Tuesday, September 30, 2014

the plan {an update}

Back in April, before I began the stay-at-home game, I (somewhat facetiously) wrote this post about the plan while I was at home.

It involved regular exercise, then looking flat-out awesome 15 minutes later, cooking healthy, garden-fresh meals cooked entirely, working several hours a day for Generation Next, dressing the boys like tiny J. Crew models, teaching Brody to read novels, teaching Brecken to speak in full sentences, decorating the house like a Pinterest board, crafts, fun times with my friend's baby, DIY lawn games and sensory activities, packing lunches for Bradlee, and family time around a fire pit.

It's about time I posted an update, don't you think?

As a disclaimer, this post will probably have to span a few days. Every day is different in our house, which is partly why I've had such a hard time carving out time to write (which is good for my soul).

Regular exercise: Welp, this is a category in which I am actually winning. Sort of. I do spin classes at 6 am on Tuesdays (and then have bad dreams about those songs until the next Tuesday, because I am incredibly bad at spinning). I go to a bootcamp-type class on Thursdays. I am now running on Saturdays because my friend is a horrible influence and thinks we should run a half marathon in November. I think that may be a terrible idea, but it is intriguing. (I need to run a few more days a week, probably, if that's the case, but I have a tendency to overdue some things, and I feel good about my three-times-a-week sweat sessions right now.)

This is the original example from my earlier post.  Yep, I'm pretty sure my arms look like that and I look that intense in the midst of my workouts.

Whether you're pajama-bound by subzero temperatures, trapped in a gym-less hotel room, or you're just purely 100% anti-gym, the Do Anywhere, Body Weight Workout can provide a BEASTLY sweat-session regardless of location. This turbocharged full-body circuit will torch your muscles and make the sweat drip, all without the need for costly equipment.

Or maybe I look like this. They are very similar so it's hard to tell.


Looking flat-out awesome: Well, this has never happened for me personally. However, I did buy a necklace similar to the one pictured in the example (below) from my original post, and I have a denim shirt and aviators, so I am well on my way to recreating this picture with slightly less awesomeness, poise and confidence  involved. (NOTE: I have another Stitch Fix coming in mid-October. This should help me look somewhat more awesome, I suppose.)


Cooking healthy, garden-fresh meals: People, I am getting better at this. I am pleased to say we don't eat out as much as a family because we are not running ourselves ragged all over SWMO. We even have a few new ingredients in our kitchen: kale and quinoa. Boom. This is a win, and I am getting better (although still not even good) at cooking real meals at home.

Working several hours a day for Generation Next: Although I wish this were the case, I haven't put in tons and tons of hours for GN. Part of the reason is that they haven't really needed me to do so, and the other part of the reason is that my house has been a bit CHAOTIC a few days a week. I don't mind chaotic, but I'm just saying it's no environment in which to write documents that make sense.

Dressing the boys like tiny J. Crew models: Welp, fail. The boys spend 90% of their time in underwear. Brecken would spend his entire day naked if I'd let him. Because he does what he wants regarding his locations for pee-peeing and poo-pooing,  we usually start in undies, then transition to pull-ups after I have had to wipe poo off the floor because I just cannot do that more than once a day. I just can't.

But here he is looking rather dapper. (Note the goldfish snack he made himself.)
Doesn't matter what they're wearing, though. They are good together.
Because sometimes we wear trash bags as bibs.
And sometimes we wear shirts as maxi dresses.
 Come back tomorrow (or maybe Thursday) for more updates about "the plan" and what I've been doing that I didn't originally foresee.

(And on a serious note, you should check out my friend and hero's blog. Missy was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and she is facing is head-on with unwavering faith. EVERY NIGHT, the boys and I pray for her and my other friend, Lindsay, who also recently found out she has breast cancer. And then we pray for C to come home soon. So many things to pray about...)

Monday, September 22, 2014

yesterday

Yesterday was September 21, the date we got our first phone call--our referral call--about twins, Omba and Shako, in DRC that we pursued in adoption.

You might think I'm crazy for remembering the date. Maybe it is a bit weird. But that phone call--along with the phone call a month later when we learned they had died--began a process that has profoundly rearranged my soul and my priorities.

Adoption has increasingly drawn my affections and opened--and often broken--my heart since we brought Brody home three years ago. Orphans have ALWAYS been on my heart, even as a little girl when I thought it would be "fun" to run an orphanage.

Honestly, I now realized how not fun that would probably be. To see children languish without families day after day...that's tiresome work. To be up before the dawn and to lay down long after dusk to serve people who cannot adequately say thank you...THAT is hard work.

(And now that I've read Orphan Justice, I believe I am convinced there's a better, possibly even more Christ-like--way to serve orphans than to place them in huge orphanages. But that's another post for another day.)

But orphan care, family preservation, clean water, education...these things continue to burden my heart. They are the things we take for granted all too often. In fact, a few months ago our agency volunteer described more needs in DRC--a badly rundown pastor's house that needs significant improvements and construction work before it tumbles to the ground and a new school complex for children in DRC, to name a few. (For a very small glimpse of earlier needs in DRC, go here.)

And although I want so badly to help, it's often difficult to figure out how. I have emailed a few different nonprofit organizations to help with the pastor's house and the school, but so far all I have hit are dead ends. (If you know anyone who can help, please email me at lotzfam@att.net.)

And what can I, personally, do to help these children? I am just me, with two kids at home, bills to pay and no medical skills or expertise. 

I'm not sure where all of this leaves me, but I believe with all my heart that something can be done to help people who hurt. I want to be involved in that something. Orphan care, clean water, families, education...these are all important, not only for Sweet C, the girl we want so badly to bring home, but also for the millions of people worldwide with hurts I will never fully understand.

So I will continue to write. To tell the stories. To make sure people know and cannot ignore the painful realities that are across the globe, but just outside our doors, too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

details

The other day Brody and I were talking about Joseph and his cool-kid multicolored coat.

I'm not sure how we began talking about the story of Joseph. It probably began as a discussion about a jacket I was trying to get Brody to like or some multi-colored cereal. Or poop. It probably began and ended with poop, actually. So many conversations in this household do these days.

Anyway, it was one of those "teachable moments" you're supposed to jump on as a parent. Or so I've heard.

I was reminding Brody about the story of Joseph, so I began with the coat and the honor that came with it, talking about how his brothers were jealous. And then Brody asked, "Who found him in the hole?" (He has heard the story before...thank you Jesus Storybook Bible and Second Baptist childcare workers.)

To his question, my brain responded, "Wait, was there a hole?" So I proceeded to skip that fuzzy part of the story before I falsified information. Instead, I jumped straight to a few nice punchlines I remembered from the story: 1) God used terrible plans of man to bring Himself glory through His own plan for Joseph; AND 2) Joseph forgave his brothers for the terrible things they tried to do to him.

Meanwhile, Brody noticed I didn't directly answer his question about who helped Joseph out of the pit in the ground (very perceptive, this child). He asked again and I said we'd get back to that part later.  Then I continued to be disappointed in myself for not even remembering that part of the story.

Allow me to divert from the Joseph story for a minute. Surely you have noticed that when Jesus was questioned or tempted, He used direct quotes from God's Word to set people straight. For example, "Have you not read in the Scriptures..." (See Matthew 19:3-6 and virtually all over the New Testament for examples of his use of Scripture; See Matthew 4:1-10 for His use of Scripture in overcoming temptation.)

What if Eve had done used the Truth (which she had been told directly, literally BY GOD) when she was tempted? What if, when the great deceiver tried to confuse her and tempt her into disobedience she had said, "No, you crazy serpent, that is NOT what God said. He actually said this..."

Here's what: Women wouldn't have to feel like they are dying when giving birth, for one.

But for Eve, wouldn't it have helped her see the difference between what it meant to obey God's commands and what it meant to disobey (and lose everything that was awesome and perfect)? Wouldn't it have helped her live freely according to God's promise to remain in the perfect Garden? Wouldn't she have been steadfast in obedience to the Creator of everything?

Let's go back to the Joseph story...What am I missing when I don't know the Bible as well as I should, when I have not "hidden thy word in my heart that I might not sin against you"? (Psalm 119:11)

Sure, when I only know the "Sunday School version" of childhood Bible stories (which I have heard hundreds of times and for which I am thankful, by the way) I'm missing His commandments about what to do and what not to do. I'm missing the specifics of His Truths that are laid out for me in Scripture. If only I'd take the time to study, dissect, pray about, and meditate on them!

However, even more than the details of God's commandments, I'm missing the intricate details that bind His stories together and make them turn out exactly how He planned.

I am missing the important twists and turns that God provided as an escape and propulsion to power for Joseph, the ways He orchestrated details to work them together for good, the way He sent Joseph into the King's court at exactly the right moment to interpret a dream that no one else could, a gift that only Joseph could provide.

Or, in the story of Moses, I have--until now--missed the way God placed Pharoah's daughter out by the Nile at the precise moment Moses was floating by in his mom's basket, the way He placed Moses' sister in the perfect position to help choose a Hebrew woman (his biological mother) to nurse Moses, the way Moses received special privileges as the adopted heir to a throne, and the way those special privileges allowed him to save an entire people group.

I heard and read every one of these stories in Sunday School growing up, and I have even read them myself several times over as an adult. But my depth of knowledge (Boom: Teacher terminology...Who said all those meetings are a waste of time?!)  has been incredibly shallow.

Case in point. My version of Joseph's story often read like this: Joseph had a cool, colorful coat and his brothers were jealous. They tried to get rid of him. He then became the most powerful man in the world and saved his brothers' lives. Take that, brothers. (Cue evil laugh.)

But there's a lot more to this story--and every other Sunday School story--and I can't expect others to spoon-feed me the details. That's my own job.

God is in the details; therefore, I must know them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

today in DRC

Parliament reconvenes in DRC today, and thousands of adoptive parents are hoping and praying that this means DGM will begin issuing Exit Letters again.

When DGM suspended the issuance of Exit Letters last September, it stated a need to probe deeper into the adoption process and redefine laws to limit fraud and corruption. For the entire year since then, rumors have flown around regarding when those laws would be redefined or rewritten and what they might be.

Here we are, almost a year to the date later, and rumors are still flying around. Most rumors lead us to believe things will move in a positive direction soon, but that doesn't necessarily mean the reconvening of Parliament will lead directly to huge leaps of progress. (An attorney at our agency said new laws take 1-3 years to put into place.) It also doesn't mean that DGM will fling its doors open wide and allow all adopted children to go home immediately. Things take time. A TON of time.

Although I desperately want our Sweet C home in our arms--like NOW--I believe I can say with confidence that I am trusting God in the wait. He has proven himself to me, personally, OVER and OVER again, and he has proven himself throughout history thousands and thousands of times over. I have no reason to believe this situation was a surprise to him or that it is out of his hands. It is very much in his absolute control, even though it's hard to understand it.

Trusting doesn't mean I don't do everything humanly possible to bring about change that will bring C home--yes, calling Congressmen included--but I recognize that human efforts mean nothing if not inspired and directed by God and his divine and perfect plans.

Trusting doesn't mean I don't feel the weight of the wait. It is sometimes very heavy on my heart.

But I know in the end this will all be a blur and incredibly worth it. And Sweet C will always have a family of her own who will love her forever. This is something that's worth waiting (sometimes even fighting) for.

Please pray for adopted children (safety and health!!) and families as they wait, as well as the leaders DR Congo who are making important decisions for all of us who are waiting to have all of our children under one roof.

Fear does not hold us if we are His.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Birchbox Experience

A few weeks after I got my first Stitch Fix, I signed up for another first: Birchbox. 

Birchbox is a service that delivers boxes of "beauty, grooming and lifestyle samples" to your door. You can sign up for one delivery--which is what I did--or you can choose a monthly shipment subscription for a year (for $110). 

You get to keep and try out 4-5 products that come in your box. The products are specially chosen to meet your personal needs, based on a profile you submit when you sign up and you can change your profile at any time. If you like the sample products, you can then go back to the Birchbox website and order full-size products. 

I was excited to get this in the mail while also realizing that I didn't necessarily need any more bottles of lotion and whatnot in my bathroom cabinets. For 10 bucks, though, it was worth a shot. Maybe it would be awesome.

Here's the outer box: 


The inner box looks like a party:



Here's the assortment of products I received:

Klorane dry shampoo
Naobay Body Radiance Lotion
Vasanti Detox Facial Cleanser
100% Pure Honey Cream body wash
black eyeliner
A bunch of advertisements


And here are my thoughts: A cool idea, but I might not order any more of these boxes. I LOVED the Naobay lotion (smelled WONDERFUL!), and I used all of the face wash really quickly. (Face wash samples are pretty awesome, because I hate buying a full-sized product only to discover that it feels like bacon grease when it's on my face.)

The rest of the products were just the types of products I don't really need cluttering my drawers. I have virtually no need for body wash, even though it might smell amazing, because I prefer an antibacterial wash to ensure my sweaty germs and odors are all gone after I exercise. Sure, they smelled good, but is that enough? I think not, for this girl anyway.

I will say that the dry shampoo is intriguing, and while I don't necessarily find it incredibly useful in my daily life I can see that it might be nice to have in certain situations. Thus, the glory of the sample size; it's just enough.

But the eyeliner..it might be the best eyeliner ever invented, but black eyeliner seems to be the quintessential free sample, so I really have no need for any more eyeliner in my life.

Long story short, if you love beauty products and have no clutter issues, this would be a fun box to receive monthly. However, if you hate clutter and find that you have too much "bath junk" already, this might not be for you.

As a personal note, I would have loved to receive a few makeup samples tailored to my needs, so if I order another Birchbox I would probably specify that in my notes to the order specialists.

(To try Birchbox, click here.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

marm-ville

Last week I mentioned my weird, flawed, sinful aversion to owning a minivan. As I mentioned in that post, owning a minivan would make me feel incredibly marmish, and with my cardigan-love I am already too close to marm-ville for comfort. I will ride in one all day long (comfy, logical, and efficient; I'll give them that); however, I don't want to buy one. Tons of my friends drive minivans--and love them--but I still fear them. I just know what so many people have told me: Once you go minivan, you never go back. 

So of course, after I brought up my aversion to them, one showed up in my driveway last Friday. (And it was too close to the garage for my comfort...)



Before I explained that it was a church van we were using for a weekend trip, TONS of people congratulated me for biting the bullet, saying I'd love it and, of course, never go back to a regular car.

I can't say that I fell head over heals for a minivan this weekend, but I can definitely see where they might be useful. Just not cute. 

And maybe that's my hangup. Minivans are not cute. THIS IS GOING TO BE A VERY SHALLOW STATEMENT: I don't feel cute driving a minivan. I'm not sure why that is important to me, because I rarely dress cutely or do anything else that real cute girls do, but this minivan thing has me running scared. (As a side note, minivans definitely lack some of the street cred I've been going for.)

I can get over that fear if necessary.

And so I come to you, my huge audience, for advice. Let me lay it out for you:

  • My SUV, which I LOVE, is awesome. It's the type of car I will never get to drive again, and I don't want to give it up...BUT it has almost 200K miles on it, and we need to think about buying a different family car. 
  • Here's what we need: Reliability, great gas mileage, large capacity, ease of use, a powerful engine, and safety. And cuteness, obviously. 
  • I were to choose a dream-large-family-car-on-a-pastor's-income (because we will soon be a somewhat large family when C comes home, and you never know what will happen after she gets here...), it would be a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. That is an SUV, folks, and it meets all of our "needs." More specifically, it is a cute SUV. :o)
  • We will NOT be getting a loan to buy a car (Dave Ramsey rules.), so we need to purchase this vehicle as wisely/cheaply as possible. 
Where do we go from here? Do you all buy used cars off of Craigslist or from dealers only? Any other great deals on cars that we should know about? Any thoughts on the type of vehicle we should get? I am open to minivans, but we must all agree that they are not cute. (Friends who drive them, YOU are still cute. Keep it up being cute.)

**UPDATE** I escaped Marm-vile by the skin of my teeth when we bought a "not minivan." Details here

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

little gems

Every now and then God gives me a little gem of something I'd be missing if I had not given in to his gentle nudges. Yesterday, I mentioned some of my qualms about venturing into "stay-at-home-mom-dom." One of my friends texted me last night to say she needed that post, and I responded with this:
[It was] more for me than for you. :o) I kind of word-vomited [yesterday's] post. I swear, two weeks ago I was all like, 'This is awesome. I am so content in life right now. So confident. So in the zone...' And then it (maybe the great deceiver) hit me: 'You are just a mom, and you're not even a good one. You are insignificant. And now you're insecure. Take that.' It has been a struggle to figure out my role right now, when I often feel like I should be 'doing something.'
If I was totally honest in that text, I would have also said that the deceiver fed me a bunch of other lies about my identity, and I ate them right up for a few days there, similar to the way I can eat an 12-piece cookie cake by myself over the course of two days.  I do not always allow these lies into my mind, but when I do they parade in with their buddies and throw me a huge pity party full of self-loathing and doubt.

Right after I hit send on that text I got a pretty nice gem of a message about my new role at home.

Brody walked over to me casually. "Mom" he said as he placed his hand on my shoulder. "I have something to tell you." Insert dramatic pause. "I love you, and thank you for everything." THIS KID.

I'm going to pretend he thought to do that all on his own, which is not out of the question. He is irresistibly sweet and outwardly focused on others. However, Brad might have planted those words into his fertile little mind five months ago and they randomly cropped up last night. Either way, they came at a great time when I was still processing yesterday's post and dealing with my misguided identity issues.

Things like this help when I'm cleaning up a Poo-casso or feeling like I should be "doing something." For the record, Brecken's hugs help, too. (He is a great hugger, when he so chooses, of course.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

adjusting

Things have been so very busy as Brad and I adjust to our new roles and schedules. It's a good sort of busy, but one that often leaves us scratching our heads and asking, "Where did that week go?" Only, for August, it was, "Where did that month go?"

I'm not saying we are as busy as we were last fall. We are not, and for that I am extremely grateful and happy (and, thankfully, our house is cleaner, too). I see the kids all day long now, for Pete's sake, as opposed to the (maybe) one-hour-a-day schedule we had going last fall.

We are still learning plenty about this new life. For me, I am learning what it means to be a stay-at-home mom who is totally at peace with the absence of a role outside of the home. I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the fact that I could say something besides "I'm a stay-at-home-mom," when people asked what I did. I can't even talk myself into saying "domestic engineer" or "atmosphere director." That sort of answer just feels too generous, since I'm anything but "domestic" and the atmosphere in this household is often complete chaos. Who wants to be responsible for that?

The "stay-at-home-mom" label, however noble and awesome it may be, often leaves me with a marmish feeling about myself, like I should be driving a minivan with too-bright lipstick and mom-jeans. (The English teacher in me already loves cardigans, people...this is the first step toward marmish, I believe.)

As a stay-at-home mom, I think I should be cooking five-star meals, shining the toilets hourly, and making arts and crafts out of used paper towel tube cardboards. And to be honest, while the first two on this above list don't happen, that last one should truly be a reality, as it fits more succinctly with our one-income--pastor's income, at that--budget. Lucky for Brecken--boy genius--he has figured out how to turn poop into paint. (Yes, that did in fact happen this morning. I would show you the picture but I fear that would ruin your appetite or breathing patterns or carpet.)

Speaking of the budget, we went "a smidge" over our forecasted budget last month and I have been beating myself up over it/wallowing in self-pity every hour on the hour for the past three days. It's not that we don't have money saved up, it's just that the trend of going over budget bothers me to no end, and I'd like to not go through our saved money within two months.

((Request for advice...The thing is, much of the money we spent in our "extras" budget category was on gifts. This is so annoying to me, possibly because I will literally have to put others first in our budget instead of spending first on me/us, then on others. :o) Also, because gifts are fun to give, especially when people don't expect them, this is not something I want to give up. (Don't think we are huge gift-givers when you read this. We are not, but we wish we were.) How do people afford this gift-giving stuff on one income? And how do we hang out with friends without being lame and saying, "No thanks, we don't want sushi tonight. We had PB&J before we came. Can we have water with lemons, please?")

But I digress. I seriously love being home with these two active, poo-obsessed little boys and would not have it any other way, but it has been a serious (and good) adjustment. My pride has taken a major hit, and that's okay, because I know it needed it. (And, unfortunately, Brecken takes after me in this area, because he cannot say sorry for anything. He would rather be spanked than say sorry; Oh, our two little cold hearts need more prayer and humility.)

Sure, I'd like to be labeled in a more meaningful way, to be categorized as someone who is making a difference in the world, but that is truly and simply the wrong attitude. Two little boys may change the world (or even one person) one day, and they need their mom to lead them in that direction.

And don't be surprised if I'm leading them in a minivan. My pride might just need to be knocked that low.

(If you drive a minivan, do not take my opinions personally. I just have a weird, flawed, sinful aversion to owning them. Which probably means that will be the next vehicle in my garage.)