Monday, December 30, 2013

Lessons of 2013

More for myself than for my readers (let's be honest here, do you really want to know how I've screwed up my life in the past year? We do live in the country of reality TV shows, so then again, probably!), here is a bullet point list of some of the big life changing lessons, some funny and some serious, that I have learned this year in 2013.

  • Ducks fly away. Clip their wings before it's too late, or the Chicago river will become home to your very delicious (and now inaccessible) flying food supply.
  • Very young children who insist that they are ready to sleep the entire night in underwear are probably lying. Put a pull-up on them or be prepared to wash your entire cupboard of bed sheets. 
  • When in doubt, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can stand in for any meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, etc. The kids will never complain about too much peanut butter and jelly. And you can check cooking off of your to do list until they are old enough to start washing the dishes.
  • Birth control is unreliable. And laughing about it turns out to be much better than crying. I'm still laughing. 
  • More people in the African-American community thank me for being a foster parent than Caucasians. The majority of white people just think we're crazy. I can't really blame them though, since I think we're crazy too.
  • My African-American daughters use more hair and skin products than I will ever need in my entire lifetime.
  • A period of waiting is a beautiful thing. Enjoy where you are, when you are. The future will always be there, but the present is so very fleeting.
  • Mini vans are awful for so many reasons, and I vowed for years that we would NEVER EVER EVER have one, but it turns out that when you have to fit five car seats and two adults in one vehicle, mini vans with a built in DVD player can actually be a blessing. And yes, I am so incredibly thankful for ours. 
  • True love is difficult. Learning to love children who are not your own, but who in many ways are your own for the time being, is not a fluffy lovey dovey Hallmark experience. It is hard. And it takes time. And I have to give myself grace and not feel guilty for loving my biological children more deeply than my foster kids who I have known for only two months. Love takes time. And bonding with a child doesn't happen overnight. Grace. 
  • Foster parents need counseling and therapy just as much (if not more) than foster children. Why do agencies not offer this as a free, optional service to their families? 
  • The second trimester of pregnancy is ten billion million thousand times better than the first one. I think even my toddlers can testify to this. I actually am starting to feel human again and can even stay up past eight o'clock at night!
  • Life goes fast. I had more sandwiches, tea parties, and craft time at this table with my older sister than I could ever count. I never thought that I would grow up so fast and see my own two girls sitting in the very same hand painted chairs together. Only God could be this good. But wow, does life go by fast.
  • Family here in the Chicago area to stay is so good. While I will miss the winter trips to warm sunny Mexico to visit family, I will not miss the distance, emptiness, and disconnect that comes from being so far from my family who is so dear to my heart. Having them in our lives again on a weekly basis brings so much joy to my life and to my girls. I am thankful. Because nothing beats this. 
After showering you with all my random bullet points, let me tie it all in together neatly. I think the main thing that I have learned this year is simply how to be thankful. I read the book One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp early into 2013. I took the dare and started a thankful list, giving thanks daily in little things and bit things and not so pretty things. My life has changed in many ways since I first read those words. I have learned a lot, fallen over and over again, been given grace, and will continue learning as my life seasons keep changing shape and function. In our current season of adding so many new lives to our family, I have realized that not all gifts seem to be good at first, but that's just our own broken human perspective. Because ALL gifts are from the Father. And ALL of His gifts are good. All of them. Even the ones that arrive with morning sickness, or who show up on your porch vulnerable, scared, and crying. The ones that arrive as food to share or presents to bless. The gifts of growth through pain and heartache. Through seasons of doubt and of fully trusting. All of these are GOOD. And God is in each and every one of them.

I end 2013 not with regrets or resolutions (failed at those last year anyway), but with a heart full of thankfulness. I am thankful that we said YES to opening our home to two little girls who had none. I am thankful that every day is filled with laughter and tears and growing and falling and getting back up again. I am thankful that we have been so privileged to be able to live out the Gospel of Jesus each and every day as we learn to love our kids and walk in Light and live Truth as a family. 
I am thankful for the hard days. And for the good ones. 
I am thankful that Jesus loves the least of these. And I am thankful that they sleep in our beds and carry our names and faces.

May the shalom of Christ Jesus be upon us as we walk into a new year, full of Hope, Light, Love, and Joy.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays!

From the six of us,
and our newest little surprise, due July 2014. :-)
Thank you for all of you who have supported us within the last two three months. Your prayers, support, meals and love have carried us through a lot of challenging days as we care for our growing family. 
For those of you who have continued to ask how you can support us, here is one really big way. 

Wishing you all a wonderful 2014!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

4 Tidbits on a Tuesday

I decided this afternoon to give you some fun tidbits from my life. Just in case you needed to laugh at someone's completely preposterous life, or even give you the chance to say, "Good heavens, at least we aren't in Beth's shoes!!" I wouldn't blame you if you did say that. Sometimes I even catch myself saying that before I realize that, yes, this is MY crazy preposterous life. And not someone else's.

Tidbit #1: Shopping locally and in season is easier said than done. And in the winter, I'm not so sure I can live without my citrus fruits and avocados. In the last two days I have eaten two very large and completely personal bowls of homemade guacamole all by myself. I would be perfectly happy doing that every day for the rest of my life, but let's be real here, I only get to the store every so often these days.

Tidbit #2: Due to the high number of young children in our home and given the fact that we lost our christmas shopping day to a day of family illness and barfing instead, I have had many friends offer to chip in and lend a hand with christmas shopping this year. I am not only deeply thankful for these lovely people, but I am also convinced that THIS IS THE WAY TO DO CHRISTMAS SHOPPING! Text or email your list and voila! It's delivered to your door (along with some cans of soup and more crackers and gatorade). Seriously, personal shoppers must make a killing. Also, Amazon and I are inseparable. Thank goodness for Prime.

Tidbit #3: Remember all those cute little ducklings that hatched this summer? They grew up. Aren't they handsome?
And then we ate them. 
Oh my YUM, they were so delicious. Yard-to-table Thanksgiving success. Even Lexi approved. ;-)

Tidbit #4: One of the things that I don't love about winter is all the inside living that we do. If you know me, you know that I am a complete, 100% introvert who doesn't like to go out much, really. The more out and about I am, the more stressed I become. In the summer I spend my days in the yard working in the garden, playing with the kids in grass, or walking around the neighborhood and visiting local parks and libraries. In the winter, we stay home. Yes, this get's old fast, but wouldn't you be stressed by the thought of taking four children three and under anywhere? Just thinking about going to the grocery store with all of them just about gives me a panic attack. So don't judge me just yet. You can do that in a minute, when the story gets really out of control.

Ok, so back to inside living. When everyone is inside all the time, with the heat on and windows shut, what is the logical thing that happens? You start noticing smells. Everything and everybody stinks. The kids stink, the cats stink, the bedrooms stink, the garbage stinks, the whole house stinks, and then, the worst part of all, the refrigerator starts to stink.

I noticed it about two weeks ago. Every time someone would open the fridge to rummage for something, a powerful smell would seep out and literally almost knock you out. If smells had a color, this one wouldn't even be green. It would be brown. It was THAT bad. So out of the goodness of my heart, I planned on searching the fridge for the answer. But then we got the stomach flu. And everyone was throwing up anyway, so cleaning the fridge became less of a priority and cleaning Lyla's crib for the fifth time became more of one.

We got better, everyone stopped puking, and people started to want to eat real food again. Which meant opening the refrigerator to retrieve the food. In retrospect, I think I could have gone on eating crackers and drinking gatorade for a bit longer... I almost died when that door was opened. I really believed something was dead in there. It smelled that bad. And not only did it smell just when you opened the fridge, but the smell would seep out and linger. In fact, someone on the other side of the house would know when the fridge was opened because the smell was so strong. After two weeks of cringing in the house when someone wanted food, I finally worked up the resolve to FIND WHATEVER IT WAS THAT HAD DIED IN THERE.

And find it, I did.

Way back on the top shelf, hidden by bags of whole wheat flour and various salsas, was a plastic jar (with a lid on it) filled with water and (what used to be) little crowns of broccoli. Now it was mostly just a garish green liquid and GAAaaarglebbblththththth did it smell something awful! After all, it had only been hiding there since mid October......[insert disgusted stomach wrenching groans here]. As soon as I removed it from the fridge and put it in its rightful place in the dumpster outside, the smell had completely 100% vanished from the fridge. Gone. Just like that.

The funny thing is, even though the fridge no longer smells, I still find myself cringing every time I or someone else opens it, and then am shocked to not be gagging by the smell that no longer exists. Yep, I think we waited a little too long to take care of that one. Blame it on the kids.

Anyway, the kids still stink, as do their bedrooms and some of the rest of the house (can someone please come over and potty train two cute little girls???), but at least our food portal is clean.

Hope you enjoyed some of our crazy. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Remembering October

Hey, remember October?!?

I hardly do. But since I am going through pictures, I had some of my memory return. We went camping, and then a week later, Eric's folks came to visit. The day they left was the same day we got our foster placement, which explains my lack of cute pictures. So here's a flash back to a colorful, fun week in October, right before the chaos of doubling our family ensued. ;-)

 Planting our first pear tree.

 The girls loved to listen to Grandpa play his french horn every morning.
 We spent one morning at a gorgeous forest preserve just outside of Chicago.

 Alli and her bff.

 Lyla's reaction here is my favorite. ;-) I don't think she liked the leaves that much.

 Because Eric's folks were here right before Halloween, we did a fun little dress rehearsal with the girls. I'm glad I did (clearly Lyla is not!) because on Halloween it was dark, pouring rain and the girls abandoned their cute costumes at the last minute for their ballet tutus instead. Thankfully, I will no forever remember my happy ladybug and the disgruntled flower.

I mean seriously. It must hurt to be this cute. :-)
Thankful in remembering October.

Life in December

I took a hiatus from writing for a few weeks while battling some serious seasonal blues, major discipline battles with one of our recent arrivals, extremely cold temperatures, and then a lovely week long episode of the stomach flu, which hit five of the eight people living in our home. Before the flu outbreak happened, we did make it out to a tree farm to get our christmas tree. It is a family tradition to get a real tree every year, and this year was no exception. It was a gorgeous day, and I believe all of 7 degrees outside. 

 I think this was the only smile we saw for the rest of the morning. The kids were sniveling whiny messes within five minutes of being out of the car... Oh, sweet holiday memories. :-)
 Do you see the overabundance of little people we have in our care? The two girls in the pink patterned coats are our newest arrivals, who happen to share the same initials, making it tricky for me to distinguish between them in writing.

 Despite our fingers being frozen solid by the time we got it cut, we did find a beautiful tree! It has brightened up our home in lovely ways since putting all the lights and ornaments up. After tying the tree to the roof of our car, we ended up driving over to my parents place and staying the night there for some much needed "family care." I am so blessed to have my family in the same country and state as me again!
 A few days later, it started snowing. The snow has continued off and on for the past week, making the outside world just a little more pleasing to the eye. Lyla finds that balancing can be difficult sometimes.

 Lexi taking charge as usual. 
 Another crash, followed by a supermodel marshmallow pose and smile.
Lyla quiet and unassuming...
...gets caught up in an evil plan hatched by the older sister...
 ...who decides it will be funny to throw a snowball at Lyla's face and neck. 

 This is the grin of Victory, apparently.