Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What? School's Starting?!?!

I can't believe that I've been silent since April on here! 

I blinked.

Now summer is coming to an end...

I guess I have some catching up to do, huh?

Let's see...what happened in the past 4 months?

  • Tim turned 21.  The kids and I road-tripped down to Rolla to see him for lunch.

  • Cupcake had a strings concert at the end of the school year.  The kids sounded great.


  • The majority of our summer was consumed with Steve's parents' move.  They sold their house (5 minutes away), had an estate sale, and moved to a nice apartment (15 minutes away).  They are still getting settled.  Steve's dad has not had much mental improvement since coming home from the hospital after his aneurysm.  This move has been hard on him, since all of the visual prompts and daily routines have been disrupted.  It's been hard on her because she was the one responsible for all the decisions, for packing everything up, and for sorting through all their stuff - choosing the most meaningful possessions from a lifetime of meaningful experiences.  Tough stuff.  :-(

  • Tim got a summer internship with AT&T.  He likes the job and his boss.  Driving downtown every day, not so much.

  • Luke and Sugar went to Super Summer (Church Camp) in Hannibal, MO in June.

  • We had Luke's Eagle Court of Honor.


  • Steve and I celebrated our 26th anniversary on June 27th with dinner and a Glock.  Not the traditional anniversary celebration, but it was fun.

  • We drove up to my hometown to see my brother and his family and take care of Mom's estate.  We're still not done with that...it might drag on a L-O-N-G time. 

  • My college roommate and her family from Scottsdale, AZ came to visit for a few days.  The kids hadn't seen each other in over 5 years, but they immediately jumped in and had fun together.  First, there was the airsoft war...

 Then, they went to the communications center and "communicated".

We had lots of other fun, but no pictures to prove it.   

It was a great visit!

  • Our old neighbors swung through town twice and the girls got to see their dear friends again.


  • Luke and Sugar went on a mission trip to Aniston, AL with World Changers. 

  • I (Well, we really.  I had some help.) stripped the wallpaper in my kitchen and painted it a fresh, new green.  Yeah!

  • We met my other college roommate (a childhood friend) and her family and another college friend for dinner while they were in town.  It was great to see everyone.

  • Cupcake went for a week to her first sleep-away camp (Centri-Kid) ever!  Steve also went as a chaperone for the boys - just in case, but he was not needed (by Cupcake).  She had a great and successful week!  (Still looking for the pictures from this.)

  • Tim jumped out of a plane and lived to tell about it!

  • Sugar has decided that she wants to go to public high school, so after much dragging of the feet on my part, she is just now enrolled in the local school.  I think she will do very well there, but I will miss her at home.

  • Luke continues to play in the Youth Praise Band.  He also rotates in to the Sunday Morning Worship team a couple weeks a month and he is playing in another band with a mission-minded focus. 

  • Luke will be having eye surgery to correct his strabismus (lazy eye) at the end of August.  Please pray for that. 
So that was our summer.  There was no vacation.  Who has time for vacations?

Moving on, it's time for back-to-school and Birthday-Month-a-Palooza!

Hope to talk to you soon.

Blessings to you,

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Grace Calendar - Part 3

As I finished sharing my little monologue on grace, Cupcake looked at me.

"Really?  Really!" with an incredulous smile.

It was an awesome moment!

Also, as a bit of backstory, the lost sticker was re-instated immediately after I emailed the teacher with my confession.  I assured her that Cupcake did not forget her homework, but that I had thrown it away, and together we went dumpster-diving to find it.  Alas, it was not to be found....

As it turned out, Cupcake earned a perfect month at school on the same day as she achieved her perfect month of grace.  I think it's beautiful that God allowed her to excel in her behavior as she soaked in the grace.

I think we could all take a lesson from that.  :-)

Blessings to you,

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Grace Calendar - Part 2

As I was saying,  sticker charts don't usually work so well for kids with a trauma history.

The last time we used one, it was right after Cupcake came home, and the purpose was to help her see that all of her actions and feelings are part of her whole person. 

Fast forward 5 years.

Her classroom teacher uses sticker charts for good behavior and personal responsibility.  If the kids get a "perfect month" they get some treat with the teacher.

Do you know how hard it is for a kid from hard places to get a "perfect month"? 

It has been a goal for her - all year.

So, a little over a month ago, she was well on her way to achieving the coveted prize.  I think she was a week into it, when, alas, I accidentally threw out a piece of homework she needed to turn in.  On the way to school that morning, she was so despondent (and angry) because she just couldn't "be perfect".   :-(

Then the Sunday School teacher in me came alive.  :-)

We talked about how we all have that frustration.  We just can't get it right.  (For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23)  I try, but I still mess up.  Daddy's good, but sometimes he gets it wrong.  Even the pastor can't live up to a perfect standard.  Nobody is perfect.

Except for Jesus.

As I dropped off my upset child, God gave me an inspiration.

I printed out a "Cupcake is Loved" calendar.  When she came home, I explained that this was a different kind of sticker chart.  Each day, when she woke up, she could put a sticker on the day if she was mine and I loved her.  I reiterated that I love her every.single.day.  She couldn't mess it up.  She would get a sticker even if she messed up.  Even if I was mad at her.  No matter what.  When she got a "perfect month" I would take her out for a little treat.

She loved it!  It gave her confidence because it was tangible, real. 

Then one day, she was feeling unworthy and unlovable.  She crumpled it up and threw it in the trash.  While I was debating my next move, she pulled it out of the can, straightened it up, hung it back in it's place, and put her sticker on. 

She was beginning to get it, even in the middle of living it out.

At the end of the month, I took her to Steak-N-Shake for a goodie.  We talked about how the sticker chart at school was important.  It helps us remember to be responsible.  It reminds us that it matters how we treat others.  It is good to strive for excellence.  It is a helpful tool to see how we're doing.


The "Grace Calendar" is a better definition of who she is.  She is valuable and loved simply because she is ours - unconditional.

And what's more...these calendars remind me of Jesus.  For those who belong to Him, it might look something like this...and I acted it out...

Some day, when we die, we'll stand before the Lord - and Satan, the accuser, will be there.  He'll be shoving all our sticker charts in our face, accentuating all the empty spots and frowny faces, telling us we're no good and lobbying for the full weight of justice to fall on us.  That's when Jesus will step in and calmly say, "Excuse me...  You have the wrong charts."  Then He will bring out His sticker charts - you know, His are perfect.  And he will give them to us.  His perfection will cover our mess simply because He loves us and we belong to Him.  Satan, silenced, will slink away defeated, and The Savior will escort us into heaven.

That's grace.    

Blessings to you,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Grace Calendar - Part 1

Sticker charts.

They work for some kids.  Other kids...not so much.

There's a lot of talk in adoption circles about it. 

In general, I don't recommend using sticker charts as a motivator - especially when dealing with kids from hard places.

But, there have been times when they have been useful.

When Cupcake was a little tyke, she was literally dis-integrated.  She did not know that the person who raged for hours was the same as the sweet little doll-baby that rocked in my arms at night.  The therapist would ask her what made her mad.  She would answer that she never got mad.  This was a true answer in her mind. 

So our therapist made some sticker charts.  If she had a good day and didn't hurt anyone, she could put a happy-face sticker on the square.  However, if she raged and hurt someone, that person got to draw a sad face on the square.  It helped her understand that is was her that was raging.  It helped her understand that her actions impacted others, people she cared about. 

It worked.  She began to see that all of her emotions belonged to her.  The different parts of her began to integrate until she formed the concept of one Cupcake with many feelings.

That's the last sticker chart we've done...until recently.

To be continued...

Blessings to you,

Monday, March 11, 2013

School Friendships

One area where I am beginning to see Cupcake blossom is in the area of friendships.  It's been a long road, and we haven't arrived yet, but we've been taking some giant leaps in the right direction.

In the world of "hard places", peers are seen not so much as playmates, but more as competition.  One day, years ago, Cupcake and I looked at a picture of the kids in her orphanage.  There were 2 girls and a boy, along with Cupcake.  It had been a small group home.  As I pointed to the girls and named them, I asked her if she missed her friends.  She turned in anger and cried, "They were not my friends!"

I had always thought that the kids in an orphanage would stick together for self-protection.  Some do.  But the reality is that orphans are literally all alone in this world.

Let the gravity of that truth settle in your soul.

The concepts of friendship and mutual enjoyment of a relationship were not even on the radar screen.  There was no foundation on which to build friendships.

How does a child overcome that kind of deficit?

At first, Cupcake had no use for peers.  She was always attracted to adults or teens (especially pretty ones).    At times, she was able to relate to older or younger kids (and always babies), but kids her own age...nothing.  She has had some very good neighbor friends (thanks to their patience, maturity,  and forgiveness), but relationships with the kids in school...no connection.  In Kindergarten, friendship was a foreign concept.  In First Grade, she tried to have friends (subordinates, really), but they didn't quite know what to do with her powerful personality.  Second grade brought her one faithful friend, but she didn't live nearby, so they never got together outside of school.  That brings us to this year.

All of a sudden, we have turned a corner!  After almost 5 years of steady coaching on the normal give-and-take of friendships, something clicked.  This year, she has 3 very good friends in her class.  They invite her for playdates!  They regularly come to our house.  They like her!  She likes them!  It's awesome!  :-D  All four girls are best buddies with each other.

I have noticed that the sweet, perfect-family, picket-fence-living girls tend to avoid my baby, and sometimes, they're downright mean to her.  (I'm sure they've been on the receiving end of her meanness, as well.)   She can't relate to them.  They can't relate to her. 

But these girls, all three come from their own hardship.  They understand that life can be tough.  Each girl has depth of character.  They all live lives of grace, ready to forgive and move on after a mess-up - not expecting perfection, but anticipating reconciliation.  We could all learn a lesson from them.  

I can't tell you how thankful I am that these girls have entered our lives!  They are each a special blessing!

And I am so proud that my daughter is able to maintain friendships, even when I'm not there to coach!

How about you?  Are friendships hard for your kids?  What have you done to help foster genuine friendship?

Blessings to you,

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Happy "Half Your Life" Day!

March 7th is a holiday for us. It's a quiet, one-time holiday with only a casual observance.

But in my heart, I'm breathing deeply at the summit of an impossible mountain, smiling sweetly at the vista all around me. I am standing on the continental divide of Cupcake's life. I can see way off behind me, the distant lands of a distant land. Nearer are the foothills of pain and adversity, the early days of her adoption. The valleys were wrought with paralyzing fear at times. I survey the many smaller summits that we have already scaled - many of them seemed as impossible to ascend as this one.

But here we are.  One thousand seven hundred and forty-seven days.  We are today standing at the implicit peak of Cupcake's "Half Your Life" day. Starting tomorrow, she will have been longer with us than she was in Guatemala. Time and memories are now on our side.

As I look ahead into the future, I see many more summits will be coming our way.  There will be valleys, dark and gloomy. More prominently, I see the breath-taking beauty of God's handiwork. Everywhere before me, there are glorious images revealing God's tender-loving care, His redeeming nature.  In the end, it will be a beautiful picture and an amazing adventure.

For now, I'm basking in the possibilities.

Blessings to you,


Saturday, March 2, 2013


Admittedly, I'm not always the brightest bulb on the tree.

Sometimes, I wonder how I can go from sweet communion with Jesus, one minute I'm asking Him to make me a patient, godly mother, the next, I'm barking orders at my kids with no grace.  Or how I can miss the obvious.  Or how I can know in my head that a certain strategy is not going to work, I see where this is going and it's not good...and yet I persist.  I hear the still, small voice and ignore it.

But somedays, God gives me something that I need for the day and I actually make the connection and follow through with the application.  WIN!

Today, I had a moment of clarity.  I'd like to share it, since they're so few and far between.  (That way, I can relive my little triumph whenever I need a boost.)

This morning, I knew the fridge was completely empty of lunch-packing food.  It's been empty all week and we've been scrounging.  I decided it would be a nice day to visit Cupcake at school for lunch.  We had some leftover soup that would be nice, hot, and very tasty if I brought it straight from home. 

While Cupcake was getting ready this morning, I was checking faceb00k.  I read this great article on children with food insecurity.  It talked about how kids who have known hunger are not sure if there will always be food.  This insecurity comes out in all sorts of behavior - hoarding, stealing, over-eating, pickiness, poor table manners, lying, etc.  The key is to understand that the food is not the issue.  The insecurity is the issue.  Work on the security.

Now Cupcake's teacher wisely has a policy of letting the kids have snacks throughout the day whenever they feel they need it.  They have a very late lunch, so I usually pack 3 snacks a day - 2 for the morning and 1 for the afternoon.

So, 30 seconds after I step away from the computer, Cupcake informs me that she took 3 clementines for a snack.  She had already packed her 3 snacks for the day.  I started in on the schpeel.

 "You don't need 6 snacks.  Three snacks are enough..."

Then I stopped.

I remembered that I just read an article about this.

The lightbulb went on.  Oh! That glorious lightbulb!  :-)

In a gentle voice, "Cupcake, are you afraid I won't come to lunch?"

Softly, her eyes not meeting mine, "Yes."

"And you were making plans in case I didn't come?"

"Yes." With a smile.

"You can take them."


"You bet!"

She ran off to school yippy-skippy.  We had a nice lunch.  She ate all 6 snacks.  She came home happy, ate a good dinner, and seems very relaxed and contented. 

Trust is built one lightbulb at a time.  One day the whole tree will be lit up.

Blessings to you,

Monday, February 18, 2013

Read My Lips

What is the underlying message that you send your kids when they’re behavior is out of line?

Shame on you?
You’re bad?
I can’t believe you would do that?
What’s wrong with you?

Think about your body language.  
Consider your facial expression.  
What words do you choose?

Sometimes we can send these messages without even thinking about it. 

I know I do.

A few years ago, Cupcake was having a difficult time joining the family for dinner.  Defiantly,she ran downstairs.  I went down to try to calm her down and bring her back into the fold. 

I stood non-threateningly, with my palms open, trying to be cheerful.  My voice was light and gentle.

I said the right things. 

“Honey, we would love for you to join us at the table.  We want to spend time with you.  I made a nice dinner for you.”

She started screaming, “Stop that!!!  Stop it! I hate that!” 

Puzzled, I asked, “Stop what?  I don’t understand?”

This!” She pursed her lips, not angry-like, but in a smile.  Just like me.  Something about that expression freaked her out, made her feel judged, unlovable. 

I have no clue as to why tight lips lead to such a dark place in my girl’s life, but now I know to avoid them because they don't convey the message I hope to send. 

What I want to say with my words, actions, face and body is:

I approve of you.
I’m on your side.
We’re in this together.
You’re safe with me.
I like you.
Now, let’s do something to correct your actions.

It's much easier to write about this than to practice it in real life.  But the more I practice, the more comfortable it feels.  Starting with "I approve of you." rather than "Shame on you." sets the tone for true relational parenting.

How about you?  What do you do to show your children that you approve of them, even when they have done the wrong thing?  What do you avoid?

Blessings to you,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sandy Hook and Gun Control

Immediately after the Sandy Hook Massacre, my Facebook account lit up with scads of posts about gun control and the right to bear arms.  I have been mostly silent about this issue because I like to have a well-reasoned thing to say before I say it, especially if I'm writing.  I've seen a lot of memes and videos about the topic and some of them make good points on both sides, but I like to use complete thoughts rather than relying on sound bites, talking points, and pictures (though sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words).

Knee-jerk reactions, by their very nature, tend to be not well thought out.

People on both sides of this issue are sickened by what happened and want to find the best way to avoid similar tragedies in the future.  We differ on the best plan of action.

I don't have a comprehensive strategy that will put an end to the violence once and for all...and neither do you.  Violence has been around since the fall (Adam and Eve) and will continue here on earth until Jesus comes back. Violence is a heart problem.  Only a change of hearts in individuals will change society.  That is Jesus' comprehensive strategy.

So, this is how I see it....

While random, crazy, angry people with weapons pose a threat to civilized society, they are not the biggest threat.  Let's face it, unless you had personal ties to Sandy Hook, you probably sent your kids to school on the Monday following (possibly with fear and trembling).

Why would loving parents do that if they seriously thought their children could be in danger?  

Because the chances of it happening to any given school are minuscule.  I still eat at restaurants and go to movie theaters, and malls, even though all those locations have been the sights of tremendous violence.

It's true that mass murders are becoming more frequent.  But they are still rare and random and pinpointed to a specific location.

The bigger threat is the government.  If the citizens are not allowed to defend themselves, the government has the power to subdue, enslave, and kill any people group they choose.  Widespread and systematic.  What if it's your people group?

"Oh, come on!" you say.  "Our government isn't like that.  It's a friendly, benevolent organization put on earth to help us."

That's what the people of Germany thought before Hitler.  He had lots of quotes (to the public on his way to ultimate power) about making Germany the safest nation.  He also said lots of things about disarming the people to accomplish his agenda (to his close friends and allies).  Hitler's not the only one.  If you study the tyrants of history, you see a common thread.  Disarm the regular folks, then rule with an iron fist.

It's happened before and it could happen again.  We are not immune.

Blessings to you,