Monday, October 6, 2014

A Heart Felt Plea

*Photo credit- Hawa Images

This kid is pretty special, I think you readers will agree.  He is full of life and mischief...cute as can be in every way possible.  I feel so blessed that he calls me mom.  I cannot imagine my life without him.  Please know I feel profoundly privileged to raise him...profoundly privileged.  But it is not lost on me, that he was not meant to be mine.  In an ideal world, this little boy would be calling a woman in Haiti "mama."  He would never have left her arms, never have been abandoned.  His heart would never have been wounded, he would never have to grow up wondering who else would abandon him.  I love this kid in the very depth of my being...and because I love him, I would give anything to have been able to intervene when he was a newborn and support his birth mom so he would never have experienced the hurt and trauma of abandonment.  I would give anything.

I feel privileged to have adopted.  It is a journey that has changed me in ways I could never have imagined.  I am so grateful.  I feel passionate about orphan care and adoption.  I am even more passionate about doing all we can to make them unnecessary.  Marc and I knew we wanted to forever be involved in Haiti and we knew we wanted to be involved in keeping Haitian children with their birth families, so their are fewer children with wounds and stories like Christians'.  During our adoption, we became acquainted with Heartline ministries and we knew it was were we wanted our support to go.

Heartline Ministries does lots of really cool things to keep families together.  They originally were an orphanage and as they took in children they realized their focus needed to changed from taking care of kids to taking care of families and keeping kiddos and parents together.  Today, their ministries are multifaceted and focus on keeping Haitian families IN TACT through education,job training, and maternal care.

"In Haiti, a woman's lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 83. In developed countries the rate is 1 in 3,800."

Did you read that....1in 83 women die while pregnant or giving birth.  65% of Haitian women have ZERO access to prenatal care.  Haiti's infant mortality rate  (deaths under age 1) is 50/1000 babies.  The USA's  is 6/100 babies who die in the first year. 

Did you know that there are over 400 orphanages in Port Au Prince alone.  In many of those orphanages the children don't even get a meal a day...but they get more than their parents are able to supply.  Parents are relinquishing children simply because they cannot feed them.  What was shocking for me to learn is breast feeding is extremely uncommon in Haiti.  There is great lack of knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding and it's benefits...there are many reasons for this, but the one that makes me more furious is formula companies that came in decades ago under the guise of providing aide.  Formula was positioned as better for infants and a sign of status.  It is expensive and ended up not only providing false information but crippling a culture that simply cannot afford it.  
Heartline not only does prenatal care and delivery at their maternity center, they provide breastfeeding education and support and women are keeping their babies!  My precious little boy was abandoned at about a month old, I don't know anything about his mother, I don't know if she passed away or was simply unable to care for him, but I can't help but pray that if she has any further pregnancies she finds heartline and the support it offers.  I can't help but wonder...if she was taught and able to breastfeed, would she have been able to keep her son?  

These are a whole bunch of heartline babies back for a maternal class (all less than 6 months) ALL still with their birth mama. (Photo taken from Tara Livesay's facebook page;)

I am so passionate about what Heartline almost seems to simple, doesn't it?  Certainly it is much simpler than adoption!

Earlier this year, we learned about a new midwife at Heartline.  Beth Johnson went to Heartline last fall for a short two month stint to cover for a full time midwife who needed to take some time off and be back in the states.  While there, God worked in her heart and called her to stay...she obeyed and stayed.  She has been just trusting God to provide for her support while in Haiti.  We were so blessed to join her support time in the small way we can.  I have been so blessed to follow her blog and hear her heart and her stories.  I have been blessed to correspond a bit with her virtually.

This week she flew home for a couple days to attend her little brothers wedding, she had enough air miles to tack a short jaunt up to Chicago onto her trip.  She flew in Sunday morning, was with us for a day and over night and flew back this morning.  We have grown to love her over the web and were so privileged to get to see her in person!  She exudes Jesus love and her passion for Haiti is palpable.  She LOVES what she is doing and she is doing it literally with all her heart. 

My kids loved Miss Beth and asked this morning if she can come again next Sunday;)

Here is my plea:
I've never done something like this, but I am asking my readers to pray about and consider supporting Beth and Heartline ministries.  I know many people have been touched by our precious little boy.  We aren't all called to adopt, but we are all called to care.  I pray that we are all supporting orphans in someway, but won't you join me in supporting a woman and program that is all about PREVENTING babies from becoming orphans in the first place?!  Yes, I am asking you to pray about giving money; I cannot tell you how much you receive in return, but I know it will be more than you can possibly imagine.  The updates of this ministry, the stories of ladies of their babies- these things are worth more than gold.

Beth's Blog has her story and many stories of the work she is involved in.  There is a tab right smack dab at the top of her blog that says SUPPORT...and you can easily get involved.  CLICK HERE:)

Heartline Ministries has a website with opportunities to support children's education or women as they go through the job training program as well...complete with pictures of each woman who needs a sponsor.  click here

There is so much brokeness in our world...and we can use all our energy try to make sense or it all or just roll up our sleeves and DO something about it.  PLEASE consider joining us in changing the potential stories of kiddos about to be born in Haiti.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Today was the first day of preschool for Christian and Chloe and marks a huge milestone for mama.  It will be the first time in 8 1/2 years that I will consistently have time to myself...three mornings a week to be exact.  I know it will fly by...mornings are short, but I am so thankful nonetheless;)

Since school started for Ava and Phin, I have been enjoying my time with the littles...

I've loved that time...but I also love that it's finally time for preschool to start too!

We visited preschool last week, met their teachers, and received their tote bags.  Receiving tote bags is such a small thing, but they served as a reminder of how much life has changed in a year.  They were symbols of hope to this mama's heart;)  When they receive their tote bags, it is optional for the child to decorate them any way they want.  Last year we didn't decorate them.  We were knee deep in settling in and preparing to pick up Christian in Haiti.  This year, it was a fun leisurely activity.  A symbol that we are settled and in a stable place as a family...such a seemingly small, simple thing that meant so much to my heart and testified to God's faithfulness to us.

We were all thankful today arrived.  These littles were super excited!

I wanted a picture in front of the school sign...but the suns angle made it a "little" too bright.

Chloe did great.  She fancies herself a preschool expert now and had made sure Christian known multiple times a day that she used to be little in 3K like him.

Christian had quite a bit of anxiety and CLUNG to my leg....therefore my anxiety was a bit high too;)  He did great though and was understandably proud of himself!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A mushy Gushy note about my extraordinary husband.....

"The difference between an ordinary marriage and an extraordinary marriage is in giving just a little "extra" everyday, as often as possible, for as long as we both shall live."  - Fawn Weaver

We've had a long week at the Aneed house.  Marc had a stressful week at work.  I was trying to adjust to school while struggling with exhaustion and headaches.  We are both tired...and yet we have four kids.  I have just felt like a bump on a log, I can't think of what to feed the kids, I am so over chores and laundry.  I just want to rest, read a book, and watch brainless TV.  I am pretty much the opposite of the "dream wife and mom" today.

My man on the other hand?  He is exuding awesomeness.  He took the kids out to McD's to lunch and to play in the play land to run off energy.  He helped me clean the house cuz we have guests coming tomorrow.  He ordered Noodle Zone on his own initiative for dinner and picked it up.  He is right now bathing four kids upstairs by himself.

We have a really amazing marriage.  Not perfect, but passionate and fun and better than I could have ever imagined.  It's all God, I know and my husband radiates his Savior and serves me just like Christ served the church.  I do think we have an extraordinary marriage and when I saw this quote it seemed IS the extras.  It's going above an beyond.  Sometimes you are the one doing extra and sometimes, like today, you are the one humbly receiving the extra.

Last weekend, we were able to get away for a night and hike in Starved Rock and Mattheissen Sate Parks.  We ran through trails, laughed and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our alone time.  Those moments are important, they give us freedom for conversation and passion and fun.  They are picture book romantic and I love them.  But 14 years into marriage, I think I love days like today even more.  His love is being poured out, he's giving of himself though he should have none to give.  These days are like super glue for our marriage and hearts.  Sure, we have more passion than ever in our marriage, we have more fun, and deeper connection, but its days like today that make those things extraordinary.

My husband loves comics and superhero movies....and I think it just might be because he himself is a super hero in disguise.  Thank you, Marc Aneed, for not just loving me and the kids, but giving "extras" all the stinkin' time...even when I have nothing to give in return.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School

Today Ava started third grade and Phineas went off to kindergarten.

I had trouble sleeping last night.  Last year was tough for Ava.  She really mourned the loss of her life in Sheboygan and struggled all year with feeling like the new girl and not quite like herself (not the fault of anyone else, by the way, just the label and awkwardness she felt at a new school).  We had so much transition with Christian joining our family, as well; I think it was just an emotional year for her!   I look forward to her third grade year.  She learned a lot about her emotions and how to process them.  I also LOVED third grade- it was my favorite grade ever, so I am excited for her.  Who doesn't LOVE memorizing multiplication tables and whippin' through flash cards...can't wait!

I can't believe Phin is starting kindergarten.  He is going full day and I know he's ready, he's almost six, but my heart felt the loss of time with him.  I lay awake at two a.m., mourning that I'll never again have him home all day (except summers) and I'll miss his spark of life around here.

Summer wasn't what I'd planned.  Christian really struggled after Marc traveled and that consumed the first half of summer.  It was important to deal with the regression correctly and I know he needed the time home and the extra attention.  Still, I mourned the plans I'd made that never came to fruition.  I mourn the loss of time I hoped to have with Ava and Phin.  Sometimes life just isn't in our control and I think I'll always struggle with that fact;)  They seemed to have a good summer and are excited for school, but at 3 a.m. I lay awake wondering if we laughed enough.  I wondered how I'd ever teach them all the things I want to with school years being so busy and summer being so short.  How will they learn to cook and clean and sew and fix things and do their own mind was going crazy.  God was laughing, I am sure.  They are five and eight, it's not as if they are going to college tomorrow!

I was feeling emotional when the alarm went off far too early, but as soon as Ava ran into my room smiling ear to ear proclaiming, "TODAY I START THIRD GRADE!", I rallied;)

We got up dressed, had a good breakfast and packed our first lunches!  I'm done sulking, my kids are ready for this year and I will be too!

We had some prayer time for their day and school year ahead.

 All ready to go!

 I was about to write, "She looks older every year"....but that's how this growin' up thing works, isn't it?!

My photo bomber was feelin' like himself to say the least;) 

Ava and her teacher Mrs. Satre

Most of Ava's class...a great group of kids!

Phin wasn't even nervous, he went right in and hung up his bag so fast I barely had time to snap a photo;)

His teacher, Mrs. Janschek.

Ava was excited but nervous upon arrival and I THINK Phin was nervous too, though he denied it.  He was pretty independent, wanted a high five instead of a hug when I left and when I asked if he wanted me to come inside to get him or drive up in the car pool lane he was adamant that I do the car pool lane and let him come out to me;)

I picked them up after school...both were beaming about what a great day they had.  Chloe and Christian had special surprises to give them in the car;)

We ended the day like we end most big days...with a silly supper.

Happy First Day of School!

Classroom style name tags, apple plates, loose leaf paper silverware sleeves, erasers (strawberry wafers) and pencils (Cheese stick, summer sausage, and bugle)

Straw flags for the milk that said, "I love school", "Smart is cool", and "Stay Sharp"

Dessert #1

Dessert #2

Back to School Snack Mix (Scrabble Cheez Its, Alphabits cereal, Pretzel stick "L"s, and pretzel "M"&Ms filled

Our pepperoni clock

and celebratory pizza

I hope they never out grow the joy in silly suppers....

I go to bed certain I'll sleep better tonight...thankful for a day of celebrating the wonderful kids that I have and looking forward to all God has for them this year.  I end the day "laughing at the days to come" and knowing that the change in my heart is a gift from my Father.

*Printables for straw flags and dessert labels here.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Family Photos

I love photographs. I have a pipe dream, that some day I will become amazing at taking them.  I love what they capture and the stories they can tell.  We have far too many by most standards and yet I hesitate to delete a single one.  We have so many, I should be on Hoarders for photographs alone.

Family photo shoots, however, haven't always been my favorite.  You go with desperate expectations of trying to capture the "now" and the children screw it up;)

In 2010, we went with our perfectly coordinated outfits to a photo shoot and all I wanted was on of those adorable pictures taken from overhead that were big at that time....and we got this in a variety of forms.

We left the photo shoot with three crying kid, got in the car and I started crying myself.  I was overcome with disappointment, knowing that "perfect photo" for our wall didn't happen.

When the pictures came back, however, I fell in love with this perfectly imperfect photo.  I felt like it was a visual reminder of all God has been teaching me through motherhood.  It still serves as a reminder to me- I have to find joy even in disappointments and embrace the chaos.  As I started to laugh in the photo shoot at how foolhardy I was to think this overhead shot would actually be easy and not one but ALL THREE kids were crying, my husband kissed me.  The photo captured captured how perfectly OUT of control my life often is, but I have this amazing man helping me find joy and supporting me one hundred percent.

In 2011, I was so excited about an outdoor photo shoot we'd scheduled in the morning, my children's best time of day.  I bribed them with the promise of lollipops for good smiles.  After an hour long complete debacle, I left in tears again.  I was certain she didn't get a single good shot and I sobbed telling my husband I must be a terrible mother if my kids can't even cooperate for ONE HOUR of time to get ONE picture.  I remember saying, "A crying photo is funny ONCE but we can't put a second crying photo on our wall!  We may as well have thrown money out the window."

We got the CD with 617 photos a few weeks later and in my amazement there was ONE and I do mean ONE photo that we could keep.  I had that thing printed onto a canvas fasted than you could say "print."

The other 616 look like this one...(though can I just say for anyone recently experiencing a failed photo shoot, I looked through them just now to post one of the epic failures on here and I laughed the entire way through...these ridiculously imperfect photos are awesome, my kiddos are so little and so cute;)

We had my friend Roxanne take a quick Christmas photo in our jammies in 2013, but we haven't had an official photo shoot since that fateful day in 2011 and that single good photo has been on our wall since 2011.  We now have another member of our family.  He often points to that photo and says, "Where's Christian?"  We had to rectify this, so bravely I scheduled another shoot.  This time I had very little expectations.  I just wanted professional proof he's here.  Roxanne asked me what I wanted from the shoot and I said, "Capture our now" and the truth is dear friends, our now is amazing but it's also chaos, so I was prepared to just have the chaos captured.   I am well versed in failed photo sessions, as long as everyone was in it, I'd consider the mission accomplished.  After all, third time is a charm...worst case scenario, we do a homage to failed photo shoots along our upstairs hallway.

Let me share with you the talent of Roxanne Engstrom at Hawa Images.  She happens to amazingly talented and is gracious enough to let me be her friend.  My lack of stress (I kind of have a theory that my high expectations "MAY" have contributed to my children's freak outs at previous sessions...I think they may have felt a TEENY bit of pressure coming for mom) and her total comfort with our chaos captured our now beautifully.

Truly this IS our happily ever after...these crazy, high energy, intelligent, imaginative, uncontrollable kiddos.  Our quiver is full and often makes us quiver...but we wouldn't trade it for the world!

(I look quite a bit older, but my man is still there helping me find joy and supporting me 100%...proverb says, "He who finds a good wife finds a good thing..."  I believe if a woman had written something similar it would also say, "She who finds a good husband, finds a great thing..."