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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

So I didn’t get a post in for two days but I must say I am doing much better than the previous months, right?

Saturday I got to go out  shopping (had a few free item coupons at Bath and Body Works, and we hit the huge Scholastic Books warehouse sale, and took back a few things I bought black friday) with a friend of mine, who, by the way, is adopting from Ethiopia, through the same agency. Her little girl will even be from the same orphanage.  I am so excited that we will have another family in our little town with a child from Ethiopia.  Check out her blog ….her baby girl has a court date in Ethiopia today (they are 11 hours ahead).  This court appearance will make her officially their child and they will soon know when they can go pick her up.  Things have been changing in the Ethiopian adoption system, the government has added a few other steps and papers to the process, and so some families are not making it through courts the first time around.  So pray with Amy and her family that their sweet little baby girl would make it through court and be unite with her family soon.  The waiting is so hard.

Also, on Saturday we went to Brandon’s office Christmas party… it was fun… stayed out way too late.  Luckily, the boys were at our friends house who were also at the party, being watched by their daughter… who got them to bed and asleep by 8, so we just stayed the night there.

All in all it was a fun and busy weekend.  Brandon is out picking up some bunk beds and mattresses that I found on Craigslist.  This is our first time buying anything off of the site so keep your fingers crossed with us that it is successful.  The boys are so excited to get the bunk beds (we won’t set them up until next week when we move into our house) but Sloan has already asked if we can put Christmas lights around the bed….He said that it would be awesome if we could.  Yes, he used the word awesome….

Here are a couple pics of the boys…

november-081  Our little cheeseball.  Before hair cut.

november-109 Post haircut… if you ask Eyob where his hair is, he will say, “Heather did it!”  We cut his hair on a long awaited visit down in the Portland area with one of the couples we traveled with to Ethiopa.  They adopted a little boy one month younger then Eyob.  While we were there we decided that dealing with his hair and all the pain and stress it causes between us was not worth the cute hair do.  So Heather shaved it off.  Thanks Heather!  It has been a wonderful relief to not have the nightly screaming as I tried to comb through his hair. 

november-111  It has been so fun to see these two really start to get along.  They are so close in age that for a while there I was concerned they would spend the rest of their lives  driving each other and us crazy with their fighting, but as Eyob really begins to settle in and become part of the family, Sean is becoming so much more accepting of him.  We have been talking to him a lot about how he is Eyob’s big brother and it is his job to take care of him and protect him… all the things that we have said and still say to Sloan about Sean and Eyob. Many times over the last few weeks, Sean has referred to Eyob as his special little brother….Seany is so loving and stinky at the same time.  We have prayed and continue to pray that the Father will bind our boys together for life.  What a force they will be for Him.

november-123  Sean and Canyon Paul (my brother Brad’s son)on Thanksgiving.  They are about 4 months apart and look so much a like to me.  Both of them have the cutest shaggy hair and boy are they mischevious. 

november-115 We had 4 boys 4 and under at our little Thanksgiving partyand I’ll be honest we did resort to a little Veggie Tales that day.  We needed a little quite.

november-128

november-127 And we can’t forget the little lady of the year….Sage.  Isn’t she a doll.  Not sure why Seany is in so many of these pics… it’s weird.. although he is so darn cute I could just eat him…those cheeks….yum..

november-095 These are all the kiddos from Thanksgiving with Brandon’s family.  At one point they were all running a loop from the livingroom and around through the kitchen. I don’t know if they were playing tag or just acting crazy, but one by one, they got “hot” and took their shirts off.  Arent’ they cute. 6 boys 6 and under. 

Well, I’ll let you to… till tomorrow.

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Are you surprised? 

Thought I would catch you up on some of the missing months of our lives.  Let’s start with July and August

We left Utah the first week of July and arrived back in Shelton after the fourth.  On our drive here our living situation changed and we ended up staying with some friends of my parents.  Brandon jumped back into his job.. he had to renew his insurance licenses, reconnect with old contacts, and basically figure out how to sell insurance again.  It was a pretty stressful time for him.  He needed to make money quick but had to do all these other things first.  He spent a lot of time at work.  The other 4 of us (me and the boys) tried to find some normalcy living in someone else’s house and fitting back into a community where many of our relationships had changed and disappeared.  It was a really trying time.  I was stressed, sad, maybe even a little depressed and didn’t quite know how or what to do about it.  Basically, I look back at July and August and don’t remember much but that it was a very dark time.  We were stressed to the max, tired and sick.  All of us!!  Glad those two months are over with.  There is a lot I could say about July and August… but none of it has any real value to anyone and honestly it makes me kind of sick to my stomach remembering. Looking back I think that is why I disappeared from my blog…..  Aren’t you glad I showed back up with this lame post?

I’ll redeem myself and give you some pictures…

july2008-224 Riding horses at Brandon’s uncle’s ranch.

july2008-245  That horse wouldn’t leave Eyob’s head alone. 

july2008-319  Sloan turned 4.

july2008-249  My three wannabe cowboys.

july2008-309  Eyob met Great-Grandma Mathis (Meemaw) for the first time.

july2008-341All the Armstrong men (except Brandon).

july2008-262  E thought he was sooo cool driving this little tractor.  Don’t know how he managed to get it all to himself but he did…

augsept2008disneyland-006  Cousins… Sophia and Sloan. They are only 3 months apart.

augsept2008disneyland-004  The boys… you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get all of them to sit still for a picture and forget them all looking at the camera at the same time.

augsept2008disneyland-016 Grandpa Warren (my dad’s dad) came for a visit and we all went to the circus or maybe the circus came to us… wait we are the circus.

augsept2008disneyland-031  Cousin Sage Olivia entered the world…

augsept2008disneyland-034 and we ALL fell…..

augsept2008disneyland-032  in LOVE…

Maybe they weren’t such bad months after all?

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I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the day I loaded up our suburban (with the help of my parents) said goodbye to a house we had just built, my best friends, and a town I had lived in for 17 years, the place I had spent the first 10 years of my marriage and had my first two babies… a place I never really thought I would leave.. and set off down the road on a “great adventure” to Utah, a place I had only driven through, where my husband had been for the last three months, and what would be my new home.  I never expected to like it here, but I knew that I was going to give it a good shot.  I had a chance to “reinvent” myself, a new start and I wanted to make the most of it, even though my heart felt like it was going to break and I couldn’t imagine ever feeling better.

We new that we were supossed to come here.  We needed to get away and to make it on our own as a family.  Utah has been a refuge for us. After an intense time of struggle with our church back home, it was been a safe haven for us. A place to rest, refresh, and transform.  I have learned so much being out here on “my own” away from family and all I had known for 17 years.  God has changed me, molded me and refined me into a person that is much more what I should have been and want to be.  I am so thankful for the people who have come along side me here.  Who have been my family for the last two years and who have allowed me to be who God wants me to be… so it is with much sadness (two years ago I never would have believed I would say this) I say good-bye.

Looking back on my time here, I can see how God has strategically placed people and events in my life that have radically changed who I am today.  I remember my friend Jenn told me when I left Shelton that in the first two weeks of being in Utah, I had to find a MOPs group and join.  So I did and there I met a wonderful girl named Heather (as well as lots of other great friends) who invited me to the Draper MOMS club and there I made some wonderful friends who invited me over, introduced me to fun places around the valley, had a wonderful baby shower for Eyob, brought us dinners when we got home from Ethiopia, and who continue to be a source of encouragement to me.

Who knew that that first visit would lead to me becoming one of the coordinators for our churches two MOPS groups and meeting some of my truly favorite people here in Utah.  Women who have walked beside me these last 6 months encouraging me and praying for me all while we served together. Thank you MOPS friends.  I am truly going to miss you this coming year and you will be in my prayers.

Through South Mountain Community Church, I have gone on a wonderful women’s “wild” weekend, participated in 4 life changing Bible studies and made some wonderful life long friends.  Friends who have challenged me.  Cassie and Susan I am so thankful that God brought us together that first study.  I am going to miss you sisters.

Driving away from Shelton two years ago, I never would have imagined that I would connect to a place and to the people so much in such a short amount of time, but I have and I will always be greatful for this stop in Utah along the path the Father has laid out before us.

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Sometimes I really hate making decisions…… it seems like that is all I do.  I make decisions for myself, for each of the boys, often times for Brandon and many times a day for the family.  By the end of the day I am pretty much done in, so when Brandon asks me what I want to watch on TV, I think I must just look at him with a blank look on my face.  I imagine myself… eyes glazed over, mouth open, and staring at who knows what…..so this past week and a half as we have made some huge decisions about our future, I find myself at the end of this week needing a bib and a vacation.  A bib to collect the droll that must be coming out of my mouth as I sit almost comatose before the computer and a vacation to recuperate from these last 6 months.

As you may know we have spent the last six months, not only getting to know a new son and trying to figure out how to be a parents to three little boys and how to run a family of five, but also taking a new direction with Brandon’s job.  There have been many ups and downs along the way.  We take a few steps forward with our boys and then seem to find ourselves many feet back. With the job situation it seems like we have walked through many open doors only to find a wall at the end of the hallway.  At this point our plans were to be settled into Brandon’s new “job,” to feel stable as a family of five and well into working our way through the adoption of an older child we met while in Ethiopia (we were just waiting for our six month transition period to end).  But it seems like God has other plans.  One week before our 6 month mark, another family stepped in to adopt this child that we so felt like God was calling to be our child.  We had been praying for her the whole time and imagining her as part of our family.  At the same time many of the opportunities Brandon was “running,” down over the last six months are being met with closed doors, which leads us to a week of huge decisions needing to be made. 

In the last week, we have bought a cheaper car (ever heard of a micro-van?), done numerous around the house fix-it projects, put our house up for sale, interviewed many moving companies and made the decision to pursue a job back in Washington. So there it is….in a strange twist of events…we are headed back to the Northwest. 

I am not sure how I feel about all of this except to say I am in a daze.  Things have happened so fast and so unexpectedly and not at all like we had planned that I don’t quite know what end is up.  I do know that we have risked a lot following the path that we feel God has led us down these last few months and I am tired. Risk is scary and learning to trust in the Lord is hard work… maybe I have made it hard work because I want to hold on to so much of the control.  I do know that so much in the last few months has been uncertain and so to have some certainty before us will be a refreshing change.  Yet leaving is always hard. 

 

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One of the great things that I have been learning through these last months is that my Abba Father is a Father of Love. All of my “Christian” life I have been told, or read, or sung about His love but haven’t really understood the depths of it.  I have allowed my own ideas of what love is to represent what my Papa’s love is.  How short my love falls, so I have assumed that His love must fall short as well.  The love that we see around us in this fallen world is so deceiving, so empty, so fickle and when we try to grasp the Father’s love we can only really see it in how we love. But what a mistake that has been for me. 

I have been seeking over the last 6 months to see, not this natural world, but the spiritual world in which I am called to live and I have begun to catch glimpses of the Father, through the Holy Spirit. Glimpses that are transorming me from the inside out.  Seeing God through the eyes of my heart with the Holy Spirit as my guide, I am able to see what I have been missing.  My Father’s love is not conditional, it is not faltering, it doesn’t end even when mine does or should I say especially when mine does.  Infact, when my love begins to fail His love begins to shine.  Seeing Him as He truly is not as my human mind can comprehend, but as the Spirit living in my comprehends, I am changed. 

Oh, how great is the LOVE the Father has poured out on me.  Though my circumstances maybe hard and the path of my life may be taking turns that I had not planned, my Heavenly Father is all about love.  He is not a God of punishment. He is a God of redemption.  I am so greatful that His love is not like mine.  Open the eyes of my heart Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you. 

His love reaches into even the smallest areas of my life.  Hence the above picture… this is going to be silly to you I am sure, but oh so meaningful to me.  This little picnic table is a symbol to me right now of God’s interest in my life and His willingness to show me love in the smalles of things.  The story behind the table…..

For a while now I have been wanting to buy a picnic table for the boys, to have a place where they can eat and draw and play with playdough outside… really who thought playdough was a good idea?  Anyway, I haven’t wanted to spend the kind-of money that buying one in a store would cost, so last weekend during Daybreak’s community garage sale, I got the boys in the car, filled them with snacks, and proceeded to drive through the neighborhood looking for a picnic table.  Before I started I said a little prayer and asked God to find us one…and for once truly believing that my Papa would actually LOVE to do this for us and guess what?  He did, not 5 minutes later on the curb sat this beautiful, in prestine condition table with three seats, one for each little boy…..and to top it off, it only cost the cash I had in my purse at the time.  I was so thrilled and touched that God cared enough about me and my boys that He reached down into my small little life and blessed me with what I asked for. 

I know simple things, but you know what?  When we start to attribute the good in our lives to our Heavenly Father it is amazing what we see.  He loves us…me…. you…..

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A must read!

I finished this book about a month ago and have been ruminating on it and wanting to blog on it since then. So here goes…

This is probably one of the most life impacting books I have ever read and I read a lot.  It is a modern allegory that brings the message of God’s love straight to the heart.  Before I read this book, God was already preparing me to hear His message and so when I finally did read it I was blessed beyond what I can put into words. 

I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but basically a man (Mack) who is struggling with the loss of a child has an encounter with God… really with the Trinity (Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu) that basically helps him shake off, what the author refers to as, his “Great Sadness.”  Let me just say this is no ordinary encounter.  God shows up in a form that will probably throw some of you off, but keep reading.  So much of what I read, I knew already, but it was communicated, through this story in such a way that I couldn’t help but be changed. While the main character is a man, I still identified with him in so many ways. Many of “his” questions were questions I have been asking lately and so much of what was revealed to him by this encounter with his Papa was revealed to me in a fresh way that penetrated my soul.  Mack was a broken man, a man struggling to make it through the day with his faith in tact and so often that is where I am at. 

 There is much in this book that will rock your stereotypical religious boat, which I think know was intended.  Don’t let that disuade you from reading it.

I spent much of the boys nap time yesterday making notes in my journal about what I read and what stood out to me….what changed me…. and I still have over a quarter of the book to write about.  Here are a couple of the things that I wrote down (much will need to be blogged about in seperate posts). some of the following words are mine, but most are a paraphrase from the book..

God is about relationship…..Only God can set us free, but freedom can never be forced. Freedom is a process that can only happen inside a relationship with the Trinity.

God is LOVE-

God is NOT who I thought He was… He is sooo much more.

God is not a punisher, He is a reedeemer.  Sin is its own punishment.  It is God’s purpose and joy to cure sin not punish it.  My choices (sin) cause hurt and suffering.  God is not evil. I am the one who embraces fear and pain and power. But my choices are not stronger than Gods purposes and He will use every choice I make for the ultimate good and most loving outcome.  When I realize, believe, and live in this, I am free to have a relationship with Him.  Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. 

All the “bad” in the world is NOT justified by God, it is redeemed by God. 

I could go on and on, but I would rather you read the book yourself.  If you love a good story than you will enjoy this book.  If you want a fresh word from the Lord, you will want to read this book.  If you are struggling to feel the love of your Father in the midst of your pain, then read this book.  If you want to feel the loving arms of your Papa around you in a real, loving, and almost physical way, dive into this book head first, expecting Him to meet you on the pages.  I don’t think you will be dissapointed. 

If you have already read this book… please comment…. I would love to know what you think.  After you read it come back and comment as well.

The Shack by William P Young

 

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So Brandon and I are finally back in our own room and bed at night…..

“Where have you been sleeping?” you ask.  For the last 2 months we have been sleeping on the couch in our livingroom.  We actually found it pretty comical at first… you know we have this huge king size tempurpedic bed and instead of sleeping there we are sleeping on the couch… Brandon on one end and me on the other, while our youngest sleeps in a tiny pack-n-play next to our bed.  I say we found it funny at first…. that is until we woke up a few mornings with strange kinks in our backs and bruises from the foot of the other person on our legs or backside.  But we were finally getting to sleep through the night and that was worth all of the bruises and soreness.  It was so worth it that we let it continue for over 2 months.  Let me back up a bit…….

As far as kid sleeping goes, Brandon and are pretty much let them put themselves to sleep parents.  This is a controversial topic and so I am just saying what has worked for us.   We were definetly anti the family bed after the first few weeks (for us, no judgement for others who love it)  and were big proponents of not nursing or rocking our kids to sleep.  It worked for us.  Sloan was a breeze and slept through the night from about 8 weeks on, took good naps, and still loves to get into his bed.  Sean was a little more difficult and it took him until about 6 months to really sleep good through the night.  He’s a different kid and I’ll be honest, I didn’t do some of the same things I did with Sloan and actually regret that I didn’t. 

 Anyway, when we started the adoption process and began reading about bonding and attachment, I started thinking about ways we could help our new son connect with us and from the beginning we agreed that we would start out having him sleep in our bed with us as a means for bonding.  We knew that things would be different for him then the other boys and were ready to make the necesary changes.  So when we brought our very sick and scared little Eyob home (we were sick and scared too!) we started out with him sleeping in our bed and nobody slept.  He was restless and clingy to the point where one or both of us was awake all night trying to get him asleep or with him draped across our faces or stomachs or where ever he decided to finally pass out.  For the first week or two he didn’t really have a nap time, he would just fall asleep in our arms because he never wanted to be put down.  Needless to say, we were all tired and grumpy.  Our first step to getting Eyob on a schedule was to put him down for actual naps.  At first, he slept on us in our room, then we put him in the pack-n-play next to our bed and then sat with him through the whole thing in case he woke up.  At night we started by feeding him to sleep and then laying him down… all the while praying he wouldn’t wake up.  Most often he would wake up shortly after we came to bed and then realizing we were in the room would yell and scream until we picked him up.  Still none of us were sleeping.  By the way, we were going on almost a month and a half of no real sleep.  This was not working for me…. I felt like we were doing a disservice to him by not helping him learn to put himself to sleep and by not helping him get good sleep at night and naps. I dreaded going to bed at night, literally would stay up as long as I could so I would not have to be in the room with him and fight him to go to sleep.  I began to get angry at the situation and if I am being completely honest, angry at Eyob.  I knew something needed to change, however, all the adoption books that I read said don’t let your adopted child cry, answer their every need…etc.etc.  I was afraid that if I tried to do some of the things we did with the other boys that we would ruin him for life.  I had this huge check in my spirit that what we were doing wasn’t right either, but instead of listening to my gut and to God, I listened to the “experts.”  All of this is to say, that the experts are right a lot of the time, but they don’t know me and they don’t know my kid.  Finally a girlfriend of mine, who has an adopted child as well, said to me, “Traci, God gave you this child.  He is your son and you need to parent him the way God tells you to.”  Hearing her say that gave me such freedom.  I needed to be reminded that I was the parent and that I was an experienced, loving parent, whom God was still speaking to……

Thus came the move to the couch.  We had a crib set up in Sean’s room that we had intended for Eyob, but we were not confident enough that Seany would be able to sleep through all that was going to have to go on over the next couple of weeks.  So we moved to the couch.  Brandon slept at one end and I slept at the other.  It was pretty hilarious.  We had this complicated system for laying out the blankets and for positioning our bodies so that noone would get a foot in places that a foot should not be.  We would feed Eyob his bottle (at HH ET he was fed to sleep everytime) and then lay him in his bed.  Sometimes he would be asleep and other times we would lay him down awake and he would cry.  We would leave, set a timer, plug our ears and just pray that he would fall asleep.  Let me jut say that this boy can cry… and scream…. and after a few days we began to realize that his cries were different… and I began to feel like his parent.. someone that still had some control of the situation and after about 3 days he began to sleep.  If it weren’t for the giardia he would have slept straight through.  Darn that poop!  And thus, after about 2 months of no real sleep we got some rest and were not about to change it.  Which is why we continued to sleep on the couch…

Until last Sunday when we decided that it was beyond the point of ridiculous and we put him in his crib in Sean’s room.  It is going pretty good.  Sean is transitioning really well, much better than I expected, they actually seem to take some comfort from each other and fall asleep pretty well.   Eyob is waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble getting back to sleep so I am SuperNannying it…. and we are tired again, but now I know there is hope and like anything with children……this too shall pass.

I hope in reading this post any of you fellow moms and dads of adopted kids will trust your instincts and trust your experience and trust God with your adopted kiddos.  The experts are a good place to start, but they aren’t all that is available.  If we are students of our kids… all of them…. God will show us what to do and walk with us.  As with all of my boys, I have to do my best and then trust God to take care of them… the end result is in his hands.

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