I Swear I Didn’t Teach My Kids THAT | by Julie

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My son clobbered his brother because something or other went awry during a game of Minecraft. My other boy flipped the game board in a move to rival the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s infamous table flip because he was losing. Then there was that LOUD argument at the grocery store over what flavor Pringles to buy, an Academy Award winning meltdown at a friend’s house because one kid was bored, kids streaking across the house naked after showers, and the always shocking faux pas of a four-letter word slip. And that was just this week!

Screaming, mayhem and the chaos of a 3-ring circus are hallmarks of my household in spite of the effort I put forth to be a good parent. I take my kids to church every Sunday; teach them Christian values. I’m present and involved in their lives; aware of what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. They have rules and boundaries and lots of love. And yet they still behave badly, make poor choices and deliberately challenge me.

Unfortunately, when this behavior occurs in front of onlookers the door of judgment swings wide open. Truthfully, when my children are at school or other people’s homes, I’m often told how well-behaved they are, but they’ve definitely had their share of cringe-worthy moments. So when I hear people weighing in on the unflattering behavior of other’s children and parenting, I tend to shrink back a bit and internalize the condemnation.

And while as mothers I think we’ve learned to tune out the gossip, ignore the stares and stay the course, there is one remark that will always cut to the core. As a mom struggling, doing her best to raise two beautiful, but rambunctious boys, the wind is always knocked out of my sails when I hear somebody automatically assume that a child is behaving poorly because a parent isn’t doing their job or something terrible is going on at home.

If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? Every mother has uttered this cliché statement in hopes of driving a point home, and invariably the answer is a resounding “NO” complete with eye roll and sassy tone. Likewise, if your mother told you not to do something, does that mean you’re definitely not going to do it? And again, the answer is a big resounding “NO.”

Truth is, young and old, while we take in what we’re taught, what behavior is modeled to us and resulting consequences, we are not controlled by it. Our decisions are still our own, and if we’re set on doing something or ruled by emotion, nothing is going to derail that train . . . not even being grounded from your iPhone for two weeks.

As much as I may wish I could control my children with a remote control, it’s simply not reality.

God has created us all, especially teenagers, to be individuals and make our own choices . . . good, bad and ugly. And while there are adults who are blatantly, even criminally, falling short of their parental responsibilities, many of us are truly trying to do the best we can with the resources we have and the results are mixed to say the least.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Did you catch that, “when he is old,” not necessarily tomorrow or next week. Like many things in life, you might not see the fruits of good parenting until your child is old. Now if that ain’t sobering. . .

And to complicate matters of parenting even more, we live in a world where we are not the only “teachers” our children have, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Children don’t always learn inappropriate behavior at home. They are exposed to a host of negative behavior and language via television, the internet and schoolyard friends.

As Christians, we need to stop judging and start supporting other parents. We need to stop commentating from afar on how we’d do things differently and take a step closer to lend a caring hand. We need to be a friend, a helper, a support system. We need to reserve judgment and invest in the lives of those God has placed in our path; go deeper to reveal the true story, not just the sensationalized headlines.

We need to remind ourselves that we too often disobey our Father in Heaven, and I’m confident it’s not because he’s doing something wrong as a parent.

All children are not created equal. While some are naturally agreeable and “easy” to parent, others naturally test boundaries. Some have learning or physical disabilities, some are subject to bullies, some have mental health disorders and others still struggle with self-esteem issues and the list goes on and on.

Not all parents are created equal either. While some are blessed with picture-perfect marriages and abundant finances, others struggle to make ends meet. Some battle health problems and depression, some are lonely, some are overwhelmed and others are single parents.

Think of parenting like a video game. While some of us are on level one, parenting with ideal circumstances, some of us are navigating the obstacles of the advanced level, pitfalls and challenges at every turn.

Seriously, in my household asking my children to brush their teeth is met with the resistance of a request to scrub a public restroom with a toothbrush. And my boys’ reaction to losing their video game for a day is akin to missing their senior prom. Some days their displeasure with household boundaries and consequences result in stubborn, hour long standoffs. I assure you I’ve read all the parenting books and attempt to impose the proper discipline, and believe it or not, they still don’t always comply.

So if you see me or any other parent losing their marbles in Target or taking a tear-filled, self-imposed timeout in the bathroom while their children run amuck for a few minutes, please try not to judge and make us feel like even bigger failures than we already do. Instead, offer us a kind word, a gallon of ice cream and the assurance that we’re not the only ones raising miniature hellions. And don’t forget to remind us that God promises everything will turn out ok in the end.

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Parenting Through Pain | by Britta

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We all have pain don’t we. Pain comes in different ways. It comes in the heart break of infertility, it comes with divorce (either our own or our parents), it comes in the loss of a baby, it comes with raising hurt & broken children, it comes in the failed adoption, it comes in the form of health issues (our own or someone we love), it comes when we sin or others sin against us, it comes when we get offended, it comes when…you fill in the blank. In John 10:10 the bible says that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. There is a “thief” who wants to cause you pain and destroy you. The enemy of our soul wants nothing more than to keep you stuck in your emotional and physical pain because in doing so you won’t be as effective for the Kingdom of God. So stay with me and take in what I have to share with you today.

Recently I was facing a lot of physical and emotional pain. This pain was robbing me and my family of many things. I was crying most days and I was trying to parent through the pain but it wasn’t going that well. When things usually happen in my life I tend to jump to Google, the doctor, essential oils, friends, food/diet, books, Pinterest and so on for my answer. But these past 6 months I’ve been really practicing going to God in prayer FIRST and I’ve been practicing listening to the Holy Spirit for direction. (See Philippians 4:6-7) So I prayed, my family prayed, my friends prayed, my church prayed. We prayed for healing. We prayed for wisdom for me to know what direction to take. I felt good about going to a new doctor in Seattle and I met with a team there. I had lots of tests and everything came back fine. There was no diagnosis. But I was still in pain. I knew deep in my spirit that this pain was more than just physical. This pain had a deep spiritual root.

John 10:10a “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…”    

The Lord took me on a journey. A very long journey. A hard pressed, shaken down, tear stained journey. When I felt like giving in I pressed in. When I felt like giving up I reached up. I cried out more often and louder to the Holy Spirit. I got up off the ground and I ran to Him. When I was at my weakest I just cried Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. He could have healed me instantly but instead He showed me something so I could share it with you. I want you to understand that the steps the Lord showed me you can apply to your life too. So here you go.

1) I asked the Holy Spirit to show me why I was in so much pain. He showed me that unforgiveness and being offended had created wounds in my soul which then gave the “thief” legal right to enter in and start to steal, kill, and destroy me and my family and cause me emotional and physical pain. I began to repent for my sins and forgive those who had sinned against me. I applied the blood of Jesus over myself because what washes away sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!! See 1 John 1:7

2) If we only focus on asking for forgiveness we will miss the amazing power of Jesus to heal our soul wounds. There is supernatural power in the glory of Jesus. When we grab a hold of this truth we are taking part in ALL that Christ has for us. His blood AND His glory. After I completed step one I focused on the glory of Jesus. I meditated on the Word of God day and night. I asked Him to shine His glory light into my soul and heal the wounds that were created by unforgiveness and sin. Jesus wants our souls to prosper (be in good health)!! See 3 John verse 2

3) Finally, after all that time repenting and applying the blood of Jesus and soaking in His powerful glory, I told the “thief” that it was time for him to go. I told him that he no longer has any legal right over me because Jesus paid for all my sins on the cross and the glory of Jesus had healed my deepest wounds completely. I commanded the “thief” to leave in Jesus name…and guess what? he left…and my pain left too. Peace flooded my mind and body. There is power in the name of Jesus. We as Christians have the same power that conquered the grave living in us. See Romans 8:11

No pain is too much for Jesus. There are too many of us carrying heavy burdens. We walk around wounded, angry, hurting, sick, and broken. Our spouses and children need us whole. We need to share these tools with our children to see them set free. Our friends need healing too. I shared with you what the beginning of John 10:10 says but you need to read what the end of that verse says to us…Jesus came to give us life, abundant life. That means that God is a loving Father who wants good for us and not evil. A lot of Christians and non Christians alike blame God for their situation, blame Him for their pain. If nothing else I want you to know today that the God of the universe, your Creator, is FOR you and LOVES you!!!

John 10:10b “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Shout it out!!! When you have been set free like I have and healed like I have you want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops. I want every person on this earth to experience this kind of freedom in Christ. I can testify to you that the Lord is returning to me all the years that the locusts ate.(See Joel 2:25) Jesus has given me back the ability to parent my children without pain. Jesus has restored my marriage. Jesus has given me back my joy times seven. Hallelujah!! He wants to do those things and more for you too!!!

We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. 

****I learned about the healing of soul wounds by listening to teaching by Katie Souza on YouTube. I really like the one called Stay Un Offendable. You can also go to her website at www.expectedendministries.com  for more info.****

****In no way is Three Strands Ministries affiliated with Katie Souza or her ministry. This is just my personal journey and the teaching God used to heal me.****

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The Courage of A Mother | by Seana

Photo by connieriggiophotography.com

She told me over the phone that she was pregnant. I swallowed. “How is she going to take care of this baby? Is she still using drugs? Is she going to abort? Dear, Lord, please don’t let her abort.”

With a thickening pause she added, “Don’t worry. I’m going to put it up for adoption.”

Relief released my tension, but then came the complex emotions of sadness and joy spinning together, making me nauseous.

“Can you help me find a program or place to live while I have the baby?” She asked.

By God’s grace and favor, we found her a pregnancy home to stay in. She remained sober through the birth and we dreamed together, as we did in the park as children years before, of what this young child will be when he grows up. As children we imagined having husbands and homes, not being homeless and pregnant.

During the following months, her love for her unborn son cultivated. We talked about what giving birth is like and what to take in your hospital bag, but instead of shopping through baby registries, she combed through parent profiles.

How do you choose a parent for your own child? Selflessly, bravely.

This week I read the beginning of Exodus, Moses’ birth story. During the time of Moses’ birth, all the Israelite parents were forced to leave their baby boys in the Nile to die by exposure, drowning, or however else babies left in the wild die.

I picture Moses’ mother. She just pushed her last exhausting push with joyful relief, but the next words meant life or death for her child. “Please be a girl, please be a girl,” I imagine Moses’ mom thinking. Instead, the word “boy” turns the beautiful moment into one of fear and angst.

However, Moses’ mom was brave. She saw that Moses was different and hid him for three months. Then, when she could no longer hide him, she makes a special basket with tar and places in along the Nile. What was she thinking, I wonder? The Bible does not say, but as I watched my friend offer life to her son, I can imagine. I believe she was heartbroken for the life she could not give Moses, but prayerful and hopeful for the life her son could have if she gave him away.

I held my friend’s sweet, perfectly health baby boy the day he was born; such a gift to the world in a small, totally-dependent package. I prayed over him and asked God to be with him, no matter what, no matter where, all the days of his life. I cried. I too lost the joy of knowing him as he grew up.

What I see from Moses’s mother… what I see from my sweet childhood friend… is the courage it takes for a mom to lay aside her own dreams, desires, and life itself, to offer her child to another for the sake of that child.

And in the case of my sweet friend, the birth of her son eventually brought her heart to a tender place to receive the birth, death, and resurrection of God’s one and only Son.

Whether women raise the child they did not birth, or birth a child they do not raise, it takes much courage to give of our selves so another may live.

Live courageously, today Mamas! God has a plan for your life and all the kinds of children He brings into it.

-Seana

What matters most | by Seana

Seana and Kavin 2014

Me and my little man K.

I am Mom

Some days I wake up tired. Scratch that. Most days I wake up tired. Two little boys and one tall man hammering for my attention the moment I wake up. Sure, I should rise up early like the Proverbs 31 women, but most days my kids rise up early too.

And with all honesty, there are some days I wish I could just pull the covers back over my head and play sick, like when I was in high school and just wanted to lay around for a day and watch Family Feud and daytime soap operas.

Until I hear his voice.

“Good morning mama. How is your day?” My 4-year-old, Kavin, will come in my room if I am not already up and lovingly encourage me with his smile. Or he will just demand breakfast. Either way, in a moment, I am mom.

And every moment throughout the day, I am the…

Mom who gets the kids ready. Mom who plans the meals. Mom who cleans the house. Mom who throws in the laundry. Mom who practices Bible memory verses. Mom who runs kiddo to school. Mom who changes diapers.

Yes. I am that mom.

And in-between all the errands and tasks I am the…

Mom who comforts my crying baby. Mom who plays Legos and Superman. Mom who teaches right from wrong. Mom who dances in the living room. Mom who reads nap time stories. Mom who knows. Mom who builds up with words.

Mom.

I can hire a housekeeper. I can hire a cook. I can hire a laundress. I can hire a school teacher.

But I can’t hire Mom.

And when my children are grown, I won’t miss the soap operas or Family Feud. I won’t miss my bed covers or my accomplishments in the world. I will miss them. I will miss being Mom in the early years.

The early years of: make believe and big questions like “why?”. Play dough and race track cars. Cuddles and giggles. Sloppy letters hard to read.

I will miss them needing me.

I am Mom. No one else can be me for these God has entrusted to me.

November is National Adoption Month

National Adoption Day

National Adoption Day

 

November 22nd is National Adoption Day. This month you might notice news outlets, organizations, and even Facebook friends posting stories or opinions along this theme. This month is very special to several of us here at Three Strands Ministries because we have become or hope to be foster and/or adoptive parents. This month you will here from us about Foster Care and Adoption. We hope that you will relate to our stories, share them with someone who is a Foster or Adoptive parent, and consider opening your heart and your home to a child in need. For those of you who have never adopted and are wondering what the fuss is about, here are some important facts regarding National Adoption Day:

What is National Adoption Day?

Every year on the  Saturday before Thanksgiving thousands of children, their soon-to-be-parents, and local social workers assemble at their local courthouse to finalize their adoption. Some children are adopted from birth. Others were swept into the Foster Care system and wait several years before they are adopted, and, in some cases adult children (18 or older) are officially adopted by their parents.  Each family has their story, which has led to this culminating event. It is not the end of their story, but simply the end of a chapter and the beginning of another. If you would like more information about National Adoption Day, we recommend you click on this link nationaladoptionday.org .

Why is this Adoption Day different from other Adoption Days throughout the year?

This is the time of the year when several states make a big push to finalize the adoptions of kids who are in the foster care system in an effort to ensure that foster children find their forever homes. Typically, more adoptions occur in the month of November than in any other month throughout the year. It is a day of celebration and a time to raise awareness about the needs of foster children

I am interested in foster care and/or adoption.  Where can I find more information?

There are several great organizations across the country that specialize in foster care and adoption abroad and in the U.S. We at Three Strands Ministries recommend the following organizations:

  • Youth For Christ (YFC) for foster care and adoption services (Seattle/Tacoma region)
  • Child Share (LA region)

Is there a way to help foster kids without becoming a foster parent or adopting? I want to help, but I can’t foster or adopt.  What can I do?

There are lots of ways to support Foster and Adopted Families. Here are some ways that you might consider helping a foster/adoptive family:

  • Respite care – Child care for the foster/adoptive parents while they enjoy a date night, run errands, or even go grocery shopping. This is like specialized child care in that you may need some training or to attend a class to know how to care for children with special needs. You will also need to have a background check on file with the child’s social worker. This is easy to obtain and the foster family and their social worker should be able to help you know what needs to be done.
  • Host play dates – Foster/adopted children, for the most part, are just like your kids. There may be some children who have special play needs and a play date may not be appropriate. But for the most part, helping to provide a sense of normal and a safe place to play with friends is important and will be a great encouragement to the kids and their families.
  • Be a friend – Foster moms and dads need someone who is willing to listen and not judge them or their kids. Invite them over for dinner, take them out to  coffee, and just listen.
  • Don’t judge. Offer to help – Sometimes, being a Foster parent can be difficult.  People who are not Foster parents don’t understand the special needs and challenges that come with caring for a child who has been exposed to drugs or alcohol, abuse, neglect or abandonment, and have behavioral, emotional, developmental,  or psychological challenges. So if you see a mom at the checkout stand buying subsidized food who seems overwhelmed by unruly, undisciplined kids, don’t write her off as a bad mom. Instead offer a smile, offer to help carry her things to her car, and just be a blessing.
  • Help raise awareness – Change your profile picture on social media and challenge others to do the same, and help give a voice to the thousands of foster kids who are looking for their forever home.

Join the conversation

Do you have questions about Foster Care or Adoption? Are you a Foster or Adoptive mom and are willing to share your story? Email us your questions or share your story and we will post it on our blog.

The Day You Came Home: a letter to my adopted son | by Britta

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

To My Dear Son,

It was just another Monday morning. We had finished school the week before and I was on the phone with one of my best friends, Holly. Right before Holly and I hung up I got a beep from my other line. I told her to hold on because the caller ID said it was Rose. I had been waiting for this call for over a month. When I picked up the phone Rose said in an excited voice that she didn’t have time to talk but that I needed to go check my email right away. I clicked back over to Holly and while she was still on the phone I checked my email. There it was in black and white. I read out loud: “He was born over the weekend”. I instantly started to cry and had chills all over my body. What happened over the next few hours became a miracle only God could have orchestrated.

I had been praying for you for 3 months prior to your birth. I knew during that time that you were fighting to live. I didn’t know for sure if I would ever get to hold you in my arms but I felt honored to pray for you and be your spiritual mother.

About an hour after I got the email that you were born the phone rang again. This time it was your case worker from CPS. Her name was Becky. She talked with me and told me about you. She said that she needed to check and see if you were healthy enough to come home. She said you might have to go to a special place called the PICC Center. That’s where babies born affected by drugs go to safely wean from the drugs in their system. I hung up the phone and called daddy. I gave him the update. I also called our adoption agency and told them what was going on. Our adoption counselor called Becky and sent over our home-study. Then not long after that Becky called me back and said that you were ready to come home. I was in shock!! She said that I needed to call your nurse at the hospital to get the details on how and where to pick you up. I called the nurse next and she was so sweet. She said that all the nurses wanted to take you home. I told her I would be there in about 2 hours. I called daddy back but he couldn’t come with me to get you because he was working. So I called Rose back. Remember she’s the woman who called me and emailed me that you were born. She is your aunt and we met her at church and she told us all about you. Aunt Rose asked if she could come with me to pick you up and of course I said YES!!!

It was a long 2 hour car ride to get you but it went by so fast! Aunt Rose and I talked and she told me all about your biological family. We cried and we laughed. When we got to the hospital we went up and met the case worker in the birthing center. They took us to a room. Moments later they brought you into see us. We cried again. You were such a beautiful baby!!!! I asked Aunt Rose if she wanted to hold you and she said that I should hold you first because I am your mama. I told her that I would be honored if she would hand you to me. That was such a special moment and one I will never forget.

The first time I held you in my arms was amazing. I felt like I was going to float away with happiness. I had been waiting for this day for so very long. I fell instantly in love with you. You were not of my flesh, nor of my bone, yet at that moment I knew you were truly my own.

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Soon it was time to head home. I dressed you in a sweet little outfit with a hat that said “watch me go”, I fed you, and then put you into your car seat. I buckled you into the van and off we went. I kept telling Aunt Rose to pinch me because I thought I was dreaming. We were so hungry so we stopped for Mexican food. I inhaled my salad so fast I don’t even think I tasted it. I just wanted to hold you!! You didn’t cry a peep all the way home. Once I got to Aunt Rose’s house your two sisters came out to see you. Aunt Rose adopted them and she is now their mommy. They didn’t know you were their brother but they saw you for the first time the day after you were born. I gave Aunt Rose a big, big hug and then got into the van and drove away with you. Just you and me!!

We got home around 8pm to Daddy, Bailey, Simon, and Silas. I had to go to the bathroom so I took you out of your car seat and handed you over to daddy. When I got back I asked them what we should call you. Everyone gave you kisses and we all just couldn’t believe how small you were. We looked you over and felt your soft hair and skin. We talked about lots of names. We wanted a name from the Bible. Simon got out his Bible and started looking. What a glorious day!! We had you home and you were perfect. You are loved so much by so many people!!!

The next morning we all agreed to call you Solomon. It means “Peaceful”. God has given us so much peace through this whole experience. Daddy chose your middle name as Kal-El from the Superman comic books that he liked so much as a child. Superman was adopted by a family who loved him just like we love you. Kal-El means “Voice of God”. We pray you listen to the peaceful voice of God your entire life.

Five long years before your birth God put on my heart that I would have another son…the day you were born His promise was fulfilled. “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.” 1 Chronicles 22:9

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Photo credit Debbie Rumpza Photography 2011

Solomon Kal-El this is only the beginning of your story. I am honored to be your mama. I can’t wait to see what God does in and through your life. Always know how much we love you. You were chosen by God to be chosen by us. Adopted into our forever family on November 22, 2013 after 901 days in Foster Care.

All my love,
Mama

Moving and Growing | by Lesley

received_10205393124854555We just moved. It’s a good thing – bigger house, bigger backyard with a POOL, nice neighborhood, only a short distance to our old home and old neighbors that we love. We are so grateful and in disbelief that this home is where we get to live. But no matter how you slice it, moving is hard. And stressful. We hadn’t moved in 13 years, and in those 13 years we added four children and all that goes along with that (um, lots of stuff). We also thought it would be fun to GUT our new kitchen and remodel it, because being without a kitchen was a needed challenge in my life. Or the opposite.

There have been some really good lessons and reminders for me in this move.  I am a recovering perfectionist, so these are lessons that might seem “duh” to some people but are really a challenge for me. I’m thinking some people can relate:

#1. Relationships are ALWAYS more important than the to-do list. I struggle with this so much. I am extremely task oriented and thrive on efficiency. Last week I had a day with lots to do (just another day really), and I made a difficult (for me) decision to put that aside and spend some time counseling someone. I secretly wished she would cancel, but she didn’t.  And I am so glad – cause it turns out *I* needed it as much as she did, maybe more. We are designed to be in relationship with others and when we prioritize people it fills us, and we are then better prepared for the task list.

#2. Patience – um, yeah.  Not my strong suit by a long shot.  And you know what? When you do any remodeling, it always takes longer than you think (or they say). Every.single.time. So I am resigned right now to have a camping kitchen for a while. And whenever I start to feel a little bit sorry for myself, I remind myself that the majority of people in this world … this country … this city … do not have the luxury of having a working kitchen, let alone remodeling one. Pity party = done.

#3. Priorities have to constantly be evaluated. I am always asking myself, what needs to get done this week … today … this moment? I try to focus on those tasks and put blinders on so I don’t see the rest. This allows me to get done what absolutely needs to get done and still be nice. Because if I look around at all that needs to be done, I will go into a corner and roll in a ball and cry. I am easily distracted and have a difficult time focusing on one thing.  This is still a process for me, but I am getting better.

#4. Rest is important. Like really important. It’s tough to do, because it seems there is always something more to accomplish. Somehow our culture has lured us into thinking we must always be busy and doing something. But, God COMMANDED rest, a day of it in fact every week. I’ve found when I do rest, I am better prepared for what is to come. If I go non-stop, nothing gets done well and I usually end up getting sick, and grumpy.  My husband and I had an opportunity to go away overnight (without kids!) just a couple of days before moving. It was hard to leave – we had lots of packing left and construction to manage.  But we did it.  We relaxed, talked without interruption, and just hung out together.  I think we slept till 7:30 am!  And wow, it truly made the week ahead much easier to handle.

There are likely many more lessons for me as we continue remodeling and unpacking, and I’m sure I will continue working on the above every day. At the moment, I am feeling really grateful for the opportunity to grow. I don’t feel that way every moment, but the big picture reminds me to keep striving to grow closer in line with God’s characteristics, not mine.

Oh, and a side note: we have TOO MUCH STUFF. It seems to have multiplied in our garage and I can’t wait to get rid of most of it. Garage sale pending. And also, we are never, ever moving again. Ever.