Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Finding Ourselves again

(This post contains affiliate links which, when you purchase from I receive a small commission.  This does not cost you anything, but helps me to keep blogging:) 

Well, our journey The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizingis continuing.  It's incredibly freeing to be making our way through this process and really finding our stuff and ourselves again.  I talked in the last post about how Marie Kondo suggests that you go through your belongings by categories, instead of rooms.  Clothes were first, and I shared this picture of my Littles as we went through their clothes.  I share again here, because I want you to see a little of the state of their room.  Unfortunately, I didn't do a good job of getting before pictures in their room, but these pictures are actually pretty representative of how their room was most of the time.  On this day we were going through their clothes, but there were only a few more on the floor than usual ;)



So, the next category is books.  I went into their room to get their books decluttered, and in the end, we just finished their entire room.  It was really at a place where we had enough invested that we basically HAD to finish it to do anything else.  And, their belongings are basically clothes, books and toys, right?  So in a surprise turn of events it only took 1 afternoon to completely finish their room.  I was very proud of them both as they helped me go through everything and willingly let go of a lot of things they don't play with or use anymore.  They were both excited at the idea of each having their own "space" in their room (another thing she suggests in the book) and excited at being able to make their room how they wanted it. :)  It was amazing the amount of stuff that went out of their room.  We took out 4 large bags of GARBAGE.  Yes.  FOUR.  Oh my.  While cleaning, I found my daughter's stash of wrappers from all the food she sneaks :(.  But she was embarrassed that I found it and told me she is really trying to grow up and not sneak anymore :)





We even got rid of a bunch of furniture that wasn't really being used and was taking up more space in their room.  (The couch is from the living room)


 At the end of the day, both Littles are thrilled with how their room turned out and they've been playing in there a whole lot more.  They have both expressed their excitement at being able to find their toys when they want them.  It's funny- before they really didn't play with any of their toys, and really didn't want to be in their room.  I think it was because they were so overwhelmed in there that it was a stressful environment for them.  Now they both seem more at peace in all aspects.  This tidying thing really does feel a little like magic......




My husband even went though his hung clothes, (still needs to do his dresser) and cleaned off his end table.  I REALLY wish I had a before picture of THAT!  But what was really good, was that while cleaning off his end table he found a check for $100 that he had forgotten about from this Spring!  So, this gave me the perfect opportunity to highlight to him how our clutter is literally costing us money!  He now sees how important it is to get our house cleaned up now!  :)
(If you look, you can kind of see his end table- it's the one on the left.  Note the piling!  LOL)

If you begin reading or following along, I would love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment below!

Love, Semalee

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with One Step

(This post contains affiliate links which, when you purchase from I receive a small commission.  This does not cost you anything, but helps me to keep blogging:) 

If you've read my blog, or you know me in person, you know that my husband and I have acquired 4 adopted children over the past 9 years.  What you may not know is that we live in a fairly small house, which is about 1500 square feet.  For a time, we had 9 people living here, but we are currently down to 6.  My aunt calls our house "The Magic House" because it just fits the people in that need to call it home.  Over time, many people have asked us if we plan to move into a larger house, and our answer is always no.  You see, I love this house.  We have lived here since the boys were little, and most of our neighbors have lived here as long as we have.  My Dad, Sister and her husband live next door, and we have a wonderful back yard.  It is an older house, and it is smaller than many, but I never wanted a big house.  I don't want us to have places to go to get away from each other.  I want us to be forced to interact.  Yes, sometimes I wish I could get more quiet, but in the end, I like the house just as it is.

However.....

What is not good about my house is the amount of stuff that lives here.  I have long felt that I needed to declutter.  Several times I have gone through and cleaned out different areas, we've moved rooms around etc, but always we are left with too much stuff and not enough places to put it.  "Everything has it's place and everything in it's place" is not currently a possibility in my house.

In another blog I read, Boho Berry, she mentioned that she had read the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and how it had changed her life.  I put it on my list of things to read, and there it sat for about a year.  Then, this Fall, as school was starting to get into full swing, I found myself having a hard time juggling all of the needs of homeschooling 4 children.  I decided that an Audible Membership would be helpful, because for my younger kids I could have them listen to the read aloud on Audible instead of me having to read it to them.  It was a grand idea until they didn't have the book I was looking for!  ;)  But, with Audible, you get 1 credit a month for a free book, and when you sign up, you get 2 to start with.  So, I decided to see if it had The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing on Audible where I could just listen in the car when I was driving places, and they did!  So, that's how I "read" this book, was I listened to it.

Now, I will tell you the lady who narrates the book has sort of a monotone voice and it took me a little time to get used to her, but eventually, I came to enjoy her.  I also feel I should warn you that there are some ideas in this book that I do not personally agree with, like that our belongings have feelings, and things like that, but overall that is something I can easily overlook.

If I were to give a brief synopsis of this book, it would be that she challenges us to look at stuff differently,  and, to look at decluttering differently.  She says to clean out in one fell swoop, but also says this can take months.  Just stay in intention over the time it takes.  Additionally, she suggests that instead of tidying room by room as we normally do, tidy by categories.  You are to begin with clothes, and work down a strategic order.  You can see the list easily by searching "KonMari Method" on Pinterest.  I have begun with clothes as she suggests, and found that it was much easier than I though it would be!  I have successfully tidied and discarded my clothes and my two youngest children's clothes.  Today I will get the Middles to do theirs and hopefully next week my husband will do his.  I gave away out of my own closet and the coat closet 3 large black lawn bags full of clothes, and out of my Littles' room one more.  I can tell you it feels so good to be able to see my clothes.  Already I can see how this is "Life Changing Magic".


My closet Before I Tidied


 All of my clothes from my closet piled on my bed (note these are only mine, not my husband's)

My clothes in my closet after!


She talks in the book about not having "Potato Socks".  She says we should fold our socks and stand them on end so we can see them.  (she also says they are happier that way).  I don't know if my socks are happier, but I think I am :)

You can also search KonMari Folding on Pinterest for help there.  It really does make a difference!




Here are my cute Littles as we started working on their clothes....  Stay tuned for updated pictures of their room! 



If you begin reading or following along, I would love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment below!

Love, Semalee

Friday, September 22, 2017

Time is a Funny Thing

The 13th of this month marked what would have been my cousin's 49th birthday.

We are still in Post Hurricane Harvey mode, which is a strange place to be anyway.  My house was fine, and I'm continually surprised by how I've been affected by this storm.  In some ways it was like a metaphor for how I have felt about my life recently.  The storm just kept going.  When we thought it should stop raining it kept raining.  When we were unsure if the water would take us over, it kept raining.  We were prepared for a storm.  We were even prepared for a big storm.  But, like life, we were not prepared for what came.  We found ourselves day after day simply trying to make it through the day, unsure if tomorrow would be a day that took us under, or a day we conquered.  This feeling has lingered, even though the storm has passed.  And, while we were ok, many of our very dear friends were not.  There are several friends who lost everything, and we are just doing what we can to help, all the while feeling inadequate in our ability to help them.

Grief is the same way.  I'll be going along life and thinking I'm beginning to be ok, and then suddenly the water in my eyes begins to rise again and before I know it tears are streaming once again.  It's still raining.  It's not as relentless as it was in the beginning.  I see pockets of sunshine now, and even dry periods, but the storm of grief has not left me yet.

Many days I want to just move out of this storm.  The longer it holds on, the weaker I feel.  I see it creeping into many areas of my life, where it isn't welcome.  Where I used to stand tall and confident, that light is gone.  I feel inadequate in almost every area of my life.  I am scared a lot, and I used to be rather fearless.  Sometimes the fear is justified, but many times it is not.  It simply does not allow me to enjoy the moment for fear of what could happen.  I know I should not rush myself through this, but it is rushing when it feels like so much time has already passed? But, I can't rush myself or even move myself slowly.  I am not in control of this storm.

There are things that never leave me.  Watching my children meticulously clean off their mother's grave marker is one.  This is not something any child should have to do.  As I watched them carefully clean, I found myself grieving for what Bug didn't get to do.  I'm so grateful for the gift of being able to be these kids' mom, but I will never replace her.  (I don't want to).  There is still a hole in their heart, one that I will never fully fill.  Even though they tell me all the time how much they love me, I know I will never really fill that void for them.  It's not my fault that I'm inadequate here, I'm actually not supposed to be able to fill that space completely, because I would never want to erase her from their life, but it still hurts to not be able to do that for them.  I know that there will always be that scar in their life, and mine.  We want better for our children.  We don't want them to emerge from childhood already scarred by life.

But, regardless of what we do, the truth is not one of us goes through this life without scars.

Even Jesus didn't go through life without scars.  Many things we will not understand this side of heaven, but what I do know in my heart is that when we use our own scars to help others, it helps to give those scars a positive purpose.  I often wish things were different, but as I do, I realize that I would be missing out on the things about life as it is that bring me joy.  My daughter is a funny, compassionate soul, who comes behind me and supports me when I need it, and I see in our future an amazing friendship between mother and daughter that I never got to experience with my own mother, and she never got to experience with hers.  We can give that to each other.  My son has changed so much, from a scared, awkward kid, to a young man who is finding his way and his purpose.  Life has not been kind to him in many ways, and he has those scars, which will help him to see the heart of others who often feel misunderstood and lonely.  I spend a lot of time being scared that my children will experience yet another loss, because they have already experienced far more than is fair, but I think God is trying to show me that each piece of our life is part of who we are and whose we are.

When we rely on our human ability to control our environment we will always feel inadequate.

It has been a long, painful lesson in letting go.  It's not over yet.

I'm grateful that the God who created the Universe knows me personally, knows my heart, and never leaves me no matter how much I fail.  When my mouth fails me, He knows my heart.  When my arms fail me, He knows my strength.  When my feet fail me, He knows my way.



"You Know Me" Bethel Music
You have been and You will be
You have seen and You will see

You know when I rise and when I fall
When I come or go You see it all
You hung the stars and you move the sea
And still You know me

Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh You know me [repeat]

Nothing is hidden from Your sight
Wherever I go, You find me
You know every detail of my life
You are God and You don't miss a thing

You memorize me

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Here Now


Skies spin their dance within Your breath
Time runs its race within Your hand
And my mind runs wild to comprehend
What no mind on earth could understand 


At the beginning of this month Hurricane Harvey hit our area.  Usually, hurricanes come in, spin around, blow some things down, do some damage on the coast, and move on.  But not this one.  Harvey just stuck around.  For days and days and days it rained.  And it rained some more.  We were all trapped inside our houses, watching a combination of the news and our Facebook feeds.  Trying to will the storm away.  But it just kept raining.


Your ways are higher
Your thoughts are wilder
Love came like madness
Poured out in blood-washed romance
It makes no sense but this is grace
And I know You're with me in this place 


Strange things happen in your mind when you watch the water rise, and the rain continue.  When you live minute to minute unsure of whether water will take over your home.  When you watch on TV and on Facebook other people losing their possessions, their homes, their lives.  It's very clear that there is no way to stop whatever is going to happen.  You really have to just surrender.  


Here now
Still my heart
Let Your voice be all I hear now
Fix my eyes on things that I can't see now
Spirit breathe like the wind come have Your way
'Cause I know You're in this place 


We were tired.  We were tired of each other.  We were tired of the rain.  We were tired of the house.  We were tired of living on edge.  And then, one night I heard the Lord tell me to pray specifically for dry air to enter the center of the storm and dismantle it and move it on.  I shared my prayer request with people I know and I know others prayed for the same thing.


Faith makes a fool of what makes sense
But grace found my heart where logic ends
When justice called for all my debts
The Friend of sinners came instead 


By the next morning the storm had moved East.  It was now directly over us, which normally isn't a good thing, but there was nothing normal about this storm.  Dry air was pushing in from the West, right into the center of the storm and building up which was pushing it East.  And soon it was moving away.  After a week of relentless rain, we finally saw the sunset again.  I love the sunset, but this one- this one was even more special.


Your ways are higher
Your thoughts are wilder
Love came like madness
Poured out


After the storm passed, my house had remained dry, but my cheeks had not.  I had grieved.  I had grieved for my many friends who had lost their homes.  I grieved for the loss of our normal way of life.  I grieved for the fact that parts of our community would never again be the same.  Sunday night as the water rose and I became less sure than ever of whether we would flood or not, I told my Middles they needed to pack bags and put important things up high on shelves.  I held myself together until my daughter came in crying because she was having to face the possibility of losing things from her biological mom.  She was having to choose which things to put on high shelves and realizing the gravity of the situation.  They have already lost so much. It got me to thinking about the way we look at loss.  So often we hold on to stuff, don't we?  I'm not saying it's all bad, usually it is because it reminds us of people we love.  When we went to the cemetery on Wednesday for my cousin's birthday, I was ripe with fear of what we would find.  Thankfully, our part of the cemetery was fine, but it wasn't all fine.  As I was talking to the kids about it, my daughter said that she was glad that when their mom was first buried we talked a lot about how she isn't "there", that that is just a place that is designated as somewhere we could go to talk about her or to her.  But in truth, it isn't where she is.  She's in our hearts.  She's in the good we do for others.  She's in our love for each other.

Sometimes we hold on to the loss.  It's like if we let it go, what we've lost will not be valuable to us anymore.  If we walk forward, who we've lost loses their significance.  But the truth is, no matter what, they are a part of who we are, and their loss is a part of who we are.

 I've spent a lot of time living in fear.  I've experienced some profound loss over the past few years, and it has knocked me off my feet a little.  In some moments I'm overcome by this fear.  While the storm was swirling around, and the water was rising and my husband was at work (and would still be for several days) I found myself losing my footing and letting the fear grow.  So may people were losing so much.  I know what that feels like.  I didn't want to think about people I love going through that.  I didn't want to think about myself or my family losing more.  I focused in on my fears for a while and took my eyes off God while I did it.  But after a while I realized that was not where I was supposed to be looking.  When I press into God, and wait for Him to catch me as I fall again and again I can feel safe again.  The less I feel like I have it together, the more grateful I am to God for loving me anyway.  I think that's part of His plan.  To love us anyway, and remind us to love others.  The less perfect we are, the more we can accept others' brokenness too.


I know that you are Here now
Still my heart Let Your voice be all I hear now

Fix my eyes on things that I can't see now 
Spirit breathe like the wind come have Your way
'Cause I know You're in this place 

Faith makes a fool of what makes sense
But grace found my heart where logic ends


Thursday, August 10, 2017

What the Heart Says

I mentioned in my post last week that I've been feeling overwhelmed for a while (read that for several years) and that I'm implementing some things that are helping.  There are several things that are working together, and it has definitely been a journey.

As you know, my husband and I have adopted 4 of our 6 children.  With adoption comes some extra "stuff".  Their behaviors are different.  Their responses to normal discipline are different.  They are in many ways "extra".

Many people think that if you adopt a baby, you will give them all the love they need to heal from whatever because they won't have experienced all of the same things that a child who had been in foster care for years might have.  But, the reality is that simply the fact that they are adopted is a trauma.  And many were traumatized in some way in womb, either by abuse of the mom, or excessive stress that the mom was under, or drug use during pregnancy, or more.  This almost guarantees that there will be physiological differences in these children that need to be addressed throughout their lives.  And, being an adoptive family, we have to approach some of these issues differently because these kids often have deep feelings of shame and fears of abandonment that need to be addressed and understood.

So, these facts and thinking have steered a lot of my parenting techniques over the last several years.  And, I've offered more grace to my youngest two than I did my biological children as they were growing up.  But guess what- a lot of parents find that they struggle with their biological children because of other things outside their control, be it health issues, environmental issues, financial issues, etc.  The list goes on and on.  As parents, we are all truly doing the best we can with what we are given.  I don't want you to hear any superiority in my voice here, and I want to be very clear that judgement does not have a place here.  As moms, we judge each other more often that we help each other sometimes, and that can leave us feeling even more alone, and helpless.  So, just because I can find tangible factors that contribute to where I am in this parenting journey does not mean that another mom has something to be ashamed of because they don't have these visible, obvious factors that lead to where she is.

So, here's my heart.

My youngest two are very hard.  But I am a seasoned parent, and part of the "if your kid doesn't tell you they hate you at least once, you're doing it wrong" club, and feel like I can let things roll off of my skin fairly well.  But then I have these kids who are constant constant.  More often than not I am reminded of the fact that I am simply not enough.  Some days this leaves me in the corner of my room in tears of desperation.  Sometimes it serves as a sober reminder of just how much we all need Jesus.  The truth is "we" aren't enough for anyone.  We all need Jesus, because we are all people who fall short of the Glory of  God All.The.Time.

So, as my kids' behavior became more and more difficult I got really good at ignoring the bad behavior not because I didn't want to deal with it, but because I wanted to pick my battles, so that I could choose relationship.  They could say and do quite a lot and it really wouldn't affect me (as far as they knew) unless they said something like, "You don't love me".  Then they would get my attention and quick because I know very well what it feels like to feel like your mother doesn't love you and I never ever ever want any of my children to feel that way.

Well, over time they learned real well that the way to get mommy's attention was to say I didn't love them, and that escalated to that I hated him, and eventually to I wish I was dead.  It's a truly humbling and heart breaking experience to hear these statements separately, but even more so when they're all strung into one statement.

We took the kids to psychologists, and neurologist, had sleep studies done.  We've been to different counselors and read every book we could find. We've prayed over them, and prayed for ourselves.  To say it has been a heartbreaking experience would be an understatement.  We've had many diagnosis thrown at us, ADHD, ODD, PDD, SPD, maybe Autism, or Bipolar.  My mom heart says attachment has a whole lot to do with it.

Finally, we found a psychologist who specializes in what's called ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapy.    She doesn't bill insurance, and we have to pay cash, but she is worth her weight in gold.  Through her techniques we have begun to see more of their personalities, and they are happier children.  We are much more strict on what goes on during the day, and we have a structured plan of discipline in place and while I would not say our life is easy now, it is definitely better.  Instead of a constant state of rage, we now deal with them as they come, and it's frequently only a couple of time outs/ etc a week.  We have been able to isolate that our son especially has some pretty intense anxiety and that brings out the worst in him.

One major component of this program is that William has a schedule.  He doesn't get to move on to something until he completes the task.  Implementing a schedule has been a huge thing for us all.  I'll talk more on that next time, because it can hold it's own post....

Love,
Semalee

Friday, August 04, 2017

Confessions of an Exhausted Mom

If there were a general theme that ran through my life, other than my passionate love for Jesus, it would be exhaustion.  Are you a mom that feels this way?

I've been doing a lot of soul searching over the last couple of years because it seems like no matter what I do I just can't seem to keep up with life.  If you watched my Facebook or Instagram feed you would probably be led to believe that I have everything together and have the perfect life.  Isn't that what those feeds do?

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoor

But the reality is that I get up every morning, and before I even have my coffee I feel behind.  I still have lingering tasks that I didn't get to yesterday because of one reason or another, and I never feel like I have "arrived" at adulthood.  You know "adulthood", right?  That mythical time in ones life when they are finally responsible with their time and money and energy...  That time when all of the pieces of the evening meal are magically done at the same time, which is also the right time, and everyone eats with perfect conversation and until they are perfectly filled.  That time when your house is not in disrepair, and is always tidy, and your bed is always made....  This time does exist, doesn't it?

I think it is similar to "normal".  What is "normal", anyway?  I don't even have a mythical definition for that!

What I am beginning to believe is that we all have this unrealistic view of how life is supposed to be, and we are striving for something that no one really has.  It's actually a figment.


In July, my family spent two weeks on vacation.  We went first to Utah and visited with my Aunt and other family there.  I was reunited with my bestie for a few short days, which was wonderful, because other than my husband, she is where my soul feels at home..... and then we went to Colorado to visit with my Dad and brothers and niece there.  While we were visiting with my Dad, he was talking about a conversation he had recently had with a friend that went like this:

Friend:, "I'm not sure you'd like my family, it is quite dysfunctional"
Dad:, "Is there any other kind?"

Isn't that a freeing statement?  Is there any other kind?  You see we all have our own form of "dysfunctional" that follows us.  There is not a single one of us who "has arrived".  I honestly believe that to be truth.  And, our desire, our drive to show the world through social media that we have, in fact arrived is causing people everywhere to feel unworthy, and unloved.


There are times in life when people truly are unloved.  Times that are terrible for people.  There are people in every society who feel outcast, unworthy, even worthless.  There are people everywhere who wonder on a regular basis if the people around them would be better off without them.  And people every day who believe that lie and take the situation into their own hands.  When this happens the people around them are forever changed, forever missing an important piece of their heart.

There are times when people are rejected by people they love, by their parents, their spouse, their friends.

There are times when we, as society cast people out because they don't act like us, think like us, look like us.

There are times when we truly don't measure up- maybe we don't get the job we wanted, or the achieve a goal we set.

What I'm saying is, there are plenty of real times in our lives when we will not make the cut, or people around us will not accept us for who we are.  This is as old as time.   There will never be a time on this earth when that isn't true; so let's not add to that heartbreak by comparing ourselves to others on social media.  It's a battle you won't win, because what is on social media is merely a snapshot of one's highlight reel.

So, back to exhausted.  I've got a lot of balls in the air any given moment.  It's part of being a mom.  It's part of being a mother of a Type 1 Diabetic.  It's part of being a wife of a police officer.  It's part of being an adoptive parent.  It's part of being a parent of traumatized children.  It's part of being part of a large family.  There are just......a lot of balls.  That's the reality.  Some of them will drop.  But, I am finding some things to be quite helpful to me, and I'll be sharing them over the next several weeks as we get ready to go "back to school"

For now, I just want you to know that, whatever you're feeling.  However you feel inadequate, someone else feels that way too.  And, you don't have to face that inadequacy alone.  You have a loving Father who already knows how you feel.  He already knows all of the ways you fall short.  You don't have to explain yourself to Him.  All you have to do is rest in Him.

Love, Semalee