Some fun facts about the way we're living our lives these days:
1. Earlier this week Michael made breakfast burritos for dinner. He used 20 eggs, two green peppers, 25 tortillas, a bag of cheese, and 1/2 a jar of salsa. Not to mention drinks and sides. We go through food like nobody's business, but have found that simply doubling most recipes works well and is super easy. I thought cooking for so many people would be extremely stressful, but it's actually pretty fun, and it's nice to know I don't have to do clean up afterwards :).
2. We have a grocery room here on campus where we get most of our staple items, which is very helpful. Going to the actual grocery store mostly consists of buying dairy, fresh produce, and specialty items. All ten of us (yes, ten - we got our last new girl on Friday - she's in 7th grade like Kat, and she's a fabulous addition) pile up in Big Bertha (what we call our 15 passenger van) and head to Target or Walmart for a 30-45 minute shopping trip. To prepare for this, I make a list for the grocery room, and also one for the grocery store based on the weekly menu I've made, as well as snacks, goodies and frozen foods. I split up the grocery store list 6-8 ways, depending on who's partnering up that week, and each person gets 4-6 items (actually, I usually end up getting 10 or so things, but that's the stuff that can't be explained on a post-it note list :) ). Rather than me wrangling my boys by myself and making it a painful, 2-3 hour ordeal, we all pitch in on Saturday afternoon and knock the trip out in about 45 minutes total, from loading up, to putting away all of the groceries. Nice.
3. Bennett and Jasper are now sharing the large front bedroom in the house. I am so glad we purchased a bunk bed set for them before we moved here, because moving them in together was no big deal at all. Each bedroom in our house has two good-sized closets already, because all of them are set up with the possibility of sharing a room. When Alyssa came, I bunked her up with Kat, our other 7th grader, and moved Milka (our 8th grader who came back in November) into Jasper's old room. Getting new girls and trying to figure out the optimal place to put them is a lot like playing a game of chess. I've tried to be strategic and intentional with the way they influence each other and spend time together. So far our new arrangement is working out beautifully, which I am so thankful for. The Lord has gone ahead of us on each and every decision like this, and He has smoothed the way. B & J love sharing a room and being roomies. Michael and I hear them in there giggling and talking at night, and we just love the memories they are building together. We tell them they need to take care of each other because they are best friends, and now they're actually acting like it, which is so sweet to witness. Thank you, Lord for giving me peace about this transition, and for making it so sweet.
4. Our girls are getting excited about the youth group retreats and mission trips being offered this year at our church, and we're excited that they're excited :). Can't wait to see what the Lord does in these girls this summer, and the way He draws them closer to His side.
5. We have a Family Meeting every Sunday evening at 8:00 where we revisit rules and issues that need to be addressed, and Michael also does a mini-devotional. He really is gifted at this. I am amazed every. single. week. at the message he brings. We've been talking about setting goals, and we have a cork board in the kitchen where the kids have posted their own personal ones, like not biting fingernails (Keke, Kat and me), or not eating after 7:30pm (Cheyenne and Michael), etc. Tonight we're talking about Michael and I's goal to show these girls how to become strong Christian women by the time they turn 18 and eventually leave here. This is what we want for them - to love the Lord with all their hearts, to become wonderful wives and mothers, to contribute to society, to heal and move past what has happened in their young lives.
6. The girls call me Mama J (occasionally Mama or Mom, but mostly Mama J), and they call Michael Big Mac (his initials are MAC, so that's what they came up with :) ). I can't tell you how sweet it is when one of them refers to herself as our daughter, or they say something to their friends like, "My mom would kill me if I did that!" - talking about me. Words like these are ones I will store up in my heart forever. I will never forget that God has given me the privilege and opportunity to be a mother to these precious, lovely girls. I won't ever forget the impact the Lord is allowing us to have. I will be able to see the positive imprint this is experience is having on our boys for years to come. Words really are not adequate for what goes on in our house from day to day - the way these girls are transforming before our eyes. God has placed His hand of blessing on this house. Another testimony He is giving me - one that I will treasure all of my days, I have no doubt. I am allowed to be mom to eight children. Amazing. Sometimes it takes my breath away.
7. Middle school girls are a whole different animal. They are crazy and giggly and impulsive. They are so much fun, and sometimes ridiculously frustrating. I am glad God equips those whom He calls :). The girls are not allowed to have nail polish in their rooms and have to paint their nails in the common area, so imagine my surprise when I went into one of our girl's rooms to do a quick cleaning inspection (which I do randomly and periodically to make sure they keep up with things), and I find a row of blue post-it notes taped down to the carpet by her desk. Huh. I think. What are those doing there? I pry them off the floor and find a GIANT hot pink stain on the carpet, caused by - what else? - nail polish. Girl has been wearing rubber gloves and scrubbing her carpet for days, and has lost all nail painting privileges for the rest of the school year (devastating, I tell you). Believe it or not, the stain is coming up. I highly recommend Goo Gone for such things, in case you ever have a crazy, giggly, impulsive middle school girl of your own :).