Respite and IKEA

07/16/2013

While we were out of town kid-free Jason and I had to find places for Ali and Buzz to stay, of course. Ali was easy. My parents were willing. Since we lived with them for 10 months last year and Ali goes there all the time, it was a pretty easy transition for her. We did a lot of FaceTime and sending photos and videos back and forth, which helped a lot. I’m so thankful for technology!

Buzz was a little trickier. It was too much to ask anyone to watch both kiddos together (I totally understand!) so we needed to find another home for Buzz to stay. Our new family case worker was awesome about sending out an email and locating a family that was willing and available. The other family’s case worker sent their contact info with a little note “heart in the right place” next to their names. I can’t tell you how much peace of mind that gave me! I talked to his respite foster mama at length before the trip and sent her a detailed list of his routine and likes/dislikes. They were grateful for all the info and I was thrilled that they cared enough to ask in advance about his favorite foods, books, activities, etc. She sent me reports and some photos during our trip reporting that he was doing great and such a sweet boy. She also kept in touch with Buzz’s mom through texts, pictures and videos lik we usually do. Buzz’s mom and I both hated for his sake that he had to be away from our home for 9 days, but it went as good, if not better, than we could have hoped for. It was a little rocky transitioning back to our house the first day. It was hard to interpret his emotions…sad, confused, scared…but I’m not exactly sure why. We did our best to explain to him everything that was happening and what to expect next. By the next day, he was pretty much back to his usual self. It sounds like he didn’t talk much at their house but he came back with some new words and expressions, and it’s been fun to hear what he learned: “that way!” “wait!” with his hand held out, “oh ok.”

I had planned to have an extra day of staycation when we got home before returning to the work/daycare routine but we ended up with 2 days (because Jason opted to drive through the night!) I’m really glad we had that time to transition back to a family of four again. Both of our kids caregivers did ALL of their laundry before pick up so I only had 3 loads to do when we got home, rather than 4 or 5. Thank you, thank you!

I looked at tacky over-priced Key West souveniers for the kids at several shops and just couldn’t bring myself to do it. We stopped at IKEA in Orlando on our way home and I picked out a big stuffed animal for each of them…or in Ali’s case a stuffed vegetable. She loves broccoli so I thought it would be funny to get her a big stuffed broccoli. There’s a video of her showing off Miss Bocki on my Instagram feed. Buzz loves dogs so his toy was an easy choice, too. He acted completely uninterested in it while we were still at his respite house but then fell asleep holding it on our drive home and has slept with it every nap and night since then. I asked him if dog has a name and he said “Woof Woof.”

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We got a few things for ourselves, too. Some of it won’t appear until future posts when it’s assembled and/or photographed. These were easy, though. New towels, bath rug and shower curtain for the hall bathroom:

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Refreshment

07/15/2013

 

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Jason and I love Naples but since our 10th anniversary was a very special occasion we also wanted to go somewhere new to us. We decided on Key West. The drive was beautiful.

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We stopped at Mangrove Mama’s for lunch on the recommendation of an Instagram friend @bakewithamy. It was delicious.

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And then we saw a box turtle.

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Jason looking very Floridian with his green pants.

 

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Have you ever seen such blue water?

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Jason is a key lime pie connoisseur so we had a lot! Kermit’s was our favorite, followed by Key West Key Lime Pie Co.

 

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It was a very restful, restorative trip for us both. In Key West we walked miles everyday exploring the island. We slept late most days and watched a lot of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Bob’s Burgers on Netflix. We ate a lot of really good food. Blue Heaven was recommended by multiple people and lived up to it’s reputation. Jason ordered lobster eggs Benedict with bacon and tomato which was the most memorable meal we had in the Keys. We went to Blue Heaven after a morning of snorkeling which was the highlight of our trip. I don’t have any photos of that excursion. It was incredible to see sea creatures in their natural habitat. The most thrilling was when a nurse shark, about 5 feet long, swam right past Jason and me. I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get to see a sea turtle (Jason saw one from the boat but I missed it) but it gives me a reason to go back. Next time we’d like to try scuba diving.


Good Morning from the Sunshine State

07/08/2013

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I had planned to schedule a bunch of posts for this week but with Jason and Buzz sick last week and the holiday, time just got away from me. So know you get to know: Jason and I are in Florida this week. Since before Buzz arrived (at the beginning of May) we had been planning a getaway to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. We’re not big on celebrating milestones with “stuff” like cards or gifts but we always set aside some time for a dinner date. We did that this year too and it was painfully clear that 2 hours away from the toddlers was not enough time to catch up, and definitely not enough time to rest and relax.

A kid-less vacation was what we needed. Four days into our vacation and we already feel like its been SO refreshing! We had dinner at the Columbia in Sarasota, spent the weekend in Naples, Fl (our favorite) and this morning we’re heading to Key West – somewhere new to us.

My mama always told me that the best gift you can give your kids is to love your spouse well.


Dun Dun Dun…

07/03/2013

The stomach virus strikes again. I can’t believe I’m writing about this but it’s basically been consuming all of my non-working, waking hours lately. You know I mentioned getting a nasty stomach virus last week? Well we’re pretty sure Ali had a milder form of it last week too. Buzz had a little bit of symptoms but seemed fine. On Sunday evening, I woke the kids up from their deep slumber so we could go to a Nashville Sounds game. I got free tickets from work, their was a concert beforehand and the weather was cloudy an 79 degrees so we were all set up for a perfect evening. Before the game started, we could tell something was up. Ali was just eating it all up. She LOVES adventures, people, crowds, mascots, music…all of it. But Buzz was not acting like his usual wild self. It was kind of nice at first…during the concert he just stood next to me and held my hand or wanted to be picked up. But once we got to our seats he was really trying to get comfortable and acting really sleepy. We only stayed for 1.5 innings and realized we better go. As soon as we got home, he flopped on the sofa in the playroom. I checked his temperature and he had a fever. As soon as I turned to walk out of the room he threw up all over the place. I took a sick day on Monday to take care of him and Ali while Jason ran a bunch of errands. Tuesday morning Buzz still had a fever so I left both kids with Jason and went to work. Before lunch time I got a text from Jason that he wasn’t feeling well. By the time I got both kids down for their afternoon naps, Jason was definitely sick with the same dang stomach virus. I hate that thing. I hate that it’s taken over a week to move from person to person. I hate that it started with me.

I’m praying that Buzz is well enough to go to day care today and that Jason is able to rest and get his strength back. Possibly, I’ll be able to go in to the office. Good grief. It has been a week! We have a lot of fun planned for the next few days so I’m ready to kick this thing to the curb.

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The Blue Guitar

07/02/2013

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It was Jason’s first guitar almost 20 years ago, the one he learned to play on. It was a red burst color back then. The mid-60s Sekova guitar (like this one) originally belonged to his mom, believe it or not! His dad taught him as many chords as he knew and then Jason started weekly guitar lessons. He’s been obsessed with all things guitar ever since. By the time Jason was a guitar performance major in music school, he was the one teaching guitar lessons. He’s had a lot of different guitars through the years, always buying, selling and trading up.  In a high school art class Jason painted the old Sekova blue but never reassembled it into working order.

I’ve always treasured the blue guitar but it took a lot of convincing before my guitar loving husband would allow me to display a non-functional guitar in our house. To me, the blue guitar represents dreams that come true—if you pour your whole heart into something, work hard and never give up, you CAN reach your loftiest goals!

Some bitter, cruel, and perhaps a few even well-meaning people through Jason’s adolescence attempted to crush his dream; to tell him he wasn’t good enough… or suggest how arrogant he must be to think he could actually be a professional guitar player… or to say “it didn’t work for me so it won’t work for you.”

Jason has a tender heart, an inherited work ethic and perfectionism (I blame his German roots), and a rare tenacity. He’s now playing professionally, traveling the world, making a good living doing what he loves. I hung the blue guitar in the playroom where our kids spend a lot of time because I want them to ask about it. I want to tell them over and over again about how hard their daddy worked and how much he loves what he does; I want them to know—to really know—that with enough passion and diligence they can achieve whatever they desire to achieve. Dreams do come true.

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Project Restoration: Home Life Interview

07/01/2013

The June 2013 issue of Home Life magazine includes an interview with Jason and me, written eloquently by my friend and former co-worker, Lindsay Williams. She had the foresight (or it was a God-timing-thing) to interview us as we were preparing to reopen our home as foster parents earlier this spring. If she had waited a few months later, to when Buzz arrived, I’m pretty sure our brains would have been too scrambled to make any good sense. As it is, I read the article when it came out months after our interview and my scrambled egg brain said, “Wow? Did I say that?! We really sound like we know what the heck we’re doing and why!” In my exhausted-chaotic-new-foster-placement mental state, I actually encouraged myself. I didn’t know that was possible.

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The article is good and you should read it—not because we’re so smart, but because Lindsay made us sound so smart. She’s good!

Here are some of our original answers:

What prompted you to begin the process of becoming certified foster parents?

Martina: We had talked a few times about adopting “someday” but imagined it would be later in our lives when we were already seasoned parents. When we finally felt like we were ready to think about having kids (after being married 8 years…we married young!), I started researching adoption just out of curiosity. I looked at international adoption first but then found myself learning how the US foster care system works. I didn’t realized that there are no orphanages in this country; kids who are waiting to be adopted are usually in state custody, either at a foster home or in a group home setting. Long story short, God turned my curious searching into a growing passion and before we knew what hit us, we were crying over dinner and ready to take the first step toward becoming foster parents.

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Fostering is a totally different experience than becoming a biological parent. How do you mentally and spiritually prepare yourself to be a foster mom/dad? 

Jason: Fostering is very different from having children biologically, but this is a situational difference. The care, love, discipline, and commitment are often the same if not more necessary with a foster child who has a deficit in these areas. I would say, the single most important thing you can do for a foster child is love them like they were yours biologically. This is important even if they leave or you have knowledge that they will be leaving. These kids need the things that a healthy family can provide while their biological family gets life back on track. To give the kids anything less would be even more detrimental to their childhood. Needless to say, fostering is not a calling to take lightly. It requires everything you have, and a broken heart sometimes. That is the consequence of sacrificial love. It’s a requirement.

Martina: I think the biggest difference is the time to prepare. Biological parents have 9 months and a due date. We can take as much time as we want to prepare our home, our hearts, our minds but the “due date” is a complete surprise. It seemed just like any other day as we’re sitting down to dinner and then BAM—we got a phone call asking if we could take a placement of a 2-month-old little girl. An hour later, she was at our home and we were instant parents, again. That little girl is now almost 2 years old and was officially adopted into our family last August.

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How has your home become a place of ministry by taking in foster kids and now raising Ali as your own? Are there specific things you do in your home to make sure God has a presence in your house?

Martina: I’m reminded often of my shortcomings and inadequacy as a mom, but I try not to let that get me down. When I am weak, I know that God is strong. I know that God is mighty and able. He’s a good Father and He’s the one that equips me. He will not lead us into a challenge and then abandon us—He provides what we need each step of the way. To keep that perspective going, I try to spend time with God every morning while the rest of the household is still asleep and I welcome His presence into our home everyday. While we have an empty bedroom I also spend time in there most days praying for the kid(s) who will be there someday—for their safety now, for protection around their hearts, for preparation for them and for us for the time we’ll be together, for wisdom on how to love and serve them as a mom for as long as I have the chance, that they will come to know and experience Jesus in a mighty way.

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What would your advice be to someone considering becoming a foster parent?

 Martina: Connect with other foster parents however you can to get a realistic picture. Blogs, podcasts and email were my source because I didn’t know any other foster parents when we started out. If your life feels chaotic and out of control already, I don’t recommend becoming a foster parent. Most of all, pray and seek the Lord’s guiding for your family. Don’t be afraid to call an agency today for more information. There is a huge need for more foster parents in the US and over 100,000 kids currently waiting to be adopted out of foster care.

Jason: Foster Parenting is really a desire that comes from a calling on us to affect the culture. Christians need to understand that if we’re going to make a significant impact, we also need to extend Christ’s love to the children. For better or worse, our government understands it starts with kids. So did countless dictators and revolutionaries. That’s the negative side, but we can make a serious change for our future generations by sowing into children. Want to see a change in our culture as it pertains to drug use? Teenage pregnancy? Murder? Incarceration? Invest in a child.