Tuesday, October 29, 2013

6 days

Six days can feel much longer than 144 hours.  Time is measured differently when you feel what you're doing will matter for eternity.  This week felt like it mattered. 

This is why I think it mattered...

I sacrificed more than I usually do.
For example...I gave up sleep (I really love to sleep) to wake up earlier than normal and greet a sweet boy who woke up asking where mom was (meaning me).  I woke up cheerfully, gladly giving up something that would make me happy to make sure this little boy knew he was welcomed even in the early morning. 

My children sacrificed more than they usually do. 
At one point Tyler and I had a conversation about how it was challenging not to have my full attention every time he wanted it.  He smiled in agreement as we talked about what a great opportunity this was for him to think of someone before himself. 

My kids willingly shared their toys.  I wasn't sure that was going to happen; especially from my youngest who hasn't had to share much and doesn't come by that spirit naturally. 

Brian sacrificed
but I feel like he is always sacrificing...he is just naturally less selfish than the rest of us.  He was super gracious to me as I was overwhelmed and more snippy toward him than usual. Adding a fourth kid to the process of getting shoes on and getting out the door on time is much more than adding one more kid.  Returning to the 2 year old stage is also an adjustment.  It hasn't been that long but its amazing how quickly you forget you need to pack diapers, snacks, sippy-cup, change of clothes.  Oh, and you can't open doors, buckle yourself in, and you refuse to stay close to me in public?  Why do you say NO to everything?

Our family was a team on a mission
a mission to make this little boy feel loved.  We all knew that was our job, even the kids.  I've never been more proud of my kids.  Each night they all sat and listened to Grayson read him a bedtime story and hugged him good-night  After I labored to convince him it was time to sleep, I would finally get to their rooms for tuck-ins.  It felt like a celebration.  "Wow, guys! Another incredible day of loving on K.  You guys were amazing."  And they were.  They gave up playing games they normally play to give him their attention.  At one point, Tyler came home with a book from the library he couldn't wait to read. So, he sat down next to K to read his book, just so he could be near him and keep an eye on him.  When K would scream and fuss as soon as he saw a toy he wanted the kids would say, "Say my turn please" before they would give it to him. 

My kids focused on someone other than themselves
Now, I know the novelty of the whole experience can explain much of this and I know that if we take a longer placement it will not be this like this the whole time.  But I really just couldn't get over how great it is when my kids are focusing on someone else more than themselves.  Even Annabelle said, "we don't cause as many problems with each other." She was basically saying, they weren't arguing as much among each other.  They weren't.  This reason alone is enough to make me burst out signing as I have no patience for the bickering between my kids. 

A community stepped in
We had friends bring us meals, call to check on us, send thoughtful texts, carpool my kids, and come babysit when I needed to be in Tyler's class. 

Awareness was raised
My kids have a greater understanding of the reality that many people are without the daily needs we take for granted.  There is a face associated with not having a place to live.  I was able to have conversations with my kids' friends explaining that K's mom did not have a place to live when they would ask why he was living here.

Almost 500 people read my last blog post.  Whaaat?! I hope that means somewhere close to that many people checked out safe-families.org.  I had multiple conversations with neighbors, friends and strangers about Safe Families for Children.  I've had a few people mention they have thought about doing something similar.  Some of those conversations led to sharing the main reason we do this...because Jesus lavished his love on us when we were messy so it feels natural for us to do the same. 

A little boy was safe for 144 hours
It was an honor to be a part of this boys' story.  It was an honor to hold him in my arms and rock him while I prayed that neurons were firing and connections were being made in his brain that would allow him to believe he is worthy and special and loved.  Even if we never get to tell him we love him again, I pray that there is some part of him that will be reached by 6 days of Team Janous giving him all the love we have. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Safe Families

Today, I did a very normal thing.  I drove down the highway with my three kids.  But it didn't feel very normal. In fact, it felt like one of the most significant moments of my life.  Colors looked more vibrant, the sun felt brighter, all my moves felt slow and memorable.  Each sense was heightened and I knew this moment was being imprinted into my memory. 

Because my three kids and I were driving to pick up a 2 year old boy who has no where to live.  Just for six days, this precious boy will live in our house.  My kids will share their toys, share meals, and sacrifice for a boy they've never met. 

Because our family has joined the ministry Safe Families for Children

We've shared with just a few friends over the summer that we were praying about whether God was leading us in this direction.  Its hard to know how to share with more family and friends on a larger scale.  Returning to blogging is my best attempt.

I wish I had had the time to journal over the last few months the process we have been on and the journey that led us here.  Hopefully, there will be time to share that later. 

For now you can go to Safe-families.org to find out more about the organization.  There are some great video clips that provide a quick summary of the program, including one from Katie Couric. 

In short, it is a ministry to protect children from child abuse and neglect, keep kids from entering the foster care system, and encourage families.  Parents struggling with any type of crises (from homelessness, hospitalization, unemployment, incarceration, rehab, etc) request that their child/children be placed in with a host family that can provide a stable place for the children while the family makes steps for change in their life.  The parent keeps sole custody of the child and can ask for them back at anytime.  The host family is one part of a team of people that surround the family like an extended family would, providing friendship and support. 

Today has been an incredible day.  I can't tell you how much we love this boy.  The kids have been incredibly sweet and helpful.  Of course, the novelty of it helps.  He was very shy and reserved at first, he wouldn't even look at me when I picked him up from his volunteer case worker.  I had all the kids in the car thanks to a power outage in our neighborhood today letting them out of school.  They filled a small container of toys he could play with and Annabelle picked out books to read him.  She sat next to him for the 30 minute car ride showing him toys and laughing with him. 

When we brought him home, we showed him around and he, of course, was enthralled with the toy room.  He found a lazer gun and began shooting all of us while we dramatically fell to the ground.  That's when we got to see his big smile and hear a big laugh.  After a 3 hour nap and the kids asking 15 times when he was going to wake up, he woke up super happy and comfortable.  He gave us all hugs throughout the night. 

This feels so right.  I know a longer term placement would be much harder but I feel up for that.  We have taken a big jump as a family to follow God into a messy place and love messy people in messy situations.  Living out there on the edge of my comfort zone and in a place where I feel stretched and used by God is where I want to live. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

While they didn't know I was listening

Tyler was jumping on the trampoline with a neighbor friend yesterday and they didn't realize I was around the corner listening.

As the conversation continued, I held  my breath so they wouldn't hear me and thanked God I was able to hear this window into how my little guy is growing up.

Parth: "Tyler, why do you always ask me to come play?"

Tyler: "Because you are one of my best friends."

Parth: You used to be my best friend until I lost my football and now we can't play football anymore

Tyler: Well, you're like one of MY top 3 friends

Parth: Yeah, you're like my number 2.  Well...number 3.  Yeah, your in my group of best friends. 

Tyler: Parth, you know how you have Ali...I have Amanda. 

Parth: You're in love with Amanda?!

Tyler: Yeah! She's my girlfriend

Parth: I'm going to tell everyone at school.  

Tyler: I'm too embarrassed to tell her.  You know Ethan?  Amanda and Ethan kissed each other 16 times!

Parth:  Whoa!

Tyler: I know!!

Parth: You and Amanda are definitely going to get married.  Tyler and Amanda sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G...

Tyler: I really hope I marry Amanda. 

Later that night I asked Tyler about Amanda.  Turns out he doesn't think kissing is gross anymore.  BUMMER!

Me:  "So, what do you think about kissing?"

Tyler: "I think I'm too young to kiss.  But if it was okay, I would LIKE to kiss Amanda"

I reminded him he was going to meet many more girls in his life that are awesome like Amanda and that most people don't marry someone they meet in first grade.  I encouraged him to think how awesome it would be to save kisses for a girl he meets down the road after all the awesome girls he's met.

He then told me his theory on how girls don't get pretty until they're in high school and then they stop being pretty when they get really old and get wrinkles.  I asked if I was already that old.  He said no but I think he was thinking I was but is smart enough to know not to say that.  :-)

I had no idea I'd have to have these kinds of conversations yet.  It is great exercise in prayer because every grown-up word that comes out of his mouth is a surprise and I have no idea how to respond.  My biggest prayer is that he TALKS to me. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Grayson is 5

How can you not love this kid?  
I really haven't met anyone who doesn't just LOVE him....and I mean LOOOOOVE him.  

He has more personality than can be contained in his little five year old body.  I often wonder how I get to have a kid as delightful and endearing as Gray. 

Everything he does is funny.  In the picture above, he found the snorkel mask in our garage as we were about to ride bikes around the neighborhood.  "Dad!"  "Why haven't you taken us snorkeling?!"  With all the excitement and wonder of discovering the coolest treasure, he proceeded to wear the mask non-stop for a couple of days.  

One of my biggest failures as a mom is not writing down all the things he's said and the stories of his antics.  There are so many.  I want to always remember how much he loves to dress-up.  There probably wasn't a day for two years he wasn't donning a superhero costume, cape or even bike helmet (when not biking).  He went through a long phase where he wore one glove 90% of the day.  

He kind-of causes a scene wherever he goes.  A little reminiscent of the Charlie Brown character, "Pig-pen," he is often messy, disheveled, and knocking things down along his way.  He has no volume control and speaks only at an 11.  This is especially fun when he announces things about his body.  

There is the infamous story of him pulling out his penis in the small grocery store while announcing, "MOM, a penis is...a penis is...MOM...a penis is...THIS."  The latest announcement was the other day when leaving the neighborhood pizza place.  "Mom!  I have to go poo-poo"  "can it wait till we get home"  "NO! Its coming out of my bottom right now"  :-)  There wasn't a family in the restaurant that didn't hear him!  

This is the restaurant where he is known by name by most of the employees (pretty sure they don't know our names).  The cook the other day said to our favorite waitress, "Man, I want to be just like that kid.  Grayson is awesome!"  

He is a great kid to have when you move to a new place.  Almost everyone we've met here was first approached by a confident, talkative little boy.  Our neighbor, Joan, was out jogging one day and he started running up next to her and asked if he could chase her.  We're friends now.  

 I am so grateful for my Gray-Gray.  He came into the world screaming and he screamed for four months straight.  Ohh, that was rough.

He has more than made up for it.

It is the most incredible honor to be his mom.  Even when he's having a rough day, he makes us laugh.  Every day he spontaneously tells me he loves me.  He fills my hug quota and then some.  He is incredibly fun to tickle.
He loves music and loves to sing. He has the best imagination.  He is happy to play by himself and can be heard making all kinds of sound effects. 

From the time he could walk, he started getting into things.  I kept a running picture log of all the mess he made and got into.  This is a picture of him after he found the container of cocoa.  Notice all of it in his nose?   

He LOVES food and will eat anything you give him...usually with an announcement that its the best dinner/snack/lunch ever. 

I believe a life of optimism is in store for him...and therefore, also for the rest of us.  

Thank you Grayson.  You have made my life so much brighter.  

You are MY JOY!


Friday, April 27, 2012

Reminding myself I am known

I am pretty sure we have found a Church here.  In many ways this brings great joy but it is also bittersweet as I realize that no church will be like Riverside.  I can not compare.  I have to stop trying.  The reality is, no church here can compare with a place that has been my home for 10 years.  What I miss the most is being known.

I have much hope here and have been encouraged by many of the relationships I am starting to make here.

But how long does it take?

I've experienced what its like to be fully known and still enjoyed. 

Its hard to settle for less.  But you have to start somewhere. 

Tonight I am going to a ladies Bunko night with women from Soma Eastside.  I really only know a handful of women's names.  Urgh, I don't like this stage.

So, my pep talk to myself tonight...

Friends are icing on the cake.  Jesus is my cake.  A damn good cake.  Enough to fill me and more.  I've feasted on the cake AND been blessed with incredible icing too...more icing than I deserve.

On a related note, our sweet friend Matt Blazer wrote a blog post about our friendship with him and his family.  If you have time, READ IT.  I am so humbled by his words and warmed by the memories.  Words are my love language and this is like words on steroids.  Thanks again Matt for loving us well and recording the stories.  BTW, the HUGE beer Brian appears to be drinking is actually a coke...and a joke.

Well, off to buy an appetizer and make some friends...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Living at the End of the United States

Tyler told us the other day that he loves living at the "end of the United States" Annabelle refers to it as the "united stakes"

Side note: other funny things she says:
  • "lasterday" instead of yesterday
  • "two cocoa bugs" instead of 2 turtle doves in the 12 days of Christmas
  • "oppameal" instead of oatmeal
there are more but that is all I can think of now. She also speaks everything with a German accent.

A few weekends ago we had a beautiful, sunny, 60 degree day. When a day like this happens here, you embrace it. We drove to the city and spent our first experience on a Puget Sound Beach. It was indescribably gorgeous.

They're Gone

I'm sad. But it was wonderful.

It is hard to describe how great it is to be with friends who know you well, call forward the best in you, and love you unconditionally. It is hard to pin point when the Schwietermans became lifelong friends but I am very aware of how rare and precious their friendship is. We have walked through all stages of life together: weddings (well, they weren't at ours because they felt it necessary to go on a honeymoon...sore subject), births (even when we lived in different cities we have been able to be at the hospital to meet every baby), early parenting craziness and doubts, family crises, job changes, moves, Church changes, conflicts and celebrations. There is depth that comes with history but also hearts that have committed to live together.

When we were deciding to move, we took very seriously the Schwieterman's counsel. I had always envisioned living in the same area with them for the rest of our lives. So, of course, I asked them when they would be moving to Seattle. God has us in different places now, that doesn't mean I don't still dream about a different time when we might be called to the same place.

But this weekend was such a sweet gift and reminder that distance can't change true friends. I will never forget seeing all of them walk into our house here, proof that my old life was not a dream. I squeezed those little girls so tight, Lizzie said I made her stomach stop hurting. :) We very quickly moved into a comfortable groove of sharing meals, housework, parenting and entertaining kids. The kids needed very little entertaining as they were inseparable. There was hardly any need for electronics as they had all kinds of invented games going on. Most of our time was spent hanging around the house, riding bikes in the rain and snow, and going to the park. We did a little bit of sight seeing too:

Ski slopes are just 30 minutes from our house and they have a snow tubing hill. The kids loved it, especially since St. Louis has had snow only a couple of days. Annabelle and Bea entertained themselves by pulling each other around and making snow angles. Ty and Brian got a great work out pulling the kids back up the hill multiple times. Lizzie and I built an epic snow fort and ambushed most of the unsuspecting crew with snow balls. It was awesome!

We stopped for fries and Root Beer at a restaurant that overlooks the Snoqualmie water falls. It was warm and quaint with a fireplace and our loud, loud crew that managed to spill 4 drinks in the 45 minutes we were there!

We celebrated St. Patricks Day with Shamrock Shakes and green cookies.

BTW: the shakes were a hit: Frozen Banana, Vanilla Yogurt, and tons of spinach.

Despite the drizzly rain and cold weather we made it to Pike Place Market and the much awaited Gum Wall. We made a stop on our way out so all kids could pick out their own pack of gum...so much fun!

We had pretty weather on their last day here. Which allowed us to spend more time walking the neighborhood and go on a hike through our Enchanted Forest.
The grown ups also got one date night out which was the most life giving night we've had in months. We laughed so hard we cried and our stomachs hurt, we were loud and obnoxious to probably most people in the restaurant. Our conversation was both ridiculous and meaningful. Even Brian and I were able to communicate about things more in depth in the presence of friends more than we often do just by ourselves.

Thank you friends, for coming. Thank you for spending your vacation and Spring Break with us. Thank you for sharing your life with us. We love you!