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.

 

Here we go again…

Hosea 14:3b says, “For in you the fatherless finds mercy.”

Psalm 82:3 says, “Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Right here. This is why we find ourselves back in the throws of foster care. It is certainly not for everyone. It is hard. It is tiring. It is unpredictable. It requires much patience and flexibility. And it certainly doesn’t make sense to most people – or even ourselves at times.

We’ve told people that the only word to describe why we are here…taking in a baby in foster care, after such a hard loss in the past; so much grief that our family had to work walk through and trusting that God’s ways were NOT our ways…and that word is assnine. We know. And we’ve had the questions that go something like this:

“Why would you do that to yourselves again?”

“How are your kids doing?”

“Aren’t you afraid of the same thing happening?”

In a nutshell, BECAUSE WE STILL FEEL GOD CALLING US HERE. We took 2 years to heal, to work through our anger, our grief, our loss. We adopted Jo – which was the best healing balm EVER for everyone. We named her Josephine Joy for a reason. “May the Lord increase in Joy”, is what her name means, and God has done that abundantly in our hearts and lives through her smile, goofiness, big chocolate eyes that twinkle and a personality that just makes your heart feel lighter.

So, here we are. With a newborn from the hospital that needs a mommy and daddy desperately. Being kept up at all hours of the night with feedings, having CASAs, lawyers, caseworkers and SSA’s at my home, running to and from medical appointments and court…and loving every minute of it. When I walked into that hospital, in the NICU to get “my” baby, I picked him up, gave him a kiss and said to myself, “This is what I was made to do.” Yes, we will get attached. Yes, it will be hard when he {may} have to leave someday, but it was what WE were made to do. I am thankful that Tad feels just as called to this as I do and loves these babies, as he goes off to work with bloodshot eyes from being kept up all night.

The honest truth is that we don’t do this because it makes us feel good; simply because we love babies. We do this because God calls us to love the orphan, defend the fatherless and live out justice. And that my friends, is not easy or pain free, but it’s not about us. It’s about the child, the orphan. We are willing to invite pain into our lives because living in a pain free world isn’t what God has called us to. Rather it is in pain and sacrifice where we truly feel the presence of God, where we NEED Him daily – I don’t want to not need God. Ever. I don’t want to be so comfortable that I don’t need Him because I can do life on my own. I hope that makes sense. It’s not that we LOVE pain and suffering. We don’t. But wisdom tells us that pain and suffering is where we grow the most; closer to God and deeper in our walk with Jesus. And THAT is what we want.

And as far as our kids go? They all LOVE having a baby in the house again. They are constantly picking him up, kissing him, loving on him. It’s just in their DNA and YES, they know that they may get attached and that he may leave again…but they’ve walked this path before and they get it. They understand that just because it might hurt doesn’t mean that we don’t do what God has called our family to do.

And on that note…please don’t read this and feel judgement from me, or guilt…this is just what WE are called to do. We don’t expect everyone to live out this life that we do; we know everyone is called to something different and unique. What are you called to in this life?

Jump for it!

 

Jumping is something we do all the time. I say ‘we’ lightly…because mommy doesn’t jump anymore. If she did…well, she might have an accident. TMI? Yes, probably.

It’s been so fun to watch Jo go from bouncing ever so softly with her siblings to this! Full-on jumping with 2 feet off the ground at the same time. This girl. Do you know that part of KINDERGARTEN testing is asking, “can you jump with both feet at the same time?” We think this qualifies her as talented and gifted at the age of 17 months.

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This week she got to have a little play date with friends, Audrey and Madeline. It was dramatic, happy jumping, to say the least.  This is Audrey and I’m sure she gets this from her dad…

DSC_4258  DSC_4240 DSC_4228This is our family’s second trampoline. We basically killed our first one after 30+ kids living with us and 7 years of abuse. Best. Investment. Ever.

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.

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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!

Book Review: Take the Risk

In the winter months I tend to consume books like they were Costco ice cream bars rolled in almonds (which are not available anymore, MUCH to my dismay), eating quickly to avoid melting ice cream and chocolate falling in my lap. I have always had a passion for reading, learning, growing and I do believe you are the same person you were last year except for the people you meet and the books you read. Stagnation is my arch nemesis.

After watching The Gifted Hands: the story of Ben Carson, I was both challenged and convicted. Both personally and in my role as a parent. Seeing and learning how Ben Carson overcame all the obstacles, that today would be considered by many as no possible, was inspiring to say the least. Not only was it inspiring to me, but to Kayla, as well. The next night she showed us a speech that Ben Carson had given at the 2013 Presidential Prayer Breakfast and told us how amazed she was by it. These are the kinds of people who I want to learn from. Inspiring by the way they live their lives and walk the talk that is coming from their lips.

Off to the library I went. The first book I devoured was called Take the Risk. I mentioned it my friend, to which she exclaimed, “What in the world are YOU reading that kind of book for???!!!”

“What do you mean?”, I questioned.

“I mean, YOU have no problem taking risks. Why do you need to read about it? You live that.”

OK. She does have a point. But then I thought….and realized, “Yes, I do have an easier time taking (educated) risks compared to most people.” BUT…I still need to be inspired, to be encouraged and to be learning and growing in this area.

Back to the book review. I HIGHLY recommend reading this book. Carson uses many of his personal life experiences, dissecting them for all to see how risk played a part of shaping who he is today. He is a neuro brain surgeon, a scientist, a husband, a father and a son. He knows what he’s talking about and ever so calmly explains how to identify, choose and live with acceptable risk. As Tony Dungy says in his review of the book, “Reading this book will cause you to examine your approach to living and challenge you to use the gifts God has given you to help others.”

I will definitely be using Ben Carson’s wisdom as I make future choices, both personally and as a parent. In fact, his four questions he asks himself before taking a risk (that he expounds upon in his book) will now be an integral part of decision making for the Raichart Family.

I hope this review causes you to go to the computer and reserve this book online.

 

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.

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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.

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Forced Family Fun Day

So you know when your kids hit a certain age? That age of not thinking the same things are cool that we just did 1-2 years ago? Like walking with your family around the local wetlands on a gorgeous, sunny day? Yep. We’re there. Hence the title “FORCED FUN”.

But, when you have teens, tweens, elementary and babies all in one family, there is no win-win. There will always be SOMEONE that complains. No worries. This too will pass. And I hear that for the most part, they won’t remember all the whining they did, but they WILL remember the adventures we went on.

So, I take pictures to prove to them that they had FUN. Walking around wetlands, enjoying God’s creation. FUN. They’ll thank me later, I’m sure of it.

My unsolicited advice? Force em’ to have FUN (wink, wink).

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And while we’re talking about forcing…this photo. Yup. Lots of forcing to get this one.

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Checking out the river rat at the edge of the bank, while momentarily forgetting they didn’t want to go in the first place.

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We even brought our friends to have fun WITH us…cuz we’re good parents like that.

2014-01-06_00032014-01-06_00072014-01-06_0001Let’s just say Jo won the prize for best attitude!