Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!


A throwback to 2009 


and a new photo from 2014

to wish you a very merry Christmas!

We wish you God's richest blessing on you and those you love as we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the gift of his coming to earth!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Adoption Update, Two Years On



The short story:

We are still paying off the legal debts incurred by Evie's adoption and are making some more fundraising efforts to help reduce that debt.

The long story:

A little over two years ago we got the call we had longed for but had nearly despaired of ever recieving: an expectant mother had chosen our profile and wanted to place her baby in our family.

We were torn between joy and doubt, but because the Lord had brought us that far we decided to continue to suppress those doubts and trust Him some more.

One of the major factors in every family's decision to adopt (or not adopt) is finances.  On the one hand, we don't want mere money to hinder us from following such a necessary and noble calling as adoption.  On the other hand, we are to be responsible stewards of the money the Lord has provided, staying within our means, staying out of excessive debt.  I don't know of a single adoptive family who has not struggled mightily with the question: can we afford to adopt?

For our family, in the end, we decided to take that leap of faith, trusting that the Lord - through means we could not yet imagine - would provide the funding we needed beyond what we already had in our meager bank account.

In the previous few years, while we applied for and then renewed our home study, we had already applied for many (and recieved a few) of the adoption funds, grants, and no-interest loans offered by charitable organizations.

During the months leading up to Evie's birth, we pursued other fundraising options: Just Love Coffee sales, an on-line auction, and a whole lot of direct giving.  We were overwhelmed with the generous outpouring of love and funds from our friends, family, acquaintances, and a few complete strangers!

Through all of these means, we ended up with the amount we needed.  Whew!  Immense joy, immense relief, immense gratitude.

Just as we had gotten Evie home and the dust was settling, though, we got a phone call that sent a ripple of fear through us: a potential birth father had shown up and wanted a DNA test.

Okay, we thought, this could be a good thing.

Or this could be the disaster we most dread.

We were told by a number of reliable sources that birth fathers rarely show up and even if they do, they rarely push for their rights.

Evie's birth father pushed for his rights.

This is where adoption gets even more complicated, where you have to truly come to grips with what you believe and why, where you wrestle with legal definitions and God's providence.

As parents, we support parental rights and would never want to unfairly tear apart a family.  On the other hand, as the pre-trial and then trial proceeded, we realized that this man was in no way fit to care for this precious baby girl.  He is not a particularly bad man, but he is not equipped to father a child in any way more significant than through biology.

Here, I must add that Evie's birth mother gave us her unwavering support from the moment she chose our profile book.  To our knowledge, even in the face of opposition from friends and family, even through a legal trial that brought out the ugliness of old and broken relationships, she continued to stand by her choice, to stand by us, in our mutual desire to see the best for Evie.  She knew all too well the brokeness in her own life and fervently wished for a different life for her daughter.

By God's grace, the judge in the case ruled in our favor and terminated the birth father's parental rights.  A little more than three months later, the adoption was final; Evie was - and is! - a Shaw forever.

All of this legal wrangling took a large emotional toll on all of us and we will long remember the joy we felt and the party we had when we learned of the judge's decision, and later when we learned of the finalization of the adoption.  Many of you rejoiced with us at those times, and sharing our joy with a community of like-minded people only sweetened the moment.

The other effect of the legal proceedings was financial.  If any of our children had a medical need, we would do whatever was necessary to preserve his life and quality of life, regardless of time and money.  Similarly, we committed to doing whatever it took to keep Evie where we felt the Lord had placed her in his perfect timing.  This meant, though, that our initial financial number fell far short of the eventual cost of the entire adoption process.

And that brings me back to "the short story" above.  We are going to be making some more fundraising efforts over the next few months to help reduce that debt at a faster rate than we otherwise could.

If you gave two years ago, we thank you sincerely and heartily, and if you have no more desire or ability to give, please know that your contribution was very important and we very much appreciate what you gave before.

If you are in a position to help us now, whether or not you gave before, we thank you in advance!

I have opened an Etsy shop with a few items of handmade jewelry, photography, and household items.  Go to etsy.com and look for AnneGirlStudio.

Watch for more adoption fundraising efforts coming soon!

Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween/Reformation Day

We missed out on our church's Reformation Day Celebration last weekend and our hearts missed the old days of Mission OPC's Reformation Celebration and going with Pat and Katie to "the main building" to trick or treat with the elderly and infirm there.

In order to comfort ourselves, we went out and gathered candy from the neighborhood.


This stealthy ninja was rarely seen, but his bag of candy seemed to grow steadily.


Johanna went to a youth group party rather than trick-or-treating, but she posed for pictures with the others.  She was "Margo" from Despicable Me.


Evie was the sweetest little purple fairy you ever did see!


Enough pictures, Mom!

Will declined to participate in the festivities this year; too old, apparently, even for his favorite Darth Vader costume.  

Micah and several friends dressed as nerds for a party.  He said that everyone was going as nerds, but he was the only one who needed a costume.  Funny, Micah.

Here's a throwback to 2010 (?) - Sam pinning the 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Church doors. 



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October

Oh, how I love October!

Last week, I processed several pounds of apples. From them, I baked my grandma's apple cake (the caramel sauce makes it sooo yummy!) and made several batches of apple pie filling which are now in my freezer, awaiting pie dough at the proper time.


 Yesterday was John's birthday and we got to spend the day out together which was a treat for both of us!  We had hoped to get a good hike in but had trouble finding the right place to park and enter the hiking trail, and by the time we did that it was raining and anyway we had to get back to pick up the boys from soccer practice. 

In the short way we did go, I was able to get a couple of pictures of the lovely fall color in Wissahickon Valley Park.




This cobweb (below) was in our backyard this morning.  Evie found it and was fascinated by it.

What a smart girl!  She's probably some sort of genius.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Aaaand...One More

In Minnesota, Johanna played volleyball for Liberty, but when we moved here, we found that Phil-Mont does not have a volleyball team (!), so Johanna switched her fall sport to soccer.


She plays a variety of positions, but most often plays defense.


Not surprisingly, she is a fierce competitor.


She has a great team; can't wait to see what these girls do in the coming years.


They won this game last Friday and have a winning record.

This coming week, Johanna has two games and two practices, Will and Micah have four games and one practice, and Sam has one game and one practice.  I plan to take long naps every day to prepare.  I just hope Evie cooperates with that plan!

Another Soccer Post

Soccer dominates our lives right now, so, yes, here is another post about soccer.

Well, really about two particular soccer players.

Here's Will, leading the pack.  He plays defense - stopper - and does a bang up job bootin' it out from in front of our goal.  He is a formidable presence back there, as you may imagine.


Micah plays left wing.  Basically, from what I can tell, his job is to run up and down the left side of the field like a crazy man for 90 minutes.  

He claims it's more complicated than that, but I'm just callin' it like I see it.





This picture's caption is something like, "Mom, quit taking our picture."


And this is the moment right after.  Goofballs, the both of 'em.

The bandaging on Micah's finger is from a few weeks ago when he had stitches.  All better now, thankfully.

I must say, I know way more about soccer now than I ever expected I would, and, yes, more than I ever wanted to.  But sometimes we have to sacrifice a little ignorance for the sake of our kids.  I'm all about the sacrifice.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September Sunlight

Even before the leaves really start to turn, and trees put on their brilliant autumnal mantle, the sunshine of autumn, more relaxed and mellow than summer sunshine, less eager than spring, makes me catch my breath and see the world afresh.


The first three pictures were taken near the field where Sam plays soccer on Saturday mornings.


In contrast to piping voices and fast-forward motion on the fields across the stream, this quiet cemetery sat in the sunshine, contented and still.


The last two pictures were taken in our own backyard.


In September, beauty dwells, even among us.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Sam's Soccer Saturday

Sam plays soccer in a local rec league.  They practice once a week and have a game every Saturday.

Initially, Sam was not excited about going, but pretty quickly, he changed his mind.  In fact, after last Saturday's game, he said to me, "Thanks for signing me up for this!"

Last Saturday was picture day, and being a cheap-skate, I didn't pay for the professional head shot of my darling angel.  Instead I took my camera along and after the team picture, I pulled Sam aside for a quick photo session of our own.

Unfortunately, I do not inspire the kind of cooperation a professional inspires in most youngsters.  Or at least not with Sam.

I got this.


And this.


And finally settled for this: the semi-serious "Mom-stop-torturing-me-I-wanna-play-with-my-friends" look.


Sam's team has boys from ages 7 to 10, a good mix that allows the younger boys to learn from the older and gives the older boys a chance to be rockstars.  


Sam has only played organized sports one other time in his life, two years ago, and I wasn't sure how much he remembered about the game.

(Side note: I vividly remember talking with our liaison at the adoption agency on the phone, gettting updates on "our" birthmom, while watching Sam play soccer with 75 other 5 and 6-year-olds.) 


His favorite move is hopping around the fringes of the "scrum" of boys around the ball, but he's not afraid to get in there, too.


These boys are actually beginning to understand the concepts of strategy, passing the ball, and teamwork, so it's fun to watch.  

They tied their first game and won their second one 4-7, but of course no one is keeping track or cares anything for statistics like that.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Mantel 2014

I've made major progress on the kitchen and will share some pics soon.

But in the meantime, we've moved into a new season and that means a new mantel.  Or at least a new mantelscape.  

(Yes, I made up that term and I like it.)

Here is last year's mantelscape.  Mighty pr'ty it was, too, if I do say so myself.  It required lots of input from Facebook friends, but came out rather well.


This year, I decided to start with a clean slate.  I removed the brass doors and scrubbed everything down.  


I still have the doors just in case we find that we have unwanted visitors and want to replace them.

I mean winter drafts, not Santa!

I replaced the grate and arranged some logs on it, then set to work on the mantel.


I pulled things from all over the house and arranged and re-arranged until I came up with this.


This morning, I looked at it again and was dissatisfied.  The big white basket just wasn't right.  It needed something to break it up, but the mantel isn't wide enough to accomodate another layer, so "Bye bye basket!"

Here is what I have up there now and I like it better.  I think.  


What do you think?  


Does it need something more? Something less?  Something different?  Something borrowed?  Something blue?

Wait.  Sorry.  That's for weddings.  

Anyway, what do you think?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mid-Makeover

Phase 1 of this kitchen makeover has lasted way too long.  It involved removing doors, stripping old polyurethane, cleaning, and buying supplies.  Unfortunately each of these also involved days - sometimes many days - of  waiting for my schedule to clear so I could move on to the next step.


Well, today was the day.  With boring - albeit necessary - prep work done, we moved on to Phase 2.  


Here is my lovely assistant working on Coat 1.


Even after one coat, I could see that the white was really going to lighten up the space- a major factor in my decision to go ahead with this crazy idea.


This is what it looks like after two coats.  

I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  It's not as forgiving and wonderful as everyone says.  My brush strokes are very obvious (and, yes, I used the natural bristle brush recommended.  Actually I felt like the brush strokes became less obvious on the small section where I switched to an evil synthetic bristle brush.).  

I watched yet another tutorial on YouTube and this one explained why my brushstrokes are so obvious - I have a harder, non-porous surface to paint on, whereas an untreated board would soak up the paint and make for a smoother surface.  Fair enough, but still kind of disappointing to me after all the glowing praise I've heard for this "miracle" paint.

I'm hoping that a third coat will make everything wonderful.   


The white cabinets definitely are going to transform the look of my dark, little kitchen, and I'm still hopeful that the chalk paint and wax will come through for me and I'll have the updated white cupboards 
I'm hoping for!

Next up: Phase 3 - waxing and waiting

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kitchen Makeover in the Making

When we picked out this house, I said it was "the perfect" house.

What John heard was, "This is Anne's dream house.  She is entirely content with it.  She will feel no need to change any of it.  She will not concoct strange and frightening ideas of changing anything because it. is. perfect."

Oh, foolish man.

What I really meant was that the house has a great lay-out, plenty of room for our large family, updated features, many pleasing aspects.

I also meant that it has room for the kinds of improvements that fall within my fairly limited range of diy abilities.  Namely, paint.

At the moment, I have the kitchen and the master bedroom in my sights.  These are the two rooms wherein I spend a majority of my time, so their deficiencies, such as they are, are constantly before me.

In an attempt to deny the need for paint, I took one of the kitchen cupboard doors and stripped it of the shiny polyurothane.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) this also took off bits of the dark wood stain, thus making is impossible for me to simply seal it again and be done.

So, I am taking the plunge.  Paint.

I know the risks.  I know the potential hazards.  Truly.  You don't have to tell me.

Don't quote me the price when I haven't got the time.  Not entirely sure what that means, but it seems to fit.

I have done my due diligence: read tutorials, tips, and tirades; compared and contrasted; weighed the options, and...  

Annie Sloan chalk paint seems to be the best.  Many bloggers and pinners swear by it and seem to get excellent results.  

What I need to decide now, though, is color.

Here is how the kitchen looks now.


Should I do all white?  White on top and something dark on the lower cabinets?  Lighter and darker shades of the same color?  Something darker on both?

Here are the available colors:


Paris Grey on top and Paloma on the bottom, or...Old Ochre on top and Duck Egg Blue on the bottom, or...Old White on top and French Linen on the bottom, or...all in Versaille, or...

I'm stuck. 

I know some of you have excellent taste in these things, so I'm looking for your help!  What do you think?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

End of July

Two weeks ago, we drove down to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for our first FAC Retreat.

FAC stands for Faithful Adoption Consultants.  This company works with adoptive families and adoption agencies and facilitates matches for their clients.  Two years ago, we were one of their clients; they helped to get our profile book into the hands of Evie's birth mom, and then they prayed for, encouraged, and advised us all the way through the process of adoption and beyond.

One of the perks of being an FAC family is the on-going support from Courtney and Jessica, but also from the other adoptive families who are former clients.  This annual retreat is one way to help and encourage each other, particularly as adoptive families.  


This picture is of Courtney, founder of FAC, and Jessica, the other consultant and the one who worked with us a lot on Evie's adoption, and some of the kids they have helped to adopt.


It was a fun weekend and we all made new friends and rejoiced in the blessing of adoption. 

The weekend was also exhausting with long days at the pool, late nights out, and long drives there and back.


Monday after we got back, Johanna and I were both under the weather so the boys were supposed to watch out for Evie.  This is what happens when the boys are left in charge - Evie gets into an entire loaf of bread and brings it up to my bedroom.  She occasionally took a bite from one armful or another so I guess they weren't feeding her enough, either.

See the dog back there, too?  She's supposed to stay downstairs in the family room.  At least she was cleaning up behind Evie.

*sigh*

This is where I start singing, "Let it go...Let it go..."

One day won't harm anyone, I suppose.  Thankfully, the next day Johanna and I were back up and around so order was restored.  More or less.


This is just Evie being silly.


So is this.


Evie is quite the kisser, now.  She loves to give out kisses and hugs and we are all happy to return them.  

There's a lot of love around here.