The day I got married, one of my closest friends looked me in the eye and said "God has many wild and wonderful things ahead for you and Jeremy."

Being called mom by 7 kids is definitely wild. Each day I look for the wonder in it all...and give thanks.

Partnering with my husband in life, parenting, work and serving is definitely wonderful. He is my favorite.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas y'all!
Christmas cards are about to go out and all I did this year was put a little poem on the card and my blog address.  So I figured I better give a little update here.
When we came home in September, our plan was to stay home with the kids through this semester and decide in December what we would do for school.
We have decided!
And 5 out of 7 are going to school on MONDAY.
This past week, we met with the different campuses where they will all be and I am really pleased with each one.  Leading up to this decision, all I prayed was for complete affirmation and peace in our decision, whatever it may be.
I have COMPLETE AFFIRMATION AND PEACE with the decision we have made for each one. 
God is good.
And I will be real honest and tell you that my first phone calls to the schools were made solely for my sanity.  I feel like I have been sinking.  Sinking in clutter, work, lessons, parenting, personal Bible study (the lack thereof), and I am so tired.
I knew I would be exhausted, but now I am feeling that exhaustion. 
The second reason for those calls is the need for ENGLISH.  I am so thankful that my husband and I can communicate with each of our kids in their language and understand (most) of what they say to us,
but my brain hurts.
And I am thankful my old kids are learning Spanish and doing pretty good with the language.
My hope is that all of us will become bilingual.  The problem is my new kids are not forced to speak English at home.
So we're headed to school. 
And I'm hoping to work through the clutter, work, better parenting, studying my Bible, helping with homework,
without my brain hurting so much.
We have yet to be successful in getting a nice family picture made with nice clothes and everyone smiling.  The pj pictures I'm sharing here were the best ones and that's only because I popped popcorn and Jeremy and I kissed each other on the lips in front of the kids.
And in case you don't get a Christmas card from us, here is our poem....
One, Two….guess what’s new
Three, Four….we got four more!
Five, Six…..we’re quite a mix
Seven, Eight…God is great!
Nine………….That’s all—Merry Christmas!
Jeremy, Vanessa, Katerin, Emily, Marian,
Wesley, Omar, Saimon & Savannah

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psalm 103:8

The Lord is compassionate...(Ps 103:8)

Our hardest struggle right now is merging two families into one.  I have more compassion for blended families now than ever before.  I am even saddened at how ignorant or complacent I have been in the past about the struggles close friends have had in their family transitions and how they had to walk that path with one less

If you ask me, I have 7 kids.  If you ask some of my kids, they might tell you they either have 1, 2, or 3 siblings right now.  Everyone I talk to says it takes time.  You can't expedite this process.  You can't take short-cuts.  We have to live through it and have life experiences together.

....and gracious...(Ps 103:8)

God doesn't give us what we deserve.  He is full of grace.  I am understanding more of who God is as I parent, comfort, and coach this bunch.  How gracious HE is towards us as we have tantrums, bicker, and tear down one another in His family.

...Slow to anger....(Ps 103:8) 

Slow to anger.  I so miss this attribute in myself.  When I sigh, roll my eyes, respond hastily at one more thing....I am reminded at how God is slow to anger.  What would I do if He responded to me with sighs and frustration?  I wouldn't even be able to bear it.  And I stop myself in mid-sigh sometimes and pray to be more like Him.

....abounding in lovingkindness....(Ps 103:8)

Abounding--much, many, great, exceeding in lovingkindness.  If you asked any one of my kids to describe our days, I am pretty sure the feeling of "abounding in lovingkindess" would not be in their vocabulary.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. 

I pray I am more like Him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We have no idea

We have no idea....
what all God is doing and going to do. 
That's actually from the Bible.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—I Corinthians 2:9
I really believe that.
I feel like I have been hugged from behind
this week
from God.
How does that happen?  What does that look like?

I'm glad you asked!  But I have to give you a little back up info first--

I have REALLY been struggling about "school" since we have been home with our kids.  We kinda have a plan each week--I know we are focusing on language, math, reading, audiobooks. 

I have struggled because everyone needs me. 
Only one is mostly independent. 
I think if we had a reality show it would be called
All My Children....
Have Special Needs

So our day is VERY FLUID and I work alongside one while doing activities with another, then another, then another. 

And I don't feel like we get very much done. 

An hour plus passes (or two plus hours when we have interruptions, attitudes, and/or noncompliance) and we get through our stuff. 

Just a side note, our kids' initials spell KOWMESS when put together.  No joke.  When I see the vinyl stickers on the back windows of SUVs, some days I think about getting

put on the back of Big Blue. 
That's not a joke either.

I label that "stuff" as our "study time" on the wipey board every morning.  Once we make it through our stuff/studies once in the morning, we move on to other things and don't come back to it.  I know learning is taking place in the midst of laundry, meals, wii, laundry, errands, gymnastics, gamecube, laundry, and chasing Maddie home from the park because she got out.....................again.

But I feel like my kids need more than I can give when it comes to pushing them academically. 

So last weekend I put an email out to my homeschool moms group and asked for help.

 I don't always know when to ask for help though.  A few weeks ago, we had our first post-placement adoption interviews and Savannah woke up with an ear/eye infection.  I wasn't sure how to handle the day, and my sister-in-law texted me out of the blue asking to take a couple kids for the day to do school at her house.

That's a hug from God.

What a huge blessing--Marisa and Todd have no idea the impact they are making in our family and on my kids (I Cor 2:9 again) but they have continued to take 2-3 kids once or twice a week to help me out.

Two moms responded immediately to my email.  One mom doesn't even homeschool but offered her house, computers, and tutoring.  She already gave me a house key.  She has no idea (I Cor 2:9).

That's a hug from God.

Another mom emailed me today offering to take the kids to the park in the evenings to give me a little break.  And she invited us to their house for some "study time" with her boys tutoring my little boys and she helping with another one.  She has no idea (I Cor 2:9).

That's a hug from God.

This adjustment has been especially difficult for one of my kids so much so that we have needed extra support.  A counselor friend from church is coming along side helping that child grieve in a healthy way the loss of our old family.  SHE HAS NO IDEA (I COR 2:9).


Another friend is taking two of my kids some each week and teaming them up with her kids so they can work on their Little Giant Steps program together.  What used to be such a difficult task for them is now fun and something they look forward to.  SHE HAS NO IDEA (I COR 2:9).

That's a hug from God.

So what am I learning from this?  Jeremy and I have looked at each other often and said, "There's no way we can do school at home....not long term.  There's just no way."  The thing that I am most struggling with, God is showing me there is a way.  We can't do it by least not right now anyway.  His people, the Body of Christ, are coming along side us to help us do what we cannot do alone.

I'm doing Mindy Ferguson's pilot study on Moses right now and I filled out this chart this morning on what happened through the plagues in Egypt.  I saw with each plague how at first Aaron acts on behalf of Moses, then the Lord, and then by the 6th plague, Moses has the confidence and trust in God to carry out God's directions with boldness.  I feel like Moses right now in how he had so many objections at first to being the guy God had chosen, but God was gracious and affirmed patiently that Moses was the guy.

I have so many objections to homeschooling 7 kids right now--I don't want to do it, it doesn't always work, it's too hard, they need a better teacher, I need HELP right now.

So I have a lot of Aaron's around me to help.  And I am trusting God will graciously affirm what He wants for each of these kids in regard to school.

And the hugs I am getting right now feel like they come straight from Him. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Greater Things

While in Colombia, I told the crew about the Greater Things Fun Run we did last year with our church.  Our church generously gave us proceeds to go toward our adoption with that race--the proceeds covered all of our Dossier fees!

This year, the fun run is called "Running For Adoption" and the proceeds will go to the Abba Fund--a fund for families who are adopting that are in need of a grant or loan.  I asked each one of our kids if they wanted to participate in the run this year and everyone agreed, amazingly enough!
So we added TRAINING to our schedule just to have something else to do each day while in Colombia.

The first day of training in Colombia

It went well.
Since we have been home we haven't "trained" exactly.  But I reminded the kids about the run this past week and we got back into it.  When I say we "trained" I mean we jogged and walked somewhere between 20-40 minutes in the park.
Today was the BIG day.  And I have to say I am so proud of each of them.
The littles (and Maddie) did the 1K

Savannah and Dad finishing strong!

Give me a medal and a treat and I'm happy!
The bigs and I did the 5K (with Maddie too!)
At the finish line!

This was the first 5K for all three girls--I am REALLY proud of them!  And Wes took about 8 minutes off his time--WOW!
It really was a FUN RUN for all of us.  And I am super excited there were over 350 participants this year.  I can't wait to hear how much was raised for the Abba Fund.
I still can't believe we all participated.
This is one of those highs in the roller coaster we are on right now
 and I am just going to enjoy it for a little bit.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

10,000 Reasons

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
This is the beginning of Matt Redman's song, 10,000 Reasons.  We have been home almost 3 weeks and I have 10,000 Reasons to bless His name.  I want to share a few with you here....

We were here when he lost his first tooth
I got to take my older girls to a Wedding Reception of friends we all know and love.
Park time with Dad

We went to our cousin's wedding and had a blast!

 attempted a family picture....not going on the Christmas card.

AND it wasn't too cold that we couldn't jump in the lake at Nana and Paw-paw's!

We got some quality time with extended family that is about to move overseas!
You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

This weekend, we headed to the lake again.  We were trying to squeeze one more "summer" like weekend in--including boating, skiing, and swimming.  Jeremy had to come late so my dad volunteered to ride with me, 7 kids, and a dog.  We had a blowout on the Beltway and even though it added 5 hours to our trip, I am thanking God no one got hurt and the van has not one, but two new tires.
There's actually many more things I am thanking God for regarding that day.  During the two hours we were on the narrow shoulder with trucks and cars speeding past us going AT LEAST 80 mph, we were sitting in the shade of an overpass (it was 90 degrees!), nobody rear-ended us, and we had fruits, brownies, and movies in the van! yea.
So we safely arrive at the lake and have about 2 more hours of daylight.  I ask my dad, "Are you ready to get the boat out??"  As if he hadn't just spent the last 8 1/2 hours on the road with us, he grabs his cap and keys to get the boat ready.  I had planned on getting there around lunch time so we could spend the hot afternoon on the water.  A cool front was heading in over night.
My dad is one of the best dads in the world. 
I'm not saying that your dad is not awesome, and that Jeremy doesn't measure up as a dad, because your dad probably is awesome, and Jeremy is the most amazing dad to our kids
But my dad is my dad. 
And I just can't wait until Father's Day or another birthday
to say how much I love and appreciate him.
He is patient.
He is kind.
He gives and he gives and he gives some more.
And he is an awesome Papa to his grandkids too.
That cool front did come through so we enjoyed bundling up and keeping warm by the fire while we played outside.
with s'more's of course!
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name
I am not blog savvy so I don't know how to have a song playing when you stop by here, so here is the link to Matt Redman's song

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Going out for drinks

This weekend we had our first "date" in 7 weeks.  I am only calling it a date because we ran an errand just the two of us, no kids, and while out picked up a Dr. Pepper and Pumpkin Spice Latte.

We are certainly in the trenches right now as we have been home almost 2 weeks.  Keep praying and I'll have more to share later.....always a lot going on around here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This is not our home

With the last update we were getting ready to come home. 

We are home, but in the last 48 hours some things have happened to remind us that this is not our home.
Phil 3:20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
As we were checking into our flights Monday night, our backpack with our laptop and a few other things was stolen. Jeremy had JUST taken out our passports and Immigration documents for the lady checking us in.
NOW, I can't even imagine the headache and extra time that would have caused us to be in Colombia if our documents were stolen!
THEN, all I could think about was that ALL our pictures from our time in Colombia were gone.
I was pretty upset and Emily was sweetly reminding me that at least it was not a "living thing" that was stolen.
Yes, at least they didn't take a kid.
But I was still pretty ticked.
Matt 6:19-21
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and ruste destroy and where thieves break in and steal,but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We are home.

Tuesday morning we entered our house and had to step under the welcome sign, through streamers and found balloons, confetti, a warm breakfast casserole, stocked refrigerator, signs and notes posted around--

what a sweet welcome home!
(thank you dear friends who did that for us!)
We are home, but it's different.  We have 4 more bodies in the house and we are in this weird stage of being family but not feeling like family all the time...yet.
Two of the kids came home to a room that was no longer just their own.  Four of the kids came home and everything was new to them--it was like Christmas morning when mom and dad are exhausted and the kids are running from one thing to another in excitement, pulling everything out and wanting to play with it all.
Although it will take time for all of us to feel at home, I want to share a story about our youngest boy that made our hearts smile tonight.
Saimon fell asleep on the plane before it even took off from Colombia.  He woke up in Houston and every now and then he still asks, "Is this the United States?"
Tonight he asked again if we were in the United States and Jeremy said yes.  Saimon then asks if there are hamburgers in the United States to which Jeremy answers yes.
(he really likes hamburgers)
Jeremy then asks him if he likes the United States and Saimon said yes.
Jeremy asked him why and he said,
"Because here, I have a dad."
Eph 1:3-10
 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
This is not our home, our citizenship is in Heaven.
Do we like Heaven?
Yes, because in Heaven, we have a Father.

Friday, September 14, 2012

We're still here

Good news--We received the visas today no problem.  Thank you all for praying!  This has been a busy and productive week and we can legally leave the country.

The problem is....we can't leave the country!  We have been on the phone a good part of the day trying to get home this weekend, but there just wasn't a flight that we could all get on and get home timely.  So we are flying out Monday night at midnight arriving home around 5 am Tuesday morning. 

I'm asking God to turn my disappointment into blessing.  We have 3 more days in our kids' birthcountry.  Three more days to soak in their culture, enjoy the cool temperatures, notice the beautiful things in this city surrounded by mountains.  Three more days to enjoy some food not easily available in the States.  Three more days to spend preparing ourselves for the changes--the blessings and challenges that will come as we are home.

Tomorrow we get to spend some time at the orphanage where our kids lived for 2 1/2 years.  We get to meet their friends and some of the workers.  We will be taking lots of pictures!  With this visit, will come excitement and grief.  I feel like I will never feel just one emotion at a time again.  My emotions will now forever be multitasking as I try to relate to each of my kids and their various issues (not to mention my various issues).

We want to say THANK YOU for caring for us, praying for us, reading our updates, and sending encouraging words.  We are so thankful for you and REALLY miss spending time with other adults! :-)  Part of our prep work included reading a lot about adoption.  One of the big things with adopting is cocooning--which means spending time with just the family and not adding in a lot of the extra, normal activities until you give time for deep bonding.

Let me tell you, we have been cocooning.  The process of being here for 4-6 weeks automatically forces cocooning.  We have been blessed to have people back home helping with work so that we could all be here together.  When we get home, we'll be homeschooling atleast this first semester--cocooning.  Yet, as I am learning more about how we all get along together, I hope to add in some planned activities that I think will be good for everybody.  
And good for our sanity.

Again, thank you for your prayers and encouragement!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's different about this picture?

Okay, we are close!  We have an appointment with the Embassy tomorrow afternoon and should get all the visas no problem.  Thank you for your prayers this week--we have passports in hand and documents from the doctor.  YAY!

Now we are looking at flights and things do not look good over the weekend.  Pray for seats to open up for all of us to come home together this weekend.  We may split up or have to wait until Monday night, both of those ideas do not sound good to me.  However, I keep reminding myself that we are blessed and going home earlier than we had originally planned. 

God is good

For those of you who may not ever come to Colombia, ;-) I thought I would share some pictures of things that are WAY different than things in the States. 

Traffic is a little much.  I am sure it is like many other places in the world where drivers use horns instead of blinkers.  Traffic is busy all night too.  And the most peculiar thing to me is seeing horse drawn wagons frequently moving along the street right next to twenty million cars.
We only see that in Houston at rodeo time and it makes the news.

 Hotdogs come in packages similar to those in the U.S., but each dog is individually wrapped in clear plastic.  I didn't know that the first time I threw them in the frying pan.

 Milk is sold on the shelf in the same aisle as bread.  Not refrigerated.  I buy a pack of six bags like this every time I go to the store--which is every 2 days.

Carrots here are shorter and fatter.  Not even going to make a joke about that.  But I like them better than the ones in the U.S.  Yummy!
 This last one is my favorite.  Anytime we eat in a "Broaster" everyone gets plastic gloves to eat their food with.  Good-bye forks and knives.
This may be a big adjustment when we get back to the States...for all of us.
The next time we go to KFC, our kids will be looking for the gloves. :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Almost Home!

We are almost home 
and we need your prayers for specific things this week!  

FIRST: Pray for success tomorrow in getting new IDs and Passports.  
SECOND: Pray that we may pick up passports Thursday and get the needed papers from the Doctor.
THIRD: Pray that we have all necessary documents and have favor Friday when we go for our appointment at the American Embassy at 1:00 pm.
LAST: Pray as we plan to make a visit to the Orphanage with all the kids and pack to come home SUNDAY (pray there will be room for all of us on the flight when we are ready to book it!)

We are soooooooooooooooo ready to come home!  

Everybody is READY.

I have to share some pics from our game time at the mall.  We spent two afternoons (one last week and one this week) at the top floor of the mall where they have lots of games.  Our crew put all the tickets they won together from both days and were able to pick out a Ripstick from the prize counter. (it took about 1300 tickets!)

And the Ripstick has provided great entertainment the last couple of days.

I share a lot about the kids and some of you have specifically asked how Jeremy and I are doing.  

The short answer is very well, 
but we did hide out and eat almost an entire king size Hershey bar in about 10 minutes this evening. :-) 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Guest House

I don't think I have given you a tour of the Guest House yet.  You have got to hear what God did!  For weeks I looked online at apartments in Bogota to find a place that would be big enough for a family of nine.  I prayed.  I knew God would provide a place for us.

About three or four weeks before we traveled, friends of ours hooked us up with The Guest House.  It is a house that serves missionary teams, individuals, and pastors.  And it also is used for Seminary classes and church on a weekly basis (which we found out after getting here.)  I think we are the first adoptive family who has stayed here and we may be the last. ;-)

Anyway, it has been great!  We have even gone downstairs to the church service the last three Sundays with the kids.  I don't think we would have ventured out to another church while here, but since this one meets right next to our kitchen and it's hard keeping all 7 kids quiet all Sunday morning, we thought we would try!

 The kitchen/laundry room is fully equipped and we even fit at the long table that takes up most of the space. :-)
You can warm something up in the microwave, wash dishes, and or get something off the stove all while sitting at the table!
Around the corner from the kitchen is the stairs that lead to our bedrooms and living room

The living room

Master bedroom down the hall

The girls' room

The boys' room
(I took these pics the day we got here so the rooms look really neat!)
The "yard" next to the house
(which is also right next to a road that sounds like Hwy 290 during rush hour at all hours of the night--but it doesn't keep me awake....anymore.)
OH, and they mow that 1/4 acre with weedeaters at 5:30 am--Nash Lawn could open up another crew down here!
One of the neighbors

We have been very comfortable in this place and thankful to have the room!  After considering a few apartments, we feel we could not be in a better place.  Many thanks to our friends here in Bogota--Stan and Deb!
Just one more blessing that God gave us to show us He's got this!