Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wren's One Year Anniversary!

It's been just over a year since Wren joined our family!  It's been an exceptionally busy year filled with indescribable moments of wonderful!
This kid has an incredibly deep joy.  A joy that at times simply radiates.  She has a gently spirit...well, most of the time!  lol!  Except when she gets in the mood to be naughty!  She has a stubborn and tenacious streak.  I know it is something she needed to have to survive...physically, mentally, and emotionally...but sometimes I wish she knew it was ok to be a little less stubborn and tenacious! 
This picture was taken while we were still in China and it remains one of my favourites!
And this!  Our arrival home!  I totally forgot that I never did post more than one picture of the fantastic photos Chantal took.  You can check out more of her photos from that day here..
These photos...emotion!  Just lots of emotions!  But mostly I keep thinking "taste and see that the Lord is good!"

 Wren has grown in so many ways!  This thing of being a part of a family is hard.  Very hard!  Families have expectations.  Families have rules. Families have odd customs. Families get upset and angry...but they still love fiercely.  And the effort it takes to figure all of that out is immense!  Not to mention confusing, upsetting, frustrating, and annoying!  Slowly, very slowly Wren is learning to express her thoughts, emotions, and feelings.  And that is hard for those of us that love do we meet her needs and address her deepest fears, when we don't even know what they are?

But these moments of worth it!!

Wren is learning to read and write. She is learning how to add and subtract.   I am so amazed that this girl who was considered stupid, and unable to attend school, is learning so much!!

Wren loves her siblings and is especially bonded with the youngest four.  They do everything for her with very little complaining.  And the big's been hard to adjust to having another bratty sister, but they too do so very much for Wren.  I know it's only been a year, but I can't wait till everyone feels like we're a solid family unit again.


Wren hates her standing frame most days.  Except when it's time to bake or do a craft!

This Christmas season is particularly difficult for Wren.  She's incredibly insecure.  I've no idea why. I do know that not knowing what to expect is a factor, so we have told her what gifts she is getting and that seemed to help.  Hopefully, todays' explanation that THIS IS Christmas (as in our daily Christmas activities) will alleviate some fears.

I must say that in some ways Wren's adoption has been the "easiest".  Overall, we adjusted much more quickly than normal.  It feels like Wren has been a part of our family for much longer than a year.  And that is certainly a God thing! 
I can not imagine our life without Wren!  She certainly is a perfect fit for our family!  And that makes this mama very grateful and happy!!
To Him be the Glory!!


Saturday, November 12, 2016

What Belong Summit 2016 Meant to Us!

Last weekend we packed up our youngest 4 and headed to Winnipeg for Canada's very first Belong Summit.  It was an amazing weekend filled with so much truth, so much encouragement, and so many challenges.  If you haven't heard about the Belong Summit here's a bit of a description....
The Belong Summit was hosted by Forever Families of Canada is a relatively new organization that has seen the need for Canadian churches, Canadian Jesus followers to step up to the task that God our Father calls us care for the least of these...vulnerable kids and vulnerable families.  It's incredibly exciting to see the body of believers begin to take action!
Anyhow, my brain and heart have been a mess this past week. I feel like an incredible failure because I can't be all my kids need.  We do what we can to foster self worth in our teach them their worth not only in our eyes but in God's eyes.
Our girls take therapeutic riding lessons.  They love it!  And most importantly, we've seen some amazing growth in all 3 girls.  They are gaining confidence.  They are learning to deal with their emotions.  They are learning to deal with the hurt from their past.

We got a dog for our kids.  Pepper is what only a dog can be to kids.  She is their faithful companion who never has any expectations of them, but just lets them be who they are.  She recently had pups and what these pups do for our kids is amazing!

We're working hard to be all we can for our kids.  But as you all know, kids need so much more than just the love and support of their parents and siblings.  They need a community.
I didn't realize how much that is lacking in their lives until this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, we do have some fantastic people in our life...but they are few and far between.  Partly it's our own "fault".  We're that weird family that's hard to connect with.  We look different.  We act different.  Our heads are out to lunch most days. We miss church a lot!  It's hard to attend regularly when one is dealing with trauma, bonding, and all kinds of other issues. And in the process we slip into isolation. It's not my kids' fault.  It's not our fault.  In fact, I'm not sure that it is anyone's fault.  It's just how it is.
...this past weekend we were blown away!  I mean really blown away!  We had registered our kids in the children's program at the Belong Summit and didn't really know what to expect.  Would one of us be required to stay with Wren?  Would we even be able to enjoy the Summit?  Would we get the much needed encouragement and challenges we needed?  Would transferring Wren in and out of her chair mean that we would be running more than sitting?  Would our kids fit in?  Would our kids have fun?  Would they feel accepted?
You may think these are odd questions to worry about.  They're not!  We've experienced enough rejection from the body of Christ to know that our kids are not welcome in some settings.  Wren's needs are too complicated.  Her "disability" is too severe.  Quite honestly, I think she scares some people.  Oh the hilarity of that!!  The action of far too many people is to simply ignore our the point that in leaving an event where we know a lot of people, my 6 year old, with such a hurt look in her eyes, asked, "Mama, how come no body talks to me?"
Now before you go and get all upset about how my kids are treated, here's a question I have for you...are you certain that whatever organization you think is the greatest, the best, or the most welcoming...would they really welcome my kids with open arms?  Or would there be all kinds of policies or rules that trump love?  Best way to find out?  Go ask the leadership of that may be surprised by the answers you'll get!
Anyhow...on to what blew us away.
This group right here!!
That beautiful teen in the bottom right...she organized and facilitated the kids' program.  She welcomed our kids with open arms...and most importantly a kind and loving face.  We're so afraid of being a burden to the I left my number and offered to help Wren in and out of her chair as needed.  And to take her to the washroom.  I was fully expecting one of two things...Wren would spend the day in her chair (a chair that is awful for her functioning ability), or I would be running all day to transfer her in and out of her chair. 
That didn't happen!
I checked on the kids and would you believe it!?!  Wren was NOT in her chair!  Can I get a "HALLELUJAH?!"  Long story short...this sweet teen and her team transferred Wren in and out of her chair all weekend long without so much as a hesitation!
And the beauty of leadership being loving and welcoming is snowballs!!  Our kids connected with some of the other kids!  (That rarely happens!...remember we're that odd family!) I wish I had taken a picture of sweet Ruby who took it upon herself to push Wren's chair everywhere!  Sweet Ruby treated our girl for the valuable girl she is!  She treated her as God our Father treats us...with upmost value and love! I can't wait to help Wren write her first letter to Ruby!!  Yes!  You've got that right!  Ruby wants to be penpals with Wren!  Be still my heart!
Our kids had a blast!  They couldn't wait to go back!  They came home and were literally the point where even the riding instructor noticed!! 
We saw something in our kids that weekend that we don't get to see very they glow when they are surrounded by a community that really gets the importance of caring for vulnerable kids and their families! 
So to Forever Families of Canada, to the Belong Summit team, to those of you that get it and love us....THANK YOU!!
You are an inspiration and we pray that your faithfulness to God's call to care for the vulnerable will snowball into much more than you can ever dream!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An Unusual Anniversary Post

It's our 25th wedding anniversary and I've got to write what's on my heart.  If I don't, the enormity of it will make my broken, tearful heart burst at it's seams.  I'm raw.  Not because of me, or my story.  But because I carry the story of the one's I've welcomed into my heart, my family, and my home.
Twenty-five years ago I was a naïve, barely turned 20 year old, with the world at my fingertips. I had dreams.  Dreams Marty and I shared.  Dreams of careers.  Dreams of using our money wisely.  Dreams of saving for that big trip.  Just the two of us. In fact, we chose to have a simple one week honeymoon to Vancouver Island, so that at year 10, or 15 we could go on that big vacation. 
As the date of this anniversary approached, I struggled with feeling sorry for myself.  That big vacation just wasn't going to happen. Like it didn't happen for our 10th or 15th anniversary.  I tried to console myself by thinking about the short trip we took to Quebec City for our 20th anniversary.  It wasn't the trip to Europe that I had long dreamt about, but it was the closest thing to it right here in Canada.
By this morning, I'd determined to make the best of it.  The snow was falling.  It was downright miserable, but in my cozy house it was warm and comfortable.  To top it off, the inexpensive, low quality used hot tub we bought felt amazing!!  There's nothing quite like sitting in a steaming hot tub while the snow falls!
We proceeded with our day as usual....and then the sorrow began to ooze.  Not from me, but from one of my kids.  I won't go into detail about what happened, but for those of you that know anything about know it wasn't pretty!  It was downright frustrating!  Downright annoying!  I struggled to keep my cool. ( and that's exhausting!!!) 
And then...Marty finally figured out what was happening.  This morning he showed the kids some pictures of our last trip to China.
We looked at one picture in particular and saw the deep, deep sorrow in the depths of her eyes.  We know she saw that sorrow too.  And not only did she see it...she felt it as if it were today!  We may never know what she was/is feeling.  Perhaps it's not having a voice for so many years.  Perhaps it's the years of sitting on a bench watching the other kids run and jump.  Perhaps it's the memory of being told she's ugly.  Perhaps it's the memory of being told she's stupid.  Perhaps it's the memory of being physically hurt. Perhaps it's knowing what she has all lost.
And in the bedtime tears we tried to vocalize for her what she may be feeling.  Reaffirmed we are hers forever!  And prayed without words...just pure emotion!  Prayed like our lives depended on it!  And honestly, it does!  We could not love, could not show compassion if it wasn't for the One who loved us first.  The One that holds us and gives us strength that we know we don't have.
And in it all, I realized that a trip to my dreamed Italy has nothing on my life with my kids! It's such a selfish sorrow that I felt.  It makes me realize that I want to be more like my kids...with all the awful life has dealt them...they keep smiling...they keep loving...they keep living life to the fullest!   
So.....If life has handed you a whole lot of ugly, a whole lot of sorrow...I'd recommend you find someone to lavish your love on...someone that life has dealt a whole lot more awful than you ever experienced. Cause in that, you will find your life is pretty darn near perfect!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Squash Recipes

Ahh!  Fall is officially here and although I really wasn't ready for it, I'm embracing it now!  There's nothing like fall to make one slow down, smell the crisp air, and stop to notice the ever changing leaves.  Thanks to the lovely gift I got from hubby, I've even been able to enjoy a few of my most favourite drink...Pumpkin Spice Latte! 
Fall is also the time to use up all the various squash that grew in my garden.  Here are a few of our favourite recipes!
Zucchini Pizza
I love this recipe because it's so super simple and it's perfect for those super size zucchini that aren't good for anything else (other than relish)!  Simply grab all your favourite pizza toppings.  Wash the zucchini and scoop out all the seeds. I like to peel the zucchini first as a few of our kids have such difficulty chewing the tough skin.  I then sprinkle the zucchini with a bit of salt and some Epicure Pizza seasoning and place it on a tin foil lined baking sheet and bake at 375 F for about 20 mins. 
Then I add all of our favourite toppings and bake for an additional 20 mins or until the zucchini is cooked.  The time will vary, depending on the size of the zucchini.

This next recipe is my own creation.  The inspiration was a typical Ratatouille dish.  It's supper easy!
Simply slice and layer zucchini, other squash, peppers of any color, and tomatoes.  After each layer of zucchini, sprinkle on a little salt and Epicure's Balsamic Dressing spice. Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 350 F for about 30-45 mins.  Enjoy! 


Monday, September 12, 2016

Wren's 12th Birthday!

It's been a month since Wren's 12th birthday and I'm finally writing about it!  I really did have the best of intentions of posting the day after her birthday...but then real life happened! 
Like tonight during bath time the girls managed to use so much soap, that it filled the bathroom sink after they drained the tub!  :0
But I'm here now!  And it's not because there aren't a million things that need to be done.  Like processing the piles of tomatoes, or squash, or pumpkins; or doing laundry.  But alas, I've been instructed to put my feet up.  Literally!  Doctors orders!
I broke my little toe yesterday!  You may think I must have been doing some sort of physical activity like playing soccer.  But no!  It was the silliest of incidences!  I broke it stepping into the tub!  Bahahaha!  After the initial yelp of pain as I heard a snap, I took one look at my distorted toe and burst out laughing!  Marty and the kids took one look at my toe and their eyes popped.  But my hysterical laughing soon had them in a fit too!  Honestly!  Who breaks their toe stepping into the tub?!?!  And not only breaks it, but in such a freakishly ugly way too!?!  I couldn't stop giggling!  Not even at minor emergency!  I'm sure the doctors and nurses thought I had lost my mind!  It still makes me laugh! 
Anyhow...on to Wren's birthday!
Planning this sweet girls birthday was hard.  Fun, but hard.  Initially we struggled to know how to celebrate.  On the one hand we wanted to celebrate for all the lost birthdays...all 11 of them!  But on the other hand, we knew it would be overwhelming and it would set a precedent that we could never repeat.  We also wanted Wren to know how very valued and loved she is.  So we settled for a happy medium.  We did all the things we normally would do, and added a few extras.  For example, our kids get helium balloons and a piñata once in their early years.  So we did both.
Wren's day started with breakfast in bed.  She about burst at the seams when presented with her very ordinary (for the most part) breakfast of  strawberries, toast with butter, and hot chocolate. Yes, she enjoys hot chocolate with marshmallows!  Something she wouldn't have seen as a treat when she first arrived at home.
Wren couldn't decide what kind of cake she wanted.  A princess one?  Yes!  A flower one? Yes!  A butterfly one? Yes!  A tinkerbell one? Yes!  We finally settled on a simple ombre flower cake.

We decorated the night before her big day so that she awoke to balloons and a birthday banner.  Of coarse by the time supper rolled around and the real celebrations began, we had to blow up more balloons as the helium had escaped most of the balloons!

We set out our finest china, added some candles, "diamonds" and flowers! I forgot to add the pretty pink napkins before I snapped the pics.  Oops!

 We added a China candle to the cake and sang happy birthday!  She loved this candle.  It pops open and a plays the "Happy Birthday" song.
I LOVE this pic! Such a silly goose!


And then we added a sparkly candle.  She kinda freaked at first but then giggled and giggled!

The kids each picked out a small gift for Wren.

Alex will hate me for posting this pic!  I think he had inhaled too much helium and couldn't stop smiling!  We had soooo much fun sucking in helium!  Oh the things we do for entertainment!

And Wren's very favourite gift! The one she kept begging for!  A horse of her own just like the other girls have!

There's so much I want to say about Wren.   She's about 4' 5", and weighs roughly 62 lbs. She's hit a plateau in physical growth.
In other aspects, she has grown in leaps and bounds!  Her language is amazing!  She still doesn't hear all the words correctly, but she's easier to understand and has more confidence in putting words into sentences.  She's learning about rules, what's appropriate, and what's not.  She's learning that when mom and dad say something...they mean it!  Like every 12 year old, she does constantly test the boundaries! And like any 12 year old, she can be super annoying and demanding.  Some days you'd think the first years of her life were rather high class!  She has an eye for beautiful things and popular things and wants all of the items! 
Wren is also incredibly sweet!  I know I use that word a lot to describe her, but it really is who she is!  She'll annoy us and then melt our hearts with her big grin, her constant "thank you mama!", "thank you daddy!" for every little thing we do! 
Wren loves the colors purple and pink.  She loves horse back riding and horses.  She loves coloring and cuddles.  She loves pretty dresses and her long hair.  She loves being outside and spends hours with our dog Pepper.  She absolutely LOVES swimming! She has learned to put her face in the water AND blow bubbles.  She has learned to move about quite efficiently in the water.  She plays with all 3 of her younger siblings.  Wren is beginning to connect more with Malia and slowly they are becoming very good friends.  Wren is currently in grade one and is doing well.  She has a very good sense of numbers, but struggles more with language related tasks.  I think it's more of a confidence/ESL issue than a cognitive delay.  Her goals are to walk and be like her mama!  (What a freaky thought! lol!)
I stand amazed at where we are today.  How God has brought this incredibly beautiful child into our lives, when it really was not in our plans.  How He is helping us deal with all the hard.  How He is slowly helping us bond and become family in more than just the legal form.  Trust me, one does not simply "fall in love" with a child.  Nor does a child simply "fall in love" with you.  Sure a part of you does, but love is so complicated in so many ways, even though it so super simple.  We continue to consciously work hard to bond and grow as a family.  Often that means missing out on things, and taking a step back from our normal activities.  But experience has taught us it will be well worth it in the long run!  There are so many incredible moments.  Moments where Marty and I look at each other and wonder "how did we get so lucky?!?"  Moments where I want to shout for joy that "my cup runneth over!"
I am so very grateful to call Wren my daughter!  And we couldn't be prouder of her!  I can't wait to see where we will be a year from now!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer 2016

This is my regular summer post where I post that it's been way too long since I last posted, and that it wasn't intentional, but rather just the result of another extremely busy summer! lol!
We once again planted a huge garden and I managed to only have "help" with planting potatoes and no one asked to have their own garden...and I wasn't about to mention it! lol!
We made a point to go to at least a few local parades.  As always the kids love collecting all the candy.  They just finished their stash today! 
Wren was mostly serious during her first parade, but I did manage to get this fantastic smile!

Our favourite part of our local rodeo day was the face painting!  So cool!
  We literally had all 4 faces painted within 10 minutes!
We got a bunch of flowers given to us by my sister who was clearing out her greenhouse, so each of the kids got to make their very own pot!  And we learnt all about the parts of plants and made guesses as to which ones would do well based on how the roots looked.

At the beginning of July, Alex left for a 2 1/2 week missions trip to El Salvador.  He had a blast!  It was an incredible opportunity for him to grow in character and in his spiritual walk.  Hats of to the sending church and in particular, the youth leaders who devoted their time and energy into these youth!  My prayer is that this experience will impact him daily so that he views each day of his life as an opportunity to reach out and love those around him!
While Alex was in El Salvador, we took a spontaneous trip to Drumheller.  We ended up camping, meaning we had to take both vehicles.  It was a LOT less expensive than renting a motel! 
 My favourite place of all was the hoodoos. 

Between Marty and I, Wren even got to climb up a fair distance.  It was doable, but lets just say we sure got a workout!!
And then the next day we took the kids to the splash park and to this giant dinosaur...all because we felt we really needed another workout! Honestly!  It was only a bit over 100 stairs! lol!  Marty and I took turns going up, with Marty doing the majority and I carried Wren on the way down.  It was worth it!
One day we headed to the Bass Pro Shop just cause that's the perfect place for my hunting loving men!
On our last day we went to the Royal Tyrell Museum.  It is a very cool place, but by this time my abscessed tooth (which had been keeping me awake for 2 nights already) was really bothering me.  I broke out in a sweat from the pain! So our time there was cut short.   I ended up making it home a good hour before Marty...lets just say that pain can make for a heavy foot! 

And on our way home we pretended we saw the Eiffel Tower!  lol!  I have no idea why, but for some reason Raina has a fascination with Paris and the Eiffel Tower.  Perhaps we can go there together some day?!?

I ended up getting in with my dentist the next day.  They prescribed antibiotics and referred me to a specialist.  That night was awful!  I literally spent all night vomiting!  I was so sick that Marty convinced the specialist to see me the following morning.  We headed in with the upchuck bucket by my side.  I spent the next few days feeling awful, and it took almost 3 weeks for me to finally be able to eat a full meal.  I'll be sure to keep this in mind the next time I want to loose some extra weight!  Haha!
And somewhere in there the garden produced and the weeds grew.  I managed to harvest the majority, with the boys' help...but the weeds are still having a hayday! 
This is our first and biggest picking of peas.

And the beans...oh my!  Did we pick beans!!  This was our first picking!  We should have picked a week earlier and some were too big.  But I still managed to freeze over 200 cups of beans this year!

Last fall we took our pool down.  We'd had a windstorm that literally tore off our very secure winter cover and it ended up destroying many parts of our pool.  We figured we'd just continue to use it, thinking it was mostly aesthetics.  Then our dog decided she needed a swim.  In her attempt to get out, she shredded the liner!  We managed to patch at least a dozen holes, but it continued to leak all summer.  So we decided to take it down and redo the entire pool.  We then realized the wind storm had done a lot more damage than we had thought.  So we took down the entire pool and got a solid concrete base in place and then proceeded to put the pool up again.  We got a call from our water delivery guy, saying the water would be there the next morning...well, at the point only a few of the supports were up!  Ah!  I called Marty, he rushed home and we spent the entire afternoon and evening setting up the rest of the pool. We finally finished at 10 pm!  The next morning the water arrived.  And when they had about 2 ft of water in the pool, this happened!

I think we both almost cried!  But then we realized it's just stuff!!  It wasn't a tragedy at all!  Just an inconvenience! 
So Marty set to work draining the pool and reinforcing the pool walls...and now...finally...we are enjoying this!!


Sometimes it seems like life is so hard, so many difficult things...and then I head into my garden and gather all kinds of yummy veggies...and even some flowers...and add a glass of wine...and I begin to give thanks and suddenly life seems pretty good!!


Especially when I observe my kids!  Seriously!  Does it get any cuter than Raina pretending to write with a feather on a piece of board?!?


Or Jackson's big grin at being told he can have breakfast on the deck as I enjoy my morning mocha!!

And then this!  He sure knows how to paint the sky in the most spectacular colors!!

 And this past weekend we headed to Watrous for some swimming in their mineral spa with some of my relatives.  Thanks for taking time for us!  We sure did appreciate it!
And in the midst of all this busyness we had a few other relatives stop by.  Thank you!  We sure appreciated your visits and encouragement! 
And last of all...later this week we will be having an exciting first in our family...celebrating Wren's very first birthday as a daughter and sister!!  I can't wait to show you pictures of her special day!  We've decided to do a few more things than normal, but are keeping the event family centered and relatively low key.  Would you do me a favour and join me in wishing Wren a Happy Birthday?  Feel free to leave her a birthday message here, or on fb, or for those of you that have my cell number feel free to text.  I will read all your comments to her on her birthday later this week!  Thanks for helping make her birthday extra special!!