Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

(Once again, we are not sending Christmas cards out in the traditional way - see the end of this post for more on that...We hope you enjoy this online version! If you regularly read my blog or see my Facebook posts, some of these stories will sound familiar...)

I thought I was busy this year, but when I went back to see previous Christmas posts, I don't think I wrote one in 2014!!  Now I feel pretty smug about getting this one done, even if it is later than I would like.  Normally, I would come up with some sort of special theme for our Christmas letter, but this year my brain feels too old and tired to think of something unique!  So this is an ordinary top ten list, which doesn't mean there were the only 10 important things that happened, just 10 that I'd like to highlight here...remember that you can click on any of the photos to see them larger =)
TOP TEN of 2015
(in chronological order)
1) Team Chran wedding - 
In February, I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of a good friend.  It was a beautiful day and the wedding was so much fun!  More importantly, two God loving people were united in marriage and they began a journey together that will never end.

2) Moses' gymnastics season - 
This year Moses was able to participate in the State Gymnastics meet for boys!  It was held in Sheboygan and it was a great way to end the season.  Since then, a new season has begun and Mo was very excited in February when he won his first medal!  Slowly his strength and flexibility are improving and he is beginning to make the connection between all the practices and the results at the meets.  We are looking forward to his first boys only meet in January of 2016!

3) Spring Break in TN w/good friends - 
There is absolutely nothing like going to see some of your best friends and using their location as a vacation destination!  In fact, we've done it for quite a few spring breaks in the past!  This time we parked our camper close to our friends' home and shared conversations, meals and even tears.  We miss them so much!!  (Side note - we need to take more pics when we get together!)

4) Colleen's dance recital - 
This past year Colleen chose to try dance instead of gymnastics.  She was very excited to get a new leo and some ballet shoes =)  Her recital was a new experience for all of us!  How my tiny ballerina shined!  The focus it took to complete the dance steps was a challenge and she rose to it.  Afterwards she was adorned with a medal and the hugest smile appeared on her face.  She smiled for pictures with us and didn't shy away from being the star of the show.  If you know her (or any child who suffers from attachment issues), you know that this is RARE.  I just kept hugging her but I made sure to take thousands of photos too!!  I want that moment to live in my brain, front and center, so I can just bask in it when there are difficult days.

5) We CLOSED on the sale of our previous home - 
In 2014 we packed up our lives and in the first week of Dec we moved into a new home.  In spring of 2015, we were finally ready to put our previous home up for sale.  We started the process with prayer - we were warned that a 4 bedroom house could be either a blessing or a curse - many people desire it but cannot afford it...we felt some pressure to lower the price we wanted but in the end, I think the realtor helped us choose just the right asking price.  Within the first week, there were many showings and much interest!  In a short time, an offer was made and accepted.  And just like that - the SOLD sign was up and we were free of the 2nd mortgage!  We truly believe this is a miracle - God did this, not us.  The 'stats' and 'trends' predicted we would be sitting on the house for a while...but when God shows up, the stats and trends are thrown to the wind!  It was a bittersweet time for us, one we will never forget.

6) Ninja mud run - 
In July, Moses participated in a Dirty Ninja Mud Run!  It was right up his alley - obstacles, mud and showing off his skills!  I was that crazed parent trying to keep up and run alongside the course, getting photos and videos but trying to stay dry and clean =)  It was so much fun to watch and Moses had a blast!  It's on our calendar for next year - if you know of a kid who likes that kind of stuff and wants to join - let us know!

7) Building a chicken coop - 
One of the biggest summer projects we decided to undertake was to build a predator proof chicken coop.  We lost a chicken to a raccoon in our old coop, but that was definitely not predator proof.  Then a friend loaned us some live traps and we caught many (over 10!) over the course of a month or 2.  It was clear that it was time to build a serious structure.  My handy husband made a plan and we looked at the materials we had available in our collection.  Together we worked (but mostly he did) in the backyard and driveway.  There was nail gun use, hammer use, ladder use and even painting!  I am very proud of Dave for designing and building a structure that is predator proof and will withstand time and elements of nature!

8) Losing Pippa -
One of the first chickens Dave ever hatched (back when he was a 4K teacher and hatched eggs in his classroom), was Pippa.  She was so unique!  She had a mohawk, was more than one color and was amazingly friendly.  She was the tiniest chicken we have had to date, but she was always the #1 in the pecking order.  Her tiny self kept all the others in line!  This December, we put a light in the new coop to see if we could get the new chickens back on track, laying eggs again.  Within days, Pippa started to look not well.  She hasn't laid eggs in a while and we don't expect her to since she is of 'advanced age'.  However, the light seemed to trigger something in her body and she began to stand like a penguin.  Her head was back, her tail was pointed down and she often stood in the middle of the fray, looking asleep.  She moved slow and appeared to be in pain.  After reading about her penguin stance, we decided she was probably egg bound (not with a real egg, but a liquid one or maybe elements of a shell had broken inside...).  Either way, we gave her a nice warm bath to make her feel more comfortable and then Dave ended her misery.  We sent her to chicken heaven....I feel like I am writing more about this than any other part of our year!!
But you have to understand two things...1) Pippa grew up alongside Moses and Colleen, almost literally since as a chick she was in a box inside our house.  Then she often was at our sides outside in the yard and became like any other pet - much loved.  That being said...2) In our family, we love our pets but they are still pets.  Not people.  We would rather spend time, money and energy on nursing sick or hurt people than on pets.  We loved Pippa but not enough to take her to a vet.  Our love for our animals has limits and boundaries.  We consider the chickens friends, but they are still farm animals.  The whole situation was a wonderful opportunity for our kids to express their emotion and yet learn about the difference between caring for people and caring for animals.  We have since decided to name the new chicken coop after our sweet Pippa - we're planning to make a sign!

9) Meeting one of Colleen's birth sisters - 
We added a special chapter to our personal 'book of adoption' this year.  We have never kept the fact that she has a birth family from Colleen - we've told her their names, their approximate ages and what they look like (to the best of our knowledge).  Colleen is the 7th born to her birth mother (all girls!).  When we were going through the adoption process, we found out that the 5th born was also adopted.  The interesting part (to us!) was the fact that her birth sister's adopted family was a friend of one of our we agreed to exchange info, make contact and maybe meet.  It's been 5 years and for various reasons we have only sent messages but never met.  This December, Colleen's birth sister and her (adoptive) mom were in a nearby town and we took the opportunity to get together.  It was new and maybe awkward at first, but I think it went well!  We hope to stay in contact of course and maybe meet again sooner rather than later.  

10) Adoption profiles - 
Can I pack a little more adoption news in this post?  YES I can!  So in case you didn't already know, we are on the adoption wait list.  We receive child(ren) descriptions, decide if we want to send our home study and be considered for a match.  If the child(ren)'s case worker thinks we are a match, she/he would then 'present' the child(ren) to us and at that point, we would officially say yes or no.  Over time we have seen a number of profiles, sent our home study in to a bunch and had 4-5 child presentations.  The latest one was last week.  When we started this chapter of our adoption journey, we said we are interested in both siblings and 'singletons'.  The latest child presentation was for 2 brothers =)  Please pray for us as we go forward in the process and meet the boys!  More importantly, pray for the children, regardless of what the outcome is.  It's no secret that children waiting in the state adoption system have most likely lived through their fair share of grief and pain.  Recently I saw a graphic called the trauma tree - I think it accurately shows how children like Colleen and those who are adopted can be affected by trauma at any age, even in the womb.  We are grateful for the struggles we have experienced because it means we are a unique family, bonded through love and grace even if we don't share DNA.  The joy we have overflows and that is part of the reason we'd love to adopt again!

As this year comes to a close, we've been enjoying looking at photos and talking about our plans for 2016.  In this past year, we have settled into a new community, a new church, and for Colleen a new school...we've had some highs and some lows adjusting.  In almost everything though, we are reminded that we are blessed.  Just today some new friends and neighbors came by with some Christmas cookies!  So many people have stepped up and made us feel welcome and loved.  It's our prayer for you, dear reader, that those feelings are present in your life too!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours!

We hope you enjoyed this green version of our Christmas card! (If you still wish to receive a paper copy, leave a comment.) There are lots of reasons we decided to do things differently this year (again!)'s a few:
1) Save postage. We love you, but we're cheap!
2) Save paper. You just recycle those cards after you read do recycle them eventually, don't you??
3) Save printing costs. See reason #1!
4) Save stress. Nothing to print, sign, stuff, address...
5) Expand our options! Now you can see a practically limitless amount of photos.
6) Our greeting to you is saved in cyber-space for posterity! Yes, we can be that vain sometimes!
7) It went so well the past years...we heard a lot of positive responses, and even some people who said they'd try it themselves. Welcome to the dark (green) side! (Sorry that was a goofy Star Wars joke...)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Being myself

Now that we live 15-20 minutes out of the center of the city we used to live in, I do a fair share of driving back and forth.  Most times I have kids in the truck w/me, but sometimes I don't.  Over the past couple of years I have learned a lot more about ADD and I have pretty much decided I am a candidate.  I am 'flaky' and distracted mind wanders quickly.  Now that I'm getting older, if you tell me something and you don't see me write it down, I guarantee you I will forget it.  Left on my own, I swear I would not survive - I don't cook, I'd forget to take my meds, I'd get's sort of a joke but there's some truth to it too!  I can take care of others just fine, it's myself I manage to confuse at times...anyway - I'm getting off track here, see what I mean?  In the past, there have been some significant and obvious differences between me and my family members and some of the other people around me.  I used to get so mad at myself a lot - WHY WHY WHY am I not like them??  They are awesome and color coordinated and organized and so 'put together'!!  I would try to force myself to be like that and it would last a few hours.  Seriously.  I'd make myself focus and try to really listen when people talked and keep my mind on the task at hand.  And then one day I just realized that God did not make me that way and THAT IS OK.  If you need someone to shout out 47 ideas of a theme for your kids' birthday party - I'm your girl.  If you need a choreographed routine for some random song you love - call me.  If you want to collaborate on a love story between a star quarterback and some nerdy girl who keeps track of random stats and is able to both fall down and up the steps - yep, I can spin that yarn too.  I feel like I have many talents, maybe not the ones that are wanted 'in real life', but having many of them is good right?  I always picture myself as this rock star mom who can run errands, shuttle kids to all their activities, do the housework (ok maybe not that so much) and maintain friendships w/ease.  "Hey everyone, look at me over here spinning multiple plates in the air!"  Reality check - things are missing b/c I haven't had time to run those errands, I've taken way too many trips back and forth not maximizing my time, housework is half done, I miss my friends and now there are broken plates all over the floor!!


It's the Christmas season and in true Mel fashion, shortcuts have been taken.  Many, almost all, presents were ordered online.  Every one of them has already arrived.  I am ready.  Rock star!  Kids like pancakes for dinner.  ME TOO!!!  We saw a fox on the bridge by our house today.  A FOX!!!  I don't care how many trips I take back and forth - if I see a fox, a deer, a turkey or even a farm cat or a dairy cow, I love seeing God's creation along the way.  And another thing - if I ever need a roller skating routine to the song "Nothing But A Good Time" by Poison, I won't need to do a thing b/c I already have one!

You know, I secretly hope that everyone else around me is feeling the same way - trying to be something they are not - just so that I feel normal.  But then, I don't wish this on anyone.  Don't torture yourself trying to be something you are not.  Find out who/what you are.  Then just be that.  If you don't know how to find that out, talk to people around you.  Read Personality Plus.  Learn about the Myers Briggs test.  Find your weaknesses, don't apologize for them but decide what your game plan is to keep them from being exploited.  If you are different, be different.  You can share DNA w/people and not be exact matches of them.  This has been a hard lesson for me, and maybe you already have this secure in your heart, but thank you Lord for reminding me of it again!  I think one of the best things I have done was to make a 'mission map' for myself.  The shortest way to explain that is to say that I sifted down all the roles I play in life, all the things I want to do and the whys behind them and then took a realistic look at how they all fit together.  I wrote stuff down.  =)  I won't say I have arrived on this journey but I think I'm getting there!!!  I encourage everyone to press on and continue their own journey - if I can help in any way - email me!  I'll be over here trying to be myself, looking out the window, day dreaming about seeing a moose in our woods or something...

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Write it down!

This is my place to write about significant things that happen in life...sometimes I don't get here often enough!!  A quick update on the myriad of things happening around here...
- The last possible adoption was not meant to be.  The current caregiver for the girls has decided to adopt them, which for the girls, means they will not have to move again.  Which is good =)  But it also stinks!  So our SW sent over a few more child descriptions and we said yes to a few, so we'll see if we get matched w/any of them.  And so it goes...again...
- My sub gig may be ending soon!  If it gets approved, the teacher will be returning this week - at first it will just be half days, if I understand correctly.  I'm ready to be home.  I've got so much to do!!  I have been very overwhelmed and TIRED.  I really want to get back to 'normal' and hopefully my eczema will go away too.
- We chose to put Pippa the chicken down...she became egg bound in her old age and was quite sick.  She wasn't was the first time we took care of things like that on our own.  Listen to me - 'we'!!  No, I should say Dave made it so that Pippa is no longer in pain.  We all had a few tears but it was a good choice.
- In other adoption news, we had the opportunity to meet w/Colleen's bio sister today.  Colleen and Shane are the only 2 sisters out of 7 who have been adopted.  It was so nice to get together and see the girls' smiles =)  As w/almost everything w/Colleen in the relationship department, we spent time talking about if it would be a good idea or if it would send her into a tailspin.  The visit went well and we hope to do it again some time.  We never intended for Colleen's adoption or the info about her bio family to be like some big secret, we just realized that a lot of the info wouldn't be healthy to share.  As for this sister, we have talked about her in the past and when asked if she wanted to meet her, Colleen said yes.  I have no idea if it will change or affect her/her behaviors in the future...this is all new territory for us here, people!!  But at this time we thought the good outweighed the possibility of any negative implications.  The girls had a few special moments taking selfies together and sharing Starburst =)
- I'm looking forward to making a Christmas post w/photos here!!  It may be late (again!) but I always enjoy that...