Monday, June 30, 2008

Just One More?

Mr. Clean and I decided that we still had another empty seat in the goober mobile (the "Mom" mini-van) and more room in our family for another foster child, so we let our social workers know a few weeks ago.

I got a call today from our social worker looking to place a 3 1/2 year old boy. His court date will be on Wednesday and it will be determined then if he should be placed with the county. If so, we will pick him up on Thursday, so please pray for this little guy, his parents, and us as we head down this road.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"We" Made the News!

Well, not "we" in the we that live in our house, but "we" as in the foster families of our state. It was a rare positive news report and we (the Mr. Clean family) were there!

Click here for the video (here is the transcript and video link in case you have trouble)!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Please Do Not Tell Me How Hard it is To Be a Christian in America

25 Christians Abducted by Islamic Militants in Pakistan

Despite the Pakistan government's tall claims of enhanced protection to the minorities, a group of over 20 Christians were kidnapped and savagely beaten by armed Islamic militants on Saturday.

Christians who were congregating for a religious prayer in Banarasabad, Peshawar, were held at gunpoint by the militants, who took the believers in more than six vehicles to an undisclosed location.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said on Sunday that the government had secured the release of 16 members of the minority Christian community who were abducted in the restive North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

"We condemn this act and, despite the recovery of the abductees, an enquiry will be held to uncover the faces behind the incident," Gilani said, accoridng to a state-run Pakistan television news channel.

According to the news channel, a “religious organization” operating in Bara area of Khyber district handed over the hostages after government representatives held serious negotiations with the abductors.

Zulfiqar Masehi, Hameed Mashi, Shehzad Noor Mashi, Victor Jan Mashi, Gulzaar Mashi, Khalid Mashi, Shahbaz Mashi, Tariq Mashi, Yousaf Mashi, Salim Mashi, Khalid, and Salim Akhar were among the kidnapped Christians released by the efforts of political administration.

While the police has registered the case and is investigating the abduction, the NWFP government suspended SSP (Operations) Peshawar, SP Cantontment, ASP Hayatabad, SHO Hayatabad and other staff after the incident.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India expressed deep concern over the incident and urged the people and the authorities in Pakistan to take appropriate measures to create a safe and secure atmosphere for the Christian community in the country.

EFI General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, requested prayers for the release of the remaining hostages and that the crisis would be resolved peacefully.

With the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan, nearby Afghanistan, Jammu and Kashmir, the plights of Christians have only increased and the freedom of religious minorities has steadily been attacked.

Last September 2007, a group of Islamic militants in North West Frontier and Punjab provinces threatened Christians "to either convert to Islam, leave the country or face death."

Following the threats, hundreds of Christian families fled the villages, while several churches were reportedly burnt.

The voices of Christians in the country fall on deaf ears, even as the governing authorities fail to curb the issue and bind the religious fundamentalists behind the atrocities against Christians.

The country is comprised of a 97.6 percent Muslim population. Christians make up 1.7 percet and Hindus, 1.5 percent. Seventy percent of the microscopic Christian population is the poorest segment in the society.

I Just Can't Decide...

I got this Heinz ad in an e-mail, denouncing it's homosexual content. It describes two men in a domestic situation, one being called "Mum" by the kids with a kiss at the end. Normally I would have no interest in viewing it, but I simply could not imagine how this ad would sell ketchup (it is currently being aired in the UK), so I watched it.

I got a different take from it. Watch the short advertisement (with discretion) and then hear my thoughts. Tell me if you agree or not.

I thought that this was a spoof. Anyone who has ever been in a NYC deli can tell you that the "Mum" is exactly what you would find. Frankly, I thought it was a bad attempt to replace the mother in the family briefly with the deli guy, hence cementing the, "Mayo with a New York Deli Flavor" motto, seen at the end of the commercial.

Had it been a woman behind the counter the joke never would have landed. After all, everyone knows the place to get the best pastrami on rye is in NYC at the deli counter, expertly made by a fourth generation butcher named Sam. I think "deli", I think of a beefy guy with sideburns, not someone's demur mother. Am I wrong?

Let me state for the record, I am as conservative as they come. I believe marriage is between one man and one woman only, and is sacred. I don't believe the point of this ad was to undermine that notion, just to sell mayo and using a woman would not have gotten the "NYC attitude" across.

I do have a problem with the kiss at the end because I do not want to have to explain that to my young kids and well... eww. I don't want to see my deli guy kiss his dog, let alone another man. I bet you if the kiss was not included in the ad, it would be shown here in the States without a second thought; but in Europe, things tend to be a little dicier and stepped up a bit in advertisements.

Granted, if I were living in Scotland, I still would not want to have to explain this to my child, but maybe the Heinz people thought it would take more to make those stuffy Europeans laugh (I am sooo just kidding here Stuart!).

So what do you think? Homosexual agenda or just a dumb Heinz ad that failed to land with a stupid (and not well thought through) ending?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Love Innocence

In the car today K.Z. told his sisters that he overheard Mr. Clean and our youth pastor talking about the latest Indiana Jones movie which we saw a few weeks ago.

"Dad said it was really good, but Indy used the 's' word", he told the girls in a low voice.

"Oh, you mean 'snake", Xena said knowingly.

"No!", K.Z. whispered in confidence. "The "s" word is "Stupid!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stock Up On Those Bulbs!!

Interesting video. I have not looked into the validity of this gentleman's claims, but it sounds credible. Start stocking up on your favorite incandescent light bulbs; personally I have yet to find a new fangled CFL bulb I like. Sigh...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Praying For My Friend

A million years ago, before mommydom I lived in the corporate world. The last job I had was the best and I had an amazing boss. She was just about 10 years older than me (I was in my early 20's), single and the sweetest person I had ever met. She was born in Alabama, graduated from Duke and had the best accent in the District of Columbia. We became friends and would have lunch together at times, went sailing together and had a good working relationship.

About two weeks before K.Z. was born she married and just a little over a year later was a stay at home mom, just like me, but we kept in touch and got together when we could. I moved from the D.C. area and we both got absorbed in the world within our houses, and did not talk as much. She called this weekend.

She has been diagnosed with Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans (DFSP), a very rare malignant tumor on her leg and if it spreads (which is usual) she has about two years at best. She is a mom, a wife, a sister and a good friend to many people. Although you do not know her, please pray for her. I want to give her privacy as her girls do not know about this yet, but I will gladly give you more info if you e-mail me so you can pray specifically. She will have surgery this Friday and they will try to remove the tumor and see if it has spread.

Please pray for her, she has asked for prayer and is trying to keep her chin up, but frankly she is scared. I know I would be too.


Last night C'sa was lamenting to her big brother about some injustice she had received (not getting her way most likely) to which K.Z. replied, "Nuh uh C'sa, God sent Mom and Dad to be the boss of us"...

Finally, somebody is getting it!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day Mr. Clean!

...and to my Father, Father-in-law and my Stepfather. Much love to you all!

Mr. Clean and one of the four little ones who adore him

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rewarding Faithfulness

On our way home from Knoebels Thursday night we stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel. For those of you familiar with this restaurant you know it also sports a "country store". After our meal I took the girls and Iggy to the ladies room while Mr. Clean and my boy were going to get the car. Or so I thought.

Emerging from the bathroom I headed for the main door when Mr. Clean's familiar voice beckoned from the depths of the children's section of the small store. I changed direction and found him and K.Z. in front of a display bearing "Indiana Jones", t-shirts and official Indy fedoras. Now, Mr. Clean has been a fan of obsessed with all things Dr. Jones since he was a kid and the first movie came out. We have framed Indy movie posters and the original Indiana Jones action figure. This love has been passed along to my boy. Both of my men were standing at the Indy alter, their eyes glazed over.

I have to admit I was impressed myself and I desperately wanted to snag a hat and shirt for K.Z., but the fedora alone cost $29.99 and we had just spent a day at an amusement park and then ate out, so most of our pocket cash had been depleted. I resisted, although I knew K.Z would adore that hat.

This morning bright and early K.Z., Xena and C'sa went exploring the myriad of yard sales on our street. K.Z. raced home as fast as he could to get his money to pay for this...

...and then of course had to change into proper Indiana Jones attire. The fedora? It only cost him $1.00, and although it does not bear the official Indy tag inside, it is of much better quality and K.Z. absolutely loves it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Blessed Day

For those of you who do not know me particularly well, I have to divulge the fact that I hate humidity. With a huge passion. Growing up on the East Coast of these United States I have had my share of the worst humidity on the planet (just please humor me if you are from somewhere that the humidity is over 99.9% like it can get here).

So when we were given free tickets from our Foster Parent Association (FPA) for an amusement park during one of the funkiest weeks of the year thus far, I was less than than thrilled. We had signed up for the tickets for this annual event at Knoebels weeks ago when the weather was still idyllic, unaware that a deadly (literally) heat wave would plague our part of Pennsylvania the same week as our excursion to the park.

Except that the day before our trip the Lord graciously sent a cold front relieving our area of the intense scorching heat and humidity and left us with a beautiful day with low, low humidity and 80 degree weather. And with the park being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by large, mature trees, it was amazing. I had never been to this particular amusement park before, but it is now ranked number 1 in my book. It was just the most incredible day.

Iggy fraught with anticipation

My all American boy dreaming of being old enough to get his license

My all American girl not bothering to watch the road


And in true Scot style, which would make my grandfather proud, my "baby girl" cruising along on the "right" side of the car...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Music To My Ears

We have slacked off of school for the past three weeks. First because I was in Orlando seeing a very sick and dying relative, then because my in-laws came to town (and it is much more fun to hang out with them instead of doing school), and last, because we were on vacation last week.

So now we are gearing up again. We homeschool pretty much year round with a lighter summer schedule, but year round nonetheless. As I was trying to find the necessary workbooks and get organized, K.Z. wrapped his arms around my waist and said, "I am glad you are my teacher. I am glad I get to be home with you during the day."

It was all I could do to hug him back without choking up. Ditto Son. Ditto.

Oh "Deer"!

Being a camping family you take risks. You know the kind I mean, the kind that makes every sane human's skin crawl. Bugs. Lots of bugs.

I can sit at a campsite and blissfully observe the chipmunks, squirrels, the poodle from the next campsite and all other sorts of furry woodland creatures and completely pretend that the spiders, ants, and other creepy crawlies do not exist. Until they attack my family.

Putting sunscreen on Xena the other day I found a deer tick on her neck completely engorged. It had obviously been there a couple days (Mr. Clean and the older offspring had been camping two days before), as it pretty much exploded like a balloon when we removed it.

Arachnids of any kind unnerve me but the kind that latch on and suck the blood from your body creep me out beyond belief. A dog tick is the worst since it is bigger, but I much rather see a dog tick on my precious daughter any day. But no, it had to be a deer tick and we happen to live in an area with the highest incident of Lyme's Disease in, I don't know, the Universe?

So now I get to sit on pins and needles waiting for the tell tale bullseye sign to either show up or not. Only 2-28 days the doctor has assured me. Yippee... In 28 days you will be able to peel me off the ceiling.

Pray for no bullseye.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Priced Out Of Life

Since the price of gas has started to rise; and food, and clothing, and every imaginable thing you could possible want to purchase (with the exception of SUVs I suppose), we have been tightening our belts. I sat to pay our phone bill today and found that even our bleeping phone bill has gone up by six dollars a month (excuse my "French"). That may not seem like much, but when you are on a budget, every penny counts.

So I called Verizon to find out why and a very nice man in India offered to lower it by a whopping two dollars a month, since I was one of their very "special" customers. PAH! Bag that, I am now on the hunt. I have learned from my very wise father that pretty much everything in life is negotiable if it involves a human being and so I am now looking for a new phone company with a much better deal. Here is the catch...

I have both my DSL internet and unlimited phone service (local, long distance etc.) through Verizon. Both services have gone up in price, so I would like to make a clean break from Verizon altogether if I can. I am quite willing to go with a VoIP, but I must have Internet service first.

So, any suggestions? Just for a pricing reference, I pay used to pay less than $100 a month for internet, phone and cable (we just have basic cable) and want to keep it that way.

Once Again...

I am not one who believes that little kids should be put on a pedestal and told they are the world's greatest all the time. I think children need humility. I also think they need discipline. But NOT like this, and NOT by a paid employee (isn't that what a school teacher is after all?).

Monday, June 2, 2008

Off We Go!

My "baby" brother is graduating high school this week and we are heading back to Maryland to celebrate with him. Finally... people will no longer look at me as a freak when I talk about my brother in high school. Whew!

So to celebrate my freedom from freakdom and his freedom from the public school system we leaving today and plan to blow off all our responsibilities for the week. Well, except we have to take the kids, but we will be in Grandparent Land, so at least that responsibility will be taken care of...

Have a great week!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

From Czech to Children

Since bringing our foster son Iggy, home from the hospital a short 5 months ago, a lot of people have asked us why we made the decision to be foster parents. Some enthusiastically and some with disdain (since "the system" has a bad rep which overflows to foster parents), but all curious nonetheless. Being a foster parent is not glamorous, is thankless and sometimes a painful thing to do. We have a bad reputation in the media, shell out more money then we earn as a "resource family" and have to show respect and restraint around biological parents whom on some days we would like to choke; all while raising someone else's children.

There are quite a few reasons we decided to do this, but the biggest one is simply, Malenovice. Two summers ago Mr. Clean and I went on a missions trip to a small town in eastern Czech Republic with some other members of our church family. I absolutely fell in love with the country, the food, the people; all of it. Grant it, I could have lived without the band of gypsies at the train station in Prague eyeing our luggage (I am not making this up!) , but everything else was fantastic. Even with all the hard work that we did.

While I could live in a foreign country easily, Mr. Clean loves to visit, but is not the kind who would want to stay. While in Czech we were with people we trusted, an American missionary from our church and her Czech husband who spoke English better than some of us and we were "taken care of" with someone to translate for us and guide us. Even when we were roaming the streets of Prague and Krakow, Poland without our wonderful friends, we had enough knowledge and the luxury of being in two metropolises that catered to westerners with signs and menus in English and plenty of English speaking Czech and Polish people. We were fine short term.

The love of serving the Czech people brought us to a realization. This was great, but this trip was two weeks out of 52 in a calendar year. And since Mr. Clean is not likely to be getting a work visa anytime soon to permanently move across "The Pond", we needed to find a way to serve the people of our own country. The Lord was really working on us in this area.

The idea of being a foster parent had been in my brain since I was a child. My father was a product of the foster care system in the DC 'burbs and I believe is a better man because of it. Had it not been for the many years he was in "the system" with his foster parents, I imagine his life would have turned out quite differently and he would not be the amazing and upstanding man he is today. I love my grandparents deeply, but they were not equipped to deal with the 9 children they had.

Mr. Clean however was of a different mindset and had no interest in being a foster parent, but loves being a parent. After our Czech trip however, he started to change his stripes. I can only give credit to the Lord as I simply prayed that he would warm to the idea. He called me one day and said simply, "look into it". I called Children and Youth that very day.

We believe strongly that being foster parents is a way we can serve the Lord while serving His children. I have no clue whatsoever how many children will pass through our doors, how long they will stay nor if any of them will be ours forever as we would like. We only know that this is where we were led after many months (years) of praying about the right way to serve the Kingdom. Whatever impact we have on them, I know the Lord will use for His glory.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we foster children.