Friday, October 3, 2014

The Mama Bear Technique

(Click HERE for the rest of my Grace Parenting posts.)

In my post Embracing Boyhood: Finding Joy in Little Boys, I talked about ways to find joy while parenting busy little boys.

Today I'm going to add to that topic by sharing one of my favorite "boy" techniques. It's simple, really, but it might seem a bit unnatural for the more feminine/prim and proper/perfectionist type Mamas. (like me, lol)

The Mama Bear Technique: Physical Interaction with Little Boys
Little boys are, by nature, quite physical.
They run.
They jump.
They climb.
They struggle with sitting still for long periods of time.
They laugh loudly (and at things that we girls don't even find slightly funny, like body noises).
They throw things (hopefully like footballs and baseballs).
They love to wiggle and tickle and wrestle and tackle each other.
And often, these very things are what get them into T-R-O-U-B-L-E!
The Mama Bear Technique is simply a way we mamas can get on our boys' level and, essentially, get physical.
Sometimes it can be used to CONNECT with our boys in the language they understand:
--Instead of sending them outside to "run off their energy", play a game of tag instead. Shout out "Mommy's 'it' and coming to get you! Better run!"
--Play jumping or running games WITH them.
--The next time someone burps (and you're tempted to reprimand for poor manners), catch their eye and giggle a bit. Really shock them and announce a burping contest after dinner. :)
--When you're folding laundry and get to the sock pile (which is never-ending in our home), fold up the socks into little balls and throw them as hard as you can at your little guys. Start a sock war and watch their eyes light up with joy.
--Call a pillow fight or a tickle battle.
The Mama Bear Technique can also be used to RECONNECT with our boys when they are struggling. This is my favorite use of this technique:
--When your little guy is having a rough time respecting or obeying you, call them over to you, get good eye contact, then give an appropriate rebuke for the misbehavior. Then, when they least expect it, scoop them up and GET PHYSICAL. If they are still little, throw them in the air. Drop them roughly on the couch and tickle them firmly. Chase them to another room. Crawl with them like an animal. If they are older, start wrestling with them. Knock them gently to the ground and get on their level. Have a "who can punch the hardest" contest (prepare to lose, lol).
EVERY time I use this technique, it helps my boys have a more respectful attitude towards me. It's as if I'm speaking their language and THEY LOVE IT. 
Now, I realize that for some mamas, this technique comes natural. But for others, who might struggle with a little more authoritarian, no-nonsense attitude with their children, this technique takes purposeful thought and planning. I know for me, with my older boys (who are getting too big to hold, rock, or snuggle comfortably), I have to REMEMBER to give them that physical interaction they crave.
If you've not been physical with your boys lately, pull this tool out of your Parenting Toolbox and try it today!
*Speaking for myself, after two very long days riding in the van to get from Illinois to South Carolina for our meetings this weekend, I see a game of tag with my little boys in my very near future. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Update on Johanna

Most of you know that we adopted Johanna (from China) 3 years ago, at the age of fourteen. We were in the process of adopting Alyssia when God so clearly told us to go get Johanna.

I remember how nervous we were when we said YES. After all, she was a teenager. She had spent 14 YEARS in an orphanage. Her file was outdated and incomplete. We didn't even speak the same language.

It's funny how, when you have such clear direction from the Lord, you can move forward through the paralyzing fear.

We brought home this toddler-in-a-teenager's-body and plunged headfirst into the extreme unknown of parenting her.

There were ups and downs. We blended into a family and grew to love each other. She was FUN, child-like and playful. She learned how to brush her teeth and be gentle with babies. She learned how to read and write and speak in English. She experienced unconditional love for the first time. But very early on, it was clear that she faced a long road to true healing. We took one day at a time and pressed forward.

Our love for her covered a multitude of very rough days. In the beginning, due to the language barriers, it was challenging to communicate on any deep level. Over time, and with extreme effort on my part :), her language skills blossomed. We were able to start scratching below the surface and see the heart of this precious child.

The hurt runs deep for Johanna. She has faced abuse on all levels, and multiple abandonments that have ripped the ability to trust right out of her. The lack of nurture, physical contact, and discipline in her early formative years have left their mark on her body, mind, and spirit.

She attached to me first, which is to be expected with the amount of hours I spent nurturing and teaching her. I knew some of her attachment behaviors were inappropriate and unhealthy.....but again, I hoped that they would mature with time and therapeutic parenting techniques.

They didn't.

Irrational fears, extreme "flight, fight or freeze" behaviors, rages and tantrums, insomnia, attention seeking behaviors, excessive self-soothing behaviors (like head-banging, scratching, rocking, etc).....the list goes on. We have so much empathy for this sweet girl, who, due to her past, has trouble regulating and stabilizing at times. But because of these needs, she has had several acute mental health hospitalizations.

Things became clearer as we were able to have her more fully evaluated, but the diagnosis was no comfort.

Very low IQ.

Cognitive, social, and mental skills of a 9 year old.

RAD. (Reactive Attachment Disorder)

Just 3 little letters, but those who have parented a RAD child know the needs are anything BUT little. :)

It's not all bad, for sure. Johanna is a beautiful soul. She has worked harder than anyone I know. She has never been anything but kind and gentle to my other children. She loves being in our family and loves our ministry (more than most, perhaps, since she has LIVED it). She has grown to be thoughtful and respectful. She truly WANTS to overcome her struggles and we long to help her.

This past year, Brent and I spent many hours discussing and praying about our Johanna's needs. We felt the time was finally right to seek out extensive professional help. She will be 18 next year and the clock was ticking on her ability to receive treatment as a minor. At the advice of a multitude of doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, we sought a residential treatment center that would address her attachment/trauma needs.

We are SO thankful that the Lord guided us to an amazing facility, where Johanna has been since August. She's had good days and bad days so far, but there is an entire team of professionals working with her. Every possible treatment is being considered as we all work together to help her heal and transition back into our family as soon as possible.

Would you please bathe Johanna and our entire family in your prayers? This has been a very dark valley to walk through for all of us, but God is NOT finished writing Johanna's story and we are SO thankful we have the privilege of being her parents. Our extended family, our pastor and the sweet friends at our home church, our mission board, and every professional that has worked with Johanna has been so supportive of our entire family. We love the fact that Johanna has so many people praying for her---would you join them in asking God to give us all wisdom in seeking what is best for her?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

One Month Old

You are one month old already.

You are staying awake a little more each week---oh, how we love your bright eyes!

You've gained 3 whole pounds since you were born! You love to nurse and are following in your 3 brother's footsteps and gaining quickly. :)

Your favorite place to sleep is on Mommy. In a pinch, Sissy or Daddy will do. :) Thankfully, you do like your carseat--a blessing for all of the traveling in your future.

Happy One Month Birthday, Titus Alexander! You are loved, so so much. :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Birth Story: Titus Alexander Bergey, August 17, 2014

*Disclaimer: While the photos on this post are tasteful and not graphic, it IS a birth story. Male readers may wish to skip the details. :)
While this was a pretty uneventful pregnancy, I struggled from the very beginning with fear.
Fear that I would miscarry.
Fear that my baby would die in the womb.
And towards the end of the pregnancy, fear that he would die during the birth.
I distinctly remember the first time I gave my precious baby back to the Lord. I KNEW He was in control, no matter the outcome, but I found myself having to repetitively rest in His wisdom.
I think part of the fear came from just being SO very excited to experience pregnancy, birth, and a nursing newborn again. It seemed too good to be true so I thought perhaps it WAS too good to be true.
Regardless, as I neared the end of the pregnancy, I talked with my midwife about some of my fears. I have a history of big babies (largest one was 10 lbs, 12 oz) and I also tend to not go into labor on my own without a little "nudge". I was worried that I would go past my due date and have a huge baby (more of that fear, I guess).
I experienced real contractions for the first time at 38 weeks. I knew I was in "early" labor, but didn't want to get to the hospital at the END of labor, when I can't walk. LOL
I was dilated to 4cm, having good contractions, but baby was in a posterior position, which the midwife checked several times, and she wasn't comfortable intervening at all because of the position of his head. "Funny angle", she called it.
I trust her, so I went home with strong contractions, went to bed, and woke up with nothing.
Disappointing to say the least. :) The next week was very uncomfortable for me. It was as if the early labor had triggered hormones in my body and I was grumpy and miserable. :) I was in a lot of discomfort and started to feel like the baby was getting big (my guess was 9 lbs) and that he needed to come pretty SOON.
At my 39 week visit, the midwife spent quite a bit of time checking baby's position again. She felt like he might be in a better position than the week before (little did we know!). She said if I started having regular contractions again, to call her and come in.
The next day I started having very mild contractions around 5 pm. They kept coming, though, and I was so hopeful that baby would come soon. I called the midwife and she said to come in whenever I wanted to.
I got to the hospital around 7, and she came to check me around 8. I was having contractions, but they were so mild that I was worried I was still at a 4 and would be sent home AGAIN.
Nope, not heading home. I was 7 cm! The midwife was able to break my water but said baby was still pretty high.
I changed into my nightgown, called Lauren (my photographer and sweet sister) to come to the hospital, and started walking the baby down. I LOVE to walk during my labors. There's just something about the distraction of walking, swaying, leaning, moving that helps me relax.
Here I am at 9 pm, still comfortable and enjoying having Ellie's company. This was her first birth experience and she did AMAZING.
Every time I walked in or out of the room, I had to stop and touch the baby warmer. Just reminding myself that there would be a baby in there soon helped me stay focused.
From 9 pm to midnight, I mostly just walked the halls. The contractions were manageable and except for lower back pain, I felt GREAT. I was enjoying the fact that I was so far along and yet so very comfortable---but as the night wore on, I started to think, "Why am I not feeling this baby move down? Why is this still so easy?"
Brent, Ellie, Lauren, and the midwife kept my mind off of those worries for the most part. We talked, laughed, walked, laughed, squatted, and laughed some more. :) I felt such peace and joy at having these special people joining in the birth of my son.
Those of you who know my husband, know that he is a funny guy. :) Here he is, mocking me, with Ellie's help. I realize some women wouldn't want any joking during their labor, but Brent is very sensitive as to when/where/how to joke or STOP. At this point, it was a lovely distraction for me. :)
Around midnight, I started getting tired. The contractions didn't seem to be getting much stronger or closer together.....the midwife thought I might be the first woman to birth a baby in the hallway :), but I knew he wasn't moving down the way he should.
Brent suggested I get checked, but I was nervous that I hadn't made any progress, so I kept saying NO.
Finally, I agreed to a cervical check.
I was complete.
10 CM.
But the midwife checked me for a L-O-N-G time. I could tell his little head was still pretty high. She finally said, "He's still posterior. And his head is turned in a very unusual way." I wanted to know WHAT this meant and HOW to fix it. She calmly suggested some new positioning to try to bring him down.
I'm so thankful now that she didn't tell me what she REALLY was thinking----that this baby may not descend and we may be headed for a C-section. I would have panicked and not been able to think straight if SHE had seemed stressed. She had such a quiet, calm demeanor and she passed on that calmness to me.
First I tried sitting backwards on the toilet. Very painful, but I was looking to my midwife for direction. "Just a few contractions like this." she encouraged me. I was starting to quietly vocalize to stay on top of the contractions at this point.
It was 1 am.
For the next hour, I tried several positions in an attempt to bring the baby down so I could push.
I prefer to NOT be on the hospital bed at all, unless I'm pushing a baby out :), because it is just SO uncomfortable to not be able to move. So when the midwife suggested I try lying on my side in the bed, I was thinking, "Um, no. How about I go labor in the TUB instead?"
But I knew she was right. On my side I went.
The pain skyrocketed. After just a few contractions in this oh-so-painful position, I said, "Oh! I feel him coming down!"
I rolled over and she checked me again. She was still very calm---but not very reassuring that it was indeed time to push. (I know now that she was still worried, but again, she didn't show that to me at the time.)
It was around 2 am at this point, and I was on my back and in immense pain because of that fact.
I didn't know if I should get up and walk or if it was time to push.
Then the room filled with all of the "you're about to have a baby" staff. I could see everything being prepared, yet with the midwife seeming unsure, I was nervous.
"Oh, I think you're all lying to me and he's not coming soon." I wimpered.
The midwife kept saying, "Let's take it slow and let your body do the work."
And I was thinking, "YOU take it slow. I'm ready to be done." :) (I kept that comment to myself though.)
I pushed for 17 minutes. Slowly I felt him slide down. My last two births, I pushed them out with 2 pushes, so it felt like this was taking forever.
"Careful, slowly, let everything stretch." the midwife encouraged me. When she could see part of his head, she said, "OH, he's completely bald. Not a bit of hair!"
We had no idea that it was his FOREHEAD presenting. Normally, babies are born facing DOWN, with their backs against their mama's tummy. Occiput posterior babies are facing up, with their spine against mama's spine. (Hence the back pain.)
This baby was face up AND coming forehead first. The back/top of the head is the most moldable and usually the presenting part, and the majority of forehead presenting babies are not able to be birthed vaginally. A fact I'm glad I didn't know at the time. :)
I still felt him coming down, though, and I asked (begged?) her---"Can I just push him out now??"
Gently, (and extremely painfully, I might add) his head came out.
I gave another push, expecting the ripple feeling of the shoulders and body, but nothing moved. If anything, it felt like his head went back IN a little, instead of coming OUT when I pushed. I looked up at the midwife and she was calmly saying, "Call NOW."
The red cord, the emergency cord, the "I hope we never have to pull that cord because something BAD is happening if we do" cord---was pulled.
They dropped the bed down completely flat.
I had been watching the birth in a mirror, and I instantly KNEW.
He was stuck.
Shoulder dystocia is the fancy description of a baby that gets his shoulder wedged in the pelvic bone. Because his head is already out of the womb, his cord is compressed  (and in this case, wrapped around him as well) and he immediately begins to lose oxygen. He can't take a breath, but the cord can't supply him with oxygen either.
Three minutes.
The midwife told me later that they have THREE MINUTES to birth a SD baby before they are at risk of brain damage or death.
The seconds felt like HOURS. All those fears I had experienced during the pregnancy flooded my heart and I thought to myself, "He's dying. My baby is dying. I have to push him out NOW."
They put my legs in the air to open the pelvis, and the nurse pushed down on my stomach while the midwife reached inside me and released my baby's arm.
I closed my eyes and pushed with everything I had.
And when I opened my eyes, he was laying on my chest.
"Is he okay? Is he okay?" I kept repeating it. I looked at everyone in the room for reassurance.
The midwife smiled and said, "Stop looking at ME and look at your BABY!" :)
He was perfect. Blue at first, and bruised, but perfectly formed in the image of GOD.  
I turned to Brent and whispered, "I thought he was going to die."
"I know." he answered. "But he didn't. And he's here. And you did amazing."
Then I realized that Ellie, my sweet Ellie, had been in the room the whole time. I vaguely remember her backing into the corner when the midwife called for help.
"Are you okay?" I asked her.
"Oh, Mommy, I was so scared!" She began to cry a little, then reached out and touched her brother's hand.
"Me too." I whispered. "But he's here and he's okay now."
"I did it. It's over. That was terrifying. He's alive." These were the thoughts that kept running through my head.
After a couple of minutes, I looked down at my baby and I was instantly and gloriously in love. :)
This is my favorite picture from the birth. It captures all of the emotions perfectly.
I birthed the placenta, and the midwife quietly said, "Your placenta looks old, like it was starting to deteriorate. It's a good thing you had this baby NOW."
My mind thought for a minute, how different the outcome could have been, had I gone another week or two.....he would have been bigger and.....oh, I can't think about that.
Instead, I'm overwhelmingly THANKFUL.
For my husband, who supported me so gently and completely.
For my sister, who not only encouraged me, but also took such beautiful pictures to document the birth.
For my daughter, who got to experience the wonder and glory of a newborn's birth.
And for my midwife, who, with her quick thinking and calm personality, saved my baby's life.
Welcome to the Bergey Bunch, Titus Alexander. All 8 lbs, 13.6 ounces of you.
Ah, yes---I forgot to mention---he does indeed have HAIR. Gorgeous, soft, wispy blonde hair.
Just not on his forehead. :) 
To read Lauren's view of the labor and birth (and to see lots and lots of awesome photograpy!), click HERE.

Friday, August 29, 2014

New Baby for the Bergey Bunch

Last December, (right when I DISAPPEARED from the blogging world.....I truly love blogging, and I have a million posts I'm dying to share, but this past year has been spent LIVING, with very little time to write about that LIVING! ), we found out we were expecting our 8th child.
We had prayed for years that the Lord would bless us with another biological blessing, but we were SO busy with the adoptions, and then ministry, that we thought perhaps the Lord was saying "no".
But, on a rainy December morning, while Brent was hooking up the trailer for a day of traveling, I saw *two purple lines* on a pregnancy test and our already crazy life became just a little bit crazier.
To say the entire family was EXCITED is an understatement.  :)
We celebrated this precious baby the ENTIRE nine months of pregnancy. It was like our long-awaited first-born all over again, only a little bit better for Brent and I because we knew how amazing a new little life is. I struggled with morning sickness for about 17 weeks (compounded by our full-time sickness plus morning sickness is M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E!) but the rest of the pregnancy was FABULOUS!
At our 20 week ultrasound, we discovered that I was pregnant with another BOY.
Four girls and four boys. How perfect is that?  


My sister Lauren and my mom threw an amazing shower for little boy and me. Since we sold EVERYTHING we owned last summer, I was truly starting over with this little guy. I was blessed with so many little God-specific answers to prayer! Little boy Bergey was well-provided for and well-loved already. :)

My mom made 3 cakes for the shower! Yummy!

One of the highlights of this pregnancy was doing a Maternity Photo Shoot with my sister/photographer Lauren. She takes amazing pictures and without her, I wouldn't have so many incredible pictures from this baby's pregnancy/birth. I've never had nice pregnancy pictures (who feels pretty when they're big pregnant, lol?) so this is such a treat for me. :)

37 Weeks Pregnant with Baby Boy Bergey

Next post---Baby's birth! Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Embracing Boyhood: Finding Joy in Little Boys

We are blessed with four girls. Dramatic, gentle, quiet, nurturing, self-controlled, calm girls.

We also have three boys. Rambunctious, curious, destructive, loud, busy little boys.

When our first son was born, I didn't realize that boys were wired SO differently than girls.

At only eight weeks old, he would awake from a sound sleep with a grin on his face and his little feet kicking rapidly.

He was loud. And silly. And wild. He was amazingly

When he started walking, he wasn't content with coloring or looking at books like his sister.

Instead, he stuck his hand in toilets.

He climbed up on the kitchen table.

He jumped off  anything and everything.

He played BIG and loved BIG and the only time he was STILL was when he was asleep.

I remember the first time I tried doing "school" with him. He had just turned two years old so I put him in his high chair and gave him a coloring page and a handful of crayons.

I told him to color, then turned to my four year old and got her started with her schoolwork.

By the time I turned back around, he had broken all five crayons and dropped them all on the floor, one by one, and was watching them roll away.

"All done, Mommy!" he exclaimed, with his hands out-stretched and waiting.

I sighed.

(You mamas of busy boys know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?)

I had my first lesson about little boys that day. And while I'm still learning, today I wanted to share a few of the lessons I've learned since then.

How to Find Joy in Little Boys:

1. Embrace the Difference.

It's easy to look at your little *boy* and compare him with your friend's little *girl*, and wonder what am I doing WRONG? Look at how docile she is! Her little girl will be content to sit and play with a bucket and shovel in the sand for an hour while your little boy is throwing the sand (to make a windstorm, Mommy!), jumping off the side of the sandbox (I'm flying, Mommy!), and running off a hundred times in the first ten minutes of the play date.

You just can't compare boys with girls. Their entire physical, emotional, and educational make-up is different. God made them that way---so DON'T compare.

We mothers are GIRLS and so we often don't understand the way our boys think. It's unfair to expect them to act like little girls when they are wired so very differently.

After church one Wednesday night, when Nathaniel was four, his teacher approached me.

"Nathaniel said he doesn't want to color in class."

"I know. He doesn't like to color at home either."

"But he says it hurts his hand to hold the crayon that long. I think he's lying and you should deal with it. He needs to learn to color."

"Well, I will talk to him about it. But he isn't lying. He really, really has a hard time coloring for a long time."

I was tempted to come down hard on my little guy after this conversation. But then I realized something. This teacher was comparing my little guy to the only other child in her class--a GIRL who LOVED to color and did so elaborately.  My little guy had many strengths, but coloring just wasn't one of them. :) Don't compare boys to girls. Let them be different. It's okay.

2. Embrace the Energy.

We have three boys (ages 9, 6, and 4 right now). Just one of my boys has more energy than all four of my girls put together.

If I fight this fact, and expect them to sit all day, docile and quiet, I frustrate both myself and them. :)

Every single day, these precious little boys awake with a seemingly endless supply of energy.

If you can learn to laugh at their antics, redirect their rough play ("Balls are for throwing OUTSIDE. Here are your shoes."), and engage their energy in creative ways, you will find such JOY!

*Be a Mama Bear and get down on the floor and TACKLE your Baby Bear.

*Surprise your little boy by grabbing his hand and jumping with him across the parking lot.

*Have him stand to do his homework, run to his room, and crawl to the kitchen table.

*Let him "race" to complete every task. "How fast can you pick up all of these Legos? Ready, set, GO!"

The next time you find yourself frustrated at your little boy's energy level, think outside-the-box for a way to exercise that energy in creative ways.

3.Embrace the Opportunity to Train .

Sometimes parenting a child brings you to a point of frustration.

My husband and I always say that there are two options for frustrated parents.

*One--lower or change your expectations so the child can meet with your joyful approval.

*Two--train more efficiently for the desired behavior.

Yes, little boys are different than little girls. Yes, they are full of life and energy and we need to be understanding and creative in our interactions with them.

BUT--they are NOT un-trainable! They absolutely CAN learn self-control, gain a quiet spirit, and be obedient!

My boys LOVE to play "rough", to sword-fight with sticks, to chase the girls, and to wiggle through their schoolwork. :) But all three of them were sitting quietly through multiple church services at a year old. All three of them would stay on their blanket time for thirty minutes by a year old. These may not be goals you have for your little boys, and that's okay---each family has different goals, expectations, and experiences.

But every little boy can begin to be taught how to channel all of that energy into appropriate behavior.

Now, my boys are not quiet little robots by any means. :) When I take them all shopping they get antsy and sometimes very foolish. :) They are still a glorious work-in-progress.

Aren't we all? :)

I have found the key to not being frustrated is by setting the goal HIGH but working towards that goal with baby steps.

If he can't sit still for an hour, try 10 minute increments. If he is has too much energy to focus for three hours on his schoolwork, try shorter bursts of time with a lot of physical activity mixed in. Give lots of praise and tiny rewards when he gains skills that don't come easy to him. Stay positive.

Appreciate the fact that your little boy's most annoying qualities will most likely be what drives him to be a successful man someday.

Let me give you an example. Remember my two-year-old-crayon-breaker/thrower? He still doesn't love to color. But he will read (without moving or getting distracted!) for over an hour now. He will RUN to accomplish any little task for Mommy. He is by far my most nurturing, protective, tender little soul. He is still loud. He is still busy and energetic. But he is learning to turn that energy into productivity.

That early riser who never seems to need sleep? He's going to jump out of bed to go to work each morning with a smile.

That energizer bunny? He's going to work circles around his laid-back college friends.

That loud, embarrassing, over-the-top little guy? He might be a preacher, unafraid of what people think, willing to speak the truth at all costs.

That curious, take-everything-apart, destroyer? He just might change the world with his inventions.

Perspective is EVERYTHING. Embrace your little boys for who they are--and who they will become.

Set goals for your little boys. Help them learn to focus, to complete tasks in a timely manner, to stay quiet when necessary. But don't just EXPECT them to obey---TEACH them how to do it.

Little by little, one baby step at a time. :)

When I began parenting BOYS, I was frequently frustrated. I wanted quiet, still little angels and was shocked at boyish behavior. Thankfully, the Lord worked in my heart, gentling me toward these sweet little men. Now I wouldn't trade my busy boys for all the "quiet" in the world. :)

Embrace Boyhood--and you will find such JOY in little boys!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Long Overdue Update

It's been WAY too long since I've done a plain old regular update on our family. I will use the common excuse--life has been crazy-busy--and it is, in fact, true. :) I really really desire to write so much more than I actually do. But then I get behind, and instead of just posting in short little bursts, I just stop altogether for awhile. I appreciate the emails and messages when I've been absent for a time!

I'm including a bunch of more recent pictures in today's post, just for fun. :)
--At the Zoo!

--Seven at the zoo
 We have been in full-time ministry for six months now. We sold EVERYTHING in our home and moved into a 35 foot travel trailer.

Yes, that means all nine of us are in a very tiny space, all of the time. :)

 Maybe the next post will show how we live now.  I have grown to love our life in the trailer! The adjustment hasn't always been easy but God has been so so faithful to give me the strength to face such a huge change. He is good!

--Brent and Alyssia
 Our 15 passenger van has seen over 25,000 new miles since June. Every week we present our ministry (Little Fish Ministries) to new churches. Our hearts are in South Africa now but we know this time is vital to raise prayer and financial support.

Please pray that we can raise our support quickly and that we will have many partners for our South African orphan ministry!
---A picture of the three of us for Alyssia's yearly report to China
 The children have adjusted well to our lifestyle change. Johanna struggled at first (which we expected) but she has settled in nicely now. I know I've posted a bit about the huge challenges we faced at the beginning of Johanna's journey. I will be honest and say that it was very hard at times. We stuck to what we know to be true----that God would give us strength and wisdom to parent this child He had so clearly called us to----and I am so happy to share that things are MUCH better now. The skills we have learned as we have followed the Lord down this unknown path have better equipped us for future ministry.

---Johanna (16) :)

 EVERY child is a treasure and deserves to be loved and nurtured.

--From preemie to "big girl", Gabriella
Our tiniest treasure is finally growing! Gabbey is over 25 lbs now. She has turned into quite the little social butterfly, too. :)

---Eliana, 11, going on 16 :) She has grown many inches this year!

 My Ellie is growing into a lovely young lady. It makes me happy and sad all at the same time. I'm thankful for the blessing of older daughters to share in the joys (and work! lol) of our family

---Fun at Daddy's expense :)

---Say CHEESE! (See how tall Eliana is now?)

--Ellie and her sweet friend, Emily

--Noah, 6
 Noah. Sweet little middle child. He is such a cuddlebug. I love watching him learn to enjoy school. He is in the tooth-losing-stage and always seems to have a tooth coming or going.

---Nathaniel, 9, my young man
Nathaniel was such a busy, curious toddler/preschooler. He and Ethan are my energizer boys. :) If there is something to climb, hit, tackle, or cross, they are GOING to do it. No fear. I love the way Nathaniel is maturing into a little young man. He LOVES LOVES babies and is incredibly gentle and good with them. This past few months, Nathaniel has discovered the world of BOOKS and is loving reading every day.

---Ethan is FOUR now!

---Gabbey and Lyssie are both FOUR now, too!

---Birthday books from cousin Ruy!

---Chinese baby dolls from Nana and Grandad for their birthday (my parents)

---Not babies anymore! My "big" girls.
My "babies" are all four now. :) This should mean more "free time" for Mama, but with our ministry change and life-on-the-road, all of that "extra"?? time seems to be accounted for. There are no more diaper bags or strollers (for now anyway) and we are enjoying the sweet blending of our adopted/biological family. If you remember, we adopted all three girls in just 9 months and that change took a little adjusting time. Now it feels as if we were all always together and we are embracing the new opportunities the Lord is bringing our way.

Remember, I blog over at Little Fish Ministries, too, as time allows. I'd love for you to follow me over there!

Thank you for your patience with my infrequent blog posts. If heart's intent were allowed, I'd have thousands of posts by now.

They're just all written in my head for now. :)