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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Giveaway! Anyone need a little Chicken Soup?

So I was given a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Adoption for a book review. Now I gotta tell you, seeing as how Papa and I are just getting started on our fostering journey, I was kinda skeptical. If you've read this blog for a while, through the adoptions of our kiddos, you know that I like to keep things real. 'Cause in the grand scheme of things adoption is born out of devastating loss. Loss of a mama and a papa and a birth right. Maybe even loss of a language, a culture and lots more. And all that loss can make adoption a really hard process. And to be frank I get kinda skeptical when folks make adoption appear all sunshine and roses. BUT you know what? There are times, especially in the middle of all that hard stuff, that it's totally okay to soak in some some sunshine and roses and fill your soul with some good stories about how adoption can go right. And I got a funny feeling that I'm gonna need a little bit of that good stuff  as we walk through this fostering parenting journey. This book had a wonderful way up encouraging me and reminding me how this amazing journey of adoption is so much more than having kids. It's one part really wanting a child, one part a child really needing a forever family, and one hundred parts of God knitting it all together through crazy circumstances. And I like being reminded of that.

So Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Adoption is a lot like the other Chicken Soup books. It's an easy read, and his one has 101 stories of forever families that came together. I picked up the book and read a few stories here and there, especially if I was getting kinda surly. (And why is that "mama surly time" usually between 5-6pm anyway?!) If Papa walked in the door and saw that look on my face, he'd say, Hey let me take over and you go have some quiet time. Ya he's pretty amazing like that. And that's when I read and found encouragement in doing so! Some of the stores in the book are about international adoptions, and some domestic. Some are through foster care and some are private adoptions. Some born out of infertility and others born out of divine guidance. Some of the stories are recent and others from decades ago. Some special needs adoptions and all whose greatest need was a child that needed a forever family. Every adoption is different and these stories reflect that. And these stories will lift you up and reminded me that in the middle of the hard stuff, there is sunshine out there.
Sooooo when they asked me if I'd do a book review I said ya, but I thought of y'all and asked if I could share the love and give away a copy too, and they were nice enough to oblige! So I'm giving away a copy of the book if you think you could use a little sunshine and roses in your crazy days too!


Giveaway ends next Thursday!
I've my fingers crossed for you! 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Photo Gallery (through the window)

My favorite pic from my 365 project last week... land sakes alive, this child is gorgeous!
I've been trying to post a lot more of my 365 pics to my Instagram feed since a family member asked to see more of them, and the Facebook group I post them all to is private. 365 groups always start out with a lot of enthusiasm as did ours in January, and as happens, life happens and people pitter out as the weeks roll on. So as expected we've lost quite a few participants. I was thinking maybe June 1st would be a good time to add a few more members! Would you like to join our 365 group? We're a pretty flexible group with the objective to take any type of picture every day for a whole year. (although I usually don't get around to posting them till a week later and that's okay too.) It actually took me 3 tries to (hopefully) complete my first 365 project this July!

If you'd like to join our 365 Project, please send me a friend request on Facebook AND a FB message too just saying you'd like to participate so I'll know who you are. I'll take the first 25 people who want to join us!

Friday, May 22, 2015

00 plays ball

Yesterday, little league season officially came to a close. The last game was played, trophies were handed out and the celebratory pizza was devoured. I think I've mentioned before that if one of our kiddos really wants to participate in extra curricular activity, they have to really want it. I keep seeing moms trying to "fill" their kid's time with activities, but after a couple decades of experience I can honestly say that my favorite activities for our kiddos include swimming in the back yard, playing Legos with your siblings while learning the art of negotiation, using problem solving skills while learning to share, board games, getting dirty in the back yard... In other words, we don't do a lot of after school sports or paid activities. Don't get me wrong. We do do some, but not a lot of them. And like I said, a kiddo had to really show an interest in it for a while before we'll commit both the money and the time and sign up.  

But 7-year-old Jude has done just that. He's been begging to play baseball for a couple years now. It's kinda crazy since his sweet little body is not built for many sports, but not surprisingly his mind is.  And for a long while now he really just eats and breathes baseball. He will watch a whole 4-hour baseball game on tv. (And of course it's even better if Papa is sitting next to him!) He asks lots of questions because he wants to learn all the rules and terms to understand how the plays work. He pretty much always has a ball (and usually glove if I let him) in his hands, constantly tossing and catching it, bouncing it off walls... He's just not going to let that 39 lb, little body of his stop him from doing what he loves! As he shouldn't. 

This pic is from the first day of practice. It shows how little he is in comparison to his team mates. Not that he or any them really even noticed. (I got to be the team photographer so I took lots of photos.) 
It was only fitting that he got 00 as his number. 
Learning how to get that bat all the way around with such a small body took a while, but in the end Jude was hitting the ball consistently, making plays, and doing it all with a smile on his face!  His favorite position was catcher, and I think he liked it 'cause he was always in the action. He had fun teammates to play with and great coaches. He learned a lot about the game and absolutely loved every moment of it.

And he slept with his trophy last night.

ps-Our summer officially starts this afternoon as the last day of school hapis finally here. Wasting no time, the car is almost done being packed, and we're headed up the mountain to Little Cabin in the Woods as soon as I pick everyone up from school.  I'm so ready for summer to be here!

pps-I have a couple giveaways coming soon! Wooo hoooo!

ppps-Did I mention I'm really excited for summer? I AM!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Photo Gallery (Man Child)

I don't know what to say.
I really don't know what to say.

Except he's still my baby.
All growing up in his man body.
It makes time outs hard.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The dreaded home inspection

I'm sure you're not counting, so I'll remind you that this is home study #6 for us, and we're almost done with all our foster licensing paperwork. Ya, I'm sure those of you knee deep in international adoption are despising us right about now because it was fast. Mostly because we's already collected many of the documents from last time, 4 years ago, that still worked even though they were dated. And much of the other stuff was pretty easy to gather, like car registration, doctor appointments, rabies vaccinations for the dogs. And the classes are all done... again. 

One thing that is NOT easier for foster licensing compared to international adoption is the home inspection. I remember that first visit with our social worker for our Vietnam adoptions. I cleaned the house like nobody's business, closet floors, the inside of the refrigerator was scrubbed till it all sparkled and dusted the top of everything. I remember being so worried cause one of our dogs (the teenager dog) barks so much when company comes over, and I thought she might interpret that as being aggressive. To my surprise, when she did look around our home, she didn't even open the closet doors or the refrigerator. No need for a fire extinguisher or child proof locks either. I was surprised and relieved.  Many years later and a whole new process, that is NOT the case with fostering, since after all, we'll be looking after someone else's child this time and evidently that requires a higher standard of safety.

Here's a few crazy things we were required to do to prepare for our foster home inspection.

  • ---Buy a fireplace screen for a fireplace that we've never ever used (or have any plan of using) over the course of the 16 years we've lived in this house. 
  • ---Buy a 18+ foot rope attached to a ring buoy, and keep it in the fenced pool area that is only 16 feet across, in case we need to throw to  a drowning child. Trust me on this one... I'll just jump in and rescue the child. Really. Been there. Done that. 
  • ---Cover all outlets with those electrical outlet covers. You know the ones. The ones that toddlers love to play with, repetitively taking them out and putting in all by themselves? 
  • ---Pray that we don't need any medications that need to be refrigerated from here on out, because we would then be required to have a locked safe IN our refrigerator for said medication(s). 
  • ---Buy and install a carbon monoxide detector even though we don't have any gas appliances. 

I've heard that although the upcoming home inspection is not a white glove test, it is rather thorough. And we were provided with a 15 page guide to get our home ready. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous. The inspection will be in the next few weeks and will likely result in another list of weekend projects. Then we need to do our final interview with our latest caseworker, and hopefully we can get all this done before we escape to Little Cabin in the Woods for the next couple months.
Well, that's the plan at least. 
Livy at my desk one evening helping out with some of the required paperwork. 
She's really been a big help this time around and helps light a fire under Papa and me to get the stuff done! 
Then we're going to wait till we come home from the mountains to see what God (and the state of Arizona) has in store for us. Our county has a ginormous shortage of foster homes so it shouldn't be long.


So what did you do to prepare your home for adoption?

PS - If you are or were a foster mom, would you mind commenting here? I'd like to build up a little list for myself of BTDT moms to call upon when the biting, profanity using toddler, fed up with the system, how to deal with a crack addicted newborn, I'm not sure I'm up to this my questions come. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Photo Gallery (my favorite pic from last week)

I've been experimenting with indoor light this last week. There have been some successes. And of course there have been some failures but I'll spare you looking at any of those. Here's my favorite from last week. I have to tell you we are so fortunate that our 3 littles actually adore each other's company. We know that's not a given. We're lucky that they not only get along with very few squabbles, but they enjoy each other's company.

Case in point, these two are still in their jammies but they cracking each other up!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It starts in ONE MONTH!

On June 8th my Manual 'n More class will start! This is THE class that starts the journey. This is the class that will give you the tools to take those pics that you've wanted to!
I know how it goes. You knew there were photos you wanted to take and memories to be preserved that were better than what your point-and-shoot camera could deliver. So you got the right tool to take those photos, a DSLR, your big girl camera. Then you took it out of the box and saw all those numbers and buttons and weren't quite sure what to do next. The green "Auto" setting seems to be giving your okay results and every now and then you stumble on a photo that is like the ones you know you want to take! But getting that photo that you have in your head isn't happening often enough, and you know your camera is capable of producing better photographs if you only had the information to make it happen!

Let me show you how to make it happen!
Let me give your the information you need to take back the control from your camera, understand those buttons and numbers, and create the images that you've always wanted!

I promise I'll use language that's easy to understand.
I promise that there are no dumb questions.
I promise you aren't the only one.

If you're already shooting in Manual mode, but feel like there are some gaps, the 'n More part of the class is going to be perfect for you, because we're also going to cover focusing techniques, metering, and lots of info about light. This class is also a great place to solidify your foundation and build on the skills you already have.

There are still a handful of seat left. Click HERE for the details.
Will you join us?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Advice needed for wall drawing...

One of my kiddos who shall remain nameless (Starts with a T and ends with a ninja) has been particularly destructive lately. Mind you this child has always been particularly destructive. Pretty much every flat surface, table and wall has her artwork complete with autograph written or carved in or on it. But recently it's been worse than normal. She's intentionally drawing or even scribbling on stuff that shouldn't be drawn on.
Sharpie on furniture.
Carving with a ball point pen into wood furniture.
A kid's stamper on the walls.
And I'm at a loss on how to help her not continue this destructive behavior!
An exterior wall on our home, one of her favorite places to draw. Yes, she pointed an arrow to her signature.
The paint is rubbed off on the bottom from a place she was scrubbing. 
I usually try the natural consequences route first. So IF the damage can be cleaned, that's what I have her do. Sometimes even when I know it can't be cleaned, (like in the case of markers on the exterior wall of our home) I still have her try. But often the damage can't be fixed, like in the case of the sharpie on a cloth ottoman, so I know it's futile to even have her try. So sometimes I resort to a time-in or one of her treasures getting grounded and an apology.  But like I mentioned, the destructiveness seems to be happening too often and my home is taken a beating.

My mama gut says she does it because she lacks impulse control and doesn't really care, and if she get's caught, (often she doesn't because I don't find the evidence until long after the fact, because she is a ninja after all) she knows it's a good way to get my attention, albeit negative attention (thank you very much Psych 101 class I took in college!) So even if she gets caught, the consequences are worth it. So now I find myself at a loss on how to discipline her, because evidently what I'm doing is not dissuading her from doing it again. And again. And again.
It just keeps happening.
Notice towards the end that she cycles pretty quickly from indifference to anger/defiance to sadness/rejection. Such is the life when we parent kiddos with attachment issues. We've been working on helping her identify the feeling of guilt since it naturally comes out as anger. It's a great example of Attachment 101: Push back and regain control before rejection occurs.

Any advice you can give will be taken in!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Selfies in the ER (or how things stay the same)

I just took a 4 hour nap.
FOUR hours!
I've been feeling kinda run down lately. It's been a crazy week as you'll see. Then this morning I woke up in a bad way. Completely un-refreshed, kinda sick and nauseous but not really, and a pretty constant headache. Not sick mind you. Just not right. In hind sight I think I just needed a catch up. So by about 10am this morning I couldn't keep my eye open, and FOUR hours later, I'm feeling MUCH better. I'm not sure how all the stars in the universe lined up that allowed me to have 4 uninterrupted hours, but they did and I took advantage of it!

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the school nurse called with that call that all moms know is eventually coming the moment you have a baby. You look at your phone when it rings, see the it's the school calling even before you answer it, and immediately wonder which child is it? How bad is he hurt?

It was the school nurse asking for permission to transport the Man Child via ambulance to the hospital. Man Child didn't think it was necessary, but the nurse said there was a possible back injury, and she didn't want to risk moving him. Okay, yes, you have my permission to call 911 and transport him to the hospital.
I hung up and called Papa. I hung up and called Livy to see if she could meet us and take Mimi. Our house is about 12 minutes (not to be precise or anything) from his school. For some reason I thought I could beat the ambulance there. Ummmmmm, no. Firefighters were loading him onto the backboard when I got there. Seemed he lost his grip in weight training and fell backwards about 6', landing on his back on some weight equipment. We all agreed that it was probably overkill but better to be safe than sorry.
And yes, I took photos. I'm a photographer. That's what I do.

Once in the emergency room, he started taking selfies with his phone. That's when I was pretty sure all was going to be okay.
I sat there and watched my 6'2" 185lb, baby laying on the stretcher, with a neck brace, hooked up to beeping machines... again. And it brought me right back to the day he was born, our preemie, all hooked up to machines in the NICU, 16 years ago. Way back then, which seems like it was yesterday, he was 21" long and 8lb 2oz, yet still born too soon, so off he was swept to intensive care. I sat by his incubator those days and had the exact same feelings that I had for him now.
I was struck by how far we've come in those 16 years and yet how things stay the same... he's still my baby. We've had our fair share of battles in the last few years. Ups and downs. Yet I would (and have) fiercely defended him and would do anything for him. Those mama feelings haven't changed, and I can't imagine they ever will. This last year, the Man Child and I have come into a new relationship with each other, a new season. I'm really liking him again. Maybe that makes me a bad mom to say that. My love and devotion for him has never wavered, but there was a time not so long ago that I didn't like him much. I'm not proud of that, but it's true. These days find us in a new place. And that in itself, the seasons of life, is another ordinary miracle.
Long story short, much of it was overkill. The Man Child likely broke his tail bone. I think you'd be hard pressed to find any high school student that would carry and use a doughnut at school, so he keeps telling me it doesn't really hurt. Thankfully, track 'n field season just ended. And now he has no excuse to not buckle down for that chemistry test!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Maybe an explanation is in order

So did you see the post on Instagram?
Needless to say, it prompted a few questions, so I guess I should explain.

On Easter Sunday, we had a good friend of ours, who also happens to be the director of a local adoption agency, approach us about taking in a little one that needed a home. She knew that we've adopted in the past and maybe even knew that we even pursued our foster licencing a while back, and really she just needed a home for this sweet thing. Even though it was Easter Sunday, I put all the feelers out I could trying to help. We know many folks that foster in our area, and unfortunately all of them had no room at the inn. Our state of AZ, like most states, has a desperate shortage of foster homes. Like I said, it was a holiday, and I didn't know what happened to that sweet little one, except that she was in our friend's very capable hands.

But here's the thing. This is not the first time this has happened to us. It's the 3rd time Papa and I have been approached to take in a foster child. And it's the 3rd time we've had to say no, not because we wouldn't help a child in need, but rather we had to say no because our foster license never got completed because we felt the Lord tugging our heart strings half way across the world to China where Mimi was waiting for us. And on Easter Sunday 2 weeks ago, Papa and I looked at each other and said, really? Are we suppose to jump into adoption again? Are we being called to foster? And as many things in life are, there were no clear answers. Except, the Papa and I both agreed that we both absolutely positive that we should at least get our licence and then see what world has in store for us. So we made some calls and set up an appointment, have had to re-take several of the classes that we already took (for a reason that is complete unclear to me) and now underway with the daunting process of obtaining our foster licence... again.  Basically, this will be the 6th home study in 9 years that we've completed. If you've ever completed a home study, you'll have an appreciation for what that means.

So to answer a few of those questions.

I have no idea if we're actually going to adopt again. Or actually if we'll even foster. We're just taking it one step at a time by first getting our state foster license first, reevaluating constantly, and seeing where this path takes us.

Yes, we've talked with all the children about it, and they are all on board. One of them, who has an amazingly tender heart in a 6'2" body, expressed some fear about the process, and his ability to "let go" if and when we need to. Seriously that man child is so mature in many ways.

And speaking about that fear, yes, I absolutely have it too. I'm scared and afraid of the process. I'm an anal-retentive, linear, rule-following, organized, plan-it-in-advance, control-freak type of gal and don't know how it's going to go down, and that scares the big girl pants off of me! We do know that the process takes a humongous leap of faith, and with that, we are willing to walk the path. This is going to be hard. There is no doubt in that. But as I tell our kiddos almost daily hard is not necessarily a reason to say no. Hard is hard but  it's okay, because there can be great reward is the doing the hard things. So here we go.

So have you ever considered fostering? Would you like to follow along and witness the process from the beginning from the eyes of someone who is just a plain 'ol crazy soccer mom who is scared but willing to step out on the limb any way? I hope it will encourage some of you to consider doing something that is scary and with the possibility of great reward.

Go back to the beginning and that little one that needed a home.
Yesterday, we sat down in church, and 3 rows in front of us there was our friend that had asked us if we knew any foster homes that could take in this child right away. And there was that sweet gorgeous child singing so loud and proud in the arms of her new foster mama. It appears that my friend could not find a home for her and took her in herself. And they both were smiling so big that I knew right away that they were right where they were suppose to be all along.

PS - Good golly, I just read this from 2011, and I'm sounding a bit like a broken record!

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