Since my last post was about shelving and organization, here’s this for balance. My precious 4-year-old daughter is content in chaos. Her room has shelving and bins and everything has a place…she prefers to have everything on the floor and bed.
Jason and I had been talking for some time about a bigger shelving unit or built-in shelving in our living room to make better use of the large wall space. (Tons of ideas on his Shelving Units Pinterest board here.) After looking at a lot of pre-made and vintage options, as well as contacting a subcontractor, Jason ultimately decided to tackle this project himself. In one of my nesting moods, I started emptying everything off of the bookshelf (it’s from IKEA, many years ago, called ENETRI) and made room for it in the den/playroom. I was craving more storage for toys in the play area.
I’m really happy with how it turned out. We still need to do some arranging on the living room shelves and we need a boat load of bookends so all our books aren’t stacked horizontally.
People often ask us how we keep our living room so clean. Here’s the answer: the toys all stay in the playroom and in the kids’ rooms. Organization is my jam. Every bin in the playroom has a specific purpose and I purge and rotate toys fairly often. We use the living room for sitting, resting, reading and occasionally watching TV. It’s mostly an adult room. I spend the most time here in the morning for an hour before the kids wake up for my quiet time and during their afternoon naps when I need to put my feet up for a few minutes.
I saw this idea on Pinterest a while ago and thought it looked pretty simple. Like most Pinterest projects, it took a lot more effort than I expected. I’m happy with the outcome though.
Steps: I bought a frame from Goodwill for about $1 and threw away the glass. I sanded it a bit to take off the coating over the wood stain, and then painted it with three coats of craft paint. I cut some strips of ribbon and hot-glued them inside the back of the frame where the glass had been sitting. I pre-drilled all the holes for the tiny cup hooks along the bottom and hammered a sawtooth picture hanger onto the back.
I’ve been seeing ads pop up for Target’s Mid Century Modern collection. Has anyone seen these in person? Very nice designs… West Elm look at IKEA prices. I’m curious about the quality.
I’m thankful for a husband who loves gardening and landscape designing in his free time. His idea of rest is yard work, mowing, weeding, planting, watering, arranging plants. My idea of rest is sitting in these beautiful spaces and enjoying the fruit of his labor. My absolute favorite space is the courtyard in the front of our house. The trickling fountain echoing off the walls. The comfy cushions on the low bench. The beautiful plants. Jason built all of it and all of us love to sit out here. Even the frogs and skinks love it, at least I assume, since we have several living out here. Sometimes after I put Zay down for his morning nap, Ali and I sit out here to read books. And when both kids are napping, I love to sit here for some solitude.
The courtyard is my favorite but the backyard is getting better every season. We had a huge leap year of bamboo, which is enveloping this space in a thick green screen (and giving us more privacy from our neighbors from inside the house, too, since we have big windows). We love to eat lunch and dinner on the back patio, under the pergola. We also love toasting marshmallows and making s’mores around the fire pit. Jason recently planted a bunch of herbs for me and I’m looking forward to using them for cooking. My dad also blessed us with a potted tomato plant. We have several fruit trees and bushes (pear, cherry, blueberry and raspberry) on the other side of the fence and eventually I’d like to have a couple of vegetable garden beds. Maybe next year. (That’s what I said last year when I was pregnant with Zay.)
For the past five years I’ve been a foster mom. We started our classes in early 2011, were approved and took our first placement in July 2011. For five years, a significant part of my identity has been wrapped in the label of foster mom. It feels strange to peel that label off.
Our goal with foster care was to love kids in need, to be their parents for as long as we were needed to fill that gap, and perhaps to adopt someday. Our journey has been a success. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you probably know all about our experience but five years is a long time to keep track of so here’s a
brief run down:
July 2011 – First placement 16-month-old “Ladybug” was with us for 5 weeks and then exited custody to an extended family member. Whirlwind first parenting experience!
September 2011 – Second placement was 2-month-old Alianna. Found out a few days later she would be an adoptive placement. A month or two later DCS decided to move her to a friend of the adoptive mom of two of her four half-siblings. We fought it. Hard. And won, by a miracle! We were given custody by a judge in order to pursue private adoption.
February 2012 – Put our home on hold to new placements while we prepared to sell our house, move in with my parents temporarily and build a new home.
August 2012 – Finalized Alianna’s adoption just after her 1st birthday.
February 2013 – Once settled into our new home, we took our home off hold status so we could start fostering again.
May 2013 – Third placement was 2.5-year-old Termain. He lived with us for 3 months, through the summer of 2013 and then was reunited with his mom. Through our experience his mom became a dear friend and I’m so thankful they are still in our lives.
November 2013 – Fourth placement was 6-month-old “Bee.” Technically placed with us for 3 months, although she spent 30 days in the middle of that period doing an extended family visit with relatives in another state. In February 2014, her ICPC passed and she was transferred to another state as a kinship placement with extended family.
June 2014 – Fifth placement was teenie preemie “Firefly.” He was 3 weeks old, brought to our home straight from the NICU. He was less than 5 lbs. and still several weeks before his due date. He was with us for four weeks before his case was dismissed and he was returned to his parents. The following month, I found out that I was pregnant with Isaiah.
October 2014 – Sixth and final placement was 1-month-old Noah (who now has a new name). He was with us only 3 days but his sweetness anchored deep in my hormonal-pregnant-mama-heart. He left custody to an adoptive placement who has since reached out and reconnected with us. We’ve had the privilege of keeping in touch and getting together with them.
April 2015 – Put our home back on hold status as we prepared for Isaiah’s birth. We planned to reopen within a year.
Which brings us to today…
April 2016 – We had planned to be on hold just for 9-12 months and then start taking placements but I got pregnant again pretty quickly after Isaiah’s birth. Going from two kids to three in short period is one thing. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with the idea of three. But four kids still seems really hard to imagine. Our agency will only allow us to be on hold for 2 years. In April 2017 Ali will be 5, Isaiah will be turning 2 and Josephine will be 10 months old… I don’t think we’ll be ready to start fostering by then either, so we decided it was time to close up officially. It’s a bittersweet decision.
Bitter because it’s a cause we are passionate about. The need is great. It’s hard to walk away knowing there are still so many kids that need safe homes to go to in our city, right at this moment. And, honestly, it’s hard to step out of the label, the role, the identity of foster mom that I’ve worn proudly for the past five years.
Sweet because I’m so honored that we’ve had the opportunity to bless six children who needed safe mama- and daddy-arms to hold them through a really traumatic time in their lives. I am blessed by the friendships we’ve made through fostering…with biological family of the kids, with other adoptive parents, with other foster parents. The biggest blessing from our experience, of course, is our forever daughter Alianna.
Closing our home brings a wave of relief. For five years our lives have been in a state of temporary. It was hard to plan ahead more than a few months, never knowing how many family members we would have and what ages of kids we would be parenting at any given time. We’ve had bedrooms with gender neutral flexible set ups. Now, we can finally feel settled with some permanency in our family and our home. I can say with confidence that later this year we will have three kids, no more and no less. I know what their ages will be and that they will all share our last name. We will be allowed to leave the state without asking for permission. We won’t have regular home visits with a case worker anymore. We won’t have classes and credit hours to keep up with annually. We can even get rid of our home phone that we never used for anything anyway. It’s a new kind of freedom.
Foster parenting will forever have a special place in my heart and I wouldn’t doubt if we do it again in another season of our lives. In the meantime, we can stay involved in other ways. We are signed up to be mentors to new foster parents in our county. I plan to continue supporting and encouraging the many friends I’ve made through #fostercare on Instagram, many of whom are still in the trenches as foster moms. I’m considering becoming a CASA or a member of our county’s foster care review board someday.
I’ve gotten away from blogging over the past year but my heart is aching to write again. I’m looking at my life from a different angle now. For a while it seemed that foster care was the only exciting topic in my life to write about but I’ve realized there is a lot more going on besides that. This blog originally started out with a focus on mid-century-modern style, furniture, homes, living, etc. with an emphasis on home projects. As we because foster parents, my focus shifted. I’m planning to return to more blogging about home projects, modern/mid-century-modern furnishing/architecture/homes, interior design mixed in with parenting, adoption, graphic design, craft projects and one of our newest endeavors: homeschooling.
How does that sound? (Is there anyone still out there, reading this blog and this super-long post? Chirp. Chirp.) What do you prefer to see posts about here?
Isaiah and Josephine will be almost irish twins—more than a year apart but only by 2-3 months. Since they’ll both be using the changing station and be rocked in the rocking chair, it made the most sense to put them in the same room for this stage. (Though JoJo will sleep in a Moses basket in our room for the first few weeks or months while she’s feeding frequently through the night.) The other reason I opted for the double nursery was space; two cribs and two dressers fit more easily into this room than adding a crib and dresser into big sister Alianna’s already-quite-full bedroom. Much to her dismay because she desperately wants to share her room with her sister. That day will come, Ali, I promise.
Zay is now in the full size blue crib, the same one Ali used for her first two years. It’s from IKEA, called Somnat. The little green bookshelf was a thrift store makeover I did a couple years ago. The French Paper monkey poster was a gift from a friend. I made Isaiah’s name sign while I was pregnant with him last year. The album cover is from my favorite band Needtobreathe’s recent Steams in the Wasteland, based on a passage of scripture from Isaiah that I love. The canvas was a gift from my friend Steph and says, “Take a deep breath, you’re home now.” I see it every day while I’m rocking and feeding Zay and it reminds me to pause and be thankful.
The green fleece (cut up strips from a blanket) are to protect the crib rails from my little beaver who likes to teeth on wood. I saw the cheap, no-sew idea on Pinterest.
The black acoustic guitar is mine from high school. The tall dresser currently has Jo’s clothes in it but I’m going to swap them right before or after she’s born so her clothes are easier to access during diaper changes. Isaiah is big and wiggly enough that it’s easier to dress him on the floor most of the time. The walrus painting was a gift from my sister-in-law for Zay. The bike riding deer poster is from IKEA. The rocking chair is from Amazon. The rugs are both from IKEA. Green black-out curtains from Target.
Josephine will get the portable mini crib to start out. I use the storage boxes from IKEA under each crib to store sheets and blankets. I made the name sign for Josephine. I bought the rubies print from Etsy and painted the frame from a thrift store. I took the glass out so it wouldn’t be heavy or easily breakable since it’s right above the crib.
The walls are Sherwin Williams Ellie Gray, same as our first nursery at our last house. I use a sound machine and a CD player with Jason’s Acoustic Lullabies album to muffle the household noises and help Isaiah sleep. I’m hoping it will help to cover the sounds of two babies in the same room and keep them from waking each other up very often, too.
Nesting is in full swing over here, thanks to Spring cleaning and 2nd trimester energy. I know it’s going to get harder to get around and be motivated to do home projects in the next 2-3 months so I’m doing all that I can do now. Twelve more weeks to go!
So much change has happened for our little family this year! Here is a recap of the top five most significant events of this year.
1. Isaiah’s birth. At the start of 2015, I was 23 weeks pregnant. We had just found out on Christmas that he was a he and were starting to prepare his place in our home. April 25 was a leisurely family Saturday, four days past my due date. Ali and I had a picnic lunch and went to the playground while Jason visited a friend. Then we all went window shopping and stopped by Chick Fil A to satisfy one of my cravings: frozen lemonade and waffle fries. We went back home, visited with some neighbors, and then went for a long, vigorous walk at Shelby Park. My labor started while we were there. We timed contractions while waiting to pick up a late dinner at Jet’s Pizza. After we ate and put Ali to bed we realized we needed to call the grandparents to come get her. After a sleepless night we were officially admitted to the hospital around 5:00 am on April 26. Isaiah was born at 8:07 pm. One of the most amazing moments of my life was when they placed him on my chest and I could finally look at the little face I had been imagining for many months. Jason and I cried as he stared back at my face like he had been wondering what I looked like, too. The next morning Ali met her baby brother and so maturely climbed up next to me in the bed and gently held him and touched his face. I’ve loved watching her blossom as a big sister. She is so kind and loving to him.
2. Jason became a realtor. At the start of the year Jason was looking for ways to increase his income. He auditioned for a new touring gig with country artist Easton Corbin. When he initially didn’t get the job, he started classes to get his real estate license. Then he got a call back to become the acoustic guitarist for Easton. He managed to finish his online classes, much of it from his bunk in the tour bus while his bandmates partied around him. When he passed his licensing exams it was a cause for celebration!
3. & 4. Jason quitting EC / Ali’s 4th birthday. Jason’s new tour schedule was rigorous. His income indeed increased and he had many amazing opportunities. Lifelong dreams were fulfilled. Huge crowds. Free gear. National television shows. But the time apart was hard on all of us, especially after Isaiah’s birth. Jason felt like he was missing out on so many of those first little milestones. And our sweet little Ali was starting to have a really hard time saying goodbye so frequently to her daddy. Home for a day and gone for four…home for 12 hours and gone for 6 days… It wasn’t working for us. When Jason made the decision to quit, it was a sigh of relief for all of us. It was a growing season and it was provision for a period when we really needed it. He came home from his last gig the day before Ali’s birthday which was a special gift for her. We spent her birthday all together as a family of four. She had a mermaid-themed pool party at my parents’ house. Perfectly appropriate for our water-loving girl. Jason returned to his previous touring gig with Guy Penrod (and a much lighter schedule) and hit the real estate market running. He had three closings in his first several months of working as a realtor.
5. Pregnant again?! “Are you sure you’re not pregnant? Your belly looks…different,” Jason said. I think it’s just all those Nutter Butters I’ve been eating… Two days later, positive pregnancy test. We were surprised but not totally surprised because we weren’t preventing it and knew it was quite possible. It just happened a little faster than last time. But we’re all thrilled. Well, Isaiah has no clue what’s coming. But Ali is super excited and kisses my belly regularly. (She’s really hoping for a little sister this time.) I’m starting 2016 12 weeks pregnant with our third child. Foster parenting is currently on hold status, though we’re keeping our license open. We’re hoping to do some short term respite for other foster parents and we’re about to start mentoring new foster parents through a new program at DCS.
Looking forward to in 2016: Family trip to Florida. Weekend getaway/”Babymoon” to San Francisco. Finding out Nutter Butter’s gender. Isaiah’s first birthday. Leaving my full time job after 9 years. Welcoming our new baby. Beginning homeschool kindergarten with Ali. Pursuing some big, exciting real estate ventures with Jason. It’s already fixin’ to be a great year!