Sunday, March 29, 2015

When Love Takes You In

Have you ever looked back on a moment in your life and realized that had you made a different decision in that instant, the trajectory of everything would have changed for you?  Have you ever abandoned it all simply because it felt like the right thing to do even if at first glance it appeared to make no sense?  Have you ever been questioned by others, had your motives doubted, or been called "nuts" simply because you elected to live your life guided by The Voice that others sometimes ignore, or never hear at all?

We each have opportunities every single day to listen, to discern, and to act.  Some of us do things others would never imagine doing, and that onlookers will never truly understand.  Others select the road more solidly trodden, with ruts worn deep by the feet of all who went before.  I think I tend to take the barely discernible path, and that has led to so many who look upon me completely perplexed.  In fact, just about any decision of any consequence in my life has had its much so that I have learned to recognize that the more puzzled and skeptical others are, the more likely it is that I am taking the God Road, for God's ways are often contrary to the world's ways, and are often sorely misunderstood.  It's only taken me 48 years to figure that out, and to cast aside the comments of others as so much flotsam, and let it all be carried away by the ebbing tides.

The past couple of weeks provided an opportunity for just such jettisoning, as the girls and I embarked on a seemingly simple overnight trip to Denver that ended up turning into one of the most sacred times of our lives, though I am sure looking in from the outside it would seem like a period of huge inconvenience.  How wrong that perspective would be.

Our family was blessed to have my new friend, Candi, and her daughter, Christi, come visit us over Spring Break.  It was a very short visit, cut even shorter by a flight cancellation at the beginning of their trip here.  We had both really wanted to have our families meet, and though Candi's was necessarily two short...having left her partner and son behind due to work and school obligations...we felt strongly that there was the potential  for something between the girls, in particular, and we wanted to test the waters to see if we were right.

The visit was sweet, but whirlwindish, and after a mere two nights off we went to return our precious cargo to Denver.  Because of the brevity of the trip, nothing had really been able to be lived into.  Little did we know that the real visit was about to begin.  Everyone has heard that saying that "We make plans, and God laughs.", and that was exactly what happened upon our arrival in Denver.  Due to the freak winter storms on the East Coast and travel coinciding with the end of Spring Break, two different flight cancellations led to an additional three days, then another two day stay in Denver.  

We didn't ask for it, we wouldn't have planned it, we could have made different decisions...and I am so grateful that we listened and just let God go to work on all of us, using weather and airlines to create a spaciousness and connectedness that no effort on our part could have ever crafted.  What happened among the five of us was truly a tying of hearts, a cementing of souls unlike anything I have ever experienced. Suddenly, we had hours and hours to spend together with nothing to do, and no real money to do anything with.  It was the best thing that ever could have happened.

I could have gone home and left our guests to fend for themselves for several days alone in a large city with no transportation, and no one to be with.  It didn't feel right, and more importantly, it felt as if we were supposed to be there, so I listened, called Dominick, and together we decided the girls and I would stay. I have the most fabulous husband ever, who "gets it" that sometimes, things happen for a reason, and we need to remain tuned in to that.

With the luxury of more time, the five of us began to really get to know one another better.  We did nothing important at all...we visited IKEA and the Container Store and wandered the aisles dreaming of beautiful kitchens and super organized cupboards, we walked the 16th Street Mall at night as we people watched and listened to the sounds of the Big City.  We went to an indoor mall and treated ourselves to ice cream. We found "our place" for lunch and dinner, Sams #3, which we vowed to visit every time they come to Colorado.  

We built relationships, we built memories, we built a sense of belonging to one another.

And God showed up all over the place, offering us moments to enter into the sacred with our teen daughters in ways that were profoundly moving and deep for every single one of us.  The five of us went deeper, spoke more intimately, and felt things more intensely than I think I have ever done with any other group of women, regardless of age.
If I had not listened to The Voice and felt the need to rush back to "real life", bypassing the opportunity to simply be present to the Spirit and the "spirits" of the women I was with, we all would have missed out on SO MUCH!

We went to the kids' summer camp, La Foret, and showed Candi and Christi the chapel, and walked
the labyrinth in the late afternoon sun...quietly sharing stories among ourselves as our footprints were left in the soft pine needles.  We sat in the center of the labyrinth on tree stumps, listening to the wind in the trees high above us, speaking of things both young and old and letting God wash over us in a way that usually only happens when one is young and away from home.  Pictures of hugs all the way
around were a necessity, and the smiles were broad and very real as arms were slung over shoulders and words of "You are my sister forever" were exchanged.

And did you know that the gas station is Sacred Ground?  As we pulled up to a pump not long after departing La Foret, Christi asked a question about the nature of God, and I turned off the ignition, and there we all sat, in the fading light, and without need of a look or a nod we moms understood this was A Moment, and there we stayed quietly speaking of how God works in the world, of how others imagine God to be, of the need to speak our own truths and live them out being essential to becoming authentic women.  I don't know if I will ever forget that 30 or 40 minutes we all sat there, bathed in a golden glow as we let time stand still and simply sat with God in the middle seat in our minivan.  I will also never forget what it felt like to be with another mom who senses those moments as well, who doesn't feel a need to give in to the world's push to rush from one thing to the next and miss out on the very real Presence that is far more important than moving on to the next task at hand.  Together, we answered questions and offered our own thoughts, each encouraging the girls to all share their own perceptions.  It was as sacred a moment as any I've ever had in church, and if truth be told, it was probably more sacred.

Had I pushed to do what the world would have thought was rational, and left our new "sisters" behind so we could get home, I would have missed out on the evening we were all sprawled on a bed, giggling and laughing as we talked about inane teen girl stuff, then witnessing the conversation turn ever so gently in a new direction when I asked that we each name things we had learned and appreciated about each other.  Our PJ Party turned sweetly down a path of beautiful affirmation, and
we all saw ourselves in a new light as thoughts were shared.  I would have missed Angela saying she had one special thing to tell me someday that she was saving to tell me on her Wedding Day, and then as she lay near my feet with her arm flung across her face to hide a bit from the depth of what she was going to say, with a little hitch in her voice she said that one great thing was simply being able to call me "Mom" and to be my daughter.  As tears welled up, I thanked God for allowing me to be there in that moment to feel all that my beautiful daughter couldn't say that was also in those few words.

Had I given in to the urge to return home, I would have missed out on seeing Olesya blossom unexpectedly into a more open, humorous, sharp witted young lady who is usually placing herself as far behind the scenes as possible.  Oh man, was she funny!!!  And with every witticism, we
complimented her and saw her blush reveal how pleased she was at being noticed and lifted up.  I would have missed seeing her carefully create a friendship bracelet for Candi, then place it on her wrist tying it in place.  I would have missed seeing the love develop between those two, as long, firm hugs were offered to someone outside the family, perhaps for the first time.

We all would have missed out on singing Billie Jean together in the car five thousand times, we would have missed out on joking about Rocky Mountain Oysters as we initiated the New Englanders into the lingo of the Wild West, we would have missed out on seeing the joy on the girls' faces (and the jumping up and down) as they learned that yet a second flight had been cancelled, and we would have missed out on the tender moments as we consoled Candi as frustration overtook her at that news and tears fell unbidden. We would have missed out on seeing a sisterhood of three form as they all verbally claimed one another as such, we would have missed out on catching a glimpse of the future with daughters on the verge of adulthood yet still not quite ready for that world yet.  We would have missed out on laughing more than I have laughed in years...perhaps ever....we would have missed out on painted toenails, short jokes, and walking arm in arm five abreast.

We would have missed it all.

But you know what it took me a couple days back to realize?  We all would have missed what it felt like when love takes you in.  In that unexpected seven day interlude, love took us all in, and yes, as the song goes, everything changed.  Everything.  I gained a new niece/daughter in Christi, and Candi in turn gained two new nieces/daughters in Olesya and Angela.  We all fell madly in love with one another, we shared a mini-summer camp (OK, maybe winter camp is more appropriate!) sort of adventure and we bonded in a way I have never bonded with other women before.  I was never fortunate enough to go to summer camp and I never lived in a dorm, so this was living into something, even if only for a week, that I never experienced when I was younger.

And maybe...just maybe...I gained a sense of what our children have felt like when they were adopted.  I have always done the adopting, and never really been adopted myself.  I have adopted other adults into my heart, I have adopted our children one by one, but I have personally never been special enough, or important enough to be adopted by someone else...until now.  
I think I now know what it feels like when love takes you in, and everything changes.  I know what it feels like to be fully accepted, and loved "because of" not "in spite of".  I think all five of us walked away from this past week feeling a little piece of this, and it was beautiful, and it was extraordinary, and it was sacred in every way.  

Our love was mirrored back at us, the girls and I, in a way that has never happened before.  Reminding me of the stunning reflection on Blue Mesa Lake that we stopped to take photos of as we brought Candi and Christi home from Denver, we were able to offer love and have it returned to us in exact proportions, in equal measure.  The love that we offered was reflected back to us unabashedly by others who know how to bring it as deeply, and offer it as openly and completely.  

When love takes you in, everything....everything changes.

"When Love Takes You In"  - Steven Curtis Chapman
I know you've heard the stories
But they all sound too good to be true
You've heard about a place called home
But there doesn't seem to be one for you
So one more night you cry yourself to sleep
And drift off to a distant dream

Where love takes you in and everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in

And somewhere while you're sleeping
Someone else is dreaming too
Counting down the days until
They hold you close and say I love you
And like the rain that falls into the sea
In a moment what has been is lost in what will be

When love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart

And this love will never let you go
There is nothing that could ever cause this love to lose its hold

When love takes you in everything changes
A miracle starts with the beat of a heart
When love takes you home and says you belong here
The loneliness ends and a new life begins
When love takes you in it takes you in for good
When love takes you in

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Imperfect Little Life

Mommy Blogging today is a world unto its own. There are heavily advertised and promoted Mommy Bloggers out there who have made careers out of writing about hearth and home, whose blog photos are Instagram knockouts, and whose children appear perfectly dressed in matching outfits on a regular basis.  Their latest recipes are drool-worthy and photographed up close with the precise amount of background Gaussian blur, and their homes look like something out of House Beautiful with organized pantries that make you wonder if anyone ever really takes the time to empty their just purchased whole grain cereal into those beautiful canisters with chalkboard labels lined up ever so neatly on decorative shelving.

Their lives look magazine printable, and sometimes they even share their trials and tribulations in such a way as to make you feel that even in your struggles you can't ever live up to the Mommy Blogger Standard of perfect revelation with  cheery and pithy sayings plastered on beautiful sunset photos speaking of surmounting all odds with great grace.

I sit back and marvel at those moms, who appear almost superhuman in their mothering, and homemaking talents.

I am not one of those moms.  Yea, I think you already figured that out.

I have a super huge trash can that is often overflowing, I have children whose cereal comes from 3 lb bags shoved on top of a teeny tiny little pantry cupboard and said bags inevitably fall on my head when I open aforementioned cupboard.  I have at this very moment headed off to the bedroom to write while tonight's pizza mess remains spread across my formica (not granite) counter tops.  There is something sticky on the kitchen floor that has been there for 3 days which I have yet to get around to mopping up, and the boys' bedroom smells like...well...3 teen boys, that's what it smells like.

And unlike those Mommy Bloggers, who tend to present solutions for every problem (Storage challenges?  I've got you covered! Discipline problems?  Suggestions that WORK!  Husband working too many hours?  Here's how to entice him!  And more, more, more!!), I think the more I mature into motherhood and homemaking, the less I feel I know and the more doubts I have.

I have continual doubts about the kids' education, and if I am doing right by them.  Am I meeting the needs of each one? Am I challenging enough? Am I taking into consideration each special need and teaching to it adequately?  Are they seeing success?  Have I come down too hard one day or not hard enough in another?

I have ongoing doubts about healing and wholeness, and if I am picking up on all the little signs that tell me something is not quite right with one, or if I have overlooked circling back and working with another's emotional turmoil.  Have I addressed loss appropriately?  Have I helped shore up battered self-esteem issues enough?  Do I detect a little dread around something?  Have I heard what sometimes they don't have words for?  Am I tuned in?  Am I showing enough balance between tenderness and toughness?

I always have doubts about the kind of wife I am, and if Dominick has gotten lost in the shuffle.  Did I remember to compliment him today?  When was the last time I told him how very much I appreciate all he does for our family?  Does he feel as loved as he really is?  Am I encouraging him enough during a time of crisis and concern?  What can I do to be a good partner for him so he feels supported and cared for?

There are the other doubts about my abilities (or lack thereof) in the Homemaking Arena.  Walking through my home I see failure after failure in creating the perfectly styled middle class home.  Mismatched chairs at the dining room table would cause many a Mommy Blogger to snicker.  There are no handcrafted pillows adorning my couches, no "upcycled" cute stack of vintage luggage being used as a decorator item in the corner.  There is no stenciling on my walls, no salvaged barn wood dressers, not a mason jar craft in sight. I have failed miserably in Home Decorating 101, and I know it.  I also don't grind my own wheat, bake my own bread, blend my own organic smoothies, or meet my hubby at the door each night with a martini in hand dressed in my company best with a strand of pearls around my neck.

Doubt is a daily partner of mine, walking through each day as I ask myself if what foods I served were healthy enough, if what clothes I put on them all were decent enough, if what life lesson was taught was earnest enough.  Doubt is my companion on the journey of life, never allowing me to have the confidence enough to dare offer advice to others.  Guilt is a close runner up to Doubt, as I continually kick myself for not providing the perfect environment, captured in Super Scrapbooks for all time.  I feel guilt for not being all that those Mommy Bloggers portray that I ought to be.  I have no book deals, no cute cowboy husband with a ranch as my backdrop, no lurid past to share in which overcoming is a theme that elevates me to minor celebrity status.

I am just plain ol' me, and truth be told, many's the day I feel lucky to have just made it through.

But you know what?  I look around me, and when I really take a closer look and don't let the voices and images of others taunt me, I realize I am content. I am satisfied.   I have a hard working husband who adores his family, I have children who are not perfect nor dressed alike but they have hearts that are alike...and kind...and generous.  I have a solid roof over my head, and a decent little home that keeps us safe from the elements and cozy during cold winter nights.  It may not be photo-perfect clean, but for 7 people living in it virtually 24/7 it is actually relatively clean most of the time.

Perhaps most importantly, it is all as real as it gets.  There is no artifice, there is love and joy and hope that fills this house (Yes, maybe even hope that I will have enough hot water for my own shower, but it is still hope!  Don't laugh...we gotta take it where we can get it!).  Friends are welcomed with open hearts and arms, there is more than enough laughter to go around, and there is a sense of peace that permeates it all.

Who needs a perfect pantry anyway?

So while this Mommy Blogger has an aging looking, unattractive and outdated  blog, at least I am still here, and I am opening up our home to you to take a peek inside, regardless of the lack of perfection.  You see, if you are a real friend, you aren't here to judge it anyway, right?  And if you are here to judge, you will find it sorely lacking and will move on with the click of a mouse anyway, so why let doubt get the best of me?

Comparison is a killer, isn't it?  I think I am taking a personal vow to stop looking at the Mommy Blogger version of Perfect Motherhood, and just enjoy the imperfect little life I have without celebrity status or attending Mommy Blogger conferences (Yes, it is a thing...and a big business for some).

I am me, Cindy, and this is my family.  And it's all good...

It really is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Love and Laughter Get You Through

Alas, the blog has been silent far too long yet again.  I am posting fairly regularly on Facebook with little snippets of life, but haven't seemed to be able to settle down and get much long form writing done lately.  I miss it, and there really is much to share, but it seems hard to get dedicated time to write.

The past 3 weeks or so have been filled to the brim with goodness emanating from many directions, though at the same time it has still been quite challenging as beneath the surface we continue to grow ever more concerned about our future.  One reason for less blogging time is the ongoing internet searches for opportunities and ideas for Dominick to consider as he moves into this next stage of life.  We are trying to be as faithful as possible as we try to be wise and listen for the Spirit's guidance, but as of this writing, nothing is even on the table as a possibility, and that is troubling.  We continue to trust that if we remain diligent and open, God will reveal something ahead of us that is well suited to meet our needs...but in my weaker moments it is harder than I care to admit.

On the brighter side, daily we are surprised by our special little clan here, as years of loving, teaching and hounding (Haha!) are rising to the surface in truly beautiful ways.  When we are struggling in other ways, it has served as a very potent reminder that keeping our priorities straight is the single most important thing we can do, and even if life should deal us a tough blow here with financial issues, there are things that matter far more.

This past week we had two little ones staying with us as we helped out a young family from church with temporary childcare.  I had no idea the precious gift that I would receive by offering this, as I got to watch all the kids gently and sweetly care for these young kiddos.  The biggest surprise was Joshua, who surprised us all with his nurturing care for his little buddy, and the ease with which he worked with him.  We all would watch him and grin over his head as he would wash hands, play with, or guide this tiny little 2 year old.  I couldn't help but think back to 10 years ago, when another gentle, kind Big Boy was a gift in Josh's life as he carried him around on his shoulders, snuggled with him, and showed him the very same kindness.  Paying it forward without realizing that was what he was doing, Joshie showed just a little more of the young man emerging:

Great Daddy material here someday!

Josh also shined in another way, as a couple of weeks ago, as a 6th grader, he started high school math, as he completed Pre-Algebra and began Algebra 1...reaching a big goal for himself!  It was sweet to watch him just this afternoon take Olesya to the white board and help her figure out a problem with decimals in it, and I realized how much respect he has garnered from his older siblings that Olesya would even feel comfortable enough to go to him and ask for help, regardless of his age, and knowing he would not make fun of her but would kindly guide her to figure out the answer.  Watching them together, I was quite moved, actually.

We are proud of Olesya as well, as she has spent the past 6 months working with not one, but TWO math curricula to try and see if we can shore up some of her basic math skills.  Having a math disability that was initially not recognized prior to her arrival in our family led her to feeling like an utter failure, and as a family we have circled her and continue to point out her academic strengths, which are many.  Math is always going to be very difficult for her, but she finally sees herself as being quite smart and not allowing a weakness in one area to cause her to view herself as less than capable in every other area.  Things like number and time lines, analog clocks, and more may never quite click for her, but using remedial tools, she is finally starting to see success with math.  For some reason, fractions are making sense to her while something as simple as place value still occasionally stumps her...go figure.  Decimals are going to be a nightmare, I fear :-)

Hurray for you Joshie Poo!!

There are moments when he is so obviously maturing into this husky voiced, broad shouldered young man that it feels odd to still call him "Joshie", but with those close to him he still signs cards "Joshie" so I guess it is still OK for a while longer :-)  I fear he will always be "Joshie" to our family...or "JJ" to Matthew.

In Kenny news, first a cute interlude:

See?  I told you it was cute! Haha!  Kenny has had a rough couple of weeks, as we all have had to deal with the ebb and flow of his attention and memory difficulties.  He was quite out of kilter the past several days, and it frustrates him just as much as it does us.  This guy still gives it his all though, and has the most gracious attitude of anyone I know when being corrected or firmly disciplined.  We have had to repeat and repeat instructions, constantly remind him to wait his turn to speak, remind him of where all his school materials are...or his wallet...or his dinner plate...or...or...or.  His work ethic, when he is gently guided, is incredible, and recently we are seeing that he is more able to notice when he has veered off course, though he still needs help to be pulled back on.  It is a step in the right direction.   Kenny is a doll, seriously, a total doll of a young man, and it breaks my heart at times to see him suffering from so many permanent deficits.

We are still waiting for the Neuro-Psych evaluation from Shriner's performed in December, and we are almost positive that the cumulative deficits are pointing toward Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  We have decided to get a disability lawyer and see what is necessary to try and get a disability rating for him for permanent SDI.  We know he will always be challenged to find suitable employment, and we are not at all giving up on him, but being realistic we need to plan for his future.  He will fall between the cracks, far too bright for a typical sheltered workshop situation, and yet truly handicapped enough to probably  ever be employable in the traditional sense without a deeply understanding and patient employer willing to spend years training him.

And all of this is so frustrating, because even with being unable STILL to recall the months of the year, or deal with dozens of malapropisms a day (for those who don't know what that is, here is a definition and example: the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect, as in, for example, “dance a flamingo ” (instead offlamenco ). , he is currently studying Comparative Religions at a high school level, and of his own volition is also reading Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and creating his own "Pro and Con" list of each chapter as he explores the atheist perspective.  Kenny is SO incredibly bright, and we continue to try and feed those areas of interest, nurture and fill up all we can, and will trust that God has something very particular in mind for him somewhere along the way.  There is a difference between learning disorders/processing speed/memory loss and being "dumb", and Kenny is a constant reminder that you can not judge a book by its cover, and that every chapter in that book has its own strengths and weaknesses.

We found ourselves quite bored with a couple of areas of school this year, so we decided to veer off course and follow the Muse of Learning, letting it nudge is in new directions.  I cast off the boring old traditional textbook we were all growing so weary of, and found new resources for history and government that are fascinating, and have allowed me to think outside the box a little more as well.  We are in our second and final year of American History, and are at WWI.  We are also nearly finished with our US Government course as well, and we started a little project that I thought would be short and sweet, but which morphed into this amazing, thought provoking larger activity that surprised even me in its eventual depth and triggering of much deeper learning.

We were talking about the Bill of Rights, and contrasting it with laws, and at the suggestion of my friend, I decided to have the kids create a Bill of Rights for our family.  This idea was actually well received, and I told them I was going to stay completely out of it, and that they were to come up with this all on their own with no input from me whatsoever.

Uh oh.  None of us had any idea where this was headed.  I certainly didn't expect it to become perhaps the single most engaging learning project we ever did.

They elected a leader, and I was surprised that Olesya was their temporary "president".  I think all the kids recognize her need to put herself "out there" more and wanted to offer her the chance to do so in a safe environment.  It wasn't long before she was truly leading, as I listened in from the other room, and she very quickly guided them to stay on point when the drifted.  A couple of hours later, I was called into the room and asked, "Mom, we think we need to do more than a Bill of Rights, we think we need a Family Constitution, too."  and most touching was when I was asked with the most serious of expressions on everyone's face, "Can we take this seriously and really create something that we actually follow in our family?  We think this is important, and we don't want it to just be a school project.  It will mean more if it is real.  If we come up with something good, will you and Dad agree to it?"

Oh man, you bet we will!

And they were off and running.  Sitting in the other room for THREE entire afternoons, I was able to hear them all wrestle with whether something was a right or a law, what kinds of rights and laws there should be, who was going to be tasked with which pieces, how enforceable something might be, and the need for even more documents to create a fleshed out governmental system for our family. I heard conversation about how things would be handled with spouses eventually part of the dynamic, with friends who are "adopted" and considered permanent members of our family, and how things should be handled before and after 18 years old in terms of parental control.

At the end of the 3 days, they had a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, a set of Laws, a list of Family Values, and an Oath to be taken by anyone who eventually would join our family.  They then convened a family "assembly" as our meetings will now be called, and asked for parental review, agreement and blessing of this governmental system and guiding principals.  There was absolutely NO better way to have them understand how difficult it was for our Founding Fathers to create a living, breathing, well planned government, and they were absolutely engaged the entire time in the process, which pleased me inordinately.  Here are some pics of our Founding Mothers and Fathers hard at work for hours and hours:

Here is the list of Family Values they started with to build on:

         Time Together
         Life Long Learning
         Inner heart
         Open Acceptance of People and Ideas
         Relationships Over Material Wealth 
         Listening to one another
         Individual Contribution
         Work Ethic
         Words Mean Things
         Accomplishing Goals
         Living in the Present, Knowledge of the Past, Hope for the Future
         Helping Others/Paying it Forward
         We Value to Keep in Touch, Even When We Have Our Own Lives
         Compromise and Agree to Disagree
         Respect in all Forms

         Embrace and Celebrate Individuals Within Our Family

I loved this list so much, and I was deeply moved to see what they all viewed as things our family values. It provided me with great insight into the hearts of our children, and all that they take away from all these years of being in relationship together.  Seeing "laughter"on the list, and that they really want to remain connected when the have moved on to their own adult lives was quite touching to me.  

There was a lot of work that went into the creation of their documents, and they utilized their white board just as mom does as they crafted their Bill of Rights, editing carefully 2 and 3 times:

It was an enormously profound exercise, and what made it so powerful was the ability to let them take as much time as they wanted to on it, once we saw this was growing into something deeper than I had initially thought it would be.  One of the single best things about homeschooling, for us, is the ability to linger on a topic as long as we want, exploring it as deeply as we desire and not feeling bound by 40 minutes class sessions and a school bell that will ring to tell us we should drop what we are engaged with and quickly move on.  Rarely a day goes by when we don't toss out the clock as we deeply immerse ourselves in interesting conversations about history, current events, the steps of writing, or some lovely piece of literature we have all read.  It has been a real gift, one I think we all appreciate, to learn at a pace that suits us...often spending 2-3 hours on a subject.

I know these are the days I will never forget, and I think it is obvious the kids won't either.  For that, I am so grateful.

Matthew is healing nicely, and is able to sit for as long as needed now, though he can not stand long yet.  He has no pain, though he is not bending at all yet and might when he begins to put that to the test.  

And Angela...what can I possibly say about that beautiful, emotionally aware young lady?  She continues to grow in her ability to speak her heart clearly and boldly, and so often sends me lovely emails of encouragement, as well as reaching out to others with great love.  She sent me a video clip that I shared on Facebook this past week, about the power of a caring teacher, and she said this in her email:  

I thought you might like this video. We rarely tell you or dad how much you are changing our lives with simple words that push us to be the best we can be.

To feel as appreciated and cared for by our children as we so often feel is the greatest gift ever.  I have no idea how Dominick and I were fortunate enough to become the parents of these specific awesome kids, but during times like this, when everything feels a little heavier, when it all feels so much out of control and a bit scary, knowing that we have the support and love of these five remarkable young people means a lot to us.  

Then there are friends...who are offering support in so many ways, loving us through this time of uncertainty, reassuring us that we are not alone, blessing us with financial support here and there for things with the kids...and coming incredibly long distances to visit and show their love.  When on shaky ground, having a foundation as solid as we have with the circle of kind and caring people around us definitely helps keep us from feeling as if the floor is ready to cave in.  The coming months are going to be hard ones for us, scary and uncomfortable and requiring new ways of thinking and perhaps new risks being taken.  I am going to be very intentional about looking for the Spirit's presence in every little place it appears, to focus on not being abandoned, and to recognize love and laughter is all around us.  

That's really all that ever gets any of us through, isn't it?