.

Emily and I just laughed and laughed.
It is so fun to see the cousins together!

I am not working most of this week!!!
So today, I got all my Christmas things from the main level put away.

Then Chad helped me repaint the accent wall.
Yep, again.

In the last 6 weeks it has been light grey (which looked blue), dark grey (which looked poopy green) and now is chocolate brown.  I think the third time is the charm.  I also got smart and raided the paint room at the shop instead of paying for paint, so if I change my mind again at least the paint was free!

I joked on facebook that you know you married the right man when he helps you paint the same wall 3 times in 6 weeks because you just can not get the paint color correct!  In my defense, I have never done this before!  I am usually a good color chooser!

Anyway, my main floor is back to normal.  My basement is totally trashed, but that will be a project for another day.

Tomorrow I will fill the mega momma mobile with our kids and my sister-in-law and her girls.  We will take a roadtrip to Grandma Great's house so we can celebrate her birthday.

I am so very thankful to be off and able to go!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Beautiful Way to End a Beautiful Day

It was a wonderful day filled with family, unexpected blessings, yummy food, thoughtful gifts, much laughter, beautiful music, and overflowing with love.

Some days are just too special to end in a normal way.

So tonight, filled with the anticipation of Christmas, our kids asked to sleep together.
Krissy on the top bunk.
Joshua on the bottom bunk.
And Sierra on the floor.

There was a bit too much chatter, and when I started to worry about lack of sleep, Chad wisely shushed me.  After all how many sleepovers do I think these 3 will have?  Some moments are too special to ruin with rules.

Some days my cup runneth over with joy, gratitude, and love.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours.
Praying that your cup runneth over as well.

Yet I know some of you grieve from deep losses.
I pray that God meets you right where you are,
and that you feel His love in the midst of your pain.

Believe it or not, He really does work miracles.
Usually when you least expect it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Family Christmas 2011

Tonight we celebrated Jesus' birthday with our kids.

We had planned on opening gifts tomorrow morning, but I was too excited to wait any longer.

We began our evening with our traditional appetizer meal.  Krissy commented that it is most likely the least healthy meal we have every year.  I served hot wings, cheese sticks, stuffed potato skins, and mozzarella cheese sticks.  Yummy - but NOT healthy!

When we were done eating, we drew names.

Each year we draw names, all of us.  Then Chad and I give each person a $20 bill to shop with.  Any change must be left in the package of the person whose name you drew.  We split into 3 shopping teams, and we all hit the mall.

Shopping is always fun.  I was on Joshua's team.  He was so proud to have "monies" in his pocket.  He shopped very seriously for Krissy - keeping each item hidden under his coat, just in case she walked by.  He was thrilled to be able to pay all by himself.  It was a blast!

We got home and quickly wrapped the gifts.

 Before we opened gifts, I insisted on a quick picture.
(I inherited this "gene" from my Grandma. Taking family pictures for what seemed like hours was always part of Christmas at her house!)
 I am so thankful that I have this shoulder to lean on.

And then the wrapping paper started flying.
We open one gift at a time - youngest to oldest.
(so pictures are in random order)
 Brenna bought this for Jay.
He is still a Colts fan, despite a difficult season.
 Joshua chose a hat, nose rings, and some candy for Krissy.
He was so excited he was shaking as she opened her gift.
She was super sweet to him in return.
 Krissy had my name.
She chose such thoughtful gifts.
 Krissy surprised each of us with a gift.
She made many of them.
Including the sweatshirt Sierra is proudly modeling.
She has become an amazing seamstress.
 I love this sister shot!
Sierra was so very thrilled with her gift.
She said her heart was just pounding with love.
 Chad and I bought our TV addict a portable DVD player.
She wore hers out.
 I was most excited about Chad's gift.
For the past 5-7 years he has said that he would really like to learn to play the guitar.
So, at long last. . .
 we bought him a guitar!
He was excited!
 He did get to try it for a few minutes,
 before our other guitar lover took over!
(Chad may need to practice after Gubbers goes to bed!)
This final photo is of the gift Krissy made for me.
Krissy sewed, Sierra stuffed, and the rest of the kids kept it a secret!
Isn't it so cute?!?
It was a really good night.  A night rich with love and laughter.  A night when my heart was full to overflowing.  Chad kept asking me if I was alright, because I could not help but be teary off and on.  This year the tears were of joy and gratitude and hope.  I am so very grateful for the love and laughter filled home that we have.  I am thankful for thoughtful children, healthy children, loving children.  I am beyond grateful for the man I am blessed to share my everything with.  And I am so excited for the HOPE that promises to fill 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waiting in Readiness

Chad and I have just completed updating our home study.

I thought that might get your attention.  :)

Before you get too excited (or alarmed depending on your personal opinion), let me explain what that does and does not mean.

Chad and I feel totally content and thoroughly blessed by our family as is.  Our kids are doing well, and life is almost easy once again.  However, we also know that there are 143+ million children in the world who do not have a mommy or a daddy.  That is NOT alright with us.

When we began Joshua's adoption there was no question in our minds that we would bring home a 3ish year old little boy from Ethiopia.  Although we were fearful at times, we were very sure of God's very specific call. 

We do not feel the same way at his time. 

Right now, we have felt called to "wait in readiness."  While we do not feel called in any specific direction, we do feel like we need to be prepared for whatever God has in store in our future.  We are open to most anything - International, domestic, or foster.

We are also open to being "done."  We do realize that we have 5 children.  By most standards that is crazy enough!  However, we love being parents more than anything else we do, and we have witnessed first hand the redemptive power that the love of a family has in the life of a child. For us, opening the door to another adoption is about being open to God's plan for the future of our family - period.

And YES! there are things about adopting again that FREAK US OUT!  The possible costs, the risk of adopting a child that will have long-term difficulties, the amount of work involved in attachment, the fact that I am working and I would need to continue working are all examples of things we have worried over. (and we could continue. . . )

The truth is 35% of adoptive children struggle.  Some of them struggle profoundly.  HOWEVER 99.9% of kids that age out of the foster care system are in prison within 12 mo. of their "release" from the system.  So, we could adopt a child that struggles.  We could adopt a child that "never amounts to anything."  Sometimes love and nurture and structure ARE NOT enough.  We have chosen to carefully consider if we can measure our success in parenting based on our input rather than the success (output) of our child.  Would we feel like parenting failures if our child struggles despite our best efforts?

In the end, our response is that if God open doors which lead us into another adoption, we KNOW the child is worth the risk.

We tell you all this, just so you know that anything is possible at the Dietrich house!  This home study is good for the next 24 mo.  In that time we may suddenly add to our family - sometimes domestic adoptions happen crazy fast.  We may fall in love with the picture of a waiting child and begin the slow process of International adoption once again.  We may inquire about children waiting to be adopted in the US foster system.  We may do NOTHING!

We do not want to alarm you.  We do not want to start "have you heard the Dietrich's are adopting again" rumors. We simply do not want anyone to feel blindsided if something were to happen quickly.

We do invite you to join us in praying that God will clearly direct our path.  Pray that He will open and close doors in accordance to His will.  Pray that He will prepare us for whatever may be to come.

A close friend who is aware of all that we are currently considering shared this verse with me yesterday. (Thanks for the verse & the prayers.)

"You need to perservere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised." Hebrews 10:36

(I am betting you are wondering what our kids say.  They are thrilled.  They are totally open to more siblings.  They said, "It's about time."  Yep, seriously.  We have utterly amazing kids.)

To me this song sums it up.  We want to live our life ready to follow wherever God leads.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Uh Oh, Jamison's In Trouble!

Jamison is a very easy kid.  He is kind, responsible, funny, and responsible.

However, last week his halo was tarnished. . . just a bit.

On Thursday morning, Joshua and I left to get groceries at 6:45 am.  The girls were up and preparing for school.  Jamison was still in bed, but that is not unusual.  He values sleep - a lot.  He also leaves for school about 20 minutes later than his sisters, so he is able to sleep much later than they are.  It is not uncommon for him to find the house empty when he comes upstairs for breakfast.

Joshua and I returned home at about 8 am.  The house was quiet, and we got to work unloading groceries.  After the groceries were put away, I got busy making a pot of soup.  I chopped veggies while Joshua played.  We chatted and sang and giggled.

At 10 am, Joshua and I left for the day.  We were joining Chad for a quick road trip to Fargo.

At 2:30 pm, I received a text from Jamison.  It said, " um Mom. I just woke up"

I responded, "Seriously?!"  I was fairly certain he was teasing me.  He is quite the tease!  Besides, how could he have slept through all the noise Joshua and I made?  And even for a growing teen-ager waking at 2:30 is beyond "sleeping in."

He responded, "Seriously."

I texted back, "Dad and I are in Fargo.  We will have to talk about this when we get home."

Then, being the stellar mother that I am, I laughed.  How in the world could he have slept until 2:30?  I saw with my own eyes that he had gone to bed at 10:15 the night before!  2:30?!?

Just then the school called.  They asked me where Jamison had been all day?  Under normal circumstances, I would be annoyed that it took until 2:30 for the school to call and ask after my son.  That day I was SO thankful!  If they had reported Jay missing when I was 3.5 hours from home, I would have freaked out!

I explained what had happened and the attendance officer asked, "So, I mark him sick?"

Big momma dilemma there!  Do I agree?  He must be sick to have "overslept" that long, right? 

Wrong.  He was not ill, he was just an overtired, growing teen-age boy.

I said, "No. As much as I want to get him off the hook, the truth is - he just overslept."

We both had to laugh at that.  She told me it was the first time she had ever heard of a kid oversleeping that loooong.  She warned me even though it was just an accident, it would need to be turned over to the vice-principal as an unexcused absence.

So as a result, my perfectly imperfect Jamison Chad has detention tomorrow and Thursday.  He will have to stay after school until 5 pm to make up time from his big nap.

Don't you love it when someone else disciplines your kids? 

I share this with Jamison's permission because we all think it is really, really funny!  (Not the punishment.  We all agree that it is a fair sentence.)  I do not know if Jay will ever live down the day he overslept until 2:30 in the afternoon!

Sure I wish I could try beat his record though!  Staying in bed until 2:30 pm sounds absolutely heavenly to me!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Too Many Children?

Growing up, I had an Aunt and Uncle who were only 6 years older than I was.  I loved them, and I thought they were about the coolest duo ever!  They alternated between tolerating and loving me! (what else do you do with an niece who follows you everywhere) Robert and Robin were like the older siblings, I did not have at home.  They were WAY cool, and I was totally amazed by everything they did.

My Aunt Robin let me play in her playhouse when we were little.  Those are some of my best childhood memories!  When she was a teenager, she would let me sit in her room and watch her do her hair and makeup before she went out with her friends.  I know it sounds silly, but I loved those times!  

My Uncle Robert was fun!  He also loved to tease me! I remember so many funny stories about him.  There is always one I remember most.  

One time he took me for a ride on the 3-Wheeler (remember those?).  When we were a long way from the house, he turned around backward on the seat and was driving without watching the road.  Now, I have always been a safety girl, so I panicked!  I reached forward and turned off the machine.  

He then told me that because I turned it off, I would have to restart it.  It had a pull cord to start it.  Try as I might, I could NOT get it started!  

He then told me that I would need to push it back to the house - after all, it was my fault!  So, I pushed and pushed and pushed that BIG 3-wheeler.  He walked along and coached me along.  Finally when we had just gotten within sight of the house, he gave the cord a quick pull, started the machine and drove off laughing.

Yep, he loved to tease me!

Today is my Aunt Robin and Uncle Robert's birthday.  Unfortunately for us, Robert is celebrating in heaven.  He died 8 years ago of melanoma.

Even when he was near death, he had a teasing message for me.  At that time I was VERY pregnant with my fourth baby.  His final message to me was, " Don't have too many more children!"

So, when I saw this sign on a bank tellers counter today, it really made me laugh!

I am sure my Uncle Robert would shake his head were he to see me driving my mega momma mobile filled with kids!  I am sure he would tease me.

I am also sure, he would adore each of my babies!  And I know my babies would adore him.

Sorry, Uncle Robert!  I never did listen to you very well!  I am not sure I will ever have too many children!  But I sure wish you were here to tease me about them!

Happy Birthday to you too Auntie Robin!  I may not have mailed a card, but I did think of you, too!  I love you!  I am so thankful to have you as a big sister/auntie combo.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Joshua goes to High School

Yesterday Joshua was able to go to school with Krissy!

She is taking a child development class, and they had planned an hour of preschool activities.

I was worried about how Joshua would do, but she begged and begged.  I was worried she would be upset or embarrassed if Joshua was scared or naughty.  I was worried it would be more than he could handle.  Yet, I really trust Krissy.  The bottom-line is that she has proven time and time again that she can protect, nurture, and encourage her little brother - so I said yes!

Joshua was excited, but he was also nervous.  He told us that he would only talk to Krissy!  She kept reassuring him that that would be fine.  He could sit on her lap the whole time if he needed to.  However he would need to listen to her.  He agreed.

Child development is her first class of the day, which meant she arrived at school with Joshua.  They stopped for donuts on the way.  He loved that!

Krissy said he did a great job at "play school!"  He did sit near her the whole time, but he participated in the activities they did.  She was proud of him.

So was he!

Chad picked him up, and then brought him to my office after play school.  Joshua was thrilled!  He proudly showed me his projects, and he told me all about his morning.

It is so exciting to see him becoming so capable, confident, and outgoing! Joshua GUbs we are proud of you!