jo is three

I have no idea how it’s been 6 months since I’ve blogged? Life certainly has a way of doing that…though I think that when the sun comes out I tend to be sitting outside catching vitamin D and maybe forget about being the curator of my family. So much has transpired in the last 6 months that I’m not even sure where to begin. So. Much.

We’ve chosen to end our home schooling journey and embrace the public school life.

We’ve learned that we are not cut out to be landlords.

We’ve grieved losing our foster baby after 18 months of being his “middle parents”.

We’ve explored different trails and water holes.

We’ve had best friends come stay for a whole month.

We’ve welcomed a South Korean exchange student for the year.

We’ve deepened friendships.

And just yesterday we celebrated Jo’s birthday, raindrops and all. After all, we are true Oregonians, yes? While we held umbrellas over the cake and tried to keep the presents from melting, the 3 year olds ran through the water fountains, embracing the wet. Having a 3 year old keeps you young at heart; resisting the urge to want her to grow up too quickly, you say yes to things that are filled with joy. And because I am a black and white lover, all her images are in black and white. Timeless and emotion-filled. Happy birthday little girl.

 

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forts & watermelon

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Yesterday was filled with getting up at 3am to send our oldest to Nicaragua on a missions trip, phone calls, texts and a LOT of frustration between us and DHS. Some days can get you in a funk, only seeing the negative and in that moment I decided to grab my big camera and literally focus on the positive right in front of me.

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The here and now – my baby loving his watermelon. I’m not sure why…but he basically takes huge bites, chews and then spits it all out. And then repeats over and over. Causing a very large mess.

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But a cute one, none-the-less.

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Those teeth. And you like those watermelon juice, slicked back eye brows? Stylin for sure.

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Then there’s these two. We decided it was time to make some outside tents to read in, complete with our favorite Trader Joe’s lollipops. I love these moments. Little moments that make up our day, our day that can be full of white noise and distraction, are what I want to remember. Not the noise. Not the plans that failed. Not the holding pattern that our life seems to be in at the moment…

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but these little faces…

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these little toes…

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and surely the hot tub area out back with this sign we take very seriously.

see, marvel, observe

Acts 7:30-31 caught my attention in church last week. Just a small blurb about Moses that Stephen was using as an example while admonishing the council that had him on trial.

It says, “And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him…”

DSC_6766We’ve heard this many times, yes? What I love about God’s word is that it’s living and active and this week God spoke through these verses to me. Forty years had passed. Forty! Moses was doing his thing, living his life, getting married, having children and must have been so busy making a life for himself in the land that he had run to while running from his past. It’s tiresome to run from your past. It takes work. There are many voices in your head and often times, when we are running from something we cannot hear God so easily. The cacophony of fear is too much. But for some reason, after 40 years of not hearing God’s voice, and running from God, Moses first SAW the fire. Most of us see things all the time. But do we really see them? Or are we just noticing them while a million other things are ping ponging in our heads about every aspect of our lives?

DSC_6772Not only did he SEE the flame, it says that he MARVELED at it. Marvel means to be filled with wonder or astonishment. Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you actually marveled at something? Do you do it daily? Or is it more of a “when I go to the beach I marvel at his majesty” because it’s so huge I can’t miss that fact. Marveling takes time, takes being still.

DSC_7009After he marveled at it, he didn’t just Instagram it and move on with his walk that he was on. Nope. It says that he “drew near to OBSERVE it”. Drawing near to something and observing it once again requires getting out of your own thoughts and into God’s thoughts. What does God want to show me here? What is it about this very thing that I’m observing that has the fingerprints of God if I look closely enough? The meaning of observe actually means to notice or perceive something and register it as being significant. When Moses saw the burning bush, marveled at it and then observed it, he was understanding that it was significant and he better take off his sandals because suddenly he was on holy ground. DSC_6788You could argue that of course he noticed and marveled….a bush was on fire! But really…how many times have we had burning bushes in our lives that we didn’t give a second thought to? How often has God tried to show us something that required observation and how often have we taken the time to really sit on it for a while; camp out, if you will, at the place He’s speaking to us?

DSC_6758I want to be better at hearing God’s voice. Not his audible voice, but that still, small voice that He speaks in to His children. He doesn’t yell at us. He won’t text us with extra excited emoticons to get our attention. But He might use the beauty of a clover field, or the majesty of the ocean waves coming and going, the grandeur of being on a mountain top to speak. Just the same, He may use a small, but intricately beautiful flower blooming in your yard, a single bird perched on your fence or just sitting back and watching your children play without a care in the world. God can use anything to speak to us. Anything. And don’t get me wrong here – clearly the easiest, most important way for Him to speak to us is through His Word. He has given it to us as a gift and we need to daily unwrap it to learn and grow in Him.

DSC_6774I’m learning to do this little by little and God has given me special friends who are better at this than I as an encouragement to me in this area…and I’m thankful for that gift.

DSC_6755Here’s to seeing, marveling and observing. May we do it often. May we clear the clutter in our heads so we have room to invite God into our thoughts and may he guide our every day.

Come on, be Refreshed!

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I’m not sure why I’m compelled to sit down this cold, sunny day in January and put words to my thoughts. I think to myself that there are just about a million blog posts written about adoption; the hard stuff, the good stuff, the down right messy stuff, the legal stuff, the waiting…so honestly, why write about adoption again?

This post isn’t for the couple who is waiting to get their referral. It isn’t for those going through all the training classes that DHS makes you attend before your home study. Okay, I lie. It is for you..but you won’t need it for a while, so tuck this back some place that you will remember it. This post is for the moms and dads in the trenches of adoption and foster care. Those whose daily life is harder, wilder and honestly sometimes unbelievable to those not walking in their shoes. The ones who are on the other side, fleshing out what it means to really raise a traumatized child. {News flash: EVERY child, no matter the age they were adopted…NO MATTER THE AGE THEY WERE ADOPTED…has trauma to their brains.}This post is written for the parents who are at the end of their bloody rope, who need encouragement like they need air and who need to be REFRESHED.

ONCE a year there is an amazing opportunity to go to Redmond Washington and actually be refreshed. Last year was our first year and we decided that we’d make it a priority every year that it was physically possible. We sat there like dry, parched sponges just soaking in every drop of hope possible. We laughed, we cried, we nodded our heads in agreement and breathed easy, knowing that so many in the room had ridden the same wild roller coaster we’d been on while fostering/adopting over the last 6 years. There were no pretenses, no pretending that everyone had one big happy family waiting for them to come home to, nothing fake. Instead, there was compassion, understanding, wisdom and most of all HOPE. Don’t get me wrong…we personally were not at this point; we weren’t hopeless or in despair, but many were and because we had been through a LOT with over 30 kids in our home, there was a feeling of camaraderie. Not a pity party – not at all – but a sense of banding together, taking a deep breath and joining arms to fight this good fight. Because it is good and it is a fight.

Let me say this again. Adoption and Foster Care is a fight and it is good. So do yourself a favor and PLEASE sign up to go get refreshed at the Refresh Conference! Go prepare yourself for the future. Not that every family will have horrible catastrophes coming their way, but even walking away with one simple tool, one little phrase that we can use in parenting our broken children makes it worth your time. Not only will you hear from Psychologists, Pastors, Parents of adopted children (from everywhere and every age), but you will also get to sit in classes with the Bio Moms that chose to give their children up for adoption; to hear their stories of redemption and see how God has worked miracles, with teen Foster kids (currently in the system or adopted from the system); to get in their heads and understand where they are coming from, and with adults who were adopted or fostered and who now are navigating their way through life with their own families. It’s all about HOPE and it’s all about learning in complete openness.

Have I convinced you yet? I hope so. Make it happen. It’s worth all the hassle of finding child care and driving hours and hotel expenses. I promise. Hope to see you there!

**Bonus for Foster Families… this counts as nearly 15 hours of the mandatory training that is required through DHS!

You gotta read this…

 

I love to go to other bloggers “Reading or Books” lists to find good reads and last night was a winner! I downloaded it via Kindle and started reading last night, only to wake and finish it this morning. If you have a heart for ADVENTURE, are SCARED of the adventurous types, or WANT to be adventurous…this book is for you. This family’s story is so fun. They are real and open and raw with their readers as they travel 10,000 miles around the country in a borrowed, blue school bus, with their 4 kids (two of them toddlers), homeschooling along the way and discovering so much more than they even knew was possible. Go ahead – download it 🙂Screen shot 2014-10-11 at 9.21.40 AM

Champoeg Park

Since we are still having “summer in fall” weather, we decided to go hang out at Champoeg Park on Sunday. Usually I am here for photo shoots and don’t get to just enjoy all the park has to offer. What a treat…a picnic in the shade, fishing off the dock, frisbee golf and walking on trails. Thankful for days like this.

 

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Wilson River Footbridge

DSC_8176This was our little piece of heaven yesterday. Yes, everyone there is in our little party, and then more joined after this photo was taken. Part of my DNA is socializing with my friends. The more friends, the better! We go here a few times each summer and every time we go, it’s like anticipating going to Disneyland for the kids. Literally. Max was up at 5:30AM. AM!…waiting for us to wake up. We spent 10 glorious hours at this amazing swimming hole (20ft. deep), complete with rapids to ride, a bridge to swing from and cliffs to jump from. DSC_8101 DSC_8095This was my second time down – the first being fun and uneventful – and it didn’t quite go as planned. As you can see I rolled under (while the 3 strangers on the side had quite a show), rode some rapids AND, mind you, kept my sunglasses, headband AND flip flops on the ENTIRE time. 3 points for me.

photo 3(2)photo 4 photo 1(1)photo 2Jo’s bestie got to join us for part of the day too! DSC_8149-2This was Urko’s first time to the river. His other Basque friend came as well, and exclaimed, “This is like the movies!” DSC_8129 These two…river buds.DSC_8126These boys could stay in the water all day…we got there at 10am and pulled them out of the water around 8:00pm.DSC_8118The Hartfords have gone to the river with us for YEARS, every summer. We can always count on them for an impulsive trip to “relaxation island” when we get an itch to go.  DSC_8107-2DSC_8104-2DSC_8125We even got so lucky this year to invite a friend that brought a paddle board! The kids loved trying it out.DSC_8193DSC_8200DSC_8188Let’s not forget the bridge jumping…it’s about 35ish ft. Max did it twice – he loves adventure. I did it in high school and checked it off my bucket list 🙂DSC_8184DSC_8186And the famous rope swing. Tad designed this last summer and let me tell you – everyone that came by this spot asked to try it. Here Max makes it look like a walk in the park. Easy-peasy. Honestly, I don’t do this one…Not so sure I could hold my weight anymore LOL. But everyone else swang to their hearts content. Was it dangerous? I guess it could be. But when I was in Jr. High I was walking with a friend down the side walk. Just walking. She literally stepped off the curb and went to catch herself and in the process, she broke her arm. I don’t see walking as dangerous, but I guess it could be.

Warning: Soapbox…

I believe we should allow our kids to do dangerous things. Things that push them to test their own strengths, their abilities and to be able to teach them to have discernment. I know some with disagree with me – that’s ok – that’s why I’m not the parents of your kids, but of mine. But I know that doing adventurous activities with our family has grown our kids into strong, capable young people who aren’t fear-based, who can walk into a situation and size it up before deciding if they want to participate, with discernment. Of course, they are kids and will do stupid things, like we all did. Here is a quote from someone who is more qualified than I, and who can explain this in a more logical way…from an article with a sub-heading that says, “Teens Find Identity through Discomfort”.

“Changes to the limbic system of the brain cause teens to seek risk, challenge, and emotional stimulation. While some parents fear this phase of a child’s life, it’s really quite natural. And it’s a time to be embraced as a positive transition to adulthood.

Of course, we mostly associate teen risk-taking with drinking, drugs, smoking, and sexual experimentation. But risk-taking is equally associated with positive activities, like mountain climbing, community service, politics, faith groups, and other experiences that can push young people out of their comfort zones and reward them handsomely.

Like the teens that were part of my research study, risk-taking can seed happiness, life purpose, and well-being.  When young people learn to overcome challenges and meet risk head on, they learn to be resilient. They learn that exploration beyond their comfort zones often leads to unexpected rewards and psychological peaks. They develop courage, curiosity, self-confidence, and persistence.”

Ok, that’s not why we decide to go swinging from bridges…but it is a benefit 🙂

DSC_8134-2Kayla didn’t try the swing year, but this year she was ready. After the first run, she was addicted. DSC_8171

DSC_8172Ok, I couldn’t resist posting this classic photo. Priceless. You see? Pure fear, turned into accomplishment, turned into confidence to do it again.DSC_8153-2This is Tad. He’s just amazing and most of my kids’ genes come from him 🙂

photo(1)This is my cup of tea. Sitting with my feet in the river and reading a good.photo 5(1)photo 4(1)DSC_8081DSC_8132All in all, a highlight of 2014! DSC_8070-2

I know this boy…

I can’t stop thinking about this boy. We met him about a month ago. Had dinner with his foster family. Let’s call him T. He’s been in his foster home for FIVE years. That is TOO LONG for any boy to be in limbo, waiting for permanency; a forever home where he will find unconditional acceptance, love and commitment.

T is legally free to adopt. That means that all of his bio parents rights have been terminated and he is free and clear to be CHOSEN. He is 11, he’s WAY taller than me (yes, not saying much, I know), he’s SUPER smart and does amazing in school. So what’s the problem? Why isn’t he being adopted?

T is a great kid, with a huge smile, who loves to play. But he’s also a damaged kid. He’s been physically and sexually abused and underneath all that horrible trauma, he’s just a kid; he’s a very hard kid to place in an adoptive family. T needs someone with older kids or no kids. Which means that someone who THOUGHT they were almost done parenting, who has been thinking about vacations, dreaming of empty nests (some people dream about this – I used to be one of those!) would need to take T in. It would require TIME, PATIENCE, LOVE, PATIENCE, THERAPY, PATIENCE…did I say PATIENCE? It would mean putting off the empty nest dreams for a few years more, it would mean you have to be involved in the school system {again}, unless you home school, and it would be sacrifice.

But let me tell you what it would also mean…it would mean that this boy, who has been waiting for FIVE years for a home to call his own, would get a family. A family that wouldn’t hit him or hurt him. A family that could change his future for the better. A family that could help him heal from his past. A family that could change the course of this boys life and generations to come.

Is this family you? Do you know anyone that would be the perfect parents for this boy, who is quickly going to age out of the system and become a statistic? Pray for T. Pray for his foster mom, who is doing an amazing job, but is tired, is sad for him and wants desperately to find him a home. Pray that someone would step up.

I leave you with thoughts from Katie (Kisses from Katie book), who has adopted 14 girls in Uganda and who works there 24/7 caring for the least of these…

“We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us. And there is no better place to be than in His hands.”
Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

“Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption. It is the Gospel in my living room.”
Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

“Adoption is wonderful and beautiful and the greatest blessing I have ever experienced. Adoption is also difficult and painful. Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption.”
Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

Book Review: Notes from a Blue Bike

IMG_1514Over the last 2 weeks I’ve had the pleasure of reading Notes From a Blue Bike; The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World, by Tsh Oxenreider, while sitting on the couch feeding the baby. It’s the one time I feel no guilt reading in the middle of the day (OK, let’s face it, I don’t really feel guilt reading during the day when the babies are napping); holding my baby, making sure his bottle stays in his mouth (which is hard to do when you’re engrossed in a good book) and picking up my latest read.

This book was so refreshing. It was an easy read, with SUPER short chapters that made you feel like you actually read something, even though you may have only had 10 minutes to sneak in. Tsh has such a fabulous, cultural background that influences her thinking and her desire to live slower and more intentionally as a family, amidst the crazy American-Dream lifestyle that the majority of Americans live. I found myself nodding and agreeing out loud with MUCH of what she said.

This book is perfect for anyone wanting to think deeper about the way their family is living, what their goals are and how to go about slowing life down just a little. It’s a lot about swimming upstream in our culture, which isn’t a bad thing, by the way, and creating dead space to veg out and let our minds wander; it’s about what’s best for YOUR family and living out who YOU are, not some formulaic way of life that “everyone” lives.

And of course, it’s always fun when you read a local author. Tsh is currently living in Bend, Oregon, but I’m guessing she’ll get a hankering to get out of dodge and travel world-wide sooner than later. So go on! Go request it at the library or download it to your kindle – it’s a great summer read!

Respite to the Rescue

A few days ago I put up a little something on FaceBook about respite care. I was so (happily) surprised at the number of messages I got in response from friends wanting to help! Thank you for your willing hearts! I thought it’d be easiest to address everyone’s questions via a post, instead of sending out several of the same messages separately.

Facts about Respite Care:

1. It’s NEEDED.

Foster families are (in general) pretty taxed in terms of both numbers (of children) and just the basic energy it takes to raise foster kids. They need breaks. Sometimes just for coffee. Sometimes for an actual date. Or maybe just a boring dentist appointment that they NEED to get to. Most foster families don’t have someone that is either willing or able to take their foster children as their own for a day or sometimes for the week. Having a break is sometimes exactly what is needed to regroup, re-energize and refocus on their job as foster parent. And knowing that you are a safe, loving, capable person, makes it SO much easier to hand over “their” baby/child to you.

2. Do I have to have special training?

Nope. You do need to fill out a simple form (as well as every adult that lives in your house) that is processed rather quickly in-house at the local DHS office. It’s basically a background check to be sure you are a safe person without a criminal history. You also need to have lived in the state for the last 5 years.

3. Can I do respite for one particular family or do I get put on a list for strangers to call?

That is your choice. If you have a foster family that needs help and your heart is to come along side and help in this way, then by all means YES! And if you have a heart to help whoever needs help – YES!

4. Can I choose to only take babies?

Sure. You can decide how you are best able to help. If taking one baby at a time is what you can handle, then that’s fabulous. If taking on the entire sibling group for the foster family is something you can do — SWEET! If you are a nurse and can take medically fragile babies — what a blessing! It’s difficult to find foster parents who are trained in the area of feeding tubes and oxygen masks, let alone respite providers!

5. Do I get paid for this?

Good question. You can choose to do it for free and bless your foster parent. But it’s not expected. You can work that out individually with each foster family. The honest truth, when you break down how much foster families get paid, it works out to be about $0.80-$1.05/hour, depending on the age of the child. Trust me when I say, foster parents don’t do this for the money. That is a myth and just plain ignorance on the part of anyone who has that opinion.

6. How long will I have the kids?

This will depend upon what your foster family is needing. I know of some foster families who had a special respite provider who would act like a Big Brother/Sister to older kids and had a scheduled time to come pick up a certain kiddo, take them out and hang out for a few hours once a week. It was a welcome reprieve for this family and something they could look forward to. But being available on an evening or weekend for the couple to have a date night? Priceless. Being available/willing to take a child (or children) for an entire week for a family to go on vacation, family reunion, job travel, etc.? Just amazing. {And please don’t judge the foster family for choosing to take or not take their foster child with them—this is very personal and you don’t know all the varying facts regarding each individual case.}

7. How do I start?!

Yay! If you are ready to start blessing some foster parents by being a respite provider, then simply send me a message (via FaceBook or email @ tnraichart@gmail.com) and include your address. I will send you the forms and get the process rolling!