Thursday, January 30, 2014

Extra-Curricular Activities

I've had several people ask, so I thought I'd follow up on my JayZ protest letter to the state.  I heard nothing that first day, so I asked my social worker if he'd gotten an email from me and he hadn't.  Ironically, the email was blocked because of the content (more than a dozen lines of lyrics by JayZ).  

I dropped off a hard copy of the email and never did hear a word back.

Our agency, on the other hand, was very responsive.  They were supportive of my stand and actually embarrassed that the ticket offer had even happened, wanting to be sure I knew they had no prior knowledge of the tickets.

It was just my job to write the letter, and I did that.  What happens with it is not up to me.

In other news...keeping kids active and involved in positive things...little Aiden goes with me to all the basketball games and practices.  And he's really into it.

When he catches wind that we'll be leaving soon, he goes up to change into basketball shorts.  At Avery's practice, he usually has a fellow four year-old buddy who he hangs with.  I watch them and wonder how many hours they'll spend playing with a ball together in the coming years (they did soccer together in the fall).
 He's also been into doing laps around the court and having me time him.  Over and over and over...with a huge grin.
 Not surprisingly, he's showing signs of being competitive.  The other night he and his sister were playing tool Memory and when her stack started to grow larger than his he was getting mad and crying.    I passed the issue directly to Shaun. :)

He can also be found dropping down to do one-handed push-ups.
 Here he was trying to convince Avery and her team mate to do timed laps with him.
 Mom, ready to start the clock?

This little dude ^....has my heart.

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Ephesians 4:16

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Will You Live?

Within the past couple weeks, I've heard of three untimely deaths of acquaintances and a family member.  Early 20's, early 30's, early 40's.  So sad, so tragic.

I loved Ann Koskamp's recent post:

You’re going to have to get it: Death may be certain, but when it comes is uncertain, which is what makes the living gloriously uncertain — a choice.
Who knows if you’ve really got time to clean out the garage, or to read this endless news feed, or to pick up and move to Haiti and live your dream of spending the fleeting time holding the hands of forgotten ones.
The road ahead would seem obvious if you knew how much road ahead there was.
No one tells you that. No one tells you if you have just enough time to laugh till your belly hurts, one more time with the beautifully strange people you love, if you have time to pull their neck close and whisper hoarse in their ear that there aren’t enough words to say what a love like this has done to you.
No one tells you if you have enough time to try to change the world or just enough time to try change your own story.
If you knew how much time you have to live, you’d know how to live.
But that is the thing: You don’t know how much time you have to live — so you have to make time to make the life you want to live.
No one can tell you how much time you’ve got for what matters. Only you can tell how much time you’ll make for what matters.
Everyone knows they will die. They just don’t know when. So forget about the whenWho cares when you die. The real question is: when will you start to live?
You already know: You will die.
So the only question that remains is: Will you live?
Will you risk impossible things today so you remember how much you love the rush of real oxygen in your lungs, adrenaline in your veins?
Will you forget thinking there is no way out– only a way through? Sometimes the only way through is not taking the next step — it’s taking a wild leap of faith. Take it. Do it. Live it.
When will you lay there just to listen to the sound of him breathing in sleep beside you?
When will you memorize the way her hair feels as you stroke it back from her brow? When will you bend over the cup and inhale the steam of tea and breathe in living? When will you have time to walk in the woods with no place to go but looking up?
When will you be done with the armed way of living, the harmful way of living — when will you drop the arms you’ve crossed in front of you like some cynical shield, steeling you from really feeling?
When will you join the brave and move the crossed arms into open hands, into open hands to receive and really feel the glory that is called life as it falls into them –
How syrup saturates the pancakes and wind can lift your hair at the roots and how you can feel grounded just by inhaling. How tears can fall like rain and wash your wounds right clean, how those wounds are beauty marks that make you one of the medalled warriors. How there is common grace everywhere but it is startling uncommon to taste it on the tip of your tongue or feel it pulse through you.
The question isn’t: How long have I got to live?
The point is simply: You got to live. You get to live. Today.

My cousin's 22 year-old daughter died suddenly from an undetected genetic heart defect.  I was so happy my dad and sister were able to go out for the funeral...all of my dad's family is in Idaho and west.  It was a treat to see the photos of everyone together.

I was showing my girls the pictures, explaining how the people are related to us, but found I was having a little trouble with the generation thing.  At first I told them that the two outside girls were my cousins, but then I had to account for the mom in the cousin's wife.

 And then we got to this picture and I said, these are my cousins.  To which Avery replied, Wow, your cousins are old!  Yeah, I'm not sure when I got bumped up into this generation.

I just love this picture of my dad and his nephews and can almost here the laughter filling the room, even amid such a difficult time.
 This is a sweet picture, too, four of my dad's six siblings.
We GET to live.  Today!  So thankful!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Project 365, Week 4

For some reason, this week I feel like sharing a bunch of pictures.  So many of them are just everyday life, which are my very favorite of all.

Hope you are staying warm.  Even though its a high price to pay, I'm thankful for the warm shelter I have every day and every night.  I never have to wonder where I'm going to stay.

January 19
We had some friends over for was so good to see them and catch up!
 I caught my boys watching the football game together.  Might not be the last time I see them like this.  :)  The Broncos (Shaun's lifelong team) are in the SuperBowl!!
 Nathanael got to sleep over!
 January 20
Beautiful sunrise seen from my front yard.

 January 21
Aiden and I sit here often reading stories.  He loves bible stories, books about super heros, firetrucks, machinery, airplanes, etc.  I'm learning a lot.  :)
 We took advantage of an early snow dismissal and went to see Daddy at work while its still slow enough for him to have pockets of time.

The girls were thrilled to use the signature pad.  :)  The lollipops in the office are a big hit, too.

 Then we went to the library.  Going every three weeks really seems to help them have their nose in a book more often.  Totally worth it.
While there, I noticed the local paper's front page headline.  Its a long story, but here's the short version:

Back in November, the town sent out a decree that there would be a parking ban EVERY night from 12-5 AM for the entire winter, December 15-March 1.  

We live in a city!  We (and so many others) own multi-family houses that do not have off-street parking available.  We have overnight guests stay for Christmas at our own residence.  Anyway, completely crazy on so many levels.

Shaun sent emails to town officials, attended and spoke at two different town meetings in December and January and spent many hours worried and stressed by the ramifications.

This was happy news!

We dropped R off at therapy and went to see Great-Grandpa.  By the time we left, the roads were slippery, but pretty!
 My favoritest Batman boy, all ready for bed.
 January 22
Can you believe its been two years since we got licensed for foster care???  The homefinder/inspector lady from our agency came out to see the entire house and talk with me.  We received an excellent written review and she had nice things to say about our family.

Good to hear, since sometimes we feel like we are on DCFs black list.  We do crazy things like petition relentlessly to pay out of our pockets for Z to attend private school, since the public schools are lacking.  Or we turn down Jay-Z concert tickets for moral reasons.

Regardless, they are keeping us another two years.  Can't wait to see what those years hold and meet the lives that THE Jesus in us can change.

 After she left, I went through the house (while it was clean!) and took a video for insurance purposes.

Found these sweet little family members laying quiet in their beds.  Our beloved Bear and Teddy, faithfully serving.

 January 23
Aiden was all about cars today.
January 24
My friend shipped us a whole box of clothes for Aiden.  We were both SO excited about it!!
 Aiden cooked dinner all on his own....and ate it!  :)
What the world needs is more super heros!

 January 25
One of those days that, somehow, everything fits in.  I woke Aiden from a sound sleep at 9:30 AM and we were off and running until we got home from church that night at 7:30 PM.

The day began at R's track meet.  He got two for pole vaulting 8' 6" and one for 4x800 meter relay.  His time was 2:18 and his school took third, yielding him his first ever medal.

He's worked so hard and been so dedicated....hard work truly does pay off.  So proud!

 Speaking of hard work....Nah, just kidding.  Its all about having fun and being with friends and classmates at Amanda's games, which is just right for her age.

 Avery played her most confident yet.  She's grown so much this season.
Have a great week!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Baby, Its Cold Out!

It is SO cold!  How cold is it?  It is so cold that.....

...we wake up to pretty windows in our bedroom each morning.

 ....Aiden only stayed out for 10 minutes watching the tree-trimmer guys trimming our trees (and he didn't even attempt sledding!)

 ....the dumb dog is inside, laying at my feet
 ....the icicles multiply outside my kitchen window.

He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes.
He casts forth His ice as fragments,
Who can stand before His cold?
He sends forth His word and melts them.

Psalm 147:16-18

Monday, January 20, 2014

We Teach...

Last week I got an excited call from a DCF supervisor.  Such and such foundation had donated tickets to a concert at the casino and would R like to go to this "once in a lifetime" opportunity?

Who is doing the concert?
No, JVeeee.
No, JC.
No Jay Zee.
Oh, Jay Zee?
Oh....never heard of him.

I could tell by the way Shaun was snickering in the background that I probably should have heard of him.  He said he pictured the guy falling off his chair when I said "never heard of him".

I hung up the phone with a promise to get back to him by day's end.  By this time, Shaun had already pulled up Google and was going through some of the lyrics of Jay-Z.  With each line I read, my blood starting boiling just a little hotter.

Its fitting, I think, to post the response I sent here today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Dear Mr. Supervisor,

When you called about the concert at Mohegan Sun to see Jay Z, I was not familiar with who he is.  So, I did a little research and looked up some of the lyrics to his songs.  Here's just a small sampling of what I found:

(Insert line after line of things I could never write here on my blog...look it up when there are not kids reading over your shoulder)

These are NOT the morals and values we are working so hard to teach Ray, both in the things we say and, more importantly (because kids are always watching) , in the way we live out our daily lives.

We teach respect of people of any race or background, respect for women and how to treat a lady.  We teach respect and appreciation for law enforcement.  We teach that money does not equal power nor does it equal success.  We teach that drugs are harmful in every way possible.  We teach not to curse.

We teach R to work hard and that a good education is important.  We teach him that a real man will wait for love and then later stay with his family.  We teach him to have compassion on the poor and orphans and widows.  We teach him the importance of manners and common courtesies, the power of the tongue for good or evil, to be faithful in the little things, to live by your commitments and not by your feelings, to offer grace and forgiveness.

The random sampling of Jay Z songs I looked up have lyrics that are in direct contradiction of what we are teaching R in our home.

We have taken R to two concerts in the last two months, TobyMac and Chris Tomlin.  
Here are some lyrics from their songs:

Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak...
You speak Life

Raise your thoughts a little higher,
Use your words to inspire,
Joy will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the things you say.

I set my eyes to the west, walkin' away from it all
Reachin' for what lies ahead, I got my eye on it
I see my sweat hit the ground
I put my foot in the block
This is the race of my life
And I can't wait for this shot

So its two separate ways
Or am I too late to say “I wanna fight for what we got
Cause I believe in family”

We lose our way,
We get back up again
It's never too late to get back up again,
One day you will shine again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever

If you're looking to slide, come slide with us
And if you're looking for a ride, it's a big old bus
We got black folk, white folk and Middle East
Mexican, Filipino - Jesus Freaks
Got a Haitian Princess, an Aussie Mate
East Coast, Midwest to left side of the states

I want to live like there's no tomorrow
I want to dance like no one's around
I want to sing like nobody's listening
Before I lay my body down
I want to give like I have plenty
I want to love like I'm not afraid
I want to be the man I was meant to be
I want to be the way I was made

The battle rages on
As storm and tempest roar
We cannot win this fight
Inside our rebel hearts
We're laying down our weapons now

I don't believe a song is "just a song" or a movie is "just a movie" or a book is "just a book.  I believe we are what we think and what we think comes from what we put into our hearts and our minds.  As parents, we are the gatekeepers of our children's hearts and need to be diligent about what is let in.

Quite honestly, it is appalling to me that someone would pay to go listen to the messages that Jay Z is sharing...themes that degrade women, glorify promiscuous sex, condone drug use and carrying a weapon and show disrespect to those in authority and those of other races.

It also saddens me that a foundation would consider it "money well spent" to provide Jay Z concert tickets to any child, and particularly to at-risk kids.

These are the things we want R to get excited about: .  (Insert news article about how R is one of nine kids from his high school who are taking a class at a state university, earning both college and high school credit). Or that last week at a track meet his achieved 8 ft. in the Pole Vaulting event, a personal record for him.

We respectfully decline the Jay Z concert ticket.

Tomorrow night, instead I will bring R to a boys program he attends weekly.  This group routinely goes on hikes, camp outs, does service projects for elderly and others in need, goes canoeing, etc.


Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~MLK

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Project 365, Week 3

This week I celebrated a birthday, which is always fun.  So many people went out of their way to make it a special day for me, as it was!

Shaun's been dealing with some pretty high-stress situations.  Being a landlord is not for wimps!

January 12
Shaun and the kids picked me up from a photoshoot and Shaun wanted to check out the bridge that I love and is one of my go-to spots to take pictures.

So sweet to watch him and Amanda skipping down the path.
 January 13
Family dinners at our house have been scarce with Shaun's work and R's track and the girls basketball practices and school night bedtimes.  Because we can't ALL be together, I'd kind of given up.  But then I realized the weeks were going by and almost no family dinners were happening.

So I finally decided that some family is better than no family and have renewed my efforts to get us sitting around the table together, albeit it missing a member or two.  Along with that effort, we are going to have "Manners Monday" and I'm going to systematically teach them proper etiquette and table manners.

After a few initial grumbles, they were fully on board and are now really excited about it.
 January 14
My free spirit asked me to drop her off before we arrived home so she could run in the rain.  Love her!
 January 15
I'm so, so grateful to be given another year of life!

Now when asked how old I am, my answer will be the same for many years to come....39!  My friend's dad has been 39 for as long as I've known him (25 years) and its worked well for him.  ;)
 My day was full and blessed.  I was humbled by the cards and messages I received and amazed that I have such incredible people in my life who care about me. blessed!

 January 16
We take our "mud" room seriously around here, and I didn't know this, but if you stack all the muddy boots into a pile, they make a nice ramp.
January 17
No picture.

January 18
Avery played in fierce my old high school gym!

Controlled chaos in the toddler room at church.
Hope you have a great week!