Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reflections of a year

Hey Peeps!

Today Faith and I made gingerbread cookies, with cookie cutters and all!  My reason for baking was twofold: 1. To spend quality time with my 13 year old who prefers her bedroom to my presence and 2.  To use the cookies as a decoy so the children don’t notice the toffee hidden on the counter behind the garlic bread.  I hate sharing my once a year toffee from sister Pat in Seattle.  I know, I know, sharing is caring…and all that jazz, but it’s toffee.  It just makes sense to hoard it.

Christmas is over and the New Year is about to begin.  How did 2016 fly by so quickly?  There’s nothing I like more than doing a Year in Review, and I’m sure my 6 followers would enjoy that as well. 

The first 3 months of every year we celebrate all 4 of our kid’s birthdays.  All of them have a unique story and recognizing how they have changed and grown over a year is always special.  The obvious and biggest change was the fact that Jack can now legally drive at 16.   For a mother with control issues, watching her son get on the road alone has not been easy.  But Jack is careful, and drives much like an elderly grandmother in his old minivan.  We welcomed Faith into teen-hood, and love watching her become more and more about the things that matter than the things that don’t.  Will and Zoe, my February babies, remind me daily that love is way more than a feeling, and much more an action verb. 

This year at the end of May, right around the minute school let out for the year, we loaded up the minivan and headed out on our 4,000 mile road trip.  Billy drove every single mile, except for the 30 feet I did in Seattle when I had to use my gifted and talented skills to parallel park.  The children watched in awe and Billy watched in annoyance.  In the end, just like I told the kids, the important thing is to remember how amazing I am.  

 All in all, the trip was incredible.  The only bad thing that happened was when Jack sat in gum at Disneyland, followed by a bee flying up his shorts minutes later.  I recognize both of those could have ended quite badly for him, however, he maintained and gave us all a reason to belly laugh among huge crowds and long lines.  Overall, our trip was one of those experiences that felt blessed by God.  Not only did we sense God’s protection along the way, we felt His presence.  I will count this as one of the best 2 weeks of my life. 

The summer of 2016 was filled with several weekends of the boys rebuilding our deck and the girls and I “helping”.   In the end, my boys learned a skill and now I have a deck that we can all walk on without getting splinters in our bare feet.  We went camping with our best friends and saw a real live bear.   We shuddered at the thought of school starting and all of us cried when the dreaded day arrived. 

Fall 2016 was filled with volleyball, homework, preschool, outdoor lab, and passion projects.  The kids got in a routine, as Billy and I continued to navigate being parents to 4 kids that don’t stop needing something from us, whether it’s a hard conversation or a ride to their next adventure. 

The saddest day of 2016 for us wasn’t when Donald Trump became President, or when Carrie Fisher died.  Our lowest day of 2016 was one week ago, when we took our beloved little dog Spencer to the vet to let him go.  He wasn’t sick for very long but when the time came, we knew he was ready and we had no choice but to say goodbye.  The kids had finals, and I had to work, so Billy bravely took him alone, and said our goodbyes for us.  We all wept sorrowfully that night as we remembered 8 years of happy times with the best dog we ever had.  And yet there was laughter too as we recalled the funny things Spencer did, or the way Billy impersonated him knowing him better than all of us.   Saying goodbye to our sweet dog was harder than I ever imagined it would be. 

The happiest day in 2016 was every day that I went to bed without regrets.  When I could close my eyes and feel at peace.  When I could close my eyes and feel content.  When I could close my eyes and know I tried my best.  When I could close my eyes and know I made the right choice.  When I could close my eyes and know I sacrificed instead of serving myself.  When I could close my eyes knowing I was not only  loved, but also when I loved someone else.    

Resolutions never seem like something I can obtain.  Sure, I’d like to be able to run a marathon and have amazing hair, but neither of those will ever happen.  And that’s okay.  Instead of a grand resolution, I will set realistic goals for the New Year.  For me, I hope 2017 is a year for forgiveness, grace, service, and mercy.   I am going to try and see the best in others rather than jump to criticize.   And finally, because we all need hope, I will put this verse from Micah 7:7 on my mirror to remind me every day that: “As for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me”.    Happy New Year.  I hope you have HOPE. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

2016 A Review of Thankfulness

Hey Peeps—

Election 2016 is over.  Can I get an amen?  Who else is happy this mud slinging, upside down, shenanigans for an election are over?  Can we move on and just be grateful we live in a free nation and have the right to vote?  I have bigger problems to deal with anyway.  There’s a smell in my living room and I cannot find the source.  It’s beyond unsettling. 

November always represents a month of thankfulness.  I love nothing more than reflecting on a year, as we head into the holiday season, on the things I am particularly thankful for this year.  2016 brought many changes to our lives.  I found a job that I don’t despise, and have worked hard to learn something new every day I am there.  Sure, they tease me relentlessly (I ask for it) and I feel really insecure at times.  But I work in an environment where many people are more interested in seeing a person succeed than seeing them fail.  This is a first for me in my Nursing career.  And I am very thankful.

I am particularly thankful for our church family that opens their hands to the world around them in ways you might not see at the church on the corner.  My sweet church shows us how to love others well.  To some, we may be crazy Jesus people, but to the homeless friends we know by name, to the orphans in Kenya and Uganda, and to the foster families of Boulder County, we are Christians who act different.  The people who fill our small church dive in to service without hesitation, from large families to my 89 year old friend Irv who helps guide small groups and brings me tomatoes from his garden.  To be a part of this church is a gift for which we are very thankful.

I am thankful for a handful of women in my life, from my sister to my best friend who continuously call me to do good, and call me to live out the purpose God has set before me.  I’m thankful for women who have walked the road of adoption, with whom I can be brutally honest about the difficulties that come with certain aspects of adoption.  I’m thankful for women who mentor me and challenge me with gentle guidance and leadership.  I’m thankful for women who study the Word of God with me, and remind me I am not walking this path alone.  They are prayer warriors who teach me God is faithful and every time we meet, there are stories of what a good, good Father we serve.  For these women, I am abundantly grateful. 

For my family, the Repenning 6, our kooky unit of chaos and love, words can hardly even touch how full my heart is with the knowledge that God’s Hand has blessed us above and beyond what we could have ever asked for or imagined.  The “perfect family” we are not.  We fight, we complain, we hurt, we are messy.  But at the end of the day, or maybe the next morning, we come together, talk about the hard stuff and take that tiny step toward becoming the person God is calling us to be.  The success of my children does not impress me.  I’m thankful they are intelligent, healthy people who are able to get jobs, do well at school, and open the door for a lady.  But their accomplishments and accolades don’t mean anything if they don’t know where the honor and gratitude is due.   Nothing makes me happier than when something happens and Faith will say, “Oh man, mom, that was God”!  Hearing one of my kids offer up a thankful heart to the way they see God’s Hand in their lives gives me hope that no matter how dark their road may be, they will remember to call on Him.   For my family, I am exceedingly thankful. 

Today my 13 year old daughter asked me if she could stay home from school.  Jr. High isn’t easy, and the pressures of projects, sports, and hurt feelings just got to be too much.  I did something I never do.  I gave her the day off.  After giving her a leisurely morning, I took Faith to lunch.  Zoe and I don’t go to lunch often, so taking Faith to eat out was more than a treat.  As we sat in the sun eating our pizza, I stared at those 2 girls—my adopted children, chosen by God to be in our family.   Gratitude washed over me, and as we drove home the three of us sang along with the radio to the words, “Its Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, we pour out our praise to You only”.  There are few better moments than these. 

Billy and I don’t have 20 years of easy life to brag about.  We have experienced murder, miscarriages, job losses, broken relationships just to name a few.  But never, not even one time, did God seem distant in the storm.  There are no human words to explain the way my heart feels towards the Loving Father I know that has carried me for so much of my life, through all the sadness and all the joys.   For this gift, my words sound small, but I say them anyway.  Thank You God.  You are real.  You are alive.  You are so good. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The details of a dishwasher

Hey Peeps—

Last week was like a Mazda commercial at the Repenning house.  All we did was “zoom zoom” from here to there.  I was in Loveland all week for a conference on none other than Lactation, and Billy kept the crazy train moving from point A to point B here at the house.  He didn’t forget one single kid all week, and I learned how to help mothers breast feed their babies.   Maybe this simple equation will help you understand our week just a little more:  Breast milk + everyone made it to school/home = win.  Not that you asked.

Life is hard! Am I right?  There are days when you are just grateful you all made it home safe and sound and have a bed to fall into.  By Friday night we were all drained.  Come on, 40 hours of learning about lactation?  You have no idea how many videos of the “perfect latch” I watched.  So on Friday night all I wanted to do was crash.  This was all a pipedream, crushed by none other than Billy, who I lovingly refer to as my “dream crusher” when he makes grand announcements about broken appliances.  We were all sitting around the dinner table with various fast food, as the fridge was empty, and Billy declared, “the dishwasher is broken”. 

Considering we paid $50 bucks for the thing 8 years ago, I’d say she had a good run.  Instead of doing my normal “Lisa freaks out”, I calmly announced we could buy a new one with all my “extra” lactation class money.  Isn’t that just how things work?  You make a few extra bucks and something breaks, like a dishwasher or someone’s leg.  I’d planned on using that money for food, but was grateful to have it to buy something we needed right then and there!

Billy and Faith headed to Home Depot, I went to get groceries for my empty fridge.  I shopped with a purpose—to get home before 10 pm.  By the time I arrived at the cereal aisle, Billy’s texts were blowing up my phone.  All our appliances are white and there was only one option.  To make matters worse, he mentioned it was not the right dimensions to fit in our kitchen.  Billy started to wonder if we should get a stainless steel one.  I texted back to say wait until we all got home again and could look on line, and that making a decision for a dishwasher at the end of a long week was starting to seem unwise.  He agreed, packed it up and they headed home to help me unload a full trunk of food.  

As I pulled into the garage, Faith called me from Billy’s phone.  She said, “Mom, dad wanted me to tell you he’ll be home in a minute to help with the groceries, but he found a dishwasher on the curb at the neighbors and they are giving it away.  He’s loading it in the car right now.” I laughed out loud.  Faith added, “This could be a God one”. 

By Saturday afternoon, our “new”, not to mention, WHITE, dishwasher was up and running.  Billy, the life long learner of the family, used the opportunity to help the boys learn to install an appliance, and I sat on the deck in the sun smiling from ear to ear.  I mean, come on, a free dishwasher, on the curb at 9:30 on a Friday night that happens to fit perfectly in our odd shaped counter hole, and it is the RIGHT color to boot. 

People, do you get this?  Do you believe God cares about the details?  Do you see that even our dumb little problems matter to the God of this universe?  And if He actually cares about a dishwasher, don’t you think he cares about the state of our world, our nation, our government, and how we live and act?  God is bigger than this election. He is not sitting up on His throne ignorant to the crap we are all appalled by.  He sees it too.  He is not surprised by one thing.  He may seem distant, but you guys, He cares.  I wonder if God ever wishes He could just fix it all, the mess our country is in, just like He did with our dishwasher.  I’d love a happy ending, but I don’t think on November 9th, 2016, we will all wake up breathing a huge sigh of relief.   We will not dodge any bullets.  One of them will win, and no matter what God is still God. 

Voting is a privilege and our responsibility as citizens of this country.  I will vote, but the sense of pride I have had in other elections will be absent this time.  What I cling to more is the sense of conviction I have in something bigger than an election in the USA.   God has a plan and a purpose, for you and for me.  The future is His, not the next president of our nation.  I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t afraid for the future and for our children, but I serve a God that reminds me He cares about our lives, right down to a broken dishwasher.  What a beautiful gift to get, a daily reminder that God cares about my minutiae.  Thank You God!  You are a good, good Father!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Redemption at Outdoor Lab

Hey Peeps—

Wow, how about that debate the other night?  Am I right?  Remind me next time to have more snacks laid out and ready.   I blazed through all my junk food before the first rebuttal.  I had to.  It was the only way to make it bearable.   Next time I will be more prepared, I can tell you that.  

Thankfully my house is a non-stop whirlwind of activity, so I don’t have loads of time to get worked up over the upcoming election.   Having four kids doesn’t leave me with a ton of extra time.   This past week was no exception. 

My son Will is in 6th grade, and spent last week at Outdoor Lab.  Our school is fortunate enough to get to use Idrahaje, an amazing place up in Bailey, where my kids have gone to camp during the summer.  Idrahaje has been around since 1948—the longevity only making them better and better.   They have a great variety of outdoor activities like repelling, rock climbing, high ropes, horseback riding…and more.   Whenever we pick the kids up from their week long adventures, one thing they all talk non-stop about is the food, as if their baked oatmeal was gourmet.  Don’t try to copy it either.  I’m telling you, it’s not the same, so says Faith.  Our kids love the staff up there too, who make the week more than just fun, but deep and meaningful. 

So you can see why we are thrilled that our kid’s 6th grade class gets to spend a whole 4 days up in the beautiful mountains surrounded by sweet folks who happen to love Jesus, and know how to give our kids a great time!  This year was extra special as Jack got to go along as a high school leader.  He’s a junior this year, and worked very hard to make it happen.   His letter to the administration was straightforward and ambitious.  He said, “Not only have I worked with kids before, I bring something else to the table—I’m CPR certified”.   The boy is legit. 

On Wednesday, the little sister and I made our way up the mountain, through the amazing Colorado colors of fall, and spent the day watching Will and Jack do a variety of activities and living life to the fullest.  Seeing Jack as a leader was surreal.  I told Billy that if being there for a week, missing all that time in Chemistry class earns him a “C” it would still be worth it.    Jack was in his element, leading those kids with kindness and patience.  What a gift for this mom, one I will cherish. 

Will had a great time too, and has the scabs all over his legs to show for it.   He was a “Ninja squirrel” and had an awesome group of kids to hang with all week.  I loved walking around with them during orienteering class, seeing all of them take the teaching very seriously and then use a compass to find a landmark.  I’m so glad Will now knows how to not get lost in the woods when we are camping.  I suppose my method of  dropping jolly rancher fire candy wrappers is no long necessary.  

After lunch, Will’s group spent time at archery.   Did you know archery teachers take their job VERY serious?  Apparently arrows can really mess up a face.   Will shot those arrows with all his heart, and while he wasn’t perfect, he learned and was challenged, and I loved seeing him work through his task and not give up. 

Driving home that day, along highway 285, I felt nostalgic about my kids and our school, and all the twists and turns life throws at a person.   A few weeks ago I was feeling jaded and cynical about all the hard challenges that come with being part of a small community.  I even told Billy that when Zoe begins kindergarten next year I will not put myself out there like I did with the other 3 kids.   I went on to say I was going to keep to myself and have giant walls up everywhere so I never got my feelings hurt again.  I was angry and convinced that I was going to be a completely different person this next time around.

And then I went to Outdoor Lab.   I saw several mothers I’ve come to know and love over the years, even the ones who don’t love me back.  I laughed with several of them as we shared stories of our kids over the past 7 years of memories.  I hugged the teachers who have my phone number and text me when my kid does something good or is forgotten by his carpool.   I saw the principal who sat and had lunch with Jack and explained to him in depth what he would need to do in order to get a job as a teacher.  I was touched deeply by the goodness of people, and how they were giving abundantly to a group of kids who all came home with amazing memories of Outdoor Lab.  The day redeemed my cynicism and hurt, and reminded me that some of my very best friends are in my life because I put myself out there and said hi to another mom.   The day redeemed the call to break down my walls and instead clothe myself in love.  I didn’t go up to Outdoor Lab to learn a lesson.  I went to see my boys.   Funny how life works.  A simple day can change a heart and remind a person to be who God calls her to be.  God is a good, good Father. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

It's not about me, dang it.

Hey Peeps—

I recently discovered on line shopping.  Turns out it’s a real thing.  Not some passing fad and even though people can ruin your credit score and steal your whole identity, it’s totally worth never leaving the comfort of your home.  Did you know you can buy practically anything on  I am sitting here enjoying my 10th Jolly Rancher fire candy, thanks to the gift of on line shopping.  

I had no choice but to turn to on line shopping now that I have two teenagers plus the other two kids who always seem to need me at every single moment of every day.  And if they all happen to be at school and aren’t actually in the process of saying, “Hey mom, can you”…INSERT IMMEDIATE NEED HERE, then you will catch me doing their laundry or stocking up on food.   Surely now you understand my need for on line candy purchasing. 

I used to pride myself in being organized.  Now I’m just happy to leave the house knowing all four kids have on clean underwear.  Or at least just two of them.  Whatever.  I guess some of us just get to a point in our lives where we realize that life is messy and that’s okay.

Today I am living large, as it is the one day a week I have exactly 3 hours to my whole self.  All alone.  With no one calling out, “Mom, I’m hungry”, or “Mom did you wash my Star Wars shirt?”  (all of his shirts, btw) Today was the first day since MAY that I had alone time.  I hardly knew what to do with myself.  Should I go on a hike up the Flatirons, or should I go window shopping at the mall?  In the end I decided to run the stairs at City Park for exercise and go to Costco, in order to feed the children later.  I guess you could say it was not very adventurous, but I felt great after my workout, and even greater that I can feed these people for a few more days. 

Later today we will all head over to the school to watch Faith play volleyball.  A couple sweet friends from church are coming to support her and in my opinion watching a volleyball game is one of the most fun things to do.  Faith is fun to watch because not only is she a really decent player, she enjoys the game.  She loves being out there with her friends, and she wants everyone to succeed.  Faith has improved so much over the years and I hope she continues to play, but if she doesn’t I know she’ll shine in other ways. 

One of the hardest lessons I’ve been learning this past year is that my kids are going to decide who they want to be and what they are going to be about all on their own.  For so many years, I had a picture in my head of the 3 older kids as adults, with a very real sense of what they would become.  Then we decided to foster/adopt a child.  We opened our hearts and home to a kiddo that had another mom before me.  Actually two if you count birth and foster mom.  She had roots given by her genetic environment, as well as a foundation laid from being in the foster care system.  All the control Billy and I had with the first 3 kids was gone when our youngest came to jump on this crazy train.  Now I see how na├»ve I was to think she would come, welcome us all with open arms, and our love would absolutely heal any and all of the hurt she had felt in her young little life.  Some of that is true, but the reality is a lot can happen in 2 years.  While her first 2 years were marked with love and security in the foster care system, somewhere deep in her little psyche, she has known rejection, abandonment, apathy, and loss.   This is where I have learned that raising a child like her is not about making my agenda known, but it’s about earning her trust so that she can see I am for her, not against her.  The more I talk to other parents of fostered children, I learn thank God, we are not alone. 

Billy has a saying that gets really old.  And super annoying.  But darn it all, he is right on.  Whenever we are in the midst of a really hard day (with any of our kids for that matter) he reminds me, “Lisa, it’s not about you”.  Sometimes it makes me want to punch him, but only because I know he is right.  Parenting is a constant and on-going journey of ups and downs and if you are a mom or dad, you don’t get a day off.  Some seasons are easier, like watching your 13 year old get an overhand serve over the net, or seeing your 16 year old work hard and earn his license.  Then there are seasons where you fight your heart out to teach and guide in love, and your words fall on deaf ears.  You struggle to help them see who they can be if they believed in themselves.  You have to let go of the need to make them someone they don’t want to be, and encourage them to find out who it is they truly are.  And even when they choose a path you didn’t, you love them still. 

Who knew that back in January 2000, while the world still talked about Y2K, I was embarking on the greatest and most difficult task ever set before me.  For some reason God allowed Billy and I to become parents four times over.  The word “humbling” doesn’t even touch how we feel about these blessings.  Exhausted, weary, and overpowered describe life too.  But we are not alone, and we trek on, leaning into to the struggles and the joys, thanking God, our Father, each day for walking beside us when we are strong, and carrying us when we have nothing left.  God is a good, good Father. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

To everything turn turn turn...


Currently I’m sitting in my front room, with only one other person in the house.  That person is Jack, who happens to be watching tv, so unless he needs more popcorn, I’m basically a free woman.  I will embrace this quiet, this bliss, for as long as I can.  Quiet time at our house is a rare thing, especially during the summer of 2016.  I think in total, I have had about 4 hours alone since May 26th.  That may seem like an exageration to you, but I assure you I am not given to hyperbole when it comes to my alone time. 

Please don’t assume I’m complaining about my constant and never ending lack of  “me time”.  I actually LOVE being with people.  This is a good thing, given the fact that we have had family living with us for a month this summer, along with their two cats.  And sadly, now it is time to wrap up one of the sweetest summers the Repennings have ever had. 

I won’t bore you will all the details.  Besides you were probably out doing much of the same things we were doing.  I guess at the heart of my summer joy was being with the people I love most in this world.  Now I wouldn’t want to go and paint some unrealistic picture of our life, all Norman Rockwellian and such.  I have 2 teenagers, a third child who doesn’t think my humor is funny, and a 4 year old that thinks she is running the show.   Truth be told, teens are hard, sometimes I’m not funny, and sometimes she is running the show.  

Jack worked all summer, part time, and Faith worked for me watching her sister.  Will’s number one job was to enjoy life, and play with our dog.  All in all, they met our expectations, and made a little money in the process.  Watching Jack have a job was amazing.  Not only did he have a good attitude, those YMCA kids loved him.  Having younger siblings really prepared Jack for bossing kids around all day.  He didn’t love when they put their ear wax on his shorts or took his food, but he had fun, and even more, learned what it means to work. 

Watching your kid interact with other adults, hold a job, and show signs of normalcy is wild.  I remember Jack as a toddler—his nickname was “Bitey” because he would bite us all the time.  A parent has to wonder how a kid that bites their mother will ever hold down long term employment.  He also had a habit of being completely self-involved.  This is something we haven’t quite resolved yet, but he is able to set his “me wanties” aside in order to function in the real world.  Truly, it is amazing to watch a person grow up before your eyes. 

I have sworn off all sappy songs about kids growing up and time moving on for the next few years.  I just can’t take it.  I’ve known this is coming, and I was never one of those moms who wanted her babies to take their first step, ride a bike, go to school, drive cars, work…but Jack has done all these things, and Faith is not far behind him.  Hovering over them, and forcing them to live in a bubble has never been my thing, but don’t think I am not fighting every urge to not let go of these four fascinating people, who for some beautiful reason, God thought Billy and I needed to be their mom and dad. 

Jack is now a Junior in high school, and Faith is in 8th. Will begins 6th grade next week, and Zoe will start pre-school in September.  No one except my pre-schooler is happy to start another year all over again.  I’m with the big kids on this one.  I’d really like to go back in time and put them all in preschool and diapers.  I wouldn’t have to tell them to turn off their devices, and I wouldn’t have to worry about who hurt their feelings today, or how dangerous driving on Wadsworth is any time of day.  I’d just cuddle with them on the couch, kiss their owies, and watch them in awe as they learned how to count to 5. 

There’s no time to linger on what cannot be and what once was.  Everything has a season, as the writer of Ecclesiastes 3 says.  The 11th verse says God has made everything beautiful in its time, He has set eternity in man’s heart, and no one can fathom all that God has done.  God has given us these sweet summer days, a season to enjoy and relish, and now is the time to move on.  We thank Him for the knowledge that this life is not eternity, and we thank Him for all that He is doing, and has done on our behalf. 

Another year to give them over to One who loves them even more than I.
Another year to let go and watch them become. 
Another year to pray for protection from the world, and themselves. 
Another year to hold them close and love them well. 
Another year to let God be God, stand back, and watch in awe as He does His thing. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Who wouldn't want to build a deck with 4 children?

Hey Peeps—

Currently I'm sporting a nice red "hot spot", or "blotch" as it were, on my back.  Actually there's a few blotches, all different shapes and sizes.  I learned a valuable lesson today:  never ask a 4 year old to rub sunscreen on your back.  They do shoddy work, and sometimes they pick their nose before touching you.  My options were limited however to:  a grumpy 13 year old female, or an 11 year old with layers of Cool Ranch Doritos on his fingertips.  Obviously I had to ask Zoe. 

I don't really mind the sunburn today, after all, it was another beautiful Colorado day spent with people I love the most.  Even if they are grumpy.  We headed over to The Bay in Broomfield because just the thought of Water World makes me hyperventilate.  The Bay is great for many reasons: 1. It's affordable 2. You don't walk 4 miles to park 3. The crowds are not bad 4. You get to appreciate tattoos all day long.  The only negative I have heard was from Faith.  She and Rachel say, "the giant soft pretzels have too much salt".  Will on the other hand, while licking it off was saying "ohhhhhhh this salty pretzel is so good", as he acquired early onset congestive heart failure. 

Summer is moving along, and as I say every summer, it is going way too fast.    After we returned home from our 4300 mile road trip, we hit the ground running.  Thankfully I work part time, because those couple days a week at work give me a chance to rest up and get ready for being with my kids the rest of the week.  We've gone to Mid-Air Adventures in Thornton!  We've gone camping in Rocky Mountain National Park AND saw a real live bear!  We've watched the Westminster City Park Fireworks show!  And as I've mentioned, we've been to The Bay a couple times to work on my base tan.  So far, we've spent numerous hours with friends, and we have spent even more together as a family.  This is the kind of summer that makes memories. 

One of the hardest things we took on this summer is re-building our backyard deck.  All the kids have joined in for several days of work.   I won't lie, "demo day" was exciting.  Or so I heard.  Thankfully I was at work.   After the demo, Billy had to go to Home Depot about 4000 times, and then once more because he forgot something.  Finally, the rebuild has begun to take shape, and board by beautiful board, we have a deck once more. 

Building a deck with 4 children isn't easy.  Not only does one have to make sure the 4 year old doesn't touch the saw, it's best if the 16 year old doesn't either.  You have to constantly remind the kids to stay focused and do the task at hand.  And while hydration is very important you have to remind the kids that going inside for water every 5 minutes is excessive.  Everyone has to work together as a team, and its important to know your limitations.  For example, I am more  of an "idea man" and Billy is better on the "manual labor" side of things.  However, just because I'm great at saying things like, "hey, let's rebuild our deck", doesn't mean I'm afraid of some heavy lifting.    Faith and I spent one whole hour moving giant planks from the front yard to the back, while the boys had a wonderbar thingy pulling at the remaining rotted wood.  I tried very hard to not envision a splinter the size of a nail impaling their eye.  It's best to keep me moving, rather than let me sit still and ruminate over such topics like "how I lost a finger while building a deck" and "I barely ever used the left side of my brain anyway". 

On the morning Faith and I were moving planks, I overheard Billy telling the boys that they were learning a real skill, and how important it is to know how to work hard and use your hands.  After Billy enlightened them on learning a skill, they discussed politics, superheroes, and the ever popular and always stupid Star Wars.  All of us bonded as we worked in the sun, sweating from hard labor, and being proud of a job well done.

I so look forward to the next decade as we appreciate this deck.  I can't wait for the warm summer nights and the sunny winter days sitting on the deck talking about the events of the day.  As the years pass by in this house, where we have lived 11 years, I find it harder and harder to picture us leaving. We've talked about moving, but how could we walk away from the memories?  So many nights cuddled on the couch before people grew 6 feet tall.  There have been thousands of meals around a tiny table where we laughed and cried through tacos and spaghetti.   There's a hallway upstairs where we played catch before everyone got too strong to knock the pictures off the wall.  There's a room we sit in every morning before school to regroup, to talk and pray and remind each person that they are loved.  There are too many lessons learned, too many conversations in front of the fireplace, where we shared something special with the people we love most in this world.  This deck, that I sit on now, is a beautiful place where s'mores will be made, songs will be sung, and hands will be held.  Thank you God for another warm summer night, on a strong and solid foundation, that we have never had to build alone. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

4300 Miles in a Minivan

Hey Peeps—

I find there are two kinds of people: those who love a road trip, and those who love a road trip even when takes a toll on your gastrointestinal system.  Sadly, I fall into the second category.  But I still love the open road…that I cannot deny.

After driving over 4300 miles and sleeping in the same room with my whole family for multiple nights, I am happy to say we are home.  We started out in Denver, made our way north to Montana, west to Washington, south to California, and east to our home.  Billy, who I wish I could say is a big fat bragger, but in actuality he isn't, drove every single one of those miles.  I was his shotgun rider "singin' to the radio" every single step of the way, reminding him to stop at red lights, and not look at his apple watch while going 80 mph's down an interstate.  You can barely imagine how helpful I was. 

Not only did I help co-pilot the minivan, I bossed my children around too.  I made a list of rules entitled, "#2016roadtriprules" and taped them so Jack could see them at all times.  Also, I had written out our itinerary and kept it close by so that when the children would forget for the gazillionth time where we were staying that night I could politely say, "Please refer to the itinerary".  The only time my perfect plan met with disaster was when the 4 year old asked.  She can't read, so I had to respond.  

Before we left for our monster road trip of a lifetime, I mentioned to a few people that I was nervous about being in a minivan for 2 weeks with my family.  Some might call me a "worrier" or say that I "fret" unnecessarily, however, I feel my concerns were valid.  Besides Zoe's tricky food allergies, I was nervous before we left that we might not come home as close as we were before going.  I feared me and Jack would fight and that always makes Billy tense which then makes me and Jack giggle which makes Billy more tense, and so it goes.  In the end someone cries, and so on.  But I am happy to report that there was not one single tear shed on this trip (unless you are four) in fact, even last night as we were pulling in at midnight, laughter filled the car, (among "other" things.) 

This trip was so significant in many ways.   It was the first real vacation we have taken since adding Zoe to our family and it very well may be the last trip we take like this as a family of 6.   We laughed together, we sang together, we prayed together, and above all, we loved each other through every single mile.  We talked about things that matter, and we (the boys) talked about things that don’t.  (ie. Star Wars) One of the highlights of this trip was just being in the car, barreling down the interstate listening to the 7 hour playlist I made before the trip.  There is nothing sweeter than having a whole family belting out "The Gambler" in unison, and after that singing "Good Good Father".   Such memories fill this mama's heart.

Along the way we made many stops to visit loved ones.  We kicked it off with family in Montana, for a couple hours over coffee.  Then to Spokane to spend the night with a dear friend I have known since I was 13 years old.  We met at volleyball practice right before our 8th grade year, and have been friends ever since.  Our time overnight at their home was amazing.  Having a friend for 30 years is no small thing, and seeing the fruit of her and her husband's life, their hard work, and how they have lived for the glory of God brought me to tears. 

The following several days were spent in Seattle with Billy's family.  His sweet mom turned 90 the day before we arrived, and we were able to celebrate with all his siblings, and many nieces and nephews.  My birthday fell on the same day we celebrated Gran's and everyone was kind to me too.  Turning 44 is nothing compared to turning 90 though, so I tried not to hog the spotlight too much. 

We did the conventional Seattle stuff…Golden Gardens, Space Needle, Pike Place…There was one disturbing incident at a stand alone coffee shop called "Baristas".  Apparently they sell more than coffee.  One can tell this by the way the barista is minimally dressed in fishnet items.  Billy politely excused us by saying "No thank you" and we drove off all squealing with embarrassment.   Going for coffee in Seattle took on a whole new meaning for our family.

 After Seattle, we stayed a night in Tacoma with my aunt and family for a night of hospitality and laughter, and being able to do laundry!   After a long and amazing drive through Oregon (seriously, did you know Oregon is basically beautiful?) we continued on to our final destination, with a pit stop in Sacramento and a salty 107 degrees of I'd rather be having an MRI. 

Billy made us stop in the Redwood Forests along the way so he and the boys could see where Stupid Return of the Stupid Jedi was filmed.  He and the boys made space ship sounds the whole time and pretended me and the girls were Wookies.  Thankfully it was so beautiful I could tune them out. 

We landed in Santa Ana for the remainder of the trip and spent it at Disneyland, seeing friends and more family, and hitting the beach as many times as we could fit in.  We saw dolphins in the ocean, and scary people at Venice beach.  We rode the rides on the Santa Monica Pier, and we ate at In 'N Out.  We ate a huge breakfast every morning and played all day, or till our bodies gave out.  We had the time of our lives.  We enjoyed travelling mercies, safety on the road, full tanks of gas, and full bellies.  We enjoyed being together, and even more, we realize the gift we had of that special time.  I don't know what tomorrow may bring, but I know what I had yesterday, and it was above and beyond what I could have imagined.  Gratitude fills my heart with love.  Home is where my family lives.  And God is a Good, Good Father. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Get over it. I'm your mom.

Hey Peeps—

Today finally feels like Spring, am I right?  I actually had the AC on in the car and heard the old familiar sounds of the children when they got in before the AC had kicked in, "It's so hot in here!  OHHHHH!  Why is it so hot?"  In May I'm still kind and patient and respond with, "The air will start moving in a sec, hang in there guys, you'll be cool in just a minute".  By August, my response is more like, "Oh, it's HOT?  Really, our BLACK van attracted the sunlight and made it feel like 7000 degrees in here?  I hadn't noticed.   I was too busy listening to you complain about it all the way to Target where I bought you slushies, so you'd finally find something to be grateful for.  Let me blow some of my own precious lung air on you to try and help cool you down.  If I pass out and die, please have your father donate my body to science".  At this point the children begin to look forward to school.   I think it's nice of me to give them something to be excited about.

Motherhood sure is something isn't it?  Mother's Day was yesterday, my 16th on this earth, and the gospel truth is that it gets more special every year.  It's not just that I've kept my children alive another year, but it's that we've all learned and grown and changed, and my kids continue to be the best tool to help teach me to be less about me, and more about someone else. 

The thing about motherhood for me is that the longer I am a mom, the more aware I am of what little control I have over the four people God has entrusted to Billy and I. The longer I am a mom, the more I have share my candy.  The longer I am a mom, the more I have to share my heart.  The longer I am a mom, the more I have to share my children.

The longer I am a mom, the harder the conversations are becoming.  My dad gave Billy a birthday card the other day and in it he said, "I hate to tell you this, but it was easier in the olden days".  While he doesn't win any awards for Most Encouraging Father-in-Law, I believe he is speaking the truth.  The issues our kids face today are not simple.  For example, I just found out that our school elected two girls as Prom King and Queen.  No matter your opinion on it, explaining it to children does not come easily.  How about politics?  I long to speak with respect for the office of President, but, seriously, our options in 2016 don't exactly fill me with hope.  And if we are choosing to not raise our kids in a giant bubble, talking about current events like ISIS, refugees, children dying from drinking dirty water…how do we face all of this as parents and not absolutely leave our kids depressed, scared, and afraid to grow up?

We have to figure this out.  As parents we have the most important job we could ever have been given.  Unfortunately we often lose sight of this, when we are trying to climb ladders to success.  Sadly, we end up leaving our kids behind.  We forget why we started climbing in the first place, and suddenly it becomes less about supporting a family, and more about status, money, and security.  We forget that instead of being gone all the time making a name for ourselves, we should be at home playing catch and instilling hope in our kids' hearts.  Being present in their lives, eating dinner around a table, having real conversations, driving them and their friends to practice, loving them through their mistakes, saying sorry when you mess up, and saying I don't know when you really have no idea---this is all what it means to be a parent.  For this mom anyway.  

Mother's Day was special here.  There was nothing fancy, except a few more hugs than I normally get, and a dinner out with Billy.  My teenagers had nothing in the way of gifts, but they were sweet which is gift enough.  Will, my 11 year old who has a heart of gold, gave me a book of poems he'd worked on all year in school.  There were limericks and haikus, descriptive poems, and simple ones.  Almost all of them brought tears to my eyes, and all of them made me laugh, especially the one simply titled "Frank". 

The longer I am a mother, the more aware of how flawed I am.  The longer I am a mother, the more often I have to say sorry.  The longer I am a mother, the more often forgiveness is granted to me.  My four children, two biological, and two gifted through adoption, they are what I value most in this world.  For some reason God saw fit to allow a mess like me to co-lead these people.   The laundry, the sleepless nights, the letting go—I refuse to allow my fears make me less than what God has called me to be.  I am no expert, nor am I savvy.  Most days I barely get by.  On my own I am incapable.  But with God's grace, I will run alongside you through every mistake, challenge, victory and failure you face.  I will always be your biggest fan.  Get over it.   This is who I was made to be.  I'm your mom. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

This one is about me.

Hey Peeps--
Billy and I recently discovered a common trend called "binge watching Netflix".  We've been doing it for years, but we didn't know there's a name for it.  I wish we could all go back to the old days when we didn't have to label everything.   I liked it way more when all I was doing was watching too much t.v.  Now it just feels like I'm fat and lazy.

Honestly I'm not surprised I was behind on the label "binge watching".  My kids even knew about it before me.  When I told them I learned to use the phrase properly they sort of rolled their eyes and shot each other looks that said, "This is how it is now.  She can't help it.  Let's start the search process for in-home care after we eat all our Easter candy".   Snotheads. 

I've always been behind on stuff.  I couldn't keep up with the Jones' even if I wanted to.  Which I don't.  Unless they get a new kitten or a pet Eagle, then I want one too.  In high school my friends had fancy clothes and nice cars.  I wore hand me downs and drove a 1977 Jeep Cherokee that got about 7 miles to the gallon and had something of a muffler problem.

In college all the girls had boyfriends while I remained single.  They were married off before my eyes.  From aqua blue to hunter green (and several other colors in between), I was a bridesmaid 6 times before ever being a bride.  Of course that meant my kids came later too, after everyone else had their babies.  Now as several of my good friends are kissing goodbye to dioramas and wax museums of the elementary years, my last baby hasn't even begun her school career. 

Speaking of careers, and since I'm on a roll, I could speak to that subject too.   When I was 31, my 3 weeks of employment at The Gap inspired me to look harder at who I wanted to be, after my manager who was 19 and living with her parents had to explain to me what "stonewash" was.  I did some very hard soul searching after that.  Then I had a baby and searched my soul some more. 

When my youngest (at that time) was 5 and in kindergarten, I began my two year stint in Nursing school.  The beauty of it was there were other people my age, a few even older than me.  I finally wasn't last.  For two years I worked harder than I ever had in my life and it paid off.  At the age of 40 I became a Registered Nurse!

For the past three years and 4 months I have been an RN.  I have had several jobs and experienced many different kinds of nursing.  I've seen death and I've seen life.  I've seen pain and I've seen loneliness.  I've been saddened by the lack of value placed on life and I've been guilty myself of not caring as much as I should have.  To tell you the truth, I struggled.  I have felt far behind co-workers on all levels.   I have been frustrated to rely on others to train me on the most basic of skills.    At one job in particular I was the oldest employee in my circle, and knew the least. 

After some hard months in a really tough place, I decided to move on. I left the one doctor I have respected more than any other I've met on this journey.    I walked away from a small amount of security, and a huge amount of stress.  I felt absolute peace in my decision.  I told God I was done trying to figure out what kind of Nurse He wanted me to be and told Him I'd sit back and let Him figure it out.  I'm pretty sure He replied, "Finally". 

A few days later I was at home wondering if I'd made a mistake.   Then the phone rang.  The pediatric practice I have taken my kids to for almost 16 years called me.   They wondered if I was interested in the nursing position they had.   Naturally I tried to talk the office manager out of interviewing me.  I told her I didn't have much office experience and my confidence was about as low as it could be.   She calmly said, "So do you want to come in and be interviewed?" 

Long story short, I have been at this job for over 3 months now and I haven't cried even once.  Every other job in nursing brought weekly tears, and many, many Peanut Buster Parfaits.  This job is different.  My boss Ellen speaks of "culture" around here and what do you know, I fit right in!  Of course I am still the low man on the totem pole, learning the most simple things, but for the first time in my career as a nurse, I am accepted.  I am part of a team.  I work with people who want to see me succeed, and don't sit around waiting for me to make a mistake.  And when I do make a mistake, they help me fix it.   They laugh with me.  They teach me.  They let me interrupt their day 400 times to ask dumb questions and they patiently answer me.  They let me be who I am. 

Life is funny.  Looking back I can see all the twists and turns thus far have had a purpose far greater than I could imagine.   Every job before this prepared me specifically for where I get to be today.   The co-workers and the patients I've met along the way continue to be part of a bigger story.  I am so grateful for each experience, even the ones I thought might kill me.  In a year I will be different than I am today.   We all have the potential to grow and change.  You can choose a challenge or run and hide.  You can choose a hard, narrow path, or you can choose the wide, easy one.   The Lord knows I've done both.  Which one will you choose?