Friday, December 31, 2010

Holding tight

I debated about whether to post this or not, then it hit me that this is certainly a family who could use and would want all the prayers they can get. A college friend and her husband gave birth and had to let go of their first baby, a precious boy, on Monday. He was stillborn. They are heartbroken. I am holding tight to my own babies and crying with my friends.

Hug your babies. Love them, love them, love them. Thank you for your prayers for my friends.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Abbreviated Christmas Post

Well, I am still worn out from all the Christmas fun at our house! Santa scored overwhelmingly high points in bringing each of the kids exactly what they asked for (Mom disclaimer here: I am not a huge fan of the jolly man in red--he gets a lot of credit for some really good stuff. BUT I am not a fun-hater either. Whatever.) Max got the long-awaited DS--and lo and behold, Charlie did too!! Sometimes being the oldest has its advantages...other times not so much. Mom and Dad decided to personally ask Santa the last TWO YEARS to not bring Max a DS. Now his 6-year-old brother gets one too. Ugh. Santa was right in thinking that only one of them having one wouldn't be such a good plan. Thankfully Max is a very understanding and gracious kid. It all worked out fine. Not that these are real problems--I mean, two kids in our house have some really cool toys. Seriously.

Zoe got not one but TWO Tiana dolls (from Disney's "The Princess and The Frog")--Santa only consults with Mom and Dad, not Grandma and Grandpa--hence the duplicate. :) The girl did not care. She has spent the past 2 days brushing her dolls' hair--I believe there may be a future there!

Tate got one of the most fun presents--a little Lightning McQueen ride-on toy--that he was seriously scared of until Uncle Jeffery showed him the ropes. :) Very fun. It will hopefully bring some enjoyment in the garage over the next few cold months.

We were so happy to be home, having a quiet holiday with just us and Buck's family. We spent most of Saturday in our jammies--with the kids getting dressed briefly to put on snow gear and go sledding. We had a gorgeous white Christmas here. It was truly picture-perfect.

One of the most special highlights was Buck's brother (the famous Uncle Jeffery) coming home for most of the weekend, and giving us one of the best presents a family could get--an ultrasound picture of a new niece or nephew. We are all guessing niece because of his track record (2 beautiful girls!) but are pulling for a boy. :) The kids couldn't be more excited for a new cousin and we are overwhelmingly thankful for this precious new life!

Christmas time always gives me pause--to remember all of the events surrounding our Savior's birth. He came as a BABY. He came for us. He came with a specific purpose and most of all, with love for every single one of us. As I think of that cradle, I think of the cross. How Mary knew that her precious baby would be given as a sacrifice for us. While I am incredibly thankful for Christmas, I think ahead toward Easter. Toward what happened on the cross. And what we each can do every day to honor the gift of Jesus.

OK so maybe this wasn't so abbreviated. :) Pictures to come--because what's a post without pictures, right? Merry Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thankful for

Then for you loyal readers who I am also lucky enough to know in real life--and if you are lucky enough to have at some point received an e-mail from me(dripping with sarcasm here)--you will know that my e-mail account was hacked. WHAT A PAIN!!! But on the other hand, it was a little reassuring to get 50 phone calls/texts and another 50 e-mail or facebook messages from people who were concerned. :) My cell phone and the home phone were lit up like a Christmas tree! So thank you for caring, friends. We got it taken care of but man, I have had a sick feeling in my stomach all day. And just a little FYI--my e-mail account and Facebook passwords were/are different from each other, otherwise they would have hacked my Facebook account too--so if you have the same passwords for everything, I would switch them. I got a message from Facebook right away saying log-ins from the Ivory Coast, Africa were attempted and they wanted to verify that I was there. YIKES!! Anyway, I wish I was more technically savvy but so be it. I hope I got it fixed for the time being.

SOOOO....needing to change my attitude for a minute....and take a deep breath. A few small things I am thankful for:

I am so thankful for this time of year. I love singing Christmas carols during worship at church. We go to a church where it is pretty contemporary music most of the time--this is a nice change of pace!

I am thankful when we get the ornaments out every year, and when the kids decorate the tree they put all the ornaments as high as they can reach--so 75% of the ornaments are no higher than halfway up the tree.

I am so thankful for these...sweet decorations that I made with Max and Charlie when they were 3 1/2 and 18 months. Seriously among the favorite things I put out at Christmas time!

I love sitting in one of our chairs in the family room and having this as my view...

I love, love, love Christmas card time! I leave them up way longer than I should. This reminds me daily of how truly blessed we are to have such beautiful, wonderful people surrounding us. Also, can you tell the kids help put these up too? It's a little bottom-heavy. :)

So there you attempt to change my attitude (the phrase "change your attitude, please" comes out of my mouth AT LEAST once a day so I am taking my own advice. :) Happy Monday, friends.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friend Feature Friday

Since I occasionally don't have much to say (hard to believe, isn't it?), I want to start featuring some of my amazing friends--and they really are amazing women!--and "friend feature Friday" just has a nice ring to it. I want to start with this wonderful gal, who just had a "significant" birthday and we were lucky enough to get to celebrate together!

My friend Julie and I are proud members of the 4-kid club and have spent a couple of New Year's Eves together as families because no one else asks people with 4 kids over for New Year's Eve. ha!! Our kids are almost the same ages, except her youngest 2 are TWIN BOYS. Now that's just enough to make you kiss her feet right there. Her road to motherhood was a hard one, and she cherishes those little blessings like no one else I know. She can always put things in perspective for me.

We had so much fun having their family at the Lake with us this summer! Remember this picture?

This is what it looks like when all 8 of our children are together--and there is one hiding in the background by Max there! Loads of fun and LOTS of boys. :)

Julie is one of those people I can always count on to call and vent to--sometimes it's just a "how's your day going?" text--but I know I will get an honest response! Many a time we have met for coffee at Target (who doesn't love that there is a Starbucks at Target? Can I get an AMEN?) at 9:30 at night for some girl time. We can talk about our parenting struggles, the ups and downs of married life, and our walk with the Lord--usually all in the same breath!

She is a working mom these days, taking a hard step back into the work force after many years at home raising her boys. I admire SO much that Julie will always do what is best for her family, even if it might not be exactly what she wants to do. She is a talented career woman--and took a step out of a job she loved and was very good at--in order to be home with baby twins. Now she is back in the working world, learning a new job and new skills--sometimes a hard and scary thing to do. All the while, making sure her boys are her top priority.

I am very, very thankful for this friend in my life. I know I can count on her for fun and friendship and I am truly blessed to call her a sister in Christ. Thank you for who you are, Miss Julie!

Happy Friday, friends.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Watch out world!

Guess who got promoted to a white/gold belt??

My favorite part is that he sticks his tongue out with every kick.

My other favorite part? He and his sparring partner (trust me, they don't really "spar" when they are 6, but you know what I mean) giggled and said "Sorry!" after every time they "hi-ya'd" each other. :)

Seriously one of Charlie's proudest moments. He is REALLY good at Tae Kwon Do!

So proud of our guy!!

Happy Thursday, friends.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

They are not broken but...

Our 6th (I think) pair of glasses is missing in action. They might be broken but I wouldn't know because I CAN'T FIND THEM!!! I have stooped to offering our children a monetary reward for the find. Seriously. Now the main question is do I order a new pair while we are still under the deductible for 2010, knowing that the minute I place the order the lost glasses will be found?? Or do I wait? Oh the joy of a 4-year-old in glasses...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Off the beaten path

This has happened a few different times to me, and every time it does I get so excited and passionate, while at the same time feel humbled that God chose us to be part of a bigger story of His work when we adopted Zoe. Just as the births of every one of our birth children were filled with joy and wonderment...our story of adopting our daughter was obviously different, but filled with many of the same overwhelming feelings of awe and love. So it is with those thoughts in mind that I go off the beaten path a bit and share what YOU can do about adoption in our world.

Like I said, there are times, and it seems to come in waves, when I hear of many people around me--people I know personally or a "friend of a friend" type thing--that are hungering for more information about adoption. And this ranges from a mild curiosity to a "how do I start--tomorrow?" kind of query. There were so many people at once a few months ago that I wound up with about 10 people in my family room one morning, sharing what I could about adoption and how to get started. It was awesome! Three of the people at that meeting are actively pursuing adoption right now--and who knows how God is working on the others? But to me the important thing is just to get information out there and let people know that it is do-able, and more importantly that they are not alone. Buck and I were talking this weekend and we both feel like as God-ordained as our adoption process was, we were VERY alone through the process--just because we didn't know of any other families at the time that were adopting when we were, or of other families who had already adopted. While we had great support from our close friends, it's not entirely the same as comparing wait times, help with paperwork, or general "been there done that" support. I don't ever want any family to feel that way. So...

It seems that there has been some interest that has been kicked up again for families wanting to adopt. I found Jen's blog through a college friend of mine and she and her husband are in the process of their 2nd adoption. She is very passionate about this as well--and she made up a list of ways that families can help and support Adoption and Orphan Care. I have tweaked it a little bit but most of the information is directly from her. How cool that God can turn a desire to grow your family into a lifelong passion and desire to help others in that way as well. Please feel free to use this list to show others or direct them here or to Jen's blog as well.

Adoption & Orphan Care

*Keep in mind that adopting or fostering children is not the only way to care for orphans--but it is the ONLY way to surely eliminate the orphan crisis in our world. *

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Orphan Care Actions:

1. PRAY for families who are adopting. Don't know one? Let me know and I will have you pray for them. Two close friends are waiting to travel to pick up their children from two different countries. Pray for the children they are adopting. Love this quote: ADOPTION IS NOT CHARITY. IT IS WAR. (from Adopted for Life, Moore).

2. GIVE money to families who are adopting. Give to a specific family--anonymously if you wish. International adoption in particular is expensive. I don't know of any family that would not accept a gift to help with their adoption expenses. Attend a fundraiser that they are having--I have been to several: garage sales, a church tea, a jewelry party. Often times a friend's presence is more important than the money they will raise. If you can't attend, drop a note in the mail to say you support them.

3. SUPPORT families who are adopting or fostering children. Hand down gently used items--clothes, games, toys, carseats, etc. Provide meals when they come home, just like you would if the family had a new birth child. Make a habit of asking families what they need before AND after the children are home.

4. VISIT orphans and orphan workers. Not ready to commit to adoption yourself? Go on a short-term mission trip to a country where there is an orphan crisis. Visit an orphanage.

5. TALK to a family who has adopted or is in the process of adopting. Like I said, for some families it may be a very lonely time. It is not the same as being pregnant where your belly is out there for everyone to see and know about. Let the family know you are excited for them, or happy for them if the child is already home. If you need information on how to get started, just ask! Most adoptive families are more than happy to help others along the way.

6. READ one or more of these books (I highly recommend all of them--yes, I've read them all--with the exception of "The Hole in our Gospel" but it's on my list!)
*Adopted for Life by Russell Moore
*Crazy Love by Francis Chan
*The Hole in our Gospel by Sterns
*There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Green
*Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman

7. CONSIDER foster care. If adopting is not the right thing for your family, maybe foster care or respite care for other fostering families is the right thing. Call 1-800-243-0756 and get an information packet sent to you with no pressure.

8. FINALLY--ADOPT a child of your own. Don't think about the overwhelming nature of the adoption process. I am not a detail-oriented person nor am I an expert on anything--but I got through an international adoption process without a hitch. If you focus on the very small next step you will see it is totally do-able. Worried about the financial side of an adoption? I know of many a family who didn't think they could afford adoption. There is always, always, always a way. All money is God's anyway--PLEASE don't let money be the reason you say no to a child.

Like I said, it felt like a good time to put this out there for people. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with me either in the comments (leave me your e-mail address) or e-mail me directly at laurajoy63 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Many thanks again to Jen for her generosity in letting me use a lot of her information. Wishing you a blessed Monday, friends!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


As promised...

Somebody likes to say "cheeeeeeese" for the camera!

And I think he might be learning how to "give Mommy a nice smile" after I've only asked him for the 1000th time! We did have to pause after each picture for him to look at himself on the screen on the back of the camera. :) For him, that's the best part of taking a picture!

And the princess on her way to a princess birthday party. She wanted to make sure you all noticed her shoes. :) Beauty, beauty, beauty! I am allowed to say that since she doesn't have my genes so it's not really bragging. It's just the truth!

Happy Tuesday!

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Family and Friends

Well, the Christmas season is very much upon us and my blog is suffering because of it! :) We have been busy, busy around here, all with good things. A blog post in bullet points is about the best I can do right now--more for my own memory than for anyone else's reading pleasure. Here goes:

* Tate had 2 doctor's appointments in one day last Monday. Well-child check and ENT follow-up. He is in the 90th percentile for height! Had a little growth spurt, while only gaining a pound. Long and lean for the time being. The ENT doctor gave us some mixed results. We may be looking at another round of ear tubes for Tate but will have another follow-up appointment in 2 weeks before proceeding with surgery. Tate was a trooper!

* Max had a basketball clinic on Saturday that he is very, very excited about. It is a faith-based league from all around Des Moines. Practices don't start until after Christmas--not sure what I am going to do with my little hoopster until then!!

* I spent Friday evening with some of my favorite ladies--my "Who's Pregnant Now?" group--and as far as we know, not a one of us is! :) We talked about the Bible, Catholicism, labor stories, midwifery vs. medical care, and pretty much everything in between. One of our gals is moving in a couple of weeks and I'm so sad I can't stand it. Our group won't be the same without her! Love you, Kristin!!!

* Part of Saturday was spent hanging out with Charlie while he helped me grocery shop for my cooking afternoon for my cooking co-op. Grocery shopping is about 25 times faster when you are NOT with a 6-year-old who wants to sound out every word of what is on the grocery list, but it was so fun to spend a good chunk of time with my favorite 6-year-old all by himself. He got a surprise at the grocery store by getting to see Santa ("Um no, Mom, I know that's just one of his helpers--the real Santa is at the mall!") and he got to decorate a cookie there as well. I bought him a bag of cheese balls (his choice) for being such a good helper. He said "Eureka!! I love cheese balls!" Thank you, Alvin and the Chipmunks movie! :)

* Saturday night we had one of our most favorite families over for dinner and play time. It was wonderful, relaxing and fun! We thought we would break in our new dining room table for the get-together but we didn't even pay attention and we all ended up eating around the kitchen island like we always do. :) Guess we'll have to practice on going into the dining room.

* Some good friends of ours, Erik and Kim, got their referral call for a 6-month-old baby girl who is in Ethiopia. They waited 12 months and 364 days (yep you read that right...1 day short of 2 YEARS) for this call. My heart is overjoyed for them and their new addition. Praise the Lord!! Apparently there has been an outbreak of measles in some of the care centers in Ethiopia so we are praying for their sweet little girl's health and well-being as she waits for her mom and dad to come get her!

* My little chickadee (AKA Zoe) has been cracking us up lately with funny comments. Typical one: Yesterday in line at the movie theater, another mom said to Zoe "You are pretty cute." Zoe replied "I get that a lot." Seriously??!!! I am pretty sure something that comes out of her mouth every single day makes me laugh out loud.

* Tate and I have a running conversation pretty much the ENTIRE day EVERY day about where the other kids are:
Tate: "Bo Bo?" (Tate speak for "where's my brothers?")
Me: "Bo Bo's are at school. You tell Mommy. Where are the Bo Bo's?"
Tate: "Cool." (Tate speak for "school". Yay!!)
5 minutes later....
Tate: "Sissy?"
Me: "Sissy's at school. Where is Sissy?"
Tate: "Cool."

Sort of like an actual conversation! I LOVE this age!! New words and experiences all the time.

* I have a little update I need to post at some point about my migraines but I have been seeing my chiropractor regularly for almost 2 weeks and I think I may be having fewer headaches. I know they have been less intense when I have them so I am again, cautiously optimistic that this approach may at least help.

PHEW!! If you read this far, you get a gold star. More pictures of the kids to come, because really, what's a post without pictures of the kids, right? Happy Monday, friends.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The day before Thanksgiving...

We visited this lovely bearded man--do you notice there are only 3/4 of the Olsen children? Yes, Tate refused to even get out of the stroller. But thankfully, there was no screaming involved this time. Like the time we were at the furniture store 2 weeks ago and there was an unexpected visit from a nice jolly white-bearded fellow. There was a lot of screaming that time. But this is a great picture of the older 3. And Santa was very nice. Except when Zoe said she wanted a doll, he asked "a big doll or a little doll?" and of course, Zoe said "a HUGE doll...please." Oh boy. Santa better get shopping!

The kids got to take a super fun ride on the train. Here is Mr. Independent. He really wanted to ride in the first car, since that is where the bell is. So he did. With 3 little girls we didn't know. :)

And there's the caboose! What a great day. We all love when there's no school!

P.S. A very Happy Birthday to my dear friend Sarah! She's a loyal reader and one of my oldest friends--not that she's old (haha) but I've known her forever. Happy birthday, sweet friend! Love you and miss you, and I am putting your card in the mail TODAY! :)

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Really, what's the point of the brush? Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

More house work!

No more major re-do's but there is a lot of cleaning and purging that we have to do in a lot of areas of our home. I am more of a "let's keep that and decide later if we want to throw it away" kind of person, while Buck tends to throw it out now and think later. :) Needless to say, I usually win so there are lots of piles of "stuff" everywhere! I decided to tackle our office/library/computer room/piano room--really I should just call it the "catch-all" room. It's beautiful with great built-in cabinets but the books have been in exactly the same places since we moved in (almost 4 years ago), at which time I was so tired of boxes of books that I just threw books up on the shelves. My intention was to group books by subject and then add some of our little treasures around them as well. I am not a big knick-knack person but my one weakness is nativity scenes. I collect them from all over the world (literally) and have not had a great place to display them and could never decided if I wanted them out all year or only at Christmas or if I wanted them in various places around the house, or just in one room. So with a little help from my organizational queen friend Ann, she got the ball rolling and I took it from there. Here is the before shot of the library shelves:

DURING (yes, there was a method to my madness...all those piles had a purpose!)

And AFTER! AHHH...Just a big sigh of relief...

There are the sections that I had always wanted: textbooks, fiction, parenting, marriage, spiritual growth, business, and of course I have a whole shelf devoted to midwifery and birthing books! And believe it or not--I learned this trick from organizational queen Ann--there are more books hiding behind the books that are displayed. Yes, I'm a nerd. I have THAT many books.

Here are a few of my nativity scenes. The black set on the left is from my sister-in-law's trip to Uganda. The colorful one in front was from my mom's trip to France. The wood one in the back was from our high school youth pastors' trip to Israel--that was our wedding gift. It is extra-special to me since Buck and I met in our high school youth group. :) The wood one on the right is from my uncle (who used to be a photographer for National Geographic magazine)'s trip to Nigeria. Anyone traveling anywhere fun soon? :)

The nativity on the far left is one I just bought on our trip to Riviera Maya. I had to buy it because all of the people are kind of chubby and smiling, and the baby Jesus is in a hammock for goodness sake. How great is that? Like he's taking a siesta. The stone one on the right was from my mother-in-law's trip to Kenya, when she visited hospice facilities there and did some training with the workers there. She is a hospice administrator here in Iowa.

The woven bowl is from our friends Eric and Becky, from their trip to Ethiopia to bring home their daughter D. The small nativity in front is from my mom's trip to Italy (she is quite the world traveler, huh?). The blue one in the back is a little hard to make out but it is cool in person. It is from Canterbury, England, which I got on my once-in-a-lifetime trip to England and France after I graduated from nursing school.

I love how colorful this one is. It is from Haiti. My mom just went there this past spring on a mission trip. Buck and I both spent time in Haiti while we were in college, and being in Haiti is when God laid it on my heart to adopt sometime in the future (I would have done it right then and there, but I was a 20-year-old college sophomore!)

And this one is from one very special place--can you guess? Yep, Ethiopia. Zoe has one waiting for her too, when she is older. And next to the nativity, that maroon leather book is an Amharic (the language spoken in Ethiopia) Bible. It is absolutely beautiful. G-Funk gave it to Zoe on her baptism day.

So thank you for indulging me in the little tour of my shelves. And who knows, maybe inspiration has hit and you can clean off some of your shelves too! Happy day, friends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A little update

Remember how this sassy sweetheart has had to rock an eye patch for the past 3 months? Well, she has been such a trooper. She just takes whatever life hands her and does it with flair. We had our follow-up appointment with the fabulous Dr. S yesterday and had some mixed results. While the vision in her weak eye (eye that was not patched) has improved slightly, the eye that was patched (formerly the strong eye) has seen some decreased vision over the past 3 months. This is to be expected because of the patching. However. Interesting to note--Dr. S says at this point, Zoe's overall vision is still so poor that she would not legally be able to drive. Whoa!! I had no idea it was that bad. But the good news is that it is potentially still correctable. We just need to keep working at it, patching when it needs to be patched and staying on top of it. The vision that she has when she is around 8 years of age is the vision that she will have as she moves into adulthood. So we still have a few years to work with it. It is amazing what the eyes and the optic nerves can do and adjust to! We are just overwhelmingly thankful, as always, that this was caught so very early, that we have such an amazing pediatric ophthalmologist right here in our backyard, and that she can read and write and play soccer and all of those things that require vision! :)

So the treatment at this point is much less painless (not that it was painful per se--I just felt SO bad for Zoe with that patch every day at school--it literally drained the life out of her). We have to patch her eye for just 2 hours a day, and NOT while she is at school. Praise the Lord. I kid you not, that is an answer to prayer. We are going to be alternating the patch--right eye one day, left eye the next day--for 3 months, then she gets 2 months off from the patch entirely. We don't have to visit our fantastic Dr. S for another 5 months. Our little Miss is most unforgettable and our optical tech and the nurses readily remember her each time we go, even if it's been 5 months. :) At this point her chances of needing surgical correction for anything are about 30 % and I'm not entirely sure what would cause us to need surgery...but I'm holding on tight to the 70% part of that equation. As you can tell, we are very thankful for the great care that Zoe has received with her vision. As far as ongoing medical problems go, I will take this one any day--6 pairs of broken glasses and all! Her glasses and the patch just add to her sparkly little personality. Her teacher told me the other day when I said we were hopefully going to be getting rid of the patch that she would be a little sad to see it go--it's just part of what makes Zoe who she is. :) That's our girl.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2 years ago...

On November 14 at 6:52 in the evening, after a very long day of not much happening at all...then about an hour and a half of A LOT happening...then 2 pushes...this sweet, sweet baby boy came flying into our world...

Smaller than we all much sweeter than we could have imagined!

Nothing is much more precious than a bundled up newborn...