Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hay! For Miriam!

For Miriam's birthday, she invited some girlfriends to the barn for a riding lesson and cake. She brought Gracie, Wendy and Hannah as well as her two sisters along to experience "her world". We all traveled together in the big red dog to the farm where the girls met their mounts - Chunky Monkey and Nina and then proceeded to groom and tack them. Robyn took them into the new indoor ring where they each got several turns at riding and sidewalking. I thought the girls did a fantastic job. Even though they'd each only had a handful of experiences with horses they handled themselves well and, for the most part, were able to eventually ride solo. Miriam rode once and then was perfectly content to sit back and watch her friends enjoy themselves. She was so tickled to see them having such a nice time with her friends.

The lesson over, the girls put away their tack, did a little more grooming, turned the horses out and we all sat at the picnic table where we sang happy birthday and enjoyed cake, ice cream and presents. It was a bit nippy outside so that part didn't last too terribly long but I really think all of the girls had a wonderful time and Miriam was thrilled to have the opportunity to provide them with the fun!

I will be adding pictures later but, unfortunately, I forgot my camera and all of our pictures are stuck on Aunt Robyn's digital card.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Extreme End to an Extreme Week

Well, I suppose I need to finish chronicling our involvement with the Extreme Home Makeover experience at Freedom Hills. Unfortunately, I don't have any more pictures to add since I was more focused on being in the right place and letting the kids enjoy themselves than snapping shots of stars.

We decided we wanted to see Renee's reaction (and I was hoping to be close to Robyn) during the unveiling of the house and so we traveled up to the farm right after church and took up our places in the VIP spectator section. Unfortunately, by the time we got there the only thing we could see were the rear ends of the contractors surrounding the limo. While most people were yelling "Move That Bus!" we were chanting "Move Those Butts!" We completely missed the moment and Robyn herself was enough of a VIP that I wasn't really able to get near to her either.

Having had a disappointing time of it so far, we wandered down to the new playground area that was built in front of the barn. The kids mingled with basically the same crowd with whom we'd been thrown together on Tuesday, ate chocolate chip cookies, drank water and waited. There was a lot of waiting going on. I think there were about 2 hours scheduled for the family to be filmed touring their new house and then they were scheduled to tour the barn and then on to the new riding ring. The plan was that when they opened the doors to the riding ring the culminating surprise would be for Renee et al to see the faces of all their dear ones standing there welcoming them home. This was a great idea for the first hour or so....

Once the house tour was coming to a close, we were shooed into the ring where we waited in as much silence as one can muster with about 100 people in an enclosed space, many of whom are children with disabilities, while they filmed the unveiling of the barn. We did get a brief look-see as we had to go through the barn to get to the ring and it is simply gorgeous! (Although some of the horses were very *not* happy with the changes!). The design team showed up about 20 minutes before Renee, Ellie and Alex and did their best to disrupt the hard-won semi-silence we'd managed to maintain. They remembered many of the kids and had a great time cutting up with each other. I think Miriam now considers Ed to be here personal friend and for all I know her arms were still entwined around his middle when the cameras started to roll. Suddenly the team was ordered to arrange themselves in front of the crowd and the doors were opened. Renee seemed really pleased with the ring, although she and the kids looked really tired to me - not surprising considering their marathon day. They filmed that take from several angles. Miah and Nate were starting to get antsy so we took them outside for the remainder of the filming. Unfortunately, the filming was over and Renee finally had a chance to mingle with folks but we didn't realize it so I missed my chance to get with her and hear her reaction. Alex did seem excited about his room. I was really hoping for something way cool for him.

So that's about it. Look for our family in bits and pieces when the show airs which is rumored to be sometime in January. Oh yeah, just for the record I want to say that "our" dog will also be on the show. On Monday they filmed a segment involving the trailering of horses. Since Ed refused to be anywhere near the animals, he called for a dog who he then went through the motions of trailering to "show" the rest of the team how it's done. He ended up carrying Strider down the hill and into the trailer. Strider was named by our children, claimed by our children and beaten and abused by Pooka during his short stay with us after we returned home following the fire and tried to resume a two-dog household. He's been living as Robyn's husband's Harry's dog ever since we had to return him to the farm when it was obvious Pook was not able to share her roost.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Week 7?

I looked at my wheel and by my best figuring I'll be due 'round about the beginning of June which is good because we don't have any June birthdays yet. Of course, if little one shows up early than Joel will have to share his birthday month for the first time since he left home and left behind the chain that bound him to his brother's birthday (he's still a bit bitter about sharing a life time of birthdays with his brother, his younger by a year and a day).

So far I've told our family counselor, my spiritual mentor (hey, I had to justify my whacky behavior over the past few weeks so they would stop thinking I'd gone off the deep end), my chiropractor (who needed to know in order to decide on treatment) my large families egroup (they get it), Pauline (Noah's grandmother who needs to be the one to tell Bethany that she's ok with us adopting in the middle of a pregnancy) and Robyn because, well, I just felt like I wanted to give her a fun little secret of her own to hold onto while she's sitting back and watching her sister be blessed to high heavens at the farm. That's it. Oh yeah, there was a faux pax the other evening when I went out with my special needs support group. Fortunately, there was only one other lady there but she did catch my mistake. I had ordered a chocolatey/coffee sort of drink which had alcohol and then realized that I needed to unorder it while mumbling something about, "I just realized I shouldn't be drinking alcohol right now."

Meanwhile, my body is in serious rebellion against this plan to hold off the revelation of our new little one until Thanksgiving. It always seems by the time I am this far along (6 or 7 weeks) I am already pooching out like most women entering their second trimesters. I wore my favorite long, flowy skirt on Thursday but got lots of stares at my growing tummy (yes, I noticed that you noticed). Nobody has been bold enough to ask yet but it's coming....

So far I just seem to need lots of chocolate but no real *cravings* yet. I am repulsed to the point of retching by the Sunday afternoon bunny noodle pot - a sure sign of pregnancy. This time I'm going to try to do my Bradley excercises throughout the pregnancy and have another drug-free delivery.

Oh yeah, I did another test yesterday (gotta love the Dollar Store) and it was even more positive than the last so my hormone levels must be rising - a good sign.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An Extreme Day

We had a blast today. The barn where we do therapeutic riding is getting a makeover of the extreme kind. On Sunday morning the crew of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition showed up at Renee Luther's home and booted her and her two kids to Italy so they could build her a new home and stable and indoor riding ring. The storyline for the episode will be the good that Freedom Hills does through hippo therapy for the disabled (otherly abled) community. Being part of the therapeutic riding program for the past 6 or 7 years we were invited to come meet the design team and interact with them while staging a riding lesson. There were lots of Freedom Hills families there trying to infuse a knowledge of the world of disabilities and hippo therapy into a team of 5 people over the course of 4 hours. This was the "design team gets to know the Luther's world" sort of day.

Yep, the whole design team was there and we met them all. We took part in Ty Pennington's little hand-cam "say hello to the family" shtick for which our kids were front and center with the team so we will at least be on the episode for that brief segment guaranteed. At one point they miked up JT, put him on a horse and gave him a generalized "script" to use while being side-walked by Paige. Ben got pulled aside to do a little scripted bit with Eduardo and the highlight of our day was watching the kids tussle with Rib Hillis, a new member of the EMHE team but a super guy. I think he just missed his 4 yo twins and got a real kick out of Noah and Nehemiah in particular. He spent quite a bit of time just pal-ing around with the little ones on camera and off.

We were asked not to take photos of the actors without their permission and, not being the pandering type, I really didn't want to ask but Rib finally knelt down in the middle of the kids and asked if we'd like a photo which we couldn't turn down. Unfortunately, at the time JT was herding JM to the bathroom, Betsy was riding a horse and Noah had collapsed in a screaming heap on the ground next to us. We took the picture and Rib plopped himself on the grass next to Noah and matched his tantrum scream for scream. I think Noah was too pooped to enjoy his little personal performance piece though. Shhh...I did take an unauthorized picture of Ty just for the kids' sake which I won't post here. He was fun to watch but he was all business whereas the rest of the design team didn't have quite as much responsibility to get specific things filmed and so were able to pal around with folks a bit more. Philip ended up in front of Ed Sanders during the filming of the "hi Renee" shots and enjoyed bantering with him while Noah rubbed Ed's head stubble from the top of Rib's shoulders.

We have Renee's sister Robyn to thank for all the fun. She's the riding instructor who *didn't* get the cool makeover and instead has become the right-hand woman to the ABC producers. She gets the opportunity to go sleepless for days on end, run errands for the three producers ( all named Matt) and direct people to their various stations throughout the property. We learned that her name carries a lot of sway with the security folks - all we had to do was say ,"We're with Robyn" and we pretty much got carte blanche to do what we pleased. Of course we didn't abuse the privilege and tried our best to stay out of the way but we did get front row seats to the action on the construction site. If she had to stay home and babysit the farm, she's determined that her friends would have a good time. In a way, I think being on site may be more fun than an Italian Disney vacation. Lots of great-natured people are out there working to make life a little easier for the likes of our family and the other families who are enduring much more disabling conditions than us. So I just want to say from our family THANKS ROBYN! You are loved, too, by all.

At one point one of the producers came and introduced himself and met our family. We told him about the house fire and about how the show gave our kids some hope of returning to a restored house eventually when we could see the stories about other people. He brightened up and said, "Hey, with your family you would have made a great story for Extreme Makeover!" I told him we'd put in our tape and he gave me a sheepish little, "Oh". It was just a funny little moment.

To top off my extreme day I met with my special needs homeschooling support group with a mom who is a Sears employee. So after I shared about our day, she gave me the details of the shopping frenzy which had occurred early Monday morning. She described an amazing feat in logistics with a very generous budget. Although she didn't get to meet any of the design team since they worked with a couple of the producers instead.
We're going to attempt to watch some more construction on Friday and be there for the Luther family return on Sunday so our extreme day is going to be more like an extreme week. I'm thrilled the kids have this experience - they will truly remember this for a life-time!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A New Creation...

Well, I've been an emotional mess as of late to the point of eliciting comments and serious counsel from both the kids' counselor and my own spiritual mentor. It seems as though life has suddenly gotten really hard and I can't keep a perspective on my emotions. I've been blaming it on my whack-o cycle which is going on about 40 or 50 days now. I've been feeling increasingly physically uncomfortable - bloated, a wee bit crampy but no onset of my cycle and so no release. I pulled out a pregnancy test just to see...Joel and I had been discussing the possibility in an off-hand way but we discuss that every time I get to this point in my crazy cycle plus I just did a test (very negative) about 3 or 4 days ago. So...I was just chatting with him while I took the test, put the test down, brushed my teeth, picked it up to see...a faintly developing pink line in the test area. I walked into the bedroom, casually continuing our conversation, and said, "So do you really think I'm pregnant?" To which he replied, "No, probably not." "Well, see for yourself" and I tossed the test across the bed to him. Honestly, at that point that little pink line was still just beginning to show up so I wasn't positive myself but he picked it up, looked at it, blinked a couple of times and said something to the effect of, "Hmmm...that looks like a yes."

We're thrilled...which is probably a surprise to many people and which is why we immediately vowed not to tell anyone until...I don't know....Thanksgiving. For one night it was our own delicious little secret. Of course, there are some people who *have* to be told for one reason or another. Adora was the first to know this morning. Since she'll be the one taking up my slack we thought it only fair that she be in on it - also since she is able to interpret our veiled comments to one another spoken above the level of the kids' understanding. Turns out, she's been having dreams of me being pregnant. She's sure it's a girl...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

First Holy Communion

John Michael has joined the ranks of the communed. We are so proud of him as he has spent the past year or so really watching and listening at mass. For a couple of months now he's gone up to the railing looking expectantly and sometimes even holding out his little hands as the priest passes by but until this morning he was rewarded only with a blessing.

Today he joined several of his friends at the altar. He was beside himself with joy - in fact, so much so, that it almost appeared as if all his months of learning the prayers and watching the priests and trying to grasp the whole idea of eucharist (which one of us even can do that as adults?!) had been a figment of my imagination. But once he reached the railing he was able to really focus on the elements. It is so exciting to think of another of our children receiving Christ in this way.
John joined his good buddies Stephen, Emma, Katie, Olivia and Danielle at the altar for eucharist. Stephen's reaction was priceless as he tasted the wine for the first time and his face let us know just how that tasted to his tongue! The morning was a double blessing as we also baptized the newest little member of our parish - Matthew.

Way to go, JM! May you continue to grow in faith and love of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And Now there are TEN

Rumor has it the cute little guy we've been seen with lately will be the newest member of our family. For once the rumor mill is right. Noah became a permanent fixture in our home about a month ago and we are now entering the adoption paperwork scene to make him ours for good. His name is Noah and he'll be turning two this month - right smack in between David and Nathan, he's a year younger than David and 9 months older than Nathan. Already he has a long history and so we're hoping to be the place where he can settle down and have a forever family. I'd like to put a picture of his cute little mug on here but I'm not sure that's a good idea yet for his safety. He does have an older brother who may also become part of our family but for now, he's still with their grandmother. Interestingly, this is our first private and open adoption as we have contact with Noah's grandmother and she will be keeping her grandmotherly title and all subsequent privileges for the years to come.


Fr. Joel has a new job title at church now. He has exchanged Associate Pastor for Priest-In-Residence. We're very excited about this new change because it is a recognition of his priestly mission as something different from the other priests at our church. We've long suspected this but were only recently able to put a finger on the differences.

As God grows the vision of our family we know that He has something planned in all this with the family as the center of our ministry. The seeds of a family performance have been growing in our minds and we've been very focused on the idea of couple to couple ministry as well. Our hearts have been intertwined together like kids newly in love. We hate the idea of being separated in our days and we work more and more as a well-oiled team. It has seemed unnatural as of late when Joel has been called away for church business when there is so much of his heart in the family business.

So what is a priest to do? Deny his priestly call? No...we are certain of his call to the ordained priesthood and we are just as certain that his priestly gifts do not lie in the rectorship of a parish at this point. Even providing counsel to the rector has been frustrating as his vision and heart just aren't in the running of a parish. So the answer for now is to cut him loose from those responsibilities. He is no longer a member of the rector's council, no longer expected to be at every event, no longer on the altar for every mass. Rather than Associate Pastor, he is Priest In Residence - a priest who happens to take up residence at the Church of Reconciliation. Instead of being at the rector's right hand, he is now free to be standing with his family through everything God calls us to do. It feels like a big change, a good change, an exciting change...I am so proud of my husband and so pleased that we have the freedom to stand side by side and do what we do best - parent this crazy family together and serve as witnesses to the glory of God's kingdom in the process.

Chronic Three-itis

David has it bad. I diagnosed him myself but I'm pretty sure it's the correct diagnosis.

The symptoms of three-itis are:

  • Loss of interest in obedience accompanied by irregular eye motions

  • elongation of all vowel sounds when speaking

  • evading eye contact, particularly when being addressed by parents

  • radical mood swings

  • inability to give consistent answers to questions (frequent changing of the mind)

The onset of symptoms usually happens on or around a child's third birthday.

Treatment includes time out, loss of priveleges and duct tape therapy although all treatement methods only have about a 30% success rate.

The prognosis is good, most symptoms clearing up within about a year of onset.

I think we'll throw David a party for his fourth birthday.....

Cross Country

This year we had five runners in the first cross country race. I was so proud of every one of them. They each made and met their individual goals. Ben has been getting his dad up at 6:30 every morning for the past few months to train for the race. His goal was to get in the top ten for this first race of three. Philip promised me he would persevere in running the whole race and not stop or walk. Betsy and John Michael were attempting the run for the first time and just wanted to get to the finish line. JT was just going out to see how hard and fast he could run. He's great at the short sprints up and down the soccer field (in fact his soccer coach and his son were at the race as well) but he has struggled in the past to get the pacing of a longer distance run without wearing himself down.

John Michael ran in the first race which was a 1/4 mile for the 5 and unders. He made it all the way. I got some great video of some other kid in a red shirt for the first 100 yards....sigh...He was so pleased with himself and added another notch to his developing sense of himself as one of the "big boys".

Betsy, having just turned 6 a few weeks ago, had to run the 1/2 mile. It was a long way for her but she persevered and was able to finish 54th out of 87 6 and 7 year old runners. We thought that was a fantastic job for her first time out.

Ben ran next and we were all pumped up for him. He has worked so hard these past months and we all wanted to see him finish well. He ran well, paced himself well and came in 4th place overall. The first place winner was a girl with a gift for running and, since the girls and boys are ranked separately, Ben received a 3rd place bronze medal. We couldn't have been more thrilled and he really enjoyed himself.

JT and Philip also ran the 1/2 mile but they ran with the 10/11 year olds. JT came in 15th with a time just tenths of a second behind Ben's time which pleased him. He was well ahead of the rest of the pack and just a couple of places behind his good friend Patrick. Philip ran the whole way, didn't stop or walk and made it to the end with 4 runners behind him. This was an accomplishment no smaller than any of the others for him and we were really proud to see him run up to the finish line.

There are two more races to go in this series. I'll keep you posted.