Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Today is Olivia's 7th birthday.
I put her in two ponytails because yes, she is still a little girl!
She is a bright and engaging little girl, one of the top students in her class. She loves to read and is especially excited when given a chance to read in front of others. She is a leader and a performer and has developed a helpful spirit (at school, at least). She is doing SO WELL at school and I am so proud of her.

Recent accomplishments: Mastering the back hand-spring, (almost) finishing her first full chapter book and getting two jewels in the same week at school. (I don't really know what this means except that it is a behavioral incentive for being helpful and attentive in class.)
She scored a pair of roller skates for her birthday and is SUPER excited about it.
It's hard to believe she is seven years old already, but it's also sometimes hard to believe that she is ONLY seven. She learns so fast. She is tall and fast and strong. She makes friends with older kids easily and tries to keep up with them in sports and some academics. She loves to be challenged and sometimes seems so much older to me.

It was just seven years ago when she was this tiny. Unbelievable.
Happy birthday, my sweet little girl! I love you so much!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A whole decade in

Ten years ago on this date, this happened:

A whole decade. So much has happened in those ten years. So much has changed. We have changed. But we changed together.

We had no idea what kind of challenges and unexpected joys would await. We were not really equipped for a lot of it. But we leaned on each other and, especially, on God and we faced each day and each problem as a united force. Wherever we journeyed, we always journeyed together. There is no one I'd rather have by my side.

Happy Anniversary to us! Here's to many decades more!

Honeymoon, Grand Canyon

Christmas 2004 (and the last time it snowed THIS MUCH)

Joe and Olivia watching TV together. She was about a week old.
Random off-center photo from 2010
Alaska, 2012

Baby Martin
2013 Family photo shoot
October 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy Feast of St. Martin de Porres!

Our little man is named for St. Martin de Porres, and today is his saint's feast day.
Mommy and Martin with a statue of his patron.
Happy Feast Day, Martin! Saint Martin de Porres, pray for us.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Adoption Awareness Month

November is Adoption Awareness Month. This means something to us, because of these two:
The biggest focus, though, of Adoption Awareness Month (that I can tell) is the needs of foster children who are waiting for adoptive families. I've been doing a lot of research on that lately and have found some incredible websites that raise awareness about this particular need. Some of those are listed below.

We are doing some awareness-raising at Olivia's school this year with fliers and information about Adoption Awareness Month. We are also doing a backpack/bag drive. I've learned that, many times, when children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care, they are given little more than a trash bag to carry their possessions. There just aren't enough resources to do more at many foster care agencies. So we are collecting bags to give to agencies so they can distribute them to foster kids in need. This project was inspired by the Journey Bags project. If you have a journey bag project going on near you, go donate some stuff! It is such a worthy cause. Let's help give kids a little hope for their futures in whatever way we can.

Here are some websites if you want to know more:

The Forgotten Initiative
The Dave Thomas Foundation
The Villages

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


My baby is two years old today. TWO!

Martin came to us through an agency with whom we were impressed from the start. They were very good with birthparent counseling (and treated the birthmothers with respect, which was important to us) and managed to get honest answers from both birth and adoptive parents in order to make the best possible matches. One thing that I thought was kind of quirky, though, was the phrase they kept using in their workshops for adoptive parents: "You will get the child you were meant to raise." I thought that was a rather bold statement. If you think really hard about it, every child is "meant" to be raised in his/her biological family of origin. I mean, biologically speaking, that is how it is sort of the idea. Adoption only exists because the world isn't perfect and we are all fallen.

From a faith perspective, though, I understand that God works out some of these messy situations in our lives for the good of all involved. I knew from experience that adoption could be like that. I just thought it was a corny statement for an agency to say. How can you assure that this child from one family will "fit" into the personality and lifestyle of this other family?

My kid...he proved their adage to be true.

I cannot imagine a child better suited for us, and particularly for Olivia. The two of them get along SO WELL. He adores her and she never tires of entertaining him. They play and they fight and they hug and they share. They are siblings, through and through.

Martin is definitely a Momma's boy, unless Grandma is around. Then he's all hers! He also delights in Daddy's arrival home every day. He could brighten anyone's day with his exuberant reception. He races to the door..."Daddy! Daddy!" and then jumps up and down and hugs on his leg.

Martin loves well. He is a snuggler and a sharer. He always remembers meal prayer even when the rest of us might forget. And he insists that we stop and say it first! "Mommy! Daddy! Father-Son." He says this while touching his forehead over and over...his two-year-old rendition of the sign of the cross.

He loves waving to Jesus when we go to Church. And then he blows him kisses. Loudly.

Martin is a fan of anything with wheels. Cars, trucks, tractors, and especially buses. He points them all out when we drive down the road, and he never tires of playing with his toy versions.

Today, we celebrate this kid who looks so different from the rest of us but fits so well in our little family. Happy Birthday, Martin! Watching you grow up is one of life's greatest pleasures!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Discouraging" doesn't begin to describe it.

I interrupt this blog hiatus to bring you a rant on a very poorly designed and executed foster care introductory class that we attended last night. You have been warned.

I think I have mentioned here before that the idea of foster care has floated in and out of our consciousness for awhile now. It's an idea I/we have been toying with, but never really got serious about.

Lately, though, I've been seeing lots of yard signs and PSAs and articles about foster care. The Forgotten Initiative has put out some really excellent, thought-provoking articles (like this one). It just kept coming back up. So I started doing some browsing through online photo listings of waiting children. I saw a couple of older children who captured my imagination. I started to think maybe this is worth looking into.

So I mentioned this to Joe, and he agreed to go to the first class and see what this was all about.

A little background. For foster care (in our state, at least), you need to go through the three RAPT classes (Resource and Adoptive Parent Training), amounting in ten hours of training before getting licensed. Couples interested in adopting also go through a fourth, six-hour class. All classes are free, and there is no obligation to follow through with fostering. You can go to one or all and decide it is not for you and you are not out anything but your time.

We decided to invest three hours of our time to find out more.

We found out least nothing that we didn't know before.

You guys. This "class" was so, so disappointing. As an introduction to DCS and the foster care system, it served to do nothing other than cast foster kids in a negative light. And yes, I understand that some foster kids...maybe even most foster kids...carry a lot of baggage. But I'm not really sure that highlighting that baggage is exactly the right thing to do in your introduction class.

We were supposed to learn all of the pertinent acronyms and social worker titles associated with the process, but I don't remember any of that explained very clearly.

Here's what I do remember: They talked a lot about kids hating foster parents for that which they don't understand. They talked about teens and abuse. They talked about lack of control and damaged kids.

Now let me explain to you who was in this room. This tight, cramped, freezing room was crammed full of couples. Three of them (including us) were couples who had domestically adopted young children and were interested in adoption or foster-to-adopt. One couple was childless and also interested in foster-to-adopt, likely of infants or small children. The three remaining couples were currently caring for children related to them and were simply there to get licensed as foster parents to continue caring for their relatives under the financial support and protection of DCS and the state.

In my research and discussions with the adoption specialist with DCS, it is my understanding that DCS does NOT place foster kids who have been sexually or physically abused in homes with small children because of the danger that the abused kids might pose to the small children.

So, based on the demographics of the room, who, exactly, needed to hear multiple references to older, emotionally damaged and/or abused children and how they might react to placement in a foster home? At the INTRODUCTORY meeting?

I would argue, not a single person.

I'm not saying we don't need to be informed about some of the situations and behaviors that might arise with foster kids. I'm not saying that at all. But, come on, DCS. Do we really need all that doom-and-gloom during our first introduction to the foster care process? It was distracting and unnecessary.

There were other things. Like when we were going through the orientation packet (and holy wow, someone needs to hire a graphic artist because those pages had NO WHITE SPACE AT ALL). And we got to the "definitions" page. And the social worker leading the session said, "Why don't we go around the room and read these definitions out loud." And I flashed back to fifth grade and my brain exploded just a little.

The facilitator kept referring to page numbers that didn't exist. She had a different copy than the rest of us, and her page numbers didn't match up. And then we read several pages word-for-word. And then we skipped a bunch of pages for no reason at all.

They kept referring to certain things within the system that only insiders would know and then having a side laugh about that while the rest of us just stared in bewilderment. They kept saying stuff that just occurred to them, like "Just remember to tell us if..." and "You'll see when you work with so-and-so."

At one point, it occurred to them to say something about confidentiality (which didn't appear in the packet at all OMG). They mentioned social media and explained that it is absolutely inappropriate to post photos of foster children unless and until they are legally adopted by you. Which, yes, of course. Then one couple who is fostering their grandchildren asked whether it was OK for them to post, since they have a relationship with these kids outside of fostering and like to post grandkid pics so other relatives can see them. The social worker sort of hemmed and hawed and said, well, you know, that might be a different situation and technically we aren't supposed to do it but as long as the parents are OK with it... But then another grandparent-foster candidate piped in with a perfectly logical reason why you should follow the letter of the law in this case, and the social worker quickly agreed with him and said, yes, that makes sense, and that's why we should stick to the rules.

I am not even kidding.

There were just so many things, but I think you get the idea. I have no experience as a social worker and have been changing diapers professionally for the last six years, but I'm relatively certain that two hours looking over the DCS website and I could have led a more professional and informative session than this was.

And you know what? It makes me angry. It makes me very, very angry because there are so many kids in need of homes. There are so many organizations who promote and support foster care, and do it well. There is such a great NEED for families willing to dig a little deeper and investigate this process. And if THIS is the best we can do as an introduction, then I think the system is failing these kids. 

Luckily, RAPT 2 class is online, so we can dig a little deeper without hiring a sitter and wasting three more hours of our time in a freezing box of a room. I only hope the online materials are presented a bit more professionally.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We got creative with Olivia's hair for St. Patrick's Day. I was, of course, inspired by this. (I don't come up with these ideas on my own.)

This morning, Olivia asked me if the leprechaun came. I did not know of this tradition, but apparently he comes and makes little messes all over the house. (Thank you, school, for introducing yet another mythical creature for me to keep up with. And one who makes messes! Lovely.)

No, darling child, the leprechaun did not come. Probably because we are not Irish. Much like St. Patrick himself. Now go to school and learn something about the Trinity.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the leprechaun forget to visit your home too!