Monday, July 30, 2012

Capture Gratitude: VBS, Weddings, Dentist appointments, and ANSWERED PRAYER

“There is no event so common place but that God is present within it, always hidden, always leaving you room to recognize Him or not to recognize Him.”  Fredrick Buechner 

The younger two boys took swim lessons at Lifestrokes this summer. It was a LOT more expensive than where we've taken them before - but I think Tobin got further in his first lesson at Lifestrokes than in six weeks at the other place. Plus = they LOVED it.

 I mentioned before we had a lot of dear friends getting married this weekend. On July 13, both Tobin and I got to be in this beautiful girl's wedding. What a joy.
 And have you EVER seen such a cutie ring bearer?

I'm sorry to all of the other volunteers at VBS, but I have the BEST job. I get to teach the Bible lesson to the 4 year old class (and to the 3 year olds, who are all children of volunteers...including my own little 3 year old this year.) I was so intimidated the first year I was asked to teach - I'm used to college students, but teaching the Bible to FOUR year olds?? As it turns out: I love them. Getting to tell them that they have a Father who loves them, who will never let go of them, and encourage them to trust Him? Gold.
 I also loved  driving a van full of crazies every day:
 And the kids had a super time. Micah enjoyed his first experience ("Go go Micah's class?") Luke volunteered with the Rec teams (and especially enjoyed the shaving cream day.) And Tobin was with great pals.
 We had an awesome closing program, with the tractor train, and tons of bounce houses. My kids would have been happy staying there all night.

Matt was out of town last weekend, and we had a VERY busy weekend as Luke's basketball team played in the Cornhusker State Games (which means his brothers got to watch the CARS movie all the way through more than 2 times as we drove back and forth across town.) We celebrated with a fun Saturday morning breakfast, carrying on a tradition my mom started. More on these coming soon!
Brother practice is working out pretty well, as long as I'm consistent in implementing it. And some brotherly love comes naturally. Here's Micah "helping" Luke mow the lawn.
 And of course these two are best buds.

160. FACING MY FEARS: AKA Taking Micah to the Dentist
Y'all. I have been dreading taking Micah to the dentist. An hour before we went, I actually got on the Ugandan adoptive parents group (my support group!) and asked for prayer and encouragement. I think I was having some post-traumatic stress from the blood draw we had to do on Micah the first week home. Plus, I knew that (without dental insurance) it was likely to hit our budget pretty hard too. Micah had visible cavities, though, so I knew we needed to bite the bullet.

Good news and bad news: The good news is that Micah LOVED the dentist. It helped a lot that he got to watch both big brothers in the chair first. And I should have known that my little oral-sensory craving boy would enjoy all the sensory input at the dentist. He especially loved the suction thingy (I'm sure that's its official name, right?) He actually liked that so much he wouldn't let go, the hygienist had to turn off the suction before he'd open his lips. :)

The bad news: I was correct about the amount of terrible going on with his teeth. That's the result of 2 years of no dental care, but mostly: volunteers who visit orphanages bring candy. The dentist said the damage was all done long ago, no amount of brushing and care we've done since then could have helped. Sigh.

I actually CRIED in the dentist office when they told me what all we need to do, and how much it's going to cost. (cue: embarrassment. I'm used to crying, but this was not an appropriate place or time!) I prayed with the boys as we left the office - thanking the Lord for the privilege of providing for Micah, that I'm attached enough to him to really worry about surgery and all that's coming his way, and especially reminding myself (and thanking the Lord yet again) that God provided almost $20K for M's adoption. He hasn't stopped caring for Micah, and He hasn't stopped providing for us.

I have NO reason not to trust Him. Speaking of that...


When I was in Uganda the first time, I met a precious little girl named Esther. We had prayed about being her family, but felt like the Lord said no. But I prayed and told Him that I didn't know how I could leave her there, so asked Him to please let her family come forward before I got there...otherwise, we would assume that compassion trumps feeling, and begin working toward her. Then we got matched with Micah...and a family did come forward for Esther, so when I met her a year ago this week, she was spoken for. As I predicted, I fell in love with Esther and was glad she had a family, so I could know for sure she was not ours. After we came home with Micah, this family went to Uganda for court, and for the first time faced the reality of Esther's needs. It was devastating, but they walked away from her.

I know that it's not about me - but my heart was broken. I tried to convince Matt that we needed to go back for Esther immediately - and he pointed out that we were in the throes of adjustment with Micah, and still had a ways to go before paying off his adoption. He was pretty sure we were not God's answer for Esther. I was comforted to know that the Lord cares FAR more for Esther than I do, and that others who were much more involved than we were had the opportunity to work behind the scenes toward another family for this precious creation of God.

Boy did the Lord have this COVERED. He wrote such a better end of the story than I could have guessed - beyond what I could ask or imagine for SURE. He brought the PERFECT family for Esther, and they are in LOVE. I'll let you go and meet them for yourselves, because my descriptions can hardly do them justice: Meet Esther's family here.

I've been praying daily (and at times moment by moment) for Jenny & Esther (and Jenny's oldest son, Sebastian), as they've waited on court papers, passports and visas. Last week I came home from VBS and did my daily facebook stalking...and saw that they were on a PLANE.

On July 25 I was THRILLED to read Jenny's facebook status...
We are HOME!!! Esther is still sleeping and slept through the entire airport reunion but her siblings had a blast kissing her and telling her about all the good times they will have!!! I feel like I'm in a dream! And my dream of avoiding the ER has come true too....the hospital can wait...we're having a family slumber party!!!!

Here is Esther a year ago when I first met her...

 And here she is now. :)
Seriously. Go check Jenny's blog to see Esther with her precious family (once they come out of the jetlag + I'm so happy to be back with my husband and kids = no blogging phase). It's amazing.

Words fail me. I am so thankful to get to see the end of the story - which is just the beginning for Esther. Praise Jesus!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What a difference a year makes...

A year ago today, I was on a plane to Uganda, to meet Micah for the first time.

On the day before I left, my dad was diagnosed with Colon cancer. Today, he has completed his treatment and surgery to put his insides all back together. He is cancer free, and looking forward to starting the school year as a healthy man again. Praise the Lord.

I'm also REALLY thankful to be sleeping right where I am - as much as I appreciated my friend Amy's couch that first night in Kampala... I woke up that Sunday morning feeling SO SICK, lonely, tired, and cut off from everyone that I know. Looking back, I remember:
- Being picked up by a stranger, in the middle of the night, on the other side of the earth. Giving myself a STERN talking to on the hour drive from the airport to Amy's house. My two instincts were to fall asleep, or burst into tears, neither of which would have been appropriate.
- Having lunch with Amy and Jesse and their family at the "mall", and experiencing Kampala traffic for the first time.
- Driving to the baby home, meeting the awesome guest house manager (who I've since come to know very well), and then being taken over to the babies. Being called "Mama Marvin" for the first time.
- Seeing Micah for the first time, with his flowery purple and pink shirt on :). He had just woken up from nap, and  he buried his face in my neck, the way he still does now when he first wakes up.

Here's the message that I sent out after my first full day in Uganda, meeting Micah.


Hi Friends!
Thank you all so much for your precious words and encouragement and prayers!! I see that Matt sent out a message that I'm here and met our little M. He is a CUTIE. I am thankful for the sweetness of our first moments, I'll treasure that memory (especially the fact that - since the kids are dressed from a stack of clothes, whatever is on top - he was wearing a pink and purple flowered shirt. :D)

I was very weepy and emotional my first night - it was harder than I expected to arrive here alone. But I've settled in, and made good friends with some of the other volunteers at our babies home - there is one American girl, the rest are British and Dutch, and they've been delightful to me, helping me learn the ropes (and bringing me to the internet cafe this morning.)

Meet with our lawyer later today - and probably get to postpone my first boda (motorcycle taxi) ride, since the meeting is late enough that it wouldn't be safe (...or it would be EVEN LESS SAFE than the very unsafe-ness it is anyway. :D)

Would you pray...
...for my heart. The kids here are very well taken care of, but you can see how starved they all are for personal attention. They compete to get on my lap, yesterday I had 6 kids climbing all over me, with M right in the middle trying to push everyone else off.
...for our legal process. The reality that the end of this journey is unsure is really in my face, now that I've seen our little M. Pray that I'd trust the Lord no matter what, and not live in fear.
...for extra capacity to love and serve, and wisdom as I interact today with the babies home administrator and our lawyer.


Here we are a year ago:

And now:

Saying thank You Jesus hardly seems to cover it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Memories in Minnesota (and also: How my kids got an education in criminal justice)

We had a GREAT time visiting our McCutcheon family in Minnesota last weekend... Julie (Matt's first wife, and Luke's first Mom) was a triplet, and both of her sisters live in the twin cities. We see them multiple times a year, but the was the first time we've been to MN since the summer Luke was 6. Such fun times (I love big cities. I don't think I ever realized how much until I was so far away from them.)

The Minnesota and Nebraska cousins...
Luke with his Aunt Jo, under the tree she planted in Julie's memory (Isn't it beautiful?)
We love Caleb.
My boys are all nuts for MaKayla. She & Luke were horsing around, and Luke's Viking sunglasses got broken. Tobin gets mad every time it comes up (which it only has b/c Luke is wanting new sunglasses), insisting that MaKayla had NOTHING to do with that. Out of the blue, he'll tell me, "I don't know WHY Wukie thinks MaKayla broke his sunglasses!" Hee hee!

Just clowning around...

And then... we went to the Mall of America. Apparently I've neglected a major part of Tobin's education. He found the Mall alarming at first, because it's so big and open and multiple stories. He held tight to my hand and just seemed really nervous about where he was. Poor child doesn't even know what a mall is!!

Of course when he figured out the Mall was big enough to have an amusement park inside of it... All was well.

Matt & Jeff took the older 2 boys to ride big kid rides, while Jeana and I took Lydia and my two youngest on Dora's explorer bus....
...the Swiper cars... (Yea. I don't know why Tobin decided he needed a cutesy pose in so many of these pictures...)

Micah LOVED the train.

Hot Air balloons (there's that pose again!)
Look, Micah is doing it too!
Oh, I love his expression here, just as we were taking off!

And our favorite, Jimmy Neutron's Atomic Collider. Tobin was really just a smidge too short, but he REALLY wanted to ride, so they let him. I think Lydia only went for it because Tobin is 3 years younger than her and she didn't want him showing her up. She was nervous, but ended up LOVING IT and they rode it 3 more times (the last 2 with Luke and Jonas, once we met back up with them, they loved it too.) She told me that during the first ride, they "weren't sure we were going to make it", so they shouted, "We love you Renee/Mommy!" HA HA HA!

We love the Log Chute. After going down the big hill, Micah shouted, "I GO AGAIN!!" :)

Aaaaaand: the highlight. Meeting Nickelodeon characters (not that we pay for Nickelodeon programming...but thank goodness for Netflix!)

Micah was terrified at first, and didn't want me to put him down. But once he saw Lydia and Tobin giving high fives and hugs, he pushed away from me and ran to join in the fun. Then he was just disappointed we couldn't stay there with them all night.

Dorah and Diego...

And my kids' TV Besties, The Backyardigans. We've watched every episode of all 4 seasons on Netflix. We sing the songs, we reinact the stories. They were THRILLED to meet Tyrone, Uniqua, and Pablo (we just with Tasha was there, because for some reason, she's their favorite.)

Back to riding rides... We took a spin with Blue and Magenta (Favorites of Tobin's.) Micah was nervous about being in Magenta by himself when I strapped him in and took pictures...I did ride with him. Woo Hoo.)

My girl Lydia...
Imagine Micah's excitement to get to drive a FRUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK! Even if we just went in circles, he loved it (and honked his horn the whole time!)

And my crazy husband did the climbing tower. Starting here....

And ending up WAY HIGH.

The Pepsi Coaster (or, as Tobin calls it, the Popsicle Coaster). The kids rode this between 8-12 times. Except Micah, who was too short.
So we took him on the Barnyard coaster.
He loved it. :)
We had a great time.

AND THEN. We rode the log chute one last time - Jeana has some neck problems, so she had to sit out the log ride, and stopped by Old Navy. As we were waiting outside the bathrooms to meet up with her, Tobin said, "Wow, there's lots of Police at the Mall! Why are they just standing around, not even catching any bad guys??" (A few weeks ago, he was obsessed with playing police officer - before he got into the Lone Ranger phase - and I explained that a police officer's job is to keep us safe and catch bad guys.) I was in the middle of explaining what a Mall Cop is (again: neglected education), when I noticed there were FOUR mall cops within 15 feet of us.

Then the lady sitting next to me (admiring how cute Micah is and making borderline inappropriate comments like, "Boy, I could take one like that home." Um, OK, lady, but children are not commodities. And this particular cutie is mine.) warned me that  I might want to keep an eye on my kids because the cops were talking to the lady on the other side of the bench from us and she was using really foul language. In her words: "I think something's about to go DOWN." Then we noticed that one of the Mall cops was blocking the entrance to the bathroom, telling everyone who tried to go in that they'd have to use another one. The kids' eyes were as big as tennis balls.

THEN 3 or 4 actual police officers showed up, and marched right into the bathroom. As it turned out, they caught a pair of shoplifters, one of which was sitting right next to us, and the other of which presumably was holed up in the bathroom with the stolen goods. They brought the bathroom lady out in handcuffs, along with about 4 bags that looked like they were full. And then they came over and cuffed the lady sitting next to us. The older 4 kids were DYING (Micah was on Matt's shoulders, and oblivious.) The lady who had been next to us had a little girl in a stroller, and one of the mall cops pushed the stroller after the police and the handcuffed ladies.

Then the flood of questions started:
What's going to happen to that little girl?
Where are they taking them?
How did the police know they'd been stealing?
Are they going to jail?
What do you think they tried to steal?
Where did she hide all of that stuff to get it into the bathroom?
And every other question you could think of. My small city kids got a big city education.

I asked Luke and Jonas (who were closest to where the lady was sitting) if she was using foul language. "Um. YEAH." At least Tobin was further away and didn't hear anything, he would probably have loudly asked, "MOMMY, WHAT DOES *%$&$ MEAN??"

Fun times in the Twin Cities. I just realized I could have titled this post, "Dora and the Mall Cops in Action." I bet that would have gotten a lot of hits.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy Birthday America (in pictures!)

Summary: The Fourth of July in Nebraska is awesome. And Micah likes fireworks.

City fireworks on the 3rd...
 ... Glow bottles thanks to Pinterest, Instagram, and Mandie Joy.

 My sister-in-law's dog. Who, like a normal dog, is totally FREAKED out by fireworks.
 Aaaaand, my dog: Who we continually had to call back, as he went to chase the fireworks. Wierdo.

 In case you're wondering where Luke was in these pictures... He was SO EXCITED to be old enough to be in charge of the pyrotechnics. With Matt's supervision, Luke set off all the fireworks, with his grandmother and I hollering periodically, "Keep your head back!!"

And my favorite firework of the night... the paper lantern. We let it go and it floated off into the distance. So fun.
(Anna was a little perturbed. She wanted to tie a string to it, so we could let it go, but also keep it forever.)