Here it is, just a few days into November, and I'm already posting Halloween pictures! I am really on the ball. And for the love of flashbacks (or severe procrastination), I'll also share photos from the last couple of years.
Zach 2010 (Swamp Monster)
This was the first store-bought costume he ever picked out, incidentally (we were kinda busy around that time...), and he was so excited about it.
Zach 2011 (Cloaked Skeleton)
Zach 2012 (Vampire)
Can you tell we're on a kinda-creepy-costume kick?
Jem and Scout 2010 (Bear and Bunny)
Handmade hats we already had, matching jumpers, cute little animal noses. Adorable... and all I could manage at the time. A far cry simpler than the circus strongman and tightrope walker outfits I was dying to make for them.
Jem 2011 (Cowboy)
Scout 2011 (Indian)
Jem and Scout 2012 (Hansel and Gretel)
Imagine two curly blonde heads with goofy grins and big blue eyes. The kids are way cuter than their costumes.
Mike and Amy 2012
And ummm... here's us. Mike's a rock star, of course. And me? I'm his groupie.
You can't really see my zebra miniskirt and purple skinny jeans here. You're welcome.
I'm wearing this image on my shirt.
(Because he totally does.)
I'm not a stalker, folks. Just a fan, just a fan.
Still here! It seems like our little family has been drawn inward for the last couple of years, and I've spent less time with friends, whether in person or online. But I miss my blog. I miss those of you who might still check this space occasionally to see if we're alive and well. And we are!
Some quick updates are in order, I suppose. Our Zach is now eleven. He's loving being a boy scout and all that goes with it. I'm not sure who authorized him to grow to 5'7" and start speaking with a man's voice, but we sure are proud of how much he's growing up.
Our sweet twins are still with us. As I type, Jem is pulling all our books off the shelves, and Scout is emptying my spice cabinet. This photo from last year pretty much sums up the life we're living. I clean it; they destroy it. But we are just grateful for every day they get to spend with us.
I have pretty much spent all my time wrapped up in family. My hours are mostly taken up caring for two-year-olds, teaching my son, and trying to keep up with the house. A never-ending and somewhat losing battle many days, but I battle on regardless, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Don't you just love neices and nephews? My sister's new little guy seemed the perfect way to break back into blogging after a long (but perfectly excusable) hiatus. I'll be back more later (I promise!) to post about some of our own adventures, but this needed to be shared first.
Jeanette suffered through years of infertility, morning sickness, blood clots, high blood pressure, two months of total bedrest, several hours of hard back labor, and an unexpected c-section. In the end, she was presented with this little darling.
And suddenly, it's all worth it.
Congratulations, Jason and Jeanette. We already love him oh-so-much, and we're so glad for your new little family.
Congratulations! Are you guys excited?
Thank you! Yes, very. And fairly overwhelmed, too.This is a baptism by fire into the foster care system, and into the world of newborns again.
Are you sleeping at all?
No. No, we are not. And yet miraculously, I am functioning just about as well on two or three hours of sleep now, as I was on the eight hours I was getting before the babies came.
What are their names?
Out of respect for the little ones and their birth family, we won't be sharing those here on the web. I'll be calling the boy "Jem" and the girl "Scout" here on the blog. Rest assured, they do have real names in real life.
I want to see pictures of their sweet little faces! Where are they?
Again, I wish I could share, but foster children need extra precautions taken, so you won't see them here. Family members and friends... please be sure I have your email address so I can make photos available to you.
What's the deal with the birth family? Why are these children with you? And how long will they be with you?
Honestly, we know very little so far. And once we do, we will not be able to discuss it. I hope you'll understand our need to protect the privacy of the babies and their family. As for the length of time... we have no idea at all.
Is there a possibility that you'll be able to adopt these little guys?
There is always that possibilty, although somewhat remote, and we would if that were offered to us. But we are not even going there right now. These children have parents, and we respect that. I can't and won't try to wish the twins away from them. Coveting your neighbor's child has got to be pretty high up on the list of no-nos, right? But we love them, and we'll take it a day at a time.
Won't it be hard when they leave you?
Yes. Oh my gosh, yes. But I would still choose to do this, even so.
How is Zach handling all this?
Amazingly well. That kid has really stepped up to the plate, and I am so proud of him.
You're loving this, aren't you?
You have no idea. ♥
So on the fostering front... after many delays working with the state to get our foster license squared away, our caseworker essentially blew us off, due to the terrible understaffing there. So we ended up transferring to a private agency after all, and they got to work helping us right away.
We got home from vacation a couple of weeks ago, and our license showed up in the mail that day. A few days after that, we got a call for a placement, which we accepted.
It's a boy!
And a girl!
Twins. Brand new. If weighed together they tipped the scale at all of eight pounds.
They are adorable and hilarious and we are in love with them.
Yesterday was a nice day of play, from one end to the other. We started off at an archaeological fair at the site of a huge American Indian civilization that was right here around 1000 years ago. Way fun. Zach learned to make arrowheads, throw spears, classify bones, and play Native American games of all kinds. A boy's dream, essentially.
We headed home, where he spent the whole afternoon with some cousins and friends... slipping and sliding and turning the yard into a swamp.
And then we ended the day at a picnic with members of our church, where we ate good food and enjoyed an all-ages softball game. My guys did great! (Although as catcher, my boy might have had more success had he turned his mitt around. And maybe not worn flip-flops.) And I was more than happy to be the photographer/cheerleader/water-girl for them.
Aaahh... a weekend just as it should be.
I'm not going to write a long, gushing post about how Zach is growing up at the speed of light these days. Suffice it to say... he is. He really, really is.
I will say, however, that I love this kid. I love who he is becoming. We are so very proud of our boy.
We had a simple cute party for two turning-nine boys... more pictures and details on my friend Heidi's blog.
Star Wars, of course. Because what else is there nowadays? (Well, I guess there's also Harry Potter, Legos, and girls. That's right... girls. The speed of light, I tell you.)
Year after year, for a week out of the summer, this is where you'll find me. Our church holds a camp for girls age 12-18. I always loved it when I was younger, and... I still do.
It's really fun to be with the girls, through the singing and games, the hysterical late-night giggling, the hard work and the bugs, the drama of 100 teenage girls and their little spats, the hugs and tears when they apologize, and the quiet moments when we are all drawn a little closer to God.
Good times, people. Good times.
Boy quote of the day:
"What's all that screaming down there?"
We have a boy. If you do too, then you really need to read How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? by the lady who brings us the Testosterhome blog, the daily stories of survival with five young boys (and now a little girl!). I laughed (hard); I cried (equally hard); I came away with even more love and appreciation for my all-boy all-the-time kid. Enjoy!
I've spent the week at Cub Scout day camp. A few items of note:
1. I'm pretty proud of these caps I made for the boys. They cost me a grand total of $1.40 each, and I love how they came out, even if the colors did bleed a little under the boys' abuse. The dots were drawn on with colored Sharpies, and the designs are ironed on. If any of you are Cub Scout leaders and would like me to send you the file for the iron-ons, send me an email or leave a comment here with your email address, and I'll shoot it your way.
2. It was 95 degrees out there all week. I've got the scalding to prove it.
3. Boys are goobers. But ya gotta love 'em.
We had a mimosa tree in our yard that I loved for its pretty leaves and flowers, and even more for its climbability. Unfortunately, some bug species did it in last year, and this week it was cut down by my husband and some friends (thanks, guys!)... you know, to avoid the whole "falling on the house" thing. Mike was all for chopping it to bits and taking it away to be burned, but I was actually excited about this big heap of logs and sticks. (My poor husband... oh, the things I put him through.)
I had them cut carefully to save the long, straight pieces. I've been planning teepees or forts or something along those lines. Just somewhere awesome to play. Simple, rough, imperfectly perfect... something like these, maybe. Or one of these.
Or check out this fun area that I want for myself, but would be willing to share with my son. Yeah, something like that.
Zach always loved playing under, on, and around that tree, calling that area his forest. So it seems appropriate to use the tree itself to fix up that area for his outdoor play. And for the "forest" floor... I'm really, really hoping to pull off this bit of gorgeousness...
I saw this pathway some time back, and fell in love. We'll see just how dedicated I decide to be...
Seriously?! This whole process of trying to adopt/foster has been three steps forward, two steps back. Sometimes three or four steps back. Or five. You would think I'd be used to it by now, but no... I'm an optimist, I'm afraid. Which means hope springs eternal, but is punctuated repeatedly with short periods of heartbreak when everything goes wrong.
I finally got hold of our licensing worker at DCFS, after months of not being able to reach her because she was on leave, in a conference, etc. And she basically told me that they were not going to be doing any new licensing for quite a while due to understaffing. She suggested transferring to a private agency. Square one. Or at least it feels that way.
After I had a little anxiety attack, I remembered that we had talked to one caseworker who had seemed quite helpful, and I called him. And bless his heart... he's advocating for us. (Something about how he was going to send some emails and irritate some people.) He's not sure what the response will be, but will let us know what comes up.
So the bottomline is... we're currently in limbo. Again. We may or may not have any shot at fostering this year.
Sometimes I feel like this whole process is turning me into a much stronger person. And other times I think it's just going to turn me into a quivering mass of jello. The jury's still out...
Spring is here! The birds are nesting, and so are we.
There have been a lot of things happening around here, but the main one causing all kinds of excitement, work, decision-making, and a general sprinkling of chaos is this...
We've decided to become a foster family!
This decision feels really good for us right now. In looking around at all the children (waaaay more than you would think!) who are abused, neglected, or otherwise in real need in our country, I have for several months been filled with just an overwhelming need to do something to help. So when Mike came to me one day and asked how I'd feel about fostering, I answered pretty quickly. Now is the time.
So due to various rules and regulations, we're moving a lot of things around here at home. Pictures to follow, I promise, once the dust settles. We have one more training class and a home visit from our licensing worker, and then we're good to go. So we should be certified in about a month or so. A month, people! Seriously, wow. Our life has been pretty quiet for the last few years. I can't wait to see what this new season brings.
Things are about to get really, really interesting.
I love words. I mean, I really really love words.
So when I had seen an idea here and there in the blogosphere to leave behind the usual lists of resolutions, and instead to choose a single word or phrase to focus on for the new year... I was hooked. And I knew immediately what my word would be. I have already been gravitating toward it for months.
This focus for me means:
It is all of this, and so much more. Essentially I want to make decisions this year based on how they will affect the spirit of my home, and how they will affect those around me.
And now I am going to say the word "home" a few more times, beacause I don't think it's been used enough in this blogpost. Home, home, home, home, home. There. That's better.
A very happy 2010 to you... and to all of us.
The Christmas letter project was a success. It was lovely seeing all those sweet thoughts written out and placed on the tree at my parents' house. I really, really loved reading the ones addressed to me.
In case you are also wondering... no, I didn't get all my letters written in time for Christmas. I still have a few to write, as a matter of fact. Did anyone expect anything different?
So a month or two ago I presented my family with an idea that had been stirring around in my brain for a while now. As I was clearing out all the things in my house, I thought, "As thrilling as it is to get nice gifts... I already have everything I need (and oh-so-much more!)." Now my family never goes too crazy at Christmas to begin with, to tell the truth. We don't try to outdo anyone or feel that children need mountains of toys in order to be happy. We have always exchanged names among the adults, and sometimes we even stuck to that. I love Christmas with my family! But I was feeling like that maybe we could do something more, something better.
So this year, the adults on my side of the family will not be exchanging gifts. (Bah, humbug... right?) But... we've decided to exchange letters instead. Each of us will write some sort of heartfelt thoughts to each other member of the family. These letters can be short or long, sentimental or funny, handwritten or typed. They can include drawings, photos, poetry, limericks, bad jokes... anything. Or just a quick "so glad you're in our family". As long as it is sincere.
We'll hand out these letters when we get together at Christmas (and mail them to my brother and nephew on missions). And I am stoked! Seriously.
We'll try different things other years, if all goes well. I would love for each year to end with us knowing each other a little better, and having some sort of family keepsake put together. Some other ideas: an ornament swap, put together a family cookbook, a service exchange, photographs for a family album, etc. I thought one year we could each write up our personal history, with their own information and memories, which we would copy and bind for each family group.
Zach and I wrote our first letters today (Thanks, Ollie!), and I have to say... I enjoyed it a little too much. I did a little rhyming today and ended up giggling like crazy.
If anyone has any other thoughts on creating family keepsakes/memories... I'm all ears. Just hit that comment button below. Thaaat's right... tap that little button and let's hear what you have to say!
First of all, let me point out that tomorrow is December 1st, and that means Ollie is already in his first hiding spot, waiting for our advent adventures to begin. Kirsten and I are going to be blogging our holidays again this year, so please come see what we're up to!
I also wanted to pop in here to share a bit of what I've been up to the last couple of weeks. I feel like some real progress has been made here at home, and I am so very excited by that. Unfortunately, I have no photos. And I'm not much on inspiring words of wisdom.
So I can't promise excitement in this particular blog post. Sorry.
But let me recommend a couple of books that I have been really, really enjoying. (Thank you, thank you, Grace!) I have been thinking a lot lately about simplifying our home, our days, our life. I found oh-so-much inspiration in these two books (especially the first). There's something so beautiful about simplicity, about rhythm, about the traditions in our lives, both in celebration of holidays and in our everyday.
Definitely the best book I've discovered this year. And that's saying something. This isn't just for parents, by the way... it's great for anyone.
To be taken with a grain of salt and a realization that you don't have to do everything in the book, by any means. But a very interesting read with a lot of insight into different holidays and celebrations. And the thoughts on parenting are dead-on, as far as I'm concerned.
I promise I'll be back again soon... in the meantime, I'll see you tomorrow!