forts & watermelon

DSC_7243

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.

DSC_7247

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.

DSC_7251

But a cute one, none-the-less.

DSC_7260

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

DSC_7266

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…

DSC_7267

but these little faces…

DSC_7274

these little toes…

DSC_7276

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.

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.

 

DSC_1976 DSC_1979 DSC_1980 DSC_1982 DSC_1984 DSC_1991 DSC_1992 DSC_1997 DSC_1998 DSC_1999 DSC_2001 DSC_2004 DSC_2006

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!

April Happenings…

What a blessing we had in April – SO MUCH SUN! WE tried to take advantage of it all.

I’m so thankful for Ruby – she is such an amazing big sister. She runs from the bus, every day, straight to Jo’s waiting arms and picks her up and says, “Let’s go play!!” Her imagination still runs wild and full of innocent fun, that includes her 19 month old sister. And although we don’t have acres of forest to build all-natural forts, she improvised like a champ. Seeing her read to Jo makes my heart happy.DSC_5119This girl. Sticker on nose. Jumping like her brothers – crazy! I had fun playing with angles while they were jumping too. Basically by laying on the trampoline and shooting up, while they are jumping, it gives an impression that she is higher than she is. You should try it. DSC_5115…and Ruby had fun adding some moves to make it look even higher… DSC_5106Aunt Teala comes to visit! We visited the Portland Saturday Market {briefly, because let’s face it, 7 kids on a hot day walking through vendors without buying anything = crabby kids} before heading up to Sandy to see extended family. We sure do miss having her here. We’re hoping that she’ll be back in a few years…wink, wink. DSC_5073 DSC_5073-2Of course Jo loved being in her stroller and wanted to sit the whole time. Not.  DSC_5070 We also visited The Spoon Guy. Tad and I bought monogram spoon rings when were dating 20 years ago. It was fun to revisit them and see what new contraptions that have now…including knife headbands. They’ve been at the market for 40 years! Make sure to check them out if you’re down there.DSC_5061 DSC_5059Me and the gang. I love these little hoodlums. They contribute daily to my gray hairs, but I’d have it no other way.  DSC_5053While Teala was here, we got everyone else together for a family dinner. First time in YEARS that all 5 of us siblings were in the same place at the same time. Good times. DSC_4856 DSC_4852Jo has met Aunt Teala when she was born, but didn’t remember her. She warmed up to her in no time, of course. And baby got to meet her too.  DSC_4844 Sisters. As you can see, Jo is not lacking in personality.DSC_4838 Thanks to Groupon Jo gets to jump at the mini Pump it Up with her bestie, Treva. Both adopted just 8 weeks apart, they will have a special bond for years, I’m imagining. DSC_4825 DSC_4824 DSC_4823 The girl has fear, I tell you. No fear.

DSC_4816DSC_4821  DSC_4813 DSC_4812I love the simplicity of toddler play. No need for fancy, plastic toys. Just a bowl of water on a sunny day. DSC_4776Thanks, April, you treated us well.

Hope

Have you ever seen Cheaper by the Dozen with Steve Martin? This morning was a bit like that in our house. You know, when the baby won’t stop crying (unless you are holding him), your daughter needs you to do her hair, your other daughter has no shorts to wear on an 86 degree day (because she grew – who knew?) and she’s doing a little freak out, and because of said freak out she spills the entire cup of green smoothie on your (supposed to be) white carpet and runs out the door saying, “sorry mom! but remember the smoothie on the floor…”, when your boys “clean” their room and in the process bring 7 loads of laundry down (a few of which are still clean and folded, but never made it to the drawers.

{insert big sigh}

And the cherry on top? We were served court documents today, via the Sheriff coming to our house, because the case against him and his company (that they won last year) is not over. Now the disgruntled employee is going after Tad, outside of the company. Awesome.

{I’m thinking the enemy is not too happy with the fact that we started fostering again – oh well.}

I’m sure you all have times like this, right? It’s called life. We have choices – sit down on the floor and throw a huge tantrum (tempting at times, for sure), try to forge my way through it on my own or…take rest and refuge in the Lord. He is our Rock and our Hope. That’s why I tattooed it on the back of my neck (in Kanji) – when we have nothing (and we are far from having nothing) left, we have Hope.

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who HOPE in His mercy. (Psalm 147:11)

In a very imperfect life, with “Cheaper by the (half) Dozen” days, God is still God and he says to “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14)

I hope this encourages someone tonight. If you’re walking through the fire, feeling as though life is just a wee bit overwhelming, lean on Him. He can handle it. It’s not that our perfect plan is the same as God’s perfect plan, or that our timing is the same as His; rather our that faith and trust in Him is real and tangible. He will be your Rock if you let Him.

 

Spring is in the air!

The sun inspired me to find the magical in the mundane things of our lives over the last few days. Spring is in the air and I am so excited about that. With it brings fort building on cool spring mornings, reading books with sun rays felt on your skin, boys on bike rides, little girls pushing their babies down the street, big girls giggling in groups and my boy-going-on-man shooting hoops shirtless. I am thankful for these days – even amidst the arguing, messiness, laundry and dishes.

DSC_4179

DSC_4186

DSC_4190

DSC_4192

DSC_4218DSC_4195

DSC_4209

DSC_4215  DSC_4203 DSC_4202

snow is in the air

It’s pretty safe to say that Jo loved the snow.

DSC_3489 It’s pretty safe to say big sister loved the snow as well.DSC_3579 This girl. Darn it. She’s getting older.  DSC_3572 When I brought Jo out, they all fought over who could pull her, take her up the hill, vying for her attention. And I love that.DSC_3570And though she loved being toted…she wanted freedom. DSC_3564Pure joy. Snow seems to strip away any sense of “cool” the older kids have and brings forth the little kid in us all. It’s something for all ages and brings people together. I hate the cold, but love the side effects. DSC_3559One of Jo’s favorite things; getting pulled by Kayla. DSC_3552We really did put gloves on her…just not yet… DSC_3551 {earlier in the day}…wistfully watching for everyone to come back and play with her.DSC_3546 …and oh how sweet she looked! DSC_3543 And our neighborhood…really, I think our landlord may have to have us extracted from his house. We really don’t want to ever leave. Quads pulling sleds, everyone meeting at the end of the cul-de-sac at the one steep driveway (poor city kids) in the neighborhood to watch the kids sled, to cross country skiing down the road…it’s just good. We are blessed.DSC_3537 DSC_3535 Max even got a little snowboarding lesson…and a real board to try on. DSC_3526 DSC_3530

Meet Jack. He’s pretty much a new family member here. A.K.A. max’s best friend.DSC_3525 These two beauties! DSC_3504 …the token “this is our house” photo…DSC_3499 A good excuse to get the dirt bike out…DSC_3497The older they get, the less they want to be in front of my lens. It takes a lot more cajoling these days!  DSC_3492 DSC_3491It makes me happy when we get an image with all 7 of us {actually} in the frame at the same time…quite miraculous. DSC_3574Happy Snow Days of 2014!

Do LARGE families scare you?

Have you ever thought…

“Wow! I’d love to have that family over for dinner…but…we just don’t have room for them ALL”

“Our house is just too small”

“I can’t fit that many people at my table”

“It would cost a fortune to feed that crew!”

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a guilt trip at ALL. But more of a paradigm shifting opinion of mine.

Part of having a large family just means you don’t get invited over for dinner all that often. Period. The end. And I totally get it. We can seem seriously overwhelming to a quaint family of 3 or 4. I mean, honestly, just walking in the door and suddenly having FOURTEEN extra shoes overflowing your mat can seem wild, let alone feeding us all.

I’d like to dispell a few things about us large families though.

1. We’re not scary – I promise. In fact, you’ll have more fun and more entertained than ever.

2. We’re all about helping with food!  – We understand there are lots of us and we love to bring our share of the meal.

3. You don’t have to have enough seats for us – really. Actually…we’re good with picnic style. Have an old sheet? Throw it down on the floor and the kids have an instant picnic.

4. Small house? That’s ok. Kids are so creative and don’t even know it’s small. In fact, my good friend, who lives in 900 square feet with her family of 7, invited us (family of 7) and another family (family of 4) over to her house for dinner…and it was just fabulous! Yes, 18 people in 900 sq. ft. It works 🙂

5. Think it is expensive to feed a large family? Depends. But I just fed our family and another family of 7 (14 total) a meal consisting of homemade chicken noodle soup, homemade biscuits, and salad for under $20. And believe it or not, there were even leftovers…which is unbelievable with 3 teens and 3 almost teens! Trust me. Large families don’t expect to be served steak.

Bonus: Use PAPER plates, PAPER bowls and PLASTIC silverware. Makes dishes a cinch.

The next time you think to yourself, “We should invite that (large) family over for dinner”, do it! I dare you to see how easy it really is and how much fun you really have 🙂

Here is our family with our lifelong friends, the Tarabochias – squishing 10 kiddos at an 8 person table – but look at the love! That’s what it’s all about.

DSC_3247

 

Show and Tell

You are remember this day, right? When you get to bring your most prized possession to school and show your classmates what you think is special? Ruby’s day was Friday and she could not wait to bring in her baby sister.

“Are you sure?”, I questioned, because Jo had already visited the classroom on Halloween and the kids all met her then. “Yep”, she replies.

So we head into school and Jo was oh-so-happy to be walking on the sidewalk in freedom. We sign in and put the volunteer lanyard around her neck (she loves necklaces) and head up to the class.

**all iPhone images…

IMG_0658There’s something about being the baby of the family and loving attention from everyone in the room. This girl turned on her charm, smiled at the teacher, went around giving everyone “five” and had the class in fits of giggles the whole time.

IMG_0661Ruby got to explain that we adopted her from Oregon and how excited she was to meet her that first day we brought her home from the hospital…and that gave another girl in the class a chance to talk about being in Foster Care and how they are kind of alike. Kind of.

IMG_0662I’m so proud that big sister is so proud of little sister. That of all her treasured possessions, Jo is the most treasured of all.

IMG_0663