Saturday, December 31, 2016

Crush vs. mush

My goals for 2016 were totally random.  In the past, I have made goals based on 3 categories - Spiritual, Personal and Physical.  Last year we added to our family in January and I just couldn't.  The chaos around me caused me to flake out on a lot of stuff.  I knew I needed to make goals.  I didn't think I would meet any of them, but for me, if I don't have anything to shoot for, I'm lost.  One year later and I'm still in a bit of a fog.  However, when I looked back at last year's goals for myself, I felt a little lift!  I actually did meet some!  I hope to make 2017 goals soon, but for now, I'm content to review the old ones.

Goals I crushed in 2016
-Getting Bert and Ernie into counseling - BEST BEST BEST thing EVER!!!  If I failed all the other goals, this was the one to fight for tooth and nail.
-Compost pile - I have my hot hubby to thank for this!!  He was willing to use some pallets and build a 2 sided bin so I could turn it over.  It's pretty full from leaves right now but that usually drops down a lot in winter.  Our trash can thanks us - all the food waste goes out there now.  I'm guessing the creatures in the woods thank us too!
-Get rid of some baby/toddler clothes.  This might be 50/50 but I'm calling it a win b/c nothing new came in.  That counts, right?!
-Date nights - SUPER SUCCESSFUL!  We have such a nice babysitter and we have been going very regularly.  THANK YOU JESUS!  It is such a blessing to have even just 2 hours to talk to DW w/o little people or the mess of the house around us.
-Trails in the woods are not made by just me, but I helped.  We have a bridge system to the 1st ridge and now that it's winter we have been hiking a lot, all the way back, even over the frozen parts.  We have better ideas where the lot line in and there's talk of a going w/the neighbor to map out the easement.  Fun stuff - can't wait to do more!
-The house has more decoration than before, slightly random, but it's there!

Goals that went to mush in 2016
-Working out, even once a week, just didn't happen, save for maybe 2 days.  Literally.
-Go through bin of school papers.  Well, I sort of want to count this one halfway.  I kept up w/the current papers so as not to create an even bigger back log.  But the bin is still in the exact same spot.  Never opened, not once.  This goal will go back on the 2017 list b/c I MUST get that bin out of here!!
-Covered feeding station and dust bath area for chickens.  Chickens made their own dust bath area.  I'd love to shore that up or make a better one.  I also want to add to this one - a better water station.
-Hang up a Pippa the chicken picture on the coop.
-I had a garden, but it didn't do well.  We were gone (A LOT) and deer and other woodland creatures had fun in the big part.  The little part was close to the house and we ate beans, cilantro and kale from it.  In the future I would love to have a bigger area fenced in...ah, don't get me started.  I could garden dream for days!
-Camping w/family/friends.  Sad.  Didn't happen.  We did tons of camping, just not w/anyone.  Ok, I stand corrected.  Once.  And it was too short!  So much fun but way too short!
-Bible study in person - I tried.  I cannot keep a regular schedule these days!!  And you would think day time is better, but it's not.  I'll keep trying but I may go back to the online version w/strangers.  I'm not going to make new friends in town that way, but which is more important?  Bible study or friends?  Don't answer that, I think it's too messy.
-Food prep is happening little by little.  No major progress, but holding the line.
-Decent family photos did not happen.  Too much advance planning.  That and I was busy living life, photo taking was not always first on my mind unless we were on trips.

I tend to be hard on myself so this time I'm going to celebrate the little things that went well =)  I'm looking into a new short term goal system for 2017.  My next goal is to implement a new set of sounds funny, but that's how I operate!  We'll see if trying something new helps kick start this year!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016!!

I can't believe it's been almost a whole year since we became a family of 6!  This year has had it's share of difficulties, as well as plenty of happy memories.  Some of you may already know, but for those of you that don't, when you add 2 new people to your family at the same time, life gets busier and some of the usual things you do get set aside so you can bond and keep up w/all the new responsibilities.  We didn't just add 2 new people, we added 2 people who have survived significant trauma.  Needless to say, a lot of things got set aside and we entered survival mode.  This is not a complaint or a plea for pity, it's our reality.  However, that being said, we have still been able to be 'us' - just in smaller and simpler ways.  When I write Christmas blog posts, I always like to celebrate what makes us 'us' and all the ways we did that in the past year.  This year, w/5 out of the 6 of us being in school (4 as students, 1 as a teacher), I thought a yearbook theme would be fitting!  And there is audience participation at the end, so if you make it to the end, we'd love to hear from you!

(Once again, we are not sending Christmas cards out in the traditional way - see the end of this post for more on that...We hope you enjoy this online version! If you regularly read my blog or see my Facebook posts, some of these stories will sound familiar...)

2016 Yearbook
(Yes, it's a made up name!  It's MY Christmas letter, I can do that.)

This year 2 of the kids participated in a summer strawberry shortcake eating contest!  I have some big eaters and trust me when I say, it was no surprise that the smallest member of our family won by a landslide!  I have 2 very pink Strawberry Fest T-shirts that my boys can grow into now =)  This year also marks the first year that we have purchased an all access pass to the local school sporting events.  At first I hesitated, but then I realized it would only take 3 trips to a football game for it to pay for itself!  We enjoyed a bunch of football games so far and hope to get to a basketball game soon.  We also took the opportunity to attend our college alma mater's Homecoming festivities, including the football game.  There was free food, mascots, carnival games and plenty of reminders how Momma has aged...(The campus has changed a lot/my dorm is gone, 'kids these days', head shaking and co-eds telling their friends to watch their language around the kids.)
Speaking of school spirit and being old.....This was also the year I (Mel) and Dave had a high school class reunion of a round, significant number.  While Dave did not attend his, I did attend mine.  There was a school tour (that place has also changed dramatically!), dinner and a photo booth.  It was so good to see 'old' friends and chat w/many new ones!  To me, that is one of the best parts about going to an event like this.  I can socialize w/people I never spent much time w/in HS and we have more in common now than we seemed to have back then.  New connections are made, old ones are strengthened and many hugs were given.  One thing that really struck me was the amazing example of some ladies from my class who served others in an insanely huge way.  They coordinated, planned, called, set up, served, cleaned and even found time to socialize w/us along the way!!  They probably did a bunch of other stuff we never knew about behind the scenes, too.  If you get a chance to attend a class reunion, I highly recommend it.  Thank the people who put it together for you and please know that no one cares what you look like, what your job is, or where you live.  Just go.  If you are the only one from your 'clique' in HS who is going and you think it'll be awkward, kick those thoughts to the curb.  Hold your head high and just go.  Call me if you need encouragement and then call me after to tell me how it went =)

Here at Bent Anchor we don't just watch sports, we also participate in them!  Once again Moses was a member of the boys' gymnastics team and this year he participated in a meet at a private club.  *insert low slow whistle*  That place was fancy!!  He had a lot of fun and there are 4 meets this season coming up in 2017!   There was also basketball camp for the oldest 2 boys this year and lots of sports happening in the yard!!  All the kids had gymnastics and swimming classes at the Y this past year and will continue to do so this session.

Lest you think all we do around here is sports, it should be noted that there are plenty of academic endeavors here!  This year we made it a mission to build bridges across the swampy areas of our 10 acres to make the ridges that run along the lake more accessible.  We are planning to make various trails around the property and continue to explore the woods.  Everyone loves being outside and jumping out of trees!  We've also taken the opportunity to help Dave's mom w/some trees and clearing out some of the area behind her house.  A day spent working outside is the best kind of day!  When the weather is bad, we know we can always go to the Y and use the racquetball courts.  When we go camping, you can usually find the kids swimming as soon as the pool opens!  We found some really nice campgrounds this summer.  In this collage of photos, there is a very special one on the top right hand corner.  The first week the boys came to live w/us, we made a family masterpiece.  Every one of us took a section of the paper and painted it to make a joint piece of art.  Although I was nervous (lots of little hands, paint, carpet under the table which I always hated but am living w/until we can financially replace!), it is one of the best memories I have.  Ever.  That piece of art looks messy and some people might wonder why it hangs on our wall.  It represents 6 people, only 3 of which share DNA, coming together as 1 family.  That, my friends, is worth hanging on the wall.  Every day I am reminded that God knit us together and all the legal documents in the world will only match what this painting says.  We are a family.

Oh my goodness - as I reviewed the photos from this past year, I loved seeing the projects and field trips my kids have done at their school!  Everyone is excited about learning and making great gains.  Moses has really been enjoying math and social studies, Colleen loves learning about planets, animals, robots and all things science.  Bert is reading!!  He's just in the beginning stages, so no chapter books yet, but there are lots of classics we are digging into.  He is great at money math!  Ernie is reading 'snap words' too, working on building relationships and making it through a full day of kindergarten.  All good stuff.

You know it wouldn't be a full year w/o some 'class trips'!!  We wander a lot, and this year was no exception.  As always, we try to find a good deal for spring break.  It was a little hard to wrap my brain around the thought of packing up 6 people and we wondered how the boys would do, especially since it was only 3 months since they had been w/us.  We are blessed beyond words to have family in FL and after a few quick messages and some phone calls, it was decided that we'd take the leap and try it!  Looking back, we must have been crazy...maybe we still are!!  As it turned out, the boys did GREAT on the flight, they took to my family (who doesn't?), and we ALL LOVED the warm weather!  We swam in the gulf, a hotel pool, and a community water park!  We're ready to do it again!

For us, summer means camping and there was plenty of that this year.  We started just across the border in IL.  If you like camping and exploring natural features, you should really check out Starved Rock State Park!  There were tons of water falls, lots of canyons, and hiking.  We put on our suits, our water shoes and went for it!  I have so many amazing photos, I could fill up a whole post about this place!!  Another one of our favorite spots is in TN, where some good friends live.  Nothing beats eating w/them, seeing some sweet rides at Cars and Coffee, swimming in their pool, going to their church and just BEING around them.  We did some exploring too - for all the times we have been there, we hadn't been to the Parthenon yet!  We checked it out this time - it was sort of funny though, b/c it was right when that whole Pokemon craze started.  There were all these people wandering around the park, looking down at their seemed sort of surreal, like seeing zombies or something!  We had a few good laughs, watching people walk into each other or stationary objects.  It was hard to leave our friends in TN - can't wait to go back in 2017!!  

Our 3rd big 'class trip' was out to the Black Hills, the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore!  Our family has been there a few times before, but the little boys hadn't!  It was fun climbing around w/them, hearing them shout out whenever they saw 'the presidents' and enjoying all the fun of camping!  The momma bear worried how the littles would sleep, how everyone would adjust to sharing the small space for a while, how we could fit all we were packing into the camper and such, but again - we were blessed w/no breakdowns, no illnesses or injuries and some sweet inexpensive fun!  It was hot and sweaty but we found plenty of swimming holes and rocks to climb!  Also, it was the first time we drove through the area w/a sunroof - a whole new way to look at the world!  (Yeah, it's the little things...)

We would share individual school pictures but not everyone has one!  Most of you know what we look like, anyway.  Since I can't resist another year book themed section, though, pretend this is the part where you see each one of our faces.
---Freshman class---
ERNIE - Voted most likely to become mayor, lawyer or judge.  "I meant what I said and I said what I meant." -- Dr. Seuss
BERT - Voted most likely to do back flips off of high platforms or use one of those stand up desks at work.  "Life requires movement." -- Aristotle
---Sophomore class---
COLLEEN - Voted most likely to build a robot that does her homework.  "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." -- Albert Einstein
---Junior class---
MOSES - Voted most likely to do something on a stage, maybe in a band, telling jokes, dancing or just performing in some way.  "All the world's a stage..." -- Shakespeare
---Senior class---
DAVE - Voted most likely to skip work to go boating.  "You're gonna need a bigger boat." -- from the movie Jaws
MELISSA - Voted most likely to be found in the woods, or daydreaming about her big ideas.  "The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep." -- Robert Frost

What yearbook would be complete w/o a few blank pages in the back for your friends to sign and leave a message?  If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave us a comment =)  Sign our yearbook!  This year had it's ups and downs...through all of it, we felt the presence of the Lord in our lives.  We continue to press on, following the example He has laid out for us.  In 2017, we purpose to love our neighbors (and classmates and siblings, etc) as we've been loved, serving when and where we can, while we continue learning what it takes to make this family of 6 operate smoothly.  We pray your 2016 yearbook is filled w/many happy memories like ours!  Here's to an adventurous and healthy 2017!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!

We hope you enjoyed this green version of our Christmas card! (If you still wish to receive a paper copy, leave a comment.) There are lots of reasons we decided to do things differently this year (again!)'s a few:
1) Save postage. We love you, but we're cheap!
2) Save paper. You just recycle those cards after you read do recycle them eventually, don't you??
3) Save printing costs. See reason #1!
4) Save stress. Nothing to print, sign, stuff, address...
5) Expand our options! Now you can see a practically limitless amount of photos.
6) Our greeting to you is saved in cyber-space for posterity! Yes, we can be that vain sometimes!
7) It went so well the past years...we heard a lot of positive responses, and even some people who said they'd try it themselves. Welcome to the dark (green) side! (Sorry that was a goofy Star Wars joke...)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Life is like a wild ride on Friday

I have this cat.
Her name is Peyton.
She really doesn't hang around home much.  She usually comes running from somewhere else when it's dinner time.  She does not hang around home, waiting for people to come outside or return from somewhere, waiting to greet them.  That's her sister, Homer.  Homer is a perfect name for her b/c she rarely leaves home base.  Homer follows you anywhere and everywhere, a faithful kitty to the end.  Not that Peyton isn't, it's just that she is literally going places and doesn't care if you are there or not.  She's adventurous and that's cool too.
But Peyton, oh Peyton, she got the ride of her life today.  A whole new adventure that just might make her more of a Homer.  (It would for me, but maybe not.  Maybe Peyton is just so much of a tough girl that this won't matter.)
Peyton.  This cat.  Can you tell where she is?
Oh yeah, she's on the truck.  Not that.  She sleeps on the hood of my truck a lot.  When the kitties were little they used to sit on top of the tires, in the wheel wells.  Being on top of the truck is not that big of a deal.  The better question is WHERE IS THE TRUCK?  Yes, we have a flagpole at our house, but no that is not OUR flagpole.  Think of buildings in your community that have a flagpole and think of where a stay-at-home momma and her 4 kids would go at 8 in the morning....yeah?  You got it now?

YES.  That is my crazy cat, on top of my truck, at my kids' school.  That is 2.6 miles away from my house.  To which, I drive 40-50 mph for part of the way.  This cat.  You guys, I am so not a cat person.  They are cute and funny and have killed mice and chippies and kept the woodpeckers off the house and I am so grateful for that but - THIS CAT.

So I pull into a parking spot at school and get out of my truck...and I hear this LOUD MEWING.  There is a lot of noise in the school parking lot, not to mention my 4 kids clamoring and arguing about who gets out first or who gets a quarter for candy canes or whatever.  This loud mewing rises about the rest of the stuff and I have a moment - is that a cat?  Is that a cat under/in my truck?  Oh crap - where's Peyton?!  I start to walk around, thinking I'm going to look under the truck and nope.  There she is, hunkered down under the spoiler.  Side note - is that thing there to make us feel like we are cool and we might race this big bus, or does it actually serve a purpose?  Like, will I roll my truck if I don't have one holding me down?  Don't answer that, I promise I won't remove it.  Back to the cat.  She is starting to stand up and making so much noise people are noticing.  Yep.  This is me.  This is my life.  "Is that your cat?"  My 8am snarky self wants to respond, "No, I'm Samantha Stevens, one of my kids was grumpy this morning and I just turned them into a cat.  And made them ride on the roof."  But my 'be-nice, these-people-are-normal-and-Dutch' self just smiled and nodded.  Yes.  That's my cat.

I kissed my kids and promised them to get Peyton down, told them to tell all their teachers about their crazy cat and their crazy mom.  They didn't want to leave.  I told them I'd turn them into cats.  Go to school!  We all had a good laugh.  And then I turned them into cats.  KIDDING.  It's Friday, ok, I am trying to laugh at all this!!!  I reached for Peyton, worried she would be pissed at me, but I was wearing gloves and figured I probably deserved her wrath anyway.  She didn't want to come down, but I grabbed her and tucked her under my arm.  This cat.  She just went for the ride of her life, but I wasn't going to let her repeat that.  I brought her in and set her on the passenger seat.  She wanted in my lap, but listen people, I am not going to have a cat on my lap while I drive!  I am not a crazy cat lady!  I may be crazy, I may be a cat lady, but I am not a crazy cat lady.  I moved her back and she decided to go check out the rest of the vehicle, letting me know her displeasure.  So I drove home w/a cat talking to me, praying to God that she didn't get crazy and freak out, jumping on my face or something while I drove.  I pulled over to take the next picture of her, remembering to fully document this event for her kitty baby book.  Nope.  But I did want to take a picture for me to remember.  I have a terrible memory, relying on photos to remind me of stuff all time.  I just don't do well w/details, so when the kids ask me about a vacation we took, or where did we eat that cool TX shaped waffle, I look back at the photos to remember.  Of course the waffle was in TX!!  I remembered that, it was a joke.  But seriously, photos help my memory.  Anyway - here is the queen in her carriage, headed for home.  She's probably checking on her loyal subjects.  Making sure none of them have a cat on their roof.

You know me, I'm always trying to glean some life lesson from stupid things that happen to me.  The obvious one here is to check the roof for cats before leaving.  I laugh at my life sometimes!  Never thought I'd be doing 90% of the stuff I am doing!!  But I really don't like obvious stuff.  I like the weird and quirky stuff - which is why I like my life.  I am choosing to look at this situation a little differently.  Sometimes, your life is like a wild ride on a Friday - hanging on to the roof spoiler of a big white SUV.  And gosh, it's dangerous and not recommended and you never want to do that again!  But when it's over - it's over.  You're safe.  Sometimes the adventure serves as a reminder that we do hard things.  Life can't all be sleeping, treats, playing in the long grass in the really makes no sense to worry about the possibility of hard things.  If you choose to sleep on the truck, you might find yourself at school.  But if you don't sleep on the truck, you might never feel that warm engine mixed w/the slanting morning sun.  So many times people ask why would do foster care, why we would choose to enter into a relationship that we might not be able to continue forever.  People have asked why we would subject 'our kids' to other kids' possible issues or behaviors.  They want to know why we take risks when life is good, why don't we shield and protect ourselves from hurt or loss.  Oh we do.  We just make sure to sleep on the truck every once in a while.  B/c if we don't, we miss out on things.  We miss out on the chance to love a kid, even if it's for just a little while.  If you knew a kid needed a lunch, wouldn't you share yours?  Or would you eat it, while they watched?  I bet every single one of you would share or give up your lunch.  It's like that w/love.  Once you know a kid needs it, you can't NOT give it to them.  Lately some kids in my house are going through some stuff.  I am just going to blame growing pains.  They need me.  I feel drained and like I don't have much left to give.  But get this - I am digging deep inside myself and putting 50millionthousandpercent into loving them.  I am not a stay calm person.  I have my own self and my own growing pains I'm working on.  Seriously - I drove to school w/a cat on my roof.  BUT - I love these little people so much I have been working so hard to stay calm.  They need it.  They need me.  I'm not perfect but I'm doing it.  The other day, I calmly handled a situation and a kid melted in my arms.  Sleeping on the truck/taking a risk on this little person = worth it.  It's a wild ride.  But it's Friday.  And sometimes you look back on that ride and think about how funny it was and the thrill becomes a happy memory.

Monday, November 21, 2016

And the beat goes on

I know that in the past, I have posted about my daughter's progress w/her feeding tube and there was a celebratory post when she had her 'button' removed...I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but as a baby (before she came to us) she had heart surgery.  This means we have yearly (or more often!) trips to the nearby children's hospital for heart check ups.  Recently her blood pressure was really elevated, to the point that we had MANY appointments in a short amount of time.  Anyway - today was another one, mostly to check to see if the meds are working.  I almost always try to schedule appointments like this in the AM, just in case they run long or add some other procedure to our day, so we can get back before dark.  The days get long and especially in the winter, I really hate driving in the dark!  At the last appointment, they informed me that the doctor would only be in a few days during the month of November, making scheduling an important appointment difficult.  They came back to tell me he had one appointment left!  It wasn't until 1pm, but it's not like I can say, "Nah, skip it!" or whatever!  I mean it's just her heart, right?  That's not too important...(<---sarcastic font="" p="">So today we went and as always she is weighed before going into the room.  I've been hoping she would break the 50 lb mark soon - she's seem to have stalled out at 48!  The nurse today said she was 51 point something something and I just danced!!!  I called her beefcake and got a wry sneaky smile out of her.  Then in the room, the nurse took her blood pressure (just in her arm this time, lately they've been doing a lot of arm and leg combos) and she said it was only 107 over something!  WAY LOWER than in the past!!!  I didn't even bother listening to the last number - maybe I'm a terrible mom or whatever, but they give you the printout anyways...In less than a half hour we got 2 pieces of good news!!!  The doc came in, pleased as punch that the #s looked good and he sent us on our way!  I had planned to pick up somethings I had ordered online at a nearby mall, so we headed over there w/time to kill.
It's pretty rare that this girl enjoys spending much time w/me - we do spend a lot together due to these types of appointments and just b/c I'm the primary person home, but she is just not that into me.  Part of it is due to her history w/her birthmom and well, let's be honest, how many mother daughter combos do you know that are all sunshines and rainbows?  Knowing this, I figured she would not be into window shopping for Christmas presents...that and she usually wants to get back to school for science, her favorite.  Apparently knowing we weren't getting back in time for anything, or maybe it was just the right mood or day or who knows?! meant that she was more than happy to be there w/me.  She held my hand and laughed at my jokes and didn't once beg me to buy her something or obsess over a certain object or toy.  I offered her crazy corn (my mom used to buy us that from Buddy Squirrel at the mall!) but she wasn't hungry.  We hit up the Lego store, the anchor stores, and even went to all 3 floors of the Boston Store.  We looked for a birthday present for Daddy (found an expensive one!!  I might look for it online...) and tried to find books for cousins.  At one point my phone rang and it was about some foster care stuff that really aggravated me.  There was a problem and I had to make a bunch of phone calls to clear some things up.  Other people made a mistake and I was stuck in the middle, far away from all of them to work it out.  I felt drained and mad.  I hung up from one of the calls and she was sweetly holding a blanket?napkin?placemat? made of fur at Pottery Barn.  She gave me this big smile and asked if we could decorate our whole house in it!  HA!  I instantly forgot all about the issue and we carried on w/our day.  It was a good day - one I wanted to be sure to remember =)

Monday, November 14, 2016

One minute

One minute you are an almost 20 year old young woman, wearing wide legs jeans and a knit tank top, rocking out at a concert, a ska band on the stage, singing all the words to the song and jumping around...
...and the next you are an almost 40 year old mom, driving all over God's green Earth for her kids like some sort of taxi service, rocking out to the same ska band on the radio, singing all the words to the song and weaving all over the road!  I swear I blinked.  When I was young, I had no clue what life was going to be like for me.  I figured I would make a plan and all would go ACCORDING TO THE PLAN.
After the song ended, I had a good laugh and just thanked the Lord for the way things turned out.  I am that crazy momma who dances and sings in the car!!!  I had fun at the concert when I was 20, I'd probably have fun if I went now, too, but honestly, car karaoke is fun too!
I've been having conversations w/some of the kids about what life will be like when they get to be adults.  A big one is about how adults don't always get to do what they love for a job.  Sometimes they put their personality, hobbies or interests aside just so they can pay for a house, food and whatnot.  There are some people who get to do art as their job or something else they love, but not many...stark reality and all that, right?   I realized the irony of the conversation in the middle of a sentence and nearly choked on my words!  I am one of those people who gets to do what she loves!  Ok, well not the cooking and cleaning part...HA!  No but seriously.  "Must be nice"...Why, yes, thank you, it is.  I get to be there for my kids when they see the doctor, I get to accompany them to counseling, I get to be the one who picks them up from school, I get to be the one who is always there.  I say good morning, have a good day at school, how was school and good night.  I get to be that person for them.  I am very blessed!
In other news - I am looking forward to the holidays.  Bert and Ernie joined our family in Jan of this calendar year, so we just missed the holiday season w/them.  This year we get to do all the traditions as a family =)  I have heard of people sleeping in their living rooms by the light of the Christmas tree and I always thought that wouldn't work for us, sleep issues and all...but I'm thinking we might try it this year?  I think there are a few things we can do to help w/the 'issues' and it might be good bonding!  Of course we are looking forward to seeing family (at least the ones around here) and spending time w/friends who are family.  Last year I bought a ton of gifts online and I was AHEAD of the game!  For once in my life!!  This year - notsomuch.  Haven't even started.  I'd love to make some gifts, but we'll see how much time we have.  It's been seriously difficult lately and I'm blaming the weather.  It's so nice outside!  Who wants to be in when you could be out?  NOT ME.  I love love love (one more!) love snow, but this is ok too.  There will be plenty of days of snow (there'd better be, you hear me global climate?!) and this works for now.
Well, last post I challenged myself to write 6 times this month.  Hmmm....the month is half over and this is entry 2!!!  I'll have to up my game next time w/some photos.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

By the numbers

296 days.  The boys (Bert and Ernie) have lived here for 296 days.  Their TPR trial was just rescheduled (again).  Also, 3 is the number of social workers they have had during that time.
6 times.  The number of times I hope to write a blog post this month.
10 chickens, 2 cats and 0 injuries, deaths or disappearances lately!  In fact, the chickens have begun laying eggs regularly again, the cats have killed an inordinate amount of chipmunks and mice!  I think they have scared away most of the wood peckers too.  I'm a little bummed about not seeing as many of the birds around, but impressed at the lack of rodents!
6 is the number of loads of laundry I did today!  It was a lot of bedding and blankets...we cleaned out the camper so I did that laundry too.  I always hated the thought of using a dryer but I must have thought I was thankful for it at least 3 times today!  It's so damp here during this time of year.
4 people were messed up by the time change.  I just rolled w/it and actually got out of bed to get myself ready for church on time!
5 rooms need to be vacuumed.  Well, probably more, but there are only 5 that bother me.  Floors are one of the last things that get done around here!  5 is also the number of vacuums we own!  3 regular, one shop vac and 1 small one in the camper.  AMERICA!!!  (<----i a="" almost="" at="" be="" could="" different="" ep.="" every="" first="" house="" i="" if="" in="" keeping="" means="" nbsp="" notice="" o="" of="" or="" ostentation.="" out="" p="" person="" point="" pretentiousness="" re="" room.="" same="" shout="" show="" single="" stereotypical="" that="" the="" this="" time="" track="" vacuuming="" world="" you="">From 3 to 2 nights, we have gotten the YMCA schedule whittled down!  There are other things in town on other nights, but it now means we have at least two nights, some times 3, where we all sit around our dining table and talk about our day.  Just in time too - w/the holidays around the corner, life is getting busy and I need a few more doses of these little people.  They make me laugh and remind me of why I love my job!
Sadly, I have only been to the Y to take advantage of the classes or machines 1 time.  I missed zumba so much and I was determined to get there one night.  Checked the schedule (not well enough) and grabbed my gear.  Asked the front desk where it was meeting, but found no one in the gym.  It turns out I was a whole hour early!!  The next week was rough and I ate banana bread and vegged out.  We'll see if I get there this week.
2 people I know are in process to adopt privately right now.  I think there is at least one w/an adoption date through the public system and then there's us.  Between my family and friends I am currently in touch w/, I know of probably 20+ children who have been adopted.  It's National Adoption Month and so many things have come through my social media sites....lots of articles, cheeky memes and touching sayings...I take it all in and I am reminded how I never thought I'd be in this position.  My plan for my life did not include this.  That is not a complaint or anything, just acknowledging the fact that life sometimes has surprises in store for you!  Here I am, happier than a clam in sand, to be counting my blessings!
Sorry this post is so disjointed - it's been a rather mixed up couple of days and I really wanted to get a few things down....I'm ready to get back into writing more often!

Monday, August 15, 2016

In other news, the mid-year update

Animal news: We have outdoor cats!  Homer (named after our good friends!) and Peyton (the kids wanted to name it that for my football boyfriend!) turned out to be girls =)  I am not a cat person.  In fact I hate them.  But...the kitties are so cute...and they come when called...and they go for walks w/us...and they have already killed multiple rodents!  I also think they have scared the woodpeckers away, which is good for our house.  The kitties are adorable, though.  We wanted them to be handled enough so they were used to people and so far that plan is working more than well enough!
House/Home/Property news:  We are on the verge of upgrading the heating system and doing a few other updates.  We have more pictures and decor on the walls, I've been using a recipe from the neighbor to keep the deer away from my flowers/plants and I have a few more garden plants this year!  In the spring we made some bridges and we were able to get across to the first ridge of our wooded acres w/o getting wet - the kids had fun helping w/that!  There is so much to see along the winter we hike the whole property since the swampy areas freeze over, but it's been neat seeing some parts of the property in another season.  We just set up a swing set in the yard and oh my, all the swinging - I knew the kids would love it and it is already paying off in more ways than one.
Camping: In June we were able to take 2 mini trips!  The boys did well on their first and second times camping.  We've taken even longer trips since then, been to multiple states and there was only 1 injury and very little damage to the camper.  (It seems something always gets broken, goes wrong, etc, but not this time!)  Everyone stayed healthy!!!  All these wins make us want to go again...
Dave: Spent part of the 4th of July night in a kayak on Lake Michigan, watching one of the neighbors' fireworks show.  Yes, we have neighbors who live on the lake and personally fund a really good fireworks display!  We have no idea who they are and honestly I don't think they do it on the same day every year.  But you know what day it is going to be by the fact that they light one off every half an hour all day!  It's kind of funny, but it works!  When we're home, he works on things like fixing the well, re-doing my garden fence (repeatedly!), and cutting brush from the woods edge.
Moses: Finished out the school year at the local school w/his brothers and sister.  He was like a celebrity - every day the others would tell me where and when they spotted him!  This past season in gymnastics he competed in his first USAG meet and we were impressed.  He is still into music, reading, drawing, drama and sports.  He only has a few inches to go before he surpasses me height-wise, which of course is something he likes to bring up often.  He got braces this year.  Much different experience than when I was a kid!  It's so odd to be in that stage of life where your kids are going through stuff you actually remember doing as a kid yourself.
Colleen: This girl...she is a science and robot junkie.  We read about them, watch Battle Bots, talk about science experiments from 3rd grade and pontificate on the ultimate robot we would build.  She's been doing some physical therapy lately and I think we'll keep that up.  Strengthening your core is good for everyone, but it's a necessity for her.  She's been relishing the big sister role, not in a bad way, but in a way that we've never seen before.  Pretty cool stuff!!
Bert: Demands adoption day is tomorrow.  =)  I cannot wait for the day when he can wake up and I can tell him that YES - TODAY IS ADOPTION DAY!!!  Both Bert and Ernie did soccer camp this summer and the Ninja Mud run.  Despite his reservations, Bert took off like a shot from the starting line and showed no signs of being winded or tired.  I barely could keep up to take photos!!  He loves all things sports and yes, so do we!
Ernie: We call him the mayor.  He greets everyone, chats and makes friends.  For you adoption/foster care folks, yes, we are working on boundaries and being safe around random people.  But there are times that he makes a friend out of the older gentlemen in the checkout line or the cute little girl at the pool and you just have to laugh!  He knows what their fave color is, what they like to eat, and where they're going next!  Apparently he would make a good interrogator....?  Anyway - he was so proud to do soccer camp like the big boys!  I can't believe he will be in all day school this year...
As for me...I'm hanging on for the ride!  I've been emotional eating, slacking in the cleaning department and letting some other personal goals slide.  The beginning of this calendar year was rough but we are coming out of that.  My eating habits got wack, my attitude was up down and around and I sort of hid out.  HOWEVER - not to make excuses but some of those things were what I needed.  What we needed.  There really wasn't much time for friends nor did I feel like making any.  I sort of felt whiny and 'not fair'ish.  But like I said, I'm coming out of it and sorting my feelings out.  I am once again making goals, only they will start when the school year starts.  I have a few plans and I have a few things in place to help me accomplish (or at least begin) them.  That's a pretty big step for me to get things back on track.  (I'll write about the goals in a diff post.)  I got to see 3 of my best friends recently and that really makes a girl feel special!!  It sucks that we live so far away but they encourage me and spend time w/our family which really means a lot.  I'm grateful for all my many people who might not understand this journey we are on but don't bail on us when life gets crazy!  You know what else helps me this time of year?  I LOVE FALL - I can't wait for pumpkins, apples, leaves everywhere and the promise of snow!!  Summer's great, but nothing can top fall!!

Rumor has it...

The TPR trial will begin Oct. 31.

(TPR = Termination of Parental Rights)

It's about time!!!  Bert and Ernie have been in foster care for YEARS.  We are their 2nd pre-adoptive placement.  They've been w/us almost 8 months.  The TPR process was started before they joined our family.  If it wasn't, I'm certain we would not have received a TPR date 8-10 months into the placement.  So this is foster care and adoption in WI...laws are different in each state.  Each case is unique.

All that being said...we are counting this as forward progress!!  And we are excited for that!!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Adoption is...

Adoption is like going fishing.

(Betcha didn't see that one coming, did you?)

Fishing: You check the weather, gather your equipment and supplies, get in the boat or stand on the banks of a body of water, cast, and wait.

Adoption: You find a time that is right for your family, do the paperwork and go to classes, get a call/maybe see photos or meet the child, receive a placement and wait.

Fishing: The fishing hole/lake/pond/river is huge.  There's a lot of other stuff in the water.  The chances of catching a fish are not guaranteed.

Adoption: There are so many kids waiting...there are many possible obstacles.  (Keeping it real!)  Also in the interests of honesty, nothing is guaranteed until a judge declares the adoption legal and official.

Fishing: You have to keep quiet or you might scare the fish away.

Adoption: You can't blab much about the case, confidentiality rules apply.

Fishing: You need patience.  Boat loads!

Adoption: You need patience.  Boat loads!

Fishing: This hobby can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be.  You can buy a boat, fancy lures and poles, go out on a chartered excursion or you could get a used pole and look for worms in your back yard.

Adoption: Private adoptions can be expensive.  Adoption through the state programs can be free.

Fishing: Worth it.  I'd be willing to bet that even when they don't catch anything, just about any fisherman will tell you they enjoy their time spent fishing.

Adoption: Worth it.  I'd be willing to be that just about any person whose life has been touched by adoption will tell you all about it!

(My daughter Colleen is adopted through the state foster care system.  We are also in the process of adopting two brothers.  Please know that the topic of adoption is very near and dear to my heart!  I may sound like I'm being silly by comparing adoption to fishing, but the issue of adoption is a huge one and I can't possibly explain EVERYTHING it is to me.  It brought me my daughter...adoption made it possible for me to love someone as my own even though we share quite possibly no DNA whatsoever...adoption was hard, it is beautiful, it is a tragedy that created a victory...and so much more!  When I find myself unable to fully express myself, like in this case, I often crack jokes and use humor to make a point.  That's sort of what I'm doing this fishing analogy is part joke but also part serious.  I hope that makes sense!!  As always, please feel free to email me or talk to me in person if you want to know more about adoption.  I'm always willing to talk about one of my favorite topics!)


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tips for traveling with foster children

We just got back from vacation - it wasn't the first time we took our foster children along.  Many people have asked if that's even possible and others have asked if it's advisable.  All I know is from my own experiences, which I'm happy to share.  I'm not an expert nor do I know everything, but we have taken many trips and I've learned a few things along the way.  Keep in mind that our experiences are all with the county/state public system, so your experiences might be different than ours.  Many of our children have or have had special needs, so our traveling advice is sort of focused in that direction, which might also be new for you.  Feel free to use some of our 10 basic ideas or add your own in the comments!
1) First of all, yes, it is possible to take foster children on vacation with you.  Begin by telling the caseworkers of your travel plans and of course ask if you can take the child/ren along.  It helps if you provide very specific details.  The goal is for the CW to present this to the bio parents and have them sign permission, but in every case so far, our CWs have told us they would go over their heads if need be and get a judge to sign.  A few parents signed yes, a few didn't care and the judge signed.  No one so far has put up much objection, to my knowledge.  The kids might miss visits but those hours can be made up before you leave or when you get back.
2) You really have to evaluate your family and the foster children's case to see if it's advisable.  When we were first approached about Colleen joining our family, we felt awful because we had a trip planned for that week and didn't want her going to respite for her first week home from the hospital.  The CWs made it possible for her to come along, if we wanted.  Of course we did!!  Now looking back on it, we were a little 'leap before you look'-ish because we didn't know the full extent of her medical needs.  It worked out fine though...we did visit an ER in Delaware for her feeding tube, but hey, it was a learning experience for all of us!  This time around, Bert and Ernie don't have medical needs, but they do have many emotional needs.  We prayed about it, talked about it and decided to give it a try.  We stayed with family, so that made it easier in a lot of ways.  We had help!  If the trip was solely us in a hotel, I'm not sure we'd have been ready to take them along.  Either way, keep in mind that time on vacation is great bonding between you and your foster child/ren.   That being said, there have been a number of times we have gone somewhere and found respite for our foster children.  We had plans before we knew about the kids and could not include them, we needed some self-care time, our activities would not be possible with a child of that age, etc.  There is nothing wrong with getting respite if you need it!
3) If your child has special needs and you are flying, be sure to tell the airline.  It helps tremendously!!  If you are just camping or something, like we have done in the past, make sure you take in account things like the noise of a campground or hotel.  Bring a noise machine from home to help them settle in at bedtime or bring extra blankets to make the camper/tent/hotel room darker if needed.  Consider the routine you have at home and find a way to duplicate it on vacation.  We have a rocking lawn chair and I'm totally planning to put that in the camper this summer.  We rock at home and I know how much my kids would miss it when we are on a camping vacation!
4) Hydrate and have lots of snacks.  This is huge!!!  Little people need to fuel up often and if your kids are like mine, food can often spell love and security.  The snacks they have in another state might not be the same you have at home, so your foster children might find great comfort in the fact that you packed their favorite granola bar or brand of cracker.
5) Don't plan any super expensive all day stuff until your family is ready.  Again, what works for you might be different than what works for us, but we have found that the best laid plans are easily disrupted.  If your foster child is overwhelmed, tired or feeling triggered, a whole day's worth of entrance fees to something can be lost.  If you have a membership to a local zoo, museum or garden, check to see if there are reciprocal venues that would allow you free or reduced membership.  We have done this many times!!  We have a science museum membership, a garden membership and at times a kids' museum or zoo membership and over the years it has saved us tons of money in different states!!  That way, if we need to cut our day short, we don't feel like we lost money.  Often times, though, we will just stick to low key or free things and the children are just as happy.  On the most recent vacation, we went to a free spray ground/splash pad and the kids had a blast!  Other examples would be things like Storybook Gardens in South Dakota or local county and state parks, small amusement parks like Bay Beach in Green Bay, or even local libraries!  My kids love spending the afternoon scoping out books in a new community!  You could also go geo-caching or just visit a school playground.
6) Be prepared to do a little extra advance planning or research.  If you have a foster child who is known to run off, you might want to see how many entrances or exits there are to a place.  Do your best to consider any triggers or uncomfortable situations ahead of time.  I think I'm preaching to the choir on this one, but sometimes in the hustle of getting everything ready, this can get overlooked.
7) Take a ton of pictures.  (I'm guessing a lot of us already do this!)  PRINT THEM.  I am totally guilty of letting vacation photos languish in a drive on the computer....I need to take my own advice on this one!!  I'm planning to print a bunch from our latest vacation to hang on the walls, tape to the kids' door and just put in one of those inexpensive photo books.  They love flipping through those =)
8) Bring lots of activities.  For my sensory kids, I brought these squishy dolls (like stress balls) that were a life saver!  I brought a few other things I didn't use much, but that was the best idea.  I also brought colored pencils (not crayons or markers which are known to wreck seats and windows and walls and oh just about anything) and big pads of paper.  I made sure everyone had lots of things to do with their hands - you could also bring lacing cards, matchbox cars, curly shoe laces, ribbon balls knotted up, a bag full of beads or beans, tangles, etc...
9) Designate a spot on your person that when waiting or walking together, the child/ren will be able to put their hand.  (Sounds weird but stay with me here...)  I have always told my 4 kids that if I don't have a hand left for them to hold or if my hands are full, they should stick their fingers in my pocket.  If I have no pockets, they should snag a corner of my shirt and hang on gently.  This has worked wonders for me!!  When we were in a hurry in the airport and I had a lot to carry, Bert stuck 2 fingers in my back pocket and we cruised along.  (That stinker told me a week later that he pilfered my grocery list from that pocket!!  Which explains why I thought I had lost it when we got to the grocery store that first night...oh well - at least he told me!)  When we are waiting, it's helpful for my kids to put a hand on my waist or belt and it gives them a physical thing to hang on to instead of drifting off.  I have found that it's hard for little people to stay close without a specific spot to focus on!  This is also great for in parking lots.  I know a friend who posted something about a magnet the shape of mom's hand.  If you are busy getting other littles out of your vehicle, you can tell the older ones to keep their hand on the mom magnet until you are all ready to go.  When I tried that trick, it rocked my world =)
10) Get books from the library about airports, camping or whatever kind of trip you are taking.  It's possible that your foster children have never flown before.  For us, it was really helpful to show pictures of the security check in, the baggage Xray process and the inside of the plane.  I knew that at least one of my kids would have anxiety with all the unknown, new stuff.  There are some really great books out there to help with this!  Also, get some books about the area you are going to be in, if possible.  If the weather will be different from where you live, maybe talk about that.  Talk about the different kinds of plants you will see, if there are going to be mountains or beaches, or what some of the tourist attractions might be.  Any advance info you can give the kids will be helpful.  On some trips we have had to tell the kids what to do if they saw a bear!  On another trip we told the kids about snakes and on another we made sure everyone could identify poison sumac.  Good times!!  All of these adventures are special treasured memories and I am so glad we have them!!
As I'm typing this, I realize a lot of it could be applied to people who go on vacations with their birth children...which is true, in part.  In general, there are many similiarites, but depending on the foster child/ren, your trip might look very different than you expected.  When we got ready to take our first vacation with a foster child, I remember feeling very overwhelmed!  I felt like a pioneer - the first person to walk through an airport with a medical pole and other assorted supplies!!  But then I got there and looked around...REALITY CHECK - there were lots of passengers of various abilities and needs that did not let their limitations get in the way of a vacation or disrupt their travel plans in any way.  On this last trip, we were traveling with 3 kids who have a collection of needs like sensory processing issues, attachment issues, ADD and ADD/HD, feeding issues and anger issues (to name a few!).  I will admit to feeling like it wasn't going to work, thus letting it all overwhelm me.  Then I was reminded that if we were going to be together (we were) and if I didn't just stop being their mom (I wasn't) then it didn't have to be any different than being at home.
A few final comments on trips or vacations...please know that for some, even going to grandma's house an hour away can be a vacation or special trip, equally adventurous and difficult, depending on the child/ren.  All of these tips could apply to trips like that too!!!  No matter how big or small, trips with foster children are special and worth it.  Remember to do something special or out of the ordinary to celebrate on longer trips - pass out temporary tattoos, eat ice cream for dinner one night, let the kids stay up late catching lightning bugs, go to that local festival with fireworks, etc....!!  The one we do the most is eating ice cream for dinner after a full day of food and fun!  We've found some really unique ice cream places on our trips and we look forward to this tradition each time!
Have you traveled with foster children?  Do you have any tips to share?  Thank you - I am always open to new ideas!


Monday, February 8, 2016

Random goals!

In case you haven't heard...there are more kids in our house.  Which is a pretty crazy way to start the new year, if you ask me!  Usually I make some goals for the new year, nothing too serious, and this year is a little different.  For various reasons, I am not really focused this year and I'm also exhausted!  My 'go to' way to 'get it together' is to make lists.  I really wanted to make these fancy goals this year, but I'll have to settle for a random list.
- Get back to working out.  Even just once a week!
- Get Bert and Ernie into some counseling, maybe even family counseling.  We've said that for almost every foster kid that has come into our house.  All of them have needed some form of it, but none more than Bert and Ernie.  In the past, it just didn't work out - either they were unable to attend due to their visitation schedule or they were too young to benefit much.  In our situation, there will be no excuses made.
- Go through the bin of school papers from past years.  I hope to weed out a would be nice to have a binder for each year.  That would be an improvement on my current filing system (aka dump it in the bin and deal w/it later)!
- Make a covered feeding station and dust bath corner for the chickens.
- Get a compost pile going again.
- Hang up the pic of Pippa and make a name plate for the coop.
- Grow stuff - we live in the woods, so there is tons of shade, but maybe people will trade veggies w/me?  I can grow plenty of things well, like greens and such, but between the shade and the deer, I'm not sure how successful I will be at growing a variety.  Either way, I need tend to growing stuff to feel happy =)
- Plan ahead some camping for the summer.  Schedule a camping date w/my aunt and uncle, who have a fancy new trailer, as well as with some willing friends!
- Give away the baby/little toddler clothes.  Seriously.  I have given a lot away and weeded a lot out, but the youngest is 4 and it will be at least 2 years before any new kids can come into our home.  I need to unload a lot of clothes.  I have some prospects - the crisis pregnancy center, a place that gives them away to young moms, a mission in Haiti, etc...but there are memories tied up in the clothes and it's so hard!  Baby steps, right?  Like I said, I've made a huge dent in it, but I can do better.
- Get back to Bible study of some kind.  It's been too long.  I used to do it online and I just haven't lately.  I was all set to join the one at church, but now I am no longer kid-less for the times they meet and childcare is not an option.  I have made it work before, I've seen the benefits in my life, but I'm just not there right now.
- Date nights need to happen.  I miss them a lot.  Another area where I make excuses.  I'm not ready to leave everyone w/someone yet.  Maybe if it was a duo of young people, like sisters or a brother sister team or something?  I don't know.  I've got ideas but still trying to find time to talk to people.
- Keep prepping food.  I have been impressing myself a bit lately by cooking a boatload of chicken breasts and then building various meals off of them.  I had my hubby pop popcorn and kept it in an ice cream bucket for quick, fairly healthy snacks.  I made a double batch of chili.  Who is this person?  Again, I'm not good at cooking and this is not really a huge deal to most of you, but I was pretty proud of myself.  I even invented taquitos!  Yeah, I know, I didn't invent them, I just made them from an idea out of my mind.  We've never had them b/c I was too scared they were hard to make.  They're not.  But you already knew that!
- Make a trail in the woods.  Or trails.  There are ridges that we could build forts on, but between the ridges it is boggy.  We'll need to build bridges.  We can't wait!  We should build tree forts, both on the ground and in a tree too.  We hope to put up swings of some kind...Oh man, I could stretch this goal out for a whole post on it's own!
- Get some decent family photos done.  I have a lot of friends who are photographers, but again I need to set it up.  I will try not to stress about what people will wear...I hate the monochrome, matchy matchy kind of thing...I have some ideas in my head of doing something different - it seems everyone around here does the beach thing.  I like that, but I'd love to do something in the woods!
- Decorate.  The kids' posters for their rooms have languished in a box for over a year!  I have gotten a few photos on the walls of the living room, but I plan to do more.  Some of that will happen after a major fix on the house, which will hopefully lead to some new furniture.  We would love to do a renovation too, but not sure that's in the budget.  It would be good to just start by decorating.
I'm sure this isn't it for my random goals....but my boy's practice is almost over, which means my relatively quiet free time is too.  I'm grateful for the chance to write more often!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Complex questions, simple answers? or vice versa!

Every time we have received a new placement into our home, it's common for people to see us and ask how it's going.  It's a simple question, really...most of the time we say 'fine' or 'good' and move on.  People who 'get it', though, they know.  
How's it going?
(Do they want the truth?)  "I mean, yeah, overall it's going well...there have been moments...I mean it's hard...but we're all in transition...but it's been pretty easy, I mean...once you've parented a kid, what's a few more, right?"  I find myself stammering around trying to figure out if the people want the long answer or the short one!  
So in an effort to answer the question (mostly for myself to remember!), I thought I'd write a blog post about it.  Then, I can think it through and answer as honestly as possible...
First things first.  I have found a blog name for the 2 boys - Bert and Ernie!  Bert is the older one; he is much more shy and quiet.  Ernie doesn't know the meaning of the word quiet =)  He has no fear, compared to Bert, who at times can be anxious about things, like the kiddie pool.  Bert watches and learns, is quick to give his food, his toy, his anything! really to help his brother's perceived sense of injustice.  Ernie is bold, vocal and strong!  He doesn't let his age, size or circumstances limit him.  They seem so different, yet at the end of the day, both just want to be held and loved.  
So - it is going well.  It's been 9 days since they have arrived and there has been a high level of activity in those days.  They started school!  Bert is in the 1st grade, while Ernie is doing half days of junior kindergarten 4 days a week.  Every day ( Ernie cries when we drop the others off at school...but one of the days we went open gymnastics family time and wow, did we have fun!  Both boys are great sleepers - but we've made sure there is lots of physical activity in our days, lots of gross motor stuff so that helps.  It's nice we can all go for big hikes in the woods, go to the Y or just spread out in our house.  We are 'remembering' what it's like to have kids younger than our own though - as parents, we have to kind of go through a re-entry - this is how we make potty pit stops to avoid accidents, this is how we provide snacks between meals so no one gets hangry and aggressive, this is how we look for signs of exhaustion (rubbing eyes, falling asleep on Moses 1 minute into Bible time, etc)...oh the things we re-learn now that there are 'littles' in the house again!  There are plenty of sibling spats, of course, but there are some really amazing things happening too.  I have to brag on my big kids - one day we had a particularly long time in the truck.  Ernie was just 'done' and 'over it', getting a little stir crazy.  At one of the pit stops, Moses moved up a row next to Ernie and was working on comforting him.  We were all relieved and grateful it worked!!  The next night, Bert really did not want to leave the Y - he was quite grumpy and for the first time we saw real tears from him.  (They were quiet tears, but they were there!)  After tucking the littles into bed, Dave texted me to say that on the ride home, Ernie started singing and comforting his big brother Bert.  "Jesus loves me this I know..."  Dave said he had tears rolling down his face!  I made sure to let Moses know that his action of comforting someone was not only noticed, but followed!!  The littles want so badly to be like the bigs, not just in the fun or silly ways, but in the way they treat others too!!  It was a powerful moment to see my 10yo realize this and make the connection.  He has been so helpful to buckle people in or tie their shoes...Sometimes sharing things like toys or your parents can be hard, but Colleen is constantly sharing her stuff.  Her and Ernie are often playing My Little Pony together and she is quick to make sure everyone has a car or something so that no one is left out.  When Ernie got a free lanyard from the Y for his ID card, Colleen started to bemoan the fact that she did not get one when she was 'new'.  "Here, you can have it!"  Ernie put it around her neck and this momma danced for joy!  I reminded everyone that this 'makes my heart big' to see and hear them loving on each other this way!  Colleen shares her things and the others have taken note and do the same!
Please don't think it's all roses and rainbows...there have been episodes of yelling and shoving and such, but honestly?  Those are short lived and each day that passes has seen these behaviors fall away.  We are figuring out what works and what doesn't.  We've made what feels like a million trips to the box store to be sure everyone has what they need (car seats? check!  socks? check!  a million boxes of cereal? check!) and the logistics of who goes where on what day is coming easier.  Some things we still need to figure out - 1) Date nights.  Dave and I did really good w/this a few years back, once a week we went out after bed time.  GOD BLESS OUR BABYSITTER WHO LEFT US TO BE A MARINE!!!  He was awesome.  Then he left and his sister came a few times - she's awesome too!  But then life got busy and we just sort of forgot to keep that going.  Since we moved, we've gone out maybe 3 times, thanks to our pastor's daughter.  She's a girl we hope to see more of!  I'm not sure in this season of transition we are ready to do that again, yet we desperately need to carve out a few minutes w/o kids.  All the trauma mamas and foster/adopt peoples are nodding their heads in agreement right now!  2) Going to just about any event where there is a crowd.  So far we've been to 2 small events, a gymnastics meet and a small party at church.  Both were acceptable to attend given that they had only one entrance/exit and we could see the kids at all times.  I know we have time to figure this out, but despite having 4 hands and 4 kids, large crowds are just not do-able yet.  Even going to grandma and grandpa's house would take a lot of advance planning and prayer at this point!  We're enjoying the 'cocooning' time and just being us together at home, but spring break is coming!  My teacher hubby is itching to get out of here and go someplace fun!  3) Car rides seem to end in a shout fest.  Dinners go well b/c everyone takes turns telling mom about their day.  In the car, there is always someone who wants music, someone who doesn't, someone who is convinced the other is breathing on them, someone who wants everyone to look out the window at that 'thing' they can't describe...AHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHHHHH!!!  So far, everyone seems to like the country music station.  I've tried the Disney station, general kid tunes, pop radio, etc...BUT!  Long trips (and by long, I mean more than 20 mins!) are unavoidable at times, given our situation, so we do need to figure this out.  Once, I managed to convince everyone to air drum, air guitar and air sing through 2 Led Zeppelin songs and hey, what do you know?  It worked!  (Ok, maybe it came out sounding like a demand, but when we were all laughing, no one seemed to care!  Just being real here!)  
How's it going?  Is that more than you wanted to know?  A lot of people (mostly casual acquaintances) hear me say it's going well and follow up by saying that we're doing something so good and nice...and then I stop them.  It's me/us who are blessed.  Our hearts are full and we are always growing and learning from our kids.  The grace they give me and each other is something truly special.  This road we have chosen to travel has bumps and very few road signs, but we are enjoying the journey and continue to press on toward the goal.
Oh blah, there was so much more I wanted to write about!  But's it's after 8 and due to football and a new improved staggered bedtime for all, I forgot to eat dinner.  We ate a late lunch and I wasn't hungry...but now I am...
All this to say, if you have been praying for us, keep it up!  We have had a lot of answered prayers (which is a whole different post!) but we can always use more =)  Thank you - it's going well...that's the short answer!  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Party of six

Our newest family 'photo'! The new additions to the family (2 boys, they still need blog names) will be coming HOME TO STAY this Friday!!! The adoption process has started but they are technically foster kids, so until adoption becomes official, we cannot post photos of them. The stick figure family will have to do for now! Sorry to our Facebook friends who have already seen this...but I wanted to be sure it was shared here too!!  I can't share much, as most of you know, but I promise that when I can, I will!!  The boys were here this past weekend for a sleep over and it went so so so well!!  It was practically impossible to say goodbye when we dropped them that point we hadn't said much to them about it except that they may be coming to live w/us.  We hadn't talked to the case worker yet (it was Sunday, after all) and we just didn't want to say anything ahead of time.  I can't wait to hug those boys again and have them here finally!!  Like I have said before, please pray for all of us as we transition.  There's school registration to navigate, doctor/medical/counseling appointments to set up, and groceries to buy!  =)  If you would have told me that I would be doing all this in the New Year, I'm not sure I would have believed you!  But I am beyond grateful to be doing all of it...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How did we get here?

This month I am participating in an adoption talk link up.  A bunch of bloggers write on the same topic and the posts are linked up in one place.  The topic this month is Getting to Know You...we're tasked w/telling about ourselves or our family's story.  I feel like I've already done some of that here (a 10 things list!) maybe it's time for something new?  I thought I'd use this space to publicly thank some people who have positively influenced me/us on our journey through foster care and adoption.  I hope it might also serve to fill in a little of our back story and then if you want to read some current stuff, you can find it here...

First and foremost, thank you Heavenly Father for my love of children.  From babysitting, to working at the university's daycare, then to teaching and raising my own children, I have always had a deep love of kids!  I have been blessed w/many opportunities to be around kids who make me laugh, cry and feel young again =)  Also, thanks for the clunk on the head when I was stubborn and didn't want to do foster care.  All I could think about was 'my' kids leaving 'my' house and not being a part of 'my' life after they went back home...thanks for the reminder that none of it is mine, but it's all Yours Lord!  It's been a blessing to call the kids 'mine' for a while, all the while knowing that putting their family back together could mean a victory for the community.  No, it doesn't always end like that, but there are times when it does.  Thank you Lord for helping me see the many gains for all when we simply serve others.

Thank you to Mark (and his wife!) who grew up w/my dad in the same neighborhood...thanks for staying in touch w/my dad.  Your family, made up of birth children and adoptive children of all different colors, abilities and ages, was/is an inspiration to me.  When I was real small, your family came to visit us once.  I decided I wanted to be just like you when I grew up.  Every year you write these notes to my parents at Christmas and I dig through the basket of cards to find yours.  If we were of the same generation, I'd want to be your neighbor and BFF.  Scratch that first part, can we be neighbors and BFFs anyway?

Thank you to that curly haired blue eyed boy who didn't flinch when I said I wanted 13 kids.

Thank you to the pastor's family who has 28 (!!!I think that's right, the # may have changed by now) adopted children, again, of all different ethnic make-ups, abilities and ages.  We have learned much from you and your children...

Thank you to the DV family - we asked you so many foster/adopt questions and filed the stories of your experiences away for future reference.  You constantly reminded us to take care of ourselves and our marriage when we had foster kids!  It's so hard and so so so so important!!  This is something we continue to learn and now remind others about.

And this thank you is embarrassingly late.  Like 6 years late!  To Dawn YH, thank you for bringing a gift over when we received our first foster child.  You celebrated w/me like one should celebrate a new family member!  At the time, I didn't see how huge this was.  Just the other day I woke up crying thinking about you sharing our joy!  You were a living example of Romans 12:15.  A lot of people who don't do foster care or adopt, don't readily understand how much we need gestures like that!  Even though we don't build our family in the 'normal' way, it's still nice to have someone recognize what's happening and treat us 'normally'.

Thank you to Tracy and her family!  On adoption day, we rounded the corner on our block.  We saw a bunch of colorful decorations and thought someone was having a party.  As we got closer, we saw strings of balloons stretched between the trees and OUR house!!!  Thank you so much for getting your feet wet in the snow and taking time in the cold to do that for us!!  We left it up for the rest of the winter and we were 'that house' - every time we looked out the window, we couldn't help but smile!  People would drive by and honk!  This is only a slice of the encouragement and support you have given us over the years.  The tears, the books, the hugs, the food issues/trauma solidarity...and also thank you for speaking truth and life to us about God's plan for our children.  We know it but sometimes we don't KNOW it!  We love you guys so much and are blessed by you in many ways.

Thank you to our respite providers...I hope you know we'd do much of the same for you if ever you need it.

Thank you FB group...I know I can instantly put up ?s of any kind and get rapid responses.  Insurance problem?  Check the group.  Oh wow, the gov system is down for the day!  No wonder it got rejected!  Thanks for the 1800# to clear that up...Have a tax question?  You guys rocked it.  Found the form easily and didn't freak out when we were 'checked'.  And double checked.  Ideas on how to handle certain behaviors?  Book suggestions, webpages and personal anecdotes.  Love it.  Not to mention the way you all 'get it' and are quick to encourage, defend and protect people you will never meet.  You have no idea how much I value the 'village' you are to me.

Thank you thank you a hundred times thank you to our family and extended families!  You pull out extra toys when we come to visit, set extra chairs at the table and buy extra presents for under the tree.  You pray for us.  Some of you yourselves have adopted and we don't talk enough.  I personally am so grateful for the love shown in my family.  Many families say it and of course I'm biased but mine really does show it in a big way.  Countless times my family and extended family have been there for us, from teary phone calls to giving us furniture to feeding my crew.  I don't thank them enough!

Finally, thank you to the kids who have allowed us to parent them, for however long.  I doubt any more than 1 or 2 of them are ever going to read this, but know this: YOU ARE LOVED and MISSED.  You have changed us, molded us and left an imprint on our heart.

As I wrap this up, I realize that I haven't said much about me.  Maybe I shouldn't have joined this link up?  But then I thought about it, and I realized that if you really want to know me, you should really get to know the people 'behind the scenes'...the people who hold us up when we feel like we can't do it anymore, the people who cheer us on, the people who inspired us on this journey!  I wouldn't be ME if it wasn't for these people =)