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Well, I did a little research today and found out that the people we saw yesterday were not Amish, but Old Order Mennonites.  Similar in some ways, but very different in others.  The store we were at had electricity, and the aprons for sale had colors and patterns on them.  Hard for a Yankee to understand, but apparently, there are many sects, and even the Amish have many different beliefs.  So, instead of changing my post, I will acknowledge here that they were not Amish, but still very plain.

I had such a lovely day today!  It started out with sleeping in (no school today, so I did not have to get cracking till 7:30) and some mad cleaning.  My mom, my Aunt and a friend came over to see my house and have lunch with us.  It began snowing right before they came which shortly transformed the gray dreariness and made my road seem delightful.  When they arrived, the girls and I showed them around, and I tried to get a word in edge-wise.  Man, those girls of mine can talk! Well, to be honest, it was mostly the youngest.  More on that later.

We watched a “show” put on by I. who demanded that we all sit in chairs and NOT TALK, and pay attention to her as she sang and ran around.  Then S. read a book to everyone (she was an angel, sweet, polite, helpful) and then I sent the girls upstairs so I could have a turn to talk.  The adults women talked about decorating and interesting things and then we all had a delightful lunch.  I. was actually quiet while her mouth was full, but that was the last time she was quiet today!

After lunch we set out on an adventure.  All loaded up in my Mom’s van, we went to a nearby town and visited an interesting furniture store that had some very cool things in it.  My Mom and I have decided that we need to make hooked rugs after seeing their impressive collection.  We wandered around for a while and enjoyed thinking of decorating ideas.

Then the fun began.  We had heard that there was a small Amish community about an hour away from this little town that had some interesting shops, so we decided to see if we could find it.  We then proceeded to spend the next four hours in the van to end up at a small grocery store and buy some butter!  Actually, we had a hard time finding anything since Amish people tend to live in the stix.  And I thought that I was remote!  We saw a sign that I regretted reading aloud, “The Treasure Barn” because when it turned out to be “Scary Junk Shack” I. could not understand why we were not going to get treasures here.  By this point in the trip, I was wishing I had left her at home, she was suffering from no nap, feeling left out, and a terrible sense of self-importance.  She is loud ALL the time, but hours in the van with her can leave you deaf.

After the “Treasure Barn,” we were feeling less sure of ourselves and our ability to find our way back to civilization, so we ended up stopping at a children’s home.  This was very interesting.  We only went there because it looked like a place that might have a bathroom and people who could help us.  It turned out to be a pretty amazing place.  The founders have cared for over 800 children who have either been from foreign countries and needing expensive surgeries, orphans with special needs, or babies born to prison inmates.  They also run a school and many industries.  The couple themselves adopted over 30 children, and continue to help so many.  I was impressed with their vision and willingness to care for the least of us.

They told us the way to an Amish grocery, and so we actually did find what we were looking for.  I was THRILLED to drive up behind a real-life Amish horse and buggy.  It had the orange triangle on the back and everything!  At the store (it was like a bulk foods place) we found many wonderful things and for amazing prices.  There were a couple of families there speaking in , I think, German- not sure on that one- with the outfits and everything.  My Aunt bought my girls all handmade Amish girl aprons and we all bought cool stuff including jam, spoons, dried pineapples, butter, jerky, a rolling-pin, and lots more.

The store was interesting because I could tell that the intended consumers wer people who cooked food from scratch in large quantities.  All the things for sale were for REAL cooking- big stainless mixing bowls, great wooden spoons, pans made for lots of use, and ingredients that took time.  They also had many herbs and such for alternative medicine, which were very fascinating.  There are times when I feel like I do not belong in a house on a farm with 10 kids, and then there are times like today, when I know that I do.

The sweet teenager that pulled up in a 15 passenger van with some siblings, made me smile and hope.  Obviously they were not Amish, but somehow, living surrounded by fresh eggs, buggies, and not much else, seems to make you feel differently.  When I am in the city- out for as much as a night on the town that my city can give- I tend to think about my waistline, my shoes, and what I am driving.  Being in the country, I begin to think about wearing dresses, how many rows of strawberries my land could produce, and building a chicken coup.   I thought at one point in my life that I was not this person.  That I would never buy bulk grain, homeschool, and raise goats, but sometimes- on days like today- I think, just maybe.

The ride home was hard.  I was carsick, I. was louder and more demanding, if that was possible, and I got us lost for a while.  But eventually we ended up back at my place, and we were all smiling and proud of our treasures.  It was a great day.  The company was wonderful, and adventures like these are what makes life so interesting.

I have not forgotten my new mission. Things with the adoption are just on hold for a while until we can get things settled here financially. My heart wants to jump in- despite the consequences, but I know this is not using wisdom. So unless things change, we will have to wait until this time next year to begin the adoption. This makes me sad, but I hope to use this year as a time to prepare for their coming, and to educate myself even more about adopting, Africa, and HIV/AIDS. I read this really good post today that answers many questions about adopting children that are HIV+. This is something we will consider, but we will need to do our homework first. I keep telling myself that a year is not that long, and making wise choices versus impulsive ones is better, but maybe what I really need to do is to stop spending hours reading blogs about people who are currently adopting! It kills me and at the same time, gives me such joyful anticipation of the time to come. I want to be a good steward of all that the Lord gives me, and that includes waiting time!

Do you know what friendship is… it is to be brother and sister; two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand. -Victor Hugo
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Today is your 29th birthday. That means I have known you a long time! This is one of those occasions that I do not mind indulging in nostalgia; thinking about our lives together. Much of our childhood I remember through pictures and shadowy recollections. Do you remember playing dogs- we used the plastic strap that went around the Tupperware cake holder as a leash held in our mouths? I also remember how we took our stuffed animals Dori and Beary-Bear everywhere we went. Those were sweet times, just the two of us living a perfect childhood.
 
I know that as we grew, there were many changes in our lives, but our friendship was always steadfast. Moving to Sherman Avenue gave us room to dig HUGE holes, pretend we were secret agents, ride bikes, and get married. What could be more natural than marrying your best friend? I never minded that we played G.I. Joes more than Care Bears, because it was with you. You were my closest companion, and we never were apart.
 
I think that was true all the way until I started High School. Even though we had many times of strife (remember how I would make you late for school every day and then leave you behind on the one day you were running late?), there was still the knowing that you were always there. I might have been moody and depressed, but you were still a constant friend. If you think about it, all those swim practices, youth group meetings, and days at the Y were all done together.
 
I remember how after I went to college, you really became very cool. I was so proud of you and all your accomplishments: seeing you swim at State, become Prom king, and receive scholarships- just to name a few. It is funny to me now that you were so mad that when I came home from school, it was a holiday, while you were so taken for granted! Roles sure have reversed!
 
But I think it has been as adults that we have really discovered the meaning of “brotherly love”. As I was moving into a time of life much different than yours, I think we began to really appreciate each other. How I laughed to see you driving that terrible gray van, but at the same time I admired your attitude that appearance did not matter. It was hard to see you make choices that would take you far away from us, but my heart was so glad to see you learning the lessons that were growing you into a godly man. I still knew that you would be excited to know that we had found a cool new house, or that I had actually run 10 miles. You may have been living a life I could not relate to, but I knew that your unfailing love was still a huge part of my life.
 
I am done with all that now, though. I am tired of you being so far away. I respect your need to have space and experiences that stretch you, but I am ready for you to again be a daily companion- and not just by email! I am still so proud of what you are doing, and who you are (and are still becoming) and yet, your absence has become a great source of sadness to me. I sometimes think that no one can understand you quite like your siblings. You know about “wax on, wax off,” about how vacuuming sooths the soul and why, about the Azda and all my embarrassing memories, you were there when we discovered Casey Kasem and secular radio that long summer in Atlanta, and you alone remember and understand the sweet innocence that was once my life. I love this and I am so thankful that 29 years ago, the Lord gave me a wonderful companion. I hope that someday you will live next-door and raise a family, but if you never do, and we are still parted for this life, I know that you are always my brother. And that is truly saying something. I love you.

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What can I say about this picture?  We gave her this outfit for Christmas, and I can not tell you how glad I am that she wants to wear it every day!

1. A cool new blog that makes me want to write

2. Jack Bauer night

3. Gob’s “magic tricks” – well, Arrested Development in general

4. Dogs, but not all dogs

5. The way my girls’ hair smells, sometimes like fruity shampoo, other times like wood smoke

6. The sound of my husband’s tires on the gravel driveway

7. Listening to music that makes my soul ache

8. Snuggling with my husband before I go to sleep

9. Saturday mornings that include Panera and garage sales

10. The sunshine that is my youngest daughter

11. Watching my oldest daughter learn to read and knowing- oh! knowing- all that is in store for her imagination

12. Finding the PERFECT thing that belongs in my house

13. Throwing stuff away

14. My middle daughter’s tender, beautiful heart

15. Cutting things- bushes, hair, fingernails- you name it

16. Realizing that God has indeed changed my heart

17. A cup of coffee and 3 hours alone with my bosom buddy

18. Camping in the mountains

19. Feeling a baby inside (not currently, just remembering!)

20. Having true hope

It has been a long time since I wrote last. Sometimes life is too intense to glibly write about it. When life feels this way, I am hard pressed to think of something “interesting” to write about- all I can do is wrestle with the issues at hand. Some bloggers are able to write a post every day, and I wonder- do they just find something benign to share while hiding their true reality? Or do they just not have thoughts like me? I know that I tend toward melancholy anyway, but I think others must have times that all they can think about is crisis and depression, and sadness. I wonder.

Anyway, I am coming out of the fog and feeling like tackling life again. I think I have shared before how I have struggled with the school situation that my eldest daughter is in. Her teacher is great, and all the people seem well-intentioned and kind. They always sought to address any issues I had, but how can they solve problems like underfunding, overcrowding, poverty, and ignorance in the school? They can’t, but I applaud them for trying to make a difference with the children that must be in these situations. We live in a poor rural area, and although these problems plague public schools everywhere, it was very close to home this week.

A boy that rides her bus brought a gun to school. It had an empty clip in it, and no one was hurt, but the thoughts of what might have happened terrified me. School shootings were not something I dealt with when I went to public school, and knowing how easy it is for a student to do this made me remember the risk we were taking to have her in this environment. I heard statistics lately about what kind of children are most likely to become shooters, and it turns out that white boys in the middle class that have absent fathers or bad relationships with their fathers, are the ones. This is not what one would stereotype as a shooter, the kind of people my daughter goes to school with would be that, so it is not that I think she is more like to get shot because we live in a poor, rural environment, but he DID bring a gun to school.

Many people do not have an option about where to send their child to school, or what quality of education they can have, but I do. I know that I can provide an excellent education for our children that far surpasses anything that their schools could offer. We wanted to try public school because it is so much easier- not to mention cheaper! But the reasons for keeping her there pale in comparison to the benefits of schooling her at home. I started to think of a pro-con list, but then I realized how ridiculous this would be. Imagine (cons- drugs, sex, guns, poverty, few resources available to teachers, high child/teacher ratio, bad peer influence, etc… [public school] cons- tired parent, not enough free time for parent, parent must be disciplined, expensive, etc…[homeschool]. Wonder which one is worse?

I can tell by the way this post came out, that anyone that does not know personally how smart, witty, educated, and awesome I am, would doubt that I could teach very well. But I can guarantee that the time and resources that I can devote to her education make up for my shortcomings.

I am excited to have her home and look forward to all that we will learn together. She is so delightful and I am so proud to have her. I know this post was a little off, but I have managed to finally get one done amidst a busy Saturday afternoon full of distractions. Love ya!

Last night, the girls had over an hour to pick up their chaotic rooms. I did not go upstairs to see how they had done, but instead told them to bring their pj’s down so I could give them a bath. After baths, I again sent them upstairs to get ready to read their story (we are reading the Wilderking Trilogy which I love). As I walked up the stairs, I reached the top step to find this interesting message…

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This fake rock had been given to my J. earlier this week, and it had been set strategically on the top stair so that I would not miss it as I came up. I began to laugh, and when S. saw that it had been well received, she confessed to leaving me a “message”. Apparently the picking-up had not gone very well!