Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tuesday's seismic shift

I rub his back as he falls asleep and I whisper, "You are so special. God loves you so much." Over and over I whisper. After he has fallen asleep, I take two steps across the tiny room that we didn't really expect would ever hold two kids, and I rub his big sister's back and tell her how special she is and how much God loves her and how beautiful and smart she is. They don't like the dark, so we leave the hall light on, and they don't like the door shut, so she looks at books for a few minutes before falling asleep herself.

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On Monday, we had our first day of Classical Conversations, and I went ziplining with Audrey and her Girl Scout buddies, and ate dinner, and Jim and I tucked the gang of four in. I went to bed, and around 10:20 I heard Asher whimpering and fussing in his bed. He doesn't do that. I put him to bed, and he sleeps until the next day. That night, he whimpered. I crawled into his bed, snuggled him, and got him back to sleep, then quietly crept back to my bed. Five minutes later, he started up again. I just grabbed my pillow and went in. We snuggled all night. He'd search out my hand periodically or roll into the crook of my neck to snuggle if he got too cool. Looking back, I am so incredibly thankful for those sweet moments with my baby. Maybe he somehow felt the first ripples of the seismic shift that was about to hit our family and wanted one last night with his mama.

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Our Tuesday started normally enough. Then at 11:30 am we got a call from our foster care agency about siblings who were looking for emergency placement. After many calls back and forth, many tears, many prayers, K and A were brought to our home at 4 pm that same afternoon. They will be here for as long as they need to be here.

They are sweet and beautiful, hurting and beloved, just as deserving of parents who think the world of them as every other kid on the planet. They haven't gotten that so far, but they'll get it as long as they are in our home, and we are in constant prayer that their parents are able to provide that for them at some point, too.

I have so many stories. Stories of my amazing kids loving these kids and being loved back. Stories of being called mom and dad by a little girl the very first day we met her. Stories of a baby boy holding his arms up to me as he calls me mama. Stories of our friends feeding us and dropping off walkers and clothes and a carseat. Stories of teaching a 3 year old how to clean up her area after she eats. Two days in, and there are so many stories. (I would tell more stories, but there's also so much exhaustion and dishes and food prep and kid loving and book reading and homeschool teaching that free time to blog is nonexistent. Also, going to the bathroom and eating have mostly slipped my mind for two days, but we're on our way to finding our new normal.)

I take such comfort in knowing that God's not finished with me yet, but that pales in comparison to the comfort it brings to know that God isn't done with K and A's stories either. We will forever be part of their story and they will forever be part of ours. We don't know how it will end. We don't know how long we'll play major roles in each other's stories, how long it will be impossible to extricate our story from theirs. But I look into their eyes, and I rub their backs, and I cook their food, and hug them when they trip on the wagon, and I comfort them after parent visitation, and I see love and hope and redemption and a future.

Please, Lord, let it be so.

And nothing says welcome to the family like get into the car, we're going to go stand in the sweltering heat for a middle school cross country meet. :)

Monday, September 11, 2017

today

If I had an ounce of energy, I would write more, but I'll just pop on to say that this weekend I went on a cleaning rampage that I can only attribute to foster care nesting. Then we found a mouse in the basement and our master bath sink started leaking and Jim was out of town because terrible house things only happen when Jim is out of town.

Today, Audrey, Elliot, Asher, and I started Foundations and Essentials at CC, while Isaac and his classmates had week 3 of Challenge B. I am tutoring for the first time, which was a blast and made the day fly by! It is Asher's first year in Classical Conversations, and he loved it. He did his presentation, said his tutor was so nice, and mentioned that he forgot to ask for help making his owl. What a big boy!

We already did first day of school pics, but I had to snap a picture of this sweet boy on his first day of Classical Conversations. CUTIE!!

After CC, I rushed the boys home, then Audrey and I went ziplining with her girl scout troop. Her group has four new girls this year, so it was a bridging ceremony/welcoming ceremony, and it was a blast. I was so proud of the girls who were fearful, but overcame it to thoroughly enjoy themselves! We can now say that we've done the longest AND fastest ziplines in CO. I was ziplining, so I couldn't take pictures, but I hope to post some once I get them from a friend.
all geared up to take the shuttle to our zipline location

Jim's home and has been on mouse eradication/sink duty. Thank goodness! Now I'll prep a few things for tomorrow and hit the hay because that was one full, fantastic, and exhausting day!



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Daring to Hope-A Book Review

I was fortunate enough to be chosen to receive a free copy of the book Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors. I recently read her first book, Kisses from Katie. I believe that I was in the minority in that, while I found the book inspiring and important, I had major issues with the overall tone of it, specifically what I perceived to be an almost white messiah tone. I don't think that was the author's intent, but instead I tend to attribute it to the major life change that Katie had recently experienced, her young age, and her incredibly unique way of life that found her living across the world from all she knew. Therefore, I was eager to read the follow up book, written after Katie had been in Africa for 10 years and had many more experiences under her belt.

Age and perspective made all the difference for me. In her first book, I felt that Katie Davis sugarcoated some of the tragic and heartbreaking circumstances she, her family, and her friends endured, citing simple and juvenile bible verses and stories that most Christians hear in the first few years of Sunday School.

In Daring to Hope, Katie digs deeper. Deeper into her faith, her God, her bible, her community. It was refreshing and encouraging to see her trials and better understand how she got through them. It is almost unfathomable to think of all that Katie has seen and experienced in her years in Uganda, but she helps us enter into her incredible world. She also shows us that we don't have to travel around the world, start a foundation, adopt 13 children, and welcome friends and strangers alike into our homes during their most challenging and painful moments in order to make a difference and follow God's call in our lives. She assures us that God will use us where we are, will lead us to where we are to be, and will provide all we need wherever we are meant to be.

I finished this book feeling inspired and encouraged in my walk with Christ and my life for Christ. I am so thankful that I received an advance copy. If you're interested in reading it, there are some incentives to pre-ordering the book, which you can check out here. You can also get on your library's website and put it on hold.

Have you read any good books lately? I've got about 6 going right now, which is even more than usual for me. Do you have an amazing read that I should add to my list?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

We had to say no. aka it's complicated

I have a blog post in me about what brought us to foster care, but it's long and complicated, so I'm just going to start where I am today.

We are licensed for foster care. That happened. We are open to children ages birth-3, boy or girl, and a sibling set if they are both under 4. We got the news that we were officially licensed last Wednesday. I immediately had a dream that we welcomed a 4 month old baby girl named Orange Carrot Britta into our home. Needless to say, we called her Britta. This dream also happened on the day that Elliot and I harvested carrots in our garden, so there is at least a smidgen of method to my madness.

Tuesday night, Isaac and Elliot had two drafts for Fantasy Football. One of them required a conference call, so our home phone was in use. Apparently when someone calls when the home phone is in use, the message doesn't go to our regular voicemail. The organization that we are working with called us at 6:50 pm on Tuesday. They had a 2 1/2 year old boy for an emergency placement. Due to our voicemail snafu, Jim randomly discovered that message at about 11 pm on Wednesday. When he told me, I felt sick to my stomach. How did we miss it? They were supposed to call my cell phone first, but somehow their paperwork had our home phone as the contact information. I called bright and early Thursday morning, but, as expected, the boy had already been placed. I had them change the number to call and hoped and prayed this was God's way of showing us that this placement wasn't right for either the little boy or our family.

Thursday morning, we also had our orientation for our homeschool group. The kids and I were at the director's house and I was relaying this to some of my friends who have been so supportive of this whole process. I went out to a friend's car to get the ergo baby that she is loaning me when my phone rang again. It was an unfamiliar number in our area code, so I thought maybe, just maybe, it could be about foster care. If not, I could hang up when I heard the pause. No harm there. Sure enough, it was about fostering.

"Hi, DeNae. I am calling about foster care placement for a sibling set. I know it's stretching the limit, but I thought I'd ask. The younger child is 7 months, and the older sibling is 5 years. They are both boys."

Honestly, when she said a sibling set, my heart said it'll be a lot, but you can do it. When she said 7 months, I smiled because BABYYYY!!! But then she said 5 years old. We have some very specific reasons that we will only foster up to age 4. The main reason is that we homeschool, and school aged foster children have to be put in public school. It feels very exclusionary to welcome a child into our home to love and be loved by, to care for and share life with, and then to send them off to school while our biological kids stay home. There is also the extra running around that would require of me. If that sounds selfish, so be it. I am homeschooling four kids with piano lessons and girl scouts and theater and cross country and confirmation and sunday school, plus they want to be fed! (joking!) I do not want to extend myself in a way that I am not comfortable with. Finally, if we do end up adopting, we want to keep the same birth order in our family, so we want the children to be younger than Asher. There are more reasons, but those are the biggies. We may change our minds at some point, but that is where we are now.

So, she said 5 years old, and my heart sank. My eyes welled up with tears as I realized that I had to say no. We have been working towards licensure since February. Our hearts and home are ready. But I said no. I explained why, and she said she understood and would put in our file that we were firm on the age restrictions. She was very understanding, and I know it was the right answer, but I still felt incredibly emotional. And then I got emotional about feeling emotional because if I got this emotional about saying no, what the heck is going to happen when we say yes? It's complicated, I tell you. Right from the start, even without our first placement, it's all complicated.

As I cried and shook a little and told myself that no was the right answer, I thought back to our foster care classes. In our classes, the social workers were adamant that if we got a call for placement that didn't seem right due to age, gender, circumstances, or just a gut feeling, we should say no. They'd rather have someone say no so they can find the right fit for the child than have a person say yes only to have to take the child from the home later. That is just one more person the child has bonded with that they have to say goodbye to.

No was the right answer. Still we wait. Isaac wants a 3 year old buddy for Asher. Audrey's hoping for a 2 day old girl. (She is having a good little giggle about the fact that all 3 kids they've called about have been boys. She can't even get a girl foster sister!) Elliot would love to love on a baby. Asher wants someone who can sit on his lap when he sleds in our backyard. In the course of foster care, they may all get their wishes. Jim and I don't have a specific wish. We trust that God will bring the right little person to our family, and that God will then equip us to love and care for that little person for as long as necessary. We expect hiccups and mistakes, stress and worry. We expect to have a front row seat to love and first steps, family reunification and growth. We expect broken hearts and redemption.

We know as much as we can know until we just get into it. In some ways, it's like childbirth and first time parenting. We've taken the classes and read the books. We're as prepared as we can be. Now we just wait to see the little human God has in store for us to find out the rest of the story, the real story.

No matter how the stories of our foster care experiences end, we are honored to be a part of it, complications and all.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Turquoise Lake

Our church has a wonderful tradition of reserving a group camping spot and camping together over Labor Day. It is just the best! Last year was our first year to attend, and we have been looking forward to going again all year. It is a weekend to relax, enjoy each other's company, watch the kids have an absolute blast together, and act utterly ridiculous/solve the world's troubles with the grown ups. Of course, this is after a crazy week of camp prepping for families. The camping is relaxing. . .prepping to camp is not.

Last weekend between 30-40 members of our church drove to Turquoise Lake near Leadville for three days of campfires, s'mores, roasted starbursts, volleyball, swimming, hammock swinging, potlucks complete with lots of Dutch oven deliciousness, heated games of Werewolf, and a fair share of Moscow Mules and tropical mimosas that go down like kool-aid. A friend and I even ran twice while camping, which makes us feel like super studs. There was the slack line injury that busted open Isaac's lip and hand and landed Audrey on her head, but there has to be at least one story and sometimes a scar with every adventure! Our six humans and two canines came home yesterday afternoon happy, tired, and feeling so fortunate that we are part of such a kind, welcoming, hilarious, and generous church family.

It was a tremendous way to celebrate the unofficial end of summer. The scenery wasn't too shabby either!

Leadville, CO. Lunch at the legendary Silver Dollar Saloon (it was chilly!)

Ta-da! Leadville!

The boys helped Jim set up their tent

Audrey and I set up the girls + Asher tent

a rock just his size for climbing

peaceful, tranquil Turquoise Lake


running the shore

Heart rocks

exploring

as always, kids + rocks + water=hours of happiness

tree climbing

beach day with friends

can't be in the sand without burying a friend

the walk down to the beach

happy kids 



hammock fun

the hammock ate him

campfire silliness

climate change and the death tax were the hot topics of the weekend

more hammock fun

sand fun

Now we're home and Isaac is at week 2 of Challenge B, I am slowly, slooooooowwwwwwlllllllyyyyyy making a dent in the behemoth known as Mount Laundry, the kids are working on school and helping me make Jim's birthday cake to celebrate his 42nd birthday two days late. He did get a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from our whole church group on Sunday night, which was his actual birthday. I hope he'll forgive me for not remembering that it was his birthday until Sunday night, but days mean nothing while camping, there were no calendars around, and my cell phone was in the tent 99% of the time. Oopsie. We're having a grand celebration tonight to celebrate our man/dad/stud of the family.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Here we go

It is all of those cliches. Summer flew by. The kids are growing so fast. I want to stop time. I want to give them wings to fly, but I also want to clip those wings so they'll stay little forever.


As always, regardless of my feet dragging, time keeps marching forward, and I somehow and amazingly find myself with two middle schoolers, an elementary aged child, and a preschooler. Last night we got out the markers and crayons and filled out our yearly first day of school questionnaire and made the first day of school signs for the kids to hold. My heart was so proud and so busted up about these delightful, bright, silly kids.

Isaac starts Challenge B today, aka 8th grade for the non-Classical Conversations readers, and my brain is playing screeching noises as I try to stop this train. At dinner we went around the table and each said what gifts, talents, and attributes he possesses that will serve him well in Challenge B. We talked about his dedication, tenacity, smarts, work ethic, curiosity, and the fact that he's fun to play ball with. (Any guesses on which one Asher added to the conversation.) All of those things are true. He is so ready. He has grown so much this summer, in looks and maturity. He's still a tall and very lean fellow, but his face has the look of a young man and his demeanor is more grown up as well. There's just something in the way he carries himself. It is remarkable to be up close and personal to this type of transformation in my first baby, who I still sometimes think of as my itty bitty bugga boo.


It's the blink of an eye. It defies everything we know about 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. I know all of those facts to be true, yet it feels just as true that I was sitting in a rocking chair in a tiny little bedroom in a teeny apartment building singing lullabies to a little tiny first born boy named Isaac who busted my mama heart right open about 2 years ago. Nope. That little tiny first born boy is now 13 1/2 and about 1 inch shorter than I am, at least as of last night. It's highly possible that he grew enough overnight to overtake me in the height department.

Last night he was cleaning up from an afternoon of front yard baseball. I wiped my hands, wet from chopping veggies, and stepped onto the porch to ask him if he needed any help. As I spotted him, I stopped in my tracks to watch him. He was sauntering across the yard, a new swagger in his step, the look of a young man on his face. I could not quite bring myself to talk as the changes of the summer and of his lifetime smacked me over my head as I stared at this man-child of mine. I've known him his whole life. I heard his heartbeat for the first time in a little brick office building in Oklahoma while Jim was in Minnesota and I cried and cried and said, "If I didn't already believe in God, hearing this would bring me to Jesus." But this boy who I've known for the length of his days has a whole life ahead of him that won't include me in all of the ways that I'm used to.

I mean, really, mamas, are we okay with this?

And the truth is, we absolutely are. It hurts and it stings and we can't wrap our brains around it and it feels utterly unfair to love someone this much as we lovingly and proudly raise them to leave us. But there is nothing quite like looking a young man in the face after he's made a difficult and compassionate decision. There is nothing quite like seeing that future unfold in big and little ways as they take their first steps away from the safety of our home and out into the big world. There is nothing quite like trusting a God who loves my kid even more than I do to guide him through life's devastating challenges and unfathomable joys.





Today I'm at home schooling my youngest three kiddos while my biggest boy is at CC. 8th, 6th, 4th, and preschool started. Ready or not, here we go. 

math, cutting, then collage time, and piano
If you have kids, have your kids started school again? What grades? Let's do this, mamas!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cuatro es cuatro

When Asher was a wee little nugget residing under my heart and atop my bladder, he quickly earned the in utero nickname of cuatro. We never find out the gender of our babies, and he's our fourth kid, so cuatro it was. Then cuatro was born and became Asher, with the most perfect meaning of happy, joyful, blessed, but one of his many nicknames remains cuatro. And today, somehow, impossibly, cuatro turned cuatro. I can't even talk about all of the life transitions we've endured and rejoiced about since this fellow turned our world upside down four years ago. Like the old cliche goes, I have no idea how we got here so quickly, but I also can't recall a time when my he wasn't my son, my heart, my love.


You want to talk sass? Personality? Joy? It's this guy. He's the silliest in a very silly bunch of bananas, the most likely to smack a sibling when he gets mad (read, the only one to do that. none of our others were hitters. seriously, kid!), an absolute animal lover, and the very sweetest when someone gets hurt or seems worried. At that point, the worried or hurt person has an Asher in his or her lap for sweet murmurs and arm rubs. His smile is so ridiculously cute that he can sweet talk almost anyone into almost anything. Please, son, use your powers for good.
Asher helped make his birthday cake, including licking the spatula
He says things like, "Dada, get ready quick as a pickle!" and, "First of all, I could reach the horn, and second of all, I didn't want to honk it." He's about as grown as you would expect the youngest sibling by 9, 7, and 5 years to be. He's got a lot of older siblings to keep up with, and that is his life's mission.

I look at this boy that I could never in a million years have dreamed would be my son, and I marvel at the genius of God's plan in our lives. He is my big emotions, his dad's amazing brown eyes, his biggest brother's love of learning, his sister's compassion, and  his big brother's looks, love of animals, and silliness. Then there are all the parts that are just Asher, just absolutely perfectly Asher. The grand storytelling, the adventurous streak, and the twinkle he gets in his eyes when he wants to make us laugh. Dang, I love this kid. Everyone loves this kid.
a beautiful sunrise to start the birthday fun
So, today we celebrated. Well, first, Asher woke up way too early, so he snuggled with me while I unsuccessfully tried to get him to be quiet until I finally brought him downstairs for books on the couch and doggie cuddles. Once the rest of the house woke, it was time for present opening before the chosen birthday breakfast of monkey bread and smoothie. After everyone got dressed and brushed teeth, although, upon further inspection, it appears that one non-birthday kid was so excited about the day's events that teeth brushing was forgotten, we surprised Asher with a trip to the Children's Museum. What a fun spot to celebrate as a family. We got the membership because it's worth it for a family of 6, so we look forward to going back soon to explore the places we didn't get to today. All the kids loved it.
book, mama, and puppy equal happy boy

good morning birthday hug from big bro bro

hugs from the other bro bro

hugs for audrey after she gave him the t-shirt she bought for him with her own money

monkey bread and smoothie breakfast. . . mmmmm
They explored the testing kitchen, vet clinic, ball room, energy room, bubbles, water areas, fire station, art station, climbing contraption, and so much more, but there's still more to explore next time.

firefighters

they were all intrigued by the balls

we made gazpacho in the teaching kitchen

wahooooo. riding the zipline!

we all climbed altitude, the climbing structure
We came home before rush hour for delicious cake and ice cream plus off-key singing followed by candle blowing, then Elliot and I drove to his first day of theater rehearsals for his next show, Lion King Kids. Then it was home for birthday dinner of french toast and egg bake. . . did I mention this kid likes bread? The kids played a few rounds of the new birthday game, Hungry Hungry Hippos, we cleaned up from dinner, and it was bedtime. Lights out on our first day with our new four-year-old.

When Asher was a baby, Elliot matter-of-factly reported, "The first question I'm going to ask Asher when he can talk is, 'why do your cheeks eat your eyeballs when you smile?'" I'm happy to report that four years in, his cheeks still eat his eyeballs when he smiles, and there was plenty of opportunity for him to smile on his special birthday.
Happy birthday, cuatro!

Cuatro es cuatro. Wow.
He's four!!!