One year later.

It’s funny how our minds work. For me, it’s all about feelings and the memories attached to those feelings. It was a Monday morning, the first hints of dawn were appearing when I peeked in E.’s room like I did every morning. The lump on the bed was quiet and still asleep. This part of my memory haunts me. Was everything as it appeared? I was bleary-eyed, trying to wake up and I’m sure my brain wanted more sleep. I try to give myself grace. I can’t change the past and all that. How could I have known? I went downstairs and started laundry. I read a little, and dozed a little more. I remember thinking that I need to start my Monday chores of righting the house, and doing the dishes piled up from the weekend. But first, I should get dressed. And Hmmmm…it’s odd that E. isn’t up yet. Oh, when I run upstairs to get my clothes for the day I’ll check on him. He must be tired from the weekend. First let me open the living room curtains and let some light in. 

I’ve been reading a lot about our fight and flight response. How when under stress, our brains literally shut down the decision-making/intelligent/higher functioning parts of the brain while the basic survival instincts kick in. As I’ve sifted and sorted through memories, I know this to be true. As soon as I got to E.’s doorway, I knew things weren’t okay. You know how you wonder how you would react to certain traumas, wondering if you’d be able to respond or if you’d freeze? Here are some thoughts that went through my mind. NO! He’s seizing. Is he still breathing. Yes! Phone. I need my phone. 9-2 TWO?! Where’s my delete button?! 9-1-1 The rest of what happened was reactions. I didn’t think about if I should carry E. downstairs to where my phone was, I just did it. I didn’t think about what I would say to the operator. I didn’t think all the things that would come later, praising God that E. was breathing when I found him unresponsive.

Our next door neighbor is a first responder, who I still refer to as our angel. It seemed like only a minute, and she came running through the door. She told me later that she was late for work that morning when she got the call. Coincidence? No. She had the wisdom to tell me to call J. again and tell him to meet us at the hospital, because he wouldn’t make it home before the ambulance would leave. My other neighbor and dear friend (great with child at the time) fielded a frantic call from me that morning, in need of someone to come stay with O. She was there soon too. Putting her arm around my shaking shoulders. Both coached me through my panic. Yes, I needed to get dressed and maybe grab a toothbrush. Oh, and O is coming down the stairs. She probably shouldn’t see E. so neighbor dear sat on the floor with her and played with stickers. I couldn’t find my shoes to go out the door. I couldn’t think. One of the first responders pointed to them on the floor by the door. The same lady made sure I had my wallet, phone, and purse. It’s good she did because that was the furthest thing from my mind. Once we left, the one first responder who knew my Mom, drove to her house to tell her and bring her to stay with O. When I ask O. about that morning, she remembers the sirens waking her up and playing stickers with her little neighbor friend.

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The ambulance ride was surreal. I sat in the front, my baby seizing in the back, wrapped in a blanket from home. How could other vehicles not hear an ambulance? I was numb, but I remember willing people to hear the sirens and move over to the side of the road so we could get through. It was undeniably the longest 15-20 minutes of my life.

We got to our local hospital, and J. was waiting there for us. I don’t remember much about this time. I know it took a while to get E.’s seizure to stop. I remember holding J.’s hand awfully tight. I drank way too much water. I shook. I cried. I prayed. J. and I didn’t say much, I guess we didn’t need to. J.’s dear aunt who works at the hospital came down to the ER to pray with us and give us hugs. Our dear friend and daughter were in town and quickly stopped in to give us hugs, pray with us, and hold E.’s hand.

We were transferred to Akron Children’s Hospital soon after. We sat in E.’s room reeling from the events of the morning. Telling and retelling every detail we could remember to doctors and nurses. But the rest of the story will need to wait. There’s only so much emotional energy available to relive these events, and I’m nearing the end.🙂

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This week we’re celebrating a year of E.’s gift of life. As we remember, we’re so grateful for life and the people who surround us and go through this journey with us.
Until next time.

Saying Goodbye.

“I could never do that.”

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I’ll let you in on a little secret. I can’t do it either. I can’t take care of a child and fall in love with him/her, only to say goodbye. Not on my own strength anyway.

I know there will be different stages in this letting go process. Right now we’re in the logistics of transition. Figuring out how many outfits, which toys, books, blankets, etc. we will send with little one. Deciding what to pack these things in. Finishing up our part of little one’s life book. Making sure all the paperwork is organized. And I am thankful for all of this stuff taking up space in my brain. It distracts me, and also gives me a tiny feeling of control in a situation where I really have none.

I try not to worry.  I have no doubt little one will be loved and well cared for. But further down the line, when little one is trying to figure out who he/she is. Will the life book still be available with the drawings O. made for little one? Will our memories still be there for little one to read? Will little one know that he/she was so, SO loved by our little family? Will I remember how little one tucked his/her face into my neck to snuggle? What if I forget little ones squishy, rolly arms? How bath-time was our favorite time of day. What if I forget?

We believe with our whole hearts that God called us to this foster care journey. How could we do it otherwise? Sleepless nights, countless crying jags on everyone’s part, getting used to being a family of five. We’re the lucky one’s for having little one in our lives. But we do it for God, and we do it for little one. At the end of every day, and especially at the end of this first placement, it’s just not about us. It’s not about us. It’s not about us.

 

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It’s important to have a good sense of humor going into foster care. Lots of communicating and compromising needs to be done. It doesn’t need to go as we wish or planned, and our happiness doesn’t hinge on being in control. Don’t get me wrong, surrendering doesn’t come naturally for me. But with time, and many, many tears, surrender brings peace. Even though we knew soon after accepting this placement that permanency probably wouldn’t happen at our home, getting the call a few months ago that visits were beginning and home studies were approved was hard. After getting the call from the case worker I sat and cried, holding little one and letting reality set in. It’s been a few months of much joy and pain, but we feel ready to go through this transition. Fully believing it’s best for little one in the long run.

Along the way we’ve been completely honest with our two biological children, trying to answer their questions as best we could. Here are some of their comments:
“Little one is so lucky to have two mommies and daddies.” O

“Me see baby mamma and daddy.” E (he didn’t think it was fair that baby gets another set of parents, and it confused him for a little while)

“Does little one have a sister? Maybe I can be his/her only sister!” O         “Me too!” E

“Mama, Daddy, O and me have new baby!” E (a few weeks ago, after it finally sunk in that little one wasn’t staying with us permanently)

“I wish I was a foster kid, they get to have fun visits and toys to play with.” O

“Do you think we’ll have 99 foster children? Not at the same time but a few at a time?” O (I replied with wondering if my heart could handle it, but that God could give us strength.) “I could have a thousand foster children!” O

“Oh, I just love you so much!” O (overheard many, many times)

“Mom, you don’t need to tell baby that Jesus loves him/her. I tell little one every day.” O

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For now, each moment with little one is a treasure. We’re learning so much in saying goodbye.

Less of me.

I remember posting about organization and gardening. It feels like a whole lifetime ago. Before I get all angsty here, I’ll share a few changes from this past year:

Last March/April we started training for foster care through a wonderful Christian agency. We had foster care and adoption on our hearts since we were first married. Basically youths. Little babies, dreaming a big dream.

The Monday after our training ended, (our last class was CPR/First Aid on a Saturday) we were thrown into a new world. When I checked on E. he has having a seizure in his bed. It’s hard to think about what happened during the moments that followed. It’s been nearly a year, and with time the realness fades a bit. In a heartbeat… the sound of sirens, hearing songs or bible verses we clung to during that time… the memories come flooding back, nearly choking me. I know it’s partially PTSD from the trauma, but it’s also a way of healing. It’s real, and it’s hard. It’s therapeutic to share E.’s story these days. I’m following my heart in how much to share, and when to share. I hope to write more posts about all that happened to E.

In August, we resumed our foster care/adoption home study process. and fast forward 3 months we were certified for both and had our first placement. It’s been a wonderful experience so far. I hope to share more about this ever-changing journey of foster care. We’ve been learning so much about many aspects of foster care and adoption. There are many hard decisions to make, and often only minutes to an hour to make these life altering decisions. It’s a calling for me. I know I wouldn’t be able to do any of this on my own strength. God gives us the strength we need, through the Word, Prayer, Songs, and other people.

Both O. and E. started school last fall. O. is in Kindergarten, and loving it. She’s studious and hilarious at the same time. She has a refreshing perspective. E. started preschool in October. He’s receiving speech therapy there, as well as learning how to interact with other children. He loves his two days a week there. It’s hard for me to let go, to let them mature and become independent at their own pace. Sometimes it’s a bit delayed, and other times Mama bear holds on too tightly. This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart. I’m so thankful God pours his love and mercy into our lives, filling in gaps and leading us.

I’m hoping to share more this year as I have time, or let’s be honest…sleepless nights.🙂

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What I’m reading: finally, but it’s taking me a looong time

What I’m listening to: Hillsong

What I’m watching: Part 2 of this heartbreak

Happy weekend, friends.

E. the rapscallion.

I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my brain around everything that happened since April. Some days I feel stuck, and other days memories come flooding in. How do you deal with the unexpected? Is there a right way to work through things? I wish there was a mathematical formula to follow when dealing with emotions and grieving what used to be. Something that’s tried and true.

Trusting God with our life had always seemed easy, until one day I really had to. Trust, I mean. It’s not just saying it, or even meaning it wholeheartedly. It’s knowing. All those little things are not just a coincidence or random. That’s Him showing us that He loves us, completely. It’s when even though God’s love feels different, distant even, you know He’s there always.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
Isaiah 40:11

I’ve been writing the details down, trying to get my thoughts onto paper. It’s therapeutic. I will probably share E.’s story here sometime. I know stories can’t be rushed, so for now I put together a small documentary of E.’s story.

Life Lately.

IMG_6110This is a different Life Lately post. I’ve been thinking about posting for a while, and keep grasping for words and ways to start. Lately I’ve been learning the meaning of trust and surrender, and knowing where the source of my strength is.

          Psalm 121
 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
 From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
 who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
 he who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, he who keeps Israel
 will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord is your keeper;
 the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
 The sun shall not strike you by day,
 nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
 he will keep your life.
 The Lord will keep
 your going out and your coming in
 from this time forth and forevermore.

I find it hard to even think about everything that happened, much less post about it. I shared some on Instagram and Facebook. I guess it’s hard to share the feelings/emotions we’ve gone through without feeling vulnerable. I keep thinking, maybe with time I’ll be able to share more. My posts might be a little disjointed; be assured, though, I still love organizing (it really is a wonderful coping mechanism).

Hold your family close today.

Less is More (Children’s Clothing Edition)

It all started with trying to fit all our Christmas decor (minus the tree) into one tote. I realized how much excess we really had, and probably still have. I browsed the internet for wisdom in simplifying, minimalism, and organization. I found many good ideas, some I implemented and others that inspired me to keep going.

I want to focus on children’s clothing today, and how I am taming this monstrous beast. Please tell me I’m not the only one to go through this.🙂 We have two children, a girlie and a boy so with them came an outrageous amount of cute clothing. Seriously cute. The gifts accumulated quickly and that, paired with my love for thrifting caused this thing I call a beast. Easy to add to and hard to minimize. Oh, each year I’d go through the totes, pairing things down. Being sentimental is not easy, each piece of clothing brought back memories (am I the only one?). I tried to get rid of them, I really did. This year was different. This year I wanted a system that worked. Something I could rely on. Here’s what happened:

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J. helped me figure out approximately how many items each child could live with. So the original list was made.

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Please don’t judge.🙂 I went through 6-7 totes of children’s clothing, and kept less than half. What we kept, I put into cardboard boxes that would fit into our closets upstairs. No more totes in the basement! Also, can you imagine the fun our children had going through these with us? Our children loved this project. It made me a bit batty. We clearly labelled the boxes, so we can grab a box if we ever need to.

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As you can see, the boxes aren’t all that full and they include coats and boots. Obviously the bigger sizes fill up quicker, but then I need to get rid of more. I didn’t necessarily stick with the list for these boxes. I tried to keep less than listed in order to leave room for new clothing (if we are blessed with more children).

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Here are two closets in their organized glory. You can see that we have plenty of room for games, sleeping bags, pack-n-play, swimming gear, extra Pampers and wipes and a few odds and ends. Once the extra clothing was sorted and organized, I started thinking about the clothing our children currently wear. Would I dare get rid of some? That seemed a bit crazy, but throwing caution into the wind we started sorting. This time I stuck with our list (see first photo) to see if this was actually doable.

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So far, it has worked well. It’s been a few months since we started.

With everything organized, I needed a system in place to keep everything organized. Have you ever been at a thrift store or clearance somewhere, saw a pair of pants or a cute dress in a bigger size? The next thought is, “hmmm? I can’t remember how many pants I have for E, or how many dresses for O. . . I may as well buy it. It’s cheap!” This is how I ended up with excess. Cute and cheap! Somehow I needed to stop this cycle. Well, I tried to take my planner with me everywhere I went. That just didn’t work. So I thought of my phone, which is usually in my purse or pocket. I found an app and decided to try it. It’s called Sortly, and it works for me. I know there are other organizational apps, feel free to choose your own. Here’s how I organized my app:

IMG_4170In the shoes category, I have a list of our family’s current shoe sizes. The clothing category is organized like this:

IMG_4171And further organized:

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As you can see, the main item includes the quantity needed. Then I can always see what we need. It sure makes decisions easier at thrift stores or any stores for that matter.🙂 Organized clothing makes me happy. Each child has one drawer dedicated to the larger size.

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It seems so easy…now. Some of you veteran Moms will probably smile, maybe even laugh at this post. That’s okay! If you’re just beginning to think that you have too many children’s clothing, be encouraged.

Enjoy this brand new week, friends!

More Simplicity.

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It’s easy to accumulate things. This year I’ve been determined to minimize. I wouldn’t say that I’m becoming a minimalist, but I’m gleaning lots of organizational ideas from minimalist blogs. And just trying to adjust my way of thinking. This week I spent two days minimizing and organizing my kitchen. Tupperware! Why on earth did I keep so much Tupperware? Whisks! Can I use more than one basic whisk at a time? 9×13 pans! Oh, the list goes on. There were duplicates of lots of things that I realized were just unnecessary.

It all started with going through our Christmas fluff. We had three totes/boxes full of things to decorate for Christmas. Of course, I didn’t use nearly all of it. I wondered if I could possibly whittle down the fluff to where it would fit into one tote. I analyzed everything. Probably too much.

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But it worked! All the Christmas fluff in one tote, minus the tree. And I felt free!

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The Great Christmas Fluff Purge led to other things. Our kids clothing was a big one, I’ll share later on how I tamed that beast. Well, I should say I’m still taming that one because it’s more about the process of buying than saving.

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You might wonder if your kids have too many toys. Chances are they do! The toy situation can quickly get out of control. I’ll share later on how to have less toys and not feel like a mean mom.

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My goal is to have a simplified home, where I can focus easily on our family and not get bogged down with all that goes with having too much stuff. I’ll bring you along for the ride.🙂 Have a wonderful weekend, friends!