October 30, 2011


If I was going to describe the twins, our days, life right now in 2 words it would be "crazy energy." They never stop moving, and I feel like, because of that, our days speed by at an incredible pace. I was thrilled with these pictures because I felt like the way they capture just a minute of energy really depicts the overall feeling of a day in our house! Every now and then I tell myself to pause, remember, and reflect. I don't want this time to whirl by too quickly. These are a few reflections/things I want to remember:
Ryan is orange, Allie is green. I love that every now and then you catch the blurry image of their faces because they kept their glow stick close by!
Funny things they say:
They call elevators "alligators," and ambulances "antipances." I love these little mistakes that make the world so much more cute. I know there are more things they call funny names, and I'm already sad that I can't remember them all.
Ryan frequently says, "That'd be good," or "I think so. Yes, I think so." I commented to a friend that I think those are such funny phrases, and she told me I say those things a lot.
Allie also loves to say things I say, and I often laugh as I hear myself coming through her: "Yes, Ryan! Yes! That is right!" or "No, Ryan. We cannot do that. We might get hurt," or "Yay! I got it! Yay, Allie!"
Now Ryan is Blue & Orange and Allie is Green & Purple. Ryan is making a "roller coaster" with his lights and Allie is shaking them close to her face.
Sweet things they say:
For a while, they have known (and said) that Daddy goes to work to tell people about Jesus. One morning I asked them if they could tell people about Jesus. They said no, but I told them that anyone could tell people about Jesus by showing them His love. This has become an almost daily conversation of ways we can show people (and each other) Jesus' love, things that do not show Jesus' love, and how and why Jesus loves us. Most of the time it was just me talking and them saying "Yes" or "No" to my questions, but lately they will say things like: "Ryan! Don't take my toy! That is not showing Allie Jesus' love!" or "Here is a diaper for Allie, mommy! I showed her Jesus' love!" My favorite has been how this has overflowed into their tv time. There is one episode of Little Einsteins that they love, and in this episode Big Jet steals the special things they took to school for show and tell. Every time they watch it, they yell at the tv, "Big Jet, don't take those! You are not showing Jesus' love!" At the end, they get the things back and Big Jet comes to show and tell with them and is their friend, and the twins talk about how all of the characters show Jesus' love. Melt my heart.
"Thank you" They have been in a very grateful state lately. They so appreciate every little thing - from pajamas sent in the mail, to blankets made special for them, to a small toy shared, to the meal I have just made. Often their gratitude is expressed like this: "Thank you! Thank you so, so much! Thank you! Thank you!" My favorite moments have been when they have asked to specifically call someone so they can say "Thank you." Is there any way they can still be this grateful into the teenage years?
I love how you can "see" Allie run across the picture :)
Favorite things to do:
Run. They love to run. Back and forth, around in circles. They just love to run.
Play "Mommy says." You've heard of "Simon Says." It's the same idea. Except mommy says. And no one ever gets out. They just have fun listening to mommy :) I'm pretty sure its the best game I've ever played with them.
The twins are big into imaginative play right now. Their favorite things to pretend?
"Alligator" - yes, my children can spend 20 minutes pretending that they are riding an elevator (usually my closet).
"Going to the store/church/doctor" - doctor was added recently when they were sick.
"3 piggies & the wolf" - they are constantly saying "No by my chinny, chin, chin!" and we have an actual faux fur piece that they call the wolf. A favorite game is "spank the wolf." Where did this game come from? After seeing the story of the 3 pigs & big bad wolf on both Little Einsteins and Wonder Pets in the same day (a huge fluke and unfortunate accident), Ryan became obsessed with the story. 3 days later he asked me if the wolf would blow our house down (something his face told me he had been worrying about). He clearly didn't buy my spiel about our house being made of stone which was the strongest of all. So I told him that if the wolf tried to blow our house down, I would spank his bottom and tell him to stop being mean. Thus began "spank the wolf."...
"Tea Party" - nothing is cuter than watching them pretend to drink tea. Allie does the funniest flourish with her hand every time she takes a sip. Adorable!
Have we mentioned we recently acquired a piano? Every day we have at least one concert. They sometimes as us to guess what song they are playing (we are getting better at actually guessing correctly!), they always clap for themselves, and I can't get enough of their music making (they daily play the drum & recorder).
I was trying out a new technique where I would flash a light, briefly, so I could show them playing with their glow sticks. This was the best one of the bunch...
Things I Cherish:
They are so cuddly. Allie especially. She often wants to be snuggled up as close to me as possible. I cherish every hug, kiss, cuddle.
Their enthusiasm. Everything is so exciting to them. I absolutely love the way they scream, jump, and get crazy excited over the most mundane of things - finding stickers, an unusual snack, a card in the mail, socks they like. I love hearing, "Yay! Yay! Oh, my GOODness! Yay!" It makes the mundane things in my day so much more exciting too!
3 words: "I lubs you." I love that they say "lubs" instead of love. I love it when they say it to me, or to each other, or to Daddy. Another phrase I love? "I miss you." My favorite is when one of them will leave the room and the other will say, "Where's Ryan/Allie? I miss him/her. Ryan/Allie, I miss you! Come back!" I love that they can miss each other so quickly.
I told them to "Go crazy!" See this energy? This is an average day!
I love this age. In the midst of all of the running and playing and crying and laughing and craziness of my day, I really try to make myself stop and soak in little moments. It won't be long before they say everything perfectly (and correct my diction/grammar mistakes), are too cool to play pretend, and refuse to be excited over a mostly used sheet of stickers. I want to cherish every moment.

October 25, 2011

Costume Party!

I know I've said it before, but I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. I hate scary things. I don't enjoy being scared, and I don't like the way everyone becomes obsessed with the gory and horrifying for a month every year. It creeps me out. Plus, I really hate spiders, and you can't go anywhere without seeing them this time of year - in decoration or real life. But I love theme parties, and dressing up, and making yummy treats, and giving out candy, and seeing a whole neighborhood come together for a fun evening for the kids. If I could have those things without any of the scary, I would be fine with Halloween. So, I tend to celebrate my way - without the scary, and full of fun.

This year, I planned a costume party for our local moms' group. I hate it when we have any outfit that is only worn once, so I'm always looking for 2 or 3 opportunities for the twins to wear their costumes each year. This year, a party at our house seemed like the perfect opportunity! I also discovered something about myself at this party. 3 1/2 years of being an Activity Professional makes you an OCD party planner. I told myself that I wouldn't stress. I would decorate some cookies and have some festive plates, but that would be all. Then, the morning before, I realized that not having decorations and games and going a little over the top would give me a tick. And I spent the rest of that day (and a good portion of the night) making decorations with things I had on hand...I would have liked better, but I was happy with what we had :) And now I know to never assume I can not plan ahead for a party ever again!
My favorite decorations. They took 20 minutes to make (not including drying time), and I got to use up some of the applesauce jars that I have been obsessively saving! I kind of love them :)
We ended up having a pretty big group - 12 big kids, 2 babies, 8 parents and 1 grandparent! It was a blast...even though we didn't end up playing any of the games. That was okay, the kids are all little enough they probably would have hated the interruption in their playtime!
A few of the costumed kiddos...

And what were Ryan and Allie? Around April I was struck with the perfect costume idea - Goldilocks & the 3 bears! I was going to make costumes, but then a friend found this bear costume at a mom2mom sale for $3, and I found some items that would work for Allie in her closet :) They didn't actually know who Goldilocks or the 3 bears were, so I found this music video and showed it to them. They are obsessed now (be prepared: if you watch the video you WILL have the song stuck in your head pretty much forever).
Baby Bear
The pictures were all awful because I had my camera on the WRONG setting...the entire party...and never thought to check and see if that was the reason the pictures all looked terrible. Fail. I will get better pictures on Halloween. I promise!

Another Milestone

I was in no rush. In fact, in the days of the early "Bedtime Battles," I read the books of pretty much every sleep expert. Their philosophies varied widely, but they all seemed to agree that 3 was the age to transition to "Big Kid Beds." I was more than happy to follow their advice and wait. But then potty training started to become a more tangible reality, and I felt like they should be able to freely move out of bed to go to the potty. So we scheduled the switch. And then they got sick. And then we traveled. And then they got sick again. And I was secretly ok with them staying in their cribs. Until I caught Ryan trying to climb out. We made the switch the next night.

I did it exactly as I planned - we made a big deal about special "Big Kid Blankets" (handmade by Aunt Mindy & saved for this special day) to go with "Big Kid Beds," we moved their dresser out & secured the bookshelf to the wall (they are climbers after all), and we had a discussion about the rules of big kid beds (we don't climb out to play once we have laid down to sleep, we don't get up until the clock says 7:00 in the morning, etc.). I did not plan on crying when I left the room. But I turned around to say one last "I love you," and they looked so old. All that is left of their baby days are diapers (which I will actually be happy to say goodbye to!), and each milestone is so bittersweet.
In their beds with their blankets. Yes, they are eating crackers. They pretty much want to do all daily activities in their beds...

So far, the transition has been so easy that they have me almost convinced they are part angel. I'm assuming that it will be a couple of weeks from now, when the novelty has worn off, that we will have a hard time. Maybe not. They REALLY love their big kid beds and blankets! And I'm really proud of my big kids!

October 22, 2011

Hi, Cows!

You might remember our last trip to see the cows...it was sort of a huge success. So, I decided to schedule a trip there this fall with the moms group. It was epic. I'm actually a little nervous about the costume party we're having this coming week because I don't think anything can top this trip.

It started out the same way as the last trip by seeing the big cows at the front. They are very friendly, and the kids were thrilled to get so close! As you can see, in the back of this picture, the encouraged the kids to hold their hands out and let the cows lick them. Their tongues are surprisingly rough. I know because I got licked by many cows while I was taking pictures and not paying attention!
"You don't even blink, do you?"
(bonus points to anyone who knows where that quote is from!)
The cows all moved in and they desperately wanted to be at the front to be pet by the kids! This picture shows the desperation of the cows in the back to get to the front!
Then we moved to see the babies.
Daddy came too!
The calves were especially friendly. They have no teeth, so the kids were encouraged to let them suck their fingers since they couldn't bite. They loved this!
I somehow missed the picture of the calf actually sucking his finger...
Then they took us to the birthing barn where we found out that if a cow has boy/girl twins, that share a sack, the girl will not have functioning reproductive organs. A random fun fact for you all. The kids also had an opportunity to pet a calf that was less than 24 hours old! Allie didn't leave his side!
They took us to see the "teenagers" again, but the kids were much more intrigued by the hay. The farm owners were fine with them climbing, so the kids spent about 20 minutes climbing all over the hay. They slept very well that night. Very, VERY well!
A group picture. The couple on the right showed us around.
We headed back to the milk house and found the milk truck there! We were just in time to see the milk pickup - including stepping over the giant hose that connected the milk tank in the milk house to the giant tank on the truck!
The kids all washed their hands, waved goodbye to the milk truck, and then had snack time! If you ask the twins, this was their favorite part of the trip...figures!
Snacking with our friend.
It just so happened that they had a combine just around the corner that wasn't being used, and they invited us all over for the kids to check it out. The field that it was in just happens to be one we pass on an almost daily basis (so we still talk about the combine EVERY time we go by...)! This was a big highlight for all of the kids.
All of the kids loved sitting in the tire. It was the perfect size of seat for them!

Each kid had a turn in the cab - pretending to drive and honking the horn! This was so exciting for them!
I told one of my friends that I really think the farm life is the absolute best life for kids - lots of time outside, lots of animals, and they learn responsibility as they help care for animals and crops. I think there is a confidence gained in having so much knowledge about animals and crops and how to grow/care for them. We are not, and I can't imagine we ever will be, called to be farmers. So I'm always looking for opportunities for them to experience farm life - to see the animals and the equipment, to meet the people who work so hard day in and day out, and to see what goes on behind the scenes to bring us things like the jug of milk in our refrigerator. This trip was the most perfect farm experience I could imagine!

October 20, 2011

Surprised by Rain

You might read the title and think this is a post about the terrible weather we've had lately. It is true that our weather has been crummy the last few days, but that isn't what this is about. This story is about God's overwhelming and uniquely refreshing faithfulness.

We've shared bits and pieces of the story along the way - of loss and hope, of a call and our response, and even a fundraising update. But to be honest, the theme of the last 10ish months has been "How on Earth Will this Ever Happen?"

Because adoption is expensive. We're talking a little over 3/5 of Lucas' annual salary expensive. And we are not people who have that kind of money lying around. We only had a rough idea of what the expenses were when we first started praying about adopting (in all honesty, I kind of assumed we would end up adopting domestically because it would be more realistic financially). I remember praying, "God, if you really want us to adopt, please let us have $7,000-8,000 by the end of our 6 months." That amount in that short of time seemed pretty enormous to me, and would truly confirm both our calling to adopt and God's providence. 3 1/2 months later we had $8,500 in our account. Wow. We were over the moon. This was it! The same week we hit that mark, we discovered an agency with a program with the country that had been on our heart all along. We were ready to fill out our application that day! God had answered all our prayers! But, we had committed to 6 months of prayer and preparation. "We should stick to that," I insisted "We don't want to miss God doing something amazing because we rushed a timeline we set." 2 weeks later, we sat down and looked at the specific costs of the specific program with our specific interests in mind (we'd really like to adopt 2 children). The actual cost was so much more than we thought that a part of us truly despaired actually ever having the money to make it a reality.

For me, it was almost a crisis of faith. My head said, "The amount of money may have changed, but God didn't. He can give $80,000 as easily as he can give $8,000. No amount is too big for Him." But I found my heart almost whispering, "It's ok, God. This is big, and I know there really isn't a feasible way to bring this amount of money in. It's ok if you can't do this. We will be patient until it can happen. I understand. It's just too big." I felt ashamed that I felt this way, but, as I told one person, "Money would basically have to rain from heaven for us to even have the portion of the cost we would like to have before we apply." And the reality was that I truly didn't believe it could happen.

And then I felt a sprinkle.

It started slowly. We put out a request for donations for a yard sale, and not only was there an overwhelming response, the sale also brought in way more than we ever expected! And then money started coming from really unexpected places - a check from the hospital that double-billed us, gifts from unexpected places, accounting errors. It was incredible. At one point, Lucas said to me, "It feels like money is raining down from heaven." He never knew I said that to someone else, and when my words came back to me I started to cry. In my heart, I knew that it really was.

And then Lucas remembered his airline rewards that he has been collecting for years. After many calls to Delta to go over and over how it all works, how many reward points we need, ways to get extra points, an incredible offer where Delta matched all points gifted, and generous friends who gifted significant amounts without hesitation, we feel confident we have enough points to cover our tickets round trip, and tickets for our children to come home! That is about 1/3 of the budget! And, the amount it covers added to the amount we have in the adoption savings account equaled almost exactly the amount we had as our goal for application.

I am overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God despite my complete lack of faith. I lost sight of how big God is, and believed that the cost of what He was calling us to do was too much for Him to provide. I sing this song to the kids almost daily, but these past few months have been a very tangible reminder of how great our God really is!

So we sent in our application. In fact, we have signed all the consents and contracts, sent in our first agency fee, and have our program orientation next week! At one point we couldn't imagine being in this place for at least a year, probably 2. It feels a little surreal to be here now.

There is still a lot ahead. We have been told that from application to bringing your child(ren) home it takes about 18-24 months. Potentially more. I keep trying to imagine what life will look like in this time in-between - home studies with a social worker, getting all of our documents together to send overseas, the business of preparing and then the unbearable still of waiting to be matched, our trip there, and our incredible trip home. The one thing I know I can count on? More fundraising. Seriously, we still have a significant chunk to pull together in the next 18-24 months! But the one thing I really know I can count on? God, who will provide according to our needs and His purposes in His perfect timing.

October 15, 2011

Fall Fun Up North

Total side note: the twins' favorite show is Little Einsteins. It just so happened that the episode they watched this morning was set at the Great Lakes. Specifically Lake Huron (Nana & Poppy's lake where we just were), and the Mackinac Bridge! Usually they recognize things in their everyday life because they saw it first on Little Einsteins. It was fun, for a change, to have them recognize something on Little Einsteins because they just saw it in real life! I think it made them feel like part of the show :)

OK, back to the story at hand. One of the things we have been looking forward to forever has been a trip to the awesome orchard while Up North. We finally got to go!
There were these crates where they were dumping what was leftover of the apples after they were pressed for cider. I thought it looked cool and textural, so I took a picture. This ended up being the last picture I took the entire trip because my battery died and I forgot to pack the charger!
We tagged along with a preschool field trip, and they explained that the cider leftovers are saved to use as animal feed. I was excited to hear it didn't go to waste. They make use of everything! They invited the kids to touch it.
Allie jumped right in!
Ryan needed to be encouraged by Daddy.
After an educational talk (where the twins had their first ever taste of cider), we went on a wagon ride to the orchard.
In the wagon!
They each had the opportunity to pick an apple from the orchard (lift & twist!). Due to some camera confusion, we didn't get pictures of the picking...
Ry-guy shows off his apple.
Allie hiding under the tree to eat hers.
The wagon ride continued through the orchard and the pumpkin patch and ended at the petting zoo & play area.
Hi, goats!
All aboard!

The biggest hit ended up being this plane. They loved driving...and riding...and offering rides to the other kids (Ryan could be heard saying, "Come on, kids! Sit down! We go for a ride!" They still talk about this plane the most of anything from our trip!

For me, the most exciting thing was seeing a bald eagle! I saw another on the drive home! I had never seen a bald eagle in the wild ever in my life until this summer, and then 2 in 1 weekend! Too cool.
"Cool" bus indeed :)
During nap time, Daddy & Poppy created a leaf pile, and the kids spent the rest of the afternoon jumping and playing in the leaves. Classic fall fun!

My only complaint about our trip Up North: Too Short! We were trying so hard to fit in all the fun things we had been saving to do that the time went way too fast :(

October 14, 2011

Poppy's Boat

I don't know if we've ever mentioned this, but Poppy works on a boat. A giant boat. We went to visit Nana & Poppy while he is off the boat, and he took us to see his boat, to see what it's like to go through the locks, and even to see where he gets the mail we send!
Watching another boat in the lock while we waited for Poppy's boat.
"It's a boat alligator (elevator)!"
Poppy's boat!!!
(disclaimer: this isn't Poppy's actual boat...but it looks the same)

After watching it go through the lock, we went ahead so we could see it sail by.
Allie knew how to keep busy while we waited!
Then the twins found the giant anchor (I think it is actually what the anchors look like on Poppy's boat, but it just looked like a giant replica of the little anchors we have seen)
Playing on the anchor.

And then it came by!
Then we went up to the fountain, and the twins had fun playing up there.
Throwing in some coins.
"Isa ladybug!"
On the way back, we took a detour for a scenic view of "Mighty Mac." It was a little hazy, but it was still amazing to see...and then drive over. The twins have officially seen and experienced more of Michigan than I have!