Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Saturday . . . so far

The girls went to the Easter Egg Hunt at church this morning and both came back with treats.  I had told Alannah that this year she could not hunt for eggs because she's too old, but the 10,11 and 12 year olds were given the opportunity to get candy after all of the little kids did.  The girls quickly made trades and then ran outside to play with the neighbors.  All of them are holding baby dolls in our front yard and pretending to be at the beach. They had planned a picnic, but time ran away with them and they will do so another day.

I made 18 hard-boiled eggs and 5 of them cracked, so we are having egg salad sandwiches for lunch.  It's chore day and I'm nearly done cleaning the living room and dining room and will also work on the TV room. For the first time the girls will work together to clean the kitchen and the bathroom.  Usually that's my job, but one of them made a mess with orange drink and it's all over the counter, down the cupboard and on the floor, so she'll be cleaning it up.  When I heard, "That's not fair! It was an accident!" I simply responded with the fact it would not be fair for someone else to clean up her accident.  Her Fair-O-Meter agreed with that and she'll be cleaning it up after lunch.

That's all for now.  The vacuum is calling my name!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

The girls did not have school today and I did not have to go to the office. Of course, Michael preached at our 8 p.m. Good Friday service.  He and Alannah volunteered at church today to prep for the Easter Egg Hunt tomorrow, and J and I ran some errands and had breakfast at Bob Evans.  We all had a great day.  I even took a little nap while the kids played outside with the neighbors getting muddy and having fun. 

Michael called me at 7:30 to sing an anthem in church at 8 p.m. that he mistakenly had in the order of worship. Yikes.  I printed the lyrics and headed out the door with the girls.  I rehearsed in the multi-purpose room while the girls sat in the sanctuary in silence with the rest of the congregation.  

Tonight was a rare occasion. We sat in the front pew with Michael.  He always sits behind the communion railing, but tonight the cross blocked access. So we sat together, and it was lovely. J wore a sleeveless dress and was very cold through the service, so she sat on my lap for a large part of the sermon. When I sang Why after the sermon and returned to the pew, the girls were snuggled together and remained so for the rest of the service. The songs were contemplative and the readings made us all reflect on why Jesus had to die: for the sins of the world - including me.

After walking home, we got into our pajamas (no PJ race tonight) and had our family devotions while the girls snuggled again.  J asked if she could pray because "I have the PERFECT prayer in my head!" The girls tilted their heads together, held hands and closed their eyes as J prayed a beautiful prayer in gratitude for God sending Jesus to save us from our sins.

If I was asked, "Would you rather have a million dollars or nightly family devotions?" I would answer DEVOTIONS. These moments with these two precious girls are priceless to Michael and me.  Priceless.  And that's how God thinks about YOU too.  For He sent His only Son to pay the price of sin which is death.  For grace is free to us, but it cost Jesus His very life.

Looking forward to tomorrow when we'll color our Easter eggs and attend a Passion Drama. God is so good.

This made me laugh

My friend, Lisa, told me this story about my daughter tonight:

She saw J before church on Palm Sunday. J walked over to the bench where she was sitting and reached under it to pick up a piece of paper.  J exclaimed in astonishment, "What is THIS?! Who would LITTER in God's house?!"  

I love it. 

Total Immersion

Our daughter, J, has been with us for 112 days.  Between Sunday School, parochial school, daily reading from her Children's Bible, prayers at random times as well as meals and bedtime, and listening to K-Love, she's been completely immersed in "that Jesus thing."  I put that in quotes because the first day we met her, she asked if when we went to church that she could stay home because she'd "already done that Jesus thing and was all over that now." I calmly looked at her and said, "It's against the law for a 6-year old to stay at home alone."  By law we cannot force her to participate in worship, but she must at least sit in the pew.  And that's how it started.

Christmas Eve was her first worship service and she loved the Family Service with Wooley the sheep puppet and the mini operetta by the kids to the song, "Mary's Little Boy Child."  

She didn't like Sunday School because she "didn't know anybody" but now she loves, loves, loves it.  The first time she sang in the Psalm 95 Sunday School Choir sang, she was animated and loud. I can't wait to hear her sing on Easter Sunday. 

IN WORSHIP
She learned the Apostles' Creed at school and we taught her the Lord's Prayer, and she proclaims both loudly in church. Many people have commented to me how they love hearing her above the rest of the congregation and how they hope she never stops being so bold. The first time we said the Nicene Creed, her brow furrowed in frustration. She loves being involved in worship. Oh, that everyone in church loved being involved in worship as much as she does! 

Last night at the Maundy Thursday service, we sang The Lamb, a song she learned in chapel and that we sing regularly during family devotions. When I asked her if she liked singing it in church, she yelled, "YES!"  I chuckle every time she sings, "Worthy is the LAMB whose death makes me his own" with beautiful abandon.  You know the song/quote "I hope you dance," well, I hope she always worship with this childlike heart.  She inspires me to do so!

SELF-ESTEEM IS NOT THE GOAL
One thing that broke my heart when J first came to our home was her flat response to my compliment about how pretty she was: "I don't think I'm pretty."  The fact is she's gorgeous. People tell me all the time how cute she is, how adorable she is and several have used the word gorgeous.  One day I casually asked her to do me a favor: J, can you please stop being so cute?  She was taken aback but immediately crossed her eyes, stuck out her tongue and moved her jaw to the left. "PERFECT!" I said, "that is not cute at all!" Then she smiled at me and I quickly cried, "No, no, no, no!  That's cute again!  Go back to the not cute!"  Well, this silly tradition has gone on for a few months, but last week when I asked her to not be so cute, she had this to say:  "I can't help it! That's how God made me!"  Ahhhhhhhhh.  I used this theme today for our Talk for the Babies time with a unicorn she owns. Annika the Unicorn was not happy to have a horn, and J responded, "Wait a minute.  God gave you that horn.  Don't say you don't like it because that's saying that God made a mistake. He didn't. He gave you the horn. Do me a favor, okay? Like yourself just the way God made you."  

I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of that statement. 

With "self-esteem" as a buzzword to increase regarding children in any setting, I saw my daughter transcend "self-esteem" by making it not about HER but about GOD.  This is the answer to our prayers and I know the dear Lord is so happy to have one of His children removed from the clenches of the evil one.  She is HIS child now!

BAPTISM
And speaking of that . . . it's time to record on my blog about her upcoming baptism.  J has wanted to be baptised for a couple of months, but we wanted to wait until her adoption was final, which will be in May or June.  She saw her first baptism a couple of weeks ago and was mesmerized. "Will I get a candle too?" was her only question, but several times she'd lean into me and say "Look at that!"

So I bought her a baptism dress on eBay, which is where I purchased Alannah's.  Both girls will have keepsakes, although one will be size 3 months and the other a girls' size 7. She tried it on this week and twirled in joy. Michael told her she looked beautiful! I blinked back a couple of tears.  She asked me today if she could wear it on Easter, and it was difficult for me to tell her no, but I did. The dress is for her baptism.  

A couple of weeks ago I introduced her to my friend Emily. "J, Emily is a florist and I'd like her to make a bouquet for your baptism day.  Would you please tell her what flowers you'd like?"  Oh, my.  She was not expecting that!  But she quickly said, "Roses and lilies and . . . . violets!"  Emily smiled and wrote her request on a piece of paper.  I cannot wait to see what beauty she creates for J.

Another detail for her baptism day is the service itself.  I wanted it to be during a contemporary service because I pick the songs for the Heartsong Choir to sing. I chose her favorites:  Chief of Sinners, The Lamb and I am the Resurrection. When I mentioned these choices to her, she gasped.  "YES!"  Then she tilted her head and asked, "Wait, we get to pick the songs?"  I chuckled and said, "We know the pastor."  When I shared this story at work, Pastor Korte said, "That's one of the few perks of being a pastor's kid!"  

I also asked Aja if she would sing an anthem, Hello, My Name Is by Matthew West. She agreed and then asked if she could do another mini operetta like she did on Christmas Eve with the kids. YAY!  What a great idea!  When I mentioned this to J, she again was ecstatic. "I wish I could be baptized sooner!"  

One last thing about her baptism and then I'll share a final story.  

While we were playing Talk for the Babies yesterday, Lamby the stuffed lamb asked, "What do you want written on your baptism cake?  How about I Am Jesus' Little Lamb?"  J thought for a moment and said, "Hmm. How about 'You Are Mine Forever.'"  I smiled and sighed in contentment.  "Yes, that's it.  You are mine forever.  That's what baptism is, J."

WHAT HAPPENED IN 112 DAYS
Some people have asked what J's spiritual background is.  Basically her first foster family took her to church and to a parochial preschool when she was three years old for the six months she lived with them.  

So how did she go from zero to baptism in 112 days?  Total immersion. All of our family's lives are about following God.  We are sinners in need of a savior. We learn about God, talk about Him, talk to Him, follow His commands and encourage each other to do so. 

I happened to stumble across a link to a blog posting called Why I Would Never Force My Kids to Go to Church and realized the author was a friend of mine, Ruth Meyer, who's husband has preached for Michael when he's been on vacation. She encapsulated well what is in my heart about the importance of parents teaching their children to love the Lord and why it's important for them to go to church. 

Both of my girls love going to church and Sunday School, and they love their school and our family devotions.  Most importantly, they love Jesus!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time does fly! We are having fun!

I don't wish for more hours in the day.  I'm enjoying life during the hours I have.  

Today we received a gift from a dear woman at church: she hauled all of her Easter candy molds to church along with several pounds of white chocolate and milk chocolate and taught my girls how to make Easter candy. They made solid bunnies, hollow bunnies, solid eggs, hollow eggs, chocolate suckers, bite-size chocolates and more.  

Both girls are dreaming of Sunday as I would not let them nibble on the sweet treats today. 

I have photos but will have to wait to post them until after J's adoption is final in May or June.  

Life is hard, but good.  God is good all the time.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sweet Somethings

Last night as I tucked J in bed for the night, I decided to speak to her about Alannah for the first time.  Many times I've explained to Alannah why J acts or says something that is inappropriate or even wrong, but I've not done the reverse.  I wanted to talk to J about Alannah's struggle seeing her mom and dad love another child. I know J understands that sometimes Alannah is angry for no reason, but I know the reason is jealousy. 

I explained to J that Alannah had been an only child for 12 years, and now she was learning to share her parents.  Sometimes when Alannah sees us with her, she gets very upset when we are laughing and playing.  I said, "She sometimes think that I love you more than I love her."

J was very serious when she responded.  "I know that she thinks that because I've heard her say it.  But if I was Alannah, I would believe that you loved me because you tell me that you love me and I believe you."  

We'd not talked about this before, but for some reason I was not surprised that she believed that I loved her.  However, I was very curious.  "Why do you believe that I love you?"

Her answer was emphatic.  "Because you don't let me do anything I want!  Like when I had the knife you wouldn't let me go like this - " she held out her hand like she was holding a knife and thrashed it back and forth - "so I wouldn't hurt myself.  

The right way to chop a carrot
The wrong way to chop a carrot
Ahhhhh.  Last month I taught her how to cut a carrot using my chef knife holding the tip stationary on the cutting board and lifting the knife up and down while moving the carrot towards the blade.  It was a terrifying experience.  J kept lifting the knife like it was a cleaver over a piece of raw meat; she could not remember to keep the tip on the board; a couple of times I nearly lost an eye. I kept saying, "I want you to be safe and I don't want you to hurt anyone.  Please keep the tip on the board."  I saw the exercise through to completion without losing patience, and I guess that experience had an impact on her. I had no idea teaching her how to use a sharp knife would be the impetus for her believing that I loved her, but now I know and am very grateful.

I'm praying for Alannah daily that she will come to understand that love is not divided when a family gets bigger, it is multiplied.  I love my oldest daughter so much and I always will.  I spoke words of truth over her last night, and I will continue to do so.  She's amazing.

Thank you, Lord, for being my Father. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Three months!

Today is the third month anniversary of having our foster daughter, J, in our home. These three months have been the most rewarding and heart-wrenching days of our lives, and I would not change one thing.

Since it's been a couple of weeks since I blogged, I'll again use bullet points to recall some of our recent escapades:

  • One Saturday I took J on a mother-daughter day while Michael took Alannah on a daddy-daughter day. We went to Tony's for breakfast, and she ate an entire cheese omelet.  As we got into the car to leave, she burped and I looked at her in the rear-view mirror and dead-panned our family joke, "Is there a big hairy man in the backseat?"  She laughed and replied, "No! He's in the car with your other daughter!" Oh, how sweet it was to hear her use those words and imply she is my daughter!
  • After breakfast we went to a thrift store, JoAnn Fabrics and a consignment shop. While we were in JoAnn's I issued a challenge:  "J, if you do not beg me to buy you something here or at the next store, I will get you a treat afterwards."  She asked if it was okay to show me beautiful things, and I said yes.  So she showed me dozens of beautiful things at JoAnn's but never begged me to buy them.  I was very proud of her. She told me, "I am a beggar!"  I responded that begging was not polite and that I'd like her to change that habit.  She also did well at the second store.  Nearly two weeks later she was in Meijer with Michael and she asked him, "Am I a beggar?"  He knew about the challenge I'd given her, so he said, "No, you are not begging today." She was quite pleased with herself and I was happy to know she'd been thinking about my words.
  • About two weeks ago as I kissed J good-night, I whispered, "I love you."  Then I realized that she was always a bit uncomfortable when I said that because she had no response for me.  She's told me, "I don't love you yet" so I know she's not ready to fully trust me, and that's okay. But I felt like I could give her an option to say when I tell her I love her, so I said, "You've told me you don't love me yet, but perhaps when I tell you that I love you, you can say back to me, 'I'm happy here.'" She wrinkled her nose at that, something new, when she so clearly loves something familiar. I continued, "Because I think you are happy here.  You giggle all the time."  She giggled.  "You laugh."  She laughed.  "You give me hugs and want to be with me. You're happy.  You could tell me that, you know."  She didn't say anything, and I was glad to not hear her say she wasn't happy.  So this week she told Michael, "You know, I'm happy here."  Oh, my.  My heart nearly stopped when he told me that.  I didn't need to hear her tell me because I already knew it to be true.  I was just happy that now she realized it too!
  • Monday of this week was a hard, hard day. The girls were having a fabulous time after school, playing together and just being silly.  I could tell they had a lot of energy to burn, so I suggested they play outside.  They quickly asked if they could play with the neighbors - something we usually don't allow on a school night.  But they had no homework, so I said yes.  Two hours later Alannah came home by herself, saying that J had had a huge temper tantrum playing Capture the Flag, kicked her and would not come home when Alannah said it was time to go. A few moments later, Aja brought J home, and she was in tears. She passed by me to hang up her coat and muttered, "That's a horrible game!" I let her cry for a few minutes and she went upstairs.  I saw her blanket and held it for when she came back down. She was still crying and wanted her blanket. We walked to my room so I could comfort her and talk to her.  She had not liked going to jail after she was tagged and also didn't like Alannah talking to her "like a parent" when it was time to leave. I spoke to her at length about sportsmanship, but this was a new concept to her.  I also told her that Alannah had gotten in trouble many times for not being home on time, and that I'd made sure she was wearing her watch and knew when she was to be home.  I explained that if she didn't want to listen to Alannah about when it was time to leave, then I would not make Alannah be responsible for her; so I would have to go outside and play with her when she wanted to play with the neighbors, but I didn't like playing in the cold so she'd have to stay home a lot.  She thought this was terribly unfair, but I explained how it wasn't. Then I asked her if there was any physical altercation like hitting or kicking that happened.  She sniffled and said, "No."  I pressed her a bit harder, "Are you telling me that you did not kick Alannah?" Her eyes grew wide and she started crying again.  I gave her the same speech I'd given Alannah at this same age:  Do not lie to me because of all of the people in the world, you want Daddy and me to trust you.  Then I spoke words of truth over her while she reclined into my shoulder.  After a time, I said softly, but firmly, "And J, you cannot lie to me."  At that she sat up and hugged me tightly, crying one last time. She softly whispered, "I'm sorry."  I forgave her.  I'll always forgive her.  Then I said it was time to apologize to Alannah.  This apology was harder for her, but she spoke all of the words we'd been teaching her for the last month.  Then I said it was time to apologize to her friends for her tantrum.  "No!" she exclaimed.  I gave her two choices: apologize on the phone or in person.  She quickly chose the phone and called to speak to Aja.  She mumbled her way through an apology and then yelled, "Stacey made me do this!" and hung up. Then she yelled at me, "You shouldn't make people do things! It's not nice!"  I calmly responded, "Parents make their kids do things all the time.  They make them go to school or go to bed. They make them eat their vegetables or take their medicine.  I didn't make you do anything that harmed you.  I didn't make you eat dirt.  I made you apologize to your friends for having a tantrum during a game.  I know lots of adults that still can't lose a game without getting mad, and I don't want you to have your friends not want to play games with you.  I made you apologize so you are a better person."  My goodness, all of the fight went out of her and she hugged me.  It was time to read and do devotions, so she asked if we could open the sofa bed in the living room and read together.  Alannah and she laid on each side of me as I read "The First Easter" for forty minutes. 
  • After reading together, we were happy when Michael came home.  I called a family meeting because I was ready for some emotional support.  Alannah was angry with me for not punishing J like she expected me to do, and nothing I said would penetrate her anger.  She then told me that she knew that J was my favorite child, and I said firmly, "Do NOT believe that lie straight from the devil himself!  I love you both and absolutely do not have a favorite!"  We all sat on our bed and I asked God to give me words.  I opened my mouth and said, "I am sorry I've been impatient lately.  Will you forgive me?  I'll do better.  Also, I love God, and love you, Michael and I love you, girls."  I turned to Michael for him to speak. I could tell he was startled, and I was too!  I had no idea I was going to say those words!  He echoed me, and then Alannah did too. When it was J's turn, she sing-songed, "I love your love!"  She denied that's what she said, but then she repeated "I love your love!"  I'm not sure if she didn't want to admit it or if she really didn't say it, but that's what Michael and I both heard.  Then she began confessing many things she'd done in the past weeks.  "I'm sorry I did this; I'm sorry I did that."  Michael and I were startled again!  Then she said, "I think we should thank God for everything He's given us." And so we took turns praying and giving thanks.  What a day it was.  So rewarding and so exhausting.  
  • The next morning Alannah woke and came directly to me to give me a hug and say, "I love you."  A few moments later J came to me and hugged me for over a minute.  I guess the hard work the night before was meaningful for both of them!
  • Alannah was in the school play and did a super job as a farmer in the Prodigal Son scene.  She sang the alto part in every song, and had great enthusiasm dancing. I was so proud of her, and J was impressed too.  One Sunday Alannah was asked to do a skit in church at the last minute, and she did a fabulous job at that too.  She's a naturally expressive reader.  :D  She's struggling with some things now that she's an older sister, but I know she'll work through them with lots of prayer and God's help as she does with all of her problems.  
  • J got an "A" on her March book report, which was to read a book to the class.  We had practiced many times, and it paid off.  Her teacher gave her 100% on the assignment and wrote, "She read with great expression and enthusiasm.  I could tell she loved the book."  J is now quite the reader, and I told her she'd make a great librarian.  Her interest was piqued at that.  This week she was assigned to read part of the chapel service her class is conducting after spring break. She practices at school and at home every day.  Last night she stood while she practiced and took direction on how to pause and how to clearly pronounce "weary" and "dreary" together in the poem.  She is quite proud that she was assigned the part, but has already said how nervous she is to speak before everyone for the first time.  I have a feeling she's going to do a fabulous job. 
  • Today I told J that it was exactly three months since she'd moved in with us.  She thought for just a moment and asked, "Then it's only three more months til I'm adopted?"  Yes.  She gave a loud "YAY!" and jumped up and down before jumping onto my lap.  Yay, indeed!  WOO HOO, GOD!  Thank you for both of my awesome daughters!  



Monday, March 10, 2014

And on the 73rd day she said this . . .

March is Read-A-Thon month in many parochial schools in America, and once again I offered to read to classes at the girls' school. Today I read to J's class, a split class of kindergarteners and first graders. J and I had practiced reading "The Diary of a Worm" over the weekend and decided it was the perfect book for the class. The book was very humorous and allowed J to read the captioned dialogue while I read the text. We made a great team.  I mentioned that she'd have to ask the teacher if it was okay for her to read with me.  She hoped she would be able to help me. 

This morning she asked if I would come with her to school today, and I reminded her that I was going to work and then coming to school to read to the class.  She got very animated, and I was happy to see her so excited.

I got to school at 2:25 and went to the office.  Mrs. W told the office that someone would come to get me, and in a few moments, my J peeked around the corner, opened the door and ran to give me a hug. She held me as we walked down the steps and the hallway to her class.  Mrs. W was reading a book about Monarch butterflies, and so J softly said, "You can put your coat by my desk."  After the book ended, J quickly asked, "Can I help her read?"  Mrs. W was surprised and said, "If your mom says it's okay, then you can."

And so we got two chairs and I began by telling the children I was about to read a book of fiction, not a non-fiction book like the book on butterflies that Mrs. W had just read.  I said, "This is a story about worms.  Who likes worms?" Every kid yelled, "ME-E-E-E-E-E!"  I deadpanned, "Not me."  It's true.  I'm no fisherwoman, and it's because of those worms.

We started reading the story, and everyone laughed at the funny parts just like we hoped. J loved saying in a sing-song voice, "Good morning!  Good morning!  Howdy do!  Good morning!  How are you?  Good morning!"  Too adorable.

After the story ended, the kids went to their lockers to get their coat and backpack.  Mrs. W said to me softly, "I know she calls you 'Stacey' but twice today she told the class that her mom was coming to read."  Those two little words took my breathe away. J asked if I could read again, and the teacher said, "Any time, not just in March."  J's jaw dropped and she yelled, "Tomorrow!"  I smiled and said, "Next Monday, please."

So we headed to the library to find another funny mother-daughter book to read next Monday, and we were successful.  We discovered a sequel to the book we read today called, "Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet." While we were there, we read three Pinkalicious books while Alannah did her homework. I checked out five books for her and tonight we read two more in addition to the story of Elijah and the Widow in her Children's Bible.  One of the stories was a soft, bedtime book, and I coached J to use a soft, gentle tone instead of her usual loud and expressive librarian tone. She often started a new page loudly and then remembered to speak gently for the rest of the page. 


We've read 260 minutes in March so far, and I say this without reservation:  my sweet J LOVES to read!  Woo hoo!


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Groovin' on a Tuesday afternoon

Okay, we are still in the groove. It's been a week and a half and everything is going so smoothly that I am truly surprised.  First things, first. J is no longer exclaiming, "Jesus Christ!" when she is surprised.  After she'd read the 10 commandments, she never said that again.

Homework is going smoothly, memory work is fabulous, playtime and clean up time are great, dinner and hygiene couldn't be better, all clean clothes are in drawers or hung in the closet.  We only had one little hiccup and that was when a caseworker came for a visit and she completely shut down, not listening to Michael or respecting the worker. The next day I asked why she did that, but she had no answer.  I usually try not to put words in her mouth by asking a "yes" or "no" question, but I asked her this, "Do you not want visits anymore because you'd like to put that part of your life behind you?"  Her eyes grew wide and she yelled, "YES!"  

We had a crazy busy week last week: spaghetti dinner at school on Wednesday, Read-A-Thon kick-off at school on Thursday, soup and sandwich dinner at church on Friday, school dance for Alannah on Friday with a sleepover after that.  Saturday was chore day and then J went to my sister's house while Michael and I went to a comedy show with my parents and some friends, and Alannah stayed home to work on her research paper. 

J was very excited to go to Angie's house and hoped to spend the night.  We took Matteus with us so he could hang out with Jacob, Alexa and Chelsea, too. Angie told me that J was very animated there, but didn't eat much. She talked and talked and had lots of ideas.  Angie told me that J looked for common interests between them, for example, asking her if she liked cake.  Angie said, yes, she liked cake and cupcakes.  At this, J gasped and said, "I have an idea! Let's play a work game! Like, you say 'cup' and I'll say 'cake.'  You go first!"  Angie said, "Uhhhh."  I had told her several times that J has lots of ideas, but she was not prepared for this fun game.  (She was laughing so hard when she told me this story.)

Sunday we went to early church because Alannah sang in the kids' choir.  J asked if she was singing, too, but I told her it was for third through seventh graders.  She did not know the song, but at the late service was singing the chorus as she sat in the balcony while I directed. 

For the first time, the four of us ate a restaurant together, and we had a blast. We laughed and giggled and told our inside jokes.  One of our family jokes revolves around burping.  A few weeks ago J burped loudly and I pretended to be very startled as I questioned, "Is there a big, hairy man in the room?  Certainly that big burp didn't come out of a 6-year old!?"  So that is now our family joke and we say it nearly every day.  The funniest thing is when Michael burps and we say, "THERE'S the big hairy man!" We have gotten so much mileage out of that joke, and I'll laugh for the next 10 years at it.

J's book report for March is different because this time she has to read a favorite book to the class.  She really doesn't have a favorite book because she's only been reading and been read to since she moved in with us.  Her reading level has skyrocketed, and sometimes I can hardly remember that she hated reading and was very behind in it when she came to us. But she does own a Pinkalicious book, and I had gotten another one from the library for her. Last night we read it for the first time, and it's wonderful. When she sight read the word "immediately" I was surprised and exclaimed, "How old are you?  That was a big word for a little girl to read without sounding it out!"  She beamed at me and throughout that book and the other FOUR books she read, she would stop reading after she read a long word and ask, "Is that word too big for me too?"  I would nod every time and agree that the word was VERY big for her to read.  

After school today the girls came to me and J yelled, "MONSTER MOM!"  This meant she wanted some running and playing between us. We wrestled around on my bed and I would hold one of them while the other would try to release them from my hands or legs. J would tickle my feet and I would let Alannah go.  She'd yell, "You're free!  Run!"  Alannah would run away, and I would snare J, and then Alannah would help her. Oh, my stars, we had fun. 

They asked if they could give me a hand massage, and of course I said "yes." They each got a bowl of hot water to soak my hands and massage my fingers and palm, then they got towels to dry my hands before using hand lotion on them. Then they asked if they could do my hair, and J ran to get her bucket of hair accessories. Alannah worked on the right front of my hair and J worked on the left.  The girls took pictures of me and then we did Alannah's hair and then J's.  I have photos of both of them and I asked if we could recreate the look in the spring and take photos outside. 


Tonight Michael and J and Alannah reclined on the sofa bed and I used the bed as my footstool as we had our nightly family devotions.  J read Pinkalicious and the Pinkeriffic Playdate to all of us to practice her book report, and her expressiveness is a source of pride for her and a source of pride and wonder for us.  I love reading with expression, and always have, and both she and Alannah follow my example and read with incredible drama.  Several times tonight we all clapped for her as she cheered, questioned, mumbled, and whined in appropriate places.  While she read, Alannah would nuzzle J or smile at her or encourage her. They giggled when Pinkalicious and Rose giggled and they shouted in stereo at the funny parts. I cannot express how absolutely heart-warming this scene was between the two of them while Michael and I watched.

Alannah read our devotion and it got us thinking about how to support the missionary our congregation supports. J read the story of David playing his harp for King Saul, and then I suggested that we pray for the missionaries and for Michael's feet to heal (he has bone spurs on both feet and had his first medical treatment today: cortisone shots and foot wrapping).  J said, "I'll pray for them!"  We all closed our eyes and J spoke softly, "God, may the Lord bless them and keep them.  May's the Lord's face shine upon them and be gracious to them.  May the Lord look upon them with favor, and give them His peace. God, help Michael's feet to heal so he does not have to use that walking stick. Amen." 

I could hardly breathe. My throat was constricted with the full emotion of her beautiful benediction and prayer.  Michael said, "Wow."  I said, "Your said your prayer as beautifully as how you read "Pinkalicous," and you ROCKED reading "Pinkalicious!" She just smiled and said, "Let's say that to Michael!" And so all three of us females laid our hands on Michael's feet and softly spoke the benediction over him.

She's lived with us for 67 days, but it seems like so much longer, and I cannot imagine life without her.  Once again, God is so good!  All the time!

EDIT - - - At bedtime the girls were very energetic from all of the activities of the day, so I decided to sing to them to calm them down. J began singing, "Chief of Sinners Though I Be," her school song from last month, and Alannah joined her in three verses.  Then we sang "Jesus Loves Me" and J's request.  I hugged and kissed them both and then went to bed myself, thanking God for bringing our family together.