Friday, April 30, 2010

how do you do it? part 4, i think

One thing I think people wonder about when you have a bunch of children is how (if) you maintain your sanity. They say things like, "I can barely handle my two," and they kind of imply that either I am supermom (which I am, because I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, Philippians 2:13) or that I'm certifiably insane (you may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lunatic you're looking for, Billy Joel).

When I had my first few children, I kept my sanity due in large part to those sacred two hours a day known as nap-time. That was my moment to re-group, to rest, to read, clean, relax, SHOWER. That was ME-time. I remember a friend talking about letting her children skip a nap and go to bed early, and I was horrified at the thought. Give up the nap? I'd sooner cut off my right hand than give up the nap!

But there comes a time in everyone's life, unless you live in Latin America (I don't), when people give the nap up. I'm not saying it's right. I think the British and Latins are onto something. In the afternoon, everyone should either have tea or a siesta. But we don't.

And for us, about the time a child stops taking a nap, they start school. When my oldest child began her education, we did it during nap-time. Whammo! Just like that, my me-time became her-time, school-time. Thankfully, about that time, I read a book by Vickie Farris (wife of hslda founder Michael Farris, mother of 10) called "A Mom Just Like You" and she talked about this very thing (funny, i really did think the fact that she had 10 children sounded quite ridiculous).

She said, roughly, that she basically give up the idea of me-time, and learned instead to trust God to sustain her. I agree with this. It is a struggle at first, but I learned to lean, not on that scheduled oasis, but on Jesus Himself to provide for me. My times to regroup are not always predictable, not always regular, not always what I expect.

I need to point out, God has made me to be my husband's helpmeet, not the other way around, so I am careful not to tear my husband down to build myself up. He does not come home to relieve me. I do not go off duty when he walks in the door. My obligations are to love and serve Jesus, to love and support my husband, and to love and care for my children. But I have found, really truly, if I give myself to God and to the tasks of being helpmeet to the man God gave me, and mother and teacher to the children He gave me, I can trust Him to meet my needs.

And He does give me everything I need. He sustains me with His Word, with His presence, with the friends He gives me, through my husband and even through my children. He gives me joy in the morning, when I'd rather roll over and sleep some more. He gives me rest, even when the night is too short and I was up twice, nursing, cleaning up puke, or putting clean sheets on a peed-in bed. He gives me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. He heals my broken heart, and helps me dance. He helps me forgive when I'm wounded, trust when I've been betrayed, and hope when I feel like giving up. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness. He anoints my head with oil, my cup is overflowing!

Jesus is my bread, my life, and everything I need. He is the secret of any success I have, and the solution to every problem I face. Because this is true, and as they see it in action, I also point my children to seek Him in every situation, including potty training, sickness, wants and needs, loneliness, rejection, discipline, and frustration with math problems. If I can wear a path with them to the Cross that they travel on their own later, I will have succeeded as a mother, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, whether or not they marry or have children, what they scored on the standardized tests, or if they ever get a driver's license.

Jesus is enough. He is enough for people with two children, 19 children or no children. He is enough for women who have lost their husband, left their husband, have a great husband or lousy or alcoholic husband or no husband at all. He is enough for the wealthiest Wall Street tycoon or the poorest beggar. He is enough for the man living in the White House or the man living in the mud hut. Those who put their trust in Him will not be put to shame. He is enough for me.

Everything else is gravy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

how do you do it? part 3

not well, really. not well at all. and laundry is the crowning jewel on my crown of thorns. the essence of my weakness. the perfection of my failure. but this is how we do it, or at least, how we try.

first of all, we have a family closet. we copied the idea from the duggars. (we have not copied having 4 washers and dryers, having 4 older daughters helping with laundry, or having our piano teacher help do laundry 2 full days a week. then again, we're not on tv, and that's ok-fine with us.) it is not for the parents, just the children. all the children. we converted a bedroom and put shelves up and down each 10+ foot tall wall.

the upper shelves, which even tall people need a step ladder to reach, contain a laundry basket for each size and gender, 0-6 month girl, 9-12 month boy, etc. then one wall has a large and a small basket for each child. the large basket has his/her pants and shorts - just what they wear, no shorts in winter, limited number of pants - and the small has jammies and unders (not socks, they live downstairs, near the shoes).

on the opposite wall are two long rows of hangers which contain all of the shirts we own, from size 2 through young adult (snap crotch shirts go in the baby's bucket). we don't separate the shirts out for weather (which explains why my children show up places in june with long sleeves and in january in a tank top).

when sizes are close, there is the potential of overlap. the kids tend to have shirts that are theirs, and don't normally wear each other's shirts, even when they could. they just don't like the same things. i have had a couple boys bicker over a shirt or two, and had to help the older one see the size, and that he was too big for it.

this system has eliminated much of the headache of changing sizes and seasons. much. but not all. i still have to take down the right basket and switch the shorts for the pants or size 4 for 5. sometimes a child will find their own next size basket (or the pants that were too small for big brother got put in little brother's bucket) and that basket will have all the size 4 and size 5 pants in it, until mom gets around to putting the too small size away, but it really is a pretty good system.

i also get in trouble when we receive a new bag of clothes that don't fit anyone immediately but i don't get around to putting them up, and then they get assimilated into the wrong size bucket (daughter number two wears size ten but has been pulling 14's from a new bag because i'm behind on laundry - you'd think this would inspire me to catch up)

the problem is just volume. and toddlers. small people inspired by aliens (we watched close encounters last night) who go into the family closet and just start ripping clothes off hangers, breaking and bending the hangers in the process. (it's an evil plot to send me to the asylum and hope for a nicer replacement mom.)

but no, i don't go insane. i delegate. i put someone in charge of cleaning the room. so every day, the person responsible for cleaning the family closet goes in, gets ALL the clothes, clean AND dirty, from all over the floor and put them in the dirty clothes. i start to get suspicious when i find shirts in the dirty laundry baskets that are still on the hangers, maybe this shirt hasn't been worn. not by a human anyway. only aliens wear clothes with hangers still in them.

then there's the problem when the dirty clothes basket from the family closet gets brought to the laundry room but isn't replaced with an empty one. you can guess what happens. someone's basket gets christened the new dirty clothes basket and begins to fill with everyone's cast-offs. now the 4-yr-old's basket has her clean clothes and everyone else's dirty ones.

and sometimes the 5 year old just takes his clothes off and flings them everywhere, some kind of freedom ritual, no doubt. and the 7-yr-old has discovered the value of privacy and has made the space behind the door his own private dressing room and hamper.

so the family closet is at one end of the long hall way. with all it's shortcomings, i still prefer it to having 10 dressers. at the other end of the long hallway is the laundry room. about two thirds of the way down is my door. and the space between my door and the laundry room is what we call the laundry hallway. there is a bathroom in that hallway that no one uses, partly because the door can only be opened about 10 inches before it hits the line of dirty clothes baskets, and partly because rumor has it there are spiders and "tivisees" (3-yr-old for weird , scary, centipede-looking things) in it. so everybody uses mom and dad's bathroom and only the truly brave or duty driven venture further down the laundry hallway.

the laundry hallway rarely (only after grandma visits, really) has fewer than 5 baskets of dirty clothes in cue. inside the laundry room/cave, there is usually at least a foot and a half of clean clothing waiting to be folded and sorted (a foot and a half deep, as wide as the floor). i am 6 foot 5 in the laundry room.

the system, when it is working properly, which would probably require a different mother, goes like this:

child A collects clothing from the two hampers and brings to the laundry room and starts a load in the morning.

child B comes up sometime during the day and switches the laundry load, folding and sorting all of the clothing into 1 of 3 places: parents pile, shirts (to be hung up by child C), and the 6 kid baskets.
[the kids' clothing baskets have different buddies, chosen specifically so that their stuff looks different from the person they're with: big girl with little girl, big boy with little boy, middle kid with downstairs laundry or dressup clothes.]

child C hangs up all the shirts in the laundry room.

in the evening before bed, mom does the final switch and sort and we're all caught up.

in the morning, everyone empties their buckets and hangs their shirts and life is beautiful.

but there are some hitches. as i said, one is volume. there are a lot of clothes. we receive a lot of clothes. we keep stuff we get when it is good (good = modest and not ripped up or stained) because we are hard on clothing. we go through the knees of most pants. we rip and stain shirts. we don't just put holes in socks, we disintegrate them. this seems to be the last stop clothing makes before it hits the dump. so we have a lot because we need a lot. even if a pair of pants happen to survive child #3, they will be worn again by children numbers 6, 7, and 9. the result of having a lot of clothing is that if we get behind, we get way behind.

another hitch is illness. particularly the kind of illness that makes for more laundry. there is a delightful young woman at our church who recently started coming over and picking up 3 baskets of dirty clothes on mondays and bringing back 3 baskets of clean clothes a day or two later, which is a huge blessing. but when we all got a horrible puking thing, we agreed that she would not do any more laundry till we had disinfected ourselves, for the sake of her one-year-old. i'm not caught up yet. it's like saying i won't get help for my algebra class until i get an A on a test. who am i kidding?

another thing that sets us back is road trips. as i said before, we take more stuff to soccer than many people take for a weekend away. many years, i haven't caught up from thanksgiving before it's time to pack for Christmas. and a big camping vacation . . . it could take weeks to recover.

finally, there is the laundry waste problem. do we really need to wash dress-up clothes after they are worn for an hour? do we have to get out a fresh washcloth for every spill? i have a couple people, one in particular, who will wear the same clothing until i require them (him!) to take them off, but i also have a little girl who changes clothing to go from one room to the next, and a little boy who, um, walks around with a wet circle on the front of his trousers. then there are the diaper people, who, between their less than tidy eating habits, the diaper factor, and the innate desire to shed and lose clothing when one is that age, change clothes a little more often than some.

socks. that's probably another blog. it's not good. that's all i'll say. it's not good.

so, that's how i do it. don't you feel better about yourself, now?

Monday, April 19, 2010


it's that time of the month again. i'm waiting. waiting to find out if i'm pregnant again. i think i have a unique position in this - i'm okay either way. i will always be thrilled to be pregnant. and if i am not, and if God doesn't bless me in that way again, i am also pleased to be a vessel for whatever He chooses to do with me. i am at peace.

this month, however, is a little different. i have a little more apprehension this month, because today we began our home study. and although i know the same God who gives good gifts in the uterus also gives good gifts via adoption, and i trust Him, there is still that little nervousness that says, God, could You please wait until this adoption thing is taken care of before You give me another little bun in the oven.

now, i know some people think this line of thinking officially puts me over the edge of the abyss of insanity. first of all, why does a family who has 10 children already and is obviously quite fertile want to pay money to adopt when they already have more than they can handle? and then, not only to pursue adoption, to pay lots of money for the privilege of raising someone else's child, but to do it without practicing birth control!!! that's nuts!

is it? my sister had, without taking any fertility drugs, 3 children within the span of 13 months. a lady i met at soccer had 5 children within 52 months, naturally. people have multiples all the time. why would it be different if we had a biological and an adopted baby the same year?

it seems excessive, doesn't it. gluttonous, in a way. oh, it's like the octo-mom - i'm a baby-holic.

then again, maybe, having had 10, i've figured something out that some people don't know - children are a blessing from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. do people who win the lottery continue to play the lotto?

but i will say again: if i am done having children, if i am never pregnant again, if God closes the door on adoption, i am just as pleased and contented. it is enough for me to say 'yes' to Him. and whatever He does with my yes is my delight and my pleasure. if He gives me 10 more children, i am blessed. if He gives me 0, i am blessed. so i don't think that makes me a baby-holic. maybe i'm a God-holic. i'm okay with that.

it's the waiting that's hard. the not knowing. am i? am i not?

i am not. sigh. contented.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

how do you do it? part 3

one thing people mean when they ask 'how do you do it?' is really, how do you afford it. there are several answers, some philosophical, some practical.

first, God really does give us everything we need, sometimes in the most unlikely way. some examples:
clothing: i've stopped being surprised when we get a bag of hand-me-down clothes that is exactly the size of the child who needed exactly what was in the bag. we rarely buy clothing.
food: my next door neighbor has been bringing us near-date bread and produce from a food pantry he works at for a while. just recently that stopped. the following week (no kidding) a different neighbor started bringing us food his mother got from a food pantry at her church.
miscellaneous: my (then) 5 yr old son desperately wanted a bicycle, but hadnt grown into the size bike we had waiting for him. we told him to pray, and sure enough, within a few days or weeks, a guy at my husband's work said, 'hey, i've got this bike . . '.

secondly, we live pretty simply. we are not very stylish, we are not very interesting in what we eat, our vehicles and decor are functional, we take and use hand-me-downs with thankfulness in our hearts. we are not very impressive. we are not trying to be impressive. we say sometimes, we didn't have 10 kids by caring what people think about us, so there's no point in worrying about what people think now. besides, i've learned that there are several very different variations on "normal", so it's not a reliable bar to measure myself by.

thirdly, regarding education, what people want to know is, how are you going to pay for all those kids to go to college? we're not. we will help pay for many of them to go to college. but, again, we are probably not hoping for a full ride to an ivy league school. we don't see getting a good education so you can get a good job and make lots of money as being a Biblical worldview. we want to teach our kids to follow God, work hard, do what they love and live within their means. the american dream and the narrow road are not necessarily the same path. if the narrow road takes them to stanford, we'll help as much as we can. but our goal is children who follow Jesus, not children who make lots of money.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


today i hit a milestone i wasn't aiming for. heck, i didn't even know it existed. didn't suspect there was a line i would cross today. but i did. i jogged.

now if you are thinking, big deal, then you are someone who has never been obese. you have never been just honestly fat. you have never felt the after-shock vibrations that happens when just honestly really overweight people jog. normal people thump thump when they run. fat people thump-sloosh, thump-sloosh.

and i don't mean i jogged to the car to get something in a hurry. i got on the treadmill, felt good, turned it up, still felt good, turned it up some more, and ran (jogged) for something like 20 minutes. i don't know exactly how long it was because i knocked the stupid safety magnet off and lost the info for the first half.

but it was a long time. and it was okay. if it had been less okay, i'd have been watching the clock. but it was pleasant. i felt good. i felt healthy. i felt like not an elephant stampeding. i felt not so fat. ohhhhh - that is indeed a good feeling.

i am within 4 lbs of the least i've weighed in 13 years. i am within 10 lbs of weighing less than my husband. big milestones just ahead. but today i crossed an amazing wonderful milestone i didn't know was there. 24 lbs down, i ran (jogged).


Friday, April 16, 2010

how do you do it? part 2.1

forgot to mention very important thing: matching shirts. wearing the same color (not white or gray) is huge. late last fall we planned a trip to old world wisconsin, and i can't afford to buy everyone new winter coats the same color, so i got matching red and black plaid hats. it worked. the key is to have something you can count from a distance. when you have 10 or so children, you count. all the time. i try not to keep the matching hats/shirts in regular circulation. they live in a box in the laundry room and only come out for outings.

you might think, teenagers wouldn't want to wear a family shirt. i cannot speak for other, cooler, teenagers. i just know that my people see being part of our family as a bigger part of their identity than they do the opinions of their peers.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

how do you do it? part 2

sometimes the question "how do you do it?" begs a longer answer.

the first thing i say is, "not very well". i am not aiming for the same goals many parents hold in high esteem. and i am not attaining some of the goals i hold in high esteem. i say that because, once you find out how i do it, or why i do it, it may serve to convince you to NOT do it the way i do it.

and so, if only to help solidify your confidence in doing it the way you do it and steer very clear of the way i do it, i've decided to attempt a series of blogs with this title.

where to start.


our children are involved in very few activities outside the house, only the ones that can be attended by more than one child, and only if we can find something productive to do while they do it, and only if it is really, really worth the time and effort. when getting out of the house to go anywhere we pack more crap than most people take for a weekend away. i usually keep a package of diapers and another of wipes in the van, along with a pair of shorts that will fit nearly anyone.

eating on the cheap at the golden arches costs us around 25 dollars (we drink water, order sandwiches off the dollar menu, and share a few large fries; we keep a package of brown lunch bags in the van so it's easier to distribute everyone's "happy meals"), so we pack a meal as often as we can (loaf of bread, peanut butter and honey or pack of lunch meat, pack of cheese, something munchy like carrots or cheezits, something sweet like apples or granola bars or cookies, and water). first road food for babies who are eating real food: mashed potatoes from kfc, refried beans from taco bell, or an apple i quickly ate the peal off of.

i used to have (and may still in the abyss we call our basement) a double stroller that both seats laid down, creating a 4 foot long flat space. i took it everywhere. pretty sure we killed it. we would walk all around the zoo (or wherever) and see and do and play and eat and when everyone was absolutely exhausted beyond any readily available solution, i'd put one in the back packer, one on my front in a snugly, pile 3 or 4 in the stroller and make a beeline for the van, going as fast as my little overweight (and more often than not pregnant) body could move.

i think communicating expectations with small people helps a lot. even babies, if you count aloud while doing things that are hard to wait for (nail trimming, hair cutting, food prep, almost done car rides), handle the wait better. i just count to 10 over and over, acting like 10 is a party every time, and every other number is an exciting adventure.

i give all my folks a 10 minute warning (which means we'll leave sometime in the relatively near future), a 5 minute warning (which means we really are going to leave) and a 1 minute warning (which means, maybe we'd better find our shoes) before telling them to head to the van.

of course, now i have a police whistle. it is the e.f. hutton whistle. okay, for you young punks, a long time ago when there were still dinosaurs and black and white tvs, there was a commercial for an investment firm called e.f. hutton. in the commercial, there would be a room full of people talking, and one person would mention his broker, e.f. hutton and everyone would stop talking and eavesdrop. the line was, "when e.f. hutton talks, people listen."

well, when i blow the whistle, people listen, because it is so very loud, it hurts their ears. i taught my children to come when i blow it by giving them chocolate chips when they do. sometimes they would come, get the chocolate, and walk away, before i said what i had to say. so now i blow the whistle and stand there waving the bag in front of their eyes, till i'm done with them, then they get a couple chips.

we've gotten a lot of von trap family jokes since acquiring the whistle, and we deserve it. 1 long blast means listen up, 2 means send someone, 3 means drop what you're doing and get here quick. three quick blasts and my children take their own attendance, saying their names in descending age order.

i read or heard somewhere (or maybe i made it up) that going on the road is like the test, and being at home with your children training them is like studying. if you haven't done your homework, you won't do very well on the test. and in order to do homework, you have to be home. when my children start to really behave poorly, it makes me think, we need some home training. and the home training isn't for the sake of the people we'll meet up with when we're out. it's for my children. to become who it's my job to train them to become, for Jesus' sake and theirs.

so that's how we do excursions.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

how do you do it? part 1 - intro

there is a brief list of things people say to you when you have a big family (which may be as few as 3, depending on who you talk to). i could pay for all my kids to go to college, or at least for a very satisfying visit to chuck e. cheese (is there such a thing as a satisfying visit to that place? it is somehow a seedbed of selfishness. children cannot just play and be happy there. they get a few tickets and turn into ticket-hungry, grasping competitors, trying to get more and more in hopes of possibly having enough pieces of paper to purchase . . . crap. complete and total crap that will in fact break before we all have our seatbelts on.) if i had a dollar for every time someone had asked me the following questions:

"You sure have your hands full." (more than a statement than a question, i know)
Godly response: Yes, they are full of love and smiles and hugs and kisses and i wouldn't want it any other way
frequently used response: Yeah, can you please get out of my way.

"Better you than me." (okay, also not a question)
G.r: I am very thankful God has given them to me.
f.u.r: If you feel that way about it, I agree with you.

"You must be very organized (or patient or some other positive adjective)."
G.r.: I'm way more patient than I was 13 years ago.
f.u.r.: Sometimes. ("sometimes is the magic answer, by the way, to anything anyone says about your children, positive or negative. for example: they say, 'your children are so cute' - you say, 'sometimes'. they say, 'your children are so well-behaved.' - you say, 'sometimes'. they say, 'your children are really loud and obnoxious' - you say, 'sometimes'. they say, ' your kids make a really big mess.' - you say, 'sometimes'.)

"Are they all your children?"
G.r.: Yes and I am so glad they are.
f.u.r.: No, I left half of them at home.

"Don't you know how this happens?"
G.r.: The Bible says that children are a blessing from God.
f.u.r.: Yeah, and apparently, we're pretty good at it.

"How do you do it?"
G.r.: God really does give me everything I need to do what He's given me to do.
f.u.r.: Not very well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

gardening in glass

i visited the missouri botanical garden last week and saw the spectacular remnants of the chihuli glass exhibit that graced us a few years back. there is a beautiful piece (i want to say thing, but that's not appropriate) hanging in the entrance that spans two floors, blue and white pieces of blown glass, it was amazing. then in the climatron there were glass 'blooms' coming out of a pond - really beautiful.

today i spent time in my garden, where there is also a significant amount of glass. clayish missouri soil, gravel, weeds, and lots of broken glass. you can't just 'pick it up'. our property was vacant for somewhere between 12 and 20 years. we were told it was probably a crack house. the broken glass goes deep. each year the freezing and thawing process of the ground brings more to the surface.

we made some raised beds, and that helps, no glass in there. but still, much of our garden work here is done in the presence of pieces of broken glass.

we are redeeming the land. we are planting, watering, taking root and bearing fruit. at least, that is our intention. right now we're just planting, watering and hoping. in a few months, or a year, or two, or ten or twenty, our current blisters and sore backs will produce a crop of tomatoes, green beans, blueberries, beautiful lilac blossoms in the spring, kindness, patience, self control, discipline, healthy relationships, freedom and maybe even salvation.

in an unlikely place, in an unlikely season, in an unlikely way, unlikely people planting, watering, weeding, praying, hoping, longing, waiting.

cleaning house

for the record, i do not hate to clean. i actually enjoy cleaning. it's therapeutic. especially when i'm angry, or waiting for something, or just stewing about a situation, cleaning my house is something i enjoy very much.

i am partial to cleaning big and or bad messes. it's very rewarding. and i prefer to clean when i know the smaller, potentially more troublesome, people in my life are asleep or being watched or tied up with duct tape and baling twine (it's a joke) so that they are not unraveling the other end of the sock i'm darning the whole time i'm working (picture the old pink panther cartoon, p.p. is painting the wall pink right behind the trenchcoat guy who has just painted it blue).

what i do not dig is maintenance. it stresses me out. some people feel completely out of control if their house is messy. while i do enjoy a clean house, i have a hard time not turning into an obsessive witch when my house is clean. the need to keep it clean is a consuming fire. i grow horns and fangs and speak in a voice either one octave deeper or piercing enough to shatter glass. clean house, angry frustrated obsessive mama. messy house, relaxed, pleasant focused on the right things mama.

i know that using the army of children i've given birth to is the answer to this dilemma. i know that if i train my children to do their share, not for the sake of cleanliness, but for the sake of learning responsibility, that it will go a long way toward the goal of a pleasant learning environment (while pursuing the real goal of training my children). the down side with that lofty concept is that i still have to do it! i am still the one having to train and enforce yet another thing.

i'm better at fell swoops than i am at the daily grind. it means i'm good in a crisis. i rise to the occasion at tornado/blizzard/reunion/wedding/funeral or any manner of business. it's just the daily to-do list that looks ever so much like yesterday's to-do list and has a distinct resemblance to every other stupid to-do list i have.

diligence is a man's precious possession
diligence is a man's precious possession
diligence is a man's precious possession . . .

so help me God.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

where you been?

you haven't blogged lately.

it's a funny thing, the private personal public nature of this blog world. it's a place for me to process my innermost thoughts and feelings for all the world to see.

first of all, for those of you in my balcony on the healthy eating weight losing roller coaster thing: obviously the reason i haven't written is because i'm struggling to maintain. it's not the weight i'm trying to maintain. actually i'm maintaining THAT quite well. it's the motivation. even though i have maybe a hundred reasons to want to change, to be different, to be healthy, to get thin, to eat better, to exercise, to take care of the body God gave me . . . i'm not feeling any of them.

so what do i tell my children when they say, "but i don't f-e-e-l like _______"? sometimes doing the right thing goes against our feelings. it's called discipline. diligence. diligence is a man's precious possession. (proverbs something)

the most motivating motivator i've had lately is Daniel. he was set apart for God in the midst of a foreign pagan idol-worshipping land where he was a political prisoner of sorts. he was set apart by what he ate. he set himself apart for God by deliberately living a fasted life, not being bought with the delicacies of the king's table.

the king's man, who was over the group of young men daniel was part of, said (read with an italian mafia kind of accent), "look, buddy, i'd like to help you out, but, if you only eat your vegetables (there's a switch moms - a kid who ONLY wants to eat veggies) you're going to start to look bad and it's my butt on the line, know what i'm saying? so you boys be good and eat your meat and drink your wine, okay?"

Daniel said, "give me 10 days. 10 days of just vegetables and water. if i look bad then, you got me, i'll do what you say. but if i'm looking fit and feeling fine, you let me do it God's way." and he did. he and his homeys ate rabbit food and came out looking better than all the king's men (and all his horses too, incidentally), and they were given permission to be permanently set apart, which came in handy in the next chapter when the king has a bad dream one night and a rippin' bad 'tude the next day, wanting an interpretation without telling the dream, deciding to kill all the supposedly wise men on his staff including the young punks from Israel, and Daniel gets the revelation AND the interpretation - arguably because he had set himself apart.

10 days. veggies. set apart. Daniel.

Daniel is the name we had chosen for our first born (for the middle name) and our youngest, both of whom wound up being girls and therefore did not get named daniel.

which brings me to Part B of the answer to the question 'where you been'.

we've been thinking about adopting. which means i've been thinking about it almost constantly and he's been thinking about it fleetingly each time i bring it up. [i don't fault him for this quality; it's how God made him. it means he's really doing whatever it is he's doing, and it's a good way to be.] then we fasted and prayed about it as a family; which means we were all thinking about it and talking about it and praying about it and hearing from God about it, and in the end, we felt clearly what we heard at the very beginning: that we had been given an invitation.

i had always liked adoption, wanted to adopt, wrote a paper about adoption, was positively predisposed to adoption. i have two cousins who are adopted, who, i'll admit, i forgot were adopted. it's not that i wasn't around or don't remember it. i remember it vividly. it's just that, well, they are mine, and nothing could convince me otherwise. i don't think of them as adopted. i think of them as my cousins.

i also have an adopted niece and nephew. it is a little easier to remember with them because of their beautiful chocolaty brown skin, huge brown eyes, and because it is more recent. but they are also unquestionably unmistakeably mine..

when my brother and his fam were in africa as missionaries, we visited them, and from the outset of the trip, adoption was on my heart. part of his job was helping to make first one orphanage and then another, happen. there were nearly 200 children without parents there. most had some kind of families, but almost all had lost mother and/or father to HIV.

i wrote a song for my youngest sister's wedding called 'gift to me'. immediately after their wedding, it became a song between me and my children. when i went to africa, it became an adoption song. and my mom, who arrived there a week earlier than i, taught it to the children at the first orphanage to sing and dance to when we arrived. so we get out of the jeep after a day and a half of travel, approach the welcoming committee (which in kenya is everyone) of 96 children singing to us:

you are a gift to me, sent from the Father
(keep in mind, i've got adoption on the brain - i know that it takes 3 months to adopt from kenya, you have to live there for 3 months, and i'm trying to figure out how to get my then 7 children and us back there to live for 3 months and take home as many as we can afford to buy a plane ticket for)
from the day i was born, God had you in mind
and every day you help me remember how much He loves me
'cause He gave you to me

i wept. so the idea of adopting beautiful brown skinned children has been in my heart for a little while.

moving to our home of the last 6 years which is located in a neighborhood populated pretty much exclusively by people of African American heritage also, i think, helped prepare us for this leg of our journey on the planet. we have loved dozens of brown skinned neighbors. loved them. not because of their skin. not in spite of their skin. just loved. loved the heart, loved the person, loved the inside and the outside.

so, not long ago, our old friend lou engle speaks, and as he's speaking, we both hear God speak. i had honestly put adoption in the 'not right now, maybe later' box, primarily because, hey, i've got biological offspring in what some would call excessive numbers. look at me, do i need more children? [of course, the more appropriate question turns out to be, do more children need me] but i don't have 10 children because i need them. i delight in them, but that's not why i have them. i have them because i said yes to God.

adoption seemed like not an option because i didn't think the people handing out spare children would give any to a woman who lives in a shoe. for a long time, i didn't think we could handle even what we had, and honestly, the idea of having a home study, you know, where someone STUDIES your HOME, scared me to death. i do not feel worthy of a whole lot of scrutiny. i have the organizational skills of a tornado and the consistency of midwestern weather (we have a saying in my town: don't like the weather here, give it an hour, it'll change). it just didn't seem like a good idea to pay someone to come and give us the fine tooth comb treatment.

and then God said - why don't you try, take it out for a spin, see what I'll do? turns out, the same One handing out biological children is the one handing out the adoptive kind. same Guy.

so we are taking the first steps. baby step to the christian adoption consultants (tracie loux). baby step to the home study application fee. baby step to the 80 plus pictures and 8 pages of answers to the questionnaire for the family profile. baby step to spring cleaning our house top to bottom to be ready for the home*study.

i've been busy. busy hands. busy mind. busy heart.

i'm trying to apply the salve of the Word of God to my fluttering heart (like Noah's dove, not finding anywhere to land) and i have found peace there that passes my understanding (which isn't a lot). it's good for me.

Daniel is what i would like to name our first male adopted brown skin baby. set apart. 10 days. i am not going to start a daniel fast on or before easter. i know Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead for me. it's just that, well, cadbury eggs only come around once a year . . .