The Long and Winding Road.....

Nate's finalization Nov. 2009

Monday, May 17, 2010

Joys of parenthood

DON'T BE DECEIVED BY THIS SWEET FACE (but seriously, isn't he adorable?):


Monday, April 19, 2010

Which ones are yours?

Okay, it is finally time for a post about what NOT to say to a foster parent. Many of these things also crossover for what not to say to an adoptive parent, but for now, we'll focus on fostering. For the most part, I don't get upset when confronted with an ignorant comment. goes back to the intention vs. perception stuff. But seriously, I just want to give the world a lesson somedays. Since this is my only soapbox, here are the things I would teach the world (after teaching them to sing and buying them a Coke, of course).

1. People ask me all the time "which ones are yours?" - meaning which ones are foster children. It is typically asked in front of all my kids. Don't do it. Just don't. It's extremely rude to ALL of my children. Do you realize how that makes them feel? While they are in my home, they are treated like they are my children. If they are in our home as foster children, they already feel like they don't have a place where they belong. We are doing our best to balance their lives between our home and their birth home. They typically (in my experience anyway) want desperately to be a part of a family, and not be set apart from the family they are with. They also remain extremely loyal to their birth family, and don't want to feel pressured to forget them in any way. It is a delicate balancing act, and asking a question like this just reminds them once more that they are different, and not in a quirky, fun sort of way. For my kids that are adopted- it makes them feel like they are not worthy of being called mine because they were adopted. They don't make any distiction between themselves and our foster children, because we as parents don't. My answer to this question is typically "They are all mine, I just didn't give birth to any of them".

genetics are over rated. These are my kids. I am their mom, whether it be forever or for a while.

2. The most common response I hear upon others learning we are foster parents is
"I could never do that, I'd get too attached"
or " " " " I couldn't give them back"
or " " " " it would be too hard" "it would break my heart" etc...

Do you seriously think we have steeled our hearts so we don't get attached? Of COURSE we get attached. I mourn each child that leaves. I cry. I pout. I rant abou the unfairness of the system. and then we turn around and do it again. Why? because it's not about me. A child- an innocent child, needs a home. sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a few months, sometimes for a few years. And MOST of the time, they go back home. You are not given a choice about this. You can't just keep them because you WANT to. You have to give them back. It IS hard. It DOES break my heart. Every. Single. Time. Somebody asked me once if I ever got used to the heartache. Nope. I hope I never do. If we get used to it, it is time to stop. The boy we had the longest before going home was here for 7 months. I'll call him little T. He was actually placed with us as a "tentative" adoptive placement. He'd been in foster care in another placement since his birth, and came to us around 6 months of age. The birth parents were non-compliant with the case plan, and the case worker was going to ask for severance. That was a wake-up call for his birth mom, who started doing what was needed to have little T (and his 4 older siblings) come home. As devastating as it was to pack up all of little T's things, and put him in the caseworker's van, we are so thankful for the time we had with him. And it felt good to be a part of putting his family back together again. I sent him with a billion pictures and a 5 page letter to his mom, describing all his milestones and accomplishments while at my house, and gave her all our contact info. Amazingly, his mom called me after he'd been back home for about 6 months to let us know how he was doing. This is NOT typical, but I am so thrilled to still get occassional updates and pictures of our little man. So my advice to anyone considering fostering... or even adopting, is to NOT make the birth parents the enemy. In a perfect world, you all work together to do what is best for the child. It doesn't always work out that way, but sometimes it does. We choose hope most days. Sending them back home IS what you signed up for as a foster parent. like it or not. Just think of the story of the little red hen. If we don't do it, who will?
And for the record, we don't think everyone could or should be foster parents. It's not easy. It's not for everyone. Only you can decide what's best for your entire family, and hopefully you make it a matter of prayer. I do wish more people would at least put aside their fears of the unknown and at least consider it. Maybe give it a shot. I always tell my 7 year old that it is okay to fail, but it isn't okay to just not try.

3. "Will you get to adopt them?" - The short answer is No. That is not why we foster. It is not a means to an end for us. There are Fost/adopt families. Those are families that take foster children that have already had their parental rights severed. Sometimes the kiddos are "legal risk" placements, meaning their parental right have NOT been severed yet, but they are expected to be. But we are just regular ole foster parents. MOST children in foster care are eventually returned to their birth parents, or end up in a relative placement. IF the children in our care become available for adoption, we are an adoptive family as well, So we jump at the chance to adopt them if we can. But we say all the time "it's not over 'til it's over". Even if they become available for adoption, it is not a given that we would be able to adopt them. Sometimes a long lost relative will step forward, or the judge will decide a different placement is best (not all foster families even want to adopt).

4. "Why are they in care? is it drugs?" Please don't be offended when I tell you that it is none of your business. I'll try to say it in a nicer way than that, really! Our foster children have a right to privacy (the same reason I don't post their names or pictures). That information is on a strictly "need to know" basis, and there are very few people that need to know. However, once I went overboard with my "need to know" rules. I had a friend watch a little guy for me that had been drug exposed and still had occassional tremors. I forgot to mention the tremors, because they weren't anything to worry about. She didn't know that. She thought he was having seizures. So, even though his drug exposure wasn't necessary for her to know, the fact that he was having tremors would have been helpful so she wouldn't have worried so much. Thankfully she was able to reach me before she called an ambulance.

5. "You are so special/ a saint/ wonderful for doing this." Okay, stop. seriously, just stop. It makes us uncomfortable. We are not wonderful/ fantastic/ special for doing this. We do it for so many reasons, but none of those reasons are the kudos we get from our peers. We don't feel superior to you in any way. You don't have to feel guilty for not doing what we do. We recognize this is not an easy path, and not for everyone. That doesn't make us better that you, just different than you. And different is good. it is neccessary. However, we love what we do, so we will talk about it. We will express how much we wish there were more good families that would step up to foster kids (there are still WAY too many group homes/ crisis centers, not enough foster families). That is not some underhanded comment on how we think YOU should do it. That is between you, your family, and God. Mostly, we do it because we love kids. We even love the chaos that follows any new placement in our home. We know that even though the foster care system is maddeningly frustrating and far from perfect, it is FAR SUPERIOR to the alternatives.
a few of the alternatives:
-staying in an abusive/ neglectful/ unsafe environment
-going to a group home/ shelter/ crisis center
-going back to the "old days" of children's homes/ institutions where they are warehoused. Most of the rest of the world still uses this option. Trust me. the foster care system is better.
I've had people cite the broken foster care system as their reason for not getting involved. If something is broken, it won't get fixed by your refusal to help fix it. Be a part of the solution.

6. "did you hear about..." some sordid story on the news about something horrible a foster family did to one of their foster children. Blah, blah, blah. All that is EVER shown on TV, whether it be the local news, or the latest episode of Law & Order, is the negative. I am so weary of all the bad press foster parents get, portraying us all as money grubbing, child abusing, psychopathic pedophiles who foster for all the wrong reasons. The vast majority of foster parents are good, honest, hard working families trying to make a difference in the life of a child. Every foster parent I've ever met is doing their best to PARENT a child they didn't give birth to, trying to figure out how to help a child whose brain has been compromised by drugs/ alcohol consumed in utero, trying to help them overcome the effects of various abuses and neglect, helping them work past feelings of abandonment, advocating for them in school, trying to teach a 2 year old that MOMMY pours the cereal and milk in the bowl, because they should be too young to do it, but learned how to out of necessity, and trying to teach a 6 year old that it's okay to be a kid first. So give us a break.

7. "Is it worth it?" yes. yes. yes. yes. YES!!! "Have you thought of the effect this will have on your kids?" yes. of course. But do you know what I see happening to my kids? Yes, they get heartbroken when kids leave too (My Luke still asks about little T on a weekly basis, and T hasn't lived here for about a year and a half). But they are so kind to other children. They worry about feelings. They are empathetic to the suffering of others. They can't stand to think that there are children in this world without a safe place, or without a family. Luke constantly requests that we go find "summore" kids without a family and bring them to our house. And don't you dare tell my kids that the kids we foster aren't "real" siblings. They love unconditionally. So much so, that I frequently get requests to adopt their best friends. The fact that their friends already live in a stable, loving environment with their own parents does not deter my kids in anyway from thinking they belong in our family. THIS is the effect it is having on our kids. They know that sometimes kids don't come to stay. sometimes, we just can't adopt them. We usually blame it on "the judge". Mostly, in order to explain it in a way that even our 4 year old can understand, we tell them the kids are here while their parents work on some "things" and when the parents "get better", the kids can go back home. Our kids are still at an age where we can be wonderfully vague. We emphasize that we'll always love them and miss them, but they need to go back home so their birth family can be together again. We keep pictures up of all they munchkins we have ever fostered, and the kids like that they can look at the pictures and remember the "brother that used to be". Our current 8 year old foster daughter (we typically just call her daughter, but for the sake of explanation we sometimes have to add the 'foster') is fascinated by the pictures. right now, because they (the 8 year old and her 18 month old little sister) live in our house, their big 8x10 picture is up right next to the rest of the kids' pictures. Then we have a frame with several 4x6 openings where we keep pictures of those that have come and gone. She asks me if we'll put her picture there when she is gone. I assure her we will, and she feels comforted knowing that we will never, ever forget her. Her time here counted. She was somebody here. She was not a cipher. She was not a lowly foster child. She was a beloved daughter. When she goes home, we'll write her a long letter too. We'll send lots of photos and all our contact info. And then we'll pray that somewhere along the way, we'll hear about how she is doing, and if us teaching her about family, about God, about love made a difference in her life. And if we never hear, we just hope.

Before we became foster parents, Scott and I made it a matter of much prayer and fasting. We didn't have any children at the time, and it was a little scary to think about parenting a child with "issues". But we felt an overhwhelming "YES" when we questioned the Lord if we should do this crazy thing. And then almost immediately into my head popped my own little version of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
Somebody, somebody has to you see,
then HE picked out two somebodies,
Scotty and me.

Of the 9 children we have fostered, we have 2 of them still currently with us (for 15 months now), 5 have gone back to their family, and we were blessed enough to adopt 2. And our decision to be foster parents has opened up SO many other doors to adoption. It has been an amazing journey.
The first 2 boys we fostered are the 2 we were able to adopt
our next son was adopted (due to a miracle- or a series of miracles)from the same agency, but was not a foster placement, strictly adoption.
One adopted from an agency in Illinois
one private adoption (from disruption)
and one adoption from another state's (Texas) foster care.

We love it. We look forward to years and years of being foster parents. I hope I don't get jaded. I hope I don't ever refuse to get attached. I hope I have the strength (mental, spiritual) to do this for a long time. All I know for sure is that right now, it is the right thing for us.
Have I told you anything useful?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

My munchkins continually amaze me. We have been working so hard at getting Dylan to spoon feed himself, and the other day at lunch, he was finally doing it. So at dinner, I was showing all the other kids Dylan's new accomplishment. It warmed my heart to see how absolutely thrilled they were! seriously, I almost teared up. I love how they are so supportive of their little brother. They were cheering and clapping and jumping up and down. You would have thought he had just won an olympic gold medal!

This attitude of joy and support has carried over to our families next adventure. We are adopting a 15 year old girl with Down syndrome. Meet Haley:

These will be the only pictures I'll post of her for a while. The only reason I can post these is because they were already publicly posted on her adoption site. We were matched with her clear last July, but didn't get to meet her for the first time until this past weekend. She is a sweetheart. She also has plenty of stubborness! Just like our litte Dylan. She will be coming to stay THIS SATURDAY!! finally! We are thrilled to add Haley to our family. When we talked to the kids about her, they were all so excited to have a BIG sister. Landon (our oldest) was the most excited. I love that being the oldest was not part of his identity, or how he sees himself. He has said so many times that he can't wait to have a big sister. Technically, our little "A", whom we are fostering, is older than Landon, but only by 7 months. So he doesn't really see her as a big sister. They are great friends, though.
Luke, who truly has a heart for adoption, can't stand the thought of there being kids out there without a family. We'll load him in the big van (that has 4 empty seats, 3 empty starting Saturday!) and he'll ask when we're going to pick up more kids that need a family. Awww... If only it were that easy. We only have one more adoption in the works, so to speak (Serbia), and then we'll see.
I love the fact that we've been able to grow our family so quickly. It means no one has time to get settled into their "role" in our family, which is good, because that role may change quickly. That's just the nature of being a foster family. We don't go into any adoption blindly. Scott and I always talk it through, the changes it will mean to lifestyle, practical things like the increase in laundry, grocery bills, etc. And we pray. A lot. Mostly, we talk about the effect it will have on our children. Good thing we have such great kids. One thing a large family teaches just by being part of it, is selflessness. Instead of our kids wondering if they'll have to share a room, they are fighting over who GETS to share a room. "A" was quite put out when we told her that Haley would not be sharing her room, she was going to have her own room for a while. She WANTS to share her room. She is already trying to build a sister bond with a girl she has yet to meet.
Our munchkins have brought us change they found on the ground and asked if we could use that money for an adoption. How is that for pulling together? Our kids don't care about stuff, or nice vacations. They just love being together-- most of the time!
And to quote one of our favorite movies (because it has a great adoption message) "Meet the Robinsons" -- We'll just Keep Moving Forward!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Science Center part 2

I did it. I took the kids to the science center again. What can I say? We got free tickets and I'm a sucker for anything free. This time everything went according to plan! Scott couldn't come (only 3 more months of Scott missing out on all the fun!) but other than that, we had a great time. I parked in the parking garage this time, and it only cost $3 after getting the ticket validated. I watched my speed on the little stretch of interstate that is only 55 mph, so I shouldn't be getting a surprise ticket in the mail either! All the munchkins were well behaved, and everyone was exhausted when the day was done. I had them all wear their Beatles shirts, and got lots of comments. Some people even asked where the Beatles display in the museum was, so they could get shirts. Um, no display, just a mom who's a fan. And this time I got some pictures!!

"A" and Stix were with us, but I still can't post pictures of them :o(

So here are the boys!

on the top pics, they are on a "bed of nails". the dino in the bottom pictures is made from legos! they were having a lego competition, and got to watch a master builder make a city. It was a dream come true for my little lego maniacs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Dylan's Occupational Therapist (who we LOVE!) was giving us some ideas for strengthening his core muscles. She would really like us to have Dylan do Hippotherapy. Also called Equine therapy. Or for us plain talkers, horse therapy. There is one small problem with this plan. Actually, it is quite a large problem. I have a serious allergy to horses. Very serious. I can't be anywhere near a horse. I can't be near anyone who has recently been on a horse. I can't be in a room where there has recently been a person who was on a horse. If I am near a horse, or a person who has been on a horse, or in a room where there has been a person who was on a horse, I swell up and struggle to breathe. Ever see the movie Hitch? When he eats the shellfish? it's kinda like that. Only it's not so funny in real life. I've never done anything about it, because it is very easy to stay away from horses. People with other serious allergies, such as a peanut or bee allergy can't control being stung by a bee or exposed to a peanut product. I can control being around horses. But now I'm trying to decide if it is worth going to an allergist, getting shots, to try to become desensitized. I'm pretty sure that would take quite a while. For now we are looking at alternatives to hippotherapy. They have a machine called igallop that simulates horseback riding. since the pricetag is quite hefty, we'll be calling around to see if there are any clinics that have one. If so, we'll see if we can get approval for that. But if hippotherapy will have better long term effects for Dylan, I guess I'll drop trou for those monthly shots. Oh, joy. Here is a picture of Dylan during another OT activity. He also happens to be signing "mom". He is such a smart boy, and knows 25-30 signs. He is also getting more vocal... finally! We finally have a good Speech therapist!
Here he is signing "dad"

Have you ever seen a cuter boy?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My son, my sun

Luke recently celebrated his 5th birthday. we have been parents for nearly 5 years. Amazing. Luke is the first baby we ever had. He was 2 months old on our first day with him. His big brother Landon was 2 1/2 and came to live with us just 2 days prior to Luke's arrival. He was a sweet little bundle. He was pretty tiny- at least he seemed small at the time. He had a very reddish complexion, and people were constantly asking what his nationality was. He had a bunch of soft, straight black hair. And he cried. all. the. time. He was stiff, and would shudder from time to time. We did lots of stretches with him to loosen his muscles, and the shudders stopped after about a month. He had us all fascinated and completely in love with him from the first moment, which was a really good thing. Did I mention all the crying? Luke was not a great sleeper. He had to be swaddled TIGHT in order to get any sleep at all. His little arms were very jerky, and he'd punch himself in the face even while he slept and wake himself up squalling. We considered ourselves lucky if he slept for a 3 hour stretch. Scott and I had Luke "shifts". We often fell asleep in the recliner with Luke on our chest, because we were so exhausted. He didn't nap well. mostly, he just cried. Until he was about 6 months old. Then, blissfully, the crying stopped. He started sleeping through the night. And he started smiling. all. the. time. I tell people he cried for the first 6 months of his life, but he's spent every day since then making up for it. Luke is one happy, crazy, wild, exuberant, joyful boy. He makes it very hard to ever be mad at him. Even his siblings put up with more from Luke because he just has such a happy spirit. here are some recent Luke-isms. Dylan fell off his little ride on toy, and Luke beat me to him, snuggling him and saying "oh, sweetheart, are you ok?". We had Luke's birthday party the Saturday before his birthday, so on his actual birthday I let him choose what he wanted for dessert. He chose chocolate chip cookies, which he then helped me make. After dinner, I got out the ice cream, and brought the nice warm cookies to the table. I asked luke if he wanted ice cream with his cookie, and he said he just wanted ice cream. I asked why he wanted me to make the cookies if he didn't want to eat them. He asked if he could whisper it in my ear. So I leaned over, and he whispered "so everyone else could have them". What lessons I learn from this sweet boy. My sweet son loves to put his cheek on mine and sing "Dear Prudence" and "You'll Be in My Heart" with me. He loves to sit and watch Star Trek with me. He's the first to run in and say Good morning, Mom! He's rarely grumpy. He is my little ray of sunshine and I'm so thankful he will forever be my son!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trust Issues

Poor Dylan doesn't trust his mommy anymore. He was on antibiotics again recently for a sinus infection. He is very prone to them. we are going to start using saline drops in his nose daily to see if that will help. He hates taking medicine. right before the sinus infection, he had croup. We asked for the steroid shot, because trying to get him to take oral meds is NOT fun. But for the sinus infection, they gave him oral antibiotics. And then the fun begins. If we try to force him, he just gags and throws up everywhere, so we have to be sneaky. The second he sees the syringe, he starts going into fits. So this last time, I tried hiding the medicine in his food. I'd put a little food on his spoon, squirt a little medicine on his spoon and give it to him. He didn't like it, but he tolerated it for 2 whole days (thank heavens this medicine is just once a day for 5 days). Then he decided he was done with that trick. He wouldn't eat any food at all. We had to fight the other days to get his meds down him at all. and mostly he spit them back out. But he got better and that is all I really care about. But he still doesn't trust me at mealtime. We don't feed him much food from a jar anymore. Because he has oral sensitivities, and didn't get any teeth until he was nearly 2, and still only has 4 teeth (all molars), he is not eating a lot of solids. He gags on anything too lumpy. So his meal preparation is not for the weak of stomach. I take whatever leftovers we have and use my hand blender to mix them up. I use applesauce, juice or a jar of baby food to make it a little smoother. For instance, todays meal was blended pork roast, carrots and potatoes from last night's dinner, with applesauce to smooth it out. I try to make sure we always have a protein, fruit, and vegetable in his meal. There is usually some sort of starch for bulk (rice, potatoes, noodles, or crackers if nothing else). yesterdays meal was Mac-n-cheese with peanut butter and applesauce. I know it sounds disgusting, but we do what it takes. sometimes that means refried beans or navy beans with sweet potatoes and bananas. Like I said, his meal preparation is not for the weak of stomach. Anyway, We keep jars of baby food on hand for times that we are going to be away from home at mealtime, or to help smooth out his blended concoctions. But now he won't eat his blended concoctions. He has been off the meds for a week and he still doesn't trust that I didn't put meds in his food. The only way he'll eat it is if he SEES me open a new jar of baby food and feed him directly from the jar. The good news is that after a few bites from the jar, he will eat his blended food. But if I dare try to feed him a bite of his blended food first, he starts shaking his head, kicking his legs, and swinging his arms. Hmmm..... Temper much? How do I get my sweet boy to trust me again??? I can't promise never to hide meds in his food again. I guess I just have to live with the consequences. Good thing he's so adorable.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Intention Vs. Perception

This is a topic I have been thinking a lot about lately. This is how it started. A good friend of mine from high school, whom I reconnected with via Facebook, has just started the adoption process of a girl from Ethiopia. I'll call him K. He is SO excited about the prospect of adoption, and shared this in a FB post, stating he was excited to have another little brown girl in his family. He is white, his wife is black, and his wife has a daughter from a previous relationship. His first wife was from S. America, and he has 2 biological children with her. So all 3 of his current children are quite a bit darker than his own pale skin. When I read his "brown girl" comment, I knew exactly what he meant, and could feel the love he infused in those words. Another friend I'll call R (also from HS), chastised him for labeling her brown, and said color shouldn't matter, we are all Humans. Hmmmmm..... I mostly agree with R, color DOESN'T matter, we all ARE human. But K was not "labeling" his new child-to-be. He was using a loving, descriptive word. We all infuse our language with descriptive words, don't we? I can't ever call my Jacob just Jacob. He is always my sweet Jacob, my precious Jacob, my little angel, etc. I had to respond with this:

I call my boys little brown boys from time to time. Color absolutely doesn't matter, that's why it is a term of endearment. When they ask why their skin is a different color than mine, I tell them God gave them an upgrage. heritage doesn't matter either, but I still refer to my child of russian descent as my little russian. And my redhead is always my little redhead. "labels" are what you make of them. We make very little of them in our multi-cultural family. Good luck getting your little brown girl, K!

To make R's comments clear, I'll state that he is black. I was not trying to offend him, just trying to show him how it was no one's INTENTION to "label" a child, just using a descriptive word for her. R commented back with:

Well coming from Casper I experienced some of the most harsh racism being that my family was pretty much the only African American family on the east side. Sitting in social studies and having the whole class stare at me when the term negro was said! My children are bi-cultural and I am instilling in them that we are all Gods children and color doesn't matter. I call them by their name!

First, that made me laugh. I rarely call my kids by just their names. It's a bad habit I have, but I like pet names. A lot of times it is some form of their name (Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, and Darth Nater are a few of my faves, along with Dylan Bob). I'd wanted to comment back to R on this topic of intention vs. perception, but felt like having this conversation on K's fb page could get out of control, so I left it alone, and K ended the discussion with a very eloquent and succinct response. But this topic has been brewing in my head ever since. I'm sure as one of a handfull of black kids in our high school (no, he wasn't the only one as he stated, but there were probably only about a dozen), R felt ill at ease when stared at by an entire class when the term Negro was said. And I obviously can't speak to the level of racism he endured. It was my perception in high school that most of the black kids were pretty much popular and well liked, But I'm sure there were exceptions. However, I don't feel like a social studies class that turned to stare at him when the term Negro was used had the intent of racism. I think that by being the only black kid in that class, that was how he perceived it. Perhaps they were looking to him for some guidance on how to react to the word? was the word used as slander against him personally? or was the word used in a historically accurate sense, as this was social studies class. I think "labeling" the whole class racist does a disservice to everyone there. I find this topic interesting, because I want to understand my own kids better, and prepare them for the future when they are sitting in some history, social studies, or even english class, and the term Negro is used. How will they react? how will they perceive the reactions of those around them? will they take the opportunity to educate others on how they should feel about the word Negro? or will they slink in their chairs, and hold a grudge against those in that class for 18+ years? I want to teach them HISTORY!! The word Negro is nothing to be offended at, when used appropriately, and is historically accurate. There is another "N" word -a slang term, you all know which one- that is highly offensive. Unfortunately, the only people I hear using that word these days, are black people. How sad. But nevertheless, I want my kids to know these words, and how to respond to the use of these words appropriately. The biggest lesson I want to teach them is to not get offended, not only when the offense is not intended, but especially when offense IS intended. The whole kindergarten sticks-n-stones theory.

This applies to the use of the word Retarded as well. When used appropriately, I don't have much of a problem with it. Unfortunately, it is rarely used appropriately these days. If you are a medical professional, using the term in a medical context, fine. The Dictionary meaning of Retard is to make slow, or to delay. So if you are telling me how you are going to stick your pre-teen son in a box in order to retard his growth, I will laugh with you. If you say the new movie out is so retarded, I'm going to take a minute to educate you. Retarded does NOT mean stupid. So when I hear the term retarded used as slang, do I get offended? nope. I know it is not most people's intent to be offensive, it is just a word they use out of ignorance and habit. I just feel sorry for the person using it, and and ask them to use a different word.

I am not big on Political correctness, as evidenced by my reticense to use the term African American instead of black. I don't call myself Welsh american, I don't call Dylan Russian American, I didn't call Jacob Native American. I am just an American. Dylan is American, and I will refer to his heritage as Russian (yes, sometimes I call him my little Russian, but never as Russian American. His immediate birth family is Russian). Jacob was American, and referred to his heritage as 1/2 Blackfoot Indian tribe (his birthmother was Blackfoot Indian). Landon and Luke and Nate are just American. Their ancestors have been in this country a LONG time. I don't find it necessary to refer to their heritage. someday, maybe we'll get to trace their roots, and see what exactly their heritage is. for now, when decribing my one of my brown sons, I will continue to use a descriptive term for them, as I would for any of my other children.

This PC term of African American irritated a college friend of mine to no end. She was black, born in Africa, raised in England, and came to US for school. So she wasn't American at all. Did she consider herself African English? no, she was just English. How about my niece? she is American. She happens to have been born in Haiti. Her heritage is Haitian. Her immediate birth family is in Haiti. Her nationality is American. My little Luke had a very reddish tint to his skin when he was a baby, and had thick, straight black hair (he didn't start getting his curls until he was a year old). He did look a bit like he was from India for a while. But it cracked me up when people would say "what is his nationality?" I knew what they meant, but he is from the nation of America! so I would say he's American. When they would stutter and say "no, I mean, Um, uh... " I usually helped them out by saying he was black. I never got offended, but I did get amused quite frequently.

So any other thoughts? to me using the term brown, or black is a descriptive word, the same as saying someone has brown eyes, or red hair, or are short, or are sweet. It is not my INTENT to offend. Your perceptions will color your life, and ultimately you are in control of how you perceive the things people say, and how you react to them.

Wow, this is what happens when I let things stew for a while before getting them off my mind.

Here are some pictures of my beautiful little brown boys, and my beautiful little white boy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Landon's version of Jolly Old St. Nicholas. So funny. Listen carefully in the second verse and he'll tell you his opinion of the gifts he gets from Santa....

Yes, you heard it right. "Down the chimney broad and black, with your CRAP you'll creep."

Actually, I'm not sure what I like best about this video... His version of the song, or the outfit he's wearing. After he was asleep, I laid out his green sweatshirt in case he wanted to wear it. Of course, I assumed he'd wear it over his t-shirt like most people, but not Landon. He has his own sense of style.

The same day he brought home this ornament for the tree:

According to Landon, it is a zombie snowman with blood running down it. Nice. gotta love the imagination. NO, our children do not watch zombie movies. They don't watch anything rated higher than PG. But they do go to public school. :O)

While we are having a Landon themed post, Here is a picture of my little Shark boy, with his permanent teeth coming in behind his baby teeth. Those baby teeth are just not in a hurry to come out. He has a dentist appt. on Wed, and can probably get them pulled then. I am envisioning high orthodontic bills when he is older. Oi.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

build a little birdhouse in your soul

When my oldest sister (who is much, MUCH older than me) turned 50 in October, we bought her fun toys and childish things to keep her in touch with her youth. One of the things we got her was a sock monkey. We had to take it out of the original packaging in order to fit it in the box we were shipping. My sweet little Luke, who must be a bit like me in that he does not like to waste things, came and asked if we could make a birdhouse out of the sock monkey box. Hmmm. Why not? What a clever boy he is. He folded the top over, had me tape it together, then got a little lid to put water in, and some sunflower seeds. We stuck a string through it, and tied it to our tree out front. for 3 days, he went outside to look everyday to see if a bird was living in it yet. I kept trying to explain that the birds don't stay in their houses, they go fly around. Then Sunday came. As we were pulling into our driveway after church, I saw a bird in Luke's birdhouse!!! I was so excited to show him. Scott stopped the van, and we all watched the bird hop in and out, and all around the bird house. Luke was over the moon! It was so cute. I actually had my camera in the diaper bag, and tried to get a picture of the bird by the house, but it didn't turn out ;o(

here is the birdhouse. The picture is a little grainy because I was trying to take it through the window glass. I knew the bird would fly away if I rolled down the window.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ronald needs a forever family!

Look who I found on

Oh, my gosh! He is one handsome fella, and he needs a home. click on the link under his picture to watch a video of him. He has really grabbed my heart. If we weren't in the middle of bringing home a different older child, I would have already called on him. Oh, my gosh! I'm not going to sleep until he has a home. Does anyone in blogland know anyone who could be his family?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The DMV: A True Story

So Scott had to go get plates for our new van (the big 12-passenger kind). Below is a breif summary of the transaction.
DMV: After applying the credit from the plates on the vehicle you just sold, you still have a $12.59 credit, so we'll send you a check.
Scott: can we just apply the credit toward our next plate renewal?
DMV: No, sorry, we have to process the refund.
Scott: so, you are going to send me a check for $12.59?
DMV: No, there is a processing fee of $12.00.
Scott: There is a processing fee of $12.00 on a refund of $12.59?
DMV: correct.
Scott: So you are actually going to send me a check for $ .59?
DMV: correct.
Scott: yeah. makes sense.

Anyone else have a love/hate relationship with their DMV?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reece's Rainbow Christmas Angel Tree 2009

I decided not to choose a child to sponsor until December because we were just fundraising for our local DS Network at the end of October, and November felt like it was too soon to start asking people for money again. Traditionally, we've chosen another child from Serbia to sponsor. No, we still do not have any word on "our" girl. But anyway, I've looked at all the beautiful faces, and the winner of the Spencer family sponsorship is..........

No, I didn't make that up. most of the kids are assigned a pseudonym due to country restrictions of posting their real name. And they gave her my name! Andrea (fearless leader of Reece's Rainbow) likes my name apparently. I think she's trying to send me subliminal messages. Now that Serbia is allowing familes to come back a 2nd time, we are being encouraged to consider adopting a different child, and go back for Aunika when she becomes available. Hmmm..... something to consider/ pray about. In the meantime, we'll be taking some of our meager savings for Christmas and donating it to "Lisette's" grant fund. I hope she finds a family soon!


One more adoption complete in the Spencer family! Welcome, sweet Nate! Nathan Brent Spencer joined our family in Nov. 08, and his adoption was final Nov. 09. He is a sweet boy, and fits right in. He and Luke (both 4 years old) are partners in crime, but Nate is definitely a lot calmer. With the two girls we are fostering, we now have 2- 7 year olds, 2- 4 year olds, and 2- 1 year olds. What can I say? we like to keep things interesting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good Question

I got a good question on one of my recent posts. It was.. "Are you still adopting the little angel with Down Syndrome?"

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for asking. I don't blog much about our little daughter because I get so discouraged. We have been wanting and waiting to adopt her for well over 2 years now. Our little girl has still not been cleared for international adoption. We did not know she was not officially cleared at the time we committed to adopt her. We have had a very hard time lately deciding what to do. Our options as we see them are:
1. Continue to wait for the beautiful girl we have loved and waited for, and continue to pray that she will someday come home to us.
2. Go to the same country to adopt a different child. This is the easiest and the hardest choice. easiest due to paperwork- we are already approved for adoption in that country and wouldn't have to re-do any paperwork. Hardest because we would be in the same country as the girl we already consider our daughter, and not be able to bring her home. We consider this choice only because we hope we would get to see her, hold her, tell her we love her, and continue to hope that SOMEDAY we'd be able to come back for her. We don't really feel this would be so fair to the new child we would adopt from there. Our focus would be split. If we felt a strong pull to another child in the same orphanage, we would consider this option, go for the new child, and hope to someday go back.
3. switch countries all together and start over again. We have strongly considered this option. We feel a pull to Ethiopia, but so far have not found a child we are pulled to. We feel like we will some day adopt from Ethiopia, but so far, that day is not today.

So far, we have opted for #1. We'll see what our future holds. For now, we continue to grow with adoptions from the US. We are still working on "N"s adoption. His severance trial is tomorrow, and hopefully the adoption trial in a month. He does not have Down Syndrome. He will be 4 in about a week and a half. After his adoption is final, we'll post his name and pictures.

And I will be making an announcement very shortly about another upcoming adoption in our household! Stay tuned.... (I'm waiting until I have more details about when this child will be coming home before I make the official announcement).

Plus, we are still a foster family, so we still have borrowed children from time to time. I do not post about them much due to privacy issues.

Updates on our boys-- N and Luke are in preschool and doing very well-- 3 afternoons a week. They love it. Landon is also doing amazing in school. I love watching him blossom. His favorite thing to do is draw, and he is getting quite good at it.

And Dylan. Our sweet angel with Down syndrome that is already home. HE IS WALKING!!!! well, starting to anyway! he is up to about 8-10 steps at a time. AND he has a tooth, finally-- a molar! AND he is climbing up the stairs all by himself. AND he can climb onto all the furniture. Oh, goodie! another little monkey boy around the house! He is such a doll. He is by far my busiest child. I thought Luke was busy, but Dylan puts Luke to shame. I chase him around all day, getting him off furniture, off the stairs (Scott installed a gate last night), out of the cupboards, etc. He loves watching Signing Time videos, and is learning! He signs "more, eat, ball, music, and all done". "more and eat" are the only two he does perfectly, the others are his version of the sign, but that's okay for now. He is a little smarty pants. I will try to get a video of him walking soon and post it. so cute.

Oh, and about the last post-- our mommy bird flew away and never came back. I'm sure something happened to her. so no baby birds were able to hatch :o(

Monday, July 13, 2009

the uninvited guest

maybe uninvited, yet welcome just the same.

A few weeks ago, Scott laid a couple of boards across our dog's kennel and put a few yard tools up there to keep them away from the kids. We bought a small shed for this purpose, but is isn't put up yet. Anyway, he went out to mow our Jungle, I mean our lawn, and first went to grab the orange extension cord from the top of the boards. He just about touched this little ladies head before she flew away.
Is that a nest up there in those cords?

Yep! And this single egg has since been joined by a second egg. My kids love looking out the window each day to see if the little mommy dove is on her nest. I'm thinking she might be rather a lazy little bird by the looks of that nest, or maybe just very clever to use the power cord to save her some work. All together, my kind of bird!

She is quite diligent in her sitting, though I'm sure the AZ sun keeps that egg plenty warm while she's off eating. And she never strays far. We see her sitting on the neighbors roof from time to time, keeping an eye on things. It will sure be fun to see the end product! I wonder how long Dove eggs take to hatch? sounds like a great computer research project for the kiddos, who only have 2 weeks until school begins.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The best laid plans ....

So Wednesday was my birthday. I hesitated to post this, as I did not want to sound self-aggrandizing. But something funny happened. Scott took the day off, so I had a lovely sleep-in. When I finally dragged myself out of bed, Scott made me yummy french toast... My favorite! I was in no hurry to do anything, so I was still lounging in my pajamas when my sister called me to tell me happy birthday. We chatted for a few minutes, then my doorbell rang. My sister said "Oh, go ahead and answer the door, I'll wait". I looked down at my disheveled pajamas, and had already caught a glimpse of what I looked like in the mirror. I had smeared mascara from the day before around my eyes, had yet to brush my teeth, and had a lovely "flock of seagulls" hairdo. so I said "I'm not answering the door!".
Scott was home, and on his way to answer the door, but LeAnn didn't realize this. Here is how the conversation commenced:
LeAnn: Oh, no, go ahead and answer the door
me: No, S...
LeAnn: Lisette, you have to answer the door
me: I....
me: LeANN! Scott is answering the door!
LeAnn: Oh. Okay. I didn't realize he was home. Tell him it's not a mistake.
me: tell him what is not a mistake?
LeAnn: Just tell him before he sends them away. Just say it's not a mistake.
Me: (I'm in the other room, scott can hear me, but not see me) Scott, LeAnn says it's not a mistake, if that means anything.
Scott: Okay. (nothing else, just Okay)
Me: so what's the deal?
LeAnn: Well, I didn't get you a birthday present sent, so I ordered pizza to be delivered to your house for lunch. Then I realized I'd better call at the time it was supposed to be delivered so you wouldn't send the delivery person away thinking it was a mistake. (that sounds like something I'd do)
me: OH!! How sweet, thank you! (then Scott walks around the corner)
Me to Scott: Where's the pizza?
Scott: What pizza?
me: the pizza that was just delivered?
Scott: That wasn't pizza, it was the bug guy.

I just started laughing. LeAnn outed herself for no reason. The pizza guy didn't come for another 10 minutes, but at least we knew not to send him away. Maybe this is one of those "you had to be there" moments, but it was really funny. What are the chances that the bug guy comes at the same time the surprise pizza guy is supposed to come? And what in the world was Scott thinking when I told him it wasn't a mistake? And he just answered Okay. Like this is some sort of ongoing cryptic conversation we always have.

Oh, well. The pizza came, we all had a good laugh, and the rest of the day was lovely.
Scott had my sister-in-law come over to watch the Munchkins (thanks, Misty!) and took me to see the new Star Trek movie, which I had been wanting to see since it came out. I am a big Star Trek fan. Yes, I even have one "StarCon" under my belt. My sister Lisa and I went one year in Colorado and got to see Patrick Stewart speak. Good stuff. No, we didn't dress up. I like Star Trek, but it does not consume my life. Well, not for the most part anyway.
After the movie, we went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. My all time favorite is Macaroni Grill (Mmmmm..... Penne Rustica.....), but Cheesecake Factory is much closer, I'd only been once, and it was really good. So now I've been twice. Excellent food both times. And of course cheesecake to bring home. So delicious. Maybe I'll have a birthday again next week. It would almost be worth prematurely aging. Youth is overrated anyway.

And because posts without pics are not nearly as fun, here are a few of the munchkins

I love catching candid moments like these. Luke with his arm around Dylan, and little N on the right. His adoption stuff is moving along, and hopefully I'll be able to post pictures of his sweet little face soon.

Luke and Landon in their Jedi poses
Guess who has discovered he can empty the cupboards?
Landon has enjoyed putting puzzles together recently. He was pretty pleased with himself over this 300 piece puzzle that he had very little help on. Scott and I both helped a little, but just because it was fun to be there with him, not because he needed the help.

Monday, June 1, 2009

color coding my kids - pros and cons

I color code my kids. It started as a way to keep track of whose plate was still on the table, whose towel was on the floor, etc. The nice part is, the kids love it. They take it pretty seriously. So here are their colors:

Landon - Green

Luke - Blue

N- Orange

Dylan - Red

A - Pink

Stix - Yellow

Now, the babies don't really need a color yet, but I didn't want to leave them out either. Their colors are mostly used for my own organizational purposes.

When a child comes to our house, I eventually make them a "snuggle" with their color scheme. A snuggle is a small blankie, about 18" x 24" with fringed edges. I'll admit right now that I have had A and Stix's material for quite some time, and have failed to come up with the finished product yet. Bad, bad mommy. But the general idea is to give them something that is just theirs, that they can snuggle up with in bed.

The also each have a small basket in their color for school papers and such. That goes on a marked Cubby in our bookshelf. They each have 3 marked cubbies for their stuff, the bottom cubby for their shoes, the middle for their backpack, and the top for their basket.

Each child has their own laundry basket (even the babes). Thanks to the makers of "Duck Tape", I can get tape in all their colors. I put their color tape around the handles of the basket. When I do laundry and sort clothes, each child's clothes go into their basket and the big kids all put away their own. They "fold" as well. I'm not picky about how well it is folded, as long as their drawers all close when they are done.

Each child has a bath towel, hand towel, wash rag, bath pouf, and tooth brush in their color. We hang the hand towels and bath poufs with 3M hooks (love those things!). That way, when Luke goes to wipe off his just-washed-but-somehow-still-dirty hands on the towel, he only gets his own towel dirty, and not the community towel. I used to use paper towels, thanks to the idea from my sister LeAnn. But the kiddos were extremely wasteful, and I'm cheap. Plus, I had a 10th grade Biology teacher who drilled conservation into our heads- Thanks Mr. Strube! While I'm certainly no tree hugger, I do try not to be wasteful, and going through 3 rolls of paper towels a week was a bit much.

We also have plates (both divided and flat), cups, and bowls in each color. The kids dishes are in a low cupboard so they can reach their own. They may use one cup a day. We do a lot of dishes (and laundry) around here, so that helps cut down a bit. They are responsible for setting and cleaning up their own dishes.

One of the main "cons" is my tendency to go overboard with this whole color scheme thing. We were at Wal-Mart and they had cute flip flops and boat shoes in all the right colors. I didn't buy any, but man did I want to. It is a good thing we are poor, or I would definitely take color scheming to an unhealthy level. Such as, when we were recently at Ikea, they had lap blankets on sale in all the right colors. Now, we have 3419 blankets in this house and at least half of those are lap blankets. We live in Arizona. But guess what we came home from Ikea with? Cute new blankets that were entirely unnecessary. They do look cute all snuggled up with them on movie night, though. Another con is passing on the color mania to my children. Now they think they get to buy everything they see in their color. I hear constant rings of "Look, mom, can we buy this? it's my color" while we're at the store. They also think that EVERYTHING at home in their color belongs to them. N thinks the orange power screwdriver is his, Landon is convinced he can use the green sharpie whenever he wants... Why doesn't Luke want anything to do with the blue broom, though?

One of the major "pros" was entirely unforeseen. When little mr. N joined our family, he'd spent quite a bit of time in his short 3 years being bounced around. Having a color that is "his" has helped him feel at home here, I think. No one takes their color as seriously as he does. He LOVES orange. He wears orange as often as possible. He loves knowing that he doesn't have to share his orange plates, orange towel, and orange blanket with anyone. He is the only one that has formed an attachment to his snuggle. He loves that thing and carries it all around the house.

And While I'm on the subject, I owe a big thanks to my sister LeAnn who has been on the lookout for me. She just sent us a lovely package in the mail with orange, pink AND yellow divided plates. Yay!

As for me, I have a plastic filing tray marked with each kiddos color, a small expanding file folder for each child marked with their color (so convenient to grab on the way out the door and know you have the right kids shot record), storage bucket, and various other thing like that to help me keep organized. Maybe one of these days I'll actually FEEL organized. for now, our house is somewhere in the vicinity of slightly organized chaos.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Class Dismissed!

Time for summer break! the kiddos only had 1/2 day today. I actually took N (whose last day of school was yesterday) to the movie this morning (Space chimps- It was pretty funny, and he loved it) while the 3 older munchkins were at school. Scott stayed home with the babies. Then N and I went to the school to take pictures of the kids with their teachers. I am looking forward to a less rigid schedule this summer. We still have things going on, and Dylan still has his home therapies (4 hours a week), but we should have plenty of time to relax. We aired up a small kiddie pool on the patio. It is just the right size for the 4 older kids, and they are having a good time with it. We also found a bike on craigslist for A. Now everyone has a bike to ride. And remember the 127 pound bike that I previously mentioned? Luke finally got the hang of it, and actually prefers it to the bigger bike now. We got N a Diego trike, so we're all set. Now, if we could just get Arizona to turn down the heat this summer.....

Last night was Landon's Kindergarten "graduation". the very idea of it cracks me up. I always think about that line in "The Incredibles" where the dad says something about coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity. I'll have to watch again to get the line just right. anyway, the principal introduced them as the class of 2021. She said it several times. I hadn't previously put any thought into what year Landon would graduate. What's sad is that I know it will be here in the blink of an eye.
Another realization today was how much my kids have grown. For the last day of school, Luke wore the same outfit that Landon wore of the first day of school. Getting Luke to stand still long enough to take a picture is challenging, and when he does stand still, he is always hamming it up. So here they are: Landon's first day of school on top, and Luke's last day on bottom. Handsome boys huh?

We also have an initial court hearing for N. Hopefully we can get his adoption all wrapped up soon, so I can start calling him by name, and posting his pictures. Trust me, he's adorable.

In the meantime here's Dylan, my little man of a million faces:

Luke the Belly Popper

Spread the Word to End the Word