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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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!

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

A vapor that vanishes away…

As I sit here this morning with my coffee and my bible and my beloved journal I ponder just how short our lives really are. This is not a post about morbidity to depress you. On the contrary, it is about living life fully; using the time we are given to live the life we were gifted with.

I have discovered The 17:18 Series a few months ago. Go ahead. Add it to your list of things to Google. It really is an incredible, and yes simple, way to learn, digest, process the Word of God. You literally transcribe the Bible. As you do, it gives you time to chew on each word that flows from your pen and lands on your paper. This morning I was writing out James 4:8-14. Verse 14 is appropriate for today, my 38th birthday.

“Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

We are just vapors. And though the days are sometimes long and this life feels at times that we’ve lived several lifetimes, truly we here for just a short time. I’ve been here for 38 years now. I have no idea how much longer I will be here. No one does. Our days are numbered and mortality is 100%. I have no worry about my future, after death, for my assurance is in Jesus. But I do ponder this: Am I living fully NOW? Am I living out, in this short little vapor of a time, my passions, my faith? Am I making a tiny little difference in this gigantic universe?
Does my life matter?
And who does it matter to?

As I reflect on 2013, dream about 2014 and celebrate my 38 years here on earth, I invite you to do the same…think about your life as a vapor. What and who do you want to be remembered as with your SHORT time here?

And now on to my favorite moments/photos from 2013.

 

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iphone-5untitled-2Texas-2-2Texas-4Opal creek-24DSC_5196DSC_5256untitled-4untitled-1212013-10-02_0003DSC_18572013-12-14_0011View More: http://justinandmary.pass.us/artofauthenticposingoregonView More: http://justinandmary.pass.us/artofauthenticposingoregonHappy New Year!

Oaks Park

Yesterday was full of screaming, laughing, excitement over new rides (for Urko and Christina) new experiences…like roller skating. Every year Tad’s company picnic is here and includes free ride bracelets for the kids – which they love. Nothing better than a free day once a year at this almost 100 year old amusement park (in 7 years). untitled

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Day 15 well of course…the sun

How can a day pass like today that I’m not thankful to the Lord for the blessed sun?!

I know it comes in limited amounts for the next 4 months, so I feel the need to go capture it today.

{first as it floods into my living room}

{next, as it makes the bamboo next to the house glisten}

{outside, catching a glimpse of my shadow}

{across the creek, looking up into this deep, red berry, decorated tree}

{and finally up…where the jet-streams are}

I love that beauty is all around every day. I find it amazing that unless we are intentional about FINDING the beauty, we lose out on finding joy. Because joy comes through THANKSGIVING.

Family Reunion Highlights

Every 2 years we have a family reunion somewhere in the US, it varies each time and  we are thankful that it was in Seaside this year! There were 26 of us this year…with 4 others missing for various reasons (we missed you!), and we had a fabulous time! In fact, we’re already looking forward to the next one in 2 years!

The first MAJOR highlight was Josie getting to meet all of her extended family!! Everyone was so excited to meet, hold and kiss on her. Here she is with her Great Aunt Marci from Florida…

…and her Great Uncle Bob from Colorado…

…and her Great Aunt Laura from Colorado…

…and her cousin Maya from Flordia…

…and her cousin Mckenzie from Colorado….

…and her Great Aunt Becca from Maryland…she was well loved!

Of course the kids’ highlight was swimming in the pool daily (and nightly).

{ahem}….I hate to admit that another “kid” highlight was watching TV. We don’t have TV in our house, so this is a very “vacation-ish” thing to do!

We watched the sun set the couple times that it wasn’t raining…and it was art in the sky! I love that God is such an amazing artist and shares His work with us everywhere we turn.

We played games…here Mitch is learning how to play Aquire with Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Phil, and then swiftly beats them all.

We took bread down and fed the seagulls.

We celebrated our cousin Noah’s birthday.

We went down to the beach at dark and had a fire in the midst of a rain and hail storm! We would NOT be driven away by the blasted Oregon coast weather though…we stuck it out (getting seriously soaking wet) and ENJOYED that fire…even little Josie, tucked in away in my Moby wrap (which by the way is my absolute FAVORITE 0-6 month baby carrier).

We spent time on the beach…and aren’t these just the yummiest little brown toes you’ve ever seen? This is our little cousin Iranzi from Maryland.

The girls did puzzles…

…and wrote in the sand.

We even learned a little about Shabbat from our Jewish cousins! This bread was AMAZING and made by Amanda (on the far left)…in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m now sporting this bread on my hips!!

{Haim and Maya are showing us how you sing your prayer/blessing and then toss the bread around the table to everyone.}

The Raichart Clan.

The McKennas.

The Smiths (missing Sean and Sue)

The Pearls/Mayans.

The Hadaways/Raines.

What fun memories…I love that my kids will all grow up knowing their relatives, having fond memories of these reunions and hopefully carry on the same close-knit family love as they have their own families.

Homecoming

On the way home from the hospital we stopped at the kids’ school and surprised them by picking them up at 9:30am to take them home. They were SO excited to finally meet their sister.

The next stop was at the middle school to get big brother…love at first site.

Then destination home, where Grandma and Kayla were cleaning away in anticipation of our arrival.

Form a line people, form a line! The policing of “who’s turn it is to hold the baby” begins.

What a loved and wanted baby this girl is. Praying she knows this the rest of her life.

Pins and Needles and Peace by the Lake

With only 11 days left till our birth mom is due we find ourselves either sitting on pins and needles….

OR feeling a lot like sitting at this lake, full of peace, knowing that the Lord is in control of this whole process (which takes a lot of weight off our shoulders)…

11 days! We did get a small update yesterday saying that the birth mom is doing well, baby has dropped and is moving lots and that she has a Dr. appointment this Friday. That’s it!! Women, if you’re reading this, you KNOW we need more details than this!

So.

I do laundry.

I clean my shower.

I wash baby clothes.

I pack baby’s hospital bag, as well as ours. (we will get our own hospital room when we got to be at the birth and for after baby is born. Most likely baby will stay in our room till we leave hospital.)

I make sure EVERY night that our ringer is not on silent when we go to bed.

And Tad and I tell the kids last night, “If we get a call during the night, you will wake up and grandma will be here with you.”

I give crazy-long explanations to coaches as to why we MIGHT be missing practice or a game; Tad sends emails to parents saying why he, as the coach, might not show up to a game.

Tad and I attempt to go to bed at 7pm (really this means 9pm) with the TOTALLY FAULTY belief that we can store up on sleep soon to be lost when baby girl comes.

You get the idea….pins and needles and peace by the lake. Flip-flop it all day long and that’s how we’re doing. Oh! And throw in some excitement, a little anxiety, a pinch of disbelief and incessantly answering questions from our kids like, “Mom? What day do you think she will deliver?”

Glad there are only 11 days left of this!!! Can’t wait to FLOOD this blog with baby pictures!