Friday, August 30, 2019

Norah's first day of four year old preschool 2019.

Norah started preschool again recently! She did awesome and had a great first day! She seemed (mostly) ready and excited to go back. There was one time she said she didn't want to go back, but I think that was just nerves or something, because most of the time she was happy about it. It really helped ease the transition (for both of us!) this year knowing it's the same classroom with a lot of the same kids as last year. She has two new teachers that seem incredibly sweet! She is going three mornings this year vs. two last year. (I am okay with preschool, even though I wanted to go pick her up already a half an hour in because I missed her, but I know she will love it and learn a lot. I'm not okay with thinking about Kindergarten next year!)

Our beautiful girl! Norah, we pray you know how loved you are going out and that you share His love with others!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Foster care update.

There's a Daniel Tiger song where Daniel is nervous about going to school and his parents sing a song about how "grownups come back" to help calm his nerves. (Can I make it more obvious that we live with young kids by talking about Daniel Tiger?) I get the point of the song, and I'm not trying to put down Daniel Tiger, but it makes me ache every time I hear it because it's not true for every kid. For some kids, the grownups don't come back, or at least not in their time frame or when they want them to. The people who are supposed to make them feel safe, loved, and cared for sometimes make them feel the exact opposite and for that, my heart breaks.

My heart breaks that foster care is necessary, but if I think about the depths too much it's overwhelming. I believe that Jesus is light and His light overcomes. Every time, even if I don't understand the timing or reasoning from my earthly perspective. I don't know why some kids end up in foster care, but I pray that whoever is in our home, for whatever amount of time, can experience a little light. Probably the most common phrase I hear about foster care is, "I could never do that." I do believe that foster care is something you have to be called to do, but I also think that many more people could be called to it if they would be a little more open. I don't say that to guilt anyone, but I say that because I feel the exact same way. I struggle with it. I don't feel trained enough. I don't feel experienced enough. I don't know what I'm doing. I often feel that I can't do it.

But, it's amazing the strength God has given us when we needed it. We can do harder things than we think we can. Sometimes Kley and I look at ourselves when we're doing respite and just whisper, "We're actually doing it!" God has used our yeses so far in ways beyond what we imagined. It's been hard, yes, and some kids have been harder than others, but there has been light every time. (For those who don't know, so far our family has done respite foster care for the last few years, which means that we are doing short term care for kids who are already in foster care, like when their long term foster family needs a break, has a crisis, goes on vacation, etc.)

Recently we did respite for a 6-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl (not at the same time). I've been wanting to write an update for awhile, but it's hard to put what I feel about foster care into words. Sometimes Kley and I feel like we can't do it, but we just rely on Him and then we can. Sometimes we just whisper to each other, "What do we do now?" when something happens and we just do our best to figure it out. That said, I am so thankful for Kley and that we can do this together.

We did the 6-year-old girl first. She was more challenging because she acted younger than six, so there were more challenges with sharing, vying for attention, etc. since our girls were so close in age. Sometimes I don't feel like I can talk about foster care because I feel shame and guilt that I should be better at it, like if my heart thoughts were splayed out people would see that I'm a fraud. I know that that is Satan trying to attack and those are the times that I need to speak truth to myself and turn to Jesus. Neediness is a good thing. We can't do it without Him! It was particularly hard, for whatever reason, for me to be patient and gracious that week, but I'm thankful for the refinement of it. The first night we had her, she had huge, sad tears rolling down her face at bedtime because she was scared. They were quiet tears because she was trying her hardest not to cry, but I felt so deeply for her and sat with her that night and every subsequent night until she fell asleep. (I know that if this was a long term placement, that would definitely be something to work on eventually, but in a short term situation I was perfectly fine with sitting by her if that was comforting.) I can't imagine how scared she felt and how scared I would feel if I was placed into a similar situation. We can tell her over and over again that she is safe, but that doesn't at all make her automatically feel safe.

An amazing God moment we had with her was it ended up that her twin brother was staying with a friend from our church in our town who also does foster care. Regularly, they live much farther apart and don't get to see each other often. That weekend, they were able to see each other several times at the park and pool, and it was beautiful to watch. I truly felt that that was God in action organizing that and it was so neat. (These get togethers were done with the proper okay from all parties involved, obviously.) She also asked us during our prayers later to thank God that she got to see her brother.

When I asked the 16-year-old how much she got to see her family, she got tears in her eyes and said it wasn't often and that there were some family issues going on. I don't know what kinds of activities she got to do growing up, but she told us several times that weekend that she was having so much fun. Even a simple comment like that is a huge example of His shining light into darkness I think. These kids experience so much hurt, and what amazing ministry to even be able to take them to the pool and see a genuine smile on their face. She loved photography and had fun taking pictures with my camera. I found my old ipod and she loved listening to it, like seriously loved it and had music playing almost nonstop. It made me feel a little cooler because my ipod is super old and I haven't updated it in many years, so I was flooded with memories of college and high school and happy that apparently there were still a few cool songs left on it. A favorite God moment from our time with her was she loved horses and was so excited when we went to the youth fair and they had pony rides. I was initially scared because it was meant for younger kids and there was a 90 pound limit, but she so desperately wanted to ride, so we let her ask if it would be okay. The owner of the horses actually had one that was bigger than the rest (so it could handle more weight), that he was trying to train, so he wasn't letting the younger kids ride him. Since she had had prior riding experience, he said she could ride. Even though it was just walking around in a circle, she was so very happy. It brings tears to my eyes to remember these small moments back, because even though they are small they are actually huge. It meant the world to her to ride that pony in that moment. For that day, in that time, I'm so glad we got to witness God at work in letting that sweet girl ride a pony.

All those little light moments add up into a flame. I'm sure of it. We are so thankful that God equips the untrained and strengthens the weak. We don't know what we're doing or what He has in store for us next, but we trust that He does. It's amazing how He's made it so clear to us each time whether to say yes or not beforehand, which was one of our big questions beforehand of how do you decide what to say yes to? The conversations we've been able to have with our girls about showing His kindness and love are so tangibly real when a foster kid comes in. It's challenging for everyone, but the growth it brings is so good.

So we will keep going, praying that we can keep experiencing little flickers of light with whoever is in our home, that His love was poured into them while they were with us, and that it will burst into flame later in their life. God is big and God is working and God is good.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Homemade pizza night with the De Jongs.

We got together with the De Jongs for supper one night and we made homemade pizzas- what fun! We are getting to see more of Brett, Elizabeth, and Will because Brett has some of his clinical rotations for medical school up in this area, which we are glad about! (For those who don't know, Kley's parents live in the same town as us. Kley has one sister, Elizabeth, who lives in Des Moines with her husband, Brett, and their 6-month-old son, Will.)

So fun to all hang out together! We are very thankful to see our family pretty often!

The girls loved making their pizzas and sampling the toppings! :)

We love cousin time!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

End of summer Des Moines visit.

We've declared it to be annual that the girls and I take a trip midweek sometime in August to do "end of summer fun activities!" Not that we don't want Kley to come of course, but work duties press on unfortunately. It's been such a fun tradition, as all of the summer activities are done at home (library programs, music class, swim lessons, summer rec activities, etc.) and school hasn't started yet. Norah is going to preschool three mornings a week this year, as opposed to two last year, and even adding one more morning is making me a bit sad! She will love it and it will be good for her, but we will miss her.

We had a great time visiting their pool that has a super nice kids area with a splash pad, shallow pool, and park. It's so fun to watch the girls enjoy time with family!

Aunt Kayla is home for the summer from college too, so it was fun to hang out with her!

Norah's swimming has improved so much this summer!

We hit the fair on the first day this year and it went super well! We found a close parking spot, the weather was nice, we didn't have to wait in long lines, and we didn't have any big meltdowns, so I'd call that a huge win. They had this free kids area that was so cute about farming where you walked through and did simulated activities of planting seeds, combing a sheep, milking a cow, etc. 

At the end, they got to sell their produce at the market and they got a pretend dollar that they could use to buy something at the store, so the girls unanimously chose ice cream cones.

They loved seeing the baby pigs in the animal building.

Fair cuties!

The girls were thrilled with the giant slide!

Trying nitro ice cream- a big hit! (Yes, that means the girls got ice cream twice. Major treat day! :)

We also got to go swimming at a family friend's house and had fun seeing Stephanie, who was in town from DC, and Keaton, Rose, and Jorie! Is my niece the cutest ever? Absolutely yes.

Love this picture of the girls and Stephanie! She doesn't have her own kids but loves mine like they are her own, which is so special. She gets more excited than anyone when I send her pictures of the girls. :)

Fun cousin time.

It was a goal we had for Norah to jump off the diving board this summer, and she did it! They tried to get her to do it at the beginning of the summer at her swim lessons, but she was too scared, and then they wouldn't let her do it again later because she had to pass her swim test first, which was more advanced than what she had learned yet. So tonight was perfect as this was a private pool, and the diving board was smaller than at public pools. I wondered if Norah would be scared, but she walked right up and jumped off all by herself without anyone even in to catch her! So proud of you, Norah! I actually missed that because I was lame and forgot to turn the camera on, but then she jumped in several more times with Uncle Keaton catching her. She didn't want to jump again solo because it's a saltwater pool and she got some in her mouth and said it was too salty. 

Lucy jumped off too!

Ellory is a bit more cautious, so she jumped off the side a few times, but I was able to get her off the board once at the end! 

We love you Stephanie!

Sweet cousins! Jorie is the best at saying cheese and smiling for the camera!

What a fun trip and a great end to the summer!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Everyday essence and smallest details.

Below is a passage from a daily devotional Kley and I are reading together before bed each night, and this one particularly hit home for me in this season:

In the matter of drudgery, Peter said in this passage that we have become "partakers of the divine nature" and that we should now be "giving all diligence," concentrating on forming godly habits (1 Peter 1:4-5). We are to "add" to our lives all that character means. No one is born either naturally or supernaturally with character; it must be developed. Nor are we born with habits- we have to form godly habits on the basis of the new life God has placed within us. We are not meant to be seen as God's perfect, bright-shining examples, but to be seen as the everyday essence of ordinary life exhibiting the miracle of His grace. Drudgery is the test of genuine character. The greatest hindrance in our spiritual life is that we will only look for big things to do. Yet, "Jesus took a towel and began to wash the disciples feet..." (John 13:3-5).

We all have those times when there are no flashes of light and no apparent thrill to life, where we experience nothing but the daily routine with its common everyday tasks. The routine of life is actually God's way of saving us between our times of great inspiration which come from Him. Don't always expect God to give you His thrilling moments, but learn to live on those common times of drudgery of life by the power of God.

It is difficult for us to do the "adding" that Peter mentioned here. We say we do not expect God to take us to Heaven with flowery beds of ease, and yet we act as if we do! I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all of the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I will do my duty, not for duty's sake but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience all of the magnificent grace of God is mine through the glorious atonement by the Cross of Christ.

June 15- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

While I wouldn't describe my life as drudgery and I am so thankful to be able to stay at home with my girls, this excerpt from this devotional was really good for me to read in this season. While I wouldn't trade staying home with my girls, there are a lot of things about being a stay at home mom that are the same every day, like the daily routine and the common everyday tasks. There was a moment this week where Kley got home later than I thought he would and I was trying to finish a project inside, but the girls were going wild and needed to get outside to play, and later when he came home I apologized for being angry when he arrived because in that moment I felt so stifled at home while he got to go out and experience the world. Overall, I am thankful to not feel that way, but in that specific moment I did. I'm sure many, if not all, stay at home parents have felt that way at times. While I don't always handle every frustrating moment well, I am so thankful for grace upon grace and the opportunity to be with my girls so much.

I want to build Godly habits. I want the everyday essence of my life to exhibit the miracle of His grace. I want to be obedient even in the smallest details. We have been talking with one of our girls recently about not responding in anger, that it's okay to feel angry but it's not okay to react with screams, growls, or unkind words. How convicting for my own heart as well- whether I react that way outwardly or inwardly. I often think too highly of myself for controlling my outward words or tone of voice, while neglecting to repent of the sin of reacting in anger inwardly.

What great responsibility we have as parents, whether we stay at home or not. I pray for joy in serving my family and obedience in the smallest daily tasks. Norah, Lucy, and Ellory, being your mom is a great gift and you teach me so much each day.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Girls trip to Minneapolis.

All of the summer activities here have ended (library programs, summer rec activities, and the girls' summer music class), so the girls and I headed up to the Twin Cities to visit Karlie and Zack (my sister/BIL, and their dog Phoebe- the girls always remind me when I say that that we can't forget Phoebe). Karlie wasn't working for a couple days (she's an amazing NICU nurse), so it worked perfectly! 

We had so much fun and had amazing weather. We tried to be outside as much as possible and roasted marshmallows for s'mores, went to Como Zoo, and two different parks/splash pads that were amazing. I'm thankful that the girls do really well in the car, so that part is fine. (We always try to plan trips to drive over nap time so they sleep for at least a little bit and then we let them watch a movie- a special treat for trips. They pick Frozen basically every time. :) They didn't sleep very well, but that tends to happen on trips, oh well!

Surprisingly, the girls didn't love the s'mores very much, but had fun making them. They would rather just stuff plain marshmallows in their mouths instead!

This park and splash pad we went to was truly incredible and the girls had the best time, but I'm also thankful Zack and Karlie were with me to help because it was busy and massive. 

Such a cool place!

Thankful for truly great aunts and uncles for our girls! So glad we got to have some one on one time with you, Zack and Karlie- thanks for hosting us! (My sister is the best and bought them special things like cheese pizza, Frozen macaroni and cheese, popsicles, etc.)

The girls loved this teeter totter and bridge slide through thing. (What are the proper names? Who knows.)

Norah loved this zip line and waited so patiently in line!

Fun at Como Zoo.

The girls don't three way match super often, but it's so cute to do sometimes! It makes people stare at us even more, but I don't care. It's still amazing to me sometimes how many people stare at us for various reasons- a huge stroller, three young girls, twins, etc. I really don't mind at all- they are adorable so I don't blame them! We have a glider board on the back of our stroller so Norah can stand on it too, and I heard someone comment about how amazed they were that our stroller had three in a row as they walked past, ha!

Being a mom is really challenging sometimes, but it's my most favorite thing and I love it!

More park fun.

Thankful for fun summer activities!