Thursday, December 31, 2009

the dawn of 2010

I don't pretend to know how things work in this world but this year, 2009, taught me more than any other about how the Lord works.

Let me start from the beginning. Two years ago, something horrible happened to our little Alfredo. Someone threw him in the air and watched him fall to the floor. Some folks say that all things happen for a reason. I don't subscribe to that thought. I don't believe that a sweet little boy's arm would be broken for any good reason. But what I do know is that God makes good things happen from even the worst.

So two years ago, just three days after we became certified to be foster parents, I got a call about this little boy, Alfredo. We were given just a dozen facts about him...his age, his condition, whatever they knew. And then we were asked if we would take him. I felt scared and unprepared but I called Rich, told him what I knew and he said "Let's do it". A few hours later, after a mad dash to Target to buy everything I thought we needed to care for this little boy, we were at the hospital to pick him up.

He had only his hospital gown. I'll never forget how scared we all looked...him and us. He looked up into our faces as he said a sound "Grrrrrr". We told the social workers that he was trying to say something. They looked at their folders and said "No, he doesn't talk." But there he was, trying to say something. Then Rich and I realized that he was trying to tell us that he was hungry.

I remember coming home that night and rocking him in a chair. It was awkward with the huge cast on his arm but that closeness of holding him then bloomed into love for him. If I had to say when exactly the love came, I would say it started that first night when he looked up at me with big eyes and trusted me.

He became so attached that he would cry hysterically when I left the room. So I would make a little nest for him out of blankets and pillows and I would sit beside him and talk and play and read books. I carried him with me everywhere. I had to figure out a way to take a shower, to use the bathroom, to make dinner, to do everything I used to do without even thinking of it.

Those first weeks my life shifted. Things that had been so important before were much less so. All that mattered was him.

Our love for him shaped that year, 2008. That was the year we became parents. That was the year I was given a mother's heart and Rich a father's heart. It is the greatest gift we've ever received and it has changed who we are.

And then late in the year, our little baby left us to live with his father on the other side of the country. Our hearts broke. Our life broke. We didn't know how to go back to the life we had before him. We didn't know what to do.

A little while later we met three little children...a "sibling set" as the agency called them. Two year old twin boys and their three year old sister. We took them to the agency's Christmas party. They were pitiful. I remember dancing with the little girl. She looked into my eyes and smiled this gorgeous smile and I wanted to save her.

We started last year off with the thought that maybe we could adopt these three children. That afternoon at the Christmas party wasn't so wasn't nearly as hard as we thought it would be. Lots of people do it...maybe we could do it too.

We went to California to see Alfredo for his second birthday. He didn't remember us. And he didn't seem like the same little boy. It was as if a light that shone in him before had gone out. It was heartbreaking. It's not that he wasn't cared for while in California...that's not what I'm saying. I just think that everything we were feeling, heartbroken and just plain broken, he felt too. They say that children are resilient. And maybe that's just what it was...he found a way to deal with his pain and it changed him. I think that's what happened.

We left California feeling rather sad. We were glad to see him and loved him more than ever, but, in a way, it seemed that chapter of our life was ending and we had to find a way to move on.

We came back to our life here with the idea that yes, we should adopt those three children. We started taking them every weekend...a little bit longer each time. And soon, very soon, we realized it was not going to be easy. These were broken, angry children. There weren't a lot of tender happy moments yet still we thought we could do it.

I think most children are happy most of the time with bouts of unhappiness or anger. But these three were truly joyless with just tiny bouts of happiness. Instead of us making a difference in their life, it seemed like their joylessness was effecting us. I woke everyday with the prayer that this day will be different...I will be more patient, more loving, more generous. But everyday was a struggle and I remember looking at the situation with fear and confusion thinking "THIS is my life? THIS?" I was beginning to forget myself, started losing myself. And I thought there was no way out.

This is a very difficult thing to talk about. We live in a culture where "doing what feels good" has become a religion. I knew that God often asks us to do more than we think we can. And I stood at the face of this situation with so much guilt because I knew I had to say no.

I'm still struggling with this. There are parts of me that really feel like it was God's will that we open our hearts and home to those three...that we step up as adults and do more than what feels good but what is good.

I learned the most from those difficult months. I understood things in a way I'd never been able to before. I understood depression. I understood being pushed to the point of breaking. I understood feeling like I would never be happy again.

The thought came to me that those three children deserved someone who loves them as much as we love our Alfredo. A dear friend said to me "Amy, I don't think you should do this. I keep waiting to hear you sound happy about it but you don't." I realized that I was about to change my whole life for one These children deserved more.

About that same time, we got a call from Alfredo's father. He asked if we would consider being "co-parents" with him. We didn't know exactly what that meant but we were so excited at the possibility of being a part of Alfredo's life again. We said yes and we could feel the rift between how we felt for this little boy and what we didn't feel for the three. It's so hard to admit to but there it is.

In early May, I boarded a plane for California with my two sisters and my brother and we went to get him. I couldn't believe this was happening. This thing that we wanted more than anything but didn't think we had the right to ask for, was happening. And that's just how it was like it was happening to us. We didn't force it or make it happen...we just said yes and it happened.

And that's the biggest thing I learned this year. I learned that when you are open to God's will, when you give your problem to Him and allow for Him to work through you, wonderful things happen.

It's been seven months since he's arrived and the light that dimmed in him before is shining brightly. He's so special and we love him so dearly. When the time approached for him to return to his father, we were all set to send him back, knowing that's what we agreed upon. But we worried about what that would do to him. He's so happy and is doing so well here. But this is shared custody and that means he's only with us part of the year.

But another miracle is working its way into our lives. Alfredo's father is moving here in a few weeks. Can you believe it?

Here we are on the dawn of this New Year knowing that whatever is in store for us, it is with God's good grace that we live it.

Happy New Year, my sweet friends. Thank you for tagging along on this great adventure and thank you for all your love, support and encouragement as we journey through. I do, indeed, love this life!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Matchbox 24 by Marsi Bennett, with a beautiful Christmas angel inside.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

getting there...

It all started with sweet little jars from Ikea. (Sassy, that's where I got the little ones you saw yesterday!) I picked up ten little jars thinking that filled with candy, they'd be nice little gifts for Rich's brothers.

Then I bought the candy online. Too much candy. 30 lbs of candy! So I expanded the list of folks getting jars of candy.

I didn't want to go back to Ikea to get more jars (it's next to a very busy discount shopping mall and it's a zoo anywhere within a 10 mile radius of that place). And when I was in the Container Store the other day, I thought the prices on like jars were too high. I wish I'd just bought them then because this turned into a bit of a wild goose chase trying to find jars about the same size and style as the ones from Ikea.
I didn't find them. Instead I found $5 canister style jars at Target that I'll give to couples. The smaller jars will go to singles.
The larger jars are filled with these colorful ball candies. They are so jolly and fun, aren't they?
Some of the smaller jars have apple candy...

And the others have pink taffy.

By the way, 30 lbs is a lot of candy.

Shall we look at today's matchbox, made by Kelli Flitton...
And look at the tiny magic wand inside...
Doesn't it look sweet in Santa's hand?
And today's door...
We're so close I can taste it...and we are all so excited we can hardly stand it. I don't know who is more excited, me or Alfredo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I have a story to tell. Yes, I do have a million things to do (and I know you do too) but this is a good story.

Remember last week, when I took Alfredo to the Christmas Spectacular? Well, I didn't really want to dwell on the bad parts (or even mention them) but now I will. It's important to the story.

First, I wore these beautiful shoes...

(Important thing to know for later)

The timing of the whole Christmas Spectacular was a little problematic. At 4:00 in the afternoon, it meant waking Alfredo up from his much-needed afternoon nap. Unsuccessfully, I tried to get him down early for the nap. He finally went to sleep just a little while before I would need to wake him up to get ready to go. Reluctant to do so, I pushed it until the last possible moment...waking, dressing, and putting him in the car in record time.

We would have made it on time, perhaps, if a car along the way hadn't stalled, blocking traffic for miles.

But maybe not...there were thousands of cars piling into the parking lot and there were not nearly enough spaces. I finally found a space, looked at the time...4:05! To make matters worse, I had dressed Alfredo in his Santa suit (over his clothes) and his coat didn't fit over it. I hadn't really thought it would be a problem because 1. I didn't realize how very cold it was 2. I didn't know that I'd have to park about a mile from the place.

So, you can see, the whole thing started a little shaky. Picture me, all dressed up, carrying a pint-sized santa, RUNNING to get to the performance.

Then, once we got there, I had the unpleasant discovery that Row X, Seats 6 & 7 were not worth the combined $100 that I paid. Not by a long shot. To make matters worse (didn't I say that's a theme) the lady at the end of Row X refused to let us in. And it was the only way to get to our seats.

Still carrying 30 lb Santa, I climbed up the next few rows to Row Z (the top of the whole stadium!) to two empty seats. We watched happily for 10 minutes until the owners of those fine seats arrived. Booted from the seats we were squatting, and not willing to face the bully on the seat at the end of Row X, I carefully descended the 26 rows of dimly lit and awkward stairs without rails to talk it all over with the first official looking person I could find. I asked said official looking person if we couldn't just please stand right there at the entrance and watch Santa and his reindeer prance around. Please?

Evidently not. It was a fire code violation. Of course it was.

This official looking person offered that I could go to the information booth, halfway around the outside of the performance, to request better seats. Even though the lady there berated me for five minutes about buying cheap seats (???!!!) she offered me what she referred to as better seats.

Having missed a huge chunk of the show arranging these better seats, we arrived at them to find that, while not as far up, they were probably the worst seats in the house. They were flush with the stage. So, while Alfredo could certainly get a good appreciation from this vantage of the high kicks of the beautiful ladies, they were in no way better seats.

When the show ended, I carried little Santa back to the car, spilled the popcorn all over the car, got lost and arrived home exhausted.

And when I looked down at my beautiful shoes, I had managed to lose the bottom part of the heel.

The sad state of my beautiful shoes nearly did me in.

As a whim, I contacted the company, Oh! Shoes, to ask if they might be able to repair my sad shoe.

Here's the best part of the story...and after that story, don't you need it?

The owner of Oh! Shoes just called me. The owner! And he is sending me a brand new beautiful pair of shoes. Did I mention that they are the most comfortable shoes ever? That they were designed by a team of chiropractors, foot surgeons, and countless other experts to be the most comfortable shoes ever...

And she lived happily ever after.


First, let me tell you about this matchbox. It was a bit of a mystery but the person who was to make matchbox number 21 wasn't at Silver Bella. So we all had this almost complete set of matchboxes counting down the days for Christmas...but how could we countdown without a day number 21? So Suz Reaney and I decided to make each other a special number 21 matchbox. Suz is so completely together that she whipped hers up and sent it to me before I even unpacked from Silver Bella. Seriously! She wanted to make sure I had the complete set (including number 21) for December 1. (I am not so together, as you might already know from previous experience, so she didn't get hers from me until a few days later)

So look how completely special this number 21 from Suz Reaney is:
The flip side is even adorable...

And look how wonderful...

And more wonderful still...

The ittiest bittiest Santa paper doll EVER!

She also sent a bigger size of the same paper doll and Mrs. Claus and Alfredo plays so sweetly with them. But he has a little problem keeping the clothes on the paper dolls. So I overheard him as Santa saying to Mrs. Claus "I'm just going to wear my pajamas to deliver all the toys!" Good thinking, Santa.

Before I give you the other updates...I'm going to tell you a little about how crazy I am.

I have a million things to do. We all do, right? A million and one, to tell the truth. I'm quite busy doing all of these millions plus one things. Too busy, really, to make up projects to do.

Like this...
I can't say much about it because it's part of a gift. But really? Seriously? Does even Martha hand embroider gift tags at this point in the game?

And do you know what else I did?
I made gifts for someone else to give...

Our favorite priest (who was moved to another parish this summer) stopped by last week for some coffee. As we chatted and caught up, I showed him an ornament that I had made with a miniature nativity scene in it. He loved it and the next thing you know, I'm offering to make them as gifts for him to give. How many? 15. FIFTEEN ornaments that take about an hour or two each to make. No, even Martha would not take on such a project one week before Christmas, would she?

I'll show you the ornament later this week (I'm making some more for gifts) but for now, let's appreciate these finished and wrapped. And let's mark that one off the list, shall we?

And look how beautiful the tags are? They are by Brenda Walton and I love them so much I could barely bring myself to use them, not even for gifts for a priest to give. But I did in the end, and they are so lovely, are they not?

So as I was thinking today of the frenzy that I've whipped myself into with all of these extra helpings of stuff to do. And I started to think of what Christmas really, really means. And that maybe it's in these beautiful acts of taking care of a priest so that he can show love to the people in his new parish...and by taking the time to make an extra special touch on a gift...where you really spread the joy and love of Christmas day. And I really started to think about how much more important these tiny little things are than a lot of other little things that I have on my list. And that maybe I'm not so crazy afterall.

Speaking of things to be done...I've gotten a little behind again, haven't I?

Without further ado, may I present today's matchbox by the very talented Hope Ellington...

And inside? lovelier still...

Yesterday's door...

And today's...

Stay tuned tomorrow for more Christmas chaos...

Sunday, December 20, 2009


My sister Jessica called again to fuss at me about not posting. She said that she was the voice of all of my other blog readers who were wondering about matchboxes for days 17, 18, 19 and now 20!

Well, Thursday morning we left before the rooster crowed to go to my parents' house. I had a delivery to make...something that was a little too big for Santa's sleigh ride. Since it's a bit of a trip (3 hours) I decided that we'd stay until Friday morning. We ended up staying until the afternoon, arriving home just before the biggest snowstorm I can remember dropped 26 inches of snow in our backyard!

Here are Alfredo and Rich digging out last night. Note the wall of snow up to Alfredo's shoulders!

So let's do some catching up, shall we?

Day 17: My sweet friend Pam Keravuori made this beautiful matchbox...
And inside? Look how sweet! (Jessica, can you believe it? Adorable!)
Day 18: Matchbox is by Lisa Orme...
And look how lovely this little dove is!
Day 19: by me...
And inside...a little peaceful scene...
Day 20 was by my sweet friend Sue Elseth...
Very appropriate, wouldn't you say? And this is ingenious! I love this itty bitty pearl snowman with a rhinestone cap!
And there are a bunch of doors to catch up with...
Day 17....
Day 18...
Day 19....
And today's...

We're pretty much snowed in today. I took my shower this morning and changed into a fresh pair of pajamas! We're not going anywhere and, by the looks of our snowcovered street, we'll have no visitors. Rich spent all morning digging out the driveway and sidewalk. The street is impassable and since there's an abandoned car stuck in the middle, I'm not sure we'll be plowed anytime soon.

Oh, but it sure looks pretty...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

cupcake scarf

I bought this blanket (from Ikea)

and a bunch of these containers (from The Container Store)

Because I had an idea for a really cute, really cheap-o gift...

A scarf disguised as a cupcake!

I used to sell something similar (a ruffled scarf rolled up and sold in the same sort of large cupcake-like liner container) so I can't really take credit for this being a totally original idea. (The one I sold is no longer available but it was distrubuted by Two's Company).

I'm sure you can guess what I did. I cut the blanket into strips about 8 inches wide and got 8 scarves from one $20 blanket. I started to roll hem all the edges but decided (after it took forever!) that it was okay to keep the frayed edges. And then I sewed felt beads all over it. I cut the beads in half to be extra frugal but I'm thinking that the next one might have fewer whole beads on it.

Also, I'm working on some flowered versions...

Alfredo and I had an extra special Christmas treat today. We went to the traveling version of the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular. We had possibly the worst seats but it was still wonderful. Alfredo really loved it. And when I asked what his favorite part was he said "the beautiful ladies". How cute is that?

Today's matchbox is by the very beautiful lady, Maija Lepore.

And look how delightful the surprise is inside...

And today's door...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

how can it be?

I really don't know how it snuck up like it did...
I've been counting down the days...
And paying close attention. But still, I can't believe Christmas Day is next week! How can that be?

We went to see Santa again today. It's a long story but I just really wanted him to see the really, really special Santa at the nice mall. He has a real beard and he calls each child by name. When the visit is over, Santa takes out his big book and makes a note next to each child's name. And this year, believe it or not, as each child leaves, they make it snow, REAL snow! It's so magical.

Alfredo told this Santa that he wanted a mama dinosaur and a papa dinosaur and two baby dinosaurs. Last week he told Santa that he wanted the Hot Wheels Color Change Garage. And even though everyone rated it as a piece of junk, I got it for him. I also got a roller coaster. Yes, you read it right. A Roller Coaster.
I'm just really glad he's not still asking for a REAL hippo or a REAL rhino or a REAL pony like he was earlier this month.

Today's matchbox is by Vicki Flinchum and it's so beautiful...

The photo of what's inside doesn't do it justice (my camera is acting up!)

And today's door reveals a little angel...again sorry about the quality of the photo.