Monday, November 26, 2012

Beach Friday 2012

This year we continued our tradition of going to 17 Mile Drive in Monterey the day after Thanksgiving. It was our fourth year. The first two years were extremely chilly and windy, but not this time. On this day the weather was absolutely perfect: breezy and warm.

It was an amazing day. The kids were happy and mellow. We parents sat and talked. The boys splashed in the water. They played in the sand. One kid built a city in the sand complete with multiple walls, building, cars, and and a moat. The other built bombs out of sand. If you know the boys, I'm sure you can guess who did what. 

We explored tide pools. We warned the boys not to touch the anemones because they might sting (I have no idea if they actually do, but I figured it was better to be safe). The kids went into panic mode. For the rest of our time at the tide pools, avoiding anemones was a matter of life and death, and they would start shrieking if they got near one. Our kids are normally not fearful about things like this, so it was a little bit funny to see them act this way.

We also saw thousands of hermit crabs, some as tiny as a lentil and some as large as a silver dollar. We encouraged the boys to put one on their hand, but after the Anemone Incident, it was difficult to convince them that they wouldn't hurt them. After much coaxing, Tommy was brave enough to let a tiny hermit crab crawl around on his hand.

The thing I love so much about 17 Mile Drive is the diversity of beaches in such a small area. It has everything from beaches with tall rocks to climb on to sprawling smooth sandy shores to run around on. Below you can see Mark flying a kite with the boys. The wind was so nice that he was able to bury the line into the sand and walk away while the kite stayed in the air for the next thirty minutes. It was fun watching the drivers smile as they saw the kite soaring high above them on the road.

After 17 Mile Drive we headed to nearby Carmel. Our aim was only to find a place to pick up some hot chocolate. But when we parked and walked around a bit, the tiny town was so enchanting in the dusk light that we ended up staying for a few hours, just strolling and poking around. We stopped in shops and admired the unique items that local crafters and artists were selling. There were several times the kids would spot something and breath a reverent "Wow!" We stopped in one art gallery and noted with a little amusement the gallery keeper following our children closely with his eyes. (No, they didn't touch anything). Eventually it got dark and then we were surrounded by trees and arbors covered in white twinkle lights. It truly was a magical little town.

The rest of our holiday weekend was full of a mix of chores and relaxation. We spent a lot of good times together as a family. It was exactly what we all needed.

See more photos of our beach trip here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Getting Back to Basics

We’re in our second week of taking a rest from foster care. This is the longest we’ve gone without having an extra child in our house since we became foster parents. It’s been a much-needed mental break. And it’s given me a lot of time to remind myself why we’re doing foster care to begin with. 

Last week our family was presented at an adoption matching for a 3 month old baby boy. I normally don't pay much attention to matchings because the odds of us being chosen are generally low. But this time, I really really hoped we would be chosen as a match for this little guy. I told myself that our chances were good this time, for various reasons. Well, we weren't chosen. If we had been chosen, we would have gotten a phone call from our caseworker by the end of the business day. But when 5 o'clock rolled around with no phone call or email, we assumed we weren't chosen. My reaction was less than mature. I was in a gloomy funk the rest of the evening and the next morning. Why? Because I didn't get what I had started to want most: a child who would join our family for good.

As much as I try to forget about it, buried deep down is a part of me that is still sad about not being able to have any more children, despite nearly four years of efforts. It was almost four years ago that we lost our third son through miscarriage, followed by three years of infertility, and it's been almost one year since we started foster care. That's a long time to be struggling with the unfulfilled desire for more children. I credit God and his undeserved grace for helping me let go of most of the discontent I held on to for so long. But there is still a nagging piece that won't let go.

Up until recently, I've found joy in being a foster parent. I’ve been content to welcome little ones, even when we know from the outset that their stay will be temporary. I’ve been able to keep in the forefront of my mind the reasons why we got into foster care to begin with: to serve God by loving and caring for little ones who need a loving family, however temporary it may be. The selfish pull was always there in the background, but I was always able to push it away. But then my mind got lazy. Without really meaning to, I stopped relying on God for my strength to do foster care and I stopped praying about how we can be used to bless others. I allowed myself to start longing for another child, a child we wouldn't have to say goodbye to. 

Which brings us to last week: Thanks to reading a blog post from a friend about her experience with sacrifice, coupled with a frank discussion with my husband regarding my bad attitude of late, I suddenly came to the realization of how selfish I’ve become in the past month where foster care was concerned. It was a much-needed slap upside the head. 

I realized that my motives had changed and were no longer rooted in self-denial and sacrificial love. While these terms sound may lofty and pious, in reality they are amazingly freeing, when compared to the burden of longing and jealousy. Instead, I was feeling discontent at not being able to add to my family. I felt it when we accepted our last placement but at the time I didn’t see if for what it was. I should have realized it when I was a bit too anxious for him to leave, since I knew there was no hope of keeping him (which I am ashamed to admit). I should have realized it when I was short with my children for no reason. When I was annoyed at having to wake up twice a night with a hungry newborn. When I ceased relying on God for my strength and tried to do everything on my own. I was quite humbled to have all of these realizations. It took a few days for it all to sink in. 

I've been asking God to change my heart. To give me a heart that would love these children without any thought of return. Or any thought of keeping one. To make me content with my two children and help me see them for the blessings that they are.

I've been meditating on this verse: 
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

It is humbling to realize that all the little feelings and struggles I'm having are transient. They will only last for a short time, when compared to the span of eternity. What is eternal is choosing to do the right thing. Which for me at this time is to care for children on a temporary basis. It's comforting to realize that whatever struggles (which are admittedly very minor compared to what others are going through and what Paul was referring to in this verse) I'm going through are momentary and light. That is a huge change in perspective compared to my short-sighted longing for adding more children to my family.

With all that said, I am now eager to get back into foster care. We promised ourselves we would take time off until after Thanksgiving, and we will stick to that plan. But I'm looking forward to making that call saying "Yes, we're ready for more children."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Foster Care Break

This adorable little guy just left our home last week. We got him when he was three weeks old and we had him for a month. When we first got him, we were told we would only have him for a few days. Ha! Part of the 'fun' of foster care is that you can never count on the timelines you're given. So when someone tells us a child will be staying for a week, or a month, or sixth months, we've learned to just nod our heads and go with the flow.

We were honestly relieved when this little guy left, a first time for us. He was super cute and it was fun having a newborn. But... We realized early into his stay with us that we should have taken a lot more time off after Baby B left us. We thought we were ready to jump back into the chaos of foster care after just a week. In retrospect, I think we just wanted to fill Baby B's void as quickly as possible. 

This time we are taking off a lot more time. We plan to add ourselves back to the foster care list after Thanksgiving. Now that we're back down to a family of four, we are enjoying spending time with our kids and being spontaneous, which is a lot easier with two big kids.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tommy at 6 Years Old

You have grown up so much in this year. Sometimes I look at you and I can still see little Tommy, the way you used to crouch with your chubby toddler legs over a bug on the ground and study it. Other times I look at you and you look so positively grown up, it's a little unsettling. Where did my little guy go?

You've grown into a wonderful young boy in this past year. You have shown yourself to be a caring big brother: whenever Ben is sad or hurt, you do everything you can to show him love and comfort him. The other day Ben got his finger caught in something and ripped some skin off. He was badly hurt and was crying a lot, so while I doctored him up, you fixed him a snack of an apple, some bread, and some yogurt and found him his favorite sticker (of a train). It melted my heart to see you be so thoughtful to him! 

Another example is this: we have a rule that birthday gifts are off-limits to others for the first day that the birthday boy receives them. But you never hold to this rule, you always share with your brother anyway. And Ben does the same for you. (Kind of a pointless rule, right?)

You are loving school. Sometimes you lack the ability to sit and do the work for more than ten minutes at a time. But you are thriving in your learning. Your reading has improved a immensely this past year. This time last year you were just able to read the very simple Bob Books and could barely sound out words. Now you're at a second grade reading level and reading everything you can find. You're zooming through your math lessons too. Math and science seem to be your favorite things to learn about. 

You like doing paper crafts, anything that involves cutting, folding, glueing and taping. If I leave you alone with paper, tape, and scissors, you will create complex paper sculptures of airplanes or robots. For an-almost six year old, you've gotten very good at origami.

You have gotten more outgoing in this past year. You used to be shy about talking to people, particularly strangers. But now you are comfortable talking with people you know, and you're getting more comfortable talking with strangers. You seem to really open up and get animated when you talk about something that you like a lot.

I'm looking forward to watching you mature in this next year. You are such a sweet, sincere, loving boy and I love being your mom.

This past spring you learned how to read Green Eggs and Ham all by yourself. You were so proud.