Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The year God asked us to do something we said we'd never do.

I haven't blogged in so long. I'm not even sure I remember how to do it. But, God is rearranging our year and it's time we share about it.

In the very early days of dating, we had a vision for our lives. One part of this vision included international adoption. We had multiple discussions about it, and determined that yes indeed, this was our plan. Of course we had a passion for orphans, but this desire reached deeper than rescuing someone. We felt that this was just a part of God's plan to grow our family. To those outside of the adoption arena, it really isn't any different. Maybe just a slight different way of explaining it. Either you know someone out there needs you, or you know that your child is out there and just needs to be brought home. I'd say for the first few years of our marriage, we talked about adoption with the emphasis on filling a need. Within the past 2 years, God has impressed on us that "our" child is out there, and needs to be brought home. Emotionally, those are two very different callings. One says "be ready to pursue this whenever the time is right". The other says "we need to find a way to bring our child home". Through all of this, one big thing we agreed on during years and years of discussions was that we were NOT interested in the foster system. "You never know what you're getting!" "I don't want the county in my home, telling me what I can and cannot do!" "I won't live my life scared to death that I'll run into someone's biological mother in Target!" These things were all said. By me. And so we did what any normal married couple would do. We started looking at international agencies. We started to choose a country. We looked at time frames, and requirements. We had lengthy talks with the kids about what to expect. We decided this would be the year we would take the first step in pursuing this calling. Approximately a week before Christmas, 2013, I was driving alone in the car. I was heading to Target to pick up a few last minute gifts and I had a very strong feeling that I needed to turn off the radio and drive in silence. And so I did. What happened next was surreal and out of this world and so overwhelmingly straight from God that I'm not even sure I know how to explain it. But within a 20 second period of time, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that we were supposed to be foster parents. I was shocked, and couldn't think straight, and kept saying "what!? Are You sure God? That was one of those things we swore we'd never do!" The next hour that I spent walking through Target is a blur. I do remember praying for Seth. I prayed that God would prepare his heart to hear what I needed to tell him when I got home. I was scared that he would freak out, or think I was weird to admit I had a supernatural experience while driving to the store, or say that he wasn't willing to be a part of the foster system. When we did talk about it later that night, his only response was "well okay then! let's do it!" :) I think when you first agree on something, you enter a honeymoon phase of that new idea. Everything was rosey and sunshiney and seemed so perfect. We could grow our family without forking out tens of thousands of dollars! Hurray! And we didn't have to travel! (I HATE traveling and it scares me out of my mind) It seemed like we were definitely getting off easy, that's for sure. We certainly didn't tell any family members, for fear that they would try to talk us out of it. Actually I think we were so fearful of judgment from just about everyone that we kept it quiet for a few months. I started doing some research, figured out who I needed to talk to, and what the process would be like. We sort of hung out in the research phase until March, and that's when we started contacting our county. It has moved VERY quickly from there. We spent April writing our autobiographies, having physicals done, and filling out a massive stack of paperwork. We have attended three lengthy classes, and have completed our home study. We've made decisions on what age groups we're open to, and the amount of disabilities we are okay with taking care of on a daily basis. Our eyes have been opened VERY widely to what is really going on in our very own county. It's sickening and heart breaking and wrong. We live in a state that is ALL for reunification. From a biological mom's point of view, that's wonderful! From a foster mom's point of view, you are really just preparing yourself for an emotional roller coaster. When the county asks you to take a child, they are asking that you love that child like it's your very own. It's 24/7, physical and emotional and psychological care. In the state of PA, you can have a foster child for as a long as TWO YEARS and then the judge can still rule to reunite that child with a biological family member. Two years of bonding and care and adjusting to your new family is a long time.  And then you let that child go back to live a normal life with their own family again. That is tough. We've had many "I can't do this" moments. We are scared out of our minds. I feel like God has commanded us to jump off a cliff. I keep screaming "But God!?! Do you have any idea how risky and dangerous this is!? What, are You CRAZY!?!" And yet He keeps reminding us that we can't see the bigger picture. We don't know how this will work out, and we're not supposed to. I don't want to admit it, but in our American Christian culture, we are either viewed as saints, or idiots. "Oh that's wonderful! You guys are so selfless. How incredible this is that you are willing to do this!" Or on the contrary: "really? aren't you afraid they are going to pick up a kitchen knife and murder you while you sleep? Why would you want to mess up your perfectly organized little family?" :) Early on in this journey, we received a note in the mail from a somewhat new friend. The note said "we want you to know we are covering you in prayer during this whole process. We are your prayer partners through this." I broke down and cried. No advice, no feedback, no unearned praise, and no judgment. Just genuine support through prayer. That means the world. If you think we are happily skipping through this journey, anxious to hold our newest little bundle of joy, you are wrong. We are terrified. We know this is risky, and probably dangerous. We know there will be furious biological parents involved, and a million case workers and attorneys and judges. There will be many, many tears. But at the end of the day, I come back to this: if the roles were reversed, I would want someone to do it for my kids. And so, we are nearing the end of the process. By the end of the month, we should be legally licensed to accept foster children. We have absolutely NO idea what we are getting, so there is absolutely NO way for us to prepare. Do we buy extra bunk beds, or extra cribs? Stock up on diapers, or underwear? Will we get someone in June? July? August? December? They told us sometimes the kids are walking through your door while the ink of your signature is still wet. Other times you could be licensed for 4 months before you ever receive a phone call. This whole "willing to wait" and "trying to get ready" thing is for the birds. The whole foster system is so broken, and the caseworkers are the first to admit it. But God has asked us to open our home, and our hearts, and be willing to love. And so I sit here, wanting to move around furniture and paint and add extra shelves in the closets, because emotionally I am grasping for a way to prepare. Mentally, I know there is no way to prepare for what is about to come. It's like walking blindfolded. But sometimes that's what God asks. The other day Caden yelled from his bedroom, "Mom! Can we make sure the foster kid is old enough to help clean up our room???" LOL Sometimes all you need is some comic relief. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fruit Rollups

I didn't take a single picture. I'm sorry. Even Seth asked if I was documenting it. I guess I expected this recipe to fail. Most would call these "fruit leathers", and that title brings to mind a semi sweet "snack" that a weird pine cone eater family would eat. I didn't really think we'd like them. So I didn't take pictures. It was just my whim of the day. I had 3 lbs of frozen strawberries and an entire day at home, so I made them. What resulted was a new addiction. For all 5 of us. These were better than good. Tremendous. And guilt free. Planning my 1/2 acre strawberry patch in the very back of our property so I can make these every week. :)

You will need:

3 lbs fresh or frozen berries.
2 T lemon juice
1/2 C honey
1 C applesauce

Dump the lemon juice and the berries in a pot over medium heat. Cook, while stirring, until the fruit is completely soft. Pass the fruit through a food mill or sieve to remove skins (if doing blueberries) and/or seeds (for strawberries).  I didn't do this part because quite frankly I didn't want to have to wash my sieve. Lazy bones. So we spent 2 days picking strawberry seeds out of our teeth. :)

Add the honey and applesauce and stir thoroughly.

Line baking sheets or large pans with parchment paper and pour the puree onto them. The thinner your layer is the quicker it will dehydrate. Mine were a little thinner than a store-bought fruit rollup.

Set your oven at its lowest possible temperature (165 is ideal) for 12 - 20 hours or until dry (but somewhat sticky to the touch).

Take out of the oven, cut into strips, roll them up, and snack away! :)

This recipe came from Alana Chernila's book "The Homemade Pantry".

The next time I do it I'll make a double batch. We went through them too quickly and I would've loved to have some to store. Also, I would leave my oven door open the entire time. The recipe doesn't call for it, but you need somewhere for the moisture to escape while they are drying in the heat. I kept my door closed for about 10 hours and they weren't any drier than when I first put them in there. Mr. Wonderful suggested opening the door and they were done within 2 hours :)

They were OHHHHHHH so good. Very sweet and sticky and not at all pine cone eater-ish. :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

On my 29th...

I thought it would be fun to list 29 quirky facts about myself. So here goes....

1. I am extremely self conscious and am scared to death of growing older.

2. I like watching my husband work a chainsaw.

3. I absolutely love homeschooling.

4. I prefer my own coffee over Starbucks.

5. I have a serious crush on our woodstove.

6. When I was little my toes were so crooked the doctor suggested breaking them so they could grow straight. Thankfully my mother let them alone and they straightened out on their own.

7. I wanted to be the woman who birthed her babies at home in the tub.

8. I am a physical touch person. I hate giving it, but love receiving it. I ask for a foot rub every night.

9. I met my very closest friends through my husband.

10. In 6 1/2 years of parenthood, we've only spent 1 night away from the kids.

11. I want to be a farmer when I grow up. :)

12. I dream of moving back to Potter County and living off the land.

13. I struggle with anxiety.

14. I'm thankful for a husband who puts up with a wife who wakes up in the middle of the night scared to death and shaking like a leaf for no apparent reason.

15. I'm addicted to sugar.

16. I love confrontation. Let's sit face to face, scream and cry, and get everything out in the open.

17. I don't feel comfortable around people when I know there's an entire barrel of unresolved issues standing between us.

18. I trust God with eternity, but struggle trusting Him with my kids.

19. I hate politics.

20. My husband and I have no secrets. Seriously.

21. My ideal Christmas wish list consists of a tub of coconut oil, picnic table, 6 chickens, 3 goats, and 2 pigs :)

22. I have a strong desire for more children.

23. I love my sister for driving 35 minutes on my birthday just to give me a hug and a Mountain Dew, even though she's coming back tonight for my party :)

24. I was served breakfast in bed with a gift every single morning of every single birthday growing up.

25. This morning I was up at 5:45am, started 3 loaves of bread, and read a farm book. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

26. I wish I weighed 115 lbs. I wish my hair was down to my waist. I wish I could give up dairy and sugar so my skin would be pretty. I wish I had a "Big Berkey" water filtration system. I wish I had antique braided rugs and a never ending supply of hand-spun yarn.

27. I love my house. I love my yard. I love all these trees. I love these old hardwood floors. I love my laundry line. I love my raised beds. I love the color of my eyes. I love my ankles. I love my natural hair color. I love each of my kids. I love that my family is close.

28. I would love a navy blue '89 Volvo 740.

29. I love that my husband knows me better than anyone in the whole world, and still chooses to stick around. I love that he wants to live off the grid. I love that he wants me home. I love that he chops wood and hunts and wrestles with the kids and makes a mean pot of rice. I love that we fight like cats and dogs. I love that we make fun of ourselves. I love that he won't let me move our bedroom furniture around at midnight. I love how he drives. I love being his wife. :)

Happy birthday to me! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

lessons I'm learning and what our typical day looks like

I think we're on week 6 or 7 with school. It took us WAY longer to find our new routine this year. New books. New house. Different family dynamic. But we've finally found a way that works for us, for now. I've been learning more and more about how struggles are used at times to shine a light on our weak areas. This year, I am learning.....

1. I am not a morning person. I stay in bed until the last possible second. And then I need "me time". I flip on a movie so they all stay quiet and still. I check emails, blogs, start laundry, wash dishes, etc. And then I'm too cold to jump in the shower, so I just change into sweats. We eat breakfast, and I lock myself and a child in the music room for 30 minutes - 1 hour. And then I switch kids. It's 11:00 before we even open a book. Shame shame. This has to change. I'm going to have to make myself into a morning person. Ugh. 
 (the dreaded morning when I realize we're out of granola. sorry kids. breakfast won't be ready for another hour)
 (hanging laundry before the sun is completely up because now it takes an entire day to dry one load)
 (did I mention it was only 49 degrees?)

2. I prefer things to stay tidy. As in, I'd rather have a child watch a movie while waiting to do a math lesson then to get the puzzles out. Because puzzles make a mess. Movies do not. Megan says "keep it put away, picked up, and quiet" but these kids will apparently learn more if we adopt the "paper, glue and board games can be readily available" mind set. I am learning :)
 (I really don't mind washing it, hanging it on the line, or folding it. The "putting it away" part gets me every time)

3. Kids are way smarter than I give them credit for. I read a book recently and was immediately convicted about reading the "real" Bible to them every day. Not just their story book Bibles. Wish you could've witnessed the giggles and jaw dropping stares as I read the story of Abram lying to Pharoah about Sarai being his sister, instead of his wife. I was all "my word! they're actually listening! and comprehending!" :)
 (reading Genesis during breakfast every day)

4. I am selfish. If we have an "enriching" day of school (meaning I take the time to explain things more, make enough copies to ensure all 3 being involved, etc) we aren't done before 3pm. I hate it. I know we'll get faster as the year progresses, and sure, there are things I could cut out. But I'm really starting to love our curriculum. And they are learning so dang much. Just the other day I said "I just want to read my library books. That's all. Remember when I used to have time to read library books!?!" Homeschooling is very time consuming. And very good at stripping away selfish desires. I'm learning that for now, this season of my life demands that I invest in their education. 

 (practice practice practice....)


 ("lego breaks" aka mommy needs a moment to collect her sanity)

4. I am not a patient person. "You've got to be kidding me. You just read this word on the last page and you forget already!? Come on! Turn your brain on!" :) Okay, not every day is that bad. Last night Silas said "mom, I don't like your low voice. Just your higher, nice voice." "You mean the low voice I use when I'm upset?" "Yeah, I like your higher one better." So today I purposed to use a high voice through the entire reading lesson. Patience, patience patience...

 (easy readers. there are stacks everywhere. thank heavens for the library. I was recently informed that the Little Bear series is not cool. Apparently now there are easy readers with Scooby Doo, Star Wars and Lego titles. these are the "cool" ones. duh, mom)
 ("snuggly school": school work done on the couch during a rainy day)

5. We all need breaks! Forcing them to play outside ("you are not allowed back in for 10 minutes") works especially well!
 (pirates....on their ship....watching for the enemy)
 (a study on insects. the science curriculum left something to be desired on this subject, so we improvised and came up with our own study)
 (times 3. can't leave anyone out!)
 (still smiling by the time dinner rolls around! we survived another day!)
 (note to self: you aren't allowed to start dough at 9:30pm anymore. you will be exhausted and want to go to bed)
 (planning out the next day. without a plan, the people parish. smile)
(homemade, whole wheat, egg and dairy free soft pretzels. not very tasty at midnight. :) but the kids loved them the next day!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why this mean mother keeps dragging her boys to violin lessons.

Ah. The violin. Now this is a post that is guaranteed to stir up controversy. (grin) How in the world did we start the kids in violin? WHY in the world did we start the kids in violin? And, my favorite question I've been asked, "how long are you going to make him do it?" Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Here we go...

My oldest started begging for a violin when he turned 4 years old. This mother's heart was beaming with pride and I was sure this was a sign of greatness. We held him off for an entire year because I was terrified of living vicariously through him. I was bred to be a pianist. My grandmother was a church pianist. My mother was a church pianist. I am a church pianist. I studied classical piano with a WONDERFUL teacher for my last two years of high school and was practicing 4 hours a day. Music is in my blood! I was jumping for joy when I thought my 4 year old had inherited my musical genes. And so it happened, on his 5th birthday, he received his very first violin. It was magical. It was dreamy. And he was enthusiastic. This lasted for approximately 3 weeks. I would round him up every day for a practice session and I was shocked at how slowly he would walk towards me. I even occasionally saw a roll of the eyes! Ah! Heaven forbid. What happened to my budding virtuoso!? Let me be honest and say that things just got worse. We never had to deal with a screechy sound (thankful for high quality instruments!), but as soon as it got difficult, he just lost interest. I thought I was doomed. There were certain days upon arriving at his weekly lesson that he wouldn't even walk towards his teacher when she asked him to! I was mortified, and it was quickly followed by the meanest mommy look I could muster. My sweet, innocent, precious baby boy could actually be disrespectful! I had seen disobedience before, of course. But none of my children had been able to produce a large enough amount of disrespect for any of us to even notice. That is, until things got hard. Of course this is when the questions started. Why is he taking lessons if he's not loving it? Why the violin? When are you going to let him quit? Let me tell you, I've had many quiet heart-to-hearts with myself, contemplating these questions.

-Why the violin?
Well, quite frankly, I believe it is the easiest instrument for very young children to learn. I was VERY much against the Suzuki method until I found a Suzuki teacher who was willing to also teach them theory. As a pianist, I knew how important it was to read music. I needed to know my kids were learning how to read music.

-Why isn't he loving it?
He loves his violin teacher. Absolutely adores her. He loves his lessons. But what he hated was practicing. This was eye-opening for me. I truly believe I was the contributing factor to him not loving his practice times. I get frustrated easily, and tend to expect a lot out of my kids. So if a new skill was difficult, I've had to learn tactics to take the drudgery out of it. This has been a growing experience for me! I can zap the fun out of anything. It's true. :) So it was humbly to realize that I was the main reason that his practices were so difficult.

-When are you going to let him quit?
Hm. Well, to answer this question you have to first ask yourself the reason why you started in the first place. At first we started because we indeed believed he was a prodigy. Ha. Ha. Ha. Every parent believes their child is something extraordinary. Let me tell you that after 1 1/2 years of lessons, I can guarantee that he is NOT a prodigy! LOL :) So do we have high hopes of him joining a conservatory? Heck no! Our #1 reason for not allowing him to quit is because sometimes it's good for your kids to have to do something hard. People, we homeschool. He can do school in his jammies if he wants. He gets a million breaks, and gets to watch tv in the afternoon. Nothing in his life is hard! :) So the reason for the violin? At this point it is SOLELY for the purpose of character building. There are a whole pile of specialized character building books, curriculum, etc. My kids can to learn it while also learning how to play an instrument. Two for the price of one! :) Soooooo, if our main purpose in taking violin lessons is to build character, then go ahead. Ask me again. When are we going to let him quit? :)

Violin lessons have been the refining fire. For all of us. My husband has to fork out the money for something he isn't seeing immediate results with. I have to choose.....ugh, yes, choose......to gather him each and every day to practice and practice and practice. This child has to choose to speak respectfully and work hard, even if he doesn't feel like it. What a priceless lesson to learn.

p.s. baby #2 started lessons in august. heaven help me! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On his 5th birthday...

The 14th of this month marked 5 years. We had prayed for this baby. Night after night of asking God to bless us with another life. How quickly I became pregnant again. Tears of joy after reading those results. Just pure excitement. Absolutely perfect pregnancy. Planning on a VBAC. And at 26 weeks Seth confesses that he doesn't feel peace about it. For some reason, he just didn't think that was the best decision for us. So after all the work I did to find a doctor who would take the risk to deliver a VBAC baby 16 months after a c-section, I called up my original OB and we scheduled a cesarean. I was too afraid to not follow his gut instinct. We had chosen the name Logan in the case that I was carrying a boy. It was sophisticated. Preppy. Everything we assumed our 2nd baby would be. But something weird happened on the day of the ultrasound. We saw the color orange. And rock climbing. I can't explain it. I know we're weird. But we both walked out of there knowing this child was not meant to be named Logan. So then we settled on Owen. But problem #2 arose. We live in the Owen J. Roberts school district. We already determined this baby's middle name was going to be John, after my father-in-law. So having a child named Owen John Roberts was just weird. So we dove into baby name books for weeks. And settled on Caden. It was the only name that we could agree on. Neither one of us had a bad association with someone named Caden. :) The morning that we left for my scheduled c-section, we tiptoed into Silas' room to say goodbye and I lost it. I felt as though we were ruining his life. He would no longer get the same amount of attention that he had grown accustomed to. And I was scared. Quite frankly I doubted that I could love another child as much as I loved my first. I didn't want to have to love him less, in order to have more room in my heart to love the next one. And I was scared to death to go through another cesarean. The first one was a piece of cake. I had labored for 24 hours and I would've blown that child out of my nose if I had to. But this was so different. I was well rested. Not quite 38 weeks along. Still very comfortable. And I knew what to expect. Thankfully excitement ruled fear, and his delivery went flawlessly. Except for one part. My OB leaned over the blue curtain with sharp tools in his hands to say it was a darn good thing I had another section. The wall of my uterus was paper thin. He put the pressure of a butter knife on it and it tore right open. If I had tried for a VBAC, it would have ruptured. His life, as well as mine, would have more than likely been lost. I've taken Seth's gut feeling very seriously ever since then. My baby boy was born covered in white hair. It was hilarious. I burst into tears and said "I LOVE having babies!" And then I said "he looks exactly like your grandfather!" :) Funny the little things you remember. Caden was a tough baby. Or should I say life was tough when he was a baby. Seth worked 2 jobs and was busy from 8am - 2am the following day. We were going through a tough transition. I was quickly realizing Seth wasn't the person I thought he was when we married, and vice versa. We had 2 boys, 16 months apart. I was very much a single mother....emotionally, more than financially or physically. Caden was diagnosed with allergies early on. And I didn't "get" him. He wasn't like me. He has the exact personality of Seth. And that was hard for me to accept. I spent the first 4 years of his life always a little offended. He didn't talk openly to me. He didn't want to cuddle on the couch. He wasn't self-motivated. He didn't care about making people laugh. He was completely and utterly independent. Or so I thought. But of course God gives us what He knows is best for us. I have been stretched in so many ways. Caden feels love differently than I do, or any of our other children do. I've had to learn this new way of showing him love. And he shows love differently. And I've had to learn to put away my selfish desires for a child who totally depends on me emotionally, and learn to connect and bond with a child who can seem very distant at times. It's him. It's the person God created him to be. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. And I love it. I never had to love Silas less, so I would have room to love Caden. God opened up a whole new portion of my heart that He created only for this child.

He has a dry sense of humor. Is allergic to dairy, eggs, kiwi, and wool. He's our animal lover. Dreams about superheroes. Is a puzzle genius. Requires the most sleep. Is braver than his big brother. Doesn't feel he has anything to prove. And loves shoulder to shoulder time. Sit beside him (without cuddling and asking him a million times if something is wrong or if we can hold hands. hehe...) and watch a movie. Or just sit in the driveway as he rides his bike. Or hand him a paint brush. Or listen as he yells out answers to math problems that his big brother is struggling with. He's in love with girls. Has been in the ER twice. Can be best buddies with his little sister. Asks if I sleep with my bra on, and if I put a new one on every day. :) And will sob uncontrollably at the end of the 2nd Lady and the Tramp when Tramp's son (the puppy) is stuck in the cage at night and is scared. This child has taught me way more than I've taught him. Can't believe he's 5.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Nightstand

I've been in a book mood. We're approaching the end of summer (my very least favorite season), gearing up for school, and making more frequent trips back to the library. There's not much enjoyable about snuggling up with 3 sweaty kids on the couch to read for 30 minutes. The Mr. has to be in bed by 9pm to get sufficient sleep before his alarm goes off at 1:30am for work. And I am a NIGHT OWL. This has been a somewhat stretching experience for me, to say the least. :) So I've been trying to read. We crank the window air conditioner unit and I put on a teeny tiny light. Here's the stack I've been going through. I find it hard to read just one book, beginning to end. Because my mood changes by the night (poor Seth), I'm never in the mood to read the same thing two nights in a row. Thus the stack. 

- Almost Amish - this is the story of a family that goes from high class activities and enjoying a successful physician's paycheck, to completely simplifying their entire lifestyle. Very inspiring. And the cover is GORGEOUS.

- Bringing Up Bebe - from the library. One woman's account of the different ways in which French parents raise their children. Eye opening! But hard to not think "I wish so-and-so would read this...." while you're reading it :)

- Julia's Hope - I am NOT a fiction girl. CANNOT stand fiction. But this, I like. Because it may or may not be about a young mom during the Great Depression who has to pick weeds in the backyard to feed her family. Not that I'm in to that sort of thing or anything..... ;)

- The Backyard Homestead - more of a reference manual. They share step by step plans how a family of 4 could live off the land on as little as 1/10 of an acre. Astonishing.

- The Dirty Life - one of my all time favorites. Reading it for the 3rd time. A writer from NYC meets a farmer living off the grid. They fall in love. She leaves the city. True story. Ahhhh.....

- Real Marriage - Driscoll's new book on sex, friendship, and life together. Driscoll has been a favorite of Seth's for a few years, so I kind of got it to show him my support. I never expected to actually like the book. LOVE their writing style. LOVE their openness. Would recommend it to any married couple.

- The Homemade Pantry - a mother's day gift. They know me too well. 101 foods you can stop buying and start making. Her descriptions of the recipes themselves will melt your heart. I love her. And her food. Photography is AMAZING. Will be pouring over it for years.