Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Celebrate Kate

I have heard many Mama's who are about to welcome a second addition into their family say that they are not sure how they could possibly love their second little blessing as much as their first. They just aren't sure that their heart holds that much love. Of course, when that tiny one finally arrives they discover that there is, in fact, always enough love to go around, but oh how they worried before they knew! But me? I NEVER worried about that. I KNEW that my heart had enough love for Kate as soon as I saw two pink lines on the stick. And that love has grown every. single. day. over these past few years. Six years, to be exact, because yesterday my Kate turned six years old. Six! As always, I am not sure where they years have gone. Because now before me stands a dark haired beauty with a contagious smile, twinkling eyes, and infectious laughter. She exudes joy wherever she goes and not a day goes by where I don't thank God for her, the perfect middle addition to our family. Kate is a wonderful little sister, adoring her older sister and wanting to be wherever she is, and she is an awesome big sister, always looking out for her younger brother and smothering him with love and affection. Too much affection, he might tell you, but Kate's love for Jack just pours out of her! There is no mistaking that Kate is perfectly placed in our family! God is pretty cool like that, I think.

To celebrate Kate yesterday, we started her day by sending her on a special date with Daddy to get donuts. Yumm. We put a candle in hers and sang to her before we ate. After that, Grammy and Da came over and we let her open her presents! Among her new treasures are a Brave doll, a pink cowgirl hat, and The Secret World of Arrietty. After that, all of the girls went to see Brave at the theater, while the boys stayed behind and did manly stuff. I am not really sure what that entails, but I am fairly certain it included several episodes of Thomas the Train. (Also, Kate loved the movie, but I wasn't a fan. There was no prince charming to be found! Not a single prince charming in the entire film! And for a girl who loves love, that just doesn't cut it for me. Ahem.) Kate's supper choice that night was the Cheesecake Factory. Oh, she is a girl after my own heart! And then we ended her special day with a balloon release, a tradition I found on another blog. I picked up six PINK helium balloons (there is no other color in Kate's world), and had each person write a birthday wish for Kate on their balloon. Then we gathered outside and shared our wishes for the birthday girl. Grammy cried. She usually does. And then we counted down from six and released Kate's balloons into the air. Kate said it was her favorite part of the day!

I can't believe my smallest girl is now six. Six years old with a heart of gold. She is sleeping beside me as I type this, and I find myself pausing to watch the rise and fall of her chest. Life is such a beautiful miracle, worthy of celebration. Kate, you are loved. You have been from the moment you were created, and you always will be. Happy sixth birthday, baby girl. Mama loves you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Boss Man

I am still working out some kinks on this new blog site of mine (okay, I am not really working on them because I don't know how), and I still am unable to upload photos (grrrr), but I couldn't sleep tonight without giving a shout out to my Boss man. Yesterday was Father's Day. We gave Boss cards that the girls had made and a hill billy golf set to play with in our new backyard. We also made him a peanut butter pie and bought him some IBC root beer. Those are keys to the man's heart, I tell you what. We went to morning worship, and then we spent the day with friends. The daddy's golfed together and then finished their day by watching golf on the TV. Golf is another key the Boss' heart. Peanut butter, root beer, and golf, and he is one happy dude. Throw in a wife, two daughter's, and a son, and he thinks he has won the lottery. And I love him for that. Because our life together really is all that he wants. It is enough for him. While I spend many hours dreaming of what is yet to be, Boss is always thankful for what is. He sees us, his family, as a gift, and he treats us as such. What I didn't tell you about yesterday was that he still rose early with two of our children, cleaned the house, ran a load of laundry and prepared Jack's bag for church,  all before I had even gotten up for the day. On a day where I should have been serving him, he still served me. And this is nothing new for him. He works hard at all that he does, and our home and family life are no exception. So while I may be the dreamer, always wishing for the next this or that, I never wish for someone else to spend my life with. I never wish for someone else to raise my children with. He is all that I want. My other half. Boss, Happy Father's Day. You are the best, and not a day goes by where I do not feel as though I do not deserve your goodness to our family. You really are the best man that I know. How on earth did I get so lucky?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sunshine and Rainbows

Lately I feel like I have been walking around in a near constant state of bliss. I have always leaned towards being a glass half full kind of gal, and Boss sometimes gets annoyed that I tend to live in the land of sunshine and rainbows while he has taken up residence in the land of maturity and practicality (hey, every marriage needs at least one responsible party and I, for one, am glad he is willing to take one for the team!), but lately life just seems extra sweet. The sunshine seems brighter and the rainbows more colorful.

Boss is home for summer vacation and we are soaking up all of the family togetherness that we can. Our days start early (earlier for some than others, though I will not mention any names), and they usually end in the back yard with firefly's lighting up the slowly fading sky and deer munching on our apple trees nearby. And we have spent the hours in between going on family adventures. Sometimes our adventures take us to fun places like the amusement park or downtown to the big city to walk along the river and stop for ice cream. Other times our adventures have taken us only as far as our backyard, but a ride around the property on daddy's tractor sure seems pretty magical if you are a two year old little boy. Really, adventures are simply about enjoying and experiencing life together, and we have been doing a lot of that. It is as near perfect as perfect can be in this life, and I don't want to take a single moment of it for granted.

I think the reason that I am enjoying this season, these days so very much, is because all of our seasons together have not been like this. Last month, Boss and I celebrated nine years of marriage. Nine years and three beautiful children later, and sometimes I still feel like we are really just beginning. But one thing I know for sure is that it just keeps getting better. That first year of marriage? It was hard. Really hard. And some seasons after that were even harder. Two people prone to sin, blending two personalities, ideas, dreams into one life can get messy. It can be easy to want to give up. But I never once thought that we wouldn't make. And here we are. We have made it. And we will continue to make it. Because after every storm always comes the rainbow. The days where the sun shines just a little bit brighter. And those are the days we are living right now. And so I want to remember.

I want to remember how handsome Boss looks as he prunes trees, pushes little girls on swings, and chases Jack through the yard. I want to remember how Emma looks at almost eight years old, her hair growing longer, her body subtly beginning to change. Still very much little girl, but hints of maturity beginning to show from time to time. I want to remember Kate's laughter as she flys through the air on the wooden swing that hangs from our tree, and the way that she is still the first to fall asleep each night, her strawberry smelling hair on my pillow. And I want to remember my Jack boy, how funny he is, always making us laugh, but how he is still always the first to cover Mama in kisses. And toddler kisses are THE BEST. These are good, happy days and I want to savor them.

I know I said life was as close to perfect as perfect can be, but the reality is that it is still life. I have already gone over budget, and there are still two weeks left in this month before our next paycheck. Our bathroom sink leaks, and we found some rotting wood that needs replaced on the back of the house. No one wants to buy our 12 passenger van that we really want/need to sell. And just last week Boss and I had a disagreement over what our date night was going to look like. I was thinking dressing up and going out, he was thinking grabbing something from the cubbard and staying at home. No life threatening tragedies for sure, but daily things that can drain life in no time at all if you will let them. So I suppose no, it's not perfect. It's just life. But it's our life. It's our story. And most importantly, it's what we have. These days, this life, it is what our family has been given. And tonight? Tonight that is enough for me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A New Direction

As we have begun to get settled into our new home, I often find myself wandering from room to room looking for what needs to be changed here or what furniture should be moved there. One of my most favorite rooms is our new nursery, also known as Jack's room. When I first began decorating the nursery in my mind sometime after the first of the year, I was newly pregnant with our fourth baby. It was too soon in my pregnancy to know whether the little one inside of me would be another sister or a new baby brother, but of course I could not wait to find out the sex to begin decorating and purchasing items for the room, so I decided to go with a color scheme that would suit little boys and little girls.  I spent many hours on Pinterest and finally decided on what I wanted. Light tan walls with thick marshmallow stripes. A bright orange closet for housing favorite books and toys. A small white toddler bed for Jack, with polka dot bedding in orange, green, blue, red, and grey. Colorful Chinese party lanterns would hang above his bed for a burst of happy. We would keep his little black bookcase with the antique picture window hanging above it. I thought that maybe one day I would fill the slots of that window with some cheerful manners cards that I found on Etsy. The last piece of furniture to live in that room would be a small white crib, complete with a tan and white stripped sheet (to match the walls) and an orange crib skirt, perfect for housing a new brother or sister.

Because Boss is so super great, over the last several months, he has made Jack's room look exactly as I had envisioned in my head. It is happy, and bright, and cheerful, and every time I walk by the door I can't help but smile. The only thing missing of course, is the baby that I miscarried last February. Many times over the last several months as we worked on the house prior to moving in, I would stare at that crib and wonder what we should do with it. Should we get rid of it? Give it to someone else who was expecting a new baby? Or should we try again for another baby of our own? What was its purpose going to be in our new home? The purpose of the crib was something that I prayed about often. While the sadness over my miscarriage was gone, I felt no peace either way about what to do next.

When I first discovered I was pregnant with baby number four, I was elated. In all my life I have never felt as much joy as I did when I was carrying our fourth baby for those eight weeks. Being the Mama to four was a dream come true, and I thought for sure that once we were able to try again that I would want to. But that time came and went, and something held me back. Surprisingly it was not fear that held me back this time (for once in my life), but a lack of peace instead. I did not have peace about trying for another baby, no matter how much I thought that I wanted it. During my miscarriage I had asked God to give me 'new eyes' with which to see the world around me and my purpose in it, and somewhere along the way my vision for our empty white crib changed.

I actually remember the very first day that I knew what I wanted to do with our empty crib. I was walking around the beautiful campus of the children's home, and I was thinking about our upcoming move and what life would look like there. I pictured each room of our new home and tried to see in my mind our family living there. When I began picturing the nursery, the crib was there, only this time it was not empty. This time it held a little baby. A precious little foster baby. And when I pictured that, I smiled. That was exactly what I wanted to do with our little white crib, in our cheerful little nursery which I had carefully decorated to be suited for both baby boys and baby girls. I wanted to use our crib for babies (one at a time) to lay their heads in when they needed a place of comfort and safety in their lives, whether it be for a short season or a long one. I had long ago joked that I wanted to be a Baby Mama (a Mama to many babies), and I figured my new plan for our crib fit the Baby Mama bill pretty well. And most importantly, this new plan I was contemplating brought with it a huge amount of peace.

So we began to talk about fostering babies as a family. After a few discussions Boss, surprisingly, was on board, and so were the children, and we have continued to pray about it over the past few months. The first thing we ultimately decided on (as a family), was that we would not open up our home until the end of the summer when Boss heads back to work (yes, having a spouse who works in education and has summers off is AWESOME). This summer is for family fun, loving on our kids, and pouring everything that we have into both them and each other. But when the summer has come to an end, we will head off in our new direction.

I know some will think we are crazy. I have already gotten that response when I have told others about our new fostering decision, and I honestly expected that. After all, we just left behind a job where we cared for others and welcomed them into our family, so that we could focus more on our core unit of five. I kind of thought we were crazy for even discuusing it, too. But after much thought and prayer, what I realized, is that what we left behind was our crazy, busy, often hectic, hormonal teenager lifestyle. We did not leave behind our desire to love and serve others. Opening my home to children who don't have one is part of who I am. It is just going to look a bit different this time around.

This time around, we will be in our own home, not working as part of a group. This time around, my own children's birth order will not change (this was something that Emma expressed as being important to her). This time around, we will only take birth to two years (I was honestly shocked that there was a NEED for families who were willing to take infants in our area, as I figured all of those sweet ones would already be snatched up!), and this time around, we will only serve one child at a time (as opposed to five or six). And if we need to take breaks between placements? We can do that. And most importantly, along the way, we will continually be gaging our birth children's spirits to see how they are feeling about our ministry. Their opinions are super important to us, so we always include them in these types of choices we make that effect our entire family. So far, they are very happy and excited! In preparing for our move, I separated and washed all of our baby things 2T and under, and the girls helped me. We talked a lot about the little ones who might come our way and wear the tiny clothes we were folding. I am so proud of my children's open and caring hearts!

I will be honest here and say that sometimes I want to chicken out. Life on our own has been so stupendously nice, and sometimes I don't want it to end. On the mornings that I get to sleep in, I think about how I might have to soon get up with an infant, and I feel tired just thinking about it. But even after all of these months, the peace that I found when deciding to foster little ones has never wavered. It keeps me anchored in our decision. I kind of think that fostering is my love language to the world. Some people take care of the homeless, some volunteer, some teach Bible classes, some donate money, and me? I foster. It is my thing. It is our families thing. And while it might take on different shapes as our family grows, ages and changes over the years, I do believe that it will always be a part of who we are in one way or another. Our small way to make a difference in this great big world. A way we can say thank you to God, by sharing the love and the family that He blessed us with. Anything less than that doesn't feel right.

Sometimes, late at night after everyone else is asleep, I go into Jack's room and pray for the tiny ones who might sleep in that crib after Jack has outgrown it. I wonder what they will look like, and as hesitant as I sometimes feel, I can honestly say that I am so very excited! We will begin the process to transfer our license over here to our new home the week after next, and sometime in late summer/fall we hope to receive our first call. New directions can be scary, but I figure most beautiful and worthwhile things in life usually are. So I have decided to trump any and all fear with faith, because this is the story that He is writing for us, and I have peace that it  is going to be a good one.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Beginnings

Hello there! It has been quite some time since my thoughts have found their way to the pages of my journal here, but I knew that they would eventually find their way back. Somehow they always do. Life just seems more celebrated when it is recorded, and I suppose that tonight is as good a night as any to do a little bit of life celebrating! In our family, we are currently celebrating new beginnings. Actually, our family has been celebrating a new beginning for the past couple of weeks, because two weeks ago we moved. We really did. We didn't move far, but we did leave behind our home in the country sunshine and we have now settled into our new (to us) little cottage on Fieldcrest Lane. We have just gone a bit up the road to a new town, but it is a brand new beginning for us all the same.

For the last five years we have called the property of the children's home campus where we worked home. And it was. It was home to our little family of five. The first home we had ever really known together. We had lived several different places in our four years of marriage prior to coming to the campus of the children's home in 2007, but none of those other places were home. Those other places held adventures, some of them fun and some of them not so fun, but the grass always seemed to be greener somewhere else in those early days, so we never landed anywhere for long. We often joked that we were nomadic. Our parents didn't think the joke was quite so funny and sometimes questioned when we were going to settle down. I remember telling my mom that we would stop moving and settle down when we finally found our home. Our place in this world, if you will. And to tell you the truth, not for one second did I ever believe that the children's home campus would become home. I thought it would wind up being just another stop along the way. Maybe we would stay for one year, or maybe two. But never for one second did I ever imagine that we would live there for five happy years. That is because I never counted on us falling in love. But that is exactly what happened. We fell head over heels in love with the people, the property, and the purpose that we found there.

On that campus, my oldest daughter experienced her childhood, and I do believe that it was a happy one. On that campus, my youngest daughter went from being a chubby little one year old to a beautiful Kindergartner. We brought our son home from the hospital to that campus. We laughed, and we cried, and we experienced life together there. And there were many days, seasons, years where I imagined that our lives would always be that way. I believed that would be our forever home. That no matter how hard it got, or what challenges we faced while raising our children amidst teenagers who needed us, we would somehow find a way to make our life there work. But last year, things began to change. We began to notice some problems with the way our beloved daily lives were being played out.

Basically, what happened, what I hadn't counted on after falling in love, was that my own children started growing up. Slowly, but surely, I witnessed all of my little people growing and maturing. I saw it most especially in my oldest. For several years she was by my side as I worked with the teenage girls. She would sit quietly and color while I had meetings or dealt with behaviors. She was my little shadow, and for many years I did not believe that our work with the teenagers was having a negative impact on her or her siblings in any way. We just went about our lives as a regular family, even if our family looked a little bit different than most. When Emma reached school age we decided to keep her home for her education. It was something we had thought about, but hadn't necessarily planned on until we just did it. Homeschooling has turned into so much more for us, but it started simply because I worked with the teenagers after school and in the evenings, so I wanted all of my babies home with me during the day so that I could give them the time and attention that they deserved and needed. My little ones would get Mama during the day, and the teenagers would get Mama at night. (And Boss? Well, he seemed to get whatever was left over, but that's another post for another day.) And I sort of thought that trade off would be enough.

But over time, it proved that it wasn't, in fact,enough. My children didn't just need Mama during the day. They needed me to be their most important person all of the time. And I began to feel like there was not enough of me to go around. That was the first problem.The second problem was that as my children grew in stature, they also grew in understanding about things I did not want them to have an understanding about at their tender ages. I was not ready for my almost eight year old daughter to understand deeps things about drug addiction, abuse of every kind, or sexual promiscuity. I was not ready for her to encounter foul language on a regular basis, and I didn't want her witnessing teenagers she loved and admired be disrespectful towards authority. So the days of my children coloring by my side as I worked began to fade, and in their place came days where I had to ask my children to leave the room. Too many evenings went by where they were asked to leave Mama's side so that I could have a private conversation. And slowly, over time, our house began to feel a little bit less like a home, with our children in one room and Boss and I dealing with an issue (or two, or three) in another. Not every night was like this, but enough of them were. So eventually we began to discuss the fact that things might need to change.

At first, all we did was talk about possible changes. That was the most I could bring myself to do, because the thought of us actually leaving made me feel like I could not catch my breath. My heart hurt just thinking about it. And then last November, quite by accident, Boss and I found a charming little cottage home that we both loved. And it just happened to be for sale for a super great price. It was the very first place, other than our then current home, that we could actually see ourselves possibly living. So we prayed like crazy. And then we bought it. And a few months after that we decided that it would in fact be the next place that our family would call home. We put in our resignation at the children's home for the end of the school year, right around the time that two of our Seniors would be graduating. And then two weeks ago, over Memorial Day weekend, we loaded up a uhaul and headed up the road to our new beginning.

All I can really say now is that I feel blessed. I feel blessed that our paths crossed with Mid-Western and I feel blessed that we called the campus there home. There is not a thing about the past five years that I would change. I feel blessed because Boss will still work there. I feel blessed that the friends we made there became like family, and I feel blessed that they will continue to be a part of our lives. But I also feel blessed to call this new place we find ourselves in home. We have already spent more quality family time together in the last two weeks than we had in the past five years. It is a beautiful thing to get to know the four people that I love most in this world on an entirely new level, and I am excited to see our relationships with each other blossom and grow. This entire experience has been bittersweet. I am deeply thankful both for what was, and now for what is. And I am excited to see where this new beginning is going to take us.