This Christmas

IMG_2887We had our traditional Bible reading of the birth of Jesus before presents.

IMG_2888Before Christmas, we told the kids that instead of gifts we were going to do an adventure, a family event. We had them write things, places they’d like to do and go down. Some of their ideas were big, but most were local and rather small. BUT none were going to Durango, Co to ride the Polar Express!! They were SUPER excited!

IMG_2903Not knowing what all they’d get I printed up “tickets” and got them “Believe” ornaments.

IMG_2917IMG_2918Waiting for the show to begin. It was cold, cold.

IMG_2921Metting and talking to the Hobo Ghost character. (We forgot The General’s jacket in the vehicle, but he didn’t complain.)

IMG_2924On the train, getting ready for it to start. So hard to get a good photo of the gang.

IMG_2925The real tickets, stamped with letters too.

IMG_2935As soon as Santa came onto our train The General said to me “I told you Santa is real!!” Santa was asking our oldest son if he was trying to take his job…the beard.

IMG_2938Santa and his helper handed out bells too. This little guy was beyond excited. But you know what his favorite thing about it was The hot chocolate…”Hot, Hot, Hot, we got it!!”

We headed home the next day after doing some shopping with our Christmas money and eating delicious food. Durango has some of thee best food around. You have to go Grass Burger, cannot beat grass-fed beef and the Fired Up Pizzeria, besides their pizzas they make the yummiest basil lemonade.

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Big Family Mama

Looking at my life, while I have always been more of an introvert, I think I was destined to be a mama to a big family.

Growing up for a time we lived with our grandparents and two aunts. My mom comes from a big family and always having family around was normal for me as a child. Many big potluck meals, sleepovers squished in with cousins, learning to bake with Grandma and fractions with Grandpa help shape the way I see family today.

Having divorced parents who both remarried meant having multiple siblings…full biological, step and half, step mom, step dad all trying to blend into one. Kind of weird when a classmate becomes your step sister or that you are old enough to be the mom of your three half brothers. This shaped the way I view blended families.

Take the time my mom and I were visiting my cousin in the hospital. The little patient he roomed with lay helpless in his crib having broken limbs planted the seed of adoption in my heart. That seed being watered and fertilized unknowingly along the way. Leading me to have a heart that sees adoption as being family.

When I met my husband, Robert, he wanted four kids, which to me was a big family. Huge in fact. I thought he was crazy, but I loved him and said why not. I had not yet put all of these events together. I could not yet see how God was preparing me all along to mother six kids.

It wasn’t until about a year or so after bringing our youngest kids home and our kids were sitting around the table that being a mama to so many kids felt right. The so many became family. They became who I am, who I was called to be all along. Our house is noisy. There is always a door opening or closing in our home. There is currently dog hair and dirt mixed in with the wet pool feet marks on our freshly cleaned floors. One child is happily drawing on the patio table while four others are cooling off in our small rectangular pool after playing backyard baseball. And when our oldest and her husband join us we feel that much more complete. To be called their mother I am grateful.

Good Parenting ISN’T Easy

The other day at my 60 something appointment since February I got two comments, in regards to our big family, ones that I get too often.

“It must be hard.” and “You seem so calm.”

First of all, parenting brings the best out in a person but it can bring out the worst as well. My husband and I are no more “special” than the next parent. And trust me we have been pushed to our limits more than our fair share on this parenting journey. So if you think I am calm…thank you. But really you are looking at the work God has done in me or you just caught me at the right moment.

Second, of course, it is not easy. Good parenting is never easy. Raising a child into a functioning, civilized, caring human being, one who knows they are capable of reaching their potential takes work. That is raising them from day one, with your DNA. Throw in someone else’s’ DNA and all that goes into raising kids from foster care and no it is not easy.

Today I see things in a different light. I used to take so much for granted when I only parented our bio kids. Sometimes it takes a broken mirror to show you just how important the little things you did really are. So many of the little moments, just talking about the everyday things like “Oh, look at that bird,” all of the small touches, the little everyday connections, if missing can really affect a child. Not to mention when bad stuff happens.

My husband and I truly feel no different than the next good parent trying their hardest. We have no special super powers (though I wish we did, they’d sure come in handy). We haven’t taken any over the top intense training to prepare us for this. A lot of it has been off the cuff parenting, a LOT of praying and yes, a lot of failing.

Moms and dads, don’t let the media or those around you pressure you into feeling like you are not a good parent. None of us are great…well okay there are those among us. None of our lives are Pinterest perfect. (At least no one I know.) We all make mistakes, we all yell at times, we all lose it and you know what…that’s okay. We are showing our kids that it’s okay to be human, to be less than perfect. It’s okay it mess up. They get to see how we handle failure, how we handle a stressful situation, a major plot twist in life. To me, that is what real parents do. If you don’t have laminated ABC’s on your walls…it’s okay. Your kids don’t care. They want your time and attention. They want to be bored and discover things on their own. They need to fall and figure out how to get up on their own.

Parenting isn’t for sissies for sure, but I really haven’t met too many of those, so you are more than likely going to be just fine as a parent. So pull up your big girl/boy panties and stand your ground, spend time with your kids, make the hard decisions (I have said this more than once, “I want you to be safe more than I want you to be happy.) Make your kids do chores, teach them to forgive, show them how to notice and accept others around them. Give them new experiences in and out of their comfort zones. Let them cry, let them feel pain, let them know the depths of messing up and being forgiven. Show them grace, give them order, hold them accountable.

Parenting is hard. Parenting sometimes sucks. But parenting is also very worth it.

 

 

 

Vacation

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We took a vacation, a road trip to see family in California and Arizona. It was LONG, it was fun, and the memories made were well worth it.

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Our Miss D’s (Nana) suitcase fell out of the cargo shell onto a very busy highway about here. Cabazon…115 degrees, SUPER windy, hence the windmills. Long story but her poor suitcase got shredded and it’s contents scattered all over the busy four lane highway. It wasn’t until some sensible drivers moved over that we were able to retrieve her belongings. Up until then I was at the mercy of the wind made by the speeding vehicles to blow her clothes my way.

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Family tradition, the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Since I was a little girl we have taken pictures here. Now all six of our kids have been here.

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Huntington Beach…never seen this young gent so happy!! Seriously. The beach was a hit for sure. If I could bottle it up for him I would.

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Tried new coffee. It gave Hubby and I a few minutes alone. Grateful for even mini-dates.

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Went to La Brea Tar Pits. I hadn’t been there since like fifth grade. Lots of fun. Very informative, which I eat up. The kids had fun spending some Christmas money at the gift shop too.

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IMG_2063Los Angeles, CA traffic!! No thank you.

 

IMG_2072Can’t tell you how much we all needed this little guy to nap and nap long.

IMG_2073Cousins and one uncle.

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Family in Arizona. Good times. So blessed to have a family who not only accepts our kids but sees passed their skin color and their past. Everyone of our family members has been so good to our kids. God is SO good.

The Road Ahead pt.2

Just last night, the sermon at church was about God’s purpose versus our preference. While the topic can refer to a number of examples in my life, this story came flashing in quicker than a preteen girl can change moods. (Part one of this journey can be read here.)

The decision on whether or not to go forward with adopting the four kiddos we met in the northern part of our state was really already decided for us. It was up to us to answer. We knew once we met them that they were “the ones”. We knew in a way that can’t really be explained. Hubby, our eldest son and I just knew. Hubby a bit less, but he still knew.

I NEVER imagined God wanting us to adopt four.at.one.time. NEVER. I even spoke to God in my heart, “but God, four?!” We were not set up for four, we had not planned on four. Our plans were a bit (very) different, but yet there was this underlying peace, that God was with us. God’s purpose versus our preference.

September 2015 we met our kids, we didn’t bring them home until February 2016. We missed all of the ‘big” holidays with them. When we met them in September, we decided to take the next step rather quickly. We met with our caseworker, his manager in the CYFD office and video conferenced with those involved in the kids’ case. There we were presented a Reader’s Digest version of the kids’ life, personalities,  behaviors, etc. We asked questions, lots of questions. Then it was go home, talk about it, think it over, pray. Then onto the next step. The is where the hold up was. This step required LOTS of paperwork. With four kids, there is a tree’s worth of paper involved just for this one meeting. The copy machine in our kids’ CYFD office was broken. Let me remind you that when you are dealing with foster care you are dealing with the government. We were hoping to bring the kids home by Thanksgiving. No fixed copier. I called everyone I could think of. Thought of EVERY possibility to get those papers copied. No fixed copier. Let me tell you that was one sad Christmas. We missed Thanksgiving, we missed one of the boy’s birthdays, and now we missed Christmas.

At this point in the game, the kids were still not told that we wanted them. To me, this was the hardest. We knew how we felt. We knew how hard we were trying to bring them home. They had no idea what had happened to the family they met way back in September. Did that family even want them?

I don’t remember when, but I ended up getting ahold of our governor’s liaison. He helped us before, and he came through big time for us again. Not only did the kids’ CYFD office get one brand new copier, they got two! From then on it was pretty smooth going.

So, with the biggest black binder, I have ever seen, Ms. L (the kids’ caseworker) came here to have the next meeting.  Again, more reading, more questions, more notes were taken. Go home read, think, talk, and pray. Onto the next step: calling the foster parents, teachers, etc. of our kids. I had my list of questions, my spot on our bedroom floor where each call was made. For one call, despite using a translator we really didn’t learn much about our little one. One foster mom was headed to the ER at the time I finally reached her!! Yes, the ER. She wasn’t sure if she was having a heart attack or what!?! Okay, so here’s the part where I am like let’s go get our son NOW! Can we break some rules? (If you know me, breaking rules is NOT my thing at all.) I had to leave it, leave him in God’s hands.

Needless to say, there was a LOT of waiting and a LOT of praying and too much fretting on my part. Once we did all we were supposed to do here on our end, it was time to give the final answer. Nothing we had read, nothing we were told changed our minds. We said yes.

The Road Ahead pt.1

As the clouds cover the mountains in our back, backyard an off and on mist like drizzle dampens the thirsty ground, I actually share a Facebook a two-year-old memory on my page:

“So, today is THE big day that we get our kids. I woke up feeling a little off (okay more than a little). I couldn’t put my finger on it until my dad texts me and asked if the labor pains have started. THAT’S it!! Mental labor pains, emotional labor pains. Yes, I am totally feeling the labor pains. I am not going to lie, taking on four kids is pretty huge. I try not to think of what God has asked us to do very often, as the responsibility can seem too much. I just take one day at a time with a big goal in mind. I am much more excited than scared, but so much has gone into this time, into getting kids, these kids, so many “what if’s” that we have heard for two plus years. Life is never going to be the same for us…but then again it wasn’t from the day we met them. Thank you all for your support and help and prayers through this all. You honestly don’t know how it strengthens me. Okay, I need to get off and finish getting ready we have a lot of road time ahead of us.”

When we went to a CYFD sponsored adoption event hours away, we had no idea the outcome. No idea if we find “the” kid or kids. No idea if our adoption journey would continue on the three-year long road for finding our child/children or if God’s GPS would lead us on a completely different path. All we knew was there were some kids a few social workers had for us to meet. We knew their names and ages, and some workers provided a bit more information. As the event went along we met most of the kids on our “list” and none seemed to click. I kept asking about the sib group of four we were told about. Half way through I had to use the porta- potty and literally ran into and a 10-year-old boy who would soon be our son. He was coming out of the porta-potty as I walked passed. I quickly scooped out the other kids that were nearby, four of them, who look to be about the ages we were told.  As I answered nature’s call I listened to see if any names were spoken by the group washing their hands at the portable washing station. None. As soon as I was done I headed over to the station myself. Again, trying to check out the kids without looking like a stalker, also trying to still my heart at the little one on the stroller reaching his hands out to me. With clean, dry hands I made my way to the only adult in the group. I introduced myself to her. Ms. L replied; “You are the one!” and we proceeded to make quick small talk and she introduced me to the shy, apprehensive sib group standing before me.

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(Us at the adoption event in our red bandanas.)

Now, there are no words to really explain how you feel when you meet kids who could one day be yours. You want to take them all into your arms at once and run away with them. At the same time, you want to walk into this as if you had to choose between door number one or door number two. Door number one being the “Let’s walk away now and wait for an easier road.” Or door number two: “What the heck are we doing? What the heck are we waiting for? What the heck are we doing?” no turning back door. I had so many questions. I wanted the event to stop so we could just talk to the kids, to their worker and really get to know them. And boy, oh boy, could I just squeeze the little chubster in the stroller.

I hurried to find Hubby and our eldest son so they could meet Ms. L and the kids too. I’d like to say we played it cool, and not seemed too eager, like many of the other parents looking for their child. But part of it is a bit blurred. I know we milled around with Ms. L and the sib group for a bit. At one point I mentioned that when Little Man in the stroller held out his arms to me, I wanted to grab him right up. To which Ms. L replied in her (sorry for any racial tones here) stereotypical welcoming African American woman voice, with her all-encompassing personality, “Go right ahead.” “Really?!?” I took that happy boy right into my arms and was he heavy!

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(Do you see the lady in the jean skirt and white tank top? That’s me next to our eldest son. The little feet right in front of me belong to our soon to be youngest son.)

Again, much of that day was a blur, so many thoughts, so many emotions are involved in one of these events. I do remember the turning point was at lunch. When Ms. L let us eat with the kids. I quickly looked up ahead at what was being served, told the kids and got their orders. It was hot, it was dry and like I said it was a bag of mixed emotions for the waiting parents and waiting kids. So small talk didn’t always come easy. While we sat at our table eating, some picking at hot dogs and burgers we tried to ask the most neutral questions as possible, trying to find out as much as possible in so short a time.

As the event came to a close, and “our” sib group made an early exit, we were left to decide, left to talk about the road ahead, left to comment to the unknown or not. I still remember sitting on the edge of my seat trying to remain ladylike in my jean skirt while removing the enormous amount of goat heads from my brown and teal mary jane crocs. Non-stop talking was going on, while we took off our red bandanas and contemplated out future. The road home was a long one, made even longer both the weight of the decision we faced and the wait of starting the journey ahead.

Ewww That Smell

I mentioned in my one of my last posts that I would talk about the ninos and their smell.

Well, here goes.

When our little guys and girl came to us almost two years ago they were coming from different foster homes. Chief and Nana were in the same home. The other boys were separated too. So four kids, three different homes. Yet they all had the same funky smell. They didn’t smell per se. It was their clothes. It took months to get that funk out. They all were in clean homes too and ours was a clean home.

I talked to another adoptive mom about it. How no matter what I used, how many scented beads I shook into the washer, their clothes still smelled. She said her boys did too. Stress related. She can actually tell when one of hers would be lying by his smell.

I did some researching, just a bit to see how studied this really is. Here is what I found:

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/signs/body-odor

http://www.springdaleclinic.com/how-does-anxiety-cause-body-odor/

http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Anxiety/Aniexty-and-body-odor/show/5052

There isn’t really much info on kids from foster care “smelling”, but there is evidence that anxiety and body odor can be related. There are also other types of B.O. that golly, I really didn’t know existed. B.O. I’d rather not mention here.

Recently I posed this question/topic on a foster/adopt Facebook page. The result was better than the internet search. Yes, it really is a “thing”. No matter what kid. No matter the background. No matter the age. They all came with some kind of smell. Some reported taking a year to get rid of the smell. Other than the stress factor others suggested they kids diets as well.