Not my will, but your's be done.



Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a Vapor

This morning my kids were getting on my nerves.  Yep, my beautiful, lovely, perfect children were annoying the mess out of me.  I'm not particularly a morning person.  I don't necessarily wake up irritable, but I don't hope out of bed all bright eyed an bushy tailed either.  I wake up quiet and slow, so it takes a few minutes of moving about the house for me to be awake enough to do certain things, like carry on a conversation.  My days always start best when I get up before the kids and have some time to shake the cob webs loose from my head, and get the right perspective.  When I'm up first, not only am I in a better mood when my kiddos start waking up, but I get a few minutes of hugs and snuggling with each one as they start rolling out of bed one by one.  That makes for a good start to the day for me, and for them.

This morning the kids started waking up before I did.  And they woke up with a plethora of needs that, in their perspective, had to be met at that very moment.  They were either dying of hunger, or dehydrated, or freezing to death, or had to potty really bad but the bathroom was already occupied by another sibling who was apparently constipated. 

As the morning progressed there were more urgent needs.  Like, not being able to find matching socks, or the right shorts(to which I wanted to say, "It's two days until Christmas, just put on some pants!"), or un-tying the double knots in shoes that apparently had been tied by the incredible hulk.

Yes, my children are as dramatic as I am.

I was really starting to get annoyed.  I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and I was still in my pj's, still had dragon breath, and still needed coffee somethin' fierce.  At some point I threw a mini-tantrum and said that if one more person asked me for something before I was dressed that everyone was going to sit on their bed until I made coffee!

While I was getting dressed I checked the news and facebook, only to learn that a 3 year old in a near-by town had been accidentally run over by his father and killed.  Another 3 year old had drowned in a pond.  And a 22 year old local girl, Emily Riu, had been killed in a car wreck.  While I didn't personally know the girl that was killed in the wreck, she was a family member of people whom we do know.  All three of these events are such a tragedy. 

I was whispering a prayer for the family members and friends of those who died, when my mind wandered to the fact that this will probably be the worst Christmas these families have ever experienced.  And worse than that, every Christmas will mark the anniversary of a very sad time.  Lost loved ones are already missed terribly at Christmas, and compounded with the fact that only a few days before Christmas will mark the anniversary of a tragedy, I can't imagine the pain that the holidays will bring for these grieving families.

It hit me what a vapor life really is.  In James, life is referred to as a mist.  James 4:14b says, "What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

If I knew that I or one of my children wasn't going to be here on this earth tomorrow, would running around meeting all their many, seemingly trivial needs annoy me?  Absolutely not.  In fact, not only would I not be annoyed, I would be honored and joyful that I have the special opportunity to be the one who meets their needs while I had the chance.  I suddenly wasn't so annoyed with my kids.  When I went in to the bathroom to put on my make up, instead of shooing Josslyn, who is my shadow, out of the room so that I could have a minute of peace, I brought her in there with me and sat her down on the stool.  While I put my make up on I put a little blush on her cheeks and was blessed by her giggles.  Then I pretended to put eye shadow and what not on her as I put mine on, and was blessed again when she said,  "I'm pretty!  And you are pretty too, Mommy!"  Yes, baby girl, you are beautiful, make up or not.  I love her joy in the simple things in life.

When Danil pressed the button on his kitty keyboard to play the song "Oh where, Oh where has my little cat gone?" for the 945,215 time, instead of getting annoyed, I sang along for a couple of verses and had the pleasure of making Danil laugh so hard that it made me laugh.  And then he clapped for me.  Which is the opposite reaction I usually get from folks when I sing.  I love his love for music.

When Luke brought me a lego creation, that looks very similar to his last 37 lego creations, instead of sighing and saying, "Let me guess. It is a car that can transform in to a spaceship, right?", I stopped what I was doing and let him tell me all about it.   And then I gave him a big long hug.  I love his creativity.

When Alik knocked a framed picture off the wall and it broke in to bits because he was trying to see if it could "shake", instead of yelling, "Why would you do that?!  Of course it can shake, why else do you think it is always crooked?! NOW look at it!", instead I took a deep breath, which gave me the perspective to realize that he wasn't trying to break the picture frame and his behavior didn't have ill intentions but was just innocent childish curiousity.  I could tell by the look on his face that he felt bad and wasn't going to be "shaking" any more picture frames.  Once I realized that I wasn't upset anymore and had the opportunity to show grace instead of griping at him now and regretting it later.  He is sensitive, and I love his sensitivity towards others.

When Ray melted down because she couldn't decide if she should wear short sleeves and a jacket or just long sleeves, instead of snapping, "Oh just pick one! It isn't a life altering decision!", instead we went and stood on the porch for a minute to see what the weather felt like.  I love her funky style and uniqueness that shows even in the clothes she wears.

When Kellen happily held his arms out to me, yelling, "UP!", which is what he says when he wants to be tossed in the air repeatedly, instead of saying, "Not right now, Mama's arms are still tired for the last UP.", I threw my chubby toddler up in the air a few more times.  He is growing so fast and it won't be long until he is too big for UP.  I love his zest for life and his love of adventure.

If I knew that I or one of my children wasn't going to be on this earth tommorrow would I be annoyed by having to meet their many, seeminly trivial needs?  Absolutely not.  Not only would I not be annoyed, I would be honored and joyful to have the opportunity to be the one who meets their needs while I had the chance.  Life is a vapor.

My prayer for you and me is that over the next few days, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, is that we remember to focus on who and what is important and let the trivial things fall to the wayside.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DIY Dogfood

I know that I've been totally lagging in posting my DIY posts....and really blogging in general.  I thought I'd do the dogfood making post all on it's own so that those of you who either don't have a dog or are not the slightest bit interested in making dogfood, could just skip this post all together.  I will only be talking about dogfood in this post, so here is your ticket to just stop reading now if that isn't of interest to you.  My next DIY will be about dishwasher detergent, rinse aid, and maybe a few other things thrown in there.

Dogfood:
I first got the idea in the back of my head to possibly make my own dogfood a couple months ago when my sister told me that she read that the average life span of a dog is something like 12 years, but dogs fed a completely organic diet had an average life span of 30 years.  Wow.  Now, while I have done no research whatsoever to try to find out how accurate these statistics actually are, it still got something going in the back of my head.  That information from my sister just kinda sat in marinated in my brain for a while until I finally sat down and did some reading about the possiblity of making my own dogfood.  First off, I want to make this clear:  We love our dogs.  They are great pets.  They are great with the kids.  They help me feel safe when Josh is working nights, yada, yada, yada.  But they are just that: dogs.  We don't treat our dogs like they our other children or anything like that.  I'm not bashing folks who do treat their dogs like that, but we already have 6 young kids, so our dogs are our pets, not our other children.  So don't start thinking that just because I now make our dog's dogfood, that they must be spoiled dogs that go around sportting diamond studded collars, ride in doggie carseats, and receive royal treatment...because they don't have/do/receive any of these things. 

Now that we've got that out of the way, I'll get back to the dogfood business.  So, when I started thinking about how much healthier REAL food must be for dogs, it got me to wondering about the cost effectiveness and effort required to do it.  After doing some research and reading I decided to give it a shot.  Much to my shock an amazement, it was MUCH easier than I anticipated.

Dogs are primarily carnivors.  Dogs are meant to eat a diet composed mainly of raw meat.  Domesticated dogs haven't eaten raw meat for so long that they have mostly lost the digestive enzymes to properly digest raw meat, therefore, all meat fed to them should be fully cooked.  My dogfood is about 40% meat, 30% grain, 30% veggies.  I don't measure these percentages, I just eyeball it.  I pretty much make sure it looks like I am serving the dogs equal parts of all three, and then I just add a little more meat.  It isn't a science.

I have made my dog food for three weeks now.  Every batch I make has lasted right at a week.  We have 3 dogs(one small, one large, and one medium sized puppy that will probably be med-slightly largish when full grown).  I make all three parts of my food at once and it takes less than an hour.

I use 5lb ground meat
2 cups brown rice(that is 2 cups dry, so it comes out to more than 2 cups when it is cooked)
carrots or potatoes(I make an amount that looks like the same amount of rice.  For the carrots that is about 3lbs for the potatoes I just eyeball it.  When I am doing carrots I steam them until they are tender, for the potatoes I bake them in the oven until tender and then cut them up, skins and all.)
For the gound meat I either use 73/27 ground beef or gound turkey.  I do not drain the fat, I just cook it, let it cool, stir in the grains and veggies, and refrigerate.

You will have to adjust the amount of food you cook based on the size of your dogs.  This batch lasts all three of my dogs a week.  I am using half dry dogfood and half homemade dogfood.  I did this in the beginning to help their digestive systems switch over to the new food.  They never seemed to have trouble digesting the new food. In fact, the LOVE it.  All three scarf it down in mere minutes and then lick the bowl.  I usually put the dry food and homemade food in the bowl and then sprinkle it with some brewer's yeast and diatomaceous earth(2 tsp for the two bigger dogs and 1/2 tsp for the little dog).  A couple of times a week I crack an egg in to the two bigger dog's food and then grind up the shell and stir it in. Every other day or so I sprinkle a little wheat germ on their food. I also drizzle a little olive oil on their food about once a week, as a treat.  When we steam broccoli for supper, I save the stem and grate in into the dogs food the next morning.  I also throw in some spinach stems when I add spinach to our eggs.  The only things I know of that you should NOT put in your dog's food is chocolate, onions, grapes, and garlic.  Dogs also don't usually digest dairy very well, so stay away from adding that to your dogs food.

In less than two weeks I noticed a BIG difference in how all three of my dogs looked.  Our little dog, who was a super skinny very picky eater has filled out to a healthy weight and looks the best she has ever looked.  Our part australian shepherd puppy that was a stray found on the side of the road by a friend, has filled out to a healthy weight and her coat looks great.  She has shed her unhealthy hair and her new hair is so much softer and shinier.  She also had an skin irritation in her armpit that cleared up when we started the new food.  Our biggest dog is also our newest dog.  She was a dog that we agreed to foster until her owners found a home for her.  She turned out to be great with the kids, great with our other dogs, and a great watchdog when Josh works nights.  She also became best friends with our puppy, and provided a great outlit for all that puppy energy.  We fell in love with her and decided to keep her.  She had been well taken care of by her previous owners, so she came to us in great shape.  She was used to being fed the "good" dogfood, while our dogs were used to eating Old Roy.  I have seen the least amount of changes in her, which is a testament that the good dogfood is really much better than the cheap stuff.  That being said, I have seen changes in her, just not to the extent of our other two dogs.  Her coat is shinier, her eyes  brighter, and she just has a healthy glow to her.

Cost efficiency:  Making my own dogfood probably comes out to the same price as buying one of the more expensive brands of dogfood at Wal-Mart, but cheaper than, say, Science Diet from the vet.  I plan on continuing to feed them 1/2 dry food and 1/2 homemade food.  The reason for this is so that if I am ever not able to feed them the homemade food(emergency, illness, HURRICANE EVACUATION, etc) if won't make them sick to have to just eat they dry food.

Gotta run for tonight, but hopefully I'll get a chance to post my other DIY things I've been experimenting with soon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The 2nd installment of, DO IT YOURSELF:

I LOVED hearing all your comments after my last blog post, especially when you shared your own DIY goodies!  I have already tried some of the things you have suggested!  So far, this making my own products has been really fun.  Tinctures making is my next adventure, but since that requires alot of waaaaaiiitttinng while the tincture sits, I think continue to experiment with some of your ideas while I'm waiting.

I want to quickly update on how things have been going with my last to DIY adventures. 

Laundry Soap:  I am really liking it!  The 1/2 cup measurement seems to be working for us.  If I were to wash a really soilded load I might add more, but I haven't needed to do that yet.  When you first make the laundry soap, and it cools, it forms a thick gel.  Jello like, but a different texture.  I have found that the soap needs to be re-stirred every 5 or 6 days.  If not, you get some watery sections of soap.  In the bucket, the soap has a strong clean scent, but the clothes just come out smelling clean, not with a strong scent at all.  In fact, there is pretty much NO scent, so if you want scent you will have to add essential oils.  If you happen to not like the smell of the Fels-Naptha soap, then you can substitute ivory bar soap for the fels-naptha when you make it.

Toothpaste:  Still lovin' this!  Once my batch got low I made another one and also made a batch for the kid.  I was going to wait until their toothpast ran out, but they were excited to try it so I just went with the momentum and threw out the half empty tube they had and started them on the homemade kind.  No looking back.  Shockingly, there were NO COMPLAINTS, not even from my child that likes to complain about everything.  Score!  Another thing about the toothpaste I want to mention is that it has made my lips so soft.  Seriously.  I guess the coconut oil gets on my lips while I brush my teeth so my lips are all nourished and hydrated.  The only other time they have felt close to being this soft is when I exfoliate them with the Mary Kay lip exfoliant followed by the Mary Kay lip balm.  The awesome thing about this is though, I don't have to use a product with chemicals and my lips are getting soft while I brush my teeth! NICE!

All done with the updates, on to the new stuff!

For this edition of DIY we will be moving to the bathroom for some easy, Do-It-Yourself beauty products and tips.

Shampoo:Here is the recipie for the shampoo I tried.
1T Baking Soda
1 Cup warm water
1T Dr Bonners peppermint liquid castille soap

Massage into scalp for 1-2 minutes(2 minutes if you hair is oily), and then rinse.  You can rinse with a 1:1 mix of apple cider vinegar and water for some extra shine, if you like.

I mixed all the ingredients in an empty body wash bottle and shook vigarously.   It also needs to be re-shaken before each use.  You can make if without the castille soap, I just added that for some lather.  You can also add essential oils, if you like, if you either don't add the castille soap or use unsented castille. 

Now for my review of the shampoo....
It is hard to get used to rubbing my hair with a shampoo that doesn't lather.  Even with the castille soap there really isn't much lather.  While it did clean my hair well(and seemed to do a great job of stripping build up), I'm not sure what I think about the texture of my hair afterwards.  Jury is still out on thise one.  I'm not scrapping this particular shampoo, but I think I am going to play around with some other recipies.  To be completely fair though, I read to give your hair two weeks to get used to this shampoo.

Conditioner:  I tried conditioning my hair with 1T of apple cider vinegar mixed with an egg yolk.  I massaged in to my hair and let it sit for about 2 minutes.  When I got out of the shower I got a small bit of coconut oil on my hands a lightly rubbed it on the length of my hair, not near my scalp.

My reviewed:  Liked it, but I think my hair is malnourished right now and needs some deeper conditioning than the egg yolk/apple cider vinegar.  I plan on experimenting with some deep conditioning hair masks.  This seemed to be a great every day type conditioner.

Body Moisterizer:
After showering I rubbed a thin layer of coconut oil all over my body like lotion.  It takes a few minutes to absorb, and don't over do it or you will come out looking like a grease ball.  All I can say about this one is, SCORE.  I loved it!  It made my skin feel so soft.....for days!  I tend to have dry patches of skin, especially in the winter, but I hate putting on all that lotion because of the chemicals.  You skin is the largest organ in your body and you don't want gunk it up with chemicals.  I really recommend trying the coconut oil as a body moisterizer.  Just don't over do it because if used in excess, coconut oil can have a drying effect.

Eye Make-Up Remover:
Here is another one that I am just in love with!  There are alot of different things you can use as a natural eye make up remover.  Several years ago I used olive oil for a while.  It worked great, but it left under my eyes greasy so my eye liner would run the next day.  I finally stopped and went back to traditional eye make up remover.  I don't like putting chemicals on that sensitive skin under my eyes though, so I went on mission again to find something natural that worked for me.  I came across a recipie for eye make up remover that called for one part olive oil and one part witch hazel.  Witch hazel is a natural astringent, so I thought that maybe it would cut the oiliness of the olive oil down.  I got a travel shampoo bottle, filled it half way up with witch hazel, and the other half up with extra virgin olive oil.  Shook vigarously, poured some on a cotton ball, and gave it a try.  LOVE.  It is working like a charm!  Underneath my eyes doesn't feel or look greasy, my make up isn't running, and I don't have to rub chemicals in to that delicate skin under my eyes!! Whooo hooo!!!

Side note: The eye make up remover needs to be shaken before every use.

I tried a couple of other things, but I've run out of blogging time, so you will just have to wait.  Hopefully, I gave you enough to get motivated to try making something of your own.  

Coming up next week:
Next week we will be moving in to the kitchen, where I tell of my dogfood making adventure!  I will also share a few of the little health habits we have here in the Carlin house.  They are simple additions to your diet that can have major health benefits.  But after next week, dooooon't think I'm done yet!  I've got everything from lip gloss to dishwashing detergent in the works!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toothpaste and Laundry Soap

Well, my blogging has been lagging a great deal lately.  Several reasons for that, 1. Sick kiddos.  Nothing real serious, just lots of snot and barking coughs that lasted a good week before spending another week or so tapering off.   2. The time change kicked our hineys.  It took several days to find a new groove that worked for us, so before we did I was one exhausted mama trying to parent whiny, exhuasted, half sick kids.  3.  Our computer/computers have been having some major issues.  Our laptop caught some sort of virus not long after we got back from Ukraine.  It has periods where it works fine, and then for a while it won't work at all.  When  Josh isn't working, he can usually mess with it and bring it temporarily back to life.  It has been getting worse though, and seems to be pretty much out of commission for good now.  The mouse on our desktop went out, and since we've been busy, it took several days to actually get to the store to get a new one.  So we spent several days without the internet.  4.  I found a fiction series that peaked my interested.  About 30 pages in to the first book I was hooked, so I spent all last week spending every single free moment reading.  I finished the whole series in a week, so I guess I now have to face reality again.

All that to say, those are my excuses for not blogging lately.  I also want to preface this blog post(although at this point I don't think that preface is the right word) by saying that it really SHOULD have pictures, but it doesn't.  I'm going to share my adventures in making my own toothpaste and my own laundry soap.  Those kinds of posts really should have pictures.  BUT our desktop doesn't have a memory card slot, so I don't know how to get the pictures from the memory card to the computer.  Alas, you will jut have to use your imagination.

Like I said, I have been experimenting with making my own toothpaste and my own laundry soap.  It is something that I've been wanting to do for a while, but I guess I have just been lazy, or pre-occupied...

Let's start with the TOOTHPASTE:
This was SO easy.  It litterally took me five minutes from start to finish. 

The ingredients are COCONUT OIL, BAKING SODA, and PEPPERMINT ESSENTIAL OIL.

I put 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a small glass bowl.  I added one teaspoon of baking soda, and 10 drops of peppermint essential oil.  I took a butterknife and mixed it all up.  Coconut oil is soild, but soft at room temperature.  Once it was all mixed it put it in a small plastic container that has a lid.  I keep it in my bathroom on the shelf.  When I brush my teeth I stick my took brush in the container and scoop some on to my toothbrush.  Out of habit, I wet my toothbrush before brushing my teeth, but you don't have to. 
The first time I used it I didn't really know what to expect.  It doesn't lather like regular toothpaste, but my mouth feels very clean afterwards.  I really really like it!  When I run out of what I have and need to make a new batch, I am going to go ahead a make a bigger one so it will last longer.  I plan on using a little less baking soda and a little more peppermint essential oil.  Peppermint can be STRONG, so it is best to start small and add more if you want.  Next time I plan on using 4 tablespoons coconut oil, one heaping teaspoon of baking soda, and 20-25 drops of peppermint essential oil.  This toothpaste is free of chemicals and it is all natural.  It also has the added benefit of being very frugal.  I plan on transitioning the kids over to this toothpaste too.  Their batch will have less peppermint though, since my kids don't like "spicy" toothpaste.  I have two kiddos that swallow their toothpaste, so this is a very safe alternative to regular toothpaste, which should NOT be swallowed.  Also, you don't have to use peppermint essential oil.  Clove, cinnamon, and theives would also be great choices! 

Now, for the LAUNDRY SOAP:
This was super simple also, and only took about 20 minutes total.
I started by boiling one gallon of water.  Once it starts boiling(or a little before, if you are impatient like me), you shave two bars of Fels-Naptha soap in to the boiling water, stopping every so often to stir.  You can get Fels-Naptha soap on the laundry aisle at Wal-Mart for 96 cents a bar. 

Once the Fels-Naptha was stirred in and melted, I added 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda.  Both of those items can be purchased on the laundry soap aisle at Wal-Mart.  Once it was all stirred in together, I put one gallon of hot water in to a five gallon bucket.  After that I poured in my soap mixture.  Then I poured another gallon of hot water on top of that.  I stirred it all up and then let it cool.  It filled my 5 gallon bucket about 3/5 full, and once it has cooled it forms a very thick gel.  Today is my first dy to use it, but I washed several loads using 1/2 a cup of the laundry soap mixture, and it worked great.  The finished laundry soap has a very clean smell.  If there isn't enough scent for your taste, then you can always add some essential oils to the mix.  Lavendar is always an excellent choice for things like that.  If you are looking for a chemical free and VERY frugal way to wash your clothes, THIS is the choice for you!  Seriously.  It was very cheap and easy to make.  Once again, I am sitting here asking myself WHY I waited so long to do it!

So that's all I got for tonight.  I have so other ideas that I am going to be experimenting with in the near future, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Night  ya'll!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dragon Mama

Today has been on of those days.

When I was about 3 and a half I asked my mom, "Mama, can you breathe fire like a dragon?"  Being a typical 3 year old, I asked many more questions, including, but not limited to, "Can God pick up the road?", "Does God use sissors?", "Can God kill Mr. T.?", "If I swallowed my gum, it wouldn't get stuck to God, it would go around my heart. Right?" 

We love to laugh at the things we said as children.  Joss is three years old and fully in that question asking stage.  She asks "WHY?" for ev.er.y.thing. I ask her to do. 
After the day I had today, I am quite shocked that none of my children asked if I could breathe fire like a dragon, because I definitely had a dragon day.
I really hate those kinds of days, too.  Those kinds of days always leave me feeling guilty after the kids have gone to bed, and I completely hate feeling like that.

I am a somewhat high strung person(shocker).  I might be laid back in some areas, but in general I think I'm high strung.  One of the unfortunate attributes of a high strung person is that they tend to be easily irritable.  If I were to deny being anything less than that, then my sister would totally laugh in my face(the reason she can laugh in my face, as opposed to punching it, is because we no longer share the same room and same bed, so our personality differences can now be laughed at).  Ok, so I am easily irritable.  It's something that I'm working on, and most of the time I don't let it conquer my day.  But today I did.  I was one fire breathin' dragon mamas today.  It doesn't help that I've been running on minimal sleep the last few days due to one feller who rather not sleep in his own bed and several other kiddos who have suddenly decided to consume mass quanities of water before bedtime.  It doesn't help that all but one of my kiddos has the crud of some sort.  I'm a light sleeper, so all I've heard is a chorus of barking seals all night long for the past few nights. 

All of those things factored into my dragon day.  BUT, that still doesn't excuse my behavior.  EVERYONE has stressors.  That is life.  As Christians we are required to rise above our flesh.  My flesh might say, "I'm tired! It is 10:45 and I still haven't had time to make coffee, which I DESPARATELY need, because I have been blowing noses, wiping bottoms, referreeing arguments, tying shoes, and answering 9,000,000 questions since 7:00am!"  Regardless of what my flesh says, though, I am still required to treat my children in the same loving and gentle manner that I require them to treat each other.  We speak in love.  We touch each other in gentleness.  We do not raise our voice in anger.

Goodness, knows I have broken those standards today.  There are some folks out there who would love to say, "That's what happens when you have six kids!"  But in my honesty I'll tell you that I have had my dragon mama moments when Luke was our only child.  "Dragon Mama" is purely a flesh thing, not a number-of-kids-you-have thing. 

This dragon mama is ready for today to be over so that I can start fresh tomorrow.  As much as they can bring out the dragon in me, I'm not sure if I could go a single day without my children.  I am blessed beyond measure by having the opportunity to be their mother.  This dragon mama has been tamed, atleast for tonight.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Luke's Heart

This evening I was doing some cleaning in my kitchen and I found something that touched my heart.  On top of the fridge I found a construction paper heart that Luke had cut out and written his prayer requests on.  On the heart it said,

prayer requests
orphan
van
a dog

He made his little prayer request heart last August when we sat him and Ray down to talk to them how God had laid adoption on our heart.  Our vehicle at the time was at max compacity, so it was a given that we were going to have to get a new vehicle before we added another child to our family.  Once Josh and I revealed to Luke and Ray that God had laid adoption on our hearts, we began to pray about it nightly as a family.  We prayed for God's guidance, we prayed for God protection of our future child, and we prayed for orphans in general. 

Almost immediately after we began to pray as a family about adopting, Luke penned his prayer request heart.  We placed it on the refrigerator to be a reminder to us all to be praying about our adoption and the things God was going to have to provide for us, like a van.  He request for a dog seemed out of place, in light of the other two things we were praying for.  Especially since we already had a dog, which was Luke's dog.  I have to say that I prayed about the first two requests numerous times, but not neccessarily for the third.  At some point, I guess the heart fell off the fridge and was placed on top of it.  We adopted an orphan(or THREE), God provided the prefect van for our family.  Prayer requests answered.  Or atleast the important ones, anyway.

God is interesting though.

About two weeks ago we added a dog to our family.  She was a free dog that a friend had found abandoned on the side of the road, but couldn't keep her.  I couldn't resist her sweet face, and neither could Josh, so we decided we would take her.  This might sound strange, but that dog has been such a blessing.  She is the prefect dog for our family.  Also, a couple of days ago we started to foster a dog that needs is in need of a permanant home, and that too, has turned out to be a blessing, especially to Luke. 

So when I found that little heart on top of the fridge tonight, I couldn't help but smile.  God is good, and sometimes he not only gives us our needs, but he also gives us our wants.  That is what a loving father does.  Lavish special gifts on his children, even when we might not need or deserve them.

A dog might not seem like a big deal.  But that dog that Luke spent all those months praying for, has been just what I needed.  Once again, I am reminded that I am incapable of planning my life better than God can.  And once again, I am reminded that God hears even what might be considered the "unimportant" of requests. 

I guess I need to brace myself though, because Luke's newest request to God is that I will either get pregnant with twins, or that we will adopt a baby boy and girl....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day.  It is a day for all of us who have lost a child through misscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or other infant death to remember our sweet babies.  Do we need a special day to bring them to mind?  Of course not.  I feel that I can confidently speak for those of us who have experienced this type of loss, that there is nothing that can make you forget and almost anything can be an excuse to remember.  So, while this special day isn't something that is needed for us to remember, to is a wonderful opportunity for our unique community to honor the babies we had to say goodbye to against our will.  It is also an opportunity for those who have not been touched by a loss of this nature, to be made aware of the loss that so many of those around them have had to endure.

When I found out that I was pregnant with Raylen, one of my first thoughts were, "It's twins."  It was a very random thought because during my pregnancy with Luke, I don't remember the thought ever really crossing my mind that I could be having  twins.  But the very evening I found out I was pregnant with Ray I almost immediately got a feeling that it was twins.  What was even more alarming, was later that evening my parents came by to tell us congratulations, and one of the first things my mom said was, "Your dad thinks it's twins."  My eyes got as big a saucers!  My dad has a special intuition, when it comes to babies.  Before the day of ultrasounds, he could guess with an eery accuracy a baby's gender before he or she was born.  Pregnant women come to him to find out what gender he predicted.  I'm sure at some point he has guessed wrong, but not in my recollection.  So when he said twins, it confirmed that feeling that I had. 

I had been seeing my OBGYN regularly trying to figure out if we had any fertility issues or not, so we were able to get in earlier than usual for my first prenatal appointment.  I was between 7 and 8 weeks along, so it was too early to hear a heartbeat with the dopplar, so my doctor did an ultrasound just to make sure that things were progressing as they should.  Little Ray looked great!  Her heart was strong an she was developing right on schedule.  What the ultrasound also showed, was what appreared to be Ray's twin.  Unfortunately, that baby had stopped developing and did not have a heart beat.  Talk about bittersweet.  We had tried so hard to get pregnant with Ray, that it was glorious news to hear that the baby was devoloping well.  There is nothing like getting to see your baby's heartbeat for the first time.  On the other hand, we had that "just got punched in the stomach" feeling hearing about the other baby.

We had a follow up ultrasound several days later to see what was happening in there.  At that point, baby B was just a shrinking sac.  Apparently that was a good thing because it didn't look like there were going to be an negative repercussions to baby Ray.  Ray's twin was what is called vanishing twin syndrome.  If we would have had our first ultrasound at 12 weeks or so, there most likely would have been no trace of what was once a twin.  God used this to help me learn to more fully trust my mama insticts.

Our next loss was Treyson.  This blog was started during my pregnancy with him, so you can read all the details of when we walked that journey, if you so desire.  The work that God in my life through Treyson is more than I could sum up in a novel.

Our most recent loss was less than a year ago.  I got pregnant shortly after we started the process to adopt Danil.  This pregnancy was kept underwraps for a plethora of reasons.  I ended up miscarrying the week of Christmas.  My selfish concerns of how I was going to manage having a newborn only a few months after bringing home a child with Down Syndrome from the Ukraine, suddenly felt like just that.  Selfish.  That baby would have been 2 months old now. 

Each loss was different and was grieved in a different manner.  Each loss brought something to my life that wasn't there before.

At 7pm tonight, our family will be participating in the "wave of light".  We will be burning a candle for one hour, in rememberance of our lost little ones. 

One this day of rememberance, if you feel comfortable sharing, I would love to hear of the little ones you may have lost.  For those of you mothers who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, of other infant loss, it would bless my heart if you would let me know so in a comment.  This is not just for my benefit, but the for the benefit of others who have walked or are walking this path of loss themselves.

I pray for those of you who may be dealin with a recent loss.  I want to encourage you by saying that even though the pain never fully goes away, it won't always be this raw and consuming.  While it might not seem like it now, God can bring good out of even the darkest situations, if you allow him to do so.

Here is to all our sweet angels who are populating God's kingdom.  You are gone, but never forgotten.  Always loved and held dear in our hearts.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Half a year....

Today marks 6 months since our court date where Alik, Danil, and Josslyn legally became our children. 

6 months.  Half a year.

I can hardly wrap my mind around this.
In some ways it is like they have always been mine.
And in other ways I can re-live our court date like it was yesterday.

I was in somewhat of a tizzy after our court date, and then life turned in to a blur after that.  So I never had the opportunity to blog about the details of our adoption hearing.  My dear bloggy friends are probably waaaay past being interested in the details of that day, but they are so fresh to me, and I feel that there are things worth saying, so here I go...

April 13, 2011. 
What a day.  While our court date was not neccesarrily the adoption milestone that I was the most nervous about, it was still a very important bridge that we had to cross.  If you do recall, Kellen took ever step of our adoption journey with us.  While the thought of bringing Kellen with us to court made me nervous, it was not enough to deter us from bringing him to Urkaine with us.  Even though it seemed our only option was to bring him with us to court.  My baby boy is a sweetheart, but at this point in his life, he couldn't sit still quietly for more that a minute.  I didn't want him to fuss thoughout our entire hearing, but leaving him at home(in the USA) wasn't an option, and paying for someone to come with us just to take care of him during court wasn't an option either.

God tends to have things He calls us to do planned out ahead of time.  So when he called us to adopt internationally, he already knew that my mama heart couldn't physically separate with my baby.  HE had our courtdate planned out ahead of time, even though in my head I just planned to wing it.

When we traveled to Ukraine for our first trip(to have our SDA appointment, meet our kids, and have court), another family that played a very pivitol role in our adoption story was walking the adoption path a few feet ahead of us.  That family was the Buricks.  One day I will tell "Danil's Story", which is how our adoption journey officially began.  That story has Buricks(and God) written all over it.  The Buricks obedience to God's call on their life has forever changed my life. We were blessed beyond measure to have the Buricks not only in Ukraine, but, uh, in the same hotel as us for the first part of our stay in region.  It was surreal to lay eyes on, hug, and talk to, people who played such an enourmous role in the direction our lives had taken. 

Since the Buricks were walking this path a few feet ahead of us, that means that they had their court date and went home for the 10 day waiting period before us.  As the timing would fall, though, Josh Burick would return back to our region(and our hotel) while we were still there on our first trip.  It just so happend, that Josh arrived back to the great region of D'nepropetrovsk the day before we were to have our court date. 

At the orphanage there are two time slots a day that visitation are possible.  Since Josh Burick was staying at the same hotel as us, that means we shared a cab and from orphanage visits.  It was so nice to see him again, when he arrived back in region.  While I couldn't fully imagine it at the time, I knew that his reunion with his son was a sweet one.  So it blew me away when the day that he was reuninted with his son he offered to babysit Kellen during our court hearing.  He layed the facts out plain and simple.  He said that this was a day that was going to change our lives forever and that, in his opinion, he thought that we should be free to fully concentrate on and experience this life changing day.

He made a plea that couldn't be argued with, so we said yes.  As it turns out, Josh Burick was an angel in disguise.  On the much awaited day of our court hearing, court ran late, and then our hearing lasted long than we anticipated.  Kellen would NOT have handled any of this well at all.  First off, Ukrainian court houses are from Soviet times.  They are old, dirty, and practically falling apart on the inside.  As attached at KK is to us, he isn't exactly a sit still on your lap type baby.  He's a mover and a shaker, and would have been cover in dirt by the time we finally got in the court room.  As we neverously sat on a bench in a dusty hallway, waiting for our time in court, I was thanking God that Josh Burick was taking care of Kellen.

Court was everything I expected, yet a surprise at the same time.  Maybe I will post about what that was like at some point, but I'll just say this.  I don't cry.  You could litterally count all the times I cry in a year on one hand.  And 4 of those times most likely involve me watching a musical of sorts.  Yet, when the judge said that the Alik, Danil, and Josslyn were officially ours, I let out one of those ugly loudish sob cries and threw my arms around Josh like we were the only two survivours of a neuclear attack.  I pulled it together quick, but I couldn't help but hug nearly everyone that came within hugging distance. 

They were ours. 

Ours.

Officially ours.

All those papers I had prayer over had suddenly materialized in to living breathing children that belonged to me.  It was a birth, of sorts.  The day my children became my children.

Of course that is only the beginning of the story, but what a beautiful story it has turned out to be.

While I was sobbing in public like a freak, Kellen was wreaking all kind of havok for poor Josh Burick.  Josh claims that KK was good for the most part, but at some point Kellen took an enourmous(and messy dump) that not only covered himself, but various parts of Josh's apartment.  Josh was super good natured about it and quite the trooper.  He detained Kellen the the bathroom while he, uh, cleaned up his apartment.  I guess Kellen was just breaking Josh in to being a dad of 3 boys. 

I felt terrible about the heck that the baby put Josh through(even though Josh was super good natured about it), but at the same time I wouldn't change a thing.  Having Josh B baby sit Kellen was such a blessing because I feel like I could fully experience everything that happened in court.  My hat is off to Josh Burick, who will forever be one of my heros!

Maybe on the one year anniversary of our courtdate I will describe what the actual court hearing was like.  It is something that I never will forget.

Here is to six months of being a legal family of EIGHT!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jossy Update

So, my Joss can walk....sorta.  This video was taken a few days ago, which was the first time she started taking unassisted steps.  She has been on the go since the first day she got the cast off, though.  Here is a video from a few days ago(her walking ability is still pretty much the same today).

video

This is how I found her the day after she got her cast off
She was trying to climb over the baby gate.


The doctor said no running, jumping, climbing, rough housing for FOUR WEEKS, but the day after she got her cast off she was climbing over the baby gates in the house!  SHE was so proud, and I almost had a heart attack.  I don't know if I have mentioned this here or not, but Joss is fully in that 3 year old "WHY?" stage.  I keep having to tell her to stop climbing or to play more gently, and then the "why?" go in to full swing.  I really can't count how many times I have said, "Because the doctor said you couldn't do that yet."  Oh well.  At least she is feeling better.

Loving baby brother

That girl truly is a lover, not a fighter.  She'll take all the lovins that me, her daddy, or her siblings are willing to bestow on her.


Even though she isn't walking, she is all over the place. 
Here she is wearing my practice drill team hat from college.  Cutie pie.


Two days after Jossy got her cast off all the kids were playing in the backyard when several of the kids started yelling for me.  I came running to find Joss sitting at the top of the slide.

I thought, "Oh goodness, Joss climbed the ladder."
Much to my surprise, the kids informed me that Joss climbed the ROCK WALL to get to the slide.
Heart attack #2.

Wheeeeee!

I really have no idea how I am going to keep that girl from re-breaking her leg for 3 weeks!

Friday night we took the kids to the Nederland football game.
Don't they look precious in their black and gold?  And, yes, Kellen is wearing a batman shirt, as opposed to a bulldog shirt, because I couldn't find his bulldog shirt so that was the only black and gold thing I could find....which is actually Danil's, but luckily they are pretty much the same size.


Josslyn  Alina Carlin


The whole fam


The twins


This feller loves him some football!!
(even though he called it either soccer or baseball the entire time)

Well, that is what we've been up to.  My head is FULL of blogging topics that I feel like I need to share, both for the sake of others and for my own get-it-off-your-chest type thing, but who knows when I'll find the time.  If is much easier for me to just post picture of my cute kids doing cute things......

Night Ya'll!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Monster is Removed....and one little sneak peak


Joss got her cast off today!  Can I get a Whoot Whoot?!

This is my little princess all ready to head over to Houston.


Silly Face


Joss and Mama right before we left.


Posin' 
Like always.


It's time to get that baby off!!


The nurse was litterally waiting with the saw thingy while we took this picture.

The part I was most nervous about today was when she actually got her cast removed.  I knew that it involved the cast being sawed off by a little electric saw thing.  Loud noises can upset Joss.  Not to mention that the loud noise was going to be applied to her "hurt leg".  I fully expected a full on freak out from her while they sawed her cast off.  That didn't happen though.  She took it like a champ and even giggled about it.  Once the cast was actually removed was a different story.  Parts of her skin had sores on it and her leg was/is super sore and tight.  After her first taste of pain she pretty much lost it.  I almost lost it at one point too.  I just really have a hard time seeing her so upset.   

After her cast was removed they took more x-rays.  Once again, her femur(thigh bone) looked very funky to me, but the doctor and nurse insisted that it was healing up well.  Lots of new bone has formed around the break, so that is a good thing.  The doctor doesn't want to see her back for 3 whole months, although he did say that it could be 3 weeks before she walks again.  He also said that she can't jump, climb, swing, or rough house for FOUR MORE WEEKS.  That is going to be very difficult at our house.  We are a rough and tumble sort of group, not to mention that Joss is VERY un-coordinated.  I honestly think I am going to be more paranoid the next 4 weeks, than I was while she was in the cast.  At least I knew her leg was protected then.  Anyway, she has really surprised me since getting the cast off.


Here she is on the way home.


She isn't interested in putting any weight on her "hurt leg", but she is moving much more than I anticipated.  I was able to give her a bath and scrub a little bit of the grime off her foot.  Six weeks without bathing your legs can wind you up with some pretty nasty legs.

Joss and Alik

I totally have to commend my other kiddos for showing Joss so much love.  They swarmed her the second we got home and showered her with attention and love the rest of the night.  When we said prayers before bed, everyone thanked God that Jossy got her cast off.  Alik even said, "Thank you that Josslyn can walk again and play with us outside."  I love that my kids love each other.

Last but not least, here is a little sneak peak at a cutie I got to play with yesterday.  If you don't know who it is, then I guess you will just have to wait for me to tell you.  But I can't tell you how many times I thanked God that I was able to hold, hug, kiss, and play with her after spending so many hours praying for her. 
God it good.

'Night, ya'll!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mostly My Joss


New Tattoo









We had a little visitor one day this week.  Here is a sneak peek at who it was. 
Can you guess who that little feller with Alik is?


So beautiful


I simply adore that face.


She is such a ham!





The twins


Those two really do have a "twin-like" connection.  God is good.


She adores her baby brother.



The cast comes off in two days!!  Whoo hooo!

Have a great week!  And I promise that in the next several days Shannon and I will be posting pictures of Anton, Lena, and Alik's reunion.  Between the two of us we have 11 kids(10 of which are five and under!).  That can make finding time for blogging difficult. Stay tuned though because this is the week we will make the long awaited post! 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

As Paul Harvey Would Say...




and now, for the rest of the story.

At this point, the rest of our vacation pictures are pretty much anti-climatic, but I want to post them anyway.  Call it a mama compulsion.

Josh showing R, L, and A how to catch fish.


He is great at the beach.  Always so content.


On Wednesday my grandparents and Uncle Mike came by to visit for several hours.  When the kids saw my grandparents arrive you would have thought that they had not seen them for a year.  Kellen and Danil ran at full speed, yelling, "PAWPAW!!" when they saw them pull up. 

Uncle Mike needed a nap, but Danil just couldn't leave him alone.


Luckily, Uncle Mike was good natured enough to allow Danil to climb all over him while he was trying to nap.


Ray


Danil and Daddy


Luke and....me


Luke eating a smore


Ray eating a smore

Alik and Joss do not care at all for smores.  KK was pretty much too busy to eat them.  I really wish I had gotten a picture of Danil eating smores though.  He always ended up covered in chocolate.  Hilarious.

So that winds up the picture of our little vacation.  Soon to come are pictures of Alik with Anton and Lena!