Isaiah Jason – 1.5 Years Old

11/30/2016

Last month Isaiah turned one-and-a-half. Our book-loving, vacuum-enthusiast, snuggle bug is such a special part of our family. In July, at 14 months old, he became a big brother. He’s very sweet and gentle with his baby sister. He gives JoJo soft kisses and pats her head. He likes to bring her pacifier to her, push her swing, turn on her bouncy seat music and carefully wipe drool off her chin. Ali is his best friend. He loves to follow her around and do whatever she’s doing. She plays really well with him most of the time. I’m glad our three kids have each other. Zay is still a Mama’s boy, which I love…except when he’s clinging to my legs while I’m trying to cook or walk. He loves his Daddy, too. He loves to watch Daddy work on projects and try to help or imitate him. His favorite show is Chuggington (about trains) and he also loves big trucks, sirens, dogs and dinosaurs. Zay is easy-going, affectionate, obedient, helpful and gentle most of the time. He has his toddler moments of frustration, of course, but overall he’s a very pleasant little guy. Well, big little guy. He’s still at the very top of the percentile charts for height. He’s wearing 2T clothes and size 7 shoes at 19 months.

Zay is talking a ton. He will repeat almost any word and even has some small sentences like, “A bite, please?” and “I love you.” He LOVES food. Especially popcorn and yogurt (which he still calls yo-yo). If he eats something he likes he nods and says “Yeah.” And then points and says, “Mo-ore peace” while still nodding. I love how he stretches 1-syllable words out, like “hayyer” for hair, “playyyat” for plate, “shoo-oo” for shoe, “deeyo” for deer. A couple of funny made up words we hear many times a day: Meeno is the name for his lovely that I call Snuggle Bunny. It’s also the word he uses for banana. Dee Dah is how he says thank you. I was teasing the other day that the way he says cracker (“tattoo”) sounds more like thank you than deeda. He was saying cookie last night and it sounded almost like turkey. He’s a goofball and he keeps us laughing with the funny things he says and his silly faces. I love his giggle.

I’m so glad God gave us a Zay-Zay. He is a precious gift to us. God knew how much our family needed him.

Pictures from July (14 months old) through November (18 months old):

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This is his default face…so frowny. Good thing he smiles a lot.

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He was excited about getting in the bath and forgot he was still dressed…

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Checking on “Doh-Doh” (AKA JoJo, Doughy, Jojie)

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Play Alone Time

09/19/2016

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A: Why do I have to play alone?
M: Because Mommy needs some alone time.
A: Can’t you just pretend to be alone?

My 5-year-old hates to be alone. Whether it’s her personality, a result of her past, because she was an only child for most of her first 4 years or a combination of all of those; she wants constant feedback and attention. She loves to perform and loves to talk. When her little brother was born and as she started out-growing naps, it became apparent to me that we needed to institute some quiet alone time. For my sanity. And to teach her a skill she is lacking. As I’m writing this post right now she’s sitting at the desk next to me writing letters to “sick people” and chattering out loud the whole time, asking for my attention every 30 seconds or so.

Play alone time.

I think I found this blog post on Pinterest when Isaiah was an infant and I was desperate for 5 minutes without someone talking to/at me. It seemed like one of those obvious parenting moves that I had regretfully overlooked for four years. We should have been teaching her all along to play alone. Don’t misunderstand; kids need time with peers and time with parents and loads of attention. But learning to be content alone and play alone are life skills. Starting with 5-minute increments and working up to an hour, I’ve been teaching my kids to play alone. My 1-year-old can currently play alone contently longer than my 5-year-old. (Again, I wish I had started teaching her this skill a long time ago!) We’re up to 15-30 minutes now.

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It’s amazing what I can get done in 15-30 minutes alone. It’s like a deep breath for my mind. I can get the dishwasher unloaded or dinner prepped. I can respond to emails. I can write a blog post. I can finish a graphic design project. Rachel, the writer of the blog post I mentioned above, has some great tips for how to teach your child to play alone. One benefit that I’m not sure if she mentions in her blog, my kids are more eager to play together after they’ve spent some time playing alone. Do yourself and your child a favor and start doing this if you don’t already!

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Crafting with Ali

02/24/2015

I love art and doing crafts. I always have. It’s such a joy for me to see my daughter loving art, too. She got a big bucket of craft supplies and a booklet of ideas for Christmas. We’ve been having fun working on these together on these cold, dreary winter days. I’m looking forward to the days she can do these projects more independently so she can work along side me while I work on my own craft projects. But in this stage, I’m just delighted that she’s having fun and getting creative with these projects.

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When our buddy Termain was visiting one evening they sat and did art projects together for a while. He’s an art lover too.

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One day I was able to get almost an hour of sewing projects done while Ali played with Play Doh nearby. Glorious!

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Brother-Sister-Friends Forever

11/17/2014

After living for three months as (foster) brother and sister in the summer of 2013, Termain and Alianna will always think of each other as brother-sister-friends it seems, and I hope it stays that way. (He was originally nicknamed Buzz Lightyear here.) I’m beyond grateful to his mom allowing us to stay a part of their lives as friends (that still feel a lot like family) over a year after they were officially reunified. A couple Saturdays ago we had the privilege of babysitting Termain for several hours. We get together every few months but this is the first time he was with us without his mom. We were all a little nervous about how he’d do, since being at our house stirs up a lot of traumatic memories from the time he was separated from his mom. Thankfully, he did great! He and Ali play so well together and their love for each other is obvious.

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I just realized I never shared the photos from our last visit with them at Baby Vegas (AKA Chuck E Cheese) for his 4th birthday back in September. They wanted to do every game together.

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Home Tour: Guest Room

11/13/2014

In a matter of five minutes our Next Kid’s Room can be converted into a guest room by removing the portable crib, crib storage box, changing pad and diaper changing supply cart.

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This little night stand was bought at a yard sale and made over when I was putting together our first kids’ room back in 2011. I like this clock in here because it has a sleep timer with ocean sounds, rain or radio.

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I debated about leaving the rocking chair, but it could be moved out easily as well. (It’s currently only $78.25 on Amazon!)

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The black acoustic guitar was a gift from my parents on my 16th birthday. My professional guitarist husband thinks it’s trash but I say it’s sentimental. If any of our guests get inspired to bang out some tunes on a cheap old guitar with rusty strings, they can feel free. Otherwise, it’s art.

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This mid-century modern dresser was a vintage store score from our first kids’ room as well. I love it because it’s changing table height (which is why I moved it into this room) but also because it’s beautiful, sturdy, solid wood and in great condition. I picked up the bookshelf from a thrift store and gave it a new life with paint to match the nightstand and a stained plywood back.

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RELATED POSTS:

Home Tour: Next Kid’s (or Kids’) Room (this room with the baby elements added back in)

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Home Tour: Next Kid’s (or Kids’) Room

11/04/2014

This room makeover is finally complete and ready for our next inhabitants—our next foster placement, baby Froggie due in April or overnight guests. The room includes the rocker I bought when baby Alianna arrived. We replaced the shower curtain we’ve been using in our foster kids’ room for the past 3 years with these textured green light-blocking curtains from Target.

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I stuck to my floor plan pretty closely but I decided that a footstool took up unnecessary space.

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The double bed is low and close enough to be used in place of a footstool.

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A second rug gives a fair amount of soft play space on the floor. The poster is by French Paper Co. and was a gift from my art school bestie, Renata, for our first kids room.

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I’m still a very big fan of this crib, which I nominated as The Ideal Crib for Foster Parents last year. It’s smaller than a typical crib and can easily be folded down to move into another room or store flat to about a 6″ depth. The poster and storage toy box are from IKEA.

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That blank spot above the dresser/changing table is begging for some artwork. Both rugs in this room are from IKEA. The vintage metal cart between the bookshelf and dresser holds diaper changing supplies, burp cloths, bibs and receiving blankets. It’s easy to move around as needed and is still stocked from Pumpkin.

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The bulletin board above the bookshelf is a collage of family photos, separated by “Who Lives Here” on the left side and photos of our former foster children on the right side. I have temporarily hanging here the first and so far only gift I have bought for our belly baby “Froggie.” It’s such a simple phrase to put on a bib but for foster and adoptive parents it’s always loaded… because we are not the only mom and dad in those cases. With baby Froggie, for the first time, we’re the only Mom and Dad. Our baby can wear this bib without anyone getting offended, feeling left out or jealous, and without raising any questions (unless we’re questioning his or her feelings about Jason and me, I suppose!).

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I’ll come back soon with a second part of this room tour when the room is converted into a guest room. I don’t think I mentioned in previous posts that this room is approximately 10′ x 12′. It can accommodate three people with a double bed and crib, night stand, dresser, bookshelf, rocking chair and standard size closet.

RELATED POSTS:

A Room for Baby… or Whoever Arrives Next (my current mood board and floor plan for this room)

A Room for Baby… or Whoever Arrives Next – Part 2 (progress photos)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids (this room a year and a half ago before it was occupied by Buzz and then later Bee, Firefly and Pumpkin.)

Preparing a Bedroom for Foster Kids: Furniture & Decor (planning our first bedroom for foster children at our last house)

Preparing for Foster Kids: Bedroom Tour (photos of the above mentioned room that ended up generating a lot of interest on Apartment Therapy)

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A Room for Baby… or Whoever Arrives Next – Part 2

09/24/2014

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Yesterday I moved some furniture around to start pulling this room together. The baby side is pretty much set. I am going to sell the green dresser and move Ali’s vintage mid-century modern dresser in here just as soon as we get a bigger dresser for her room. I don’t plan to have all of that stuff in/under the crib. I would like to replace the curtain above with a light blocking one. This works OK but it’s actually a shower curtain and I’d like to get something simpler. Other than that, this area is mostly done.

Here’s the shameful side of the room. The blue crib needs a new home but I’m too emotionally attached to it right now. I need to figure out where to hide it before Jason gets home. This bed will move into Ali’s room and we’ll put a double bed and a night stand in it’s place. I taped the floor to show where the double bed will sit. It’s going to be tight but I think it’ll work. I’m also planning on adding another rug at the side of the double bed. When we have guests we can move the crib, changing pad and changing supply cart out in less than 5 minutes. Once I sat in the rocker I realized adding a footstool would be too crowded and not necessary since I can put my feet up on the end of the bed if I want to recline.

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RELATED POSTS:

A Room for Baby… or Whoever Arrives Next (my current mood board and floor plan for this room)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids (this room a year and a half ago before it was occupied by Buzz and then later Bee and Firefly.)

Preparing a Bedroom for Foster Kids: Furniture & Decor (planning our first bedroom for foster children at our last house)

Preparing for Foster Kids: Bedroom Tour (photos of the above mentioned room that ended up generating a lot of interest on Apartment Therapy)

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A Room for Baby… or Whoever Arrives Next

09/23/2014

I call it “the next kid’s room” when it’s not in use. It’s our foster kid’s bedroom and it will most likely be our baby’s room. Much like our next kid, it is in a state of flux. Meaning: I’m not sure if our next kid will be the one I’m carrying or if we’ll get a call for another foster placement before then. I suspect we will get a placement soon since the longest we’ve ever waited between placements was 4.5 months. (We’re just shy of 3 months now.) We have a twin bed in here that I want to move into Ali’s room, a dresser I want to replace, and a crib we don’t need anymore. I plan to move a couple pieces of furniture (dresser and night stand) in from Ali’s room when I move the twin bed frame into her room. I want to replace the current curtain with a light blocking one. Jason and I decided that we’re going to put a double bed in the next kid’s room so that it can be a more suitable guest room option. All of these changes are so fun for my planning addiction and my interior design hobby. I’ve pinned everything I plan to purchase to the Nursery board on my Pinterest. I put together a mood board last week to help visualize all the pieces are parts coming together.

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I’ve also been planning where to put the furniture to make it all fit. I have a plan that I’m pretty excited about.

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Now to plan our next IKEA shopping trip…

RELATED POSTS:

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids (this room a year and a half ago before it was occupied by Buzz and then later Bee and Firefly.)

Preparing a Bedroom for Foster Kids: Furniture & Decor (planning our first bedroom for foster children at our last house)

Preparing for Foster Kids: Bedroom Tour (photos of the above mentioned room that ended up generating a lot of interest on Apartment Therapy)

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Where are all the adoptable toddlers?

09/15/2014

I recently read this blog post from Attempting Agape and said, yes, yes, yes. These are questions I was wondering about 4 years ago and the investigation is part of what lead me to foster parenting. (Also, it was seeds God had planted in my heart from my childhood and a timely comment from a fellow blogger who was a foster mom.) Often people who are interested in adopting domestically look through the waiting child lists that are posted by most states and also through the U.S. program AdoptUSkids.org. When I was doing that years ago I was curious why there weren’t any babies or young kids on the lists. In a nutshell, it’s because—if they come into care that young—they’re stuck in the limbo of the foster care system for several years before they end up on a waiting list. And most never make it to the waiting lists (thankfully!) because they’re adopted by their foster parents or a community member before that point. Jason and I realized that as foster parents we could be on the front lines of helping kids in need, rather than coming in right at the end of their exhausting, traumatic foster care journeys.

If you are are wondering what you can do to help even one child, consider becoming a concurrent foster placement for a child or sibling group.
Yes, its risky for your heart. Oh so risky. I understand, I do. I’ve done it. I’ve lived it. I’ve cried over kids returned to birth parents, I’ve ached. But, I also know that it is worth it. It is so worth it.
Read the whole post Why Can’t I Adopt a Young Child From Foster Care?? | Where are all the toddlers??.

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March 11

03/11/2014

One evening Jason and I had a tearful conversation over dinner that ended with him saying, “Make the call. Find out what we need to do to become foster parents.” I had been feeling a strong pull in the direction of foster care and potentially adoption for a while but I was praying that if God wanted us to go down that twisted, scary road that He would bring Jason on board quickly. I wanted to be completely unified in our decision and God answered my prayer—bringing Jason to equal passion to parent kids who are not ours by birth, kids who are living their worst nightmares, kids who have troubling pasts and bad behaviors.

Within hours of making that decision together, I started feeling completely inadequate for the role of foster motherhood. I tossed and turned all night, wrestling with my fears and insecurities. The next morning, on March 11, I read this passage in Jesus Calling and it changed my life forever:

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Walk by faith, not by sight.
As you take steps of faith, depending on Me,
I will show you how much I can do for you.
If you live your life too safely,
you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you.
When I gave you My spirit,
I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength.
Thats why it is wrong to measure your energy level
against the challenges ahead of you.
The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless.
By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength.

Here we are on March 11, 2014. In the past three years since I read that passage I’ve been mama to four kids, each with a painful past and a broken heart. Three of those babies have gone on to live with their biological families. We had the great privilege of adopting one of them, our precious Alianna Mae. Today we’re going to court, pursuing a temporary custody placement of her biological baby sister who is six and a half months old. I’ve nicknamed her Trust here to maintain her confidentiality and to remind myself that I need only trust God with this situation. He is worthy of my trust. He moved a mountain for Alianna to be put into our custody 2.5 years ago and if He wants to put Trust into our custody today, He can do it. These last 6 months have been emotionally taxing as we moved from concern about her safety to concern about her long-term placement and connections with her biological family. She’s been in a safe and loving place (as far as we know) since she was two weeks old but we feel strongly that if there is any way to preserve her connection to her biological siblings—especially since she’s already separated from her biological parents—it should be pursued. And that is why we’ve been fighting for her since before she was born. Not because we deserve her or because she deserves us—we have no right to her. We love her because she is our daughter’s sister. We care deeply about her biological mother because she’s our daughter’s biological mother. If she’s lost, someday we’re going to have to answer our daughter when she asks, “Where is my little sister? Why didn’t you fight for her the way you fought for me?”

So we fight. We fight for what we believe is best for her. This afternoon we anticipate the magistrate will make the decision: will she stay where she is now or move into our home with her sister Alianna.